15th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate, on the 12th May, 1938, adjourned till a day and hour to he fixed and to be notified by the President to cach honorable Senator.
The Senate met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the notification of the President.
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair and read prayers.
– I ask the Post- master-Gneral whether it is a fact, as reported in the Sydney MorningHerald of the 6th May, that Mr. Herbert Brookes,
Vice-Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has been granted sis months’ leave of absence. If so, has it been found necessary to make a temporary appointment during his absence, and is Mr. Brookes’ salary being paid during his leave?
- Mr. Brookes has been granted leave of absence and his salary is being paid. While abroad Mr. Brookes is making inquiries in the interests of the commission. It has not been found necessary to appoint any one in his place.
The following papers were presented : -
International Situation - Copy of Statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (theRight Honorable W. M. Hughes) in the House of Representatives on 25th May, 1938.
League ofNations -Report of the Australian Delegation to the Eighteenth Assembly, September to October,1937.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 14 of 1938 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 15 of1938- Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department of -
Commerce -O. K. Belford.
External Alfairs -W. A. Wynes.
Treasury - H.B. W. Ridley.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938,No. 41,
Papua Act - OrdinanceNo. 1 of1938 - Mining, 1937.
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules1938.No. 48.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938,No. 42.
Control of Naval Waters Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules1938.No. 43.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938,No. 45.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938,No. 44-No. 46No. 47.
Australian Agricultural Council - Statement by the Acting Minister for Commerce in connexion with the Australian Agricultural Council Meeting held at Canberra, 12th to 13th May, 1938.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1937.
Immigration Act - Return for 1937.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Alice Springs, Northern Territory - For Administrative purposes.
Huonville, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Ivan hoe, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Karumba, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Meteorology Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 37.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 39.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 2 - Crown Lands.
No. 3 - Interpretation.
No. 4- Wills.
No. 5 - Registration of Dogs.
No.6 - Darwin Administration.
Crown Lands Ordinance - Regulations.
Seat of Govern ment Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 7 - Lunacy.
No.8 - Industrial Board.
No. 9 - Workmen’s Compensation.
No. 10 - Inquiry.
No. 11 - Roman Catholic Church Property Trust.
No. 12 - Auctioneers.
No. 13 - Companies.
No. 14 - Police Superannuation.
No. 15 - Real Property.
No. 16 - Inebriates.
No. 17 - Inquiry (No. 2).
No. 18 - Rural Workers Accommodation.
No. 19 - Apprenticeship.
Adoption of Children Ordinance and Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance -
Adoption of Children Rules.
Industrial Board Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Plant Diseases Ordinance - Regulations amended.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister - (1) In view of the nature of recent press reports, will the Prime Minister take the Senate intohis confidence as to the relations with Japan following upon incidents in northern waters which have provoked certain Japanese intereststo take legal action against the Commonwealth? (2) Can the Prime Minister assure the Senate that these incidents are not likely to jeopardize friendly relations between Australia and Japan?
– The Prime Minister will take appropriate steps in both branches of the legislature regarding any matters of an international character such as those to which the honorable senator has referred. As to the legal proceedings in Darwin, those matters are sub judice and I do not think that they should be discussed pending the result of the judicial inquiry.
– On the 12th May, Senator Ashley asked a question, without, notice, regarding the shortage of houses in Canberra, and the introduction of a system of day labour for buildings to be erected for the Government. I am advised by the Minister for the Interior that he and the Treasurer recently conferred with a view to the provision of funds to enable the programme of construction of cottages for lower paid civil servants and workmen to be accelerated. Arrangements have now been made which will result in a material improvement in the position. Owing to the difficulty in securing skilled labour, the erection of houses by day labour would not be more expeditious than erection by contract.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
How many buyers of War Service Homes who have paid the actual full cost of such homes (apart from interest payments) have been compelled to give up their homes through inability to meet the monthly payments?
SenatorFOLL. - The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
None. Each instalment payable under the War Service Homes Act includes both principal and interest and upon repayment of the total principal portion of the loan (apart from interest payments due in respect of such loan) the liability would be fully discharged and the home would cease to be subject to the provisions of the act.
Bill received from the Blouse of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Foll) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The schedule to the bill now before the Senate covers the tariff proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the 8th December, 1937, which included the schedules introduced on the 24th June and the 7th September, 1937. The- tariff proposals introduced on the 4th May, by which the rates of duty on certain items under the general tariff were increased, are not included in the bill, but an opportunity to debate them will be given to honorable senators at a later date. A memorandum which has been prepared and circulated to honorable senators gives a comparison between the proposed rates of duty and the rates imposed by the 1936 tariff.
The proposals, which have now stood the test of some months of operation, give effect to the Government’s tariff policy enunciated by the Prime Minister in 1931, which, in brief, is : - qualification for tariff shelter: prohibitive, tariff level; quiry, through the Tariff Board, and not by arbitrary ministerial action.
The review ofthe tariff, in accordance with these principles and the everchanging conditions of industry, has now been going on continuously for over six years and the present flourishing position of Australian secondary industries clearly demonstrates the wisdom of the Government’s policy. The Commonwealth Statistician estimates the average employment in factories for the present financial year at the record figure of 554,000. The greatest average number employed in any year prior to the advent of the Lyons Government was 452,000 in 1926-27. Factory production for the current financial year is estimated at £188,000,000, a record for the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that prior to the depression, commodity prices were ona much higher level than they are now. Unemployment, which reached its maximum of 30 per cent. in May, 1932, is now at 8 per cent., the lowest percentage for a decade. Company shares provide further confirmation of the beneficial effect of the Government’s tariff policy on Australian secondary industry. In respect of 23 representative manufacturing and distributing companis whose shares are quoted on the Sydney Stock Exchange, the average value of ordinary shares in 1937-38 is 24.1 per cent. higher than it was in 1928-29, and 144.7 per cent. higher than in 1931-32.
– What about the wages of the workers?
– There has been an increase of the basic wage.
– But not to the 1929 level.
– The Lyons Government stands for a high basic wage for the workers in industry. Moreover, since it came into power, men who previously were out of work and earning no wages at all, have obtained employment.
Australian industry generally is becom- ing less dependent upon high duties in order to compete successfully with the products of other countries. In 1929-30 imports of pneumatic tyres and tubes were valued at £195,000. The duty under the British preferential tariff was then ls. 6d. per lb. or 25 per cent, ad valorem, and under the general tariff 2s. 6d. per lb. or 45 per cent. In 1936-37j with a duty of 9d. per lb. under the British preferential tariff and ls. lid. per lb. under the general tariff, and a protective value of exchange amounting to 4d. per lb., imports were valued at only £27,000. With a duty in 1929-30 of 9d. a square foot or 25 per cent, ad valorem British preferential tariff, ls. a square foot or 35 per cent, ad valorem, general tariff the imports of glace kid leather were valued at £100,000. In 1936-37 the value of such imports was only £14,000 with a duty of 3d. a square foot or 10 per cent, ad valorem British preferential tariff, and 9-4-d. a square foot, or 3l£ per cent, ad valorem, general tariff, and exchange representing a protection of 1^-d. a square foot or 10 per cent, ad valorem.
Those figures provide indubitable . evidence that the Government’s policy of a competitive, instead of a prohibitive, level of duties is not acting to the disadvantage of Australian manufacturers. On the contrary, it is acting advantageously in that it stimulates efficiency which, in turn, lowers costs of production, and thus benefits consumers by lower prices.
Rates of duty adopted by the Government are not arrived at arbitrarily, but are based on the recommendations of the Tariff Board following public inquiries, at which all interested parties are free to give evidence. The reliance which, may justly be placed upon the board’s recommendations is illustrated by a number of instances, of which one occurring during the 1936 tariff debate may be cited. The Government, on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, proposed to remove the duty under the British preferential tariff on the commodity concerned. Following representations from the industry a supplementary report was received from the board, and this confirmed the original recommendation. The House of Representatives rejected the proposal, with the result that a duty was imposed in April, 1936, but, as a result of a compromise between the two Houses, free admission was agreed to from a later date. Sufficient time has now elapsed to enable the result to be seen. The Tariff Board had paid.that prices were excessive and should be reduced. In the calendar year 1937, the enforced reduction of prices due to tariff action saved consumers of this commodity over £300,000, whilst importations amounted to only slightly more than 1 per cent, of the total demand, and the local manufacturers made, increased profits. Thus the fears expressed by interested parties have been proved to be groundless, and tlie Tariff Board and the Government have been vindicated.
Criticism has been advanced by certain interests concerning the increase of the value of importations during recent years. It is quite clear that the greater imports are the result of increasingly prosperous conditions in Australia, particularly in secondary industry. An analysis of those importations shows, however, that goods in the luxury and semi-luxury classes form a relatively small part of the import trade, and that plant and materials for industry are responsible for the greater part of importations at the present time.
In passing, I pay a tribute to the secondary industries for the way in which they have recognized the opportunity which the Government by its tariff policy has g’iven to them, inasmuch as their efficiency has been increased by a high standard of labour and by the importation of the most modern machinery obtainable overseas. I refer in this connexion to an interesting table published in the Monthly Review of Business Statistics by the Commonwealth Statistician. This dissects imports during the first eight months of the present financial year under the following economic classes: -
The proportion which imports of finished consumers’ goods bear to total imports has been consistently decreasing in recent years, and for the period referred to above it is 5.6 per cent. less than in 1928-29, when it was 24.1 per cent. of the whole.
I am confident that the Government’s policy in general, and its tariff policy in particular, have laid the foundations for the sound development of industry within the Commonwealth. I ask honorable senators to accept the schedule to this bill as a further instalment of that policy which has proved beneficial to all sections of the community.
Debate (on motion by Senatorcol lings) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Foll) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will recall that the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1933-1936, provides, in certain cases, for a deduction from the amount of duty payable under the British preferential tariff. The goods to which this deduction applies are those subject to protective duties, as listed in the schedule to the act. This deduction, while Australian currency is depreciated to the extent of not less than 16&2/3 per cent. in relation to the currency of the British country from which the goods are imported, is onefourth of the amount of duty or one-eighth of the value for duty, whichever is the lesser. When the depreciation of Australian currency is less than 16&2/3 per cent. but not less11&1/9 per cent., the deduction is oneeighth of the amount of duty or 6¼ per cent. of the value for duty, whichever is the lesser. These deductions are intended to compensate for the protective value of exchange.
Towards the end of . 1933 and down to the present time, the Tariff Board in its reports covering protected industries has recommended rates of duty based on current exchange conditions, with a corrective increasing the rates gradually as exchange moves towards parity.As the protective value of exchange in each particular industry is governed principally by the use of imported or exchange affected materials, honorable senators will appreciate that the present method of providing a variable exchange corrective in the tariff is a much move equitable, scientific, and satisfactory way of dealing with the problem than the former method. The purpose of this bill is, therefore, to eliminate from the operation of the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1933-1936, those items and parts of items for which exchange variations are now specifically provided for in relevant items of the main Customs Tariff Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senatorfoll) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The items dealt with in the bill arc covered by the Canadian Preference Customs Tariff Act, and certain alterations have been made in that act as a result of agreement between the
Canadian and Australian governments. The effect of the bill is to apply customs duties equivalent to the duties under the intermediate tariff to costumes and dresses, piston rings for internal combustion engines, sparking plugs, and carpet sweepers when these goods are of Canadian origin. The increases in duty on these Canadian goods are -
Costumes, dresses androbes -
Cotton, linen and other material, 3s. each.
Wool, 5s. each.
Silk, 4s. each.
Pius for all types, 17½ per cent. Sparking plugs, each 3d., or ad val. 20 per cent.
Piston rings, 30 per cent., with minimum of 2½d. each.
Carpet sweepers, 25 per cent.
Under the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) 1934-36, these Canadian goods have been admitted into the Commonwealth at the British preferential rates in accordance with the blanket provisions of the Canadian-Australian Trade Agreement of 1931, under which the British preferential tariff is applied to all Canadian goods not specifically scheduled in the agreement as being dutiable at other rates, and on which dumping duty could not be applied. In consultation with the Canadian Government, withdrawal of the British preferential tariff on the four items in question has been arranged.
Debate (on motion by Senatorcol- lings) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 4th May (vide page 745), on motion by Senator A. j. McLachlan) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This little bill is purely a machinery bill, and it is unnecessary that any time should be wasted in debating it. I approve entirely of the motive for its introduction, and I leave the subject at that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 4th May (vide page 745), on motion by Senator A. j. McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill also is one to which the Opposition offers no opposition. We recognize the need for it, and I regret that more of the conventions agreed to at Geneva do not come before this chamber for ratification. As we have no sort of sympathy whatever with counterfeiters, we give the bill our blessing.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 28th April (vide page 586), on motion by Senator A. j. McLachlan-
That the paperbe printed.
– I regret the temporary absence of Senator Pearce, who had secured the adjournment of the debate on this motion, because he has a great wealth of experience, and a wide knowledge of international affairs, more particularly by reason of the fact that for a considerable time he served as Minister for External Affairs in a government of this young nation. I did not anticipate speaking on this subject this afternoon, but I should like to take this opportunity to deal with one matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) when he spoke on the motion. In a lengthy debate on defence problems, at a time when the question of armament and rearmament was uppermost in the minds of honorable senators, and I am afraid in the minds of the people of the whole civilized world, the Leader of the Opposition used such terms as “ war hysteria “ and “ fears of wars.” I believe that most of us agree that the world is, to an extent, in a state of hysteria, for which various reasons can be supplied. In fact, we can all blame the “ other fellow “, butI am inclined to think, knowing as we do the ways in which democracies work, that we have justification for not blaming present-day democracies. The Leader of the Opposition had quite a lot to say about the Statute of Westminster. Over and over again we have heard our friends in Opposition clamouring for the adoption of that statute, and there are honorable senators on this side of the chamber also who would probably favour its adoption.
– And quite a number would oppose it.
– Having studied it for a long time I cannot convince myself that Australia would achieve any great advantage by adopting it.
– It is quite unnecessary.
– I think that it is. We have had some experience in thi3 country of the rigidity of written constitutions. Only a little while ago an attempt was made to regulate certain commercial matters in the direction of providing, a home market price for our primary producers. An attempt was also made to amend the Constitution in order to give the Commonwealth Parliament control of aviation. Although there may have been room for controversy in respect of the question relating to trade matters, one could hardly think it possible that the electors would have refused the Commonwealth the power it desired in respect of aviation. But they did refuse. We can therefore see the tremendous difficulty that will always be experienced in amending our Constitution. We can take our minds back to the great constitutional crisis through which the British Empire passed some time ago; at that time we saw the genius of the British people asserting itself in a way of which we should be proud. In one of the greatest crisis through which the Empire has ever passed we saw a clear understanding of the meaning of democracy guiding the British people to a satisfactory settlement that probably saved not only the Empire but probably also the world from chaos. Those bonds of kinship which bind the British peoples and caused us to stand together and sink our differences when the Empire was threatened, are far more valuable than a Statute of Westminster or any other similar statute that could be framed. I cannot see that the adoption of the Statute of Westminster would be of advantage to the British people or to Australia.
More than . once during the speech of the Leader of the Opposition he asked vehemently “ What is Australia’s foreign policy? “ He told us in effect that the Government has no foreign policy, or if it had, he had not heard of it. Such a statement is merely an echo of what was said in debate in the House of Representatives where constant demands were made for a statement of Australia’s foreign policy.
– Should Australia not have one?
– We have one. Australia’s foreign policy has been pronounced in this country over and over again by the present Prime Minister. During the centenary celebrations in Sydney some little time ago the Prime Minister in a notable speech at a great public function laid down what I maintain is Australia’s foreign policy and I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to say that he disagrees with it. On numerous occasions Mr. Lyons stated that -Australia desires to live at peace with its neighbours. Does the Leader of the Opposition disagree with that pronouncement? What better policy can we have than that enunciated by the Leader of the Government that Australia desires to live at peace with its neighbours.
– That is a platitude and not a policy.
– Such an interjection comes well from the honorable senator. We remember what was said in this chamber some time ago when the Prime Minister, who was then in Great Britain, proposed a Pacific pact. The honorable senator referred to that proposal as piffle. Should any pact which may lead Australia in the direction of peace and security be called piffle?
– Can we ensure international peace by introducing trade diversion policies, and by becoming involved in a £70,000 law case over what is happening in the Northern Territory?
– The honorable senator would be well advised not to meddle in that little incident in the Northern Territory which was referred to in the press to-day; on the face of it, that incident occurred in territorial waters. Does he suggest that an Australian vessel would be allowed to move about in the territorial waters of another country in, perhaps, violation of its laws, without having a shot fired across its bows from a patrol ship? Does he think that a citizen of Australia would be allowed to wander about any other country armed with a camera and taking photographs, without attracting attention to himself from the authorities? And does he consider that when the authorities of a country assert the right to protect its interests, such action is going to endanger friendly relations? Hysterical statements in the newspapers can do much harm 10 tlie friendly relations of Australia with other countries. Honorable senators will no doubt recall a .similar debate which v e had in this chamber last year, when I pointed out the great distinction between what takes place outside and what takes place inside the territorial waters of the country. Anything that has been done in the matter referred to by the Leader of the Opposition does> nor detract from the pronouncement of the Prime Minister that Australia desires to live at peace with its neighbours.
– That also is Labour’s policy.
– The ministerial statement refers to some recent happenings in Europe. As honorable senators know’, J am sympathetic on the value of international understandings as a p re-requisite to peaceful relations. J. believe that the time has come when not only the leaders of governments and political parties must try to bind the people of various countries together in mutual understanding of one mothers difficulties, but when the masses of the people of every country also must insist upon their right to be informed of the views held by people of other nations, I have urged the need for this development in public policy over and over again in the Senate, and we have formed, as honorable senators may know, a body to try to lay the foundations of such a movement. Not long ago a critical situation developed in the Mediterranean in which Great Britain and Italy were vitally concerned. I suggest that the insistence by Mr. Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, on ascertaining the point of view of the Italian nation, saved Great Britain, and possibly the world, from the horrors of another great war with all its attendant chaos and misery. One could almost say that both Mr. Eden, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Chamberlain were right in “ their appreciation of the circumstances that led to the crisis, but no one can deny that the action taken by Mr. Chamberlain at a critical stage in the negotiations with Italy saved the British Empire from an open conflict. In his approach to the problem, Mr. Chamberlain, I think, said something to this effect: “Is it to bc supposed that ours is the only point of view? May not the other fellow have his?” Accordingly,1 in pursuance of this thought, he brushed aside the stereotyped and orthodox methods of the British Foreign Office and insisted upon a statement of the position from the point of view of Italy. As the result a disastrous war with. Italy was averted, and an agreement made which, we hope, will at least lead to a settlement of many of the points at issue and ensure peace, not only in the Mediterranean, but also throughout the world.
– And in Czechoslovakia, of course!
– I fail to see the pertinence of the honorable senator’s interjection. It has no bearing on the subject which we are discussing. The action taken by the Prime Minister of Great Britain is one which the majority of the people in this country applauded.
– We did not all applaud it.
– No; because a section of opinion in Great Britain and, I suppose, also in Australia, thought that Great Britain should have “ butted “ into Spain and taken part in that dispute. If we had done that, we certainly would now be embroiled in a major war. Let honorable senators make no mistake about that. Britain followed the wise course in the u n fortunate trouble in Spain. No matter where our sympathies may be, the outstanding fact is that Britain, by its adherence to the policy of non intervention,’ kept out of that war. Those who clamour for peace should not encourage any action that may lead to war. “When we consider the contributions made by Italy and Germany to progress and civilization, i3 it to be supposed that the average Italian or German citizen wishes to sit up all night, hating his neighbour? I doubt that 2(f per cent, of the people of any country at any time desire war, and surely the time has come when the parliaments and the leaders of public opinion in all countries should try to bring about what they know in their hearts is the wish of SO per cent, of the people of every country. A proper understanding of the other fellow’s point of view will do much to ensure peace. We must try to follow the example set by Mr. Chamberlain. The people of Italy, like the people of Great Britain and Germany, have to their credit great achievements in the realms of science, music and literature. We should not forget that Roman law is the foundation of the judicial systems of many countries. This being so should we, because of prejudice which some types of a particular nation inspire in this country, forget what we owe to the nation to which they belong” Should we forget what the world owes to men like Marconi?
The Leader of the Opposition has declared that Australia has no foreign policy. I claim that Australia’s endorsement of the pronouncement by the Prime Minister of Great Britain is a positive indication that Australia has a foreign policy. We desire to live at peace with our neighbours. We say to Japan - our northern neighbor - “We desire to live at peace and understanding with you ; to respect your laws and your traditions. All that we ask is that you respect ours.” Surely no fair-minded citizen of that great country will fail to see the reasonableness of this attitude? Let it be known as the foreign policy of Australia that we wish to understand the point of view of all other people and to live at peace with our neighbors.
Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) [4.01. - I listened with much interest to the speech delivered by Senator Abbott, and although I had not intended to speak to this motion this afternoon I felt, as the honorable gentleman developed his theme, that it was the duty of every public man. whenever opportunity presented itself, to help forward any movement that might lead to international goodwill.
The paper laid on the table of the Senate refers to some recent developments in international affairs. It is very good reading. I feel, with Senator Abbott, that this may be an opportunity for Australia to do something, through the agency of its elected representatives in Parliament, to help the British Government in the wonderful work which it has done during the last few years to maintain peace. The people of Australia, blessed with so many of the material good things of life, must, I think, realize their responsibility towards other countries which are not so fortunate. It grieves me that so many of our public and business men are sometimes so careless in their references to the people of other countries. Often I ask myself, what right have we to refer to some foreigners in terms that are so often applied to them. Does any one think that au Italian in this country likes to be called a “ dago “, or a Chinese, a “ chink “ ? I imagine that foreigners har; s.z much pride in their nationalities as we have in ours, but I have never heard Australians designated by a term that could bc regarded as insulting. I deprecate strongly this tendency not to refer to people of other countries visiting Australia by their proper names.
We are proud of our nationality, but we often forget that the people of other nations entertain a similar pride. When we consider the conditions under which many of them live it is remarkable that they should do so, but national pride is in their blood, as it is in ours. We should respect their views, and instead of regarding them as inferiors, realize that it is our duty, as members of a world community, to help these weaker brethren. “We can help other nations, and they, in turn, can help us.
Viewing the position less ideally, I point out that the people of Au:tralia are, possibly, more dependent on other countries for their subsistence than arc the people of any other nation. Australia is a wonderfully productive land, and were it not for the trade and commerce with other nations, a market could not be found for its surplus production. Yet I have heard honorable senators in this chamber, especially when dealing with tariff matters, complain that other countries dump their produce into Australia. The truth is that probably no country is more guilty of dumping than Australia is. Our surplus production of butter, eggs, meat, sugar and other articles is sold overseas at prices much below those obtained in the domestic market. An Australian who accuses other nations of dumping is not acting as a true citizen of Australia.
One of the greatest problemsconfronting this and other countries is the adjustment of its tariff. Honorable senators should boar in mind thatprohibitive tariffs must invariably react to the disadvantage of Australia. Nothing is more likely to lead to international dissension than is the imposition,under the guise of protection, of dutieswhich are, in fact, prohibitive and are so intended. As the peoples of ail nations belong to the same human family, and all are interdependent, we should endeavour to cultivate a spirit of international co-operation ; but our tariff provides for the imposition of duties which are prohibitive rather than protective even against Great Britain. Some years ago I attended a conference which I shall never forget; it was probably one of the most important conferences ever held in the world. I refer to a conference of the Inter-parliamentary Union which I attended in1928 as a representative of Australia. Unfortunately, there is no branch of the union in this country. I was impressed with the magnificent work it was doing and with the energy displayed by its members in their efforts to bring about a betterspirit among the nations. The speeches, which were interpreted in three languages, were well worth listening to. More than 500 delegates from 38 nations unanimously adopted a resolution, drafted by the British representatives, endorsing the terms of the Kellogg Pact. I mention that conference in order to show that in the older countries of the world organizations are endeavouring to create a spirit of goodwill among the nations. I learned there something of the domestic problems of other nations, and ever since then I have been more sympathetic towards them. Whenever we have an opportunity to co-operate with other nations, we should seize it. Instead,we in Australia have followed a policy of economic nationalism. Perhaps we have followed the lead of Great Britain, but the fact remains that the development of economic nationalismhas been in the forefront of our thoughts. The policy sounds all right; it is well that we should build up the British Empire, but only if in so doing we do not ignore other nations. I shall not criticize the action of those who caused the retirement recently from the British Cabinet of one of its outstanding members, butI remind honorable senators that Mr. Anthony Eden once said that the day had arrived when economic nationalism must be abandoned, and that unless economic cooperation were substituted for it, a world war could not be averted. Mr. Anthony Eden was right.
– How can that be done under the present capitalistic competitive system ?
– Although that system may have grave effects on the welfare of the world, I believe that among the capitalists of the various countries there is as large a proportion of rightthinking men as in the other ranks of society. I do not condemn a man merely because he is a capitalist. Indeed, some of the best friends of the community are those capitalists who devote their wealth to the benefit of humanity.
Senatorcollings. - They rob the community first, and then hand hack a little of what they have taken.
– We in this chamber are, capitalists. Probably the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has robbed people in the same way all his life. I do not suggest that the honorable senator would put his hand in another person’s pocket and extract money therefrom, but he is a capitalist in that he has lived largely for himself. He has no right to condemn another man merely because he is a capitalist. The representatives of the people in this chamber, and indeed in every legislative chamber of the world, should strive to break down the spirit which has actuated the people of al! nations too much during recent years, and, in its place, they should encourage economic co-operation, not only among the nations, but also among the different sections of the people, particularly between employers and employees in industry. Provided we adopt the right measures, we can establish goodwill between those two sections. I endorse the hope expressed by Senator Abbott that this debate will encourage honorable senators to foster international goodwill in the interests of the peace of the world.
– The speech of Senator Payne is typical of many which he has delivered in this chamber during his long term as a senator. He has always striven to promote friendly relations between the people of Australia and those of other nations, and has stood against greedy economic nationalism. Had his advice been followed, the world would be in a better position than it is to-day. The honorable senator has fought courageously and consistently for the views that he genuinely holds. “lie believes, as I do, that the only sound way to bring true peace among the nations of the world is to encourage friendly relations between them.
It has been said that the ministerial statement was most interesting, but, personally, I was extremely disappointed with it. To describe the times in which we live as “ momentous “ is to understate the fact. Within the last six months there have been happenings of tremendous import in almost every part of the world, but all that we have got as a resume of those events is this short, inconsecutive, and not very interesting speech delivered by the PostmasterGeneral. I am not suggesting that it was his speech. Presumably it was concocted by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), under the supervision of Cabinet, and to some extent with the help of the Department of External Affairs. Our excellent External Affairs Department has made tremendous strides within the last few years, although up till then it barely existed. I feel sure that the officers of that department could have done, as they have done in other instances, much better than this, and I am driven to the conclusion that the more interesting parts of the original draft of the speech have been deleted. It would be difficult for any one to concoct an uninteresting speech covering world events within the last six months. I am reminded of the story of a great English actor-manager, who advised a friend to see a new play which he was producing and which he claimed was most interesting because it contained a distinct idea. His friend saw the play, but when he went to congratulate the producer, he said there was one thing he could not understand. “You said there was a distinct idea in it,” he said to the producer. “What is the idea V The producer replied, “ Of course, you know, we had to cut that out “. To me it seems that ideas had been carefully eliminated from the Minister’s speech.
I am addressing myself to this subject to-day partly because I held the view that Parliament should have been called together to discuss these great events when they were taking place. That opinion has also been expressed by honorable senators opposite. In times like the present, 1 do not look upon a government as being selected by the people to determine everything which has to be done in respect of foreign affairs without telling the people or their representatives what action is being taken. As senators we are elected as representatives of particular States, and we are entitled to know, so far as it can properly be stated, what the Government is doing in these matters. Some honorable senators may not address themselves to such matters with discretion, and others may even speak rashly; nevertheless, we are also entitled to express our views on the floor of this chamber on important events overseas which affect Australia. On the first day of this session I asked the PostmasterGeneral why, in view of these happenings, there had been so much delay in calling Parliament together. We were to have met late in February, but we did not meet until the very end of April. The PostmasterGeneral replied that he did not consider the moment suitable to give an explanation of these events, but added that on some future occasion he would be only too pleased to develop that theme.
Although his explanation may be more belated than the meeting of Parliament, I suggest that he has an opportunity now to tell us what were the important matters that made it essential that members of Parliament should remain in their constituencies while the Ministry met in Melbourne and decided what part of its statements on foreign affairs could be cut out.
Three clear principles emerged from the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition : First, that every penny spent on defence should be spent in Australia; secondly, that Australia should refrain from any outside entanglements, and thirdly, that Australia should defend itself, but should fight only in Australia.
– I did not say that.
– I think so; I have studied the honorable senator’s speech as reported in Hansard. The honorable senator’s first principle rules out this third principle. If we are to fight, even if only in Australia, we cannot possibly fight with weapons made only in Australia, because we are not capable of producing most of the modern weapons of warfare. Consequently, if we are to equip ourselves properly, we must spend money outside Australia.
– Does the honorable senator imagine that I suggested that we should spend money in Australia on something that could not be produced in Australia?
– The inference I drew from the honorable senator’s speech was that we were to go without anything we could not produce in Australia.
– I did not say that.
-HUGHES. - The honorable senator certainly did not say the opposite; he said that every penny spent on defence should be spent in Australia. Does that not mean that not one penny is to be spent outside Australia? That would rule out all air defence, for we are dependent on outside sources for aeroplanes and machine guns; and the greater number of guns of every description, except rifles.
– Not machine guns.
– If machine guns are being produced in Aus tralia they have not been produced here for very long, or in very great numbers. I am not suggesting that it is not possible for us to make essential weapons in Australia. Speaking by and large, however, they are not made here to-day in anything like sufficient numbers, and should we require them we must buy outside Australia. The third principle enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition is, therefore, hopelessly in conflict with his first. The honorable senator also said that Australia should refrain from any outside entanglements. In reply to that assertion, it is only necessary to point out that Australia was a signatory to the Versailles treaty, and took part in the framing of the Covenant of the League of Nations. By what right can we discard the obligations into which we have entered?
– The honorable senator is putting an entirely wrong interpretation on my speech.
– I do not desire to do the honorable senator any injustice. I not only heard him deliver his speech, but I have also studied the report of it in Hansard, and that is probably more than the honorable senator himself has done. By participating in those conferences Australia rendered itself part of the controlling forces of the world, and we cannot discard our obligations in that respect.
Senator Collings also declared that Parliament should be called together to express the country’s foreign policy. I agree with that view, but when an honorable senator says that sort of thing one expects him to enunciate his own foreign policy, particularly when he is in a position to speak with very much more freedom on such a subject than is the Government of a country. A government has to speak at least with a certain amount of discretion. The honorable senator has not always spoken with that reserve, even with regard to external affairs, which we expect of a Minister. “What, for instance, is the honorable senator’s foreign policy with regard to Spain? He was not clear on that point; yet he must know that freedom of transport in the Mediterranean, as Senator Sir George Pearce has pointed out, is essential to the passage of our exports to the Old Country, and that we exist on the sale of our exports. What is the honorable senator’s attitude to Germany and Austria? He seems rather to approve of what has happened with regard to Austria, because he said, it confirmed what he had been saying for years about the iniquity of the Versailles Treaty. I suggest, however, that he must have more than that to say about that subject. Again, what are the honorable senator’s views regarding Czechoslovakia? Whether one likes it or not - and I should have imagined that the honorable senator would like it - Czechoslovakia is the only real democratic community in the centre of Europe to-day. I should have- expected him to express himself wholeheartedly in favour of the freedom, independence, and defence of Czechoslovakia.
– I do not think that [ said anything about Czechoslovakia.
-HUGHE S . - Tha t is just what. I am pointing out.
– This Government’s policy depends on ringing up Downing- street day by day, which it does before giving an opinion on anything. The honorable senator knows that as well as I do.
– There is a certain amount of truth in that, and F am going to say something about it later. The fact, however, docs not disturb me in the least. If that were done, it would probably be the safest course that Australia could follow. I was pointing to the fact that Senator Collings, who contends that the Government should state its foreign affairs policy-
– I also suggested a foreign policy.
– I could not find any foreign affairs policy in the honorable senator’s speech. He said nothing about Czechoslovakia, which is astonishing, having regard to the fact that it is the outstanding democracy in Central Europe. I do not think that the honorable senator is a whole-hearted devotee of the Russian system. I should think he would be more sympathetic with the regime in Czechoslovakia.
– May I put the honorable senator right about that? The party in Opposition will not agree to any Australian lives being sacrificed to keep any country out of the trouble that European diplomats have got it into.
– How did European diplomats get Czechoslovakia into its trouble? I have already said that we were represented at the Versailles Conference and in the drafting of the Covenant of the League of Nations. How can the honorable senator say that the situation in Czechoslovakia has been created purely by Europeans? It has not. It was created by Americans as well as by Australians and Europeans. We cannot discard from our minds all these things and say, “ This is a European conflict,” because Czechoslovakia happens to be in Europe. The pre-war situation regarding Belgium might have been called a European entanglement, but that did not prevent the whole world from being embroiled in a great war.
– All I am saying is that we should have an Australian foreign policy.
– It would be much better if the Leader of the Opposition would set out a clear and comprehensive policy. Tfe did not do that. He did not say anything very much. I am glad that he did not say anything on the resignation of Mr. Eden, which, although it appears to have Empire consequences at the present moment, is so largely a British domestic question that it is not desirable for members of this Parliament to discuss it in public. It does seem to me, however, that a clear fact to be definitely taken into account is that practically all the members of the British Cabinet were on the side of the Prime Minister in that matter. Mr. Eden and his Under-Secretary resigned, but nobody else. That indicates that the other members of the Cabinet were of the same way of thinking as the Prime Minister.
– Australia changed its policy, as a matter of course, when the British Cabinet sacked Mr. Eden. That is the kind of policy I object to.
– I shall come to that in a moment or two. Senator Abbott referred to the Statute of Westminster. I entirely agree with what he said about the undesirability of having written constitutions within the Empire. When, as Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Bruce returned from the Imperial Conference in 192C, he said this on the 3rd March, 1927-
But no part of the report of the Imperial Relations ( Committee purports to set out in any sense a constitution for the Empire. Before I went to the conference I stated quite definitely that I would not be a party to setting down a definite constitution. The British Empire has grown and expanded as it has because of the amazing flexibility of thu tics that bind its members together. The first part of this document, therefore, is in no sense a constitution.
That is perfectly sound. The less we as an Empire have to do with written documents, and the less we emphasize the individual rights of the various parts of the Empire, the greater strength and the less irritation there will be in the Empire. Some weeks ago I quoted remarks by Senator Brennan, who spoke very strongly to a similar effect in this chamber about six years ago. Senator Pearce also expressed himself emphatically in “Western Australia, I think, during the elections three years ago. He said he had always been opposed to the ratification of the Statute of Westminster, and was at that time still opposed to it. The bill providing for ratification has been brought in by this Government two or three times. What is the object of doing that? In no possible sense can it help the Empire. It may land the Empire into difficulties that are at present unrealized, as it has done in Ireland. I was much pleased to hear what Senator Abbott said on this subject. It is a time for linking up the parts of the Empire, and not for encouraging action that might cause any form of separation. After I have gone from this place, I hope that honorable senators will bear in mind that, if at any time they ratify the Statute of Westminster, they will, in my opinion, do a disservice to the whole of the Empire.
I arn not going to set out any definite imperial policy thi3 afternoon. I suppose I can say that it is not my job to do so, and probably the Leader of the Opposition would be inclined to say that it is not for him to tell the Government what he would do if he were in office. But I should like to indicate the broad lines on which our actions should be based. To begin with, as the Government says, we should be prepared to defend ourselves. We should show every consideration, as Senator Payne said, in co-operation with other countries, to avoid hostilities and estrangements. I have all through my membership nf this Parliament emphasized the undesirability of high tariffs, which I have contended create difficulties with foreign countries. 1 have always urged that we should make trade treaties with other countries, but unfortunately, we have only about two of thom. The Government has no real desire to make trade treaties, and therefore we have practically none. I said at the time of its initiation that action like the trade diversion policy could not make for a better feeling in the Pacific basin. My remarks on migration go back to a time before I came into this chamber, when I said that we must consider the claims of other countries. We cannot afford either to debar m toto the immigration of people of other races, or to prevent them from sending their goods here. We shall have to adopt, and apparently that is being done to some extent already, a more considerate migration policy. It is also not the least use in the world, when there is a major disturbance in Europe which looks as if it will set the whole continent alight, for the Prime Minister or any Minister in this country, to stand up and say how enthusiastic he is about the League of Nations. Such remarks do not matter a jot; they evade and ignore the whole issue, and are a refusal to face the facts. It is because the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, in a time of very great difficulty, has been a realist and has faced facts, that he has gradually received the support of the whole of the Empire. 1 am glad, certainly, that (he Government has not propounded a separate foreign policy, for I said before, by way of interjection, that Australia cannot propound such a policy without weakening the whole structure. We have not the trained diplomatists all over the world to supply us with necessary information, and we, therefore, do not possess the information about foreign countries that a multitude of leading men in Great Britain possess. I do not hesitate to say, and I do not care who hears me say it, that the best thing we can do at present is to adhere as closely as we conscientiously can to the foreign policy of the Old Country. Great Britain bears much the heaviest load, and has the most at stake, and we should allow the leading men there, who know far more about the difficulties of the situation, to decide the policy, while we fall into line with it as far as we can. No Empire can speak effectively if it speaks with seven mouths all uttering something different. Our only hope is to adhere to the policy of the Mother Country and to make ourselves as thoroughly informed as we can as time goes on. “We should leave the main role in foreign affairs to Great Britain, and for our part go ahead with preparations for our own defence. It may be said that that is not a foreign policy. In a sense, Great Britain never has a rigid, consistent foreign policy;- it has not, at any rate, had one for many decades. The world is changing rapidly, and international affairs are complicated by most extraordinary difficulties. Any public man of importance may be accused, and will be accused, of doubling back on his tracks by not having a distinctive and consistent foreign policy. But he has to adjust himself to rapidly changing affairs. Just as a swimmer has to change his course in the rapids, so the leaders of the public to-day may have to change their policy. The Government is right in the essential factor of all, and that is its foreign policy at the present moment. We are far too small a nation, too weak, and too uninformed to have a separate policy of our own, which I feel could do nothing but weaken the whole Empire in its external relations.
– So far as I can gather from the speeches of honorable senators opposite, their foreign policy consists of pious platitudes. Senator Abbott and Senator Payne said that the foreign policy of this Government is to ensure international peace. The Labour party also believes in peace. Hitler, in a speech delivered in- Germany recently, said that the greatest ambition in his life is to bring about world peace. On several occasions Mussolini has said that he believes in peace between the nations. Japan, while declaring that it wishes to be on friendly terms with China, is “ belting hell “ out of the Chinese people. But while the members of this Parliament and others are speaking of the desirability of international peace, there is general unrest and distrust. The Labour party, through its leader in the House of Representatives, said that this Parliament should be called together to debate the change in Britain’s foreign policy in which Australia is involved, and when the request was made, the Prime Minister said that as there had been no fundamental change in Britain’s foreign policy it was unnecessary that Parliament should meet. We always believed Britain’s foreign policy to be one of collective security, but when Mr. Anthony Eden was practically dismissed from office, the policy of collective security was thrown overboard. What is the use of saying that our policy is one of peace? I know of no one apart from a few Fascists who glorify war; every one to whom I speak believes in international peace. But honorable senators opposite, particularly Senator Duncan-Hughes, Senator Payne and Senator Abbott, ignore the facts with which we are confronted. We may hold out the hand of friendship and declare that our foreign policy is opposed to war, but what would be our attitude towards Germany should that nation demand the return of its former colonial possessions? The Prime Minister and those who support the foreign policy of the Government of which he is the leader, cannot answer that demand merely by saying that Australia believes in peace. The idea is futile. It gets on one’s nerves to hear some persons speak of peace when definite problems such as I have mentioned have to be faced by Australia or by Great Britain. What would be thought of Mr. Chamberlain if Britain were asked by Germany to return- its former colonies, and he replied, “ Our policy is one of peace “ ? How far is Australia prepared to give effect to its foreign policy in connexion with the problems with which we may soon be confronted ? What will our attitude be ?
– Our best attitude is to ensure that we are adequately defended.
– That is what the Labour party says. A portion of our policy, apart from foreign policy, provides for the adequate defence of Australia. This Government under its foreign policy will at all times do everything that the British Government decides to do. When Mr. Anthony Eden resigned his portfolio of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Britain changed its foreign policy, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth said, in effect, that whatever Britain did, Australia would’ follow in its steps. I would like to ask honorable senators opposite whether, in the event of a British labour government introducing some drastic change in foreign policy, the Lyons Government would meekly follow? Honorable senators opposite appear to lose sight of the fact that we are living in a world of economic antagonisms. Is it possible to bring about international peace when the world is in such a state? When there is intense competition between nations for world markets, what is the use of blathering about peace?
-Howdoes the honorable senator suggest that the present international difficulties can be overcome?
– I am now dealing with the foreign policy of the present Government, and some of the platitudinous piffle expressed in this chamber and in the House of Representatives by the supporters of the Government. We have to recognize the economic forces at work in the world to-day, and the disintegration and antagonism which is upsetting the civilized world. The Japanese, who say that they wish to be on friendly terms with the Chinese, are violently attacking them. The adoption of a common language, once advocated by some in this chamber to assist in the promotion of international peace, is a splendid idea, but would it be effective in obviating international bitterness and war? The people of Spain have a common religion and a common language, but in that country women and children are being murdered in thousands by their own nationals. How can we eliminate the causes of such bitter antagonism and such bloody struggles? The atrocities occurring in Spain to-day are greater perhaps than have ever previously been recorded in the world’s history, yet the combatants speak the same language. Even in this country when the struggle becomes sufficiently keen, and some leaders wish to control the national economy in the interest of the people, many others will be willing to support fascist principles similar to those adopted in other countries. What is the cause of the struggle in China to-day? The population of Japan is increasing at the rate of 1,000,000 a year, and the Japanese, having to adopt western methods of industrial development to meet the need? of their people, are faced with a shortage of raw materials. In order to obtain credits and to secure additional markets so that they may be able to purchase larger quantities of raw material they have reduced the prices of their export commodities to such an extent that other nations are faced with intense competition. What is the use of speaking of peace when these facts are staring us in the face? While the present economic drive exists, Japan will endeavour to gain control in China and in other countries. We speak of peace, but Germany is in such a position that it must expand. Hitler has stated that Germany wishes to control the Ukraine, and to control a Mittel Europa eventually extending from the Baltic to the Persian Gulf. Germany says that it cannotbe confined as it has been for years within its present borders and must expand eastwards. Professor Roberts, in a series of articles contributed to the Australian press, pointed out that of the 33 base materials necessary to every nation, Germany has only two or three within its own borders. After the war Germany was faced with antagonism and restriction on every hand, which its leaders said would result in the ultimate starvation of the German people. Germany is now going to demand those commodities which are essential to its preservation. What is the use of speaking of peace to such nations when they lack essential commodities? Can we ignore these facts ? While we are anxious to bring about international peace by means of a common understanding, a common language, and the breaking clown of unnecessary harriers, we have to realize that we are living in a world of intense economic antagonism. The masses of the .people of every country will not realize that fundamental social and industrial changes are taking place, and that it is idle for parliaments merely to scratch the surface with legislation or for public men to utter platitudes about peace. Only a few years ago, the majority of peace-loving nations decided to outlaw war. Thus, we. had the Kellogg Pact. Later, there was the Stresa Conference, at which the late Mr. Ramsay MaeDonald, then Prime Minister of Great Britain, reached an agreement with Signer Mussolini. That was followed by the Lausanne Conference. There have been a dozen and one treaties and agreements- made between European powers and not a few of them hare been broken. In (be present state of world opinion, no one imagines that treaties or agreements will be honoured by a particular nation if it believes that circumstances warrant their violation.
Senator Duncan-Hughes has said that trade treaties will conduce to world peace. But trade treaties will not greatly influence the tendency in all countries, including Australia, towards economic self-sufficiency. We are striving almost daily to produce goods which formerly wo imported from other countries. Yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), when declaring open a new factory in. Sydney for the production of cardboard, commended the management for its enterprise, and in Tasmania the State government is prepared to spend £250,000 to assist a company to produce paper pulp, an industry entire^ new to Australia. In every country there is evidence of this trend to economic nationalism. Though our friends or. the Government side may deplore the antagonisms that arise between country and country, they nevertheless support a policy, which perhaps, indirectly, aids this condition of world affairs. We on this side believe in peace, and we declare that our economic policy is one that will ensure it. We recognize the necessity for fundamental changes in world economic systems, and we favour the organization of productive forces for the sole purpose of improving the conditions of the people instead of buttressing the existing financial system . of modern capitalism.
– That is pure nazism.
– The world is experiencing the influence of new political systems - communism, socialism, nazism and fascism. To the extent that the Nazi party in Germany is seeking to eliminate the competitive features of the German industrial system, with a view to producing goods for the welfare of the German people, I am in agreement with it. The -original purpose of some in the Nazi movement was to ensure close co-operation of the productive forces of the nation for the good of the people, but the political method differed from that of the enlightened Labour party in Australia. There is developing throughout the world of movement - call it what- you will - to organize the productive forces of the nations for the welfare of the people. We believe that until we eliminate from the world’s economic system that feature which leads to the exploitation of the people for the purpose of individual gain, we may expect conflicts between nations or sections of people in a country, and civil wars leading to international conflicts. The Labour party’s policy affirms the necessity for directing the economic forces of nations into channels that will lead to world peace. That is the difference between our policy and that of other parties. The purpose of the Nazi movement in Germany is to achieve power. So also is that of Japan, and General Franco in Spain. We say that the exercise of this power must bc eliminated, and this may best be clone by a complete “change in the existing social and industrial system, a change having for its object the welfare of the people. Until we recognize this fact and take action to direct the industrial and political activities of nations along the right path we shall be merely tilting at windmills. We shall be talking about peace when there can be no peace.
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 5.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 May 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19380531_senate_15_155/>.