14th Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy President (Senator Sampson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Australia Survey Act - Report of the Committee appointed to direct and control the Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia, for the period ended 30th June, 1936.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1936 -
No. 32- Motor Traffic (No. 2).
No. 33 - Liquor (No. 2).
No. 34 - Superannuation (No. 2).
No. 35 - Laws Repeal and Adopting (No. 2).
No. 36 - Appropriation 1936-1937.
No. 37 - Licences.
No. 38 - Natives’ Contracts Protection.
No. 39 - Gaming.
No. 40 - Roads Maintenance.
No. 41 - Supreme Court Assessors.
No. 42- Public Health.
No. 43 - Customs Tariff (No. 2).
No. 44 - Native Labour (No. 2).
No. 45 - Shipping (No. 2).
No. 46 - Forestry.
No. 47 - Land.
No. 48 - Mining (No. 2).
[3.2]. - I lay on the table of the Senate the reports of the Australian delegates to the 20th conference of the International Labour Organization, which was held at Geneva in June last, together with the texts of the draft conventions and recommendations adopted, and move -
That the reports be printed.
On this occasion the Government delegate was Mr. E. F. Harrison, M.P., and the non-government delegates representing the employers and theworkers, respectively, were Sir Robert Knox and Mr. P. J. Trainer. The agenda was of considerable importance, and dealt with the subjects of hours of work, annual holidays with pay, recruiting of workers, safety provisions in building construction, and other subjects.
Proposed draft conventions were under consideration by the conference for the application of the 40-hour week in respect of-
I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour of the sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
asked the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
What action has been taken respectively by the various dominions of the British Commonwealth of Nations towards the adoption of the Statute of Westminster?
– The AttorneyGeneralhas supplied the following answer : -
As the Imperial Statute of Wesminster Act came into force in Canada, South Africa and the Irish Free State on the date of its assent, no action for its adoption was necessary by those members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I am not aware of any action being taken by New Zealand or Newfoundland. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, a bill for the adoption of the statute will be introduced very shortly.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence states that inquiries will be made, and that a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : -
It is proposed that a comprehensive film of Canberra shall form part of the 1937 programme of the Cinema Branch of the Commerce Department. The actual details of the “ shots “ to be included in this film have not yet been finalized.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
In the interests of Australian wool-growers, will the Minister give an assurance that he will take adequate measures to prevent Australian merino sheep being consigned to Russia or any other potential wool-growing country, either direct or through any other country that is permitted to import Australian sheep?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer: -
Since the embargo was placed on the export of merino sheep no Australian stud merinos have been exported to Russia or to any other country for delivery to Russia.
I suggest to the honorable senator that he should peruse the report on the production of merino sheep supplied by Dr. Clunes Ross in regard to Manchukuo and the Far East.
Automatic - Lunch Hour
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Twenty-nine automatic telephone exchange units have been installed in country districts throughout the Commonwealth. The units have been installed at the following places : -
Financial Year and List of Places. 1925-26 - Vermont, Victoria. 1927- 28- Harep, Victoria; Deer Park. Victoria. 1 928- 29 - Bunn inyong, Victoria. 1929- 30- Kariah, Victoria. 1934- 35 - Uranquinty, Gundy, and Dareton, New South Wales; Tyabb, Somerville, Yallourn, Thornton and Iona, Victoria; Goodna, Queensland; Willunga, South Australia. 1935- 36 - Cardiff, Swansea and Blacktown, New South Wales; Bamawa, Victoria; The Summit, Cordalba, Queensland; Macclesfield, Birdwood, Noarlnnga, South Australia; Brunswick Junction, Dowerin and Broomehill, Western Australia; Ross, Hagley, Tasmania. Total units, 29.
In addition to the foregoing, two units are on hand and equipment is on order covering 52 additional units. It is hoped to proceed with the installation of these units during the present financial year, and the probable distribution over the various States will be-
As the programme has not been finally determined, the names of the places finally selected cannot be indicated at this juncture.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he give consideration to the practicability of establishing a uniform lunch hour forthe small telephone exchanges in rural areas in Western Australia where at present many close from 12 to 1 o’clock, and others from 1 to 2 o’clock?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
It is the aim of the department to observe uniform luncheon hours for telephone exchanges, but this is not practicable in all cases owing to the varying local circumstances, i.e., the times of arrival and despatch of mails, and the domestic and business arrangements of the local postmaster. The majority of country exchanges are conducted under nonofficial conditions in conjunction with the postmaster’s ordinary activities, and therefore the period of telephone service is influenced in some cases by the hours during which the business is open. Wherever the conditions will permit, the luncheon periods observed at exchanges in adjacent towns are made to coincide in order that telephone communication will be restricted as little as possible. The matter is one that is constantly under review, and during recent years a large number of nonofficial postmasters have been induced to give uninterrupted attendance beween 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Changes in the luncheon hours have also been made in order that they might agree with similar breaks at other exchanges in the locality.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the provisions of the Financial Relief Act (No. 2) 1936 relating to adjustments of salaries, wages, pay and allowances by reason of variations in the cost of living.
Bill brought up by Senator Sir George Pearce, and read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Brennan) read a first time.
Bill returned fromthe House of Representatives with amendments.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is merely to validate, until the 7th December, 1936) collections of duty under the Customs Tariff proposals which were introduced into the House of Representatives on the 22 nd May last. In accordance with section 226 of the Customs Act it is necessary, for the protection of the revenue, that those tariff proposals be passed into law by the 21st November, 1936; otherwise they will lapse. The proposals seek, among other things, to amend the duties on certain textiles. As honorable senators are aware, negotiations with Japan have reached the stage at which there is a reasonable prospect of settlement. In these negotiations the duties on textiles are necessarily under consideration. The Government considers it inadvisable to ask Parliament to ratify the rates of duty shown in the tariff proposals introduced in May last if there is an immediate prospect of a satisfactory conclusion of the negotiations with Japan.
Honorable senators will observe that validation is requested only until the 7th December next. A promise has already been given to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives that Parliament will be given an opportunity to debate the items contained in the tariff proposals for a period of eight sitting days should the two Houses require that length of time to discuss them. I appeal to honorable senators not to endeavour at this stage to discuss the items incorporated in the schedule or the particular problems which made necessary the action taken by the Government. On behalf of the Government, I give an undertaking similar to that given to the Leader of the Opposition in the other Chamber. The intention of the Government is that the tariff schedules shall be discussed before
Parliament adjourns for the Christmas vacation.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, but there is one other point upon which I should like his further assurance. The Minister guarantees that eight days will be allowed for the discussion of this bill. I desire to know whether that means eight days in the House of Representatives, or seven days in that Chamber and one day in the Senate, or an equitable division of the period between the two Houses. This is a matter upon which I, and others, have desired to speak ever since the proposals were introduced into the House of Representatives on the 22nd May last, and I do not want to find that, at the eleventh hour, honorable senators will be placed in an awkward position because of lack of time to discuss a matter of such importance.
Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia). [11.21]. - This is a most surprising bill. In 1934 Parliament agreed that unless tariff schedules were passed within six months of their being broughtinto Parliament, they should cease to have effect. The legislation was not set out in those words, but, as honorable senators will remember, exSenator Colebatch moved an amendment, the effect of which was that any customs duties which had been collected could be sued for and recovered unless Parliament had passed the schedule within six months of its introduction into Parliament. The amendment was devised for the purpose of preventing a repetition of those interminable delays which had occured in dealing with previous tariff schedules, resulting in Parliament continuing for, I think, three or four years without having a chance to discuss what had been made law by ministerial edict. Since the bill passed into law four validating bills dealing with customs duties have been passed, in addition to the three bills now before the Senate making, in all, seven bills, validating duties which were not completed within the six months allowed by Parliament.
– Are there not extraordinary circumstances governing this request ?
– Every time a bill to validate a tariff schedule, which has run almost its full six months, comes before the Senate, honorable senators are told the circumstances are most extraordinary, and it is urged that Parliament should extend the period allowed for the consideration of the schedule, and meanwhile validate the duties already collected. I agree with Senator Hardy that, in this instance, the circumstances are indeed extraordinary - and on this aspect I shall have more to say as I proceed. My main point at the moment is that there have been repeated delays in the passing of tariff schedules. I think that I am right in saying that since the 1934 act to which 1 have referred was passed by Parliament not one tariff schedule has been agreed to within six months of the date of its introduction. In every case an extension of time has been sought. What guarantee have we that what happened a year or two ago will not happen in connexion with this schedule? Honorable senators will remember that on that occasion, a tariff schedule was included in another schedule and because of its incorporation therein, a new term of six months began. Will the Minister in charge of this bill give a guarantee that nothing of that kind will be done on this occasion? The Minister does not reply.
– I shall give a guarantee when I reply to the second reading.
– The Minister has not said that the proposals will be dealt with this year.
– I gave an assurance that they would be dealt with before Parliament adjourned for the Christmas vacation this year.
– The Minister’s assurance will save me a certain amount of what I proposed to say. If it is clear that the schedules will not, as on a previous occasion, be incorporated in a new schedule, one danger has passed. But one experience like that to which I have referred makes honorable senators chary of passing these validating measures. The Minister’s assurance, however, does not at all affect my main point, namely, that the proposals which the Senate is now asked to validate ought never to have been introduced in the way that they were introduced. I do not say that the Government, in bringing them in, acted in defiance of the law, but I do say that it ignored the law relating to tariff schedules.
– Why not leave this discussion until the proposals come before the Senate?
– I propose to speak now. I am asked to join in ratifying tariff proposals which ought never to have been brought in as they were, and I certainly am not prepared to join in ratifying them without expressing my view. The Tariff Board Act of 1921, which for material purposes has not been altered, provides -
The Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report the following matters: -
the necessity for new, increased or reduced duties and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties . . . and shall not take any action in respect of any of those matters until he has received the report of the board.
Notwithstanding that clear and definite provision, action of a most important and drastic kind was taken suddenly, for it will he remembered that the tariff proposals which the Government now seeks to validate were laid on the table of the House of Representatives on the day that it adjourned, which makes the position much worse. It appears extraordinary that the Government should ignore the Tariff Board Act when it thinks fit to do so. And what makes its action more blameworthy is that it was a complete reversal of the announced policy of the Government - a policy that it had previously adheredto and insisted on, namely, that changes of the tariff should not be made without reference to the Tariff Board. It is unnecessary for me to quote all that lias been said by members of the Government on this matter, but I draw attention to two statements, one by the Prime Minister and another by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce). In his policy speech in 1934, the Prime Minister said -
In my policy speech of two and a half years ago, I gave the undertaking that the Government would follow a policy of protection to all soundly economic manufacturing enterprises, and that the Government would follow in broad principle the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I claim that those undertakings have been completely honoured . . . Prohibitions and surcharges have been almost entirely swept away.
For the future we propose to proceed along the same lines, except that there will be further collaboration between the Customs Department and the Commerce Department in the matter of treaty-making . . . The Government . . will also have regard to the necessity for safeguarding our general export trade by treaties with foreign countries that are large purchasers of our primary products.
The Government proposes to ask the new Parliament to give to the Minister power to negotiate such treaties and, in accordance with the practice which has been adopted in many countries, put them into force immediately by [iioclamation, subject to the proviso that they must be ratified within a fixed period by Parliament itself . . . This will not preclude consultations with the Tariff Board in regard to them.
So far as I know that action has not been taken. Passing from the election to the occasion when the Ottawa agreement waa being considered in this Parliament, we find that the Government firmly took the stand that, in view of its undertaking to the general public, it was impossible to make definite changes in the tariff until it had received the Tariff Board’s reports on the items involved. What has become of those promises ? In moving the second reading of the United Kingdom and Australia Trade Agreement Bill in the Senate on the 17th November, 1932, the Leader of the Senate said -
The policy of the Government is definitely against changes in protective tariff items without reference to, and consideration by, the Tariff Board. It thus denies to itself the right arbitrarily to raise or lower protective tariff levels. This policy, declared at the general elections in December last, has been closely observed. But what of the policy for Ottawa? Was the Government to have one policy for the domestic Australian consideration, and another for Ottawa? Would the Government, through its delegation, in response to the British requests for reduced duties in her favour, proceed to a special ministerial revision independently of the Tariff Board? After careful deliberation, the Government decided that the policy declared at the elections, and since acted upon in tariff resolutions now before Parliament, might prevail at Ottawa. There can be no question, I submit, as to the wisdom of this decision.
The Government’s attitude on this occasion, however, is a complete reversal of its previous attitude. What it could not do for the Empire at Ottawa it is apparently able, and prepared, to do now for the ostensible reason of helping certain Australian industries. If its present action helps any Australian industry it will certainly do a great deal of harm to other industries. I have never agreed with the contention that the Government should be bound irrevocably by the Tariff Board’s findings. I have said that the Government ought to have taken action earlier on its own initiative. Immediately after it assumed office duties had been raised by the Scullin Government without reference to the Tariff Board, and I voted for Senator Johnston’s amendment that they should be restored to what they were before. That seemed to be fair. I do not place my faith completely in the Tariff Board, and I have made my position clear to my electors. But I suppose that every other honorable senator on our side of politics was elected on the undertaking that the raising of duties could be preceded by an investigation and report by the Tariff Board.
– We did not undertake to follow the Tariff Board’s recommendation slavishly.
– No, but can the honorable senator justify radical alterations of the tariff, such as are contained in the schedules now before us, without reference to the Tariff Board ?
– That is different. The honorable senator said that we had undertaken to be bound, without exception, by the Tariff Board’s findings.
– I did not say that. I have never held the view that any Minister, or any honorable senator, should be bound by the recommendations of the Tariff Board; but I do say that senators should stand, first, by the law of the land, and, secondly, by the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister and supported by them, that the Government would not make any radical alteration of our protective duties without first referring such proposals to the Tariff Board. The honorable senator will be fully occupied in rebutting those two points.
I regard this schedule as a whole, though not every portion of it, as being in direct opposition to the economic interests of Australia, and, therefore, to the real economic interests of Great Britain.
It may be .asked why I should make a speech of this nature at a time when negotiations with Japan are in progress.
– Why does the honorable senator do so?
– HUGHES. - I thought this matter over very carefully when it was introduced for six weeks before making a pronouncement. I came to the conclusion that the matter was of such first-rate importance that my electors had a right to know my views on it. Consequently, I spoke in public on several occasions last July, and, as I was very well reported in the press, my views, particularly on the subject of diversion of trade from Japan, are fairly well known not only to honorable senators but to a great many of the public as well. My remarks are on record in the press, and I cannot be expected to somersault on the issue, or to vote for the validation of this schedule. It may, conceivably, be right in what it proposes to do, but it cannot be claimed to be right in so far as it ignores the law of the land and constitutes a somersault from the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister. At the moment, I do not wish to deal with these matters at length, but I propose to indicate briefly my views on them.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the Government’s action is the only practical course to follow in the circumstances?
– No. If I had to describe the schedule as a whole I would say that it is most injudicious, most ill timed, and most uneconomic in its general outlook.
– I am speaking, not of the schedule, but of the desire of the Government to avoid discussion which may affect certain negotiations which are proceeding.
– But negotiations have been proceeding for six months.
– But they had not previously reached so favorable a stage as at present.
– We do not know about that. I have read for six months now that these negotiations have been developing favorably, and that a satisfactory conclusion would be arrived at within two or three weeks. But weeks have extended into months. Does not the honorable senator realize the possibility of this position slowly becoming permanent ?
– Why does not the honorable senator postpone his remarks until the appropriate occasion?
– I think the present is an appropriate occasion. I shall defer some of my remarks until a later occasion ; but, at the moment, I propose to define in general terms my reaction to this particular schedule. I repeat that it is most injudicious so far as Japan is concerned. It was not introduced at the request of the British Government. It kas struck a blow at a country which has treated Australia with friendliness, and has been one of our best customers. So far as the United States of America is concerned, I do not think that we need want to show our hostility to each country in the Pacific, which is our immediate field of trade; but in general terms the trade diversion from the United States of America to Great Britain was justified by the fact that we had such an extraordinarily adverse balance with the former country. In fact, I feel that the quota we allowed to that country in respect of motor cars might easily have been made smaller. As to the third aspect of the Government’s trade diversion policy - the manufacture of motor cars in Australia - that proposal, so far as I can make out, does not show any signs of coming to fruition.
– I understand that it does.
– We shall hear more about it, I suppose; but, if it does come .to anything at all, it will mean that the purchasers of motor cars in Australia will have to pay a good deal more for them in the future than they did in the past. The cost of production will rise and the purchaser will not get as good an article as he has had hitherto. In any case, the prices now ruling for motor cars are high enough. That is all that I need to say on this occasion. At the moment I am discussiong the Government’s general policy; I shall deal with its details later. I wish to define my attitude very clearly. It is the duty of public men, before six months elapse, to tell the general public where they stand on a matter of so great importance to them as the radical alteration of tariff duties. I do not for one moment believe that anything I may say will impede or assist the present negotiations. They are quite beyond my influence. Great Britain’s interest in this matter is sure to be raised. I have already dealt with that to some extent. It has been suggested in some quarters that those who do not approve these schedules are anti-British, but that of course is mere rubbish. I have always stood primarily for allegiance to and cooperation with Great Britain. An instance cannot be cited in which I have done otherwise; but that does not mean that we should force a friendly, although foreign, nation to become antagonistic to Britain. Living in the Pacific zone we have to consider our environment. Honorable senators should read an admirable article entitled “ Australia in the Pacific “ in the September issue of the Australian Quarterly by Mr. F. W. Eggleston and take to heart what the writer says. A short quotation from the article reads -
It docs not do to plan policy too far ahead. But to get a correct policy we must get our fundamentals right, and the fundamental fact of Australia’s position >n that her future will be mainly in the Pacific and her relations will be mainly with Pacilic ..tions. Her ideas, her traditions have been Formed by her western culture, but without sacrificing this ethos she must apply these ideas in a new environment. She must study the Pacific, know its geography, its peoples, its trade, its communications. Without forgetting her history and positions she must refuse to be influenced by the tags and relies of dogmas applicable to different conditions. This is particularly necessary because British thought, owing to the intensity of its problems is becoming more and more self-centred and less able to envisage circumstances completely different from its own.
I commend the whole of the article to honorable senators. It is an honest attempt by a man of great ability, who is fundamentally British, to study the whole subject of our relations with other countries, and not to be influenced by those who wave flags when there is no necessity to do so. I hope that I approach the consideration of this subject in the spirit in which he does. Australia, being extensive in area and having a comparatively small population, should refrain from in dulging in actions which appear to be, or which may be, provocative to our neighbours. We should study these problems calmly, and, so far as possible, dispassionately and fairly. I have endeavoured to do that. In speaking on this bill I have refrained from using provocative words. I trust that I have conveyed my meaning to the Senate; I could have said a good deal more. I wis*h to show clearly where I stand in respect of the Government’s trade diversion policy, and I believe that the time to do so is when this measure is before the Senate. For reasons which I have already given, which could be amplified six fold if necessary, I am opposed to this validating bill, which should not have been brought forward at this juncture.
– Although the principles enunciated by Senator Duncan-Hughes are consistent with the attitude which the honorable senator has always adopted in the Senate, I do not agree with the views that he has expressed in opposing an extension by fourteen days of the period during which these schedules must be validated. I admit that the negotiations between the Commonwealth and certain countries have been somewhat protracted, and I am sure that every honorable senator hopes that they will be brought to a successful conclusion. I have sufficient faith in the Government to believe that within the next few days negotiations with at least one of the. countries concerned will be concluded successfully. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) agreed not to debate the bill when an assurance was given by the Minister that Parliament will be allowed eight days in which to discuss the schedules. Although the views of the honorable senator may be opposed to those of the Government he did not attempt to debate this measure. He is willing to defer an expression of opinion in the hope that the dispute may be settled amicably. Reiteration of principles, however vital, will not assist in that direction. In these circumstances I shall support the bill, because I know that the Government will honour its promise to give this chamber sufficient time in which to debate the schedules before this period of the session terminates.
– I am somewhat loathe to speak on the bill at this juncture, and I shall not say anything concerning the merits or demerits of the Government’s action that has caused the introduction of this measure. No one has been more anxious than I have been to learn that the Government is likely to reach an amicable settlement with one of the countries against which the trade diversion policy was directed, and I shall therefore refrain from saying anything that may imperil a satisfactory conclusion being reached as early as possible. I feel, however, that it is essential that I should say that I hope that the action I take in voting for or against the measure will not be misunderstood. I must do what I consider right. I could say, perhaps, more than has been said by Senator Duncan-Hughes, but I shall reserve my remarks on the Government’s trade diversion policy until a later date. If my vote on this bill is questioned my only reply will be that I am exceedingly desirous that the laws of this country shall be observed.
– I regret that I did not explain quite clearly the undertaking given by the Government to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin). Eight days are to be allowed in which to discuss the schedules, and I understand that this period has been so apportioned that the House of Representatives shall have five days and the Senate three days. I give to honorable senators an assurance that all the protective duties imposed in these schedules are based on Tariff Board reports, but the board has made it clear that revenue duties should be determined by the Government. I do not propose to deal with the merits of the Government’s policy to-day. All that I am asking the Senate to do is to agree to a fortnight’s extension of the period during which the schedules shall be dealt with by the Parliament. No good purpose will be served at this juncture in discussing the merits or demerits of the Government’s trade diversion policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without requests or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure which deals with exchange adjustment is incidental to the Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1936 which has just been passed by the Senate. It seeks to validate until the 7th December, 1936, the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the 22nd May, 1936. Honorable senators will have an opportunity to discuss these proposals before this period of the session terminates.
– I desire to stress the necessity for extending the principle of exchange adjustment, particularly to those countries which are operating near the gold standard. One of the great disadvantages operating between Australia and certain countries on the gold standard was in respect of exchange. When this Exchange Adjustment Act was brought in, the privileges which it granted ware not extended to the gold bloc countries, many of which were our principal buyers of wool, with the result that a definite barrier was created between them and Australia. I know that the position has changed since the devaluation of the franc, which was followed by similar devaluation of Belgian currency. I shall be grateful ifthe Minister will briefly inform the Senate of the effect of the devaluation and whether it is the intention of the Government to extend this principle of exchange adjustment in order to enable freer trade to be carried on between Australia and the countries against which it is now operating disadvantageously. This matter has been the subject of deputations by several of the graziers’ associations of Australia, because ithas been a definite trade barrier. We are anxious to develop our export trade, and I am sure that the Government has given the matter very serious consideration. In the circumstances, I should appreciate the views of the Minister on the subject.
– I assure Senator Hardy that the Government has given very close attention to this matter. An inquiry into the whole subject has been made by the Tariff Board, particularly in regard to the effect of the departure of certain countries from the gold standard. Honorable senators need have no fear that the Government has lost sight of this important consideration as the Tariff Board now recommends on each item under its consideration, rates of duty, both British and foreign, on the basis of the present exchange rate between Australia and London.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill also is incidental to the main Customs Tariff Validation Bill. It is merely a formal measure ensuring that the tariff preference on certain Canadian imports will be continued, and seeks to validate up to the 7th December, 1936, the collection of the duties imposed on those imports by the Canadian Preference Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the 22nd May, 1936. An opportunity will be afforded to honorable senators before Parliament rises for the Christmas vacation to debate the proposals item by item.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without requests or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed frompage 2029, on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the reports be printed.
[12.8].- Only one of these draft conventions - that in regard to public works - was adopted. The other draft conventions on hours of labour, with the exception of the one relating to the textile industry, were rejected by the conference. The matter of the adoption of a draft convention on hours of labour in the textile industry will be further discussed at the conference next year.
The conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference are quite different from conventions adopted at other conferences. In the first place, representation at the International Labour Conference consists of delegates appointed by governments, employers and workers. Each is entitled to one vote, and they vote together in the plenary sessions of the conference, where a twothirds majority of such mixed votes is sufficient for the adoption by the conference of a draft convention. Moreover draft conventions, when adopted, are not signed on behalf of governments. They constitute in effect, merely draft international regulations on industrial and social matters adopted by the conference to be submitted to governments for consideration. The obligation of members under the constitution of the International Labour Organization is that they will, within a period of one. year from the closing of the session of the conference, and, in exceptional circumstances, eighteen months, bring a draft convention before the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies for legislative or other action. If the draft convention fails to obtain the consent of the competent authorities, no further obligation rests on the member - vide Article 405 of the Treaty of
Versailles. The Commonwealth Government has always consulted the States in respect of conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference from time to time, and has raised the subject at conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers with a view to the States giving legislative effect to the provisions of those conventions dealing with subjects which fall within the jurisdiction of the States, and subsequent ratification by the Commonwealth. Ratification is effected by means of an Order by the GovernorGeneral in Council, which is registered in due course by the League of Nations.
At the Conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers in 1929, the Commonwealth Government intimated that it would be prepared to ratify any convention to the provisions of which the States had given effect under their legislation, and in respect of which the States had given an assurance that they would not modify such legislation so as to make it inconsistent with the provisions of the convention without previous consultation with the Commonwealth. It was also pointed out that it would be necessary for all the States, and not some of them only, to give legislative effect to the provisions of the convention before the Commonwealth could proceed with ratification. Most of the Conventions deal with matters which fall within State jurisdiction, and concern the Commonwealth only in relation to its territories. No progress was made as a result of this Conference, and the matter was further taken up with the States by correspondence, but again without substantial results. The Commonwealth Government has so far ratified ten conventions dealing principally with maritime matters.
The matter of the ratification of conventions, at the instance of the Commonwealth Government, was again discussed at the recent Premiers Conference in Adelaide, when the unratified conventions were divided into three categories. The first includes conventions which are fully or substantially covered by State legislation or practice; the second, those which require only minor legislative amendments ; and the third, those which involve more important changes. Conventions falling within the first category are those concerning the 48-hour week, 1919 ; mini- mum age in industry, 1919 ; minimum age in agriculture, 1921; right of association in agriculture, 1921; workmen’s compensation in agriculture, 1921; weekly rest in industry, 1921; hours of work in commerce and offices, 1930 ; minimum age for non-industrial employment, 1932; and hours of work in automatic sheet-glass works, 1934. The second category consists of conventions concerning unemployment, 1919; childbirth convention, 1919 ; night work of young persons, 1919 ; workmen’s compensation for accidents, 1925 ; protection against accident of workers employed in loading Or unloading ships, 1932; workmen’s compensation for occupational diseases, 1934;, night work of women, 1934; and hours of work in coal mines, 1935. The third category consists of thirteen conventions, relating mainly to compulsory insurance against sickness, old age, invalidity, &c, and others which concern matters in respect of which it is doubtful whether the requisite unanimity on the part of the States is at present, obtainable.
The relevant sub-committee of the Premiers Conference in Adelaide expressed the opinion that the delay which had occurred in regard to the ratification of these conventions was to a large extent due to the fact that consideration by the States of the Conventions was not a function of any one department or officer; and the Committee recommended that the States should be invited to charge with the responsibility of dealing directly with International Labour Conventions some particular department or officer. The Committee also recommended that the States should be invited to communicate at once their acquiescence or otherwise in any convention, the subject matter of which is substantially covered by State law, and, so far as concerns the other conventions, to advise the Commonwealth Government as early as possible, and in any event within six months, whether or not they are willing that the Commonwealth should proceed with ratification. The Conference adopted the report of the sub-committee.
I may mention that the Government delegate was fully informed prior to the conference as to the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to the proposed conventions in connexion with hours of work. These instructions, briefly stated, were to the effect that he was at liberty to support the proposal, and vote in favour of the adoption of draft conventions providing for a 40-hour week on the following conditions: (1) that he made clear the constitutional limitations of the Commonwealth as regards the subject matter of the conventions which fell mainly within the competence of the States, and which, to be made effective, required State legislation; and, (2) that he informed the conference that if a majority of nations were in favour of, and adopted, the 40-hour week the Commonwealth Government would use its endeavours to obtain agreement on the part of the Australian States, so that the ground might be clear for ratification of the principle by the Commonwealth. On this basis, Mr. Harrison voted in favour of the 40-hour week in respect of public works, which was adopted by the prescribed majority with a margin of one vote. Honorable senators are aware of the attitude of the Commonwealth Government in relation to the general adoption of the 40-hour week in Australia. It has been made clear in this chamber and elsewhere. The Government endeavoured to arrange for a conference between representatives of the various parties concerned with a view to comprehensive investigation of the merits or otherwise of the shorter working week, but these efforts failed. Later, it was suggested that an investigation might be held by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but this suggestion also was rejected. Consequently, at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Adelaide, the Commonwealth Government expressed the view that the only bodies that could deal satisfactorily with the question were the industrial tribunals of either the Commonwealth or the States. The proposal for the adoption of a 40- hour week was resolved in the negative by the conference.
Two other conventions were adopted by the International Labour Conference, one concerning annual holidays with pry. and the other relating to the regulation of certain special systems of recruiting workers. Various recommendations and resolutions also were adopted. The conventions and recommendations have been referred to the State Governments for information and advice as to the extent to which the provisions of any of them are covered by existing legislation, and as to any action contemplated by the States to give effect to them.
Each of the delegates, in his report, has referred to the inconvenience suffered by the absence of technical advisers to assist in representation on the various committees, some of which sit simultaneously, and even, at times, concurrently with the plenary sessions of the conference. This is a matter which has been referred to on former occasions, and has received consideration. Owing to the geographical position of Australia, the appointment of advisers would involve considerably increased expenditure, and in view of this, advisers have not been appointed. The workers’ delegate, for example, is provided with a first class return passage, and receives allowances of £1 10s. a day on board ship and £3 3s. a day while on land, and, in addition, compensation for loss of wages, which usually amounts to £7 or £S a week, over a period of approximately three months. The expenses of advisers would be about the same as those of the delegates. Under the present arrangement, the cost of representation at an International Labour Conference, with only the workers’ delegate being specially sent from Australia, as has been the practice for several years, amounts to approximately £1,200. Each adviser appointed would increase this cost by from £400 to £500. I commend the reports to honorable senators for their perusal.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
In committee : Consideration resumed from the 18th November (vide page 1965)-
The Constitution is altered by inserting after section 02 the following section : - “ 92a. The provisions of the last preceding section shall not apply to laws with respect to marketing made by, or under the authority of, the Parliament in the exercise of any powers vested in the ^Parliament by this Constitution “.
Upon which Senator Badman had moved by way of amendment -
That the word “ marketing “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the marketing of either raw or processed primary products, being foodstuffs”.
– I have already stated that I cannot support the amendment submitted by Senator Badman. In the first place I consider it unwise to focus public attention upon foodstuffs. I see no reason why the proposed alteration of the Constitution should be confined to “ primary products, raw or processed, being foodstuffs “. Other raw materials are of great value in respect of our internal and external trade, and it would be foolish to hamper this Parliament with regard to the control it may desire to exercise in connexion with various raw products. So that we might understand the necessity for control of such products let us take, for instance, the history of rubber. We may assume that the British Government is conservative in its methods, yet in 1920 it endeavoured to secure a measure of control over the rubber of the world, and even sought the co-operation of the Dutch Government. J. W. F. Rowe, in his book, Markets and Men, states -
In April, 1934, it was announced that agreement had been reached between the British and Dutch Governments, and also Sia,m and French Indo-China, and that a scheme for the regulation of their exports of rubber would begin on June 1st, 1934.
That action was taken after many years of experimentation in the control of prices. At times it seemed that the action was ill-advised, but eventually the British and Dutch Governments deliberately decided that it was essential to the welfare of the world that rubber should be controlled. Referring to tin, Rowe remarks -
In these critical circumstances the governments of the countries concerned were induced to intervene. Voluntary restriction had proved totally inadequate. The only hope was for a government compulsory scheme. Eventually the Dutch Government was induced to believe that its interests also lay in restriction, and in February, 1931, the present international scheme was established for a period of six years, i.e., until the 3.1st December 1930. It may be observed in passing th:it the negotiations were conducted by the British Government from London, and not by the Government of Malaya, and that there was a very active opposition to the idea, of restriction among some important groups of producers in Malaya.
Following upon the rubber and tin schemes, and the plan adopted in Chile for the control of nitrates, it was seen that the control of important raw products was a matter of great concern to the whole world. In 1927, attention was given to this problem at the Imperial Economic Conference. The Director of the International Labour Office, Mr. Harold Butler, a man of outstanding ability, i>; an Englishman, and he was appointed to his position with the approval of practically all of the nations represented at the annual International Labour Conferences. In his annual report for 1936 he summarized the position as follows : -
Steps towards carrying out these principles were taken by the convention barring the prohibition of exports and imports, which has since lapsed, and by the conventions relating to hides, skins, and bones, which barred the imposition of export taxes u:i these article*. Though the range and application of these conventions was limited, they represent a first attempt to establish freedom of trade in raw materials. The process was carried a step further by the London Economic Conference, whore international control was considered in councxion with a number of articles, including sugar, coffee, wood, coal, copper, and tin. It was recognized by the Preparatory Commission of Experts that economic agreements had contributed to maintaining prices and regulating the market, and the importance of these functions made it impossible for governments not to take account of them. In point of fact, such agreements, in which governments have taken part, are in existence in respect of wheat, tin, and rubber.
It is considered essential to have free exchange of raw products between the various countries, and, despite the fact that experts had advised that difficulties had been created by government intervention, it was realized that governments dare not refrain from intervening.
Australia is a young country, and it is regrettable that action is taken in some quarters to prevent this Parliament from having the full powers in these vital matters which it ought to exercise.
– Would the honorable senator support my amendment if the words “ being foodstuffs “ were eliminated.
– No. It would be wrong to lead the people to think that the proposed alteration of the Constituis designed to give this Parliament power to legislate in regard only to foodstuffs. That seems to imply price fixation, and price fixation only.
– The rates of wages of the workers in secondary industries are fixed.
– Of course. I agree that at times the control of prices is necessary, but I do not consider that the control should be confined to foodstuffs.
– “Why hoodwink the people ?
– I have no desire to do that. I am trying to prevent the proposed alteration of the Constitution being so framed as to enable unscrupulous persons to hoodwink the electors by misinterpreting the intention of the Government.
Senator Johnston remarked that Western Australia required some form of protection for its primary industries, because of the disabilities suffered by that State under the fiscal system of the Commonwealth. He said that Western Australia imported from the eastern States secondary products to the value of £10,000,000 a year, whilst the eastern States took from it only £1,000,000 worth. He added that over 30,000 persons secured employment in the secondary industries of the eastern States by reason of the fact that Western Australia annually purchased £10,000,000 worth of goods from the manufacturers in those States. Whilst this is good for the workers in the secondary industries, they will act to their own advantage if they help to ensure that the primary industries in Western Australia, are kept in a strong and healthy condition.
– It seems to me that Senator Badman, by his amendment, is splitting straws. The object of the bill is to afford assistance to certain primary producers. Particular products are not specified, because the Government cannot anticipate the precise nature of the assistance that may be required in the future. Supporters of the alteration proposed in the bill believe that this Parliament should have the power which we thought it pos sessed, and which the High Court said it possessed, prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. Some honorable senators interpret this to mean that only those commodities in respect of which legislation has previously been enacted should be covered by any future marketing laws. That would mean, I suppose, that butter and dried fruits would be among the first commodities to -be controlled. Fortunately, owing to the present high price of wheat, it may not be necessary to deal with that commodity at all. There is no guarantee, however, that it may not again be necessary to assist the wheat-growing industry. A couple of years ago, it looked as if the wool industry might have needed legislative assistance, but the increased prices which have obtained recently have rendered unnecessary any action in that direction. In the future, it may be necessary to include other foodstuffs, such as eggs, and products which cannot be classed as foodstuffs, such as timber and tallow, and a host of others. We all hope that the time will never come when it will bn necessary to pass legislation to assist those industries, but as we cannot foresee what will happen in the future, the Government is justified, when seeking an alteration of the Constitution, in asking for power sufficiently wide to enable legislation to be introduced to aid an,v industry which may need assistance.
Senator Duncan-Hughes vigorously opposed the second reading, and yet he gave his blessing to the amendment of Senator Badman. In the event of that amendment being agreed to by the Parliament, I assume that Senator DuncanHughes will take the platform in South Australia and urge the electors to support it.
– The honorable senator is making a wrong assumption.
– As the honorable senator is not prepared to support Senator Badman’s amendment ‘before the electors, his blessing of it appears to be ill-timed and worthless.
Senator Sir George Pearce. - Senator Duncan-Hughes thinks that this is a good opportunity to rock the boat.
– Apparently so; but when I heard the honorable senator bestow his blessing so liberally upon Senator Badman’s amendment I was confident that he would support it, both in this committee and before the electors. If the proposal submitted to the electors - whether in its original form or as amended in either of the ways proposed by Senator Badman and Senator Payne - be not accepted, any Commonwealth Government in the future will find it extremely difficult to justify, in any circumstances whatsoever, the introduction of legislation designed to assist primary producers.
– And what is worse, the States also will be without power in that direction.
– The proposal of the Government is designed to enable assistance to be given to needy primary industries, but if the electors refuse to alter the Constitution to make that possible, it is very questionable if they would approve of the adoption of the backdoor method - by that I mean the imposition of an excise duty - to assist an industry, because they will have shown by their vote that they do not desire industries to be assisted. No other construction could be placed on a negative vote by the people. A most important principle is at stake. Honorable senators who desire that means shall be provided whereby primary industries maybe assisted by the Commonwealth should provide an open door for that purpose. This measure provides that door, and, in my opinion, honorable senators who oppose this legislation will be attempting to close the door.
– Senator DuncanHughes contends that the Government should first exhaust the means it has at hand.
– In my secondreading speech, I referred to that aspect of the subject. I disagree with the imposition of an excise duty, principally because it means that money raised by the Commonwealth Government would be expended by the States. In my opinion, that principle is wrong; the Government which raises the money should disburse it. An excise duty is not only difficult to collect, but also unfair. This measure provides the open door whereby primary industries may be assisted; and if that door be closed it will be difficult for any government in the future to justify the granting of any form of assistance to an exporting industry.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Whilst I do not agree with either of the amendments, I do not think that the verbiage of the bill is the best that could be employed. Had the framing of this proposal been my responsibility I would, seeing that the whole of the marketing legislation revolves around section 92, have submitted to a referendum the following simple question: “Are you in favour of the Commonwealth being bound by section 92 of the Constitution?” I suggest that, had the proposal to be submitted to the people been framed in that way, the present difficulty would have been met and there would be brighter prospects of its approval by the people. However, the proposal has been framed, and we must do the best we can in the circumstances. Feeling that it is imperative that this power should be vested in the Commonwealth, I have no course open to me but to support the bill as it stands.
– I cannot support the amendment moved by Senator Badman because it is a direct contradiction of the principles I expressed in my second-reading speech, when I pointed out that, although I was prepared to accept the Government’s proposal, that proposal, in my opinion, did not go far enough in that it failed to grant to the Commonwealth power to initiate systems of marketing control. The honorable senator’s amendment is a definite limitation of the proposal of the Government. I cannot follow his reasoning when he says that it is the intention of the Government in its proposal to ask only for powers to deal with certain specific industries, such as butter, and dried fruits. My interpretation of the Government’s proposal is that it seeks a restoration of the powers which it exercised prior to the decision of the Privy Council in theJ ames case. Those powers were wide, and the fact that they were not exercised to the fullest extent or over a wider sphere of industry does not mean that the Commonwealth did not possess them. The fact that the Commonwealth applied those powers only in respect of the marketing of dried fruits and butter, and made an attempt to exercise them in respect of wheat, does not mean that those powers did not cover the whole field of primary production. Therefore, I do not interpret the proposal in the bill as indicating that it is the Government’s intention to secure powers for the Commonwealth, only to the extent that it will be enabled to resume control over the interstate marketing of butter and dried fruits.
I cannot agree with Senator Badman’s proposal to insert in the clause the word “ foodstuffs “. The insertion of that word would lead to a welter of litigation which would defeat the very object of the Government’s proposal. Suppose that the people approved of this proposal in the form suggested by the honorable senator, would not the barley-growers in South Australia, a very important section ot the primary producers in that State, immediately reproach Senator Badman for having, by his amendment, prevented them from participating in the benefits extended to other primary industries by the Commonwealth by virtue of the powers given to it at the referendum.
– What is barley used for?
– I believe that it is used mainly for malting and may or may not be included in the term “ foodstuffs “. However, honorable senators should realize that the very fact that this point has given rise to controversy in this chamber indicates that it will be controversial and litigious outside. I suggest that a large number of the barley-growers in South Australia would not view the honorable senator’s proposal with favour, because they would see that it immediately placed them on the border line and raised a question as to whether they came within the sphere of primary production, over which the Commonwealth will be given powers of marketing control if the proposed alteration be approved at the referendum.
– To-day alcoholic drinks are not regarded as foodstuffs.
– The controversy which would arise in respect of barley in this connexion would also arise in respect of other products. The issue involved in the Government’s proposal is clear. We are attempting to restore to the Commonwealth powers which it has exercised since 1921. Those powers cover the whole field of marketing throughout primary industry, and are not limited merely to the products to which marketing control has been already applied. I hope that the people will approve of the Government’s proposal in its present form.
– I do not take the pessimistic view of the Government proposal that has been advanced by Senator Dein, who said that if this particular amendment of the Constitution was not approved by the people, we should at once give up all hope of ever being able to do anything for the welfare of the primary producers. The Country party will continue to work to that end no matter what may happen at any time in the future. From a constitutional point of view, we would be proceeding on very unsound lines if we based the phrasing of any alteration of the Constitution upon fears that might exist among a section of the people. We have to remember that to-day, we are repairing or adding to a Constitution, and that our work may have to last for 50 or 100 years. We are dealing with a permanent constitutional structure, and therefore we should not attempt to alter it, merely with the object of allaying the fears of any particular section of the people. Any such alteration would not be effective for very many years. The Leader of the Senate very properly pointed out that there are other primary products which might be prejudicially affected later on if an amendment of the Constitution were made along the lines of Senator Badman’s proposal. Much as I should like to allay any fears that might threaten the success of the Government’s proposal at the referendum, I cannot lend my support to this particular amendment. In addition to timber, one could enumerate many other products, such as coal, broom millet, cotton, linseed and tobacco, which at some time in the future, if not at the present time, it might be desirable to bring within the scope of the Commonwealth marketing schemes. From a constitutional point of view, therefore, the honorable senator’s proposal is very unsound, and I cannot support it. The same observation can, I think, be applied to Senator Payne’s projected amendment.
– It appears to me remarkable that so many honorable senators have hastened in this debate to assure members of this chamber and the Australian public as a whole that the Government is seeking far wider powers than even the Government itself is prepared to admit are connoted in its proposal. The last four speakers in particular, Senators Arkins. Dein, Hardy and Abbott, have been outspoken and very clear in their statements that they would like the Commonwealth to be granted wider powers than are necessary to give it control solely in respect of interstate trade in conformity with section 92 of the Constitution.
– Section 92 of the Constitution gave the ‘Commonwealth unlimited powers.
– It did not. The Government thought it did, but that is where the mistake was made. It was said last night that my amendment would bring about undesirable limitations of the Government’s powers. To me that is an indication that the Government does not desire to have its powers limited to the control of marketing, and that the primary producers will suffer in other directions. I point out that my definition of foodstuffs includes foodstuffs for domestic animals as well as for human beings, and, therefore, covers not only such commodities as dried fruits and butter, but also cheese, wine, wheat, barley, oats, flour and oatmeal, eggs, potatoes, onions, maize and maize products, meats and canned meats. Surely we do not want a wider range than that.
– What about wine?
– Wine also is a foodstuff. I gather that the Leader of the Senate is prepared to make the Government’s proposal apply specifically to primary products; he objects to the limitations imposed by my proposal. I ask him whether he is prepared to accept my amendment if the reference to foodstuffs is omitted. Most likely the Government will not be prepared to accept this suggestion, and will ask what is meant by primary products.
– Yes; what is a primary product?
– I am aware of that difficulty, but I desire to have the Government’s proposal defined as clearly as possible. That is my reason for using the word foodstuffs. The list which I have just given, shows that the term covers a very wide range of commodities. Senator Arkins suggested that if the term foodstuffs were mentioned in the proposal, it would focus the attention of the public on the idea, already propagated, that it was the intention of the Government to establish a system of marketing which would increase the cost of food. Surely every honorable senator knows that if prices of food rise, the consumers can secure relief through the Arbitration Court.
– The Arbitration Court cannot settle constitutional questions.
– I do not say that it’ can, but if the cost of living were increased the Arbitration Court naturally would take that fact into consideration when making awards. In any case this aspect of the Government’s proposal has already been discussed throughout Australia. Its opponents have been preaching that it is the intention of the Government to increase the cost of living by raising the price of foodstuffs. In these circumstances, why should the Government, despite the fears expressed by Senator Arkins, try to create the impression that the price of foodstuffs is not involved in its proposal? Why should the people be hoodwinked in that way? The Government should be honest and make clear the full purport of its proposal. Surely Australians who enjoy to the full our high standard of living would be prepared to extend that standard to the producers, even if it involved a little sacrifice on their part.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Government’s claim, that it seeks to give a reasonable standard of living to the primary producers, is a hoodwinking subterfuge ?
– No, but when Senator Arkins contends that any mention of foodstuffs in the proposal will endanger its approval by the people, I say that we should be honest in the matter and explain its full purport to the people. Senator Dein said that, at the moment, the Government could not say what industries it might be found desirable to assist in the future.
Up to the present no attempt has been made to control the handling and marketing of products other than foodstuffs. The iron and steel industry and other secondary industries have received bounties; but we are now dealing with foodstuffs of the people. A marketing system was in operation for twelve years until the Privy Council decided in the James case that the Commonwealth had not the constitu tional power to legislate in respect of marketing. The Commonwealth has now to ask the people to give it the power which it thought it possessed.
– Section 92 is not limited to foodstuffs.
– No; but the recent decision of the Privy Council has shown that the Commonwealth has not the power, even in co-operation with the States, to legislate in respect of marketing. Secondary industries have been protected by the payment of bounties, and they can, if necessary, be assisted in that way in the future. We do not wish to revert to assisting primary industries in that way, and compel them to accept what may be regarded a dole. Other industries having been assisted in the past, we should provide that those engaged in the production of foodstuffs should not be compelled to receive a dole If my amendment were carried, they would not be in that position. Senator Hardy who said that the proposal does not go far enough, and that he could not follow my reasoning, was sufficiently outspoken to say that he favoured the Commonwealth having full power over trade and commerce, and that section 92 should be less restrictive than it is at present. I trust that honorable senators will realize that my object in moving this amendment is to bring this proposal before the people in such a form that they will be willing to accept it, and that they will not be in doubt as to what the word “ marketing “ really means. At present there is grave doubt, and I should like the people to have a definite assurance that the object of the Government in endeavouring to obtain additional power is merely to enable it to pass legislation, in co-operation with the States, to facilitate the handling and marketing of primary produce as it had been doing prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. I trust that those honorable senators who have followed the debate and have studied my amendment will admit that we must be able to convince the people that the power which the Government seeks . to obtain is essential.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out (Senator Badman’s amendment) be left out - put. The committee divided. ( Temporary Chairman - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . ….. 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That after the word “ exercise “, proposed new section 92a, the words “ at the request of States concerned in the disposal of products overseas “ be inserted.
If the amendment be carried the clause will then read -
The provisions of the last preceding section shallnot apply to laws with respect to marketing made by or under the authority of the Parliament in the exercise, at the request of States concerned in the disposal of products overseas, of any powers vested in the Parliament by this Constitution.
In pressing for the acceptance of the amendment, it will be necessary for me to make my intention clear.
– Especially to the court.
– To the committee. I shall outline what has been done in the past by the Commonwealth to aid industries, and also show that the Commonwealth is seeking powers in excess of those which it exercised prior to the recent decision of the Privy Council.
– The powers of the Commonwealth were not limited to any particular industry.
– I did not suggest that they were. I am merely referring to the fact that the powers which the Commonwealth thought it possessed were exercised to assist only those industries producing commodities in excess of the local consumption, thus necessitating the surplus being exported overseas and sold at world’s parity. In many instances world’s parity was lower than the cost of production, which necessitated the fixing of quotas and of prices somewhat higher than would have otherwise been charged in order to counteract the loss incurred on overseas sale.*. I appreciate to the full the assistance given to certain industries; without it they could not have carried on. Other industries may require similar help later, and if my amendment be adopted, they will not be prevented from receiving governmental assistance.
– Why does not the honorable senator support his reasoning by his vote?
– I have not yet recorded my vote; I hope to secure the honorable senator’s support for my amendment. This proposal should be couched in language ‘which the people can understand, and if my amendment be adopted the fact will be clear that it will apply only to those industries now compelled to market their surplus products overseas. The word “ marketing “, as it stands, is indefinite and crude, and I feel that it will be difficult to convince the people that if the Government’s proposal be adopted this or some future government may not exercise the power in a way that was never intended. Surely it would be of assist ance to the Government and to the industries likely to benefit if the proposed alteration’ of the Constitution were amended in such a way that the people would be satisfied that some limitation was placed upon the powers which the Commonwealth could exercise. Many thousands of electors will seek an assurance that the proposed referendum will not increase the powers of the Commonwealth beyond those which it exercised before the Privy Council’s decision. I endeavoured to make this point clear during my second-reading speech ; unfortunately, my remarks have been accidentally misconstrued in certain sections of the press. Newspapers have suggested that my object in moving the amendment is to limit any assistance which may ‘be given by the Government to the sale abroad of our surplus primary products. It is nothing of the kind ! Tip to date, no industry, which has not made a request. te the Government in this connexion, has been subject to marketing control. The object of the marketing scheme was to ensure the survival of the industries concerned by giving to the producers a higher price for the proportion of the butter and dried fruits consumed in Australia in order to compensate for. the lower price obtained for the surplus sold overseas.
– Does not the honorable gentleman consider that every State is concerned, for instance, in the marketing of butter?
– I do.
– Then the approval of all the States would have to be obtained under the honorable senator’s amendment in order to allow marketing legislation to be put into operation.
– All States would get the assistance.
– But every State would have to agree to the marketing proposals before they could function.
– The first approach must be made by the States. They must pass legislation, and later the Commonwealth will enact complementary legislation. The two in conjunction will provide the necessary machinery to enable primary produce to be marketed at a satisfactory price.
– It means that at all times all the States would have to agree, because all of them are concerned in the export of primary produce overseas.
– All of them are not concerned in dried fruits.
– But they are concerned in the price.
– I ask honorable senators to concentrate on considering whether my amendment, if carried, will improve the prospects of the success of the referendum. I am anxious that this Parliament should be given such powers as arc necessary to enable it to continue to legislate in connexion with the marketing of primary produce to the same extent as it did before the decision of the Privy Council. I should be the last person to take any action which might jeopardize that objective; but I earnestly believe that my amendment will assist in obtaining an affirmative vote at the referendum.
SenatorSir George Pearce. - More than one State is concerned in the export of primary products. Have they all to make the request to the Commonwealth to legislate ?
– They have had to do so in the past; otherwise, this Parliament would not have been empowered to initiate the complementary marketing legislation.
– Under the honorable senator’s amendment, if four States desired the legislation, but one State disagreed, a marketing scheme could not be introduced.
– How does this apply to action taken in this respect by the Government in the past ?
– We did act without receiving a request from all the States. The honorable senator now endeavours by his amendment to compel us to await the receipt of requests from all States before legislating.
– If that is the only objection, I invite the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to draw up an amendment which will effect my purpose and yet satisfy the Government. I ask the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) whether he can point out how in any way my amendment would jeopardize the benefits that hitherto have accrued to primary producing industries under the marketing legislation.
– It would make the legislation abortive, because the disapproval of one State could block it.
– As the Commonwealth cannot do anything without supplementary State legislation, what is the use of inserting the amendment proposed by the honorable senator?
– Commonwealth legislation must be complementary to State legislation. The Commonwealth does not take the initiative; the first step must be taken by the States concerned. We are asked to pass legislation complementary to their legislation in order to enable market schemes to function effectively.
– Did a State take the initiative in regard to the wheat legislation?
– In submitting this amendment, I ask the Government in all earnestness to accept it, or failing that, to substitute a suitable alternative in order to allay my anxiety in regard to the prospects of securing an affirmative vote at the referendum.
– What is the meaning of the words “ States concerned “ ?
– I should say that every State that has an industry which has to export a large proportion of its production at world’s parity, which, in many instances is much lower than the cost of production, is naturally concerned in the marketing control of that industry.
– Is not a consuming State also concerned?
– Not in the export of a portion of the production of other States.
– Yes, if the export makes the price higher for the local consumers.
– Apparently the Leader of the Senate is prepared to raise objection to any amendment which is moved to this bill. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will accept my assurance that I am actuated only by a desire to help the Government carry its proposal. I should like him to explain how my amendment would jeopardize the success of the referendum.
– We think that it would sandbag it altogether.
– Does the Minister desire that, through the referendum, more power should be given to the Government in respect of marketing than it exercised before the decision of the Privy Council?
– We had more power then than this amendment will give to us.
– Has the Government at any time endeavoured to legislate for the marketing of the product of any industry which has not to export a large proportion of its production?
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Nobody doubts the honesty or sincerity of the opinion which has been expressed by Senator Payne, but my objections to the amendment are, first, that it adds to the difficulties of construing the section; and, secondly, it is obscure. The first obscurity occurs in the words “ at the request “. I asked last night, when replying to the second-reading debate, in what way is the request to be manifested - by an act of Parliament, a resolution of Parliament, an executive minute of some sort, or by a letter from a State Premier? The next obscurity occurs in the words “ at the request of the States concerned “.
– Did not the States make requests previously to the Commonwealth to pass marketing legislation?
– They did; but they did not make such requests pursuant to something contained in the Constitution. They made a request as a matter of arrangement between governments; but governments cannot arrange to abrogate, or explain away, or fritter away any passage which is in the Constitution.
– In what manner did they make those requests?
– I don’t know that it matters.
– Then it does not matter in this instance.
– It does, because this is liable to be attacked. Suppose that a letter passes between a State Government and a representative of the
Federal Government, and on that, the Federal Government or State Government acts by passing legislation. That legislation may be attacked as being unconstitutional on the ground that no request was received from the States concerned. A letter or an after-dinner conversation will not suffice. There must be something in the nature of an expression of the will of the Parliament concerned in this regard.
– The honorable senator will see that he is poles apart from, what Senator Badman has said. We have drafted a proposed amendment which we think is workable in the way in which the honorable senator suggests, perhaps by the submission of a request from the States to this Parliament; but whatever legislation is passed by the States or the Commonwealth must be within the terms of that new section. Any State, I venture to say, has ‘a right to say “ We are concerned in this question as to what quantity of dried fruits will remain in Australia and what will be exported “. Therefore, any single State, even Tasmania, which has the smallest population and does not process dried fruits, would be entitled to prevent the adoption of a marketing scheme if Senator Payne’s amendment were inserted in the bill. My third point is that the proposal is quite unnecessary. Senator Payne is concerned that the Australian public will be afraid that some powers are being sought by the Federal Government which it is not disclosing. My reply is that the proposed alteration for which the bill provides is an extremely simple issue. It is designed to restore the position which obtained prior to the recent decision of the Privy Council.The honorable senator would Is have the greatest difficulty in explaining on .the public platform what is meant by the following :-
The provisions of the last preceding section shall not apply to laws with respect to marketing made by or under the authority of the Parliament in the exercise, at the request of the States concerned in the disposal of products overseas, of any powers vested in this Parliament by the Constitution.
– I recently called attention to a legislative provision which is more obscure than that.
– Yes, and I elucidated it for the honorable senator, but it was not a proposal to be submitted to the people at a referendum. The proposal contained in the bill can be easily explained to the electors, but, as proposed to be amended by Senator Payne, it would be obscure in the extreme.
The term “ marketing “ is said to be wide and obscure. In 1927, in the first James case, the word was prominently before the High Court. In the judgment of Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Powers, are constant references to “ marketing “ and “ marketed “. Their Honours stated, inter alia: -
Confining ourselves, in the first instance, to the language of the instruments - section and determination - the central word is “ marketing “. The determination of the board is to regulate “marketing” as to ( 1 ) “ where “, or (2) “in what respective quantities” the output of dried fruits may bo “ marketed “. The word “ marketed “ in the determination must be given the same meaning as it has in the act. “ Marketing “ of dried fruits is indeed the central purpose of the act, as may be seen by- reference to its title.
I cite that portion of the judgment to show that their Honours constantly repeated the word “ marketing “ and never suggested the slightest difficulty as to its meaning. In 1931 the British Parliament passed the Agricultural Marketing Act, the first section of which states -
A scheme regulating the marketing of an agricultural product by the producers thereof may be submitted to the Minister . . .
At several places in that act references are found to “ marketing “, and not the slightest doubt is cast upon its meaning. My leader stated yesterday that when the court came to construe the meaning of a word used in a statute, it would consider the sense in which it had been used in other acts of the same kind. For instance, in construing the meaning of a word occurring in an Australian act, one could be guided by its use in English acts dealing with similar matters. In 1934 an act was passed in Canada “To improve the methods and practices of marketing of natural products in Canada and in export trade, and to make further provision in connexion therewith “. That measure contains a definition of “marketing”, and the word is used throughout the act. In statutes passed in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, the word is employed as an ordinary English term.
As the Leader of the Senate pointed out yesterday, the expression occurs in various acts passed by the parliaments of the Commonwealth and the States, and never has any doubt been expressed as to its meaning.
– The Privy Council suggested no difficulty in that regard.
– That is so. I can throw no further light upon the subject. I suggest that honorable senators would be well advised to accept the clause as it stands. It was drafted in its present form after the Attorney-General and other members of the Cabinet, both legal and lay, leading King’s counsel in Sydney and Melbourne, and professors of constitutional law in Melbourne, had had their attention directed to this very point. All were satisfied that there was no difficulty as to the interpretation of “ marketing “. I regret to have to run counter to the views put so strongly by my friend Senator Payne, but I ask the committee to reject the amendment.
.- I have raised no doubt as to the meaning of “ marketing “, although the Minister has rather laboured that point. I thoroughly understand what the word means, but my object is to restrict marketing legislation to certain classes of industries.
– As the clause stands, “ marketing “ covers practically every activity.
– That is my objection. I desire this bill to cover only industries of the kind to which marketing legislation has been successfully and usefully applied in the past.
– The honorable senator wishes to limit the powers of the State and Commonwealth Parliaments so that they will be less than they were prior to the recent decision of the Privy Council.
– The honorable senator would ask the people to confer on this Parliament wider powers than are required to achieve the avowed object of the Government. I do not wish to give this Parliament complete powers regarding the marketing of all products concerning which some States may desire to legislate, although in other States such legislation may be regarded as prejudicial to the interests of the people.
Senator Brennan was rather caustic regarding the language of my amendment. He asked what I mean by the phrase “ at the request of the States “. I merely mean what those words clearly imply. He said that a letter from the Premier of a State, or a verbal request made in conversation between a State Premier and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth would amount to a request from a State. The wish of a State is expressed not by its Premier or the other members of the Cabinet, but by its parliament, and the objection raised by the Minister is a mere quibble. Surely the term “ at the request of States concerned in the disposal of the products “ implies a request from the parliaments of those States which, as in the past, would ask this Parliament to enact legislation complementary to that of the States.
– The honorable senator’s amendment involves a limitation of the power which this Parliament had prior to the Privy Council’s judgment.
– The Leader of the Senate must admit that he and every other member of the Government have stated more than once that they are seeking no greater power than this Parliament was believed to possess prior to the decision of the Privy Council. I am anxious that this Parliament should have the same power as before but no greater authority. I desire that the power we thought we had should be restored by the acceptance of the proposal to be submitted to the people. Throughout Australia, and I can speak particularly with regard to Tasmania, the people will examine the proposal very carefully before they will give an affirmative vote.
– When the dried fruits legislation was passed, we did not have a request for it from every State in Australia, but only from one State. The other States subsequently passed similar legislation. Under Senator Payne’s amendment the parliaments of the six States would have to pass the marketing legislation before the Commonwealth could act.
– Does the Minister suggest that if Victoria approached the Commonwealth and if the other States did not notify the Commonwealth that they were prepared to fall into line-
– Previously it was not necessary to get the consent of all the States, but this would be required under the amendment.
– There is a possibility of the term “marketing” being given so wide a meaning as to be a direct infringement of section 92 of the Constitution.
.- The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Brennan) objected to the amendment proposed by Senator Payne on the ground that its meaning would be difficult to ascertain. I find, however, that the Constitution Act, section 51, uses almost identical words - (xxxviii) The exercise within the Commonwealth, at the request or with the concurrence of the Parliaments of all the States directly concerned. . . .
The words employed by Senator Payne in his amendment, although not exactly identical, have the same meaning. Section 51 contains the word “ concerned “, and also “ at the request of the States”. Senator Payne would probably agree to the wording of his amendment being altered to read “ at the request or with the concurrence of the Parliaments of all the States directly concerned “.
– Does the honorable senator fear that the Commonwealth will have power to act on its own ?
– I shall support any amendment by which the power of the Commonwealth to do anything which might be detrimental to any State is restricted. I fear that the proposal of the Government, if carried, would empower the Commonwealth to force on Tasmania conditions not asked for by that State, and, indeed,, detrimental to it. The Commonwealth could absolutely stop interstate freetrade with Tasmania.
– What could the Commonwealth do under the 1920 judgment?
– I do not know what it could have done, nor do I think that the honorable senator could give an answer to his own question. The decision of the Privy Council means that the Commonwealth may not interfere with interstate freetrade. I have a strong objection to any interference by the Commonwealth which may be detrimental to the interests of any State. I speak particularly of Tasmania, an island State dependent on ocean or air transport. In the past the Commonwealth has prevented the other States from trading with Tasmania, simply because some of the larger States have wished it to do so. On one occasion, because of a request from a body without statutory authority, the Commonwealth Government prevented interstate trade in butter between Tasmania and the mainland States.
– What has that to do with the amendment?
– Everything ; it strikes at the root of interstate freetrade. I am opposed to anything which may act detrimentally to the interests of any State; and as the amendment moved by Senator Payne seeks to limit the powers of the Commonwealth to do mischief in that respect, I shall support it.
– During this discussion honorable senators have repeatedly said that the desire underlying this legislation is the regaining only of those powers which most people thought the Commonwealth possessed before the Privy Council gave its decision in the James case. Apparently, in the minds of some honorable senators, it is thought that power is wanted to control only those primary products which previously were controlled.
– No honorable senator has expressed that opinion.
– It should be clear that what is sought is power to control not only those products which were the subject of control before the James case was decided, butother products as well. The amendment moved by Senator Payne has complicated the situation, but, fortunately, we have had an opportunity to “ sleep on it “. Having given the matter consideration overnight, I am convinced that the committee would be well advised to accept the Government’s proposal in preference to any of the amendments which so far have been proposed. This is not an ordinary bill, but one which, if the proposal it contains be endorsed by the electors, will be incorporated in the Constitution, where it will remain.
– What will happen if the proposal of the Government is not acceptable to the people?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Earlier appeals have shown a disinclination on their part to change the Constitution, for most of the proposals submitted to them have been rejected. It would appear that many of the electors regard the Constitution as being similar to the law of the Medes and Persians “which altereth not “. They do not regard it as a man-made document 36 years old, and consequently ripe for alteration. During the last day or two attempts have been made to ascertain what was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution. At this period of Australia’s history it does not matter what was in their minds.
– The framers of the Constitution never saw an aeroplane or a wireless receiving set.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Since the Constitution was framed, con’ditions have altered considerably. Just as motor and air transport have almost entirely supplanted the bullock dray, so there has been progress in other directions also. In any proposal to alter the Constitution, legal precision is particularly essential; and in my opinion, we should do well to heed the opinions of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) and his advisers - for we have been informed that the best legal talent available in the Commonwealth was consulted - rather than those of honorable senators who have moved amendments, and who, after all, are only laymen. We must not lose sight of the fact that the proposed new section may have to run the gauntlet of an appeal to the High Court, or even the Privy Council. I am reminded of an instance which occurred in South Australia in which a gentleman who had become involved in a serious difficulty was brought before the court. He employed eminent counsel to represent him, and, in consequence, was acquitted. Later, when he received a bill for professional services rendered, he interviewed his counsel, and complained that his charges were too high. The legal gentleman became somewhat irritated, and said, “ You know the penalty for the offence, and you also know that you were guilty “. The client replied, “Before I heard you address the jury, I was certain that I was guilty, but now I am not sure of my guilt “. We shall be wise if we accept the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral and the eminent counsel whom he has consulted, and therefore I urge the committee to approve the proposal of the Government as embodied in this measure. A good deal has been said of alternatives, such as an excise duty and bounty, but I remind honorable senators that over a period of seven or eight years Australia has had experience of marketing schemes which have operated both effectively and cheaply. Such schemes should not be scrapped in favour of proposals which may be far more expensive and less satisfactory.
– In my second-reading speech yesterday, I asked the Minister in charge of the bill a question to which I did not receive a reply, probably because his time expired before he had concluded his speech. I desire now to repeat my question : Should the proposals submitted to the electors be agreed to by a majority of the people in a majority of the States, will it be obligatory on all the States to participate in any marketing scheme which may be established even though not in favour of it?
– It would be, if Senator Payne’s amendment were carried, but not otherwise.
– If a State which desired to stand out, may be forced to join such a scheme, I cannot see any virtue in the amendment.
– My proposal relates to schemes inaugurated at the request of the States.
– Would the scheme apply throughout Australia, if accepted by the people?
– The States would be forced to join unless an amendment along the lines of that moved by Senator Payne be agreed to.
– If the position is as stated by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), further light is thrown on the proposal under consideration. Replying to Senator Marwick, the right honorable gentleman said that any State may stand out of the scheme unless it makes a request to come in. Are we to understand that a State which does not desire to participate in the butter equalization scheme is able to trade interstate in butter, although it has not sent its quota overseas ? I understand that a fundamental principle of that scheme is that no State may export butter to another State unless it has sent its quota overseas. If Senator Payne’s amendment means that only those States which make requests to join such schemes will come within the scope of this legislation, that is all the more reason why it should receive support.
Senator James McLachlan said that amendments of the Government’s proposal are undesirable. I ask him what purpose is served in discussing the bill if it is not capable of amendment. Why spend two days in discussing a measure, if any attempt to alter it is undesirable?
– I expressed only my own opinion.
– That opinion is not shared by honorable senators generally. Every honorable senator is entitled to move any amendment which he thinks will improve the bill. In my opinion, the amendment moved by Senator Payne defines the Government’s intention more clearly than does the proposed new section as drafted.
– Senator Marwick desires to know whether, in the event of the Government’s proposal being accepted by the people, a State which did not desire to join a marketing scheme could remain out of it. I wish to know what the position would be if an affirmative vote were recorded by the people on Senator Payne’s amendment. Would it then be obligatory on all States to participate in the scheme, or could a State, if it so desired, refrain from participating in it?
.- On the hypothesis advanced by Senator Marwick, a State, in my opinion, could stand out if it chose to do so. No compulsion can be exercised on a State in this respect by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth acts only at the request of the
States concerned in the particular industry, and if it were confronted with the fact that a number of i States, after this proposal was approved at a referendum, were anxious to stand out of any marketing control scheme, it would be extremely unlikely to proceed in the matter. The Commonwealth can come in only at the request of the States.
– Objection might be taken by one State which was not in favour of the proposal carried by a majority of the States.
– I understand that the hypothesis advanced by the honorable senator was in respect of a State which had been in favour of the proposal, and, after the proposal was carried, chose to stand out. In my opinion, the State could follow that course.
– Would that not jeopardize any proposal of this nature?
– That would depend largely on the importance of the State with regard to any particular industry concerned. The Commonwealth cannot regulate intra-State trade, but it li.ii s complete power of control over export and interstate trade, subject to section 92, the limitations of which will be qualified if this proposal be carried by the people. If it chooses, a State may say that it will look after its own trade in its own way, but it must not be unmindful of the fact that the Commonwealth has legislative powers with respect to interstate and overseas trade.
– I and my colleagues have been particularly silent on this measure, and on the amendments, because we are in favour of the bill, and we think that it is futile and a waste of time to debate fine points when it is quite obvious that a majority of the Senate is prepared to curry the original proposal. I regret that a number of honorable senators opposite do not agree with that view. I hope that Senator Marwick understands the explanation just given by the Assistant Minister. It would be competent for a State to isolate itself by standing out of any system of control. That, however, would be a suicidal policy for any State to adopt. Actually, all a State could do in that respect would be to isolate itself, because, with, its greater powers, the Commonwealth, although it could not directly compel a State to fall into line with the other States, could, indirectly, compel it to abide by the results of its own action in isolating itself whilst the other States were enjoying the benefits of organized marketing.
It has been suggested in this discussion that there is, automatically, an objection on the part of the* majority of the committee to any amendment of the Government’s proposed. That inference is unfounded. If any suggestion of that character were made by the Government in relation to this, or any other, measure, J would be the first to enter a protest.
It has been manifested that what is objected to is the proposing of amendments which are entirely unintelligible to a majority of the senators, and obviously aim at destroying the real value of the original proposal. I take exception to such tactics, and to amendments which, with all respect to their supporters, I contend disclose no serious attempt to improve the measure but rather make it less effective. I protest against the waste of time which has occurred in this discussion.
– Why does the honorable senator waste time now?
– I know that the honorable senator believes that any time I occupy is wasted. So soon as he is convinced that I am contributing something of value to the debate I shall know that I am definitely wrong. I should not have risen at this juncture but for the fact that I decline to have the Opposition, small as it is, placed in a false light, by statements made in a general way by honorable senators who, I suggest, in the circumstances, are so mentally obfuscated and mixed that they do not know where they are. In this debate we have had learned dissertations as to the meaning of such words as “marketing” and “ concerned “. The debate on this bill was concluded for all practical purposes when the division was taken last night. I point out that there are important measures on the notice-paper yet to be considered. Probably when they are brought forward next week, or in the following week, some honorable senators will complain that we had no time to discuss them. I note in this respect the obstructionist speech made by Senator Duncan-Hughes this morning on another measure. The honorable senator will have to repeat all his remarks on a later occasion. I again protest against the waste of time which has occurred in this discussion because of the tactics adopted by some honorable senators.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted (Senator Payne’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I move -
Th at the bill be now read a second time.
This measure represents another effort on the part of the Commonwealth to make a provision which could not have been made when the Federal Constitution was framed. It also represents somewhat vividly a principle which emerged from the discussion on the Constitutional
Alteration (Marketing) Bill, namely, that there are many subjects requiring legislation which could not have been foreseen prior to the inception of federation.
Briefly, the purpose of this measure is to ask the Parliament and the electors to approve an alteration of the Constitution to give to the Commonwealth power to legislate with respect to aviation. It is proposed to ask for general powers over aviation, or in the terms of the proposed alteration of the Constitution, over “ air navigation and aircraft “. The proposed additional powers are being sought in consequence of the recent decision of the High Court in the Henry case. It would appear from the judgments of the learned justices in that case that the power of the Commonwealth Parliament with respect to civil aviation is confined to three categories, namely - (1) legislation for carrying out an international convention with respect to aviation; (2) legislation under the trade and commerce power in so far as aviation has an interstate or international character; and (3) legislation as to aviation in the territories. It will be noticed that the power of the Commonwealth in respect of aviation is not complete, as it does not extend to aviation of an intrastate character. If the proposed alteration is made the power will be complete, and will extend to intra-state, interstate and international aviation. The purpose of the bill is to seek power to legislate over intra-state aviation. It will, I think, assist honorable senators in considering this measure if I outline the legal position in Australia with regard to aviation before a decision was given by the High Court in the Henry case. The Commonwealth is a party to the International Convention for the regulation of aerial navigation signed at Paris in 1919, which is largely, but not wholly, concerned with international flying. In 1920, the question of implementing this convention was the subject of much consideration, and, at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held that year, resolutions were passed that it was desirable that the States should refer to the Commonwealth the power to make laws with respect to air navigation, re- taining for each State - (a) the right to own and use State aircraft operating within the State for governmental purposes, and (b) the police powers of the States.
Queensland and Tasmania passed acts which were in accordance with the resolution. The Queensland Act was not to come into force until proclaimed, whereas the Tasmanian Act operated from the date on which it was passed. The Parliaments of Victoria and South Australia passed legislation in a different form, but the acts were not proclaimed. It is interesting to note that the Victorian and South Australian legislation provided for transferring to the Commonwealth power to make laws with respect to aviation, first, within the terms of air conventions, and secondly, within the scope of interstate aviation. In other words, those acts were intended to transfer to the Commonwealth the powers it is now seen to possess. At that time, of course, it was not appreciated that the Commonwealth had legislative power to give effect to the International Air Convention. We now know, as the result of the High Court decision in the Henry case, that legislation passed in those two States would not have affected or added to the powers of the Commonwealth. In New South Wales and Western Australia, bills were introduced into the parliaments, but were not proceeded with. Briefly, that was the position in and immediately after 1920. On the assumption that these referring acts would be passed by the various States, the Commonwealth Parliament passed an Air Navigation Act in 1920. That act empowered the Governor-General to make regulations for the purpose of giving effect to the convention - that power has now been upheld - any amendment of the convention, and for the control of air navigation in the Commonwealth and the territories of the Commonwealth. That act has, by the decision of the High Court, been in part invalidated; because the effect of the decision of the High Court is, that while regulations may be made to give effect to the convention and for the purpose of controlling air navigation between the States in the Commonwealth, they cannot be made to cover generally operations within the terri torial boundaries of the Commonwealth. In order to ensure that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to enact legislation similar to the act of 1920, a constitutional alteration, whether by a reference of power or an addition of power as is now proposed, is necessary. The reference of powers in connexion with aviation has not proved to be satisfactory up to the present, and the Government has decided to adopt the method of seeking the necessary powers by means of an alteration of the Constitution.
A practical consideration that I desire to bring under the notice of honorable senators in support of the vesting of full powers in the Commonwealth with respect to aviation is that it is essential in the interests of safety in air navigation that uniform rules should be observed. When the Henry case was before the High Court the Chief Justice (Sir John Latham) said -
Uniform rules designed to secure the airworthiness of aircraft and the competencyof pilots, and uniform flying rules as to flight, the passing of aircraft in flight, and, in particular, ascent from and descent to aerodromes, are clearly desirable in the interests of all who use the air for flying. If the rules, e.g., for landing upon an aerodrome, are not uniform, so that the one pilot lands in a clockwise direction while another pilot, in the same place, obeying another set of rules, lands in an anti-clockwise direction, there is very grave risk of serious accident. Upon these and similar considerations the argument is based that in order to deal effectively with the subject of aircraft flying between the States, or between Australia and other countries, the Commonwealth Parliament must also have the power to deal with aircraft flying only within the limits of one State which use, as a matter of absolute necessity, the same air, and as a matter of practical necessity, the same aerodrome. The illustrations which have been given indicate the difficulties of any double control of aviation and might well be used to support the contention that it is wise or expedient that there should be a single control of this subject matter.
The proposal is similar to that recommended by theRoyal Commission on the Constitution. In making its recommendations, a majority of the members of the commission said -
We recommend that a power to make laws with respect to aviation bo conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament.
All the expert witnesses on this subject who appearedbefore the commission were agreed that the Commonwealth should have this power, and, as is shown elsewhere in this report, the State Premiers at one time passed a resolution that it was desirable that the power to make laws with respect to aviation, with certain reservations, should be transferred by the States to the Commonwealth.
Effect could, we think, be given to this recommendation by inserting in section 51 of the Constitution the following paragraph : - (vib) Air navigation and aircraft.
As I have already indicated, in 1920 the Premiers agreed to hand over certain powers to the Commonwealth. The matter was again considered by the Premiers in 1929. The report of that conference contains the following -
It was the general opinion that legislative provision with reference to aviation was defective, and that the position required immediate attention. It was agreed that the Commonwealth Parliament should draft a bill to be submitted to the governments of the States, transferring to the Commonwealth Parliament full power to legislate with respect to aviation and matters incidental to aviation. The State Governments undertook to consider whether they would submit the bill to their parliaments at an early date.
The subject was again discussed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in 1934 and, finally, at the conference held in Adelaide in August last, a committee representative of Commonwealth and State Ministers agreed that the States should pass legislation referring this power to the Commonwealth Parliament. To summarize the position : The High Court has declared in no uncertain language that there are limits to the Commonwealth’s power to control aviation; substantial agreement has been reached with the States from time to time that the aviation power should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament; and the Royal Commission on the Constitution which investigated the subject decided that the power should be vested in the Commonwealth and it recommended accordingly. It will, therefore, be appreciated that the Government has good reason to believe that the course it has adopted in placing this matter before the people is the best in all the circumstances.
I have been informed that 95 per cent. of the flying organizations operating in Australia are adhering to the regulations laid clown by the Commonwealth, even though in the matter of intra-state flying they could ignore them. There are, however, other factors,such as the contracts into which they have entered with insurance companies to be taken into con sideration. If these regulations were not adhered to, the levies imposed upon these companies or organizations would possibly be increased. The position which has arisen presents difficulties which have to be faced promptly by this Parliament, and by the people who, I feel sure, will support the Government’s proposal. There appears to be unanimity of opinion amongst honorable senators as to the necessity for the Commonwealth to exercise these powers. On previous occasions I have mentioned that the reference of powers has caused considerable doubt in legal circles. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), the Assistant Minister in this chamber (Senator Brennan), and I, hold the view that ref erred powers are effective, but some distinguished members of the legal fraternity contend that powers that have been transferred, as provided for in section 51, are not an effective method of endowing this Parliament with jurisdiction on behalf of the Australian people. As there are other important measures still to be considered by the Senate, I shall not dilate further upon the proposed alteration of the Constitution in this respect. I commend the bill to honorable senators, and trust that it will have a speedy passage.
– I feel somewhat diffident in stating the views of. the Opposition in this chamber on this measure, because, although we are in favour of the bill, certain honorable senators fervently declared that my speech on the Constitution Alteration (Marketing) Bill had influenced them to vote against it. When speaking on that bill, I expressed the opinion that the National Parliament should have full power; but that seemed to be a bogy which scared some honorable senators. I shall take the risk of repeating what I then said. I believe that, while the National Parliament is asking power to assume control over air navigation, it would be well advised to take its courage in both hands and seek power to control all means of transport.
– The honorable senator’s views on this measure are not endorsed by the members of the New South Wales Labour party.
– Senator Hardy has been most disturbed over some alleged action by the New South Wales Labour party; a few days ago he was equally disturbed in connexion with some action of the Queensland Labour party. Just as I told him on that occasion that, the Federal Labour party had agreed to make the referendum on marketing a non-party question, so it has agreed to make this bill a non-party question. That is an example of how w>’ can come together united in our disunity; I hope the example will be followed by the Country party which is so ably led in this chamber by Senator Hardy. We should like to hear honorable senators of that party speaking in this chamber with one voice, or differently, in terms of friendship, because of the non-party attitude which they adopt.
If there is one thing which ought, never to have been allowed to drift into the hands of private enterprise, it is the aviation industry. The Commonwealth Parliament should have stepped in so soon as aviation became a practical thing and, with the approval of the people, taken control of it. I am gratified that this bill has been introduced, and I have no doubt that it will be passed by the Senate. When it is placed before the public, I hope that, without much argument, a’ majority of the people in a majority of the States will express their approval of it.
Queensland has probably more right than any other State to be cautious in granting power to the Commonwealth in respect of aviation. ‘ With an amazing area to be developed by a small population, Queensland has done more in connexion with civil aviation than has any other State of the Commonwealth.
– With the exception of Western Australia.
– I admit that that State has done exceptionally well; T do not suggest that other States also have not done well; but I emphasize that Queensland has more justification than any other State for jealously watching the Commonwealth proposals in connexion with the control of aviation. I ask the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to inform the Sena.te of the extent of the collaboration, if any, which has taken place between the Stated and the Commonwealth in regard to this bill. Have they been directly consulted on the matter?
– In Queensland we are justifiably proud of our flying medical services, which are being conducted in various parts of the State. Anybody who is familiar with the distant parts of Queensland, or for that matter, any other outlying portions of Australia, will appreciate very keenly the value of the medical flying service to the isolated settlers. While the Senate was in recess recently I took the opportunity to tour a large portion of the country served by flying doctors, including Cloncurry, Mount Isa, and other isolated parts. Honorable senators would probably be surprised at the intensity of the feeling of security which is engendered in outback settlers by the knowledge that in time of sickness they may appeal to the flying medical services. Probably many of those people will never require the aid of the flying doctors; but they have a wonderful sense of added security in the knowledge that, if an emergency should arise, the service will be at their disposal. The people of Queensland, however, are not nervous about surrendering the control of aviation to the Commonwealth. Although I do not agree politically with this Government on many major items of policy, I do not. believe that it would use any power given to it under the referendum for the purpose of interfering with the conduct of those services, and destroying their efficiency. I realize that it might suggest the introduction of greater safeguards, but who would offer any objection on that score? Not even the most confirmed States-righter! In Queensland a good deal of work has also been done in making aerial surveys, both, of tracts of land and mining areas. J hope that the functions of the business enterprise so engaged will not be interfered with when the Commonwealth authority takes supreme control; I am confident that no such interference will occur.
– Mr. Forgan Smith seems a little nervous about it.
– I have seen a report in the southern press of some utterances attributed to the Premier of Queensland; but I am not at all nervous about the matter. In fact, the remarks of that gentleman, if correctly reported, are the basis of my speech this afternoon, and I am sure that he does not fear the action that will be taken by the Commonwealth in this regard. With all its faults, the Government has a measure of common sense and justice in these matters; the Opposition is prepared to concede that much to it. I support this bill, and will oppose any amendments proposed to it, unless it can be clearly shown, without any involved arguments between dialecticians and legal luminaries, that such amendments will improve the bill, and add to the powers that the Commonwealth desires to obtain through the referendum. If an intelligent amendment be moved to restore to the Commonwealth some of the power which the language of the proposed alteration of the Constitution now being considered does not give, the Opposition will accord it intelligent consideration. I hope that the bill will be carried without too many and involved speeches.
– I had hoped that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) would clearly, detail his reasons for believing that transport should become the function of the Commonwealth.
– They are quite obvious.
– It was not that I required those reasons in order that I might make up my mind in regard to this bill, ‘because I believe that . aviation should come under the control of the Commonwealth Government. It was because I should be most interested to catalogue the reasons of the honorable gentleman, so that I could compare them one by one with the reasons given by the New South Wales Labour party - incidentally, the larger section of the Australian Labour party - which has already decided to oppose this referendum tooth and nail. The announcement of the Leader of the Opposition that he will treat the measure from a non-party viewpoint was most refreshing. On matters of tariff and future legislation, I trust that he will be able to follow this precedent. Evidently, the honorable gentle man and his colleagues are beginning to develop a national vision which they did not possess in the past.
In asking the Australian public to allow the control of aviation to belong to the Commonwealth beyond question, we are only following the example of other federations in the world. Every federal constitution of importance since the advent of aviation as a practical service vests in the federal legislature control over aviation. One excellent example of this is to be found in the new German constitution. The Reich has exclusive power in regard to air traffic and the control of it within the borders of Germany. The Austrian constitution of 1920 also vests power in regard to air navigation in the central authority. The Swiss federation, by referendum in 1921, granted to the federal body power to legislate over all aviation matters. In the United States of America, where the matter has been disputed several times, the Supreme Court has not hesitated to state on every occasion that the control of aviation should be vested in the federal body.
– Does that apply to intra-state aviation?
– I shall come to that matter in a moment. It is interesting to note that, ever since 1919, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, representing more than 30 nations, has urged in every report the establishment of federal control. I bring these facts to the attention of honorable senators, to show that the Commonwealth, in seeking this power, is not asking for anything particularly original. It is only falling into line with an obvious world-wide trend dating from the time when aviation first became a practical thing. A point in which I was particularly interested was that upon which the challenge to the Commonwealth’s power in respect of aviation was made before the High Court. I am, of course, aware of the terms of the judgment which has been given; but I should like the Minister, when replying to the second reading debate, to elucidate this point. Presuming that the regulation which was the cause of the overthrow of the power of the Commonwealth by the High Court had been embodied as part of the Inter- national Air Convention, would it then have been upheld by Their Honours? If it had been upheld, tremendous possibilities of the extension of Commonwealth powers would have been opened up. The air regulations which have been sponsored by the Commonwealth up to date are divided roughly under two headings : first, those principles which were entered into at the Convention for the Regulation of Aerial Navigation, which was subscribed to by 27 nations in October, 1919 ; and, secondly, the regulations which were actually sponsored by the Commonwealth for the purpose of controlling aircraft in this country. It is interesting to note those two divisions. The important principles to which Australia subscribed as a party to an international agreement were -
It is quite obvious that that principle, which was accepted by Australia as an international obligation when it subscribed to the Air Convention, has not been challenged before the High Court -
In the control of aviation in Australia, however, it was found that other regulations were necessary. But the point to which I desire to draw attention is this: If the Commonwealth, by virtue of its authority with regard to external affairs, can in direct breach of the sovereignty of the States enter the State field in discharging the obligations of the International Air Convention, thus implementing powers not specifically conferred by the Constitution, what an extraordinary vista of extended powers is opened up !
The regulations for the control of aviation within Australia, one of which was set aside by the judgment of the High Court in the Henry case, related to the following : -
Let us suppose that another International Air Convention adopts standard rules of the air, as to how aeroplanes shall land, what certificates shall be held by a ground engineer or what a pilot shall do under a certain set of circumstances. What would be the position? According to the judgment of the High Court, such rules must override the laws of a State. I do not say that the States should run contrary to the Commonwealth in this matter. I have already emphasized that I think the control of aviation should be vested in the Commonwealth, but I believe that this judgment of the High Court will prove to be more serious and far-reaching than any of its previous decisions relating to the Constitution.
It is interesting to study the evidence given before the Peden Commission, which, in 1927, investigated the operation of the Constitution in regard to aviation. Expert witnesses were examined as to whether the power to control aviation should be exercised by the Commonwealth or the State authorities. Mr. Geoffrey Hughes, then president of the New South Wales Aero Club, stated-
Not only doI think it expedient that the Commonwealth should have power to create this unified law, but I am convinced that there are difficult and highly important defects in any scheme of individual State legislation, no matter how uniform it may be made. I submit it is beyond argument that, whatever maybe done, and whether the Commonwealth legislates for the whole of Australia, or whether the individual States legislate for themselves, there are two absolute essentials. Firstly, there roust be in every part of Australia some control of aviation. Secondly, there must be uniformity as to the rules and requirements for safe navigation in the air. These two essentials can be achieved by either of two means - the separate establishment of control by the States on uniform lines, and the establishment of unified control by the Commonwealth.
The division of authority according to the distinction between interstate and intra-state trade or commerce is utterly inpracticable when applied to aviation, and the form of control that is necessary. The position would be much worse in Australia, with a few large States, and probably much intra-state aviation, than it is in the United States with a great number of States, and practically all aviation of an interstate character. There is absolutely no other industry or means of locomotion in which control necessitates supervision of the product from the drawing board through all the processes of manufacture to the finished article, and then throughout the life of the machine.
There is no means of travel which is so unrestricted by physical boundaries. What man owning an aeroplane can say: “I will use this only within the boundaries of New South Wales”, or “Victoria”, as the case may be. What man in the air or on the ground can define with certainty the moment when the aeroplane passes through the air of New South Wales from the air of Queensland? The same aeroplane, which one day is used to bring Newcastle as near to Sydney as Parramatta is on land, may next day be used to bring Brisbane as close as Bathurst, or Melbourne nearer than Tamworth.
Aircraft, which have already broken down internationalboundaries cannot be restricted to provincial boundaries. I am convinced that it is in the best interests of public safety, and in the best interests of aviation itself, that Australia should be governed by one law of the air, and that the Commonwealth should have full power, without interference from individual States.
Although the above opinions were expressed by the former president of the Aero Club in New South Wales, the branch of the Australian Labour party in that State has announced its determination to oppose the proposal to be submitted to the people at the referendum. In the most outstanding decision given in the United States of America on the subject of the control of aviation, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin held that whilst interstate commerce and intrastate commerce was ordinarily subjected to regulations made by different sovereignties, when the circumstances were such that the supreme authority could not exercise complete and effective control over interstate commerce, State legislation did not constitute an invasion of the federal power. It will be seen that the proper and only possible course to pursue is to vest full power in regard to aviation in the Commonwealth legislature.
– Surely nobody is opposed to that.
– Yes ; the New South Wales Labour party has announced its intention to oppose it tooth and nail. I submit that when this Parliament secures full authority in regard to aviation, steps should be taken to remove civil aviation from the control of the department under which it now operates, and to place it under a separate department. It is anomalous that it should be under the control of the Defence Department.
– That would be required in a time of war.
– Admittedly. In a time of national emergency the services or the mercantile marine would be invaluable, but in times of peace we do not place it under the control of the naval authorities. In the United States of America civil aviation is under the control, not of the Department of Defence, but of the Department of Commerce. In India, although it was originally administered by the Department of Defence, it is now under the control of the Department of Public Works. In Canada the control of civil aviation has been transferred from the Department of National Defence to the Department of Transport. Every nation recognizes that civil aviation is playing an increasingly important part in connexion with transport. The reasons for placing civil aviation under the control of the Defence Department are gradually disappearing. We must remember that civil aviation was a child of the war and that its development began in the post war period. The report of the committee which in 1934 inquired into the control of private flying and civil aviation in the United Kingdom makes interesting reading. I quote the following extract from the report -
It has been urged in many quarters that the administration of civil aviation is too much subjected to military standards and procedure, and that its natural development is being cramped by its close association with the fighting service.
This relationship of a civil activity to a fighting service is admittedly anomalous.
That is not the submission of a particular witness, but the conclusion of the committee after a thorough and intense investigation. It shows clearly that the development of civil aviation has been cramped, because of its close association with the fighting services. Every honorable senator will agree that it is anomalous to associate civil aviation with the Department of Defence. After dealing with the reasons for the association of civil aviation with the military services immediately after the war, the report proceeds.
Those reasons have lost their force to-day, and it cannot be denied that there would he political advantages in entrusting to a purely civil department the encouragement and administration of a form of transport which, in spite of the progress made since the war, is still in its infancy.
We, in Australia, are out of date in persisting with control of civil aviation by the Department of Defence.
– The honorable senator is right.
– Another extract reads -
Civil aviation at its rebirth after the war found at its service the fully developed technical organization created for the Royal Air Force and has undoubtedly derived considerable advantages in the post from its military associate and from the high standards required by it in aircraft construction.
We desire, however, to emphasize the point, to which in our opinion far too little attention has yet been paid, that civil aeroplanes are diverging from military machines in design unci characteristics, and a purely civil technique in construction is arising.
That is a most important point. The principles which govern the construction of civil aircraft are entirely different from those which govern the construction of military aircraft. The report goes on to say -
The day will arrive when civil air transport will have definitely assumed its place in the world as one of the main forms of communication.
– We see that already.
– Notwithstanding the developments which have taken place, and the intention to link the Old Country with Australia by means of a more frequent air service, the regulation of civil aviation, instead of being under the Commerce Department or the Department of the Interior, is still under the Defence Department. A further paragraph from the report to which I have referred states -
We consider it of the highest national and international importance that the day should be hastened - or at least prepared for. As progress is made to that stage, the anomaly of a military body like the air council continuing to be responsible for its administration will become more and more pronounced.
It is true that the United Kingdom has not yet transferred in its entirety the control of civil aviation from the defence authorities, but there is in that country a general recognition on tho part of thinking nien that before long civil aviation will be placed under the Minister for Transport. That is the logical place for it to be. I say advisedly that it is illogical for us in Australia to restrict the development of civil aviation by insisting that it shall remain under the control of the military authorities. I support the bill.
– I shall not delay the Senate long; but as I opposed a previous bill for a referendum, I now rise to indicate that I shall support this bill which also contemplates an appeal to the electors by means of a referendum. It would have been better had a convention been called in order to decide that the control of aviation was a proper power to vest in the Commonwealth, and that recommendations to that effect had emerged from it, for, in that event, the Commonwealth could have acted without doubt, and there would not have been need for a long and learned judgment to settle the matter. However, we must take things as they are. In my opinion, every honorable senator should support this bill if only on the ground that it is plain commonsense to do so. No State can possibly control air navigation or aircraft; only the Commonwealth can do so. I was pleased to notice that, as soon as the Henry case was decided, the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, favored control being vested in the Commonwealth. As I am not always in accord with the views of Mr. Butler, _ it is with pleasure that I find myself in agreement with him on this* occasion, and not only with him but also with the Commonwealth Government and the
Opposition in the Senate. I compliment Senator Hardy on a speech which was most interesting and informative. Honorable senators who did not hear all of it would do well to read it in Hansard. Some of the points raised by the honorable senator, particularly those which had reference to the proper department to control civil aviation and aircraft, and some of the data quoted by him, were new to me.
It will be interesting to watch the effect of these two referenda on each other. Obviously, the proposal contained in this bill will have strong support throughout the country, and, therefore, it will, to some extent, improve the chances of the other proposal being carried. Conversely, it is possible that the limelight will be concentrated on the marketing proposal; and it may be that, if the people reject it, this proposal also will be rejected. The rejection of this proposal would be a calamity, and for that reason the Government would have been wise had it made some other arrangement with regard to marketing difficulties and submitted this proposal only by referendum to the people, for I have no doubt that in that ©vent, it would have been carried. I hope that it will be carried in any case.
– Recently, I have been reading a most interesting work entitled, Hie History of Human Stupidity, which contains references to persons with a “ one-track mind “, who describe as “ mad “ all persons who differ from them. That is a sure sign of stupidity. The members of the Labour party from New South Wales are not mad because they differ from other members of that party in regard to the control of aviation.
– They sometimes show signs of sanity.
– In the course of my extensive reading, I have learned that genius is closely akin to insanity; and, judging by the remarks which fall from the lips of Senator Arkins, I am sometimes tempted to believe that he is a genius. I am in favour of the proposal contained in this measure, but regret that the Government has not gone further. It is true that some members of the Labour party in New South Wales are not in favour of it, but they are not alone in their opposition, for I notice in the columns of the Labor Daily that the Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales, Mr. Hartigan, speaking at Goulburn on the 25th September, said -
If it had not been for the Transport Coordination Act the tramways might not be in existence to-day. We may soon have a serious competitor in the aeroplane - a competitor that cannot be treated lightly.
As a public servant holding a high office, Mr. Hartigan is afraid of the competition of the aeroplane with the railways. Some of the biggest moaners and. groaners about the losses on the railways are members of tory governments.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should stand still?
– I do not suggest for one moment that we should stand still, either physically or mentally. I mention these things to show that those who describe their fellowmen as madmen because they hold different views are people with a one-track mind, and also that among the opponents of this proposal are many besides Labour members in New South Wales. There is a good deal to be said for giving to the Commonwealth the control, not only of aviation, but also of other forms of transport. Had that control been vested in one authority from the beginning, Australia would not have had half a dozen different railway gauges, as at present. I hope that, before long, we shall have an opportunity to give to the Commonwealth the control of most forms of transport. Not only the Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales, but also the Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Garside, has spoken of the competition of aeroplanes with railways. At Werris Creek on the 7th November, Mr. Garside said -
I am of the opinion that the best interests of the community would be served by coordinating rail and air services, and in view of recent rapid development, the time to consider it is now.
When Labour members in the House of Representatives put forward similar arguments they are accused of madness. Aviation is a branch of transport and, I submit, the Commonwealth should have complete control over all trans- port. If this Government were wise in its generation, it would not stand still in this matter, but, as Senator Guthrie has suggested, would accept this opportunity to widen the scope of this referendum, with the object of securing for the Commonwealth powers to exercise full and complete control over not only marketing, but also transport, whether by air, rail, or motor. Although some members of the Labour party in another State may he opposed to the proposal to be submitted at the forthcoming referendum it is the unanimous opinion of members of the Opposition in this chamber that the country should approve of them. Nevertheless, I realize that reasonable and intelligent men who oppose these proposals do so for some good reason. Some of them contend, for instance, that this Government should take advantage of this opportunity to seek an amendment of the Constitution that will give to the Commonwealth full powers to further, by legislative action, the economic well-being of this country, thus avoiding the necessity for further referendums at some future date. There is something to be said, therefore, in favour of the opposition in the other chamber to the Government’s proposal ; they cannot be considered, for this reason, to be mad, as some honorable senators have declared.
– I congratulate Senator Hardy on his excellent speech on this measure. He made out an almost unchallengable case for civil aviation to be removed from the control of the Defence Department. I can quite understand the Government placing both branches of aviation under the control of the Defence Department in the circumstances which existed in the early days of aviation. -There can be no question to-day, however, that that position should be revised, in view of the rapid development which has already taken place in aviation, and its assured future in all branches. I refer particularly to the development in this country of civil aviation for the transport of mails and passengers, and the alleviation of suffering, as exemplified in the work of our flying doctors. Despite the spar siity of our population, there is every prospect of further rapid development in this country. The great distance to be covered will give an impetus to aviation here. One is impelled, also, to remark upon the outstanding merit of Australians as aviators ; this country has produced some of the world’s best flyers. Another reason why civil aviation should be removed from, the control of the Defence Department is that the aircraft required in the one branch is different from that required in the other. On the score of economy, the Government, could be excused for having, in the past, placed both branches under the control of the Defence Department; but I do not think that we can justly rely on the excuse any longer. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to Australia’s magnificent aviators, in the forefront of whom were the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who, it is unanimously acknowledged, was the greatest aviator the world has yet known, and the late Bert Hinkler. These and other men gave their lives in pioneering aviation, and did much to put Australia on the map in that respect. I do not think that any one has ever enjoyed an international reputation equal to that of the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. I pay tribute, also, to the great pioneering work performed by “West Australian Airways Airways. Our brave and efficient airmen have pioneered sky routes around and the Queensland company, Qantas the world. As to the work of our flying doctors in the outback areas, I do not think that, in the history of Australia, any other band of men has done more unselfish work in the interests of humanity than these men are doing to-day. “With inefficient aircraft and poor landing grounds, and practically no organization, at their disposal, they risk their lives daily. They seek no monetary gain; as a matter of fact, they could reap much greater financial rewards, without running any risks at all, by practising their profession in a country town. They have undertaken this work purely out of love for their fellow men. In this connexion, I refer also to the work done by that great pioneer, “ Flynn of the Inland,” and his colleagues. Although these men do not seek praise, I suggest that their work is not properly recognized in this country, and it is appropriate that, in- an assembly such as the Senate, appreciation of their wonderful and unselfish work should be expressed. These men have been treated rather badly by the authorities.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - I ask the honor able senator to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I shall do so. It is impossible to delineate air boundaries between the States. Should he happen to be in the vicinity of State boundaries, an airman cannot, no matter at what height he may be flying, say definitely over which State he is flying. As this measure seeks to give to the Commonwealth control over aviation, I support it. I cannot understand how anybody could oppose it. When I interjected, perhaps too severely, that certain members of the House of Representatives must be mad to oppose this measure,- I was not aware that those honorable gentlemen were associated with the political party to which members of the Opposition in this chamber belong. My study of the intricacies of the Labour party has, apparently, been too cursory. I did not realize that the Labour party in this chamber was in any way connected with the Lang party in another place.
In suggesting that the Government should take steps to remove civil aviation from the control of the Defence Department, I also urge it to provide more, and improved, emergency landing grounds. This work must be undertaken in the interests of the safety of pilots and passengers by air. I hope, also, that this Government will do everything in its power to develop fully the aerodrome site at Fishermen’s Bend, which I consider may be developed into one of the finest airports in. the world. That work is not merely of interest to Victoria; it is of national importance, and members of all parties in this House should co-operate in urging that the project be undertaken without delay.
I am surprised that opposition to this measure should come even from members of the Lang group in the other branch of this legislature. Apparently, they agree with the paro chial view of this matter of the Commissioner for Railways in New South Wales, who opposes this proposal because it might have the effect of taking a little traffic from the railways in that State. Our railways generally are obsolete, and, in view of the rapid development of aviation, it is not likely that they will be required in another twenty years, except for the haulage of very heavy materials, such as stock, wool, metals and grain. Mr. Hartigan’s view appears to me to be parochial and narrow-minded. No one should oppose this proposal to give to the Commonwealth control over that great, glorious, and limitless service, aviation, simply because a few people fear that our uncomfortable, old-fashioned and inefficient railway’ services may lose a little passenger traffic.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the Commonwealth should have power to control all transport ?
– I do not think that I would have very pronounced objections to such a -proposal. It is absurd, for any one to object to the Commonwealth having the power to control air transport services, which can disregard State boundaries. Inconvenience and expense arise in consequence of breaks of gauge on our railway system, but no such difficulties occur in connexion with air transport. So great is the progress being made in air travel that I do not think twenty years hence railways will be used for the transport of passengers. They will soon be obsolete.
– Senator Brown attempted to excuse the attitude adopted by the members of the Labour party in New South Wales.
– I did not attempt to excuse them; I endeavoured to express their view on an important subject.
– Is the honorable senator their mouthpiece?
– I am not; 1 endeavoured to show where they might be wrong.
– I am pleased to have a further interpretation of the honorable senator’s remarks. I would be sorry to think that all the wisdom of the Labour pary is confined to honorable senators representing Queensland, whose views are diametrically opposed to those of their colleagues in New South Wales. Notwithstanding the fact that Senator Brown says that the policy of the Labour party is not influenced by State boundaries, he cannot mention one representative of the Labour party in New South Wales who has had the courage to say thai the Constitution should be altered to give the Commonwealth power over aviation.
– Some say that it should not have the power.
– I cannot understand why they should adopt such an unusual attitude when Senator Guthrie was asked by Senator Brown if he thought that the Commonwealth should have power over all means of transport, he replied that he would not have any pronounced objections. I am not in favour of the Commonwealth having the power to control all means of transport, including for instance, our tramway systems in the capital cities.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the subject matter of the bill, which provides for an alteration of the Constitution with respect to aviation and aircraft. The bill has nothing whatever to do with tramway systems, and if the honorable senator proceeds to discuss that subject, he will be out of order.
– I was merely replying to certain statements made by other honorable senators.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - They were disorderly and should be disregarded.
– The proposal to give the Commonwealth control over aviation and aircraft is of paramount importance to the Australian poop” p. I do not believe that any important section of the people believes that all forms of transport, with the possible exception of our railway systems, should not be under Commonwealth control. I support the views of Senator Hardy, who contends that it is a mistaken policy to allow the military authorities to exercise that control over aviation. Great Britain has to a large extent allowed the military authorities to control aviation, but the position in the United States of
America is totally different. We have heard on numerous occasions thai the aeroplanes and the air services in the United States of America are more modern and consequently more efficient than those in Great Britain, i have no objection to the methods adopted by the Defence Department, but many of its officers have a somewhat limited outlook, particularly in respect of the possibilities of commercial aviation, which is closely associated with the problem of transport. Many authorities having stated that the flying conditions in this country are superior to those to be found elsewhere, Australia will perhaps benefit more from air transport than will any other country. During a recent visit to Queensland I gained the impression that the residents of that State are more air-minded than are those in other States. That may be due to the fact that in such a large State, where the means of transport are limited, aeroplanes have to be used more extensively than in other States. Senator Brown should realize that aviation services are extending their activities very rapidly, and aviation generally is being brought under the notice of practically every Australian citizen. Notwithstanding the opinions expressed by those in control of the New South Wales Railways, we cannot overlook the fact that there is a marked difference between the possibilities of transport by air and by rail. The railways operate only over rigid systems which have been established at great cost, whereas air services can meet the requirements of persons at every point where landing-grounds are available.
– If the people were risked, by means of a referendum, to an Drove of the Commonwealth being given control over the railways, would the honorable senator support such a proposal ?
– No, because I do not think that such a proposal would be in the interests of the Australian people. It is imperative that a majority of the States should support this proposed alteration of the Constitution, and I trust that the members of the Labour party in New South Wales will reverse the decision they have announced - a decision which I am sure has been arrived at for merely political reasons.
– The people of Western Australia are particularly interested in the subject of aviation, and I have no doubt that they will record an affirmative vote when this proposal is submitted to them. The people of Queensland, I know, are very airminded, but I do not think that they are more so than are the people of Western Australia. A Queensland company started a subsidized, airmail service when a similar service was started in Western Australia. I do not wish to detract from the statements made by the representatives of Queensland in this chamber, but the latest statistics disclose that in Western Australia aeroplanes averaging twenty in number, have carried, during the past five years, no fewer than 50,000 passengers over an air distance of 2,500,000 miles; I doubt if Queensland can produce such an excellent record. Quite recently, a subsidiary air line from Perth to Wiluna received certain financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government to enable it to carry out the arduous and essential work upon which it is engaged, and I should like the Minister (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to say how the subsidies granted by the Federal Government will be affected if the legislation under which they are paid is invalid. I trust that the Minister will enlighten me upon that point.
– I am very much in agreement with the views expressed by Senator Hardy, who contends that there should be separate control over civil and military aviation. Undoubtedly in a few years civil aviation will become so extensive that a division of control will be essential. Aviation, generally, should be under the control of the Commonwealth, more particularly because ground’ organiza1 lon is of outstanding importance. Without efficient ground organization aviation services cannot operate satisfactorily. Suitable aerodromes, capable of use in all weather, must be provided for commercial and military aircraft. The
Federal Government is the only authority which can deal with this matter on a national basis. The ground organization established in connexion with commercial aviation would be of immense advantage to Australia if Ave were ever called upon to defend this country against an invader.
– That is a good reason why the control should not be removed from the Defence Department.
– It is not necessary that the aerodromes should be controlled by the Defence Department at the present time, because as big machines will be used in civil aviation as will ever be used for military purposes.
– ’ Two branches are in existence at the present time.
- Senator Hardy remarked that there are two branches of shipping, but our harbours and ports are not necessarily naval bases; they are commercial ‘bases. Similarly, aerodromes are, in peace time, commercial bases, but they may be used for military purposes if the necessity should arise. The fact that they may be so used in time of war does not necessarily imply that they should be placed wholly under the control of the Defence Department in time of peace. Commercial aviation represents the biggest proportion of aviation activity in Australia; the construction of aerodromes and the arrangement of ground organization is principally for commercial purposes, although these facilities could be availed of by the Defence Department without the slightest, difficulty. Commercial aviation enterprises have developed far more landing grounds throughout the Commonwealth than would have been built for defence purposes only. In future, Australia, which is vast in area and rich in resources, will be dependent to a large extent upon flying services. We should therefore concentrate on making this mode of communication not only a success, but also a general and common means of transport. The time is not far remote when travel by aeroplane will be as general in Australia as travel by railway is to-day. I strongly support the proposals of the Government to place the control of aviation in Australia under one central authority, the Commonwealth Parliament.
. - in reply - Several honorable senators referred to the control of civil aviation by the Defence Department. Although the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) is also the Minister directing civil aviation, the two departments are quite separate, and civil aviation itself ;s controlled by a board of three members. The matters raised by honorable senators in this regard have not been lost sight of, and if the administration of the branch should become so heavy as to require the full attention of one Minister, no doubt a separate portfolio for civil aviation will be created.
Some honorable senators referred to the hostile attitude of employees of a certain industry in New South Wales towards the proposed referendum. I can only conceive that their remarks were directed at the. railway employees of that State, because they have been making their voices heard in connexion with the proposal to confer upon the Commonwealth control of aviation. Whether or not this power is granted to the Federal Government, nothing can arrest the tide of progress of civil aviation. I have seen illustrations in the departments over which I have, for the time being, the honour to preside, of the advance which has occurred in transport and communications in connexion with the Postal Department alone. Whilst I do not control civil aviation, other than to provide a considerable sum of money annually for subsidies and loads for the various services, I have had submitted to me from time to time statements of cost in regard to the carriage of mails and freights by air, which have been a revelation to me. Civil aviation, over which the Commonwealth is now endeavouring to secure control on a national basis, is only in its infancy. The other day, much to the disappointment of certain South Australian interests, I was able to let a contract for an aerial mail service to Kangaroo Island without any surcharge being payable upon the mail matter so carried. A better and more frequent service than the former means of communi cation could give will be provided, and the price is below the tender submitted by the other contractor. It is the first time that the Postal Department has ever carried mails in this country without a surcharge; but this innovation demonstrates the progress which civil aviation is making. I also remind honorable senators that Australia is not yet equipped with the cheapest and more advanced machines for the carriage of goods. I have heard from the Leader of the Senate(Senator Pearce) accounts of the feats of transport which have been performed in Papua and New Guinea in connexion with the transport of large heads of’ machinery, small goods, and livestock to the gold-fields. Senator DuncanHughes.may remember the time when such a. form of transport in the. territories was. considered to be impossible. I am reminded that my old friend, Mr. P. McMahon Glynn, was parodied in song when he proposed to lock the River Murray -
Glynn will look the Murray,
When the pigs begin to fly.
To-day pigs are actually flying - in aeroplanes in the territories that I have mentioned. It is futile to consider that any industry or means of communication is static. Although we must feel concerned for the plight of the States in regard to railways, it is inevitable that in future they will become only great trunk lines; all other transport will be by air. Sometimes I regret that the Australian people are not more alive to their own interests in regard to our railway systems, which are practically responsible for the budgetary difficulties of every State at the present time.
Senator Allan MacDonald referred to subsidized services, and asked whether the. judgment of the High Court would disorganize them. In my second-reading speech I pointed out that 95 per cent, of aviators in Australia had agreed to abide by the regulations made under the Air Navigation Act of 1920, and that the Government had a very forceful means of dealing with gentlemen who receive a subsidy and do not propose to obey the law. I do not think that I need to carry this matter further than that, because I believe that every subsidized service in Australia, until the power now sought by the Commonwealth is granted to it, will abide by the air regulations.
asked me to inform the Senate whether, if the regulations which have been declared invalid in this case, had been made in accordance with the international convention, they would have been held to be invalid by the High Court. I have read that judgment, which was delivered on the 10th November. There are 84 closely typewritten pages. I should say that it represents a variegated leaf; there are various hues of colour and various lines of reasoning; and unless honorable senators are extremely interested, I do not propose to go through it in detail. The Chief
Justice, Sir John Latham, and Justices Dixon, Evatt and McTiernan, while varying in the views which they expressed, all appeared to be of opinion that an international air convention, signed by this country under its powers in connexion with external affairs, would enable us to legislate in the terms of that international convention. Some of the judges found that the regulations which were declared invalid had not been made in the terms of that convention ; but Mr. Justice Starke found that they had been, and on that ground would have disallowed the appeal. The remaining four judges -one being absent - for varying reasons allowed the appeal, and the Chief Justice limited his views on the matter to the very point under consideration. A large point will emerge from this, and if the Commonwealth can under its powers in connexion with external affairs, conferred on it by section 51 of the Constitution, enter into international arrangements which are not forbidden by the Constitution - all the judges stated that we could not violatesection 92 by any international arrangement - at should be in a position practically to subvert the constitutions of the States. Such action would go much too far; it was not the intention of the framers of the Constitution; but I can see an interesting vista of litigation down the lines suggested in this judgment. From that I am too old to take any comfort, but my profession will be very interested in the tenor of this judgment. That is the only answer which I can give to Senator Hardy, who spoke so ably concerning this aspect of federal power. I am gratified at the reception which honorable senators afforded the bill ; I am sure that the States will fall into line with the Commonwealth in connexion with this matter, because in 1920, 1929 and 1934 they have already expressed their willingness so to do. As I said previously, I doubt whether some of the constitutional authorities will be satisfied with that method of conferring powers on the Commonwealth through the medium of international conventions. I think that the proper and sure procedure is for this Parliament to seek from the people, in the terms of this bill, the power which the Government has been advised to get, to which the States have agreed and which theRoyal Commission on the Constitution suggested this Parliament should have.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committeewithout amendment or debate; report adopted.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1936.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Validation Bill 1936.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Validation Bill 1936.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan), read a first time.
[5.40]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for the appropriation of revenue for the ordinary services of the various departments for the current financial year. In opening the budget debate in this chamber, I dealt fully with tlie expenditure proposals of the Government, and I do not propose again, to deal with the various items in detail. Any explanations that may be desired by honorable senators will be furnished during the course of the debate on the second reading or at the committee stage. For the first four months of this financial year, the ordinary transactions of the Consolidated Revenue Fund were -
This excess of receipts cannot be regarded as indicative of the surplus to be expected at the end of the financial year for the following reasons: - (1) Remission of taxes are only now becoming operative; (2) Heavy importation during recent months, particularly of motor vehicles, . brought about by anticipation of tariff charges has been largely responsible for a considerable increase of customs revenue; and (3) Expenditure for this year has not yet reached an average monthly rate commensurate with the total expenditure for the year. Expenditure is always light in the early months.
This bill provides for an appropriation of £14,316,363 for the services of the year 1936-37, to which should be added the amounts already granted under Supply Acts, Nos. 21 and 28 of 1936, namely £7,236,800 and £4,404,750 respectively, making the total amount of £25,957,913, which is- the estimated expenditure from annual appropriations for ordinary services for the year 1936-37 as set out in detail in the second schedule of the bill.
For the information of at least one honorable senator, who probably .has not had previous experience of an Appropriation bill, I suggest that honorable senators who desire closely to follow the consideration of this bill in committee should provide themselves with a copy of the Estimates and budget papers, as well as the bill itself, in order to have before them greater details than appear in this measure.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 18th November (vide page 1966) on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That tlie bill be now read a second time.
Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) 1 5.45]. - The Opposition will support this bill, the object of which is to grant, from the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth, financial assistance to the States. The amounts to be allocated to the several States are set out in the bill, and I do not propose to discuss them, or to do other than express, on behalf of the Opposition, the hope that the bill will have a speedy passage, for the sooner that these sums can be made available to the States the sooner the money can be devoted to the purposes for which they are intended.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Allocation of grants).
.- The sum of £33,000 is set down as the share of Western Australia of the surplus revenue to be distributed among the States. I desire to know whether the Commonwealth Government has received from the Government of that State any further request to make up the amount of £300,000 which was short paid to that State by the Commonwealth. On several occasions honorable senators representing Western Australia have drawn attention to the very severe drought conditions now being experienced in that State, and I was pleased to note that the Loan Council, with the concurrence of the other States recently decided to allocate to Western Australia a further sum of £1,000,000 of loan moneys. I understand that at thai meeting the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) was present and gave valuable assistance to the Minister representing the Premier of Western Australia., the Premier himself being unable to attend. The thanks of the people of Western Australia are due to the right honorable gentleman for his assistance in obtaining that extra amount of loan money for their State. Seasonal conditions in Western Australia are causing its people grea t concern, and I, therefore, urge the Government to increase, if possible, the amount payable to the western State.
[5.50]. - The honorable senator was not quite accurate when he said that Western Australia was short paid by £300,000. That State was paid the full amount of £500,000 recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, although the amount paid in the previous year was £300,000 more. The obligation of the Commonwealth to the necessitous States was fully discharged. Unfortunately for Western Australia, the commission’s recommendation which was based on the figures for the preceding year came at a time when that State was experiencing a terrible drought. On the basis of the grant for the previous year, the Government of Western Australia had budgeted for a small surplus, but the cumulative effect of a reduction of the Commonwealth grant by £300,000 and of diminished revenues resulting from the drought, was to convert an estimated surplus of £6,000 into a deficit of between £500,000 and £1,000,000. It must be remembered, however, that as the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission cannot be based on prophetic figures but must deal with facts, and are therefore based on figures for the previous year, what that State loses this year on the swings will be made up next year on the round-abouts, because next year’s grant will be based on the figures for this year. I fervently hope that before long good seasons will return, and that a condition of prosperity will be restored to Western Australia.
I attended the meetings of the Loan Council, not as a representative of Western Australia, as Senator Allan MacDonald stated, but as a Commonwealth Minister at the request of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). Whatever influence I had in helping Western Australia to get a fair deal was exercised not at the Loan Council, but at meetings of the Cabinet at which the allocation of loan moneys to the States was discussed. I must, therefore, disclaim the soft impeachment that I attended the meetings of the Loan Council in order to influence it in favour of Western Aus tralia. The honorable senator said that an increased amount was made available to Western Australia with the consent of the other States. That statement scarcely does justice to the situation.
– Someone had to agree to the increased allocation.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There was only a certain amount available for distribution, and, therefore, if Western Australia were to receive more, some other government would have to receive less. The governments which received less were the governments of the Commonwealth and South Australia, which voluntarily relinquished a proportion of their shares of loan money in order that Western Australia might have more. Their action had, of course, to be ratified by the other States which, in that sense only, were parties to the transaction.
– Western Australia had two good friends.
– Although the decision of the Loan Council means that Western Australia will nominally receive £1,000,000 more during the financial year, it cannot be said that the State has that amount in hand, because the money necessary to meet the liabilities of the States will have to be raised. A loan is about to be floated, and another is contemplated in February or March of next year. Just as on the present occasion the amount of the loan to be raised is less than was originally intended, so it is possible that in February or March next, the full amount desired will not be raised. In that event, Western Australia will not receive the full £1,000,000, and will still be in a position of financial difficulty. The amount set out in this bill is allocated on a population basis. Apparently, no more money is available in the Federal Treasury because, as I explained in my second-reading speech on the Appropriation Bill, there is no indication on the existing figures, that the Commonwealth will end the year with a surplus.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 18th November (vide page 1966) on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Members of the Opposition will support the bill although we have opinions as to the wisdom of the amount to be expended and the manner in which it is proposed to be expended. But we know that this Government, like any other government, has to accept the advice of its experts on the matter of defence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
[6.3].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal objective of this measure is to provide for certain alterations of the law dealing with , the national status of married women. It also contains several amendments of a formal nature with respect to the authority to be invested with certain powers and functions under the principal act. The alterations regarding the national status of married women are primarily designed to give effect to articles 8, 9 and 10 of the convention on certain questions relating to the conflict of nationality laws, which was concluded at The Hague in 1930. Those articles read as follows: -
Article 8. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality on marriage with a foreigner, this consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring the nationality of the husband.
Article 9. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality upon a change in the nationality of her husband occurring during marriage, this consequence shallbe conditional on her acquiring her husband’s now nationality.
Article 10. - Naturalization of the husband during marriage shall not involve a change in the nationality of the wife except, with her consent.
Their purpose is, briefly, to overcome, as far as possible, the problem of statelessness which sometimes arises when a British woman marries a foreigner. I think the desirability of carrying such purpose into effect will not be disputed.
The bill provides for the substitution of a new section for section 18 of the principal act. The proposed new sub-section 1 repeats the existing provision that the wife of a British subject shall be deemed to be a British subject and the wife of an alien shall be deemed to be an alien. Proposed new sub-sections 4 and 6 reenact the existing exceptions to the general principle, and proposed new subsections 2, 3 and 5 add new exceptions. Proposed new sub-section 2 deals with a British woman who marries a foreigner but does not thereby acquire his nationality. It provides that whether she was married before or after the enactment of this provision she will retain her British nationality. Proposed new subsection 3 makes a similar provision for a British woman who, having married a British subject, is liable to become stateless when her husband has become naturalized in some other country. Proposed new sub-section 4 also applies to a British woman whose husband changes his nationality after marriage ; but as the result of the provisions of proposed new subsection 3, this provision will, in future, apply only in cases in which, under the law of the foreign country, the woman acquires her husband’s new nationality. Proposed new sub-section 5 is intended to give effect to article 10 of the convention, which provides that naturalization of the husband during marriage shall not. involve a change in the nationality of the wife except with her consent. Proposed new sub-sections 3 and 4 dealwith this provision when British women are concerned, but proposed new sub-section 5 applies to an alien woman whose husband acquires British nationality by the grant to him of a certificate of naturalization. After March next, such a woman will be afforded an opportunity to declare whether she too desires to acquire British nationality.
A clause that will be welcomed by those organizations which have been striving for some time past to secure recognition for the principle of the equality of the sexes, deals with, the case of a woman who, whether before or after the commencement of the proposed new section - section 18a - was a British subject, and who, by reason of her marriage, lias acquired the nationality of her husband. The object of the hew section is :.o enable such a woman still to enjoy, within Australia, all the privileges of British citizenship. I emphasize that those privileges will be enjoyed as a matter of law in Australia only. Strictly speaking, she would still be regarded in the eye of the law as an alien outside Australia, but so long as she remains in the Commonwealth, or in any territory, she will be eligible to enjoy every right and privilege enjoyed by a British subject - for example, rights as to voting and pensions. By adopting the proposed section, the Commonwealth will have gone a long way towards meeting, in Australia at all events, the wishes of those women’s organizations iu relation to the national status of married women. A similar alteration of New Zealand law has been made.
Other amendments are of a formal character. Instead of the GovernorGeneral being the specified authority in several sections of the act, it is proposed to vest the Minister with powers and functions with respect to the grant of certificates of naturalization and similar matters arising under the act. The passage of this measure will remove a hardship and avoid the confusion that results from the existence in several of the selfgoverning dominions, but not in Australia, of laws similar to new section 18.
– The Opposition welcomes this bill, out reserves its right to ask for information in committee, if. it be required. I suppose that everything comes in good time if we are prepared to wait for it, but I am disappointed that the Government has t: ken so long to give a measure of ratification to a convention which was passed six years ago. I, myself, and, I think, my r.0 leagues in the Labour party, since we were able to think at all, have been in favour of giving to women legal status and rights equal to those of men. Of course, it is well-known that our desires go a good deal further than this bill goes, but I should not be in order if I introduced that phase at the present time. This bill will be welcomed by women’s organizations throughout Australia, and for the reasons that I have stated the Opposition will support it and give it as speedy passage as is possible.
Sitting, suspended from 6.14- to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Senator Duncan-Hughes) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It affords me definite pleasure to submit to honorable senators the bill to approve of the first comprehensive trade treaty concluded by the Commonwealth with a foreign country - the trade treaty with Czechoslovakia. This agreement represents a concrete- step in fulfilment of the policy of the Government to foster the maintenance and extension of markets for Australia’s export products in foreign countries. I am sure that most honorable senators will agree that the prosperity of every Australian industry is basically dependent upon our continued ability to market the surplus primary production overseas at profitable prices. If our position in those markets is to be maintained, or the way prepared for an expansion of trade, it is essential that steps be taken to place the commercial relations of the Commonwealth with the countries with which we seek to do business, on a stable footing. The Empire agreements have demonstrate1!] that countries of diverse interests can achieve mutual benefits by increasing tininterchange of goods, and that Australia can enter into such agreements, and still remain free to pursue a policy > of progressive industrial development. In spiro of the fears voiced in some quarters, tho Government is convinced that agreements beneficial to Australia can be marlo without retarding the expansion of secondary industries and with general benefit to the widest interests of the Commonwealth.
As full details of the agreement, and particulars of the trade between Czechoslovakia and the Commonwealth are set out; in the explanatory memorandum circulated for the information of honorable senators, I shall confine my remarks to the principal features of the agreement and of the trade between the two countries. The trade with Czechoslovakia is regularly more than two to one in Australia’s favour. It is steadily increasing in both directions. In 1935 Czechoslovakia imported Australian commodities to the value of ?872,000 sterling. For the year ended the 30th June, 1936, Australia’s imports from Czechoslovakia were valued at ?395,000 sterling. Wool is predominant amongst our exports and, last year, amounted to about 53,000 bales. There is, however, an appreciable trade in hides, apples, lead, zinc, and pearlshell. Chief amongst Australia’s imports from Czechoslovakia are glassware and plate glass, special types of steel, trimmings and ornaments for apparel, gloves, buttons, jewellery and imitation jewellery, and fancy goods, of various descriptions.
By the terms of the agreement, wo aru guaranteed the lowest, rates of duty now, or hereafter, accorded by Czechoslovakia to any other country, and equitable treatment in the event of any commodities in which Australia is interested being subjected to quantitative regulation. Tho Czechoslovak Government. definitely binds itself to admit, free of duty, Australian wool, sheep-skins and other skins, and pearl-shell, and to reduce the present duty on apples. The concession on apples should prove of particular benefit to Australia, in that the reduced rate is confined to the period in which apples from the southern hemisphere reach Europe. Even under the higher duty, Czechoslovakia has taken about 30,000 cases of our apples during each of the last two years. It is believed that these quantities can be increased appreciably with little difficulty, especially as, on all p.ides, favorable comment was heard regarding the quality of our apples. The treaty also safeguards our trade in lead and unset opals from any increase of duties.
On our side, the Commonwealth Government gives an undertaking to grant to Czechoslovakia the lowest rates of d unaccorded to any other foreign country, and not to discriminate against Czechoslovak goods in so far as the prohibition of imports, and measures for the quantitative limitation of imports, are concerned. Australia further undertakes to grant Czechoslovakia the intermediate tariff on 44 items, and to grant a reduction of primage duty on others; and iti the case of certain special steels, to continue to admit them under the by-law provisions of the tariff. The reductions of customs and primage duties which will result from the acceptance of the treaty are set out in detail in the memorandum circulated for the information of honorable senators. I do not propose, therefore, to recapitulate them. All reductions of tho duties imposed for the protection of domestic industry are supported by a recommendation of the Tariff Board. I commend the agreement to the approval of honorable senators.
– “We have, at last, some evidence of the fact that a Minister of State has been doing something to arrange trade treaties. For that we are glad. We are not sure that the value of the treaty achieved is commensurate with the expenditure incurred by the honorable gentleman during his travels abroad on this job. 1 noticed in a report published in a trade newspaper that it was expected that this treaty would have been concluded and in operation by the 1st January of this year - not next year. J have not had an opportunity to peruse this treaty in detail, but I understand that we cannot amend it; we must either accept it or reject it; and, as is usual in matters of this kind, it would be wiser to accept it than to attempt to reject it. I should like to point out, however, that despite the trade treaties and bilateral agreements, and all the rest of the jargon that is in popular use to-day, absolutely no attempt whatever has been made by this Government to face fundamental facts. Earlier this evening, with some other honorable senators, I listened to an account of a congress which took place in Europe, at which, in one committee room, representatives of agricultural countries were trying to make arrangements to market their products in industrial countries, each, however, being determined to foster its own industries, so that it might not require anything from industrial countries, whilst in another committee room representatives of industrial countries were deciding to sell their goods to agricultural countries, although determined, all the time, to grow all the agricultural products they could. There is an utter failure on the part of the Government to recognize that it cannot continue to carry on with its present entirely unscientific attempts to regulate trade. We hear much talk of favorable and unfavorable trade balances. This is more or less a fallacy; we may have an unfavorable trade balance with one country and a favorable balance with another, and the net result is a complete balance. Thus, after all is said and done, there is nothing much in the argument that we have a favorable, or unfavorable, trade balance with a particular country. Imperialism demands the exploitation of the natural products of Cbe weaker countries for the benefit of the stronger countries. That process is going on to-day, and will continue so long as the present order of society lasts with its industrial exploitation of weaker individuals by stronger individuals and of weaker countries by stronger countries. For instance, we have had legislation brought down to enforce trade sanctions against a country but we found that those sanctions were being only partially enforced, or enforced to a very minor degree, except in respect of the things that did not matter ; despite our legislation and administration the offending country was -still receiving the commodities that mattered to it, and was not worrying about the things which did not count to any great extent in its national economy.
This bill is largely one for consideration in committee. The Opposition does not intend to oppose it. It is the responsibility of the Government which has made the treaty. However, I stress this note of warning : Whatever the tariff concessions that are being given to Czechoslovakia under this bill, whatever the advantages we hope to get in return - they will be, to a large extent, imaginary - because that country takes some of our products, as it must, in payment for what it sends to us, the fact must not be forgotte’n that such an arrangement must result in displacing workmen in Australian secondary industries. Imports, which destroy the market for similar goods locally produced, must inevitably damage our manufacturers, and eventually we have to resort to reprisals, as has been done against one country recently.
– Does the honorable senator believe in one-way traffic?
– Senator Hardy, with his capacity for throwing spanners into the works, thinks he makes many brilliant suggestions, but that interjection was so fatuous that I am perhaps dignifying it unduly by taking notice of it. However, I reply to him by saying that eventually, as the result of trade policies of this kind, a certain condition of affairs will be forced upon the world - and it will not be while the present Government is in control of this country - under which there will be international freetrade ; each country will produce only the things it is best able to produce, and in friendly ‘barter will exchange them for goods which other countries are best able to produce. Until that ideal state of affairs is brought nearer - and it can only happen when this Government is displaced by a government of a different political colour - it is the duty of this Opposition, representing, as we do, both the workers and the working primary producers of this country - not those engaged in farming the farmers, the Sussex-street primary producers - to protect the people of Australia while this Government continues its unscientific and piecemeal attempts to regulate trade. I am certain that it is not possible to solve our economic problems by proceeding on the lines followed by the present Government. No doubt we shall go on muddling through in the manner characteristic of the British race until eventually we encounter an economic depression so severe that we shall fail to emerge from it, a depression in comparison with which the one just past will seem a mere circumstance. We shall go on from boom to depression for a certain time, but we must, on each occasion, inevitably descend to increasing depths of depression. Therefore, the people should make up their minds to change the present
Government, and the present economic system, so that a better order of affairs may be brought about.
– The honorable senator is an optimist.
– I would rather be an optimist than a pessimist like Senator Dein. The honorable senator’s interjection reminds me of the definitions of pessimist and optimist, to the effect that the pessimist - like Senator Dein - is a man who sees difficulty in every opportunity, whereas the optimist - like myself - sees opportunity in every difficulty. We recognize that the Government sees the difficulties in the way of international trade; but, instead of seeking a scientific remedy for them, it is prepared to accept a partial solution on the principle that it will probably see its turn out, anyway. The Opposition does not believe in that. I understand that it is not competent for this Parliament to amend the agreement now before us; that we may merely accept it or reject it as a whole. At least, however, we can criticize it, even though we do not go so far as to vote against it.
– I have taken a very keen interest in the development of the remarkable little republic of Czechoslovakia, whose rise has been one of the postwar romances of the world. This republic, which was only founded after the war, has since then produced the Henry Ford of Europe. I refer to Bata, the great shoe manufacturer. Formerly a private in one of the allied armies, he started, after the war, his shoe-manufacturing industry, and to-day his factories are turning out over 100,000 pairs of boots and shoes a day. Such rapid commercial expansion is unequalled in the old world, and is equalled in the new only, perhaps, by the record of Henry Ford.
The Government and business people of Czechoslovakia have always shown keen interest in Australia. The republic has had its representative in this country from the beginning, and it has sought every opportunity to foster its trade with Australia. This new democracy of the old world recognizes a bond of sympathy between it and the new democracy of the new world, Australia. I take exception to the disparaging remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The industrial system of Czechoslovakia is approaching the level of our own. Manufacturers in that country have tried to make their enterprises a model for Europe, and they have succeeded in a remarkable way.
From the historical point of view, it is interesting to recall that the words Ich Dien, meaning “I serve,” which constitute the motto of the Prince of Wales, were formerly the motto of that blind monarch, King John of Bohemia, a giant figure in the history of that country, which is the core, as it were, round which the modern republic of Czechoslovakia has been built up. The new democracy has adopted that motto as its commercial slogan. -I have studied the development of the republic of Czechoslovakia, and have formed friendships with some of its people. They are somewhat perturbed because the value of their trade with Australia has never been understood. The following Australian statistics show the trade balance between the two countries to be -
On the other hand, statistics prepared in Czechoslovakia are as follows: -
There is a marked discrepancy between the two sets of statistics, and this is due to the fact that Czechoslovakia is a landlocked country, and that a large part of Australia’s exports to it is consigned to Hamburg and other continental ports. Thus those places have been credited in our statistics with the exports which really found their way to Czechoslovakia. It is evident, from the figures I have quoted, that it is worth taking an interest in our trade with Czechoslovakia. I am a protectionist in first principles, but I cannot deny the fact that we have to trade with other countries. For instance, we have a surplus of primary products which, we cannot consume, so that we must get some one else to huy them from us. Czechoslovakia is one of the buyers, and, in return, it is supplying us with such articles as gloves, artificial jewellery, glass and earthenware, fancy goods, &c.
– All of which can be manufactured in Australia.
– They could not all be economically manufactured in Australia, and some of them, at the present time, could not be manufactured here at all. If the honorable senator had ever seen samples of the remarkable artificial jewellery produced in Czechoslovakia he would realize that Australia is unable to produce anything of the kind, because we do not possess the necessary technique. This country also produces some of the finest cut glass ware in the world, of a type peculiar to the Czechoslovaks. Theirs is a welcome trade because, after all, in the main, we are only giving them wool for these articles, although other primary products, including apples, are coming into the picture. Listening to the Leader of the Opposition one might imagine that these people were trying to obtain a mean advantage over us, whereas the position is just the reverse. My contact with the people of Czechoslovakia has taught me that they are anxious to trade with Australia. They recognize that this country produces primary products of high quality, and they will go on buying from us so long as we continue to buy from them. Nevertheless, our trade with Czechoslovakia over a number of years is in our favour to the extent of millions of pounds.
– Just what does the honorable senator mean by that?
– The value of the wool and other products which we sell to them is very much in excess of the value of the manufactured goods which we buy from them. The honorable senator must surely understand that, when we have a favorable trade balance with one country, it is possible to use the credits thus established for the purchase of goods, or for the discharge of obligations, in other countries.
– What about industrial conditions in Czechoslovakia?
– Industrial conditions there are very good. I do not say that they are equal to those of Australia, but they are at least equal to those of any other country in Europe, except, perhaps, Great Britain. Moreover, their cultural standards are quite as high as ours. It is recognized that libraries represent one of the most potent factors in the education of men and women. The Carnegie endowment, some time ago, sent an officer to investigate the conditions of libraries in Australia, and he reported that, in this respect, our standard was one of the lowest in the world, whilst Czechoslovakia was cited as a country possessing probably the most magnificent system of free libraries to be found anywhere. It is all very well for some honorable senators to pretend that we possess all the wisdom and all the knowledge of the world, but that is mere presumption.
– The honorable senator will be a freetrader yet.
– Surely a man is not necessarily a freetrader because he is in favour of a square deal; at least 1 advocate a fair deal. Libraries are the best adjunct to education that Australia could possibly have. In that respect Australia stands on the lowest rung of the ladder while the country of which the Leader of the Opposition spoke in disparaging terms is on the highest.
– I did not do anything of the kind.
– In the matter of technical and general education few nations have shown a higher standard of efficiency than Czechoslovakia. The diplomatic and trade representatives sent to Australia who possessed high university degrees are displaying great ability in establishing trade relations between Australia and Czechoslovakia and I feel sure that their efforts will be rewarded with success. Czechoslovakia, if not the first, is one of the first countries to enter into a trade treaty with Australia. I am pleased that that is the case because I have always taken an interest in that country, and have appreciated to the full its achievements. I trust that friendly relations between the two countries will always be maintained.
– Although the members of the Opposi- lion do not intend to oppose this measure which is to ratify a trade agreement entered into between the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) on behalf of the Commonwealth, and Czechoslovakia, we believe that it will not go far in- solving our economic problems. We are justified in pointing out, as my Leader (Senator Collings) so ably did, that, notwithstanding what Senator Arkins has said, the ratification of a treaty between the Commonwealth and Czechoslovakia, Japan, or in fact any other country, will not solve our major economic problems which must eventually be faced. The mere exchange of commodities will not solve them. It is admitted that if t’here is a surplus production of, say, Australian apples, which cannot be disposed of profitably in the local market, there may be some advantage in shipping them to Czechoslovakia in exchange for goods not made here, such as glass beads or similar commodities sold by Woolworth’s and Coles’. Some Government supporters imagine that by exchanging commodities in that way we are going a long way towards ‘the solution of our economic problems, but the members of the Opposition in this chamber are not likely to be influenced by such futile arguments. I admit that the Bata boot factories in Czechoslovakia, which are turning out 1,000,000 pairs of boots and shoes weekly, are perhaps the most highly organized in the world; but there would be no advantage in insisting upon the exchange of our apples with boots and shoes produced in that country, because such an exchange would be detrimental to the footwear industry in Australia. There would be no real advantage if, as the result of a trade treaty between the Commonwealth and a country such as Czechoslovakia, we should restrict secondary production in this country. A few days ago I was handed a statement showing the effect of the trade treaty with Belgium on the manufacture of glass in Australia. The representatives of the glass manufacturers in Australia contend that as the result of a treaty between the Commonwealth and Belgium the production of glass goods in Australia will be limited. By diverting the supply of goods, previously made in Australia, to Belgium, we are not improving our economic position. Broadly, we should be concerned in increasing the demand in the local market by employing our own people.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should sell all our primary produce to the workers in Australia?
– I am pleased that the honorable senator has raised that point. I cannot be accused of being in favour of one-way traffic or of having, what some have termed, a one-track mind. On numerous occasions, I have shown that two-way traffic in trade is essential, and after all the basis of trade is in exchanging commodities for commodities. It is not, as some suggest, that because the balance of trade may be in our favour we are gaining an advantage. If we should be receiving from Czechoslovakia half as much as we are exporting to that country, Australia is not gaining an advantage of 100 per cent, over Czechoslovakia; because, as Senator Arkins pointed out, the difference has to be made up in some other way. The basis of trade is an exchange of commodities for commodities, but by implementing a policy of internal trade development, we shall eventually be exchanging commodities for commodities within our borders. Is that not a greater advantage than exchanging commodities with countries 13,000 miles away? I admit with Senator Guthrie and others that Australia, as a primary producing nation, must seek some countries with which it can exchange its primary produce for other commodities. That must be so, unless we send thousands of persons to Great Britain on joyrides, such as those who next year will be attending the coronation ceremonies, to utilize the credits available there. If we export goods, apart from those in payment of debts, we must accept payment for them in services. Next year from £10,000,000 to £30,000,000 will be absorbed in the form of a service to visitors from Australia to Great Britain and continental countries. Our credits overseas are established by shipments of wool, wheat, lead and other commodities. If we send wool or any other primary product overseas, certain commodities must be taken in return. Consequently we are to manufacture goods previously imported if there must be some limitation of our trade with countries overseas.
– Our population of 7,000,000 persons can use only from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, of our wool production.
– I am endeavouring to argue the subject from the Labour viewpoint, because it has been suggested, quite stupidly, that members of the Labour party believe in one-way trade. Nothing of the kind. We frankly admit that in the development of an economic system, there must be some limitation because, after all, overseas trade is merely an exchange of commodities. A few years ago, we were told that glassware could not be made in Australia, but to-day it is being produced, and a change in the nature of the trade between two countries has arisen. If honorable senators follow my argument to its logical conclusion, they must admit that by a process of development, Australian manufacturers will eventually be compelled, <to exchange commodities for commodities within Australia. It is ridiculous for Senator Arkins or any one else to imply that we are stupid because we are supporting a policy which we know is inevitable. Honorable senators opposite seem to think that we can develop trade within Australia by a system of economic nationalism such as some other countries are attempting, and yet not affect our overseas trade. In one of their magazines they give great praise to the Government because it is steadily improving the internal development of Australia; and it is true that week by week Australia’s productive capacity is increasing to such an extent that inevitably we shall be manufacturing all the commodities which we previously imported. When that time arrives, there must inevitably be a diminution of overseas trade. Only a few months ago the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) referred to the importance of the Australian fishing industry, and to the fact that the Government proposed to place a research vessel in commission so that Australia would be independent of supplies from overseas. To-day, Senator Duncan-Hughes said that the manufacture of motor cars in Australia Avould.be uneconomic, but it is inevitable that with- in the next ten years, Australian manufacturers will be producing motor trucks and motor cars which will affect our exchange of commodities with the United States of America and Great Britain.
– We shall still have to sell our wool overseas.
– I am only endeavouring to show to the honorable senator that the Labour party is trying to think out this problem, and that it is not dealing with it superficially. It is endeavouring to get down to bedrock in regard to it. I am showing that the intense economic development taking place in Australia must have its effect upon the direction of trade, and if we have been receiving motor cars for Australian goods and decide to make motor cars here in Australia, to that extent there must be a limitation of our foreign market for those goods. There are inevitable forces at work in Australia and on the continent which will show clearly to those who are opposed to Labour’s policy before many years have elapsed, the utter impossibility of achieving any deep-seated improvement of our economic position merely by making treaties with Czechoslovakia, Belgium, or any other country.
– Is the honorable senator opposing the treaty?
– No. The honorable senator’s interjection shows his lack of understanding. I am endeavouring to show its limitations.
– The honorable senator does not realize his own limitations.
– I admit my limitations; that is why I am so successful. I remind the honorable senator that it is a good thing to know one’s own limitations. One of my limitations is my inability to penetrate to the cerebellum of each honorable senator opposite in such a way that the points I am endeavouring to make will be understood.
I rose merely for the purpose of supporting my leader in giving this treaty our half-hearted blessing. When Australia has reached the stage at which it has trade treaties with Abyssinia, Italy, Germany, Russia, and, in fact, all other countries, ably arranged by Sir Henry Gullett or some other Sir Henry, and that glorious day has arrived when the Government can sit back in comfort and say that at last it has reached the Eldorado, having made treaties with all countries from Czechoslovakia to Peru, I shall still be able to stand on my feet and say “ You have done your best but the economic problems that upset our modern systems are not yet solved “. One of my honorable friends opposite has spoken of the wonders that are to be achieved by the exchange of 30,000 cases of apples for so many cases of glass beads from Czechoslovakia. As I pointed out the other day, if we were to give one extra apple a day to every person in Australia for 365 days of the year it would be quite a respectable total. Seven millions multiplied by 365 - how many cases would that represent ? I do not profess to be very good at mathematics and I leave honorable senators to work out the sum for themselves. But when we speak simply in connexion with these things, honorable senators opposite may more readily understand the position and grasp the point I am endeavouring to make, namely, that if we could frame some policy that would absorb more of the products of our primary industries, even though it may be only apples, it would be a far better policY than that adopted by the Government of sending someone peregrinating over Europe to arrange trade treaties with foreign countries. Nevertheless, the Labour party is not so foolish as to say that merely by confining markets within Australia we shall solve our economic problems. Ex-Senator R. D. Elliott, who was interested in Empire trade, believed that if we confined our marketing within the borders of the Empire we would solve the problem. I pointed out on one occasion that although the United States of America comprises an empire of more than 3,000,000 square miles, and that: with the exception of rubber and a few other commodities, its people could produce all their needs, the problem has not yet been solved in that country. Honorable senators can therefore see the foolishness and stupidity of people who claim that we can solve our problem merely by limiting markets within the Empire. I welcome this agreement because the more agreements we make the sooner we shall have reached the stage where we have exhausted the possibility of error. Possibly the intelligentsia of Australia, as personified in this Federal Parliament, will then seek to frame a policy to meet the situation which, after all, is simply one of utilizing to its full the productive capacity of the people; not to exchange commodities for money, and money for commodities, but to see that everybody in the community has everything that the community can give him. Some day we shall arrive at . a stage in our development when we shall be able to put that policy into actual practice and shall be able to utilize to the full the forces within our own borders primarily for use, and not for financial profits. We have a long way to travel yet before that desirable end is achieved. The nations of the world are indulging in intense economic nationalism and are making trade treaties with one another, but the force of circumstances and experience will at last compel them to re-organize and re-orientate their economic policies. I have- nothing more to add except that I stand solidly by my leader in regard to these matters. As my leader has said, we give our blessing to these treaties, but at the same time we state emphatically that even if trade treaties are made with all the countries in the world, the Government has not taken a real step towards the basic solution of Australia’s economic problems.
– I have been wry much interested in the outbursts of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and his colleague (Senator Brown). If ever two honorable senators endeavoured to damn a measure with faint praise, they have done it to-night. They fail to recognize what ought to be recognized by every thinking man and woman in Australia, that it is absolutely essential that we shall, as far as possible, have the most friendly relations with other nations in the world. The outlook in that respect to-day is very black indeed.
I welcome this treaty as one of the first attempts by this Government to do something to add to our circle of friends in the world. If ever a country needed the friendship of other nations to-day it is
Australia, because as far as I can see, no country in recent years has done more to antagonize other countries than Australia has by means of the tariff. Nothing is more provocative to the people of the world than the raising of excessive tariff barriers. In this bill the Government has made an agreement with Czechoslovakia, which is prepared to reduce its tariff in favour of Australia, and the Ministry has been wise enough to reciprocate by reducing the tariff on goods brought in from that country. The Leader of the Opposition had. the audacity to suggest that we could bring about all the reforms necessary to make this country the most perfect country in the world at one blow.
– I did not say that.
– That is the inference to be drawn from the honorable senator’s words. If the honorable senator were supporting this bill in his heart, he would congratulate the Ministry for having done something, no matter how little. The main portion of the bill is contained in the schedules. If the honorable senator has perused the schedules, as T have done, he will have found that we are giving very little away indeed. I ask him to compare the schedule with the existing tariff.
– I can see things that are going to knock Australian industries.
– What does the honorable senator think of Australian workmen? Does he think that they are puerile individuals who cannot stand up, with a reasonable measure of protection, against the other countries of the world ? Does the honorable senator suggest that the Australian workman is so inefficient that, as a workman, lie has no status in the world ?
– The Australian workmen are the most efficient in the world.
– If that be so, what objection can the honorable senator have to this bill, which takes practically no protection away from Australian workmen? I suggest that he should peruse the schedule very carefully before he speaks on the bill in the committee stage. The honorable senator will find that all his fears in that direction are groundless.
I was gratified to hear the remarks of Senator Arkins, which ought to be taken to heart by honorable senators, because they show clearly, being founded on fact, that Australia is not the only country in the world which can produce good workmen and splendid manufactures. It would be to our interest to cultivate friendly relations with other countries. Several honorable senators have referred to the possibility of a reduction of the standard of living, resulting from the admission into Australia of goods from oversea countries which will enter into competition with local manufactures. In view of the high tariffs which Australia has imposed against imported goods, there can surely be no justification for such a viewpoint. My intention in rising to speak on this bill was not for the purpose of discussing the measure in detail, but. to express my pleasure at the fact that Australia has at last taken the first step in order to bring about good feeling among nations upon which we have to rely to help us out of the wood in regard to the sale of our surplus products.
– And we are relying on a small country like Czechoslovakia !
– That is only one nation. Before very long I hope that the Government will conclude trade agreements with other countries.
– How does the honorable senator reconcile his contention with the action which the Government has taken against Japan and the United States of America?
– The honorable senator knows very well that I am no: so foolish as to make any reference to that subject at this moment. I do not propose to make any statement which might imperil the negotiations between representatives of the Commonwealth and Japan which have been proceeding in Canberra to-day. For that reason I shall not fall into the trap which the honorable senator has evidently set for me by referring to that matter.
I appreciate the fact that the Government has been able to introduce this billand I hope that it will be the forerunner of similar measures in relation to other countries with which we have a vital commercial interest. Such agreements are all to the advantage of Australia, and any action which we are able to take to cultivate friendly relations with other countries will be helpful rather than detrimental to Australian workmen and to the Australian community as a whole. For that reason I express my pleasure at the introduction of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
.- Can the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator A. J. McLachlan) inform honorable senators of the amount of duty which will be imposed by Czechoslovakia under this agreement on the importation of apples from Australia?
. - The reduction from the general rate of duty is 65 per cent. From calculations which have been supplied to me, I find that the rate of duty under the treaty is equivalent to 3s. 3½d. in Australian currency for a bushel case of 40 lb., so that honorable senators can well imagine the enormous rate of duty which operates against apples from other countries.
Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN (South
Australia - Postmaster-General) [9.8] . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I propose to give the Senate a brief outline of the trading position of Australia with Belgium, and details of the agreement, and to refer briefly to the economic condition and foreign commercial policy of that country. Geographical limitations, pressure of population, and the natural and acquired aptitudes of its people over a long period have forced Belgium into the position of becoming One of the most highly industrialized States of the world, with large-scale manufactories producing a diversified range of commodities. The principal export manufactures are plate and window-glass, metallurgical products, textiles and chemical products. The main imports consist of fuel, foodstuffs, and raw material for the metallurgical and textile industries. Under such conditions, and until recent years, it has suited Belgium’s economic policy to obtain raw materials and foodstuffs, such as Australia can supply, at the lowest price. Generally, these goods have been admitted free or at low rates of duty. An important consideration of government policy at the present time, however, is the pressure which has been brought to bear on Belgium to import the necessary primary products from countries which buy largely from it. There are obvious limits to the extent to which that policy can be applied, but even a modified application of the principle would prove detrimental to our export commodities, which have hitherto enjoyed a valuable and unrestricted market in Belgium. So far as Australian products are concerned, Belgium has refrained from applying import restrictions on the grand scale adopted by its neighbours. Circumstances beyond its control, however, in the rapidly developing economic conditions in Europe, have recently forced Belgium to adopt a policy of opportunism in its commercial relations with other countries in order to secure the best possible market for its manufactures.
With a trading balance in the ratio of about 10 to 1 in our favour, it is evident that Australia should make a stout endeavour to consolidate its still very favorable, but precarious, position. The Belgian market is highly valued by all countries which export primary produce, because it absorbs many commodities which are difficult to sell elsewhere. As the Belgian Government has repeatedly pointed out, the absence of a comprehensive commercial agreement with Australia has on more than one occasion prejudiced the continuance of our fortunate position in the Belgian market. In the absence of a commercial agreement with Australia, the Belgian Government has no grounds on which to counter the pressure towhich it is subject from its Parliament, industrialists, and the people generally, to discriminate against non-treaty countries which have a favorable trade balance with Belgium, and to favour those which have concluded commercial agreements that offer some opportunity to Belgian manufacturers. The only protection which Australia has had against tlie application of restrictive measures to its vulnerable products in Belgium concluded in November, 198-1. .’.lent concluded with Belgium in November, 1934. As the result of rep.resentations made to the Belgian Government during the visit to Brussels of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) in October, 1935, the existing arrangement was extended for a further period, subject, however, to termination at two months’ notice. The provisional arrangement, made between the two countries at an emergency and temporary nature, was based on the expressed understanding that a comprehensive agreement would be made in 1934,- which was merely of an early date. Notice of its intention to terminate the provisional arrangement was given by the Belgian Government on the 1st June last, to take effect as from the 1st August, but this was subsequently withdrawn to give a limited extension of time for negotiations.
The agreement which is now before the Senate Avas negotiated in a spirit which reflected the cordial atmosphere that has long marked the economic relations between Australia and Belgium. The goods that are to be exchanged between the two countries furnish an outstanding example of complementary trade, and there is every reason for the belief that the agreement will provide a firm foundation for the further development of reciprocal trade on a mutually satisfactory basis. This treaty goes far beyond the exchange of Belgium glass and Australian barley and beef.
Unlike wheat, which we export to more than 30 countries, our barley is limited to some half a dozen overseas markets, and of these, Belgium has been by far the most important customer. Other barley exporting countries, particularly Poland, Argentina, Chile, Turkey and Germany, compete strongly with Australia in that market, and if we are to obtain freedom of access for our barley in Belgium, this agreement is essential.
Our wool exports to Belgium are the most valuable single item of our trade with that country. According to our statistics in 1935-36, the value of that item alone was £5,000,000 sterling. The large carbonizing works which are situated in Belgium treat most of tlie wool imported in the grease for re-export. and it is estimated that approximately 51 per cent, of the total greasy wool imported thus finds its ultimate destination among other European countries. Belgium is, therefore, a valuable intermediary in the marketing of our wool, and the goodwill established by close commercial relations with Belgium is a vital factor in maintaining the price of the Australian staple.
In addition to barley, the value in sterling of Australian primary exports to Belgium for the year 1935-36’ included wheat, £336,000; silver and base metals,. £228,000; meat, £4’,400; and fruit, £14,400.
With regard to window glass, Belgium had been for many years our main foreign source of supply. The establishment of an Australian factory, however, foreshadowed a choice of two course?. Either a high protective duty would be required, with a consequent increased price for both the local and the imported product, or a division of the market was necessary, by means of a quota arrangement, between local manufacturers and British and foreign suppliers. To ensure continuity of supplies, and to discourage increases of price, the latter course was adopted and incorporated in the arrangement with Belgium has been the provisional agreeOn the whole, this arrangement has proved most satisfactory, and the minoralterations now included are those which have been found necessary in the light of the last two years’ experience, and which have been actually in effect duringthe latter part of that period,
The whole range of commodities in which Belgium is interested can be appreciated by an examination of schedule A, which shows the items on which the intermediate tariff rate has been granted. When it is recalled, however, that the total value of the imports from Belgium in 1935-36 amounted to only £568,000 sterling, and that, of that total, £300,000 was represented by six items, it will be seen that the total value of the concessions accorded is a low price to pay for the maintenance and probable expansion of a market worth £6,000,000 Sterling in the same year.
Apart from the existing glass arrangement, the agreement provides for -
I commend the agreement to the approval of honorable senators.
– I do not intend to repeat on this bill the speech that I made on the bill that has just been passed. I wish, however, to make some comments on the speech just delivered by the Minister in charge of the measure (Senator A. J. McLachlan) .
The honorable senator referred eloquently to the condition of affairs in
Europe, which, during recent years, has forced Belgium into a policy of opportunism - the word is his; I consider that his choice was most unfortunate. Of course, world events have forced Belgium into a policy of opportunism. That is exactly what my colleague, Senator Brown, and I told the Minister when we addressed ourselves to the previous bill. “World events are forcing Australia into a policy of opportunism, as they have forced every other country within the last decade. Great Britain itself, the home of freetrade, has at last been forced by the march of events to adopt the policy of protection. It is paying huge subsidies to its primary-producing industries. If Great Britain, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and all other countries overseas are doing this, what valid objection can be offered to Australia’s doing it?
– We have a “ stab “ at it occasionally.
– Of course we do. Senator Arkins soared into the heights of poesy to describe the wonders of the modern romance in Czechoslovakia. If he will accompany me to the factories in New South Wales and Victoria I shall lead him to men who have been dismissed as the result of the adoption of the policy of opportunism, and he can ask them in my presence what romance they can see in the receipt of a notice to quit. The policy that is being pursued by this national Parliament is forcing people out of employment in our great secondary industries. There is no romance in that. I would remind Senator Arkins that it is as bad to be robbed of one’s employment by a nation which is pre-eminent in the establishment of libraries, as by a nation that has no libraries and is illiterate. It may be even worse, because there is such a thing as the refinement of cruelty. If a man uses brutal methods you feel that you can use your boot on him- but if he has a polished manner and affects an Oxford accent, the case wears a different complexion. I ask the Minister whether this treaty gives Belgium any advantage. A perusal of the schedule will show what the Commonwealth proposes to allow it to send to this country with greater facility. If the treaty is of advantage to Belgium, then, it obviously must be disadvantageous to some industry in Australia. Honorable senators opposite cannot have it both ways; they cannot gain on the swings as well as on the roundabouts. Either it is of advantage to Belgium, or it is not. If it is not, then Belgium has been the victim of a confidence trick. There is no escape from the logic of events. We have been given to understand that Australia has derived an advantage from every treaty that has been made, including the Ottawa agreement. I would point out, however, that we cannot have our cake and eat it. If Belgium is given one slice, Czechoslovakia another slice, and Great Britain another slice, there is so much less for the people of Australia who are dependent on it. Their diet may be changed from cake to rye bread, and their stomachs still be filled, but they are not getting the same favorable deal.
The Minister in charge of the bill has mentioned wheat. Both my colleague, Senator Brown, and I endeavoured on the last measure to show the impossibility of the Government finding its way out of the hole which it has entered, because there is no egress from it. As soon as Russia experiences a decent season for its wheat, all the Government’s propositions in regard to wheat will go overboard, because the markets of the world will be filled with the Russian crop and will not need our wheat. As Senator Brown has said, when a treaty has been made with every country that is willing to make one with us, we shall be no better off. The Minister hinted that glass is the principal commodity that Belgium exports to Australia, and argued that, as it buys our wool, we should be wise not to say too much.
– We might sell Belgium some sugar.
– Some ribald senator has made a remark about sugar. It merely amuses me. It would be a case of “ God help Australia “ if the northern portion of the great State from which I come did not produce sugar. Those allegedly jocular remark’s by senators who do not know whether sugar prows underground or on the tops of trees are vastly amusing to those who represent Australia’s great sugarproducing State. That, however, is by the way. i was rather interested to hear the Minister say that Belgium buys Australian wool in grease. Of course it does. So does the United States of America. The reason is that they are determined that their workers shall find employment in the removal of the grease from the wool, and in the treatment of the by-products that result from the scouring of it. We are foolish enough to export our wool in the grease. It does not matter to us whether our wool scours flourish or are idle, or whether the opportunity is provided for the building and equipping of additional scours to perform this operation. I realize that many honorable senators wish me to conclude my remarks as quickly as possible, so that they may linguistically tear me to pieces. I am perfectly willing to give them the opportunity to make the attempt. As a matter of fact, during the short period that I have had the onerous duty of leading the Opposition I have discovered that the gentleman who occupies that position is merely a swingle-bar for the kicking mules of senators who do not agree with the policy of the Opposition.
I wish to make a brief reference to glass, and have no desire to be told when I resume my seat that I am the protagonist of a greedy monopoly; that does not cut any ice with me. I affirm that this country has wit enough, and ought to have courage enough, to tell its manufacturers that they will not be allowed any longer to profiteer behind the shelter of the tariff wall. If, when I have concluded my dissertation on glass, I am accused of being the protagonist of a bloated capitalistic, company, my withers will remain unwrung, and I shall not be disturbed in the slightest degree. I propose to read short extracts from the sworn evidence given by the representatives of the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited before the Tariff Board in Melbourne on the 24th June, 1935. This was the last of a series of inquiries that have been conducted into the glass industry. My reason for quoting appropriate portions of this evidence is that the Minister deliberately threw down the gauntlet when he mentioned that glass is the principal . commodity that the Commonwealth proposes to allow Belgium to pour into this country. The evidence reads - 1 would invite the board’s attention to the growth of the glass industry in Australia. It started in Melbourne in 1S72 as a small bottle works, but the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited was not formed tin 1015.
I have said repeatedly in this chamber that I am old enough to remember the time when Australia did not manufacture one item of its requirements. I do not suggest that I am old enough to recall events of 150 years ago; but I am old enough to remember the arguments advanced 60 years ago whenever courageous Australians suggested that there was a fitting opportunity to develop an Australian industry. We have been told recently that it would be uneconomic to manufacture motor car chassis in Australia. A similar argument was advanced with regard to boots and shoes, beer and whisky, cheese and butter, jam and confectionery, and many other things which are produced here, and which are equal in quality to the products of any other country.
– What about the balance-sheet of the Australian Glass Company?
– Whenever a plea is advanced on behalf of an infant industry, honorable senators opposite assume an indignant air, and say that as it is only a backyard industry, it is not entitled to consideration. The glass industry was established in Melbourne in 1S72 as a small bottle works but it has developed into the huge undertaking which is now called a profiteering concern. The Government cannot have it both ways. Any big industry must have a small beginning. The sworn evidence given before the Tariff Board continues as follows: -
In the course of twenty years, therefore, from a comparatively small bottle works has been built up one of the largest industries in the Commonwealth, with capital amounting to nearly £2,000,000, subscribed by 2,900 Australian shareholders, directly employing nearly 4,000 workers and distributing wages at the rate of approximately £700,000 a year.
I am more concerned about 2,900 Australian shareholders who are getting their “ loot “ in this country, and about -1,000 Australian workers who are spending their wages here than I am about shareholders and workers in Belgium.
Here let me interpose that the Opposition supports this bill. A certain amount of laughter comes from honorable senators on the ministerial bench. On this occasion the united support of the Opposition in this chamber does not mean a great deal to the Government, but there have been times not very far back in the history of this chamber when no laughter arose as the result of an announcement that the Opposition intended to support the Government. In fact, when revolts have occurred in the ranks of the United Australia party and the United Country party the votes of the Opposition have saved the Government from defeat. The Opposition is not now “damning this bill with faint praise but it does assert very definitely that members of the Labour party consider that our economic difficulties cannot be overcome by unscientific and piecemeal measures, which are merely temporary expedients. I can well imagine the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) throwing the treaty measures on the table of the House of Representatives, rubbing his hands with glee and exclaiming, Micawber-like. “ Thank God that’s paid for “ ! But the debt cannot be discharged until a better method of overcoming these trade difficulties has been devised.
I had a conversation last week with a representative of the Australian Glass Company, and I have seen all of its works.
– Has the honorable senator inspected its balance-sheet?
– Honorable senators who interject are no doubt annoyed that they did not get in on the ground floor, so that they could now be sharing in the profits of this wealthy company. The members of the Opposition in this chamber have received no “ rake-off “ as the result of their efforts to serve the interests of the primary producers and the workers in secondary industries.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator should connect his remarks with the bill.
– I shall endeavour to do so. Qualified or skilled workmen in Belgium are paid from 74 to S francs an hour, on the basis of 175 francs to the £1, -which is equivalent to lOd. an hour in Australian currency. Unskilled workers receive 4£ to 4£ francs an hour, or 6d. an hour Australian currency. The factories in Belgium work three eight-hour shifts. The English rates of wages mentioned in evidence before the Tariff Board are from ls. to ls. 4£d. an hour, whilst the rates in Australia are ls. 8gd. to 2s. 2-2/lld. an hour. The difference in wages costs between Australia and the continent of Europe is even greater than the rates indicate, for the reason that women and children are employed on the Continent on work that only a male adult is permitted to do in Australia. It is considered that a fair comparison would be to say that the continental wages are equal to 6d., the English rate ls. 2£d., and the Australian rate 2s. an hour.
Regarding window glass, no complaint is made as to the quality of the Australian product. The Australian Glass Company’s window glass branch is equipped to supply the heaviest demand which can be made for the product in Australia. It is allowed to supply only slightly more than half of the total effective demand within the Commonwealth, but the plant is capable of fully supplying the demand, and therefore practically half of the factory remains idle. The Opposition supports the bill because it thinks that it is preferable under existing circumstances, to having no agreement at all with Belgium. Our only criticism is due to the facts to which Senator Brown and I referred in the debate on the previous measure. “We then explained that Australia cannot get out of the wood by digging further into it.
– Like my leader, I support the bill, but members of the Opposition have to take certain circumstances into consideration. “When Senator Payne was speaking on the previous measure, I asked what rate of wage is paid in Czechoslovakia. Senator Collings has. explained that in Belgium the rate is 6d. an hour as compared with ls. 2d. an hour in England and 2s. an hour in Australia. We have to take these facts into consideration in entering into a treaty with foreign countries, although Belgium and Czechoslovakia are good customers of Australia. We should be foolish if we did not go as far as possible to meet the wishes of our good customer countries. The representatives of the Labour party in this chamber intend to see that the workers get a fair deal when trade agreements are under consideration. As the Australian glass manufacturing industry is highly protected, neither my colleagues nor I would sit down quietly if any injustice to the workers had been suggested. For the last 25 or 30 years I have supported the protection of secondary industries in Australia. The Labour party’s policy, known as New Protection, is designed to assure fair wages and conditions to the workers, and fair prices for manufactured goods to the consumers. It is not the desire of the Labour party that any industry shall be permitted to operate on a huge margin of profit. Sooner than permit that to continue Labour would attempt to nationalize the industry or, to curb its activities in some other way to keep its profits within reasonable limits. I mention these considerations in consequence of certain interjections made to-night by some honorable senators. An examination of the rates of wages in Czechoslovakia and certain other central European countries would, undoubtedly, reveal that the Australian rates are very much higher, and so we should remember that “ those who live in Bohemia should not throw stones “. The Labour party will support this bill because it alfords certain advantages to a good customer country. To the extent that that can be done without sacrificing the interests of the Australian workers, the Labour party is prepared to do it.
.- The Government is to be congratulated upon having negotiated the trade agreement which we are now being asked to ratify. An examination of our trade figures with Belgium for the last four years indicates- that that country has purchased goods to the value of £17,000,000 from Australia, while Australia lias purchased from Belgium goods to the value of £1,500,000, leaving a favorable balance to us of £15,500,000. There is everything to be said in favour of cultivating trade with such a country. If Australia had not been able to place its primary products in Belgium it would, undoubtedly, have had to find a market elsewhere at a price probably lower than that paid by Belgium.
– But at a lower price.
– I believe that there is a market for everything at a price. Tasmania has a particular interest in the trade with Belgium because of the quantity of barley that Belgium purchases from Australia. It is important to Tasmania that a profitable market for barley shall be available overseas. Last year Belgium bought Australian barley to the value of £162,000, and its purchases of greasy, scoured and topped wool totalled £3,450,000.. Belgium, therefore, provides a most acceptable market for the Australian wool-growers. In the circumstances, it is desirable that Australia should afford to Belgium such trade considerations as are possible to it, and the Government is to be congratulated upon having negotiated the agreement now under our consideration. Though the ratification of this agreement may adversely affect the interests of a few glass workers in this country, the advantages that will accrue to the primary producers as the result of this trade treaty are of such magnitude that it is only to be expected that we should give something in return. “We cannot expect a one-way trade only. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill. I hope that it will be the forerunner of many other measures of the same kind. Reciprocal trade agreements of this description are of immense value to the Commonwealth.
[9.52 j . - in reply - If the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) are to be regarded as supporting the bill, I can only say : “ God save the Government when the honorable senator opposes a bill.” His speech was an unrestrained onslaught. It is just as well, therefore, that people should understand the reasons which actuated the honorable senator and his colleagues in giving lip support to this trade treaty. They realize, of course, that their political existence would be threatened if they opposed a measure of this kind. “What would become of the Wyndham Meat Works or the barley trade of South Australia if a satisfactory trade treaty could not be made with Belgium ? If the honorable gentlemen of the Labour party cannot give measures of this kind their whole-hearted support, they should not support them at all.
Reference . has been made to the glass manufacturing industry. The main interest of Belgium in this connexion is in glass for household purposes,, window glass and plate glass. Theconditions under which window glass will be admitted to Australia after the ratification of this agreement will be exactly similar to those which haveoperated since November, 1934. The interests of the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited, for which the Leader of the Opposition exhibited so much concern, are not likely to be threatened as the quota of window glass to be admitted under the new agreement is not being altered, and remains as it has been since 1934. It is significant that the shares in this Australian company for which the Leader of the Opposition expressed so much sympathy have increased from 20s., which is their par value, to 98s. If that position represents ruin, I should like to know what would represent affluence. Plate glass is not manufactured in Australia, so the opportunity presented itself to us to afford Belgium some advantage in this direction. The intermediate tariff rate which is being applied to imports of plate glass from Belgium is that which the Tariff Board recommended as affording sufficient protection for the local industry. The information which I have submitted to honorable senators shows clearly that we need not waste our sympathy upon the Australian glass manufacturing industry. If honorable senators opposite fear that the interests of the workers in that industry are likely to be adversely affected, I suggest that the company does for its workers what certain employers of America recently did for their workers, for its financial position makes such action possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
– .1. move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to confirm an agreement between the South African and Commonwealth Governments. The agreement is a simple one, taking the form of an exchange of notes between the two governments. In brief, the South African note contains an undertaking that the duties imposed on products of the Commonwealth entering South Africa or South-west Africa, shall not be higher than those imposed on like products imported from the mostfavoredforeign country, whilst the note from the Commonwealth contains an undertaking that the duties imposed on South African or South-west African products entering the Commonwealth shall not be higher than those imposed on like products imported from the most-favored-foreign country.
The South African note contains a reservation that the undertaking to grant to the Commonwealth the lowest duties accorded to any foreign country shall not apply to special favours accorded by South Africa to adjoining foreign countries. That reservation enables South Africa to continue, and extend, a reciprocal tariff arrangement with Portugal, under which a number of products of the industries of the adjoining Portuguese territory of Mozambique are admitted into South Africa without the payment of any import duties.
The agreement with South Africa now submitted for approval has been made in consequence of changes of the form of the South African tariff. Until 1935, South Africa had one set of duties applicable to all countries except those enjoying the British preferential rates, but in that year steps were taken to introduce a second set of duties, and to establish inter mediate and maximum rates, the former being accorded, in respect of particular items, to those foreign countries with which South Africa enters into trade agreements. The terms of the hew South African tariff law were such that the intermediate rates could be accorded only to those countries with which trade agreements were arranged. Accordingly, without an agreement, Australian pro- duets entering South Africa would not have become entitled to the benefits of the duty reductions made by- South Africa in pursuance of trade agreements with foreign countries. The trade of the Commonwealth with South Africa is not large. Expressed in Australian currency exports, based on the trade of the last three statistical years, average a little over £337,000 annually, and imports £250,000 annually. The figures for 1935-36 were- Exports, £449,000 and imports, £356,000. Timber and agricultural machinery are the largest export items, but other manufactured products are also exported to South Africa in limited quantities.
The present agreement ensures that the trade in these goods will not be handicapped as a result of any trade agreements which South Africa may make with foreign countries. South Africa, on the other hand, will enjoy the benefit of any reductions of the Australian duties arising from trade agreements with foreign countries.
It would have given me greater satisfaction to be in a position to present for the consideration of honorable senators a more comprehensive agreement with South Africa. Since the former agreement with the Union was terminated in 1926, efforts have been made, at various times, to find a mutually acceptable basis for a new agreement. Owing, however, to the fact that Australia and South Africa fall within approximately the same degrees of latitude, and, in a lai-p” measure have surpluses of the same primary produce, the opportunity for exchange of trade is limited, and the field for negotiation is therefore circumscribed. 1 commend the bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
[10.6]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
If honorable senators have before them the memorandum showing theamendments proposed to be made by this bill, they will be able to follow my remarks more closely. This is a bill to amend the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1934 in the direction of altering certain machinery or procedural steps in relation to the assessment of compensation for land taken for public purposes. The bill does not seek to alter, in substance, the principles upon which compensation forland taken for public purposes shall be assessed. It may be assumed that any person whose land is compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth for Commonwealth purposes will still be entitled to the same measure of compensation as he would have received under the existing law. The alterations proposed to be made may be grouped into two main classes. The first class of amendments relates to the form of the claim for compensation. Sub-section 2 of section 32 of the existing act provides -
A claim for compensation shall be in writing, and shall be served on the Minister, and shall set forth the prescribed particulars, and shall be in accordance with such of the prescribed forms as is applicable to the case.
By clause 2, it is proposed to omit that provision, and to insert in its stead the following sub-section: -
A claim for compensation shall -
be in accordance with such of the prescribed forms as is applicable to the case;
set forth the total amount of compensation claimed and the amount (if any) attributable to each item in that prescribed form; and
The purpose of the amendment, and the others which are contingent upon it, is to provide that, where a man claims compensation, he shall claim not merely a lump sum, but shall also itemize his claim by indicating how much he asks, for instance, for the unimproved land value of the property. It is most desirable that that should be done. In the absence of an itemized claim, the decision on the claim cannot be used for purposes of assisting in. the consideration of other cases. The decisions on itemized claims will be of inestimable value in arriving at decisions in like cases. The drag-net provision has been preserved in order to enable the claimant to make a general claim. A claimant is not, therefore, denied the opportunity to claim any thing to which he is rightly entitled.
The second class of amendments provided for in the bill is intended to avoid a multiplicity of proceedings in relation to any one acquisition. All property that is sought to be taken for public purposes is not necessarily in one ownership, or held in one right. Thus, the fee-simple of a parcel of land may be held by A, the head lease by B. and a sub-lease by C, while D may have a right of easement over it. Each one of these persons might have some claim for compensation for the compulsory taking of the property. As the law now stands, the owner in feesimple may proceed before the High Court, his head lessee may proceed in the State court, whilst the person claiming a right of easement may proceed under another jurisdiction, with the result that there would be parallel proceedings, involving. enormously increased expenditure, while no particular authority would attach to any judgment given. The bill provides that when an action is instituted in the High Court for the determination of compensation, any action commenced in other courts in respect of the same parcel of land shall be stayed, and the whole matter taken into the High Court. The purpose of the amendment is to provide that where various claims come from various sources in relation to one piece of property, they shall all be heard in one court, the court giving notice to the parties so that they may be brought together for the one hearing. In this manner, it is hoped to simplify procedure, save time, and make for greater certainty.
It has been felt for some time that amending legislation of this kind was necessary. These very amendments were included in a. bill brought down in 1924, but it was not proceeded with to the point of enactment. However, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth is from time to time making resumptions of properties, it is considered that action should now be taken to simplify the procedure. I commend the measure to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
[10.13].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is the bill which is introduced each year for the imposition of the rates of tax to be charged in income tax assessments for the current financial year. In its provisions, the bill implements the remissions of income tax forecast by the Treasurer in his budget speech, in that the rates of normal income tax on income from personal exertion and property in the case of individuals have been reduced by 10 per cent., and the provisions relating to the imposition of the special tax on property income are not being re-enacted. As honorable senators are aware, the special property tax was imposed at the beginning of the depression and in the first . year of its operation, namely, 1930-31, the rate of tax was 1 per cent, of the taxable income. For the next two years, viz., 1931-32 and 1932-33 the rate was increased to 10 per cent. In 1933-34 it was reduced to 6 per cent, and last year a further reduction to 5 per cent, was made. This particular tax has been universally regarded as one of the most severe forms of the emergency taxation which was imposed to ensure budgetary stability, and it has been the target of severe criticism right from the time of its commencement. As I have mentioned, reductions have taken place until the rate now stands at 5 per cent, of the taxable income from property. The Government is extremely pleased to be able to announce the complete withdrawal of this tax, thus relieving taxpayers in receipt of property income of an extremely onerous burden under which they have laboured during the last six years. The reduction of 10 per cent, of the rates of normal income tax on income from personal exertion and property will benefit all individuals whether their income be in the form of wages, salaries, or from a business, or from investments.
The Government feels satisfied that the reductions of taxation which are embodied in this bill will assist in the restoration of prosperous economic conditions and will conduce to the benefit of the whole of the community. The rates of taxes are fixed in accordance with the schedules included in the bill. The first schedule sets out the manner in which the rate of income tax- on personal exertion incomes is to be ascertained. In 1931-32, Professor Giblin, who was the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, revised the existing formula for arriving at the rate of tax. This revision was an adaptation of the rate applied in the previous year subject to an all-round increase of approximately 5 per cent. In 1933-34, the rate of tax on personal exertion income was reduced by 15 per cent., and the rate for that year was accordingly ascertained by taking 85 per cent, of the rate provided by the 1931-32 formula. The further reduction of 10 per cent, on last year’s rates provided for in this bill means that the rate will be 76.5 per cent, of the rate originally prescribed. The rate of tax increases evenly with each £1 of taxable income until the taxable income reaches £6,900. A flat’ rate of 68.85d. is imposed on each £1 of taxable income in excess of £6,900. Originally this flat rate was fixed at 90d., but the reduction of 15 per cent, in 1933-34 combined with the present reduction of 10 per cent, reduces the rate to 68.85 as set out in the schedule.
The second schedule relates to income from property. As no reduction of the rates of tax on property income has been made since the present formula was introduced in 1931-32, the rate for this year is ascertained by taking 90 per cent, of the rate as originally prescribed. I wish to make it clear that the reductions of the special property tax which were made in 1933-34 and 1935-36 have no relation to this formula which determines how the rate of normal income tax on property income is to be ascertained. The special property tax was superimposed on the normal income tax, and was a straight-out percentage of the taxable property income. Under the for- mula the rate of taxincreases with each £1 of taxable income until a taxable income of £3,700 is reached, thereafter a flat rate of 81d. is charged. Aswith personal exertion incomes, the flat rate was originally 90d. The 10 per cent. reduction explains the difference. The graduation of the rate of tax on property income as the income increases is much steeper than in the case of personal exertion income, and although the rates of tax on the two classes of income commence at almost identical points, they diverge until at about £1,200 the rate of tax on property income is double that on the same amount of personal exertion income. This relation is generally maintained upon incomes up to approximately £5,000. Thereafter the differentiation against property income begins to diminish. The third schedule applies in the case of the taxpayer whose total income is derived partly from personal exertion and partly from property. The taxpayer’s rate of tax on the separate amounts of personal exertion and property income is ascertained as if the taxpayer’s total income were derived exclusively from personal exertion and property respectively. The result of applying the provisions of the schedule is that the taxpayer pays tax on his taxable incomes from personal exertion and property at the rate attributable to. his total taxable income subject, of course, to the averaging provisions. The fourth schedule, which relates to averaging, is a provision which is new to the rates bill. Previously, the substance of this schedule was incorporated in section 13 (2) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-1934, but at the suggestion of the royal commission on taxation the relevant provisions were not embodied in the Income Tax Assessment Bill which was passed by this chamber earlier in the year, the intention being to incorporate them in this bill. Under the averaging scheme a taxpayer’s income is averaged over a period of five years, and the rate of tax which is applied to his taxable income is the rate which is attributable to his average income over that period. For example, if a taxpayer’s actual taxable income for the year ended the 30th June, 1936, were, say, £1,000, and his average taxable income over the five years, 1932 to 1936 were, say, £900, he would pay tax on his actual taxable income of £1,000 at the rate attributable to £900. Similarly, if his average taxable income were, say, £1,100 he would pay tax on his actual taxable income of £1,000 at the rate attributable to £1,100.
The schedule has been adapted from a draft prepared by the Royal Commission on Taxation, and is simpler in form than that which was used in the assessment act to achieve the same result. The fifth schedule is also a new provision. It arises from the adoption, in substance, of a recommendation of the royal commission relating to assessment of premiums received in connexion with the sale or assignment of leases. The premium is taxed on the principle that it is nothing more than commuted rent. However, when several years’ rent is commuted into one single premium, the recipient pays tax on the premium in the year of receipt. Owing to the graduation of the rate of tax, the recipient pays a greater amount of tax on the amount of that premium than he would have paid if he had received the same amount as rent over the term of the lease. This result was considered to he. inequitable, and the means by which some relief should be given was the subject of wide discussion at conferences between the Commissioners of Taxation and the members of the royal commission. It was finally decided that the recipient of the premium should pay tax on the premium, but at a rate of tax on a notional income ascertained by dividing the amount’ of the premium by one-half of the number of years of the term of the lease. For example, if during a year a taxpayer receives £10,000 for the sale of a ten year lease, and that is his only income for the year, the notional income would be £2,000 ascertained in the following manner : -
Lease premium received £10,000.
Term of lease ten years.
One-half of term of lease five years, £10,000/ 5 = £2,000.
The taxpayer would thus pay on £10,000 at the rate of tax attributable to £2,000. If the taxpayer derived other income during the year, this other income would of course be added to the notional amount to determine the rate of tax to be paid on his total taxable income for the year.
The schedule is based on the draft prepared by the royal commission.
It is to be noted that the proposal is in effect a modification of the averaging system already in existence, and on that account it has been provided in the Assessment Act that the principle embodied in the schedule shall not apply in the assessments of any taxpayer to whom the existing averaging provisions apply. It is necessary, however, to provide for the possible case arising where the recipient of a lease premium is not subject to the averaging provisions.
The sixth schedule is designed for the purpose of providing for a rate of tax to be paid by trustees in respect of income of the trust estate on which they are liable to be assessed under the provisions of sections 98 and 99 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, and simply repeats substantially the similar provision in the acts for previous years.
The seventh schedule provides for the rates of tax payable by a company and does not call for any explanation. No reduction has been made of the rate of tax to be paid by companies.
Under sub-section (6) of section 4 provision is made for the imposition of a minimum tax of an amount of ten shillings. This provision is similar to that incorporated in the rates acts of previous years.
Sub-section (2) of section 5 is framed so as to enable assessments to be made for financial years subsequent to the current financial year before the rates bill for those financial years is passed by the Parliament. The taxpayers concerned, speaking generally, are theatrical artists and others who visit Australia and earn income here and who are required to pay income tax on their earnings prior to their departure. Other taxpayers who are concerned are tourists leaving Australia and wishing to pay their tax before leaving.
As the special property tax is being abolished, the provisions relating thereto in last year’s act are not being re-enacted.
The schedules which have been incorporated in the rates act since 1930, providing for rates of tax to he paid by individually owned partnerships and severally owned partnerships have not been re-enacted in this year’s bill. It was necessary to incorporate these schedules in the rates act in previous years, because the relevant Assessment Act provided that the income tax payable by such partnerships shall be at such rates as are declared by the Parliament. Sections 94 and 102 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, which deal with family partnerships and trusts specify therein how the income tax payable by the partnership or the trustee is to be calculated in cases coming within their operation, and a declaration of a rate of tax for these cases is now unnecessary.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1936/19361119_senate_14_152/>.