16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Loan Bill 1943.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1043.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Validation Bill 1943.
Customs Tariff (Special War Duty) Validation Bill 1843.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Validation Bill - 1943.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Validation Bill 1943.
Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1D43.
– Is the Leader of the Senate aware that yesterday eighteen coal-mines in New South Wales were idle, that being one of the most serious stoppages of work on the coal-fields for several months, and that every man employed in the coal-mines on the South Coast was idle, it being estimated that the total loss of production for the day was 17,060 tons of coal, and that the number of mcn idle was 5,675 ? Is the Minister also aware that, during February, the los3 of production owing to stoppages of work on the coal-fields was one of the greatest for a considerable period ? In view of the constant appeals that have been made by the Prime Minister and some members of the Government for non-stop production of coal, which is vitally necessary for the war effort, does the Government intend to take action which will result in continuous production in the industry, or will it allow this deplorable state of affairs to continue?
– The honorable senator is not in order in making a speech in asking a question.
– I have not read the particular report to which the honorable senator has referred. I know that strikes are occurring, but I am also aware that despite these regrettable stoppages the output of coal during the last twelve months has been greater than ever before in the history of this country. The Government is taking every possible step to ensure the continuous production of coal. That is its objective, and it is doing everything it can to that end.
– I present the first report of the Broadcasting Committee. Ordered to be printed.
– Is the Leader of the Senate aware that Mr. “Jock” Garden, who holds the position of liaison officer between the Minister for Labour and National Service and the trade unions, has stated that the recent strike in the textile industry was worth while, because, for the first time in the history of trade unions, the judge had continued to hear the claim of the union while its members were on strike? In view of the fact that both the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Supply and Shipping had condemned the strike as detrimental to the war effort, does the Leader of the Senate endorse the statement by Mr. Garden that the strike has been worth while? Was Mr. Garden speaking for the Minister for Labour and National Service, to whom he owes allegiance?
– The Government is not. responsible for the remarks to which the honorable senator has referred.
– Does the Government intend to take any action against Mr. Garden, who is an employee of the Commonwealth, for justifying a strike tha<t has been roundly condemned by senior members of the Ministry?
– It is not my function to take any action such as that suggested.
– Does the Leader of the Senate represent the Government in this chamber, or does he merely represent himself? If he represents the Government, does he not consider that the Government, if not he personally, should take some action in the matter?
– The question asked by Senator Foll was not addressed to the Government. If the honorable senator intended it as such, my answer is that it is not a function of the Ministry to reply to remarks made by individuals of the kind referred to.
– I addressed my question to ‘the Government through the Leader of the Senate. Does the Government subscribe to the statement made by Mr. Garden that the strike in the textile industry was justified? If not, will the Government take action to ensure that a paid employee of ‘the Crown shall not make statements of that kind?
– Neither I, northe Government itself, is aware that any such statement was made.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate to ascertain whether such a statement was made, and, if so, will it take appropriate action to discipline Mr. Garden ?
– As the honorable senator seems to know all about the matter, I suggest that he .place all the evidence in his possession before me, and I shall look into the matter.
– In view of the fact that prunes are an essential item in the diet of babies and young children, and as that fruit is at present unobtainable, will the Minister representing the Minis- ter for Supply and Shipping sec that an adequate supply of this season’s crop is reserved and made available for that purpose ?
-], shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
– by leave. - Recently Senator Clothier asked me a number of questions relative to the decision of the Government to establish country wool storage and appraisement centres. I have ascertained the relevant details and desire to advise that plans are now being prepared, to proceed with, the construction of the buildings necessary for the establishment of wool storage and appraisement centres at Dubbo and Moree in New South Wales. The construction of storages at Roma, Queensland; Portland, Victoria; Geraldton, Western Australia; and Werris Creek, New South Wales, are to be proceeded with as soon as men and materials are available. Consequent upon the decision of the Government to establish country wool storage and appraisement centres, Mr. H. J. Monckton, Chief Controlling Appraiser for the Central Wool Committee in. New South Wales, and Mr. W. G. Lumby, director of Shute, Bell, Badgery and Lumby Limited, were asked on behalf of the Government to report on the suitability of country sites in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. Mr. Monckton and Mr. Lumby, who are men of high repute and undoubted ability, have been associated with the wool trade for many years. They were, therefore, well fitted ‘ to undertake the responsible duties allotted to them. After making a detailed examination of all the factors involved, including the conservation of rolling stock urgently required for defence needs, the storage of unshippable types of wool, areas not regarded as susceptible to enemy action, and. other relevant matters, they recommended Dubbo, Moree, and Werris Creek in New South Wales. Roma in Queensland, and Portland in Victoria, as new storage and appraisement centres. Subsequently, the recommendations of the committee were examined by the Di recto r-General of
Transport, Sir Harold Clapp, and his deputy, Mr. .D. J. Howse, as well as by representatives of the Queensland Railway 1 department. The reports confirmed in detail the recommendations submitted by Mr. Monckton and Mr. Lumby. The comments of the Director-General of Transport are of particular interest, and indicate the exhaustive nature of the surveys made in each case in order to test the suitability of the selected sites. In his report, Sir Harold Clapp said -
So far iia the selection of locations for immediate consideration is concerned, the points proposed in New South Wales are ideal. In the case of Dubbo, the State is already bearing u bounty in freight to enable wool appraised in Sydney to bc re-transported to the Dubbo district for the carbonizing works, which represents wasted transport, when it could bc met by wool which flows past Dubbo to the city for appraisement.
In the case of Werris Creek and Moree, these are ideal joints for country appraisement and would be quite acceptable to the transport authorities, with considerable saving in truck mileage.
The question was very fully discussed with the Chief Traffic Manager, Mr. A. G. Denniss, who was in full agreement with the proposal.
From a State aspect, the proposals were discussed with the chairman of the State Development Committee, Professor H. D. Black, and other members - and they are unanimously in favour of the scheme and regard it as the only sound means of giving immediate relief to railway transport, as well as establishing a sound policy for the economic development of country industry.
The matter was fully discussed with the State Premier, the Honorable W. J. McKell. M.iL.A., who advised that the proposals would have the full support of his Government, both in respect to the State outlook and the urgent relief necessary to the transport system.
It will be observed that, in their statement, the transport authorities have stressed the wastage of vital transport which occurs in connexion with wool treated at Dubbo and the value of such a saving in war-time. Moree was formerly a wool-scouring centre, a fact which demonstrates the belief of private enterprise in its suitability. Consequently, the selection of Moree was not in the least astonishing. Werris Creek, the third New South Wales town chosen, is an important rail junction through which wools from hurry areas - carbonizing types - now pass.
Apart, from the strong recommendation iri rell by the expert committee and the transport authorities, the choice of Portland has been commended by the Premier of Victoria, the Honorable A. A. Dunstan, who is not a supporter of the present Commonwealth Government. Roma has been approved by the North Queensland Country party, which severely criticized the representations made in some quarters on behalf of Toowoomba, whilst the choice of Geraldton has had the enthusiastic endorsement of the Western Australian Government.
Senator Clothier also asked whether representatives of Wool-broking organizations had visited Canberra for the purpose of attempting to sabotage the Governments’ proposals. All that I can say is that a representative of wool-selling brokers interviewed some members of the Parliament recently. Whether that visit had anything to do with the objections raised against the establishment of country appraisement centres, I do not know, but my experience suggests that woolselling interests will go to any lengths to prevent the decentralization of the wool industry. One of. my first duties as Assistant Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was to give effect to a decision to establish a wool appraisement and storage centre at Albany. I found the brokers organized in opposition, and I was forced to examine with the Central Wool Committee the possibility of taking steps to end the opposition. It appeared that firm action would have to be taken when the Westralian FarmersUnion broke away from the other wool-sellers and applied for permission to appraise wool at Albany. That brought to an end the obstructionist tactics with the result that Albany was definitely established as an appraisement centre. As the result of the delays which occurred because of the obstruction by wool-brokers, only 7,000 bales, instead of an anticipated 14,000 to 16,000 bales, will be appraised at that centre, but it is expected that that number will be increased to 20,000 bales for the next clip. Storage has been provided at Albany for 25,000 bales.
Over 50 new storage buildings have been erected in capital cities since the outbreak of war, and it is significant that not one objection has been raised either inside or outside this Parliament to the expenditure incurred. Consequently, the Government is unable to understand the position which has arisen over the estab lishment of country storage buildings, or the argument that it is a waste of manpower, money and materials to proceed with their construction. The erection of country wool storage buildings is closely allied to the Government’s post-war plans for developing industries at the source of supply of raw materials.
As reference has been made to the opposition of Mr. J. W. Allan, secretary of the Wool-growers’ Council, to the Government’s plan, it is of interest to note that Mr. Allan has been described by Alderman Serisier, Mayor of Dubbo, as the mouthpiece of the vestedinterests in Sydney, not of the wool-growers either of the west or north-west of New South Wales. Alderman Serisier further claimed that the growers’ association does nor, represent 1 per cent, of the woolgrowers. Having provided the relevant details, I may add that the Government is convinced that its plan is in the national interest and is determined not to be deterred by. selfish interests from giving effect to it.
– Will the Minister lay on the table the report of the Central Wool Committee in relation to country wool appraisement centres?
– The Central Wool Committee has not approved all the centres.
-i do not want the Minister’s interpretation, but the report of the Central Wool Committee.
– I shall place the honorable senator’s request before the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– On the 11th Feb ruary I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government intended to zone potato-growing, and, if so, whether he would make a statement to the Senate on the subject. The Minister promised to make an early statement. Can he now supply any information to the Senate and, if not, will he undertake to make an early statement on the subject so that the growers of potatoes may know what is intended ?
– I shall endeavour to comply with the honorable senator’s request at an early date.
Transport of Soldiers on Leave.
– Has the Leader of the Senate yet given consideration to the request I made on the 10th February, that wounded and sick soldiers on leave be enabled to travel to Tasmania by air, instead of having to wait for passages on boats? Has he also given consideration to my further request that members of the forces when on leave be enabled whilst on the mainland to book a return passage by air from Tasmania?
– If the honorable senator will let me have further information on these matters I shall look into them.
– by leave - Recently Senator Clothier asked a series of questions relating to the proposal of the Australian Wheat Board to take over the importation and distribution of cornsacks. The position is that the Australian Wheat Board recently recommended to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that the department should, in the interests of growers, discharge certain functions now being carried out by the merchants. It estimated that by this means the larger part of £50,000 per annum would be saved on behalf of growers. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture concurred with the board’s view. Representatives of the jute interests have since asked that, they be given an opportunity to discuss the matter with the board. They have given an assurance that if such a conference be arranged, they will be prepared to offer to cut their costs to the bone and, thereby, satisfy the Government’s desire to effect a saving on behalf of producers. It would be unfair for me to elaborate upon this proposal in view of the forthcoming conference, except to say that the Government is determined to see that savings are effected. Senator Clothier asked whether representatives of jute merchants visited Canberra for the purpose of developing opposition to the Australian Wheat Board’s proposal. I regret that I am not in a position to make a definite statement on that matter.
– Were not the prices allowed to jute merchants fixed by the Prices Commissioner ?
– I ask the honorable senator to place that question on the notice-paper.
– I do not propose to do so, because I know that the prices were fixed by the Prices Commissioner.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
SenatorFRASER.- The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
SenatorFRASER,- On behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs I supply the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the Senate with particulars of the total receipts for the sale of fibre, tow and seed from flax for the harvest of 1941-42?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers : -
Receipts to date for the flax crop sown in 1941 are-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for War Organizationof Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry has supplied the following answers : -
.- Since I moved the motion standing in my name for the disallowance of the National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1943, No. 14, and made under the National Security Act 1939- 1940, the regulations have been amended in such a manner as to overcome the objection which I had to them. I accordingly move -
That Order of the Day No. 1 - National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition ) Regulations - Motion for disallowance, be discharged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
. -I have given notice of the following motion : -
That the National Security (Proprietary Medicines) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules No. 459 of 1942 and No. 3 of 1943, and made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, be disallowed.
In view of the fact that these regulations were disallowed by the House of Representatives last week, I desire to withdraw the notice of motion standing in my name.
Notice of motion withdrawn.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by SenatorFraser) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, together with the Income Tax Bill 1943, gives effect to the Government’s proposal to obtain an additional £40,000,000 of revenue for the financial year 1943-44 from income rax. The Government is of the opinion that the most equitable method of raising the additional revenue is by an increase of the individual income tax rates on the existing field and by an extension of thefield by reducing the present minimum of £156 upon which income tax is paid to a minimum of £104. This extension of the field will mainly affect single taxpayers and taxpayers without dependants! The proposed new rates commence at 6d. in the £1 and will reach a maximum of 18s. 6d. I shall deal with the new rates of tax in more detail when I move the second reading of the bill for the purpose of increasing the existing rates. An important feature of the bill now before the chamber is the proposal to alter the provisions relating to the collection of income tax by instalments from the salaries or wages of employees. These provisions which instituted the collection of income tax by instalments on the 1st January, 1941, have proved of great benefit to employee taxpayers in meeting their heavy taxation commitments necessitated by the nation’s war effort. The increased rates would greatly increase the periodical payments made by employees if the burden were still spread over a period of 40 weeks and the Government has decided to ease that burden by henceforth spreading the payments over a period of 52 weeks, thus ensuring an even distribution of the payments throughout the whole year. The principal act contains provisions empowering the Commissioner of Taxation to issue certificates of exemption forany period and to cancel those certificates. The Commissioner will take action to cancel all existing certificates of exemption on the 1st April, 1943, so that deductions for the new instalment year will commence on that date.
– I rise to a point of order. I call your attention. Mr. President, to Standing Order No.406.
– Standing Order No. 406 provides that -
Nosenator shall read hisspeech.
No honorable senator is entitled to read his speech, but honorable senators are entitled to refresh their memory by reference to their notes.
– By the 31st March, 1944, the tax will in most cases be due for payment, and all employees will have accumulated instalments for 52 weeks. Many employees have increased incomes owing to the establishment of new industries connected with the conductof the war, and to the amount of overtime which has had to be worked because of the shortage of man-po wer. With the end of the war, the activities willgradually return to normal, over time payments will decrease and employees’ incomes will be diminished, but out of that diminished income it will be. necessary for them to pay tax based upon the increased income of the last year of the war. To assist in the payment of that tax it is proposed to provide that employees will build up credits by using any excess instalment deductions made during the war years. A certificate of credit will be issued to the taxpayer whose excess instalments are held by the Commissioner, and the amount shown in the certificate will bear interest at the rate of 2 per cent, per annum during the time the excess instalments are held. It. is not proposed, however, that all excess instalments shall be held, but only so much as will be necessary to meet the following year’s assessment. The bill contains a specific provision that any excess instalments accumulated by a taxpayer to the 31st March, 1943, will not be held in the way described, but will be refunded to him. If, however, a taxpayer chooses to leave the excess with the Commissioner, he may do so and interest at 2 per cent, per annum will also be payable thereon.
– I rise to a point of order. I again call your attention, Mr. President, to Standing Order 406. The Minister is undoubtedly reading his speech.
– I have already stated that, in accordance with Standing Order No. 406, honorable senators are not allowed to read their speeches, but they are entitled, as a matter of practice, in this chamber, to consult their notes in order to refresh their memory. I ask honorable senators not to read their speeches.
– The opportunity provided by the introduction of this bill is being taken to implement a number of other decisions the Government has arrived at in regard to matters affecting income tax. One of these deals with the question of the exemption of pay and allowancesof members of the defence forces. It has been discovered that a proviso inserted in the law in order to prevent an undue exemption being given to members of the defence forces whowere on home service has had the unexpected effect of denying to members of the
Militia Force who transfer to the Australian Imperial Force the exemption in respect of pay and allowances earned by them in Australia prior to the transfer. I.i is now proposed to excise this provision from the act as the reason for its insertion has largely disappeared. Its removal will place all members of the military forces upon the same footing as regards the. exemption of their pay and allowances under section 23s of the 5 principal act. Under the present Jaw a member of the defence force is entitled ro a special deduction of £250 in arriving at his taxable income. Although the minimum income on which tax is to be imposed is to be reduced from £156 to £1.04 in the case of civilians, it, is not proposed to make any reduction of the special deduction enjoyed by members of the forces. At present the deduction diminishes until it finally disappears when the income of the member reaches £35 f>. It is proposed to extend the operation of this special deduction by varying the rate at which it diminishes so that it will disappear now at £587. This alteration will preserve substantially the margins between ranks after deduction of taxation. It is proposed also that this special deduction of £250 shall be extended to members of the mercantile marine serving in sea-going ships around the Australian coast and on the high seas. Ir will not, however, be allowed to personnel serving in harbour or river craft.
In view of the increased burden placed i! lion taxpayers with domestic responsibilities, the Govern ment has also decided to extend the concessional allowances so that some relief may be afforded to persons whose domestic responsibilities are of ;i kind that have not been recognized for taxation purposes up to the present. The bill grants a rebate of tax in respect of a dependent invalid child of the taxpayer over sixteen years of age, and a dependent daughter who is keeping house for a widowed father or mother. The rebate in respect of the invalid child will bc ba.’ed upon an amount of £75. If the invalid is in receipt of a pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. the allowance will be bR e’(l upon the excess of £75 over the amount of pension received during the income year. The test, of invalidity will be the same as that under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but there will be no means test. The rebate in the case of the daughterhousekeeper will be based on an amount of £100 subject to a maximum rebate of tax of £45. A taxpayer at present receives a rebate of tax in respect of dependent children under the age of sixteen years and the act provides that the maximum rebate for each child in excess of one shall be £5. In order to ensure that the maximum will be reached at approximately the same income as under the present rate of tax it is proposed to increase the £5 to £8.
The present act provides for a concession in respect of gifts to the Commonwealth Government for defence purposes, and it is proposed to extend the concession also to gifts to a State government for defence purposes. This will ensure that gifts made to the national emergency services organized by the States will enjoy the concession.
There is also a drafting amendment in the bill re-expressing the provisions of section 23a of the principal act. This section was inserted into the law last session to grant a special exemption in respect of the production of base metals and rare minerals required for war purposes. When the provision was enacted the Government had in contemplation that, the exemption should apply only in respect of the production of the base metals and rare minerals in short supply, or in danger of short supply, and which were urgently required for the production of war materials. The income tax regulations have since specified the particular metals and minerals to which the exemption shall apply. In many instances mining operations result in the production of the specified metals and minerals, ‘together with other metals or minerals not specified. The amendment is designed in such cases to confine the exemption, namely, one-fifth of the profit, to the profit directly attributable to the production of the specified metals and minerals.
The bill also contains a provision requiring taxpayers to keep their records in the English language, and to preserve such records for a period of seven years. In cases where no records have been kept by the taxpayer, or where the records have been destroyed, the Commissioner of Taxation is faced with great difficulty in ascertaining the true income of the taxpayer. Frequently it is suspected that the records have been destroyed for the purpose of preventing the taxpayer’s real income from being ascertained. The provision is designed ‘to assist the Commissioner in dealing with those cases. In any case in which the Commissioner notifies the taxpayer that the books and records need no longer be preserved, the taxpayer will be at liberty to dispose of them. If a company has gone into liquidation, and has been finally wound up, there will be no obligation to retain the records.
Important provisions contained in the bill relate to the registration of tax agents. The Royal Commission on Taxation which conducted its inquiries between 1932 and 1934, expressed the opinion that the registration of tax agents would be in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the department. The views of the. Royal Commission which were approved by the Government of the day, and with which the present Government agrees, were not implemented because at that time a system of registration was already in operation in two of the States and the institution of a Commonwealth scheme to register tax agents would have meant duplication. In due course two other States also enacted legislation requiring the registration of tax agents. With the suspension of the State acts due to the introduction of the uniform income tax legislation last year the State registration provisions are not now in operation and the establishment of a Commonwealth system of registration has become necessary. This part of the bill provides for the establishment of tax agents’ boards in each ‘State for the purpose of dealing with the applications for registration. A board may cancel the registration of any tax agent in certain circumstances which are set out in the bill. In New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, where a State board has already been constituted under the provisions of the State act, that State board will function as a Commonwealth board. Where State boards have not been constituted, it is proposed that the ‘Commonwealth board shall, consist of three members comprising the Accountant of the Commonwealth Sub-Treasury in the State, who shall be chairman of the board, the Commonwealth Chief Auditor for the State and a third -person who is to be appointed by the Governor-General, and who will, no doubt, be a person engaged professionally in connexion with income tax matters. In South Australia the Registrar of Companies has controlled the registering of. tax agents for several years past, and as it is desired to take ad van’tage of his experience there is a provision in the bill under which he may be appointed to the board instead of the Commonwealth Chief Auditor. Although the bill provides for the payment of a registration fee of fi it is not intended to be an annual registration. Once a person is registered by a board his registration shall remain effective until it, is cancelled. Also it is considered that, if a person is registered as a tax agent under a State law he should not be required to pay another fee for registration for Common wealth purposes, and this is provided for although he will still be required to make an application for registration to a Commonwealth board. The proposals will protect the taxpayer in that no person other than a registered tax agent will be able to charge a. fee for preparing income tax returns, and will protect the department in that on every income tax return prepared by a registered tax agent the agent’s certificate shall be signed by a person registered by the board.
The bill also contains a number of provisions essential for the effective working of the scheme, and it is not necessary to discuss them, in any detail at this stage. Any explanation in regard to the machinery provisions desired by honorable senators will be given in committee. T commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay ) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill fon motion by Senator Fraser.) read a first time.
.- I move -
Thai tuc bill bo now read a second time.
I have already informed honorable senators that the Government proposes to increase revenue from income tax for the financial year 1943-44 by £40,000,000. This bill proposes the new rates of tax which are to be imposed for that purpose. In addition to the amount to be obtained from this source in the ensuing financial year, the rates form an integral part of the Government’s plans to obtain additional revenue of £8,000,000 in the current financial year. This additional revenue will be obtained by varying the present system of instalment deductions which are now made from the income of wage and salary earners. The deductions to be made after the 1st April will bc based on the higher rates set out in the bill. I have already explained that the minimum income on which tax will bc imposed has been reduced from £156 to £104, so that all incomes in excess of the latter amount become liable to tax. The rate of tax commences at 6d. in the £1 and progressively increases until at the point where the income reaches £5.000, the average rate over the whole of the income is approximately 14s. l-£d. in the £1 in the case of income from personal exertion, and 15s. 4d. in the £1 in the case of income from property. Thereafter it continues to increase towards the maximum of 18s. 6d. in the £1. The Government has also decided to adopt a new principle with respect to rates of tax for property income. In recent years the rate of tax on property incomes has been 25 per cent, higher than the rate of tax on personal exertion incomes up to the point where the maximum rate is reached. With the heavy increase of tax now proposed, this differentiation would be unduly harsh on persons receiving very small amounts of property income where their total income is in what might be called the middle range.
In the bill the rates of tax on property income are the same as those on personal exertion income until the income reaches £200, thereafter the differentiation rises rapidly. At £300 it is 15 per cent, and at £500 it is 23 per cent. It reaches 25 per cent, at £1,000, and thereafter the differentiation diminishes. At £5,000 the differentiation is 9 per cent. To enable honorable senators to obtain a clear picture of the effect of the proposed rates I am circulating a schedule showing the effect of the Government’s proposals. It shows the present and the proposed amounts of the tax on stated incomes and the amount remaining after paying the tax. This information is given in respect of a taxpayer without dependants and three taxpayers with, respectively, one, two and three dependants. Owing to the high rates of tax which will apply after the passing of this bill, it was decided to examine the scale used for ascertaining the instalment deductions with a view to the elimination of anomalies which were known to exist.
The present scale of weekly income rises by 5s. steps up to a weekly income of £6, thereafter by 10s. steps up to a weekly income of £10, and thereafter by £1 steps to a weekly income of £30 10s. These wide steps gave rise to anomalies, where a small increase in the weekly income caused the taxpayer to move into a higher range in the scale. This sometimes resulted in an increase of his weekly tax deductions, equal to or greater than the increase of his weekly income. In order to overcome such anomalies, a new scale is to be introduced which will rise in steps of only 2s. 6d. over the whole scale up to a weekly income of £30 10s. Thereafter the steps will be of £1. The new scale will almost entirely eliminate the anomalies mentioned. A copy of a portion of the new scale is being circulated to honorable senators. I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Order of the Day, No. 1 - Financial Statement, dated the 11th February, 1943 - Motion to print paper - Resumption, of debate - discharged.
Strike of Textile Workers - CoalMining Industry - Liquor Trade - The Senate : Reading of Speeches ; Attendance of Senators - Adulterated Petrol - Australian Army: Status of Non-combatant Officers.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I shall supply to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) the information asked for by him when I drew his attention to, a statement by Mr. “ Jock “ Garden, liaison officer between the Minister for Labour and National Service and the trade unions, with regard to the strike of textile workers. I secured my information from an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald of Monday, the 8th March.
– Does the honorable senator accept that report as correct?
– I do, unless the Government can assure me that it is incorrect. The gentleman who is alleged to have made the statement has made no attempt to challenge the accuracy of the report. The report is as follows : -
Mr. Garden, addressing the meeting, said that he realized that conditions in factories were had, but the Minister had promised to improve them. The textile workers had done splendid work in providing clothing for the armed forces.
Nobody would deny that -
The strike had been worth while because, for the first time in the history of trade unionism, a judge had continued to hear the claims of the union while its members were on strike.
An unfair reference was made to the fact that the judge had decided, in order to meet the wishes of the Government, to deal with the matter before the court promptly. We know that the usual procedure adopted by the Arbitration Court is to decline to hear a case while the men or women concerned remain on strike, but in view of the need to have the strike called off as quickly as possible, because most of the workers concerned were engaged in the manufacture of clothing which is urgently required for the war effort, I consider that the judge is to be complimented on the fact that he did not take the usual course, and demand that the employees return to work before the case was determined. Under normal conditions strikers should be required to return to work before the hearing of their case, but it was most desirable that this unfortunate strike should be brought to an end. The strike continued for three weeks–
– That is not correct.
– I shall not argue about a matter of a few days.
– Tell the truth!
– The strike continued for a considerable time. Even three days would have been too long. Any loss of production in such an important industry is serious, and it is no wonder that the action of the strikers was roundly condemned by both the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister fur Supply and Shipping.
– And also by the union officials.
– That is so. The strike got completely out of hand.
– Why stir up the flames afresh?
– A dangerous precedent has been established. It is true that the strike has been called off and that those responsible for it have returned to work, but it ill becomes a paid officer of the Commonwealth to tell a meeting of strikers that their action was well worth while when two Ministers of the Crown had condemned the strike. The Minister for Supply and Shipping particularly was strong in his denunciation of the strikers because he knows the difficulty of supplying uniforms for the fighting services. The action of Mr. Garden is an incitement to workers in other industries to take similar action. No paid official of rue Government, especially one who is liaison officer between the Minister and industrial organizations, should attempt to justifya strike which has been condemned by his own Minister and say that it was worth while.
– That is not correct.
– What else can the statement that the strike was well worth while mean except that the action of the strikers was justified?
– The honorable senator has taken the words out of their context.
– I prefer to put my own interpretation on Mr. Garden’s statement. The action of a. paid official - the direct representative of the Minister for Labour and National Service - in telling the strikers that their action was justified, when his own Minister had condemned it, should not be allowed to pass unheeded.
– The honorable senator is proceeding on the assumption that certain words were used. He does ti’.t know that they were used.
– I can only be guided by reports in the daily press by persons who were present at the meeting. Some peace officers attended the meeting for the purpose of taking notes, but Mr. Garden, exercising an authority which he -ti icl not possess, asked them to leave. Apparently, he did not wish his words to be recorded.
– The honorable senator does not know that he asked the 1.(‘ace officers to leave, or, if he did, what reason he had for his action.
– I am prepared to accept the statement in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, which has not been denied by Mr. Garden or by any responsible authority. In its own interests, the Government should not allow one of its paid officers to attempt to undermine its authority without taking action.
I also draw attention to the serious position which has arisen on the coalfields. I was sorry to hear the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) say that I had raised this matter for party political purposes. The Minister could make a similar claim in regard to any matter raised in the ‘Senate; but in what other way can the representatives of the people draw attention to matters which they consider should be ventilated in the public interest? I know that the task confronting the Government is difficult, and that, in an effort to prevent stoppage1? on the coal-fields, special industrial machinery has been established to deal with disputes. The previous Government acted in. a similar way.
– “What does the honorable senator want the Government to do?
– I want it to bring these strikes to an end by enforcing ‘tile National Security Regulations that it has issued.
– The reason is that the Government prefers to get coal rather than put men in gaol.
– The Government is not getting the coal that it requires.
– More coal is being produced now than when the previous Government was in office.
– The report in the Sydney Morning Herald to which I have referred reads -
Eighteen mines in New South Wales were idle yesterday - the biggest number of stoppages on one day for several months.
Every mine on the South Coast was idle because miners at nine collieries stopped in sympathy with striking miners at Corrimal, while one mine in the west and seven pits on the northern field were also not working.
Total loss in production for the day was 17,000 tons, and the number of men involved totalled 5,075.
The secretary of the southern and western colliery proprietors, Mr. W. McNally.said last night that he was at a loss to know why the stoppages on the South Coast had taken place. He estimated that the nation would lose 11,000 tuns of coal for each day of idleness on the South Coast.
This mates interesting reading at present when the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is emphasizing the dangers threatening the country. A few days ago he pointed out that the enemy was mobilizing forces to the north of Australia, and he appealed to every man, both in the armed forces and in the factories, to do his best. It rnakes interesting reading, particularly for members of the Australian Imperial Force, who now have been fighting the battles of this country for several years. The report continues - ! On 3rd February the Corrimal management agreed to leave the place in dispute idle until all grievances wore determined by competent authorities “, said Mr. McNally.” The mcn rejected this proposal, and there was nothing left for the owners to settle. Corrimal has been on strike since 2nd February. The executive of the Miners Federation advised the rank and file that there was nothing in dispute. Nevertheless, aggregate meetings, comprising 500 out of 3,800 men on .the South Coast, decided to throw their mines idle.
– I am told that the honorable senator is messenger boy to Major De Groot.
– I shall not be silenced on a matter of this kind by cheap jibes and dirty remarks by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley). I can quite easily give the Minister some of his own medicine. He is the most incompetent dud in the Cabinet, and all his colleagues hold that opinion of him.
– The report continues -
The stoppages on the northern held were due largely to domestic disputes.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in reading that statement without first obtaining permission of the Senate to do so.
– The honorable senator has given the name and the date of the newspaper from which he is quoting, and he is quite in order in reading the extract.
– The report continues -
The lint of idle mines is: - Northern fieldRichmond Alain. 705 men. 2,400 tons; Pelton, 240 men, 800 tons; Millfield. 140 men, 700 tons: Maitland Main, 200 men, 800 tons; Aberdare Extended, 500 men, .1,4.00 .tons; North Wallarah, 100 men, 500 tons; Hebburn No. 2. 400 men. 1,300 tons. South Coast - Corrimal, 300 men.. SOO tons; Metropolitan, 240 mcn, 800 tons: Coalcliff, 300 men. 800 tons; South Clifton, 260 men. 700 tons; Excelsior, 245 men, 300 tons; Bulli. 300 men. 1.000 tons; South Bulli, 500 men, l,(i00 tons; Mr Keira, 360 men. lj 00 tons; Mr Kembla, 310 men, 1.000 .tons; Wongawilli, 330 men. 1.050 tons. Western field - -TyIdeal ev. 100 men, 400 tons.
I give the Government credit for the efforts it has made to increase the production of coal, particularly by the establishment of the Coal Tribunal and The appointment of Mr. Mighell as Coal Commissioner. In view of those efforts on its part, it should not tolerate hold-ups in the industry. As the result of strikes, much less coal was produced during February than had been the case for many months.
– Surely the honorable senator does not think that the Government approves of the hold-ups?
– No; but the Government stands idly by, and takes no action. Honorable senators opposite know that the Opposition will fully support the Government in any action it might take under the National Security Act to prevent strikes in any industry. We shall not attempt to make political capital out i,f any decision by the Government in that direction. We have already given evidence of our desire to support it in dealing with problems of this kind. We cannot allow strikes to continue at a time like the present, when it is essential that production should be at the maximum.
I now wish to refer to the rationing of beer. This problem is difficult; but nobody can view with satisfaction the conditions which have arisen as the result of the rationing of beer. To-day, in many metropolitan suburbs, hotels are open for only two days a week, because in that time they sell their total allowance of beer. Although they are supposed to be licensed for the convenience of the public, they are closed for the remainder of the week. Soldiers on leave and men engaged in bard work are entitled to their daily pint of beer. The Government should not permit the present conditions t< continue under which the beer made available is consumed in two or three days of a week. It would be far better to ration beer to each individual, that is, to follow the system of rationing applied to other products. Under present conditions, many men, after having a few glasses of beer, are compelled to in industry arc not able to obtain a drink «r the end of their day’s work. I am opposed to prohibition. Under present conditions, many nien, after having a few glasses of beer, are compelled to change to spirits. This is the cause of much of the present trouble. The chit system operated at army canteens under which each soldier is allowed so many drinks daily has not given rise to any trouble at all. The principle of that system could very easily he applied in respect of the sale of beer in hotels. The alcoholic content of beer should be reduced. If the Government considers that it is necessary to curtail the production of beer, it would be far better to ration it properly to ensure that what, is made available is more .equitably distributed among the customers of the hotels, and that men have the opportunity to obtain a drink at the conclusion of their day’s toil or soldiering.
– The subject . of the alcoholic content of beer has been under investigation.
– And is there no possibility of reducing the alcoholic content?
– I believe that the bulk of the trouble is caused by the fact that so much of the available liquor is gorged in a short period. One of the reasons for a certain amount of drunkenness has been that in many centres few amenities have been made available to offer attractions to the large i! umber of men who are on leave. In certain parts of Queensland, when leave is granted, there are large influxes of men of our own forces and of those of our allies into the towns, where they find very little to do. Not enough has been done by the Government for the entertainment of the troops as compared with the general public. Our total expenditure’ is between £600,000,000 and £700,000,000 per annum, a large proportion of which i3 spent for war purposes. It is deplorable that practically nothing is set aside out of this huge sum to provide recreation or amenities for the soldiers when, they come into town on leave. They have not sufficient to occupy themselves, and there are many ways in which we could spend additional sums to provide amusement and occupation for them.
– We are spending quite a lot of money carrying amenities to the camps.
– I do not deny it, but the Minister knows that men who have been in camp for some time, especially in far-distant areas, look forward to their leave of two days a month, or six days every three months, and come to the cities to spend it.
– And many of them do not look forward merely to a “ boozeup “.
– That is true, and much more money should be spent on amenities in the cities, where so much of these leave periods is spent, in order to overcome the difficulties with which we are now faced. This business of hotels opening for a few hours, and every body making a mad rush to the bars before the doors are closed, is a fruitful cause of so many men getting into trouble, which they would otherwise avoid. The hotels, which now close for three or four days a week and open for a couple of days at the week-end, are there for the convenience of the community generally, and it would be far better, instead of allowing the system to obtain of the “ first in “ getting as much as he can, and others who come in at the tail-end getting nothing, for the Government to face up to the position, and examine the possibility of introducing straight-out rationing of the individual, in the same way as has been done with tea, sugar and clothing.
. -I call the attention of honorable senators opposite to the fact that great publicity is given to industrial strikes in this country. I often think that if those who give such strong publicity to strikes were as eager and earnest in praising what the workers are doing towards the full and complete prosecution of the war to final victory, it would be better for all concerned. The newspapers of Australia give publicity at all times to strikes, but do not tell the people that in Great Britain which is the heart of the Empire, strikes are more frequent than in Australia, and involve relatively more men than here, and that the same ‘an be said of America. The Opposition and the capitalist press in Australia give prominence to every strike that takes place here, and exaggerate their importance. Every one of us deplores the fact that men, for certain reasons, leave their work, but, when the matter is thoroughly investigated, we may on occasion find that there is justification. I am not condoning strikes, but from long experience in industrial matters I know that employers can be at fault, and that, if national security regulations were put strictly into operation, many employers in this country would find themselves behind the bars. The Opposition, instead of making the position worse, should attempt at. all times to work in close association with the Government in order to bring about peace in industry, so that the war can be prosecuted even more vigorously than at present. This is just a hint to the Opposition to be generous on occasions and to give some meed of praise to the men who are doing the work of this country.
Senator Foil’s suggestion to reduce the alcoholic content of beer may be a good one, if it results in giving the people more and weaker beer, and thus making them full before they are drunk. That would be a splendid end to all our troubles in that direction.
I wish, on a calmer plane, to deal with the subject of honorable senators reading their speeches. A few weeks ago, Senator Amour called my attention, in my capacity of Deputy .President of the Senate, to the fact that Senator McLeay was reading his speech. I called Senator McLeay’s attention to the fact, and, when the honorable senator persisted, I also read extracts from the rulings of two former Presidents of the Senate, to the effect that an honorable senator is entitled to read from extensive notes. You, Mr. President, when your attention was drawn to-day to the fact that Senator Fraser was reading his speech, also ruled that an honorable senator could read from copious notes. The present position is awkward for any one who occupies the presidential chair, because Standing Order No. 406 explicitly lays it down that “ No senator shall read his speech “.
– Is the honorable senator moving dissent from the President’s ruling?
– No, I am simply speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, as I am quite entitled to do. In view of the fact that on certain occasions it is essential, and perhaps of vital importance, that an honorable senator in charge of a bill should read his speech, it is unfair for other honorable senators to call the attention of whoever i.-= in the chair to Standing Order No. 406. which is so explicit and adamant on that point. My view is that that standing order should be amended to provide tha’t the Senate may grant leave to an honorable senator to read his speech, should
*>.(-h a course be deemed necessary. It is ““ite impossible for a Minister who is not a technical expert to make an extem pore speech upon an involved measure such as the income tax legislation introduced into this chamber to-day.
– I did not read my speech ; I used copious notes.
– That may be so, but in my opinion the Minister did read his speech. A few years ago, when the then Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, was dealing with the State Electricity (Commission Bill, a very involved measure necessitating the use of absolutely precise terms, his attention was drawn by the Speaker to the fact that he was breaking a certain standing order by reading his speech. A few days later, Mr. Forgan .Smith asked the Clerk of the House, Mr. Dickson, to write to the Clerk of the British House of Commons, Sir Gilbert. Campion, for an opinion on the matter. It may be of interest to honorable senators to know what that gentleman had to say in reply.
– But surely the Senate is responsible for its own standing orders.
– That is quite true, but the Standing Orders of this Parliament are based on those of the Mother of Parliaments, the British House of Commons. In fact, our entire parliamentary system is based upon that operating in the Mother of Parliaments, and rulings by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate are based largely upon the work of Sir Erskine May. The Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) has suggested to me that the Standing Orders of this chamber were suspended by a motion moved by the Leader of Senate (Senator Collings) upon the introduction of the income tax legislation, but I point out that that, motion effected the suspension of only so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders a? would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay. Standing Order No. 406 was not affected. A portion of Sir Gilbert Campion’s reply to the Clerk of the Hon=e of Assembly in Queensland read -
T Iia vo road the pages of Hansard enclosed with your letter, and considered the situation which arose in connexion with the reading of the Prime Minister’s speech in the light, first of all. of the passage on page 303 of Erskine !/«)/. T may say. incidentally, that this passage will be modified in the new edition which I hope will be published in the course of the coming year.
Taking the rule as set out inErskine May at its face value, I think it will be generally agreed that it has two main objects -
1 ) it is intended to secure that speeches shall not be made by proxy - that they shall not be verbally inspired from outside. This is sufficiently indicated in the note on page 303 of May.
The second main object of the rule is to encourage debate. Set speeches make debate impossible. In this connexion, I might refer you to some remarks made by the present Speaker on his re-election in 1935. (House of Commons Debates - 1935-6 - 307 c. 7.)
The question then arises whether this rule is always obeyed literally, and secondly whether there has been any change in recent practice.
It is very difficult to tell from observation alone whether the practice of. reading speeches is increasing. Some members are cleverer in concealing their manuscript than others, and it is difficult to tell the difference between a speech which is read in extenso and one which is merely based on what is called “ copious notes “.
Senator Fraser’s speech today was read in extenso. The letter continues -
The Speaker does not generally intervene unless he is asked fora ruling by a member. The enforcement of the rule depends principally on the feeling of the House.
– Does the honorable senator know the feeling of the Senate at present?
– I have not the slightest regard for the feeling of the Senate at present. I have a job to do. The Senate has been sitting for only a couple of hours, and I am entitled to say what I have to say. Ministers speak frequently, but I speak very seldom. If honorable senators do not wish to hear what I have to say, they are at liberty to leave the chamber. At least when I speak, honorable senators know what I am talking about, because I speak to the point. Perhaps it is time some honorable senators spoke a little more often than has been the practice in the past, and some Ministers spoke a little less. However, I shall return to my quotation : -
The enforcement of the rule depends principally on the feeling of the House, and I think that in practice the following exceptions are generally recognized: -
1 ) Ministerial statements in opening the second reading of an important or a highly technical bill or when a statementis particularly important, as in the case of a statement on foreign affairs, are frequently read without objection being raised.
That is very sensible indeed. In matters of foreign affairs, a word may make all the difference when it is interpreted overseas, and I consider that the Standing Orders of this chamber should make it permissible for such a speech to be read. Sir Gilbert Campion’s letter continues : -
On the other hand, the House is likely to be impatient with members who read prepared speeches when they should be dealing with the arguments of previous speakers, as this is contrary to the whole purpose and meaning of debate.
That is quite true. If no restriction were imposed, we should have the spectacle of honorable senators opposite reading speeches prepared for them by outside authorities. We know that some honorable senators, particularly honorable senators opposite, have briefs for certain interests and that they come to the Senate with carefully prepared speeches, which they read.
– The honorable senator never speaks to anything else but a brief.
– I always speak to a brief, and that is my brief from the people of Queensland and of Australia. Senator Brand often reads his speeches, and it is gratifying to know that some honorable senators prepare their speeches carefully and make copious notes. It shows that they are industrious. The quotation continues -
Perhaps I may summarize the result of what I have written above by saying that the rule, as laid down in May, is applied in the spirit rather than in the letter, that exceptions are allowed when they are not inconsistent with real debate, and that perhaps in the present century the rule has been applied progressively with slightly greater latitude.
Let me add in conclusion that Sir Horace Dawkins resigned last summer, and that I am replying to your letter as his successor. I hope my reply may give you the information you want and that you will not hesitate to consult me on any future occasion.
– That does not square with the honorable senator’s action in the chair several days ago.
– After being a member of this chamber for eleven years, I have come to realize that standing orders are necessary. At first I thought that some of them were unjustified, but I have come to the conclusion that standing orders are required, and must be obeyed, in order that the business of the Senate may be conducted with proper decorum, with all possible speed, and with fairness to all honorable senators. The Standing Orders have been developed over the years as the result of the experience of honorable senators in this chamber. Senator Amour recently called my attention to the breach of a particular standing order when I was in occupation of the chair in this chamber. It is my duty, when in the chair, to sec that the ‘Standing Orders are observed. To the ‘best of my belief the action I took on that occasion was right. My attention was called to the fact that a standing order was being transgressed. I informed the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that he was not in order, but he continued to disregard the direction of the Chair. Does Senator Gibson suggest that I should allow an honorable senator wilfully to disobey the Chair? In my opinion, a new standing order should be issued requiring the consent of the Senate to b” obtained to the reading of a- speech by an honorable senator, because, on occasions, it is essential for the purpose of having all necessary facts placed before the chamber for speeches to be carefully prepared and read.
– I believe that saboteurs are at work in Australia and their operations affect the supply of a commodity that is vital to the war effort. I refer to petrol used for military and air force purposes. There should be a public investigation of this matter, because it is reported that drums of ordinary petrol, and high octane spirit used in aeroplane engines, have been tampered with. An inspection of 7,989 drums of motor spirit and of 1,354 drums of 90 per cent, octane spirit showed that 33 per cent, of the drums of motor spirit and 3.3 per cent. of the drums of octane spirit contained water. The water was placed in the drums when they were filled at the works of an oil company or the drums were interfered with where they were stored, the petrol being removed and replaced by water in order to make up the deficiency. As a result of the inspection it was revealed that 520 gallons of petrol had been removed. Motor drivers were forced to stop in the main street of an important country town and drain the tanks of their motor vehicles, because of the presence of water. If the guard in the area where the petrol is stored is insufficient I advise the Government to have it increased. The petrol supply should be fully protected because it is a vitally necessary commodity. If military forces had to be transported suddenly from one area to another for the defence of this nation, and the transport arrangements were interfered with because water had been added to the petrol, the results might be disastrous. I urge the Government to make an investigation of this matter immediately. If there are saboteurs in our midst no penalty would be too severe for them. They should be placed against a wall and confronted by a firing squad, if found guilty of an act which interfered with the work of transporting troops. When this matter was reported to me I was most indignant to think that, in the fourth year of the war, there are people in Australia who are prepared to sabotage our war operations. Every effort should be made to discover who is responsible for the presence of water in the petrol drums to which I have referred.
Among the returned troops now in Australia are many who have served in the Middle East. Some of them fought in the first Libyan campaign. They also served in Greece and Crete and in other campaigns. When they returned to Australia they were controlled by officers who had never handled a rifle and who had never done a day’s training during this war, and who, prior to the war, had been clerks and messenger boys. Officers of this kind, who work at the Victoria Barracks in Melbourne and Sydney as pay officers and liaison officers, should wear some badge to show the nature of the work in which they are engaged, as do munitions workers and those employed on wharves, but they should not have a uniform. It is a standing disgrace that airmen who, after being trained in Australia, went to Canada in connexion with the Empire Air Training Scheme, and subsequently participated in operations over Great Britain, Germany and France, took part, in action against German warships in the English Channel, and on return to Australia served in the New Guinea area and helped to destroy the Japanese naval force and convoy in the Bismarck Sea, are now required to salute some squadron-leader or wing-commander who is no more than a clerk. While such persons are allowed to masquerade as soldiers or airmen they detract from the achievements of the gallant lads who have actually done the fighting. Unless men are likely to engage in actual combat they should not be dressed in the uniform of the services. It has been suggested than an observer who has had one thousand, hours’ .flying experience, during every moment, of which lie risked his life, might be given a commission as a flight lieutenant, yet these “ flash “ men, who have never done an hour’s flying, are given high rank! If Australia wishes to be regarded as a democracy it is time that such a system was discontinued. In this Parliament we have men sitting among us dressed in the uniform of the services. That is entirely wrong. These men are not soldiers, and it is an insult to our intelligence that they should appear here in uniform. When a Minister deputes someone to undertake work for him he does not think that it is necessary to dress his representative in a special uniform. Instead, he supplies him with credentials, which that representative presents to those with whom he has business. That is sufficient. The boys who have returned from battle areas resent, the practice of dressing clerks and messengers in the uniform ot the services. I have met many returned men in various parts of Australia, and wherever I went I found the same resentment. The time has arrived when the Government should discontinue the issue of uniforms to these office workers, and, instead, supply them with badges, which they may wear on the lapels of their coats, indicating that they are engaged on war work of some kind. In addition, they could, if thought desirable, be supplied with documents indicating their status, such as chief clerk, clerk, and so on. They should not be entitled to the rank of colonel, Wei tenant-colonel, major, captain, lieutenant, and so on, when actually they are only clerks or messengers. When Lieutenant Packer was taken out of the armoured section of the Army his uniform was taken from him. If these men are entitled to the uniform of the service?, why is not Mr. Theodore, the DirectorGeneral of Allied Works, or the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) also in uniform? The Australian people are asking these questions. They believe that, the present, practice is bringing discredit on the fighting forces. When in the streets of our cities they see a man in the uniform of the Royal Australian Air Force, they do not know whether he has been bombing Germans, Italians or Japanese, or is a clerk in Air Force House. The result is that the uniform of the forces is not given that respect which the achievements of bur gallant lads justifies. The present practice is a. disgrace to those responsible for ir. I urge the Government not to allow clerks mid messengers to masquerade as soldiers and airmen.
– I assure the Senat that when I referred earlier to the practice of reading speeches, I did so in a desire to be helpful. It is ridiculous that in this matter the Senate should be subject to the opinion of the occupant of the Chair at any particular time. A few days ago attention was drawn to the action of a member of the Senate in reading his speech. There can be no doubt that he was reading it, but the DeputyPresident at the time merely warned the speaker that he was not entitled to read his speech, and told, him that he must desist. When I directed attention to this matter this afternoon, Mr. President replied that an honorable senator was entitled to have copious notes. The honorable senator then addressing the Senate continued to read his speech. In this matter we appear to be governed, not by a definite standing order, but by the opinion of the occupant of the
Chair at the time. This afternoon an opinion by Sir Gilbert Campion, the Clerk of the British House of Commons n as read, but I submit that in this matter we are governed, not by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, but by the Standing Orders of the Australian Senate. A practice which may be suitable to the House of Commons may not meet the situation here. My purpose in calling attention to this matter is that the position be made clear; we should know exactly what is allowed, and what is not allowed. Any unbiased person would have come to the conclusion that whilst an Opposition senator was prevented from reading his speech, another honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber was allowed to continue to read his speech. No honorable senator can deny that thi: afternoon the Minister continued to read his speech in spite of the President’s ruling.
– Ministers supply copies of their second-reading speeches in typescript because honorable senators have asked that they be supplied.
– I am aware that that is the practice, but I now voice my protest, because I want the matter clarified. For that purpose the Standing Orders Committee should review Standing Order No. 406, and enable us to know exactly where we stand. The same treatment should be meted out to every honorable senator, regardless of the opinion of the occupant of the chair.
– Senator Foll dealt with three subjects: First, a statement alleged to have been made by Mr. Garden at a meeting of employees in the textile industry who are on strike; secondly, hold-ups in the coal-mining industry; and, thirdly, the rationing of beer. Following an interjection by me, he said that I was the most incompetent “ dud “ in the Cabinet. I regard such a remark as a compliment coming from the honorable senator. I have not yet gained the honorable senator’s reputation for being the most travelled tourist, at the expense of the country, included in any cabinet. Neither have T won such, fame as has the honorable senator because he once sat on a golden throne in an eastern palace with a pot of beer in one hand, and a plate of peanuts in the other.
I point out that Mr. Garden is liaison officer between the Department of Labour and National Service and the trade unions. He has done very good work in that capacity in preventing strikes. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper report which the honorable senator cited. Perhaps it is correct. But, at least, Mr. Garden should have been given an opportunity to say whether that report of his remarks is correct. It is cowardly for any honorable senator, under parliamentary privilege, to slander, or injure, any person.
– I merely quoted a statement in a press report.
– The honorable senator did not concern himself about giving Mr. Garden an opportunity to deny, or verify, the accuracy of that report. Very, often, the press places an interpretation on statements made at public meetings which is not intended by the person making the statements. I do not say that that is the case in this instance; but it may be. Mr. Garden went out of his way to attend that meeting. It was held on a Sunday afternoon. His one object was to prevent the strike from continuing. The honorable senator has not made any contribution to that objective by his remarks this afternoon. Mr. Garden might have made a casual statement along the lines of the remarks attributed to him; but we can be sure that his sole objective was to persuade the textile workers to return to work. In his official capacity he would be desirous of attaining that objective. I have no doubt that the honorable senator seized on that statement, regardless of whether the press report was accurate or not, simply for the purpose of making political capital out of it.
Judging by the honorable senator’s remarks regarding recent hold-ups in the coal-mining industry, one would think that the Government approved of such hold-ups. When the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister, not 5,000, but 10,000 coal-miners were on strike for some weeks; but the right honorable gentleman did not exercise his powers under the National Security Act to make the miners return to work. On the contrary, he hurried to the coal-fields and pleaded with the men to return to work. H’1 followed that course because he realized, as all of us realize, that no government can get miners to produce coal by putting them in gaol. Perhaps Senator Foll will explain why the Menzies Government did not use its powers under the National Security Act in that instance. The attempts of some honorable senators opposite to give publicity to hold-ups in industry purely for the purpose of political propaganda do not assist the war effort. The .Government would be only roo ready to consider any proposals which the honorable senator could suggest for the prevention of strikes. However, no honorable senator who asks ambiguous questions on such matters, simply with a view to giving them as much publicity as possible, does a service to the country. Particularly does such action ill become an honorable senator who parades in uniform.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who, unfortunately, is absent owing to illness, could answer many of the points raised by the honorable senator with regard to the rationing of beer. To me, it seems to be only natural that, hotels should close after they have sold out of beer.
– I should sooner see more beer brewed than that men should be forced to drink spirituous liquors. My complaint is that many people who are entitled to obtain a drink after knocking off work cannot obtain any beer because others have .been served with quantities far in excess of their fair share.
– Would the honorji. bie senator provide them with coupons?
– Why not? The suggestion is worth considering. Our canteens are run on the coupon system.
– It would be difficult to apply the coupon system to the whole community. In all seriousness, I suggest that it does not promote the welfare of Australia or advance its war effort to give excessive publicity to strikes or other industrial troubles. I agree with Senator Brown with regard to the over-publicity given to the strikes that do occur in Australia. The honorable senator was quite correct in what he said about the number of strikes that take place in Great Britain. Many more occur there in proportion to population than i 11 Australia, and the danger to the war effort is even greater. Figures werequoted in the House of Representatives only last week which I intend to have produced here within the next few days, in order to prove to the public that despite the stoppages that have taken place in the coal-mining industry this Government is getting better production results than previous governments. They show that our production has been infinitely greater during the last twelve months than in the preceding twelve months, despite all the industrial upheaval and trouble, proving conclusively that. the men, when, they are working, are producing to a greater degree than formerly, even if stoppages have taken place.
.- -You, Mr. Deputy President, in another capacity, dealt this afternoon with an old friend in Standing Order No. 406. It has been in my mind’ for some years that that standing order requires a certain amount of modification or amendment. The extracts which you read from May and from a letter of Sir Gilbert Campion, the Clerk of the British House of Commons, illustrate the reasons why that standing order was adopted. I realize the difficulty that must be felt by a Minister who has to handle, not a bill relating to the work of his own department, but one prepared by another department, which he has to introduce in this chamber as the representative of the Minister immediately concerned with it. I occasionally found myself, as a Minister,, most embarrassed by the situation which prevailed, and, although I never accepted the responsibility of delivering a speech without going through it myself and interlining and interlarding it as I wished, yet it, was open to any honorable senator to take the objection that I was reading it. It was certainly an embarrassment to me, and I do not think that any Minister should be so embarrassed, especially when he is dealing, as he may well be, with a most intricate subject. The subject of the second-reading speech to which exception was taken this afternoon is a ease in point. Others no doubt of an even more difficult character will arise. I suggest, therefore, that you, Mr. Deputy President, should communicate to Mr. President, who is chairman of the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate, my suggestion that the standing order in question should bc reviewed by the committee with a view to its modification or amendment. I have one or two suggestions to make in that direction, one of which is that after the words “ No senator shall read his speech “ the words “ without the consent of the Senate” be added. That would maintain all the safeguards to which May refers, and at the same time leave the matter in the hands of the Senate, thereby eliminating some points of exception which my colleague and namesake, Senator James McLachlan, took to the method’ that has so far been adopted. It is physically and mentally impossible for a Minister in the Senate handling a bill which has come from a Minister in the House of Representatives, to deal with the subject without the most copious notes. In fact, it is thought preferable in many cases that he should have before him the exact text of what he is going to say. Such a practice facilitates the work of the Senate, because, when complicated bills are introduced, the Leader of the Senate has been good enough to arrange for copies df the Minister’s speech to be circulated, which certainly helps in the conduct of business. I hope that you, Mr. Deputy President, will convey to Mr. President as chairman of the Standing Orders Committee the views expressed here this afternoon, including my suggestion that the Standing Orders Committee should take into consideration the modification or amendment of Standing Order No. 406 to give the Senate power to allow a senator to read his speech, because there are behind that standing order principles which I think you recognize, and which make it very important that it should be retained. A Minister could ask for leave on any occasion on which he desired to read his speech, and leave could also be asked for by any other honorable senator who is so tongue-tied, as it were, that he prefers to put his thoughts on to paper. A number of people express their thoughts much better by committing them to paper, which gives them time to reflect on the exact value of every word they use. I am sure that, if the standing order is altered in the way I suggest, it will lead to an improvement in the practice and avoid the little half-joking, halffserions efforts that are now made to stop honorable senators, whoever they may be, from reading their speeches.
– During Senator Poll’s remarks on the recent strike in the textile industry in Sydney, I understood him to say that Judge O’Mara had heard the case whilst the strike was in progress.
– I stated that Mr. Garden had said that the point had been gained by the judge hearing the case whilst the strike. was in progress.
– I understood from the honorable senator’s remarks that the case was so heard by the judge. If that be correct, I consider that the judge has done the most proper and effective thing that could be done in the circumstances. If in the future the judges step in immediately they are asked to do so, strikes will not last very long. I have had considerable experience in dealing with strikes. We had a disputes committee, representing the Trades and Labour Council in Melbourne, and the policy which we laid down for ourselves was that, as soon as a strike took place, or before it took place, we opened up negotiations with the employers and, if necessary, with the representatives of the Arbitration Court, with the result that in many cases we were able to avert a strike or settle, it within a few days. When a judge takes up the arbitrary, attitude that he will not have anything to do with a dispute whilst the men are on strike, the only result in many cases is to prolong the strike, to the detriment of every body concerned. If Judge O’Mara has established a precedent in the direction which I have indicated, it is much to his credit. We all know that most strikes have their origin in an arbitrary act on the part of either the employers or some of the men. Whoever is at fault, the sooner one can open up negotiations and keep them in progress, the more one does towards expediting a settlement. Reference has been made to the coal miners. My experience suggests to me that it must have been known previously that the miners were likely to take up the attitude which has been taken up. If it were known, and steps were taken immediately to open up negotiations, either to prevent the strike taking place or to end it as quickly as possible, by the representatives of the workers on the one hand and of the employers on the other, together with representatives of the Arbitration Court if so desired, the position complained of to-day would possibly never have arisen.
– Some of the disputes are only inter-union disputes; the employers are not affected.
– That may be; but whatever may be the cause of a dispute, the essential thing is to tackle it immediately. Judge O’Mara has established a precedent which I consider to be most desirable, and which, if followed by other judges and conciliation commissioners, would have an extremely beneficial effect. With regard to the Department of Aircraft Production, as soon as I hear that a dispute may arise, I send someone to the spot immediately to interview the persons concerned, and, on that basis, we have been able to operate satisfactorily - much more satisfactorily than would have been the case had I waited for disputes to harden and irreconcilable differences to develop in- olving arbitrary demands by both employers and employees. The practice that has been followed by the Trades and Labour Council for years has been to get the parties concerned together as soon as possible and argue the trouble im personally and dispassionately. . Neither party gets all that it wants, but usually n basis of agreement can be arrived at. If a dispute be allowed to develop an opportunity for making political capital i.: offered, with the result that the illfeeling that we are so anxious to avoid becomes intensified and, instead of a strike being settled within a few hours or a few days, it drags on for months, and every one loses, particularly in time of war. Whatever differences we may have on political questions, we are all anxious to do all that we possibly can to keep industry running smoothly so that war production may be increased and organized on a more efficient and economic basis. We are anxious to do that because we are faced with a common danger. That is why I have risen to speak this afternoon. I repeat that Judge O’Mara has established a very desirable precedent, and I trust that in future other judges dealing with similar matters will endeavour to follow his excellent example. They could do that without any loss of prestige or dignity, and with great advantage to our war effort because if that were done few strikes would occur.
– I had not intended to speak this afternoon had it not been for the remarks made by Senator Foll in connexion with the liquor shortage, and by Senator Amour on the question of the adulteration of petrol. I entirely agree with what Senator Amour said, and unless the matter is investigated in the near future, I shall have something more to say about it. I agree with much of what Senator Foll said in regard to the liquor shortage, but there are several phases of this matter to which I would like to draw attention. It is well known that certain hotels are never short of beer - ‘brewery-managed hotels and hotels which are heavily mortgaged to the breweries. It is also well known that certain officers’ canteens on stations which by no means could be said to be in operational areas, are never short of liquor. Until restrictions were imposed, members of the Australian Women’s Army Service were to be found, serving liquor to officers in those canteens until 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock in the morning. Now that the use of members of the Australian Women’s Army Service in that way has been prohibited, male stewards are employed to carry liquor from bars to the billiard rooms and reading rooms, and drinking until the early hours of the morning continues. There is no sign of a shortage. Surely it is only reasonable t,-j ask that if supplies of beer and spirits to workers are to be restricted, similar restrictions should be placed upon the supplies of liquor to officers’ canteens.
Another point that has not been mentioned is the price of liquor, which to-day is a public disgrace. The entire responsibility rests with the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland. To my know- ledge, there is only one representative of the Prices Commissioner engaged on the policing of liquor prices in New South Wales. Certain hotels close their public bar, but continue to serve liquor in the saloon bar, where increased prices must bo paid. On some premises, both the saloon and public bars are closed, and customers are sent to the lounge, where even higher prices rule. In som,e hotel lounges in Sydney bottled beer is sold for as much as 4s. a bottle. The same thing applies to the metropolitan area in Melbourne, where the prices range from 2s. 6d. a bottle to 5s. a bottle. Another practice which has developed amongst certain vendors is that of purchasing empty labelled Scotch whisky bottles at 5s. each, and filling them with an inferior product, which is sold at £2 or £3 a bottle. That is going on every day. I cannot understand why the Prices Commissioner has refused to fix the price of liquor retailed in hotel lounges. Whether he has in his employ some “nitwits” associated with the breweries is another question; they reay be all friends working together. In my opinion bottled beer should not be sold.
I visited the Bondi Hotel recently and saw 24 men serving behind one bar and eighteen women serving behind another. The three lounges in the hotel were occupied by a crowd thicker than that seen in a. bookmaker’s betting ring on a Melbourne Cup Day, and two-thirds of the people were women. I visited the same hotel on the next day and saw three large lorries with baskets five tiers high containing empty bottles. This matter should occupy the attention of those in control of the liquor trade. Either somebody should be appointed to take full control of the trade, or the industry should be nationalized. We have already read in the press that, despite the supposed restrictions of production, the quantity of beer manufactured this year will be il, 000,000 gallons greater than last year.
– The number of consumers in Australia has largely increased.
– But the declared policy was to restrict the production of liquor. I am aware that much of the beer may be supplied to the fighting forces, and I also understand that consign ments of beer despatched . by certain boats to troops serving overseas, consisted, of bottles containing only one pint instead of the stipulated quantity. Later that matter may be investigated. Let us consider the balance-sheet? of the various breweries. The amalgamated breweries in Melbourne, after providing for taxation and other charges, made a profit for dividend purposes, according to their last balance-sheet, of 26 per cent. Tooth and Company Limited, after providing for all commitments, paid a dividend of 12 per cent. Foster Brewing Company Limited, in Victoria, has reduced its dividend from 13 per cent, to 12J per cent. The following paragraph appeared to-day in the Sydney Morning Herald: -
Profit of £14,124 earned by Foster Brewing Company Limited for the year ended 31st January, compares with £15.631 for 1940-41. Dividend lias been cut from 13 per cent, to 12£ per cent., and requires £14,112. Carry forward is £11,121,- against £1.1,10!) brought forward. Income received from -Carlton and United Breweries amounted to £14,014 (lust vear £15,572).
I have referred to the operations of Tooth and Company Limited to show the racket that is going on. This should be remembered when the taxation proposals of the Government are being considered.
I shall now refer to the high prices charged for liquor. A few weeks ago I met a couple of military officers in front of Tattersalls Hotel in Pitt-street, Sydney, and we went into the Marble Bar for a drink. I called for beer, but it was not available, although the hotel “taff was carrying bottled beer to the dining-room. I next asked for a glass of wine and my two companions also ‘ A wine. The barmaid took a 1-oz. wh measure and poured out an ounce ot wine. 1. asked her why that was done, and she replied that the manager had told her to sell wine only by the whisky measure. The assistant manager came on the scene and said to the barmaid, “Do as you are told”. On the following Monday I was called on the telephone, and asked to visit the same hotel. The same two officers were present, and with them was Mr. Lewis, of Tooth and Company Limited. No introductions were then made, and Mr. Lewis said that the barmaid was inexperienced. The manager, who was also present, stated that he had not instructed the barmaid to measure wine in a whisky measure. I said that I had known the barmaid for fourteen years, and was prepared to believe her rather than the manager. The manager, when I was introduced to him, said, “ £ hope to heaven you will not say anything about this “. I replied, “ No, provided I do not discover the same practice elsewhere “. During the week before last, in Sydney, I met three returned soldiers and their wives. A civilian came along when we were standing in Elizabethstreet. The civilian knew them and invited us to have a drink. We went into the lounge of the Carlton Hotel and each had a glass of beer. The hour was 3 p.m. and the eight glasses of beer cost ls. 3d. each. That is something which the Prices Commissioner should investigate, if there is any body with sufficient “guts” to insist on tackling the problem.
– What size were the glasses !
– They were 8-oz. glasses. T visited another hotel with a man from the country whom I have known for about fifteen years. His wife became ill in the street and asked to be given some spirits. I escorted them to an hotel and we were charged ls. fid. for a gin, ls. 6d. for h whisky, and ls. for a beer. Something ought to be done to ensure to the public more regular supplies of liquor than in the past and to restrict the bottle trade. The control of the trade is left to officials who do not mix with the public, but who listen to the stories put forward by the representatives of the breweries.
Adulterated petrol referred to by Senator Amour is a matter of common talk. The Government should investigate whether the drums supplied to the oil company are made and paid for in the first place by the Government itself, and whether the Government is chargedfor them again when petrol has been placed in them. Inquiries should be made whether in the ordering of huge supplies of petrol, such as 15,000,000 or 20,000,000 gallons, four or five documents are filled in by men who are supposed to order and receive the petrol. The Government should find out whether the petrol is ever r47’i received, and, as far as Queensland is concerned, whether the files relating to the motor spirit for the fighting forces are missing.
– Reference has been made to the need for amended standing orders. I should like to see a standing order to deal with the attendance of honorable senators in the chamber when the Senate is sitting. As one who frequently has to speak to empty benches, I point out that at 5 o’clock this afternoon, when the Senate had .been sitting for only two hours, following an adjournment of ten days, there were only nine senators in the chamber. There should be a standing order to compel honorable senators to pay some attention to their duties in the chamber. It is wrong for honorable senators to leave the chamber in a body when another honorable senator is addressing the Senate. There should be a provision requiring a quorum of senators to bc present.
– The Standing Orders provide that twelve honorable senators shall constitute a quorum.
– At one stage this afternoon only nine senators were in their places. Frequently I have to speak to empty benches on matters of national importance.
– The Standing Orders provide that any honorable senator is entitled to draw attention to the fact that a quorum is not present.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In a reference by the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) to a visit by me to the Netherlands East Indies when I was a Minister in a previous Government, the Minister said that I had travelled at the expense of the Government. As this matter has been referred to on several occasions, I again point out that when I visited the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya and Singapore, I did so as Minister for Information in a former Administration and as leader of a delegation representing the Australian press, which had been invited by the Governments of those countries to visit their territories.
– I made a mistake when I said that the honorable senator visited those countries at the expense of the Commonwealth Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented . -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 8 of 1943 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia; and Australasian Society of Engineers.
No. 9 of 1943 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Customs Act - Proclamation prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of - Drugs and Chemicals, viz. - Citronella ; Eucalyptol ; Phellandrene ; Piper i tone; Terpineol (dated 3rd March, 1943).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Bathurst, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations - Orders -
National Security (Emergency Control)
Regulations - Order - Military powers during emergency.
National Security (Emergency Supplies)
Regulations - Rules - Queensland.
National Security (General) Regulations -
Prohibiting work on land (3).
Registration of small vessels.
Taking possession of land,&c. (366).
Use of land (2).
Orders by State Premiers - New South .
Wales (2), Queensland (3) and Victoria (3).
National Security (Land Transport) Regulations - Orders - Victoria Nos. 9-10.
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders -
Protected undertakings (113).
Registration of Nurses.
Regulation of engagement of em ployees - Exemptions.
National Security (Mobilization of Electricity Supply) Regulations - Order - Control of Electricity.
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Orders -
Japanese Prisoners of War Correspondence.
Prisoners of War Camp (3).
Prisoners of War (Japanese Officers’ Pay) .
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders by State Premier - Queensland (2).
National Security (Vegetable Seeds) Regulations - Notice - Returns of Vegetable Seeds.
National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations-
Orders - Public Authorities (4).
War Damage Commission - Report for period 23rd February, 1942, to 31st
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 30, 31, 37, 38, 39, 40.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 33, 34.
Wool - Report (abridged) of the Central Wool Committee for season 1941-42.
Women’s Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 41.
Senate adjourned at 5.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430309_senate_16_174/>.