15th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 2.30 p.m.
His Excellency the- Administrator, Lord HUNTINGFIELD, entered the chamber and, taking his seat on the dais, said -
Honorable Senators : I am present to administer to newly-elected senators the oath or affirmation of allegiance as required by section 42 of the Constitution.
The CLERK produced and laid on the table the certificates of return for the following members elected on the 23rd October, 1937, to serve in the Senate as senators for their respective States, from and after the 1st July, 1938.
Philip Albert Martin McBride.
Alexander John McLachlan.
The Clerk stated that subsequent to the election he had received a certificate of the death of Mr, John Barnes, who had been elected as a senator for Victoria.
The above-mentioned senators - with the exception of the Honorable John Barnes (deceased), Senators Courtice and Cunningham, who already had been sworn in since their election, and Senator McBride, who was not present - made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
HIS Excellency The Administrator having retired,
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN (South
Australia - Postmaster-General) [2.47] . - Mr. Monahan, the time has now arrived for honorable senators to choose a suitable member of the Senate as its President.
.- I move-
That Senator John Blyth Hayes do take the chair of this Senate as President.
– I second the motion.
– I wish to make it clear that the Opposition has not been consulted in any way regarding the election of President. The choice of a President was evidently made before honorable senators entered this chamber. As honorable members of the Opposition were not consulted, we propose to leave this matter to those who have accepted the responsibility of acting in this decidedly party fashion. The Senate is supposed to be, not a party house, but a States house; but we have seen to-day that, although honorable members of the Opposition represent States just as do honorable senators who support the Government, they are not considered when the parties opposite meet to arrange matters to their own taste. With those remarks, I propose to allow the proceedings to continue.
– I submit myself to the will of the Senate.
Senator J. B. HAYES, being the only honorable senator proposed as President, was conducted to the dais, and said -
I thank honorable senators heartily for the great honour that they have conferred on me. I can at least say that as long as I have the honour to occupy this position, whatever decisions I may have to make will be made fairly and to the best of my ability. I shall endeavour to uphold the best traditions of the Senate, and I ask honorable senators on both sides of the chamber to assist me.
– I offer to you, Mr. President, hearty congratulations on your election. I am confident that I speak for the whole Senate when I say that we know that your administration will not only be fair and fearless, but will also be competent. Some of us have had experience of your administration as Chairman of Committees, and we know with what ability and expedition you have discharged the functions of that office. We trust that you will not find the duties of your high office too arduous, or honorable senators so unruly that you will too often have to enforce the disciplinary Standing Orders, the study of which I commend to all newly-elected senators.
– I join with the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) in extending congratulations to you,Sir, on. your election. I do not promise that the Opposition will always be satisfied with your decisions, but I do promise thatwe shall always be sure that, to the best of your ability, you have given them in conformity with the Standing Orders.
– The members of the Country party in this chamber entirely associate themselves with the congratulations which have been extended to you, Mr. President, on your elevation to the high and honorable position of President of the Senate. You have had a long and wide parliamentary experience, and we are confident that not only will the dignity and traditions of the Senate be safe in your hands, but also that the balance of justice will be held evenly as between all parties in this chamber.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I thank most heartily the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan), the Leader of . the Opposition (Senator Collings), and Senator Johnston, of the Country party, and honorable senators generally for their kind congratulations.
– I desire to intimate to honorable senators that His Excellency the Administrator will be pleased to receive Mr. President and such honorable senators as desire to accompany him, in the Executive Council room forthwith.
– I shall suspend the sitting of the Senate at this stage in order that I may present myself to the Administrator as the choice of the Senate. I shall be glad if as many honorable senators as can conveniently do so will accompany me.
Sitting suspended from 2.54 to3 p.m.
– I have to announce that, accompanied by honorable senators, I, this day, presented myself to the Administrator as the person chosen by . the Senate as its President. His Excellency was pleased to congratulate me upon my election, and to approve of the choice of the Senate.
The President took the chair and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the Senate that, following the last election of senators to fill periodical vacancies occurring in the representation of the State of Victoria in the Senate, a certificate was received of the election of Mr. John Barnes to fill one of such vacancies, his term of service to commence on the 1st July, 1938. A certificate has since been received of the death of Mr. John Barnes, on the 31st January, 1938. Advice having been received from the Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department that, in the opinion of the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, section 15 of the Constitution applies in this case, I now propose to inform the
Lieutenant-Governor of the State of Victoria that a vacancy has happened in the representation of that State.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That Senator James McLachlan be appointed Chairman of Committees of the Senate.
– I thank honorable senators for having elected me to this high office. It will be my duty and pleasure, to the best of my ability, to interpret and administer the Standing Orders with strict impartiality. I take it that every member of the Senate is jealous of its dignity and decorum. Therefore, I have every confidence that I shall have their assistance in maintaining the high standard which characterized the debates in this chamber during the regime of my predecessor.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, Senator Brown be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to. the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a day and hour to bo fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
– I have to announce that I shall be continuing in the office of Leader of the Opposition until the Senate is otherwise advised.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I have received the following letter from Senator Johnston : -
– I desire to move the adjournment of the Senate. It is not necessary that I should have given notice of my intention to do so.I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely, “The failure. of the Government to take remedial action to provide for the necessitous unemployed workers and distressed primary producers “.
– I point out to the honorable senator that I have received a prior notice of motion for the adjournment of the Senate. It is necessary, under the Standing Orders, to give notice of such a motion.
– On a point of order, I direct your attention, Mr. President, to Standing Order No. 64, under which, you will see, no notice is necessary in respect of a motion for adjournment such as that which I have just moved. Standing Order No. 64 reads -
A motion without notice, that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate, for the purpose of debating some matter of urgency, can only be made after petitions have been presented and notices of questions and motions given, and before the business of the day is proceeded with, and such motion can be made notwithstanding there be on the paper a motion for adjournment to a time other than that of the next ordinary meeting. . . .
No notice being necessary, a motion of which notice has ‘been given cannot take precedence over mine.
– I point out that Standing Order 64, which the honorable senator has just quoted, also states that a senator moving a motion without notice that the Senate adjourn, “must make in writing and hand in to the President, a statement of the matter of urgency “.
– I submit that such notice need only he handed in now, when you, Mr. President, have decided the point of order. I have not yet been able to do that because my right to speak has been disputed. Had you allowed me to continue, however, the statement of the matter of urgency would have been handed in. I submit also that any notice which you have received prior to the present stage of the business could not have been presented to you in your capacity of President, and, furthermore, that no such notice is necessary. I claim, therefore, my right to initiate debate on my motion, and, with your permission, I shall proceed..
– I gave notice in writing of my intention to move for the adjournment of the Senate to the then President of the Senate last night, and also a similar notice in writing to yourself, Mr. President. You read my letter placing the matter before, the Senate and you were about to see if I were supported by four honorable senators when the Leader of the Opposition commenced speaking. You read the notice of my motion before the honorable senator spoke. I repeat that I supplied a similar notice in writing to your predecessor last night.
– That was the old Senate.
– It is the same Senate with many new members. I renewed the notice to the President to-day, and, I submit, I required only the support of four honorable senators to enable me to proceed with that motion.
– Senator Johnston has not moved a motion for the adjournment of the Senate, nor has he given notice of such a motion in the proper way. The notice which he submitted to the President last night is useless because a new Senate has since been constituted, and a new President elected. Again, I submit that no such notice is required under the Standing Orders. After moving my motion I sat down because you, Mr. President, rose immediately, and I was obliged to give you precedence. I again submit that Senator Johnston has not moved the adjournment of the Senate, whereas I have done so, and I now ask for four honorable senators to rise in my support, so that I may proceed.
– It is rather unfortunate that a difficulty of this nature should arise so soon after my election as President. Prom my parliamentary experience, I am of opinion that notice of a motion of this kind -must be handed into the Clerk, or President, prior to the commencement of the sitting. Senator Johnston handed his letter to me a few hours ago. It is dated the 1st July. I am fortified in my ruling by a previous decision, that an honorable senator cannot submit a motion for the adjournment of the Senate to enable him to discuss a matter of urgent importance if, prior to the commencement of the sitting”, he has not given notice of his intention to the Chair. I hold the view that if the Standing Orders, which have been drafted by men well versed in parliamentary procedure, are interpreted in a common-sense way, any problem arising under them can generally be solved. I have no doubt that Senator Johnston’s motion should take precedence over that moved by the Leader of the. Opposition, because Senator Johnston submitted notice of his motion some time ago.
– But before you were elected President.
– That is a minor point.
– But I take it.
– In any case, I take full responsibility for allowing’ Senator Johnston to proceed.
– I regret very much, Mr. President, that I am obliged to disagree with your ruling so soon after your election as President, but with all clue respect, I submit that in accordance with Standing Order 64, 1 was under no necessity to supply a statement of the matter of urgency until after I had actually made my motion. 1 1 again submit, first, that no notice of my motion is necessary, and, secondly, that Senator Johnston has not moved for the adjournment of the .Senate, whilst I have. The fact that you received a notice of his motion, does not alter the fact that no such notice is necessary. I have moved my motion and more than the number of honorable senators prescribed under the Standing Orders have risen in support of it.
– I submit that the Leader of the Opposition has lost his opportunity to move his motion. Standing Order 64 (1) reads -
A Motion without Notice, that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate, for the purpose of debating some matter of urgency, can only be made after Petitions have been presented and Notices of Questions and Motions given, and before the Business of the Day is proceeded with, . . .
I point out that the Leader of the Senate moved that the Senate at its rising adjourn until two or three months hence, and the Leader of the Opposition should have moved his motion before that. Having failed to do so, he has missed his opportunity, and his motion must, therefore, give way to that of which Senator Johnston has given notice.
– I have already given my ruling.
– May I point out that Standing Order 64 (1) also states - notwithstanding there be on the Paper a Motion for adjournment to a time other than that of tho next ordinary meeting.
– -But the Senate has actually carried a motion to that effect.
– Is Senator Johnston’s motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion.
– Senator E. B. Johnston.
– I am not accepting your ruling, Mr. President. If you insist on it I must move that it be dissented from, because I feel so confident that my contention is correct.
– It .is too late for the honorable senator to move that my ruling be dissented from, because business has proceeded beyond the point when the decision was given.
– Under what Standing Order do you give that ruling? I shall not be content with the authority of the Clerk of the Senate on suCh a matter, because I believe that my contention is watertight. I submit that the business has not gone on.
– I draw the honorable senator’s attention to Standing Order 429-
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must he taken at once, and in writing, and Motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the Senate and Debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without Debate, that the question requires immediate determination.
I rule that the business has gone on and, therefore, I call on Senator Johnston.
– You, sir, disturbed me in the execution of my intention. I could not submit a written motion of dissent from your ruling while debating your ruling. I now submit my dissent in writing, and move -
That the ruling of Mr. President be dissented from.
– Under the Standing Orders the consideration of the motion must be postponed until the next sitting day unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.
– As the subjectmatter of my motion is urgent, I move -
That the question requires immediate determination.
Question - put.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . 4
Question . resolved in the negative.
SenatorE. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia) [3.33].- Mr. President-
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- The motion that I had intended to move as a matter of urgency was designed to draw the attention of the Government and of the Senate to the precarious state of the wheat industry in Australia.
– Mr. President, I was on my feet before Senator Johnston rose, and I submit that I should have received the call from the Chair.
- Senator Johnston has the call from the Chair. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) will have his opportunity later.
– Are we to understand, Mr. President, that, in the future, rulings will be given according to sympathy and not according to the Standing Orders?
– Order ! Senator Johnston will proceed.
– For a considerable time, I have been drawing the attention of the Government to the precarious state of the wheat industry and to the urgent need for effective action by the Commonwealth Government to stabilize the price of wheat so as to assure to the growers a reasonable return for their labour. I ventilate this subject now because of the feeling of uncertainty and indefiniteness that exists as to the intentions of the Government. The wheatgrowers of Australia are confronted with falling prices and are unable to discover what definite assistance the Commonwealth Government intends to provide for them in respect to the coming harvest. They also wish to emphasize the need for substantial help for the industry on some permanent basis. Only in that way can the industry be put on a satisfactory footing. It is desired that for that portion of the Australian wheat crop which is consumed within the Commonwealth the producers shall receive a fair price which will give them some profit for their work. Unfortunately, since 1931, the wheat industry has been the plaything of party politics. The situation to-day is such that a fixed price should be declared for at least that portion of the crop which is consumed in Australia, so that the wheat-growers will know where they are. The responsibility for introducing legislation to achieve this deserving object may, unfortunately, not be accepted by all of the State governments of this country. The subject is tossed from the Commonwealth Government to State governments, and from State governments back to the Commonwealth Government, like a kind of political shuttlecock. To alter the figure, the responsibility for passing legislation to assist the wheat farmers, is an unwanted political baby.
On the 21st June last, the Acting Minister for Commerce, Mr. Archie Cameron, referred to the subject in the House of Representatives in the following terms : -
Owing to the constitutional limitations apparently the only solution left is to accept the recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council,that after consultation, the six States should introduce legislation to assist the wheat industry to secure a homeconsumption price.
In other words, the honorable gentleman has suggested that six State governments of varying political opinions shall not only each introduce legislation into their respective Parliaments, but shall require it to be passed with an almost impossible degree of uniformity. While we are waiting for this quite unlikely uniform action on the part of the State governments, the wheat-growers are to be left without help. The Acting Minister for Commerce proceeded to say: -
It was decided that the six State Ministers of Agriculture should report to the Agricultural Council at its meeting in Perth in August or September next, the result of their recommendations, whereupon the Commonwealth Government would discuss with them what measures were necessary on the part of this Parliament to put the coping-stone on the foundations laid by State legislation based on State powers.
Obviously, long before even the six State Parliaments can pass the necessary legislation to deal with this important subject - I leave out of account, for the moment, the necessary action by the Commonwealth Government - the whole of the next Australian wheat harvest will have been reaped and probably marketed. Harvesting operations begin in some States in late October or early November. The Government of one of the most important wheatproducing States, Western Australia, has already given some indication,- through its Deputy Premier and Minister for Lands, Mr. M. P. “Troy, of its attitude. Wo can have no doubt that Mr. Troy is well informed of the mind of the Government of Western Australia on the subject. I direct attention to the following report in this connexion which appeared in The West Australian of the 23rd June : -
Mr. Troy “Quite in the Dark.”
The Minister for Lands (Mr. M. F. Troy) said yesterday that he knew of no contemplated State legislation in connexion’ with a bounty for wheat. He was replying to statements made by the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) in the House of Representatives on Tuesday during a debate on the wheat industry. “ When Mr. Cameron makes a statement that the Commonwealth Government has no power to help the wheat-growing industry, “ said Mr. Troy, “he ignores the fact that under its excise powers the Commonwealth Government can provide a bounty for wheat or any other primary product. “ The legislation which the Commonwealth endeavoured to force upon the States a few years ago was unconstitutional, and the Commonwealth Government knew it was unconstitutional. The conference of Ministers which sat at Canberra under (the chairmanship of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) was informed by no less an authority than the Common wealth Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) that such legislation was unconstitutional. “ The real Commonwealth objection to raising moneys under its excise powersto assist the wheat industry is political, and not because of any constitutional objection. At least one section supporting the Government objects to being saddled with the onus of doing anything to increase the price of foodstuffs and in the interests of this section the Commonwealth Government has endeavoured to force the States to pass legislation which would not in any way meet the situation. That Government is mostly concerned with holding together the two sections which support it, and this is the only reason why it will not face the facts squarely. “Mr. Cameron is reported to have stated that ‘each State Minister for Agriculture has promised to initiate State legislation and report his action to ‘the Australian Agricultural Council in August to enable supplemen tary legislation to be enacted by the Commonwealth.’ I know of no such- contemplated legislation and am quite in the dark as to what Mr. Cameron is referring to.”
It is quite clear from Mr. Troy’s statement - or so I should judge - that the Labour Government of Western Australia does not intend to pass this particular legislation which, according to Mr. Cameron, will have to be passed by six State governments before the Commonwealth will provide its coping stone. The Commonwealth should be well aware of that because the statement was made publicly. Although I have quoted it from The West Australian, I have also read it in the Melbourne Sun, and doubtless it has appeared in all other newspapers in the eastern States. Therefore, the Commonwealth could not be excused if it was unaware that Western Australia, at all events, does not intend to pass this legislation except under pressure, and I have not, so far, heard any suggestion of that nature. If the Commonwealth knows that the States are not proposing to initiate this legislation, why should it wait until August or September for a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council to obtain reports on the subject from the States? As a matter of fact, the responsibility for assisting the wheat farmers rests, not upon the State governments, but where it has rested ever since I have been a member of the Senate, namely, on the broad back of the Commonwealth Government, which has an overflowing Treasury. The following return shows the disbursements by the Commonwealth Government among the wheat-growers of Australia since 1929-30- >
In none of those years was preliminary legislation passed by the six States of Australia, or even by the four wheatgrowing States/ before the assistance was granted. The Commonwealth Government still has the powers that it then exercised. It is curious that in giving for five consecutive harvests the assistance I have outlined, on noi occasion did it utilize any of the powers which the Privy Council in the. James ease subsequently declared that it did not possess. There is no reason why the Commonwealth should not now, on its own initiative, give similar assistance.
– Yes, we want the matter to be placed On a permanent basis. Again I emphasize that the various grants to wheat-growers, whether on an acreage or production basis, have been entirely a Commonwealth function.
The Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, in its important recommendations - which have not been implemented to any extent - certainly did not suggest that assistance to the industry should be on any other basis than, in the first instance, through Commonwealth action. In its second report, at page 254, it made the following three very important recommendations : -
Mr. Cheadle dissented from the third recommendation. I say quite frankly that, so long as the wheat industry is assisted permanently and generously, I am prepared to leave to the Government the decision as to what form the assistance shall take.
– The honorable senator would not want a flour tax.
– I should have no political objection to a flour tax so long >as the wheat industry was assisted quickly and permanently. I shall deal with the flour tax and bounty later in my remarks. The principal legislation in connexion with a compulsory pool, if one be now possible in view of the decision in the James case, would be a matter for Commonwealth initiative and action. The prospect of increased crops of wheat in the northern hemisphere has depressed wheat prices and made the matter one of urgency. I noticed in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald that the price of wheat at Williamstown, Victoria, was 3s. 6½d a bushel, whilst the average price at country sidings was 3s. l£d. a bushel. During the preceding few weeks the price was even lower than those unprofitable rates.
Two years ago the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia placed before the Commonwealth Government detailed plans for a home consumption price of 5s. a bushel. At that time, wheat was worth 4s. 6d. a bushel for export. As prices were then higher, no hardship would have been caused had the home consumption price been stabilized at 5s. a bushel. Had our proposals then been adopted, the public would by now have been accustomed to according this proper measure of protection to the wheatgrowers, just as protection is enjoyed by the secondary industries and industrialists by virtue of the tariff and the Arbitration Court. More recently this association has asked the Commonwealth Government for a guarantee of 4s. a bushel at ports for the whole crop. The wheat-growers and the woolgrowers are as yet entirely unsheltered. For two consecutive harvests, owing to the improvement of prices, the Government has been relieved of the need to pay a bounty on production or acreage, or of providing any other direct assistance to the wheat-growers of Australia.
To-day, the outlook is black, and while I am sure that the Government has good intentions, the growers are complaining of its delay. It seems to many growers that the Government is simply letting things drift. Like Mr. Micawber, it is hoping that something will turn- up, in this instance an unlikely rise of overseas prices, which would relieve it of the necessity for talcing action. The wheatgrowers claim that the present position calls for immediate action by the Government. There is a strong feeling in the industry that at least the Australian Agricultural Council should be called together at once, if the Government is determined to consult that body once more, rather than wait until, the end of August or until September for this purpose. However, in view of the statement of the Minister for Lands in Western Australia, there does not seem to be any need to consult the Agricultural Council. There seems no likelihood of securing legislation from the six States, but the Commonwealth has power to impose an excise tax on flour and to give a bounty to the growers at once. I tried unsuccessfully yesterday, and with delayed success to-day, to have the subject discussed here. At least the Senate should not adjourn without a definite statement from the Government, and while the House of Representatives was in session some legislative action should have been taken.
– Why did not the honorable senator move his motion while the House of Representatives was sitting?
– I have repeatedy asked questions on the subject, and I tried to discuss the subject on the second reading of the Supply Bill, but I had the mortification, as did the Leader of the Opposition (‘Senator Collings), of being ruled out of order because the Leader of the Government felt it his duty to draw the attention of a somewhat sympathetic President to the Standing Orders. Ever since the beginning of this session, I have been asking questions of the Government with regard to the position of the wheat-growers, but I am sorry to say that those questions did not elicit a satisfactory, answer in regard to the Commonwealth Government’s intentions.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) submitted a motion in connexion with this matter in the House of Representatives ten days ago.
– My action is not dependent upon what was done on that occasion. In any case, the interval of ten days afforded the Government an opportunity to take some action, but nothing was done. I waited until the very last minute in the hope that the Government would make a statement, but I waited in vain. So long as the wheat industry is substantially assisted by the Government by a guaranteed price of at least 4s. a bushel, or by a bonus–
– The time being 4 o’clock, in conformity with the sessional order, I now put the question -
That the Senate donow adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m. till a day and hour to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 July 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19380701_senate_15_156/>.