15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - I rise to make a personal explanation. In the Labor Daily of the 24th November, ftppears the following paragraph : -
Senator Wilson (United Australia party. South Australia) delivered a notablespeech revealing keen appreciation of Labour’s programme. He advocated aid for small industries, the introduction of an extensive road building programme, a 40-hour week, and the reduction of the pension age as an effective plan for the relief of unemployment.
My speech did not reveal keen appreciation of Labour’s programme, nor do I approve of it. I did not advocate a 40- hour week, in industry, nor do I think it would be in the interests of Australia. I did not advocate the reduction of the pension age as an effective plan for the relief of unemployment, nor do I agree with it. I resent statements being attributed to me by the Labor Daily which are grossly incorrect and are made recklessly without belief in their accuracy.
Arms and Munitions - Suppliesfor
– On the 17th November, Senator Ashley asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following questions, upon notice: -
What amount is to be expended during the year 1938-39 on -
The Minister for Defence has now supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– A reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
– On the 3rd
November, Senator Lamp asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following answers to outstanding questions Nos. 2 to 6 : -
I may add that, whilst honorable senators may desire to get as much information as possible in answers supplied by Ministers, the answering of some questions in great detail involves an enormous amount of work.
– The Government is not game to give answers to some questions.
– Often the information desired may be readily obtained by honorable senators themselves from the Commonwealth YearBook.
Payment for Attendances - Number of Volunteers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce a bill this session to confer superannuation benefits on Commonwealth employees whose duties are of a permanent nature but whose status is temporary?
– It is not proposed to introduce any legislation of this nature during the current session.
Conversations Heard by Radio
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Has his attention been directed to an article appearing in the Canberra Times of Saturday last, in which it is alleged that for some time past it has been possible for radio listeners at Canberra to hear conversations passing over the telephone trunk lines and that actually conversations relative to urgent defence matters were heard in this way?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
Apparatus has been designed and installed to eliminate the trouble complained of.
Motion (by Senator Allan MacDonald) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an Act to amend the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1933, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Allan MacDonald) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an Act to amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1933, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd Novem ber, 1938 (vide page 1906), on motion by Senator Allan MacDonald -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Little need be said about this measure, which has for its object the increasing of the land tax. The Opposition has no objection to that being done, but there are a few observations which, I think, may appropriately be made now. The first land tax was introduced by the Fisher Labour Government for the definite purpose of breaking up large estates. As operated originally under the Labour administration in 1914-15 the tax was a very effective instrument, but conditions to-day are very different. The present Government has made repeated remissions of land tax, and on every occasion emphatic protests against such action have been made by the Opposition. Because of the liberal scale of exemptions no person paying land tax can be regarded as poor.
– A man may own land to the value of £5,000 and still be poor.
– The Act provides that land tax shall be paid by persons owning land of an unimproved capital value of not less than £5,000.
– The land might be mortgaged to its full value.
– That does not affect the unimproved value. For tax purposes, land must have an unimproved value of not less than £5,000 after all allowable deductions and allowances have been taken into account.
– Mortgages are not taken into consideration.
– Apparently Senator Wilson’s conscience is becoming, so tender that he feels impelled to take exception when the press says something good about him. Whenever I have to take exception to press statements - at least those contained in the anti-Labour press - it is for the same reason. When the anti-Labour press says nice things about me, I am satisfied that there is something wrong. Probably Senator Wilson believes that his good political conduct of yesterday must be shown to have been only temporary. The honorable senator has raised the question of mortgages. His interjection was most unfortunate, because we, on this side, believe that debt and interestcharges are draining the life blood out of every industry. Senator Wilson and his colleagues supporting the Government represent the mortgageholding interests of this country. They represent the interests that wax fat on the sufferings of unfortunate individuals who must submit to the extortions of usurers and interest-mongers. During the few years that the Lyons-Page Government has been in office, it has remitted to its friends land tax to the amount of £7,500,000, not one penny of which has gone to the people represented in this Parliament by the Opposition. While the Government was making those remissions, it imposed other taxes on those included in the lower strata of income taxpayers. It need not have increased taxes in several other directions as it did, had it not remitted the £7,500,000 of land tax to its wealthy friends. Out of that sum, the Bank of New South Wales netted at least £64,000. If there be a sinister influence in this community behind the shadows which have overhung this chamber during the last few months, and which are responsible for some of the things to which I alluded yesterday when speaking on the bill providing for an increase of the number of Ministers of State, it is that of the Bank of New South Wales and Sir Alfred Davidson, one of the financial magnates who dictate the policy of thepresent Government.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - The honorable senator should confine his remarks to the bill.
– The Opposition is in favour of the bill, particularly because it has been submitted to help to finance the heavily increased defence expenditure. If there be one section of the community whose interests would be protected in the event of Australia becoming involved in war, it is those who have waxed fat as a result of remissions of taxes by this complacent Government. But even with this increase, the land tax will not bring into the coffers of the nation more than one-half of the sum which the Fisher Labour Government raised when the act was originally passed. Therefore, it should be obvious to honorable senators opposite why the Opposition does not object to the measure.
– I heard an interjection to the effect that many poor men own land of the unimproved value of not less than £5,000 annually, but I point out that many men go on the land with insufficient capital to carry on their operations on an extensive scale, and, through being landhungry, try to buy out their neighbours; thus they make themselves poor. In my opinion, one-half of those on the land who are poor to-day have reduced themselves to that condition because of their greed for land. If they worked smaller areas properly, they would not be so poor as they now pretend to be. I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). Those who monopolize large areas should contribute their share towards the cost of defence.
– I can hardly allow a statement like that of Senator Aylett to pass unanswered. If men took up only the area of land which they could purchase outright, there would be very few farmers on the land to-day. The governments of the various States assist men to purchase land, and therefore those men are living on borrowed money. Most of those who own land of an unimproved value of not less than £5,000 have a mortgage, and many of them have a substantial mortgage. I know of a farmer who simply cannot afford to pay his land tax.
– If he held only one.half of his present area he would probably make a good living.
– We should not call upon men to pay land tax which they cannot afford to pay. In the case pf wealthy land-owners, I favour an increase of the income tax as a fairer method of raising the increased revenue necessary for defence purposes.
I was sorry to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), whose speeches are usually extremely moderate and fair, attack the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales. I know of no -man connected with the banking interests who has done so much as he has to -assist farmers who desire to borrow money for the purchase of their properties.
– It is good business for his bank.
– It is also good business for the man who desires to borrow the money. The Bank of New South Wales has taken up mortgages which other banks will not accept. The present high rate of exchange between Australia and Great Britain is attributable chiefly to the initiative of Sir Alfred Davidson. I would prefer an increase of the income tax to the perpetuation of the land tax.
– I support Senator Gibson in taking exception to the reflection which Senator Collings has passed upon the Bank of New South Wales and its general manager. In my professional capacity I have had a good deal to do with the management of trust estates, and I have been closely associated with mortgage work. Speaking as an entirely disinterested individual, I claim that owing to the wisdom and foresight of Sir Alfred Davidson, many farmers were able to withstand the depression and make good instead of being pushed off their holdings, as were many farmers who owed money to some of the other banks. He adopted a policy which was most helpful to the man on the land in New South Wales. Land -holders in my State - not the big landholders whom Senator Aylett has in mind - have endeavoured for some years to secure the removal of the land tax, because of the hardship it imposes upon them. There is much to be said in support of the contention of Senator Gibson that the extra revenue required should be obtained through income taxation, because that would ensure that the rich land-holder would contribute to the revenue in accordance with the prosperity enjoyed by him. As the Leader of the Opposition rightly said, the Fisher Government introduced the land tax for the purpose of encouraging closer settlement. It was intended to burst up large estates, and Mr. Fisher himself admitted that it was not intended to be a revenue tax.
– The land tax is payable in respect of estates having an unimproved value of not less than £5,000, and it applies to city as well as to country properties.
– More than half of the total value assessed for taxation purposes relates to city properties.
– I understand that about 62 per cent, of the total unimproved values that will come under the provisions of the measure, relates to city properties. A property containing 250 acres may have an unimproved value of £5,000.
– In my, electorate an estate of 150 acres has that unimproved value.
– It may be that when the land tax was first imposed, it was intended to be an instrument for the bursting up of large estates, but today it is used for the purpose of yielding to the Treasury a share of the results of the labours of the people in enhancing the value of city properties.
. - Were it not for the fact that all taxpayers should make some sacrifice in the interests of defence,I should oppose this increase of the land tax. My reason would be that land is not a fit subject for taxation by this Parliament. If the framers of the Constitution had considered for a moment that this Parliament would tax land values, federation would probably never have been consummated. When they were considering the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, it was appreciated that certain fields of taxation should be reserved to the States. The States should have those fields of taxation which are definitely local in their nature. As land is essentially local, it should be reserved for taxation by State and local governing authorities. The taxing of land was a most flagrant abuse of federal powers. First, it meant the occupation of a field which was intended to be reserved to the States, and, secondly, it was an exercise of a power that the Commonwealth did not possess. The Leader of the Opposition candidly admitted that the original purpose of the federal land tax was the breaking up of the big estates.
– It has served its purpose.
– That power was not possessed by the Commonwealth. The breaking up of big estates is beyond the constitutional capacity of the Commonwealth Government, but by devious and underhand means the federal power to tax was used for that purpose. The chief reason why the States will not agree to increase the powers of the Commonwealth is that previous Commonwealth governments have usurped powers to usch an extent that the people have become extremely suspicious of every Commonwealth Government. Had previous Commonwealth administrations kept strictly to national questions, and left domestic matters to the States, the federation would have got along much better than it has, and the existing antagonism of the States towards the Commonwealth would not exist. In the light of what has happened it is not unnatural that the Statese should resent the granting of further powers to the Commonwealth. I propose to quote from a statement made by Sir Edmund Barton, who piloted the Constitution through the conference held in Adelaide in 1897, and the conferences held in Melbourne and ‘Sydney in the following year, and later watched its passage through the House of Commons. Speaking on the subject of taxation at the opening of the Adelaide convention which was the basis of federation, he said -
We have had it argued outside this place that other forms of revenue than customs should be given up to the federation. Some persons have argued that the land should be the basis of taxation. I should protest, seriously againstsuch a surrender as that. The idea of locality as an inherent essential of the individualism of each province altogether precludes such an idea. The land itself must be left sacred to each colony just in the same way as its external boundaries are. Other means of revenue have been suggested, such as direct taxation. Perhaps the idea of locality is least to be discerned in the method of the collection of customs duties- But it is inherent in duties to be imposed by way of land taxation. This matter, some of us think, should be left for the purposes of local government, and others have never gone further than 10 suppose that it should be left to the purposes of provincial government. Still, that form of taxation, as a primary source of revenue, ought to bc chosen which is least imbued with the idea of localism, and that is to bc found in federal customs duties and the abolition of duties between the States.
We have there a clear exposition of what the Australian people were told when they were asked to agree to federation. Since then successive Commonwealth governments have followed the example of the Fisher Government, and have usurped the powers of the States. Whenever opportunity offers, I shall endeavour to give back to the States what was promised to them when they entered the federation, namely, the sole right to levy taxes on land.
– That cannot be done ; the honorable senator is merely uttering platitudes.
– That remains to be seen.
– Every State parliament levies land tax.
– Not in New South Wales.
– Let us consider for a moment what evils have resulted from the action of the Fisher Labour Government in levying a tax on land. In the first place, it has made the States, particularly the smaller States, extremely suspicious of granting any powers to the Commonwealth. According to that precedent, the granting of power to the Commonwealth means the exercise of, not only that power, but also other powers by various subterfuges. In the second place, the action of the Fisher Government led to one of the greatest evils of the federal system, namely, overlapping and duplication. Let us consider the position of a man who owns a piece of land. The federal authority inspects it, and places a value upon it for federal tax purposes ; the State authority does the same for State tax purposes; an officer of the Waterworks Department values it for waterworks purposes; an officer of the local municipality values it for municipal purposes. A case was brought under my notice recently in which the property of a grazier was visited by four different valuers on the one day. Surely land has only one value; yet we have ‘in Australia the farce of four or more different authorities making valuations, with consequent overlapping and unnecessary expense. Instead of the Commonwealth Government accepting the certificate of a State valuer as to the value of the land, the land-owner is required to fill in, for federal purposes, a long and intricate form. In many instances the services of a solicitor or a taxation agent are found necessary. The form having been filled in, it is sent to the department, and months later an assessment is made. When the land-owner compares the various assessments be finds that the unimproved value of his land for State purposes is so much, and for Federal purposes so much more. Invariably the Commonwealth valuation is higher than that for the State. There are also other valuations by the other taxing authorities. The sooner there is an Australian convention for the purpose of defining the “powers of the Commonwealth and the States, and putting an end to overlapping and duplication, the better. By usurping powers governments like the Fisher Government have betrayed the sacred trust imposed in them by the Constitution. 1 have not singled out the Fisher Government for special condemnation because all Commonwealth Governments have abused their power. I mentioned it because of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. In my opinion, that Government destroyed the spirit of federation - that the Commonwealth should keep within its own powers, and the States within their powers. It also began the duplication and overlapping which have continued ever since. From that time there has been endless friction between the Commonwealth and the States. That friction will remain until we get back to the principle laid clown by the framers of the Constitution, namely, that the federation is a partnership in .which the Commonwealth authority exercises all the powers which are national in their character, whilst the
States exercise all the powers which are local or domestic in- their character and neither usurps the powers of the other.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) [3.42J. - During this debate an honorable senator on the other side of the chamber said that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) spoiled a good speech by his references to Sir Alfred Davidson. I know that the present Government has done a great deal for the class represented by Sir Alfred Davidson, for it remitted to the Bank of New South Wales, of which that gentleman is the general manager, an amount of £64,000 payable as land tax; I can understand that the friends of that gentleman would feel aggrieved at the Leader of the Opposition mentioning his name.
– Sir Alfred Davidson is not a politician; why introduce his name into the debate?
– He is a back-door politician.
– Is this Sir Alfred Davidson the gentleman who interviewed, at the Hotel Australia, Mr. Be vin, who came to Australia as a delegate to the conference recently held at Lapstone? Is he the gentleman who wanted Mr. Bevin-
– Order !
- Sir Alfred Davidson is so much a politician that he wants to direct the politics of this country. He has endeavoured to make himself prominent in politics in New South Wales by attempting to direct the Labour movement in that State.
– He has made a success of his own business.
– By his direction of policy in this country he has been able to influence this Government to remit to his bank the sum of £64,000. Under this measure it is proposed to increase the land tax, 68 per cent, of which, I am aware, will be collected in respect of city properties. However, this measure will not tend to achieve what the land tax was intended by the Fisher Government to achieve, namely, the breaking up of large estates. No money collected through this tax is used for that purpose. In fact, this Government has by remissions of land tax given over £7,000,000 from its surpluses to wealthy concerns.
– The honorable senator should check up his figures.
– They are authentic and I challenge the honorable senator to disprove them.
– Can the honorable senator indicate what proportion of the properties covered by the sum of £64,000 which he has mentioned belong to the bank?
– I should expect the honorable senator to reject anything which might reflect upon the leader of his party in New South Wales, Sir Alfred Davidson. Honorable senators opposite, by cheap interjections, can endeavour to throw doubt on the figures which I have quoted, but I challenge them to prove that they are incorrect. In reply to Senator Wilson’s criticism of the Fisher Government, I point out that it was that Government which established our navy and also the Commonwealth Bank. The sarcastic term, “ Fisher’s Flimsies “ is still remembered. There is no analogy between the remarks which Sir Edmund Barton made at the Adelaide Convention, and the views which the honorable senator attributed to the Fisher Government, because the Government held a mandate from the people to break up large estates. I draw the attention of the Government particularly to the fact that in New South Wales the federal land tax operates most unfairly in certain circumstances against local authorities. In respect of land, the owners of which cannot be found, perhaps a company which has gone into liquidation, rates mount up over a period of years, until eventually in order to secure a live ratepayer the council is obliged to sell it. Such transactions involve the council in considerable expense. It has first to search its books to discover properties on which owners have defaulted in respect of rates, and then conduct searches in the ValuerGeneral’s office and collect a lot of data in order to place the matter before the Public Trustee, who eventually conducts the sale. However, when the sale is completed, the Commonwealth Government takes most of the money to satisfy debts in respect of land tax, with the result that the council suffers a loss on the transaction.
– Does the honorable senator support my contention that the Fisher Labour Government usurped the powers of the municipalities?
– At the moment I am simply pointing out an anomaly in this legislation which operates to the detriment of local authorities.
– Does the honorable senator agree that the principle on which the Federal Government acts is wrong?
– Yes, because the land tax was primarily designed to break up large estates and to release landlocked country towns. I urge the Government to rectify the anomaly of which T have complained. In cases such as I have described, the Commonwealth Government never attempts to sell the land in order to recover the land tax owing to it. It waits until the local authorities take action in order to recover outstanding rates, and then takes most of the money accruing from the sale. Obviously that is not fair. If only large estates were involved, it would be a different matter, but in most instances only small parcels of land are involved. Furthermore, land tax on these properties is collected on inflated values established during a boom period. For instance, land which was worth from £5,000 to £7,000 in 1929 is to-day really worth only £2,000. Of course, as is known by any one who has had anything to do with real estate, the valuation figure is never realized in forced sales.
.- I agree with Senator Wilson that the levying of land tax by the Commonwealth Government is bad in principle, and were it not that this Government urgently requires money at present, I should feel very much inclined to vote against this measure. Commonwealth land tax is the last subject about which honorable senators opposite should argue, because it represents the biggest failure in the application of the nostrums of the Labour party. Honorable senators opposite contend that the primary object of the land tax was to break up large estates. In that respect, it has proved a ghastly failure.
– Has the honorable senator never heard of Henry George, who said that all taxes should come from the land?
– Surely the honorable. senator does not think that the rest of us are quite as innocent as he is. Land tax, at any rate, has not had the effect which the Fisher Government intended that it should have. It has failed completely to break up large estates, more particularly large country estates. When it introduced this tax, the Fisher Government did not have the slightest idea that two-thirds of it would be collected on city properties. I remember the arguments which were advanced in favour of the tax when it was originally imposed. The Fisher Government claimed that it was going to release land-locked towns and break up large estates.
– And it has done so in thousands of cases. .
– Even in the few cases in which that object has been achieved, the benefits so derived did not persist. Senator Aylett is probably correct when he points out that many people endeavour to buy up too much land, but how he has worked out his ideas in respect of small holdings in Tasmania I fail to comprehend. I repeat that in so far as it was designed to break up large estates, the Commonwealth land tax has proved a dismal failure. Honorable senators should admit that fact, and realize that when they advocate the application of other pet theories of the Labour party, the inefficacy of the land tax will tell against them. Fortunately, a lot of those theories have not yet been tested.
– And a. lot of the theories of honorable senators opposite have been tested, with the result that our gaols and lunatic asylums are filled with their victims.
– I suggest that when honorable senators opposite are inclined to cite this particular class of legislation as ari. outstanding example of Labour policy, they should remember that it has been a ghastly failure.
– I challenge the statement made by Senator Wilson to the effect that all Commonwealth governments in leving land tax h.ive usurped the functions of the States. When he used the term “ usurp “, he implied that such governments acted without authority. The honorable senator should know that that i3 not the case. I point out that the framers of the Constitution, including Sir Edmund Barton, expressly provided in the Constitution that the Federal Government should have this power. Therefore, the power cannot be said to have been usurped. Furthermore, the people accepted the Constitution.
– On being given certain assurances.
– It was explained to them as clearly as it could be possibly explained,” and the people adopted it under the impression that the National Parliament would be vested with with tho power to tax land and that the State parliaments would be abolished. Much to their surprise and cost, State parliaments have continued in existence.
– If the honorable senator reads the Convention debates, he will find that what he has just said is incorrect.
– I suggest that if this power had been usurped by previous Commonwealth governments, their action would have been tested before the High Court. But it has never been tested.
– But not successfully, and that fact in itself is an admission that what the Commonwealth governments have done is in accordance with the powers vested in them under the Constitution.
– It was contested, and the High Court expressed the opinion that, although it was legal, it was contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.
– If it was legal it was not a usurpation of power.
– My experience is that members of the legal fraternity are not very much concerned about the spirit of a law ; their business is with, the letter of the law. It would be a good thing if the Commonwealth Parliament succeeded in making State parliaments subordinate to its jurisdiction with a view to the ultimate elimination of the State parliaments, thus reducing the cost of government.
When my leader (Senator Collings) men tioned the limit of £5,000, Senator Wilson interjected, that holdings having an unimproved value of £5,000 might be heavily mortgaged. I remind the Senate that the royal commission of which Professor W adb am was a member, which inquired into the wheat industry a few years ago, stated that Australian private banks held mortgages over wheat lands to the amount of £161,000,000. This meant that the banks virtually owned the lands on which they had made advances. When a man gives a mortgage on his land or other property, he has to make a legal assignment, otherwise the bank could not put in a receiver in the event of default in payment of the interest charges. It is to the advantage of the bank that the mortgagor should be able to carry on his work and meet his commitments. If he fails the hank has to assume control of the property. It is reasonable to assume that, if wheat lands in Australia are mortgaged to the banks to the amount of £161,000,000, wool properties are in die same position. Criticism has been expressed of the activities of the Bank of New South Wales. We have been told that primary producers engaged in the export trade enjoy what is virtually a preference in the British market of 25 per cent., due to the control of exchange on London. But nothing is said about the other side of the picture - the addition of exchange to our overseas interest burden. It is true that the banks did stick to the people - their clients - during the depression. They did so, not from altruistic motives, but because they could not run the risk of properties being abandoned. As I have shown, they virtually owned the farm lands over which they had taken mortgages, and in their own interest had to do all in their power to protect those assets.
– in reply - I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), and other honorable senators, for their generally favorable reception of the bill. This measure is part of the scheme for raising an additional £3,210,000 from taxes. Of this sum, income tax will provide £1,400,000 by means of an increase of 15 per cent. ; sales tax will contribute £1,300,000 by means of an increase of 1 per cent.; and additional excise duties will give £375,000. The increase of the land tax by 11.1 per cent, will yield £135,000. I submit to honorable senators who have urged that the extra revenue should be derived from income tax, rather than land tax, that the increase of 15 per cent, already made in income tax represents a very heavy burden. SenatorCollings suggested that there was some sinister influence at work in connexion with the remissions of land tax which this Government has been able to make in the past. If a sinister influence had been at work then, presumably it would still be in evidence; if so, surely the Government would not be proposing to increase this tax. With honorable senators I deprecate the action of the Leader of the Opposition in criticizing so unfairly Sir Alfred Davidson, the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales. I, as a citizen of Western Australia - not as a bank client - believe that we have every reason to be proud of Sir Alfred Davidson, who was for some years manager of the Bank of New South Wales in Perth.
– Before being appointed to that position, he was associated with the West Australian Bank in Perth.
Senator ALLAN MacdonaldDuring his occupancy of that important position, Sir Alfred Davidson contributed materially to schemes for the assistance of primary producers in Western Australia. Therefore, I and other honorable senators on this side resent very strongly that he should have been mentioned as one of the alleged sinister influences in connexion with some forms of Commonwealth legislation.
– He is absolutely the most sinister influence.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Senator Aylett alluded to the effect on suburban municipalities of the administration of the land tax. I confess that I could not understand the honorable gentleman’s argument, but I presume that he had in mind suburban land sold up by municipalities in order to recover unpaid rates. I doubt that there are unpaid rates on suburban blocks of land having an unimproved value of £5,000. As to the constitutionality of the tax, all I can say is that it has been levied by successive governments since 1910. There has been ampleopportunity to contest its legality in the court. Up to date it has not been successfully challenged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without requests or debate; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-37. In 1936, a new assessment act was passed to give effect to recommendations which had been made by a royal commission appointed to inquire into and report on the simplification and standardization of the taxation laws of the Commonwealth and the States. Following on the enactment of the Commonwealth act in 1936, legislation similar in most respects to that of the Commonwealth was passed by the parliaments of the States. In order that the substantial benefits of these uniform acts should not be lost, it was decided at the time that there should be no alteration of the uniform provisions without prior consultation between the Commonwealth and the States. With a view to maintaining uniformity, a conference of Commonwealth and State Commissioners of Taxation which assembled in Canberra in May of this year, reviewed the operation of the uniform acts, and the amendments now submitted to the Senate are the result of the deliberations of the conference and carry with them the recommendations of the commissioners. These recommendations have been conveyed by the State commissioners to their respective governments, and it is confidently expected that, where necessary, the assessment acts of the
States will be amended to conform with these amendments in the Commonwealth law so that uniformity in the acts will remain unimpaired. In the two years’ experience of the practical application of those uniform provisions, certain defects in the legislation have been revealed, and it is most necessary that those weaknesses bc remedied. Honorable senators will agree with me, I feel sure, that this bill contains nothing of a contentious nature. The amendments now proposed do not provide any radical change of the law or any departure from long accepted principles of Commonwealth income taxation. These amendments are, in the main, designed either to give clearer expression to the law so that the intended statutory effect may be obtained, or to provide for new situations which have arisen since 1936, such as the inauguration of the national insurance scheme. Honorable senators have had issued to them a memorandum explanatory of each of the clauses of this bill, and I consider that there is nothing that I can usefully add to the explanations which have been given in that memorandum. I commend the bill to honorable senators. If they desire any further information regarding it, I shall be pleased to supply it at the committee stage.
– The Minister has fairly set out the objects of the bill, which is obviously necessary for the effective administration of the Taxation Department. The Opposition does not oppose the measure, but will carefully watch its passage through committee.
Question- resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Exemptions). .
– The Minister said that under the previous act, certain alterations were made, after consultation with all of the States, to bring the State and Commonwealth taxation measures into conformity wherever possible. Will these proposed alterations maintain the desired uniformity, or have the States again been consulted in reference to the amendment?
Senator FOLL (Queensland - Minister sultation has been held between the Taxation commissioners of the Commonmonwealth and of the States, and these further proposed amendments are designed to preserve uniformity in this legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Concessional deductions).
.- This clause would allow an employee to deduct from his taxable income his contributions towards national insurance, but very few of those employees who will be called upon to contribute to the national insurance fund will have to pay any income tax. It is also proposed under this clause to give to the employer the right to deduct from his taxable income sums paid by him by way of contributions to the national insurance fund, and in the majority of cases the employers will be able to pass on those contributions. Therefore, the Government should not attempt to camouflage the position by making it appear that a deduction iB being allowed to the employee. Those who receive £7 a week and are not manual labourers will not contribute to the national insurance fund. The great majority of manual workers receive less than £250 a year. It seems to me that, under this clause, it is merely proposed to hand something to the “ boss “.
– Under the bill, it is not proposed to hand anything to the “boss”. The exemption applies merely to employees who, if called upon to pay anything out of their income to the national insurance fund, shall be permitted to make deductions accordingly in their income tax returns. This measure has been introduced to bring deductions to this class of taxpayer into line with those enjoyed by the employees of the governments of the States, such as those employed on relief work. It will probably be necessary for this measure to remain on the statute-book for a considerable period, and, as the present income tax exemption may not remain stationary, many more individuals may eventually be “brought within the ambit of this legislation than will now come under it. The position of the employers is dealt with in another clause.
– The employer will be able to deduct from his taxable income any sums contributed , by him to the national insurance fund.
– There is no provision in this clause for deductions by employers.
– This clause is supposed to explain the technical parts of the bill. If it does not do so, it is useless. I was referring, not to persons who employ domestic servants or gardeners, but to firms which have a large number of employees. They will be able to deduct their contributions in respect of national insurance, but their employees will noi be granted any deduction. In fact, the employees will pay the contributions of the bosses, and yet the bosses will be allowed a deduction.
– It is usual to allow deductions in respect of insurance premiums. This clause deals with employees, not with employers. The proposed deduction is a proper one to allow to employees.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 17 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th November (vide page 1703), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the paper be printed.
– These trade agreements are always difficult to approach. We are not asked now to ratify anything; we merely have before us a statement by the Minister. Over and over again the Opposition has voiced its disapproval of trade agreements being entered into, and legislation to give effect to them being introduced, without the Parliament having power to make any amendment; it must either accept or reject what has been done. Before trade delegations leave Australia to go to other countries with which trade agreements are being negotiated, Parlia ment is not given the opportunity to discuss the proposals, or to express an opinion as to the wisdom or otherwise of doing certain things. I recognize that on this occasion there is little cause for complaint, because we have no bill before us for acceptance or rejection. When the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) made his statement abput the agreement, I interjected that it was more eloquent in what it did not say than in what it did say. The statement merely gives to us what I may describe as an official resumeof the agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. We can get some idea of the value of these things by studying the press reactions to them. The Sydney Morning Herald, which does not usually set’out to advocate the Labour view, in its issue of the 19th November, said -
The new trade treaties between the United States of America and Great Britain and between the United States of America and Canada were signed on Thursday afternoon at the White House, Washington. The AngloAmerican treaty makes substantial concessions for United States of America farm products in the British market, while tariff concessions are made affecting a quarter of Great Britain’s exports to the United States of America. The special representative of the Sydney Morning Herald at Washington says that until there is time for an expert analysis of the agreement it is impossible to state which countries have profited most. Official circles in London agree that the Anglo-American treaty necessitates considerable sacrifices on the part of the dominions, but they declare that it has opened the way very satisfactorily for negotiations with Australia.
If this treaty will involve considerable sacrifice on the part of the dominions, that sacrifice will be shared by Australia. As an Australian, I object to trade agreements being entered into which necessitate sacrifice on the part of Australia. It may be argued that we cannot expect to have a one-sided agreement. I do not expect that, but I do expect that a young country like Australia, which is engaged in the difficult process of expanding its primary and secondary industries, should not always be called upon to make sacrifices when trade agreements are being entered into. Among those who will be called upon to make sacrifices under this agreement are the growers of wheat, citrus fruits and other things. Honorable senators of all parties will be able to visualize the nature of the sacrifice which the wheat-growers of this dominion will be called upon to make.
– It will represent about 3d. a bushel.
– When we speak of sacrifice, we think, not of the wheat industry for example, but of the individual growers engaged in that industry. In our mind’s eye we can see their wheat farms, their sons and daughters, the local storekeeper, the financial organizations which assist them - in fact, all the ramifications of the industry. We see those people waging a perpetual battle with the elements, gambling with nature, in an attempt to establish homes and rear families. When we read the simple word “ sacrifice “, we associate with it those human beings, their struggle, and aspirations. The summary continues -
The special correspondent of the Australian Associated Press at Washington says that there is little prospect of the immediate opening of negotiations for a treaty between Australia and the United States of America.
Reverting to an earlier portion of the Minister’s statement - “ The AngloAmerican treaty makes substantial concessions to United States of America farm products in the British market “ - we are being continually told, and, I think truthfully, that the British Commonwealth of Nations, that aggregate which is known as the British Empire, must hang together. I hold that in building up our trade we should place Australia first, the United Kingdom second, and the other component parts of the Empire next. It must be obvious that if concessions have been made by Great Britain to the United States of America, in the British market, a lesser share of that market remains available to Australia. These are difficulties which we must surmount. On broad generalities, if we can bring together Great Britain and the United States of America, and the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America, we shall achieve a greater advantage, not so much, perhaps, on the economic field as on that more important field of international relations. We cannot, however, escape the intense nationalism which is being practised to-day. This Opposition stands right up to that policy, because we place Australia first. Honorable senators know all about that policy. We cannot talk on that subject very well this afternoon, because this Government will not prepare, either an economic policy or a foreign-relations policy in order to get over our difficulties. As I have said so frequently that I have become tired of hearing myself, this Government has no idea whatever of a planned economy. It simply stumbles from one important undertaking to another, and from one method to another, entirely losing sight of the fact that a situation exists in the world which must some day be dealt with, namely that there is only one pool of production and consumption in the world. No country can take out of the pool more than is put into it, and all these trade agreements are so much scrambling, haggling and bargaining in order that to-day one country may obtain more out of it than previously, which means that some other country must take less, or, that tomorrow, another country may get more and we take less. Although it is germane to the subject, I do not now propose to debate that problem, because it is too big to tackle at the moment. Honorable senators on this side will take an opportunity later to deal with these more important things to which I have just referred. For a moment, however, let me just cover a few of the disabilities which Australia will suffer as the result of this particular pact. Nobody recognizes more than I do that in saying what we have to say here, this afternoon, we shall be merely beating the air; our protests get us nowhere, ‘because the pact between the United States of America and Great Britain has been concluded. Later, a pact will be concluded between Canada and the United States of America and, subsequently, in all probability, if the scheme ever gets so far, a pact will be concluded between Australia and some other countries, or between Australia and the United Kingdom. We had the famous Ottawa Agreement. In connexion with that agreement, as with all such agreements, we were given the inestimable privilege of talking about it, knowing all the time that we could not amend it, ‘but had either to adopt it or reject it. Such procedure, of course, is futile.
I propose now to refer to what I consider o be some of the concessions which Australia will be called upon to make under the Anglo-American Agreement. The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) said -
Changes in Empire preferences enjoyed by Australia were accepted by the Commonwealth after the fullest consultation with the Governments of Great Britain and the other Dominions.
What the right honorable gentleman really meant to say was that the sacrifices which were made in the name of Australia were accepted after consultation. But he used the word “ changes “, instead of “ sacrifices “ ; it ig so much easier, as it evokes so much less criticism if you do not put your finger right on the sore spot. The wheatgrowers have had something to say about this matter, and, I suspect, they will have a great deal more to say about it.
– Hear, hear!
– I am sure that Senator Johnston, also, will have something to say on behalf of the wheatgrowers.
– I have had a question on this subject on the noticepaper for some days.
– I am not quits sure whether the procedure of asking questions in order to gain information is as effective as it might appear, because, after all, the official mind is pretty clever, and works fairly well, with the result that we do not get very much in reply to our questions. Mr. W. C. Cambridge, M.L.C., general secretary to the Farmers and Settlers Association, said -
The loss of the 2s. per quarter preference on Australian wheat entering the United Kingdom can be ill afforded, particularly this season with world wheat prices on a low level. It is reliably estimated that in the four years up to March of this year the United Kingdom preferences resulted in a direct monetary advantage of £2,250,000 to the Australian wheatgrowers.
Mind you, they did not reduce the duty> but wiped it right out. The silken ties of kinship and Empire, and all those high falutin sentiments that are b» glibly uttered,, never count for much when you get down to a hard, matter of fact, soulless, business proposition. .We see how nicely the Minister for Commerce got over the difficulty. He said that the “ changes “ which had taken place had been agreed to by Australia after consultation with the other dominions, but one of those changes means a loss of £2,250,000 to Australian wheat-growers, if we calculate the value of the 2s. preference over the last four years. Mr. Cambridge went on to say very much more unpleasant things than I have yet said. He added -
They (meaning the farmers and settlers) were not surprised. As far back as March last, before the departure of the Australian delegation to London, the Farmers and Settlers Association and other wheat organizations followed the hint that the wheat preference would be used as a bargaining weapon.
Honorable senators opposite claim to be the friends of the farmers and settlers; we common Labour people are never supposed to be their friends. We on this side are their real friends, and honorable senators opposite are the friends, not of the farmers and settlers, but of the people who farm the farmers and the settlers. They are the friends of those people about whom we heard so much from Senator Wilson this afternoon. Reverting to the statement made by Mr. Cambridge, I point out that trade delegations always leave Australia with a bargaining weapon, as it is called. On this occasion, the wheat-growers, through their organizations, were awake to that fact. Mr. Cambridge continued -
Before the delegation left, they had protested strongly against any possible whittling down or jettisoning of the preference.
What effect does a statement of that kind, coming from such “a source, have on honorable senators opposite? We on this side wonder, first, why honorable senators opposite are in this chamber at all ? Are they Australian senators ? Are they elected by the Australian people? Do they represent Australian interests? Are they fighting for Australian interests? Do those of them who claim to represent the farmers, instruct their Ministers in party meetings as to what the Government should do on behalf of the farmers? Do they, all the time, realize that they are not in this Parliament merely for the sake of being the Government of the country, that they are not here merely because, as, the wheel revolves, an opportunity may be presented to Jones to become a Cabinet Minister instead of Brown, or in addition to Brown? Do we ever face these real Australian issues? We of the Opposition are not the Government, but it must be admitted that we take every opportunity to prevent the difficulties which confront the different sections of the community.
– Can Australia instruct Great Britain what agreement it should make with the United States of America?
– No; we cannot do anything of the kind, but we can say to every trade delegation, before it leaves these shores, “ You are not going on a joy jaunt. Do not forget that you are going overseas, not to be used as pawns in a game,- but, above everything else, to assert Australia’s rights “.
– How does the honorable senator know that that was not done?
– Not very often do I plead guilty to ignorance. In reply to Senator Hays I have to admit that I do not know that anything of the kind was done.
– It is reasonable to suppose that it was done.
– If it were merely indifference that had brought this thing about it would be bad enough; but if the honorable gentleman tells me that, in the councils of his own party, there was a demand that this preference of 2s. a quarter should not be given away, that there should be no sacrifice of Australian primary industry, then it is apparent that no notice was taken of the representations made. This means that the interests of Australian wheat-growers did not enter into the scheme of things. It means that not only do they not count in the affairs of the nation, but also that they are of no consequence in the councils of the honorable gentleman’s party.
Some day there will be a Labour government in the Commonwealth. I do not claim to be either a prophet or the son of a prophet, birt I have the courage to prophesy that the day will come when a Labour government will again be on the treasury bench in this Parliament and in all probability a Labour delegation will leave these shores to seek trade agreements with countries overseas. If so, that delegation will have no doubt about the views of this Parliament or of the people of Australia. When the Lyons Government sent its delegation to Ottawa, members of the Labour party told Parliament what would happen. Every word which they said has been justified by the results of the Ottawa Agreement. The Scullin Government sent a trade delegation to Canada and although that Government was in office, but not in power, Mr. Parker Moloney, the then Minister for Markets, brought back one of the best trade agreements ever made on behalf of Australia. m
– It was acclaimed by all parties in the Parliament as a splendid achievement.
– It was acclaimed by the whole nation. I challenge this Government, which has held power over this Parliament since 1914 - not excepting even the three years when Labour was in office - to point to one tra’de treaty made by it that has conferred as much benefit upon our primary producers as did that solitary agreement negotiated by the Labour delegation.
– That agreement was made during the worst years on record.
– I should like to read from a statement made by Mr. G. W. Walker, of Lindley Walker and Company, a Sydney firm which is always regarded as the supreme authority on all matters affecting the Australian wheat industry. Whenever the wheat industry is being discussed, Lindley Walker and Company is the authority cited.
– And Senator Johnston.
– Coming from the other side of the Senate, that interjection is rather unkind. Although I do not like Senator Johnston politically, in fairness to him I must say that the Australian wheat-growers have not a better champion among Government supporters.
It is wonderful how, with the passing of the years, the attitude of the Labour party on various important issues has been justified. I have lived long. That is an advantage, because every now and again I arn able to look back and say to myself, “ Well, Joseph, there is another of your aspirations realized. Once again something which you had said years ago has come true “. At least I shall be able to say, “ What do you know about that “ ? or “I told you so”.
– I hope that this Joseph has never had a coat of many colours.
– If my recollection of scriptural history is not incorrect, the Joseph of the coat of many colours, was . one of the first wheat authorities in history. He cornered the grain rh Egypt in a time of plenty and stored it to provide against a time of famine. All this he did, not in the interests of a private business concern, but in the interests of the people. When this Government learns that lesson and, in a time of plenty, makes provision for the inevitable time of famine, whether in regard to foodstuffs or employment, on c( again I shall be able to say “ Well, Joseph, you told them it would have to come, and here it is ! “
– And the honorable senator has never changed his coat.
– That is so. In this connexion. I am like Sir Harry Lauder, who, so the story goes, said on one occasion, “I have a coat for every day of the week; this is it.ft
According to a report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of tho 19th November, 1938, Mr. G. W. Walker, of Lindley Walker and Company, said -
Perhaps the whole idea of Ottawa was wrong
The Labour party said that before the Ottawa delegation left Australia, while it was away, and after it returned.
– It has been saying it ever since.
- Mr. Walker stated -
Perhaps the whole idea of Ottawa was wrong. If it was, scrap the lot as soon as possible, but ray protest is “ Why roast the Australia!) wheat-growers on the altar of political expediency in a year when Great Britain is their best and, probably, their only market? “
If I thought for a week, I could not say anything so unpleasant as that.
Senator McLeay beamed benevolently on us when ‘ he spoke of the wonderful accomplishments claimed by this Government in connexion with this agreement. I noticed that the honorable gentleman did not beam so. benignly when he came to the last page of his statement, because there he began to prepare the Australian fruit-growers for the effect of this treaty. Let me, for the sake of emphasis, repeat Mr. Walker’s statement -
Perhaps the whole idea of Ottawa waa wrong. If it was, scrap the lot as soon as possible, but my protest is “Why roast the Australian wheat-growers on the altar of political expediency in a year when Great Britain is their best and, probably, their only market?” lt is certainly a black Friday for Australian wheat-growers and something they did not deserve.
Mr. Walker could not have said anything worse or anything more condemnatory than that, and I hope that the Leader of the Senate will carry that statement back to Cabinet. The honorable gentleman, in his speech to the Senate, did not indicate that any sacrifice was being made by the Australian wheat-growers, and did not paint a picture of these growers roasting and writhing in their agony. Apparently^ honorable senators opposite are unwilling to face the situation.
– The honorable senator himself will have difficulty in facing the situation when the legislation in connexion with the wheat industry is introduced next week.
– I shall be here, I hope. I sympathize with the fruitgrowers in every State who will be adversely affected by the agreement, because I once had a very difficult experience of trying to wrest a living from the land, and I know what it means.
In the same newspaper from which I previously quoted appears the following report : -
Australian fruit-growers may suffer substantial losses as a result of the reduction of preferences on Australian fresh apples from 48. 6d. to 3s. a cwt. in specified seasons. Expressing this opinion, the secretary of tha New South Wales Chamber of Fruit and
Vegetable Industries, Mr. P. S. MacDermott said ti at, in a normal season, the United States of America always had a surplus of apples for disposal overseas when the home market was well supplied. American apples thus exported to Great Britain were late varieties which held well in cold storage. The danger was that these lute varieties might now (nine from cold storage into active competition with Australian apples coming on the English market on the 15th April, the fust day- of the full preferential season.
Apparently, those who made the agreement did not give enough thought to the interests of Australian fruit-growers, because the dates were not even arranged so that competition would not bo too savage.
I indicated, in my opening remarks, that I did not intend to deliver an academic address on the principles and fundamentals behind all this huckstering in connexion with trade agreements. That would be too hig a job in the circumstances. I am merely trying to indicate some of the thoughts that are in the minds of honorable senators on this side regarding the effect which this agreement will have on Australian growers of the commodities affected. “We cannot get out of the present muddle by trying to secure economic salvation by means of trade agreements with different countries throughout the world. Products such as wheat, apples and fruit of other kinds, and many other commodities, are not over-produced, taking the world as a whole, but arc under-consumed. Think of the teeming millions of people in China and India, and the many thousands living under slum conditions in Great Britain, and in other parts of the Empire, who would be only too glad to use these commodities. Let the people have access to the productive possibilities of the world–
– By freetrade?
– By international freetrade; but that day is not yet. Tt will never he possible to enlist the sympathies of honorable senators opposite in that direction. The fundamental need is to see that every individual in the community shall receive sufficient to eat, drink and wear. It would not then be necessary to arrange international trade treaties. There would be the freest possible intercourse between the nations, so that certain countries would supply the goods which they are best able to produce, and exchange them for commodities that could be produced more satisfactorily in other countries. That wide subject is not under discussion this afternoon; but once again, Australia has received the worst of a deal in the negotiation of a trade treaty.
Debate (on motion by Senator E. B. Johnston) adjourned.
Twenty-third Conference: Reports ok Australian Delegation.
Debate resumed from the 16th November (vide page 1519), on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan -
That the paper be printed.
Senator CAMERON (Victoria) [5.19*J. - The reports presented for our consideration are much more important than honorable senators probably consider them to be. To my mind they draw attention to the feeling throughout the world in favour of improved working and living conditions for the employees. One result of this movement has ‘been the establishment of institutions such as the International Labour Organization with headquarters at Geneva. If honorable senators have read the reports, they must have noticed the difference between those presented bv the representatives of the employers and the Government, and that submitted by the workers’ delegate. The report of the delegate of the Commonwealth Government and that of the employers’ delegate are of a formal nature, and could have been obtained ‘by posting a letter to the International Labour Office at Geneva, asking for a record of the proceedings of the conference; but the report of Mr. J. E. Pullen, the workers’ delegate, contains many useful suggestions. Much more interest “is taken in the proceedings of the International Labour Organization of the League of Nations by representatives of the workers than by representatives of either the Government or the employers.
I do not intend to direct attention to, or comment upon, all of the business transacted at the Twenty-third Conference held at Geneva in June, 1937, but
I propose to discuss a few matters which have been mentioned by previous speakers. In Appendix U, the report states -
The Twenty-third Session of the International Labour Conference, examining the efforts made since 1931 by the International Labour Organization to reduce as far as possible the disastrous effect of the world depression on the economic system of all countries in general and on the working class in particular; . . .
Requests the governing body to examine the situation and to consider placing on the agenda of the next Session of the Conference the question of the generalization of the reduction of hours of work in all economic activities which are not covered by the Conventions already adopted and those to be adopted by the Twentythird. Session of the Conference.
This Conference has become increasingly concerned about the necessity for a reduction of the number of working hours. Several conventions have been adopted with respect to the 40-hour working week, The representatives of the workers would not regard this reform as an act of grace, coming from either the Government or the employers, as they look upon it as an economic necessity in the interests of the community generally. The statement cannot be successfully challenged that machinery is constantly displacing labour, and, if all the labour available were employed, a reduction of the hours ofwork would become an economic necessity. I challenge the opponents of the 40- hour working week to show me in what way all the labour available could be employed without that reduction. This reform would increase the number of working men employed, and would consequently obviate the necessity for those employed to be taxed to maintain those who are out of work, which, in the final analysis, results in a redistribution of the wages paid. That is an economic waste, and it has the effect of lowering the living, standards of the workers now employed. In addition to reducing the hours of work, wages, as an economic necessity, must again be increased.
– Wages should be increased, so that consumption could be increased to enable increased production to be maintained. I join issue with the honorable senator from Tasmania, and claim that the adoption of the 40- hour working week would not increase the cost of production in terms of gold. The value of all commodities is measured in those terms. Notwithstanding the fact that Australia is off the gold standard, our currency and the value of our commodities in the home market, as well as abroad, are calculated in terms of gold. The fact is that the value of those commodities in terms of goldis constantly being reduced, because the labourtime involved in their production is a diminishing quantity. Apparently, the cost of production would increase, but, in terms of gold and labour-time, the cost would be reduced. The cost would apparently increase because of the depreciation of the currency. The more the currency is inflated, the more it does to tax the poorest sections of the community, who are least able to bear it, by increasing the prices of commodities. This colossal fraud, to which I have referred on previous occasions, still goes on. The result is that people who give only superficial consideration to the position believe that the cost of production is rising. The actual position is that, in terms of gold, by which the value of all commodities is measured, the cost of production is constantly decreasing, whereas in terms of our depreciated currency, as the result of fraudulent and corrupt practices, the cost appears to be increasing. When the unsophisticated working man or employer receives a pound note he believes that he is given something which has the same purchasing value as it had before 1929, whereas that is far from being the case.
In this report Mr. Pullan directs attention to the contention of the representatives of the employers that, in effect, the 40-hour working week is not possible of practical realization owing to the scarcity of artisans. Itis true that there is a scarcity of artisans in some trades, as the result of the employers either ignoring or repudiating their obligations to train young workers.
– Industrial legislation prevents training.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks on a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Industrial Arbitration in Northern
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Last August, on the Saturday that the Public Works Committee reached Darwin, a large public meeting was convened by the Northern Australian Workers’ Union, at which a system of local arbitration was advocated. I was asked to speak at that meeting, as were also the honorable members for Franklin (Mr. Frost) and theNorthern Territory (Mr. Blain). The arguments submitted to the meeting convinced me that it would be of advantage to have in charge of labour matters in the Northern Territory a man who is au fait with local conditions. Although several months have elapsed since that meeting was held, apparently no decision has been reached by the Government. I understand that on the 17th October the following telegram was despatched by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen ) : -
Regret Government unable to decide issue on Northern Territory arbitration this week but hopeand expect decision will be made latter end next week.
Before raising this matter in the Senate I telephoned to-day to Mr. McEwen’s secretary and later I addressed a letter to the Minister asking for some information in regard to the matter. I rise now to refer to it in the hope that a decision may be expedited. I am informed that a serious industrial upheaval is threatened at Darwin unless something is done promptly, and, if possible, I -want to prevent that from happening. I have received from Darwin a letter stating that it is fairly certain that unless machinery be set up to deal with local disputes, there will he a complete stoppage of work throughout the Territory within the next fortnight. The letter stated that the Minister for the Interior had had four months to do something, and that he must accept the responsibility if a dispute occurs. I hope that, as the result of my action to-day, the Leader of the Senate will bring this matter before his colleagues with a view to an early decision being arrived at. The workers at Darwin desire to know the Government’s attitude. If the Government cannot see its way to do what they desire, it should say so; if it intends to meet their wishes, it should act promptly.
– in reply - I assure the honorable senator that I shall have the matter looked into, and shall let him know the result at the next sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19381124_senate_15_158/>.