20th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health ask his colleague to make available to members of the Parliament a copy nf the statements or submissions made by him to the recent medical congress at The Hague?
– I shall be pleased to bring to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, the question asked by the honorable senator.
– I preface a question to the Minister for’ Trade and Customs by stating that the stonework of the clock tower of the Sydney General Post Office, which was dismantled during the war, is stored at Maroubra, on ground owned by the Postmaster-General’s Department. Each stone is numbered and could be replaced at little cost and with the use of a small quantity of cement. Many questions have been addressed to the Postmaster-General about this matter, but he has refused to have the tower re-erected, on the ground that the provision of telephone service’s is more important. Will the Minister discuss with the Prime Minister the possibility of having the clock tower, which is an architectural landmark, re-erected before the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second to this country in February next?
– As requested by the . honorable senator, I shall be pleased to ‘ discuss this matter with my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and also with the Prime Minister.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following information in reply to the honorable . senator’s questions: -
– In view of the fact that many letters, containing rebate cheques sent out by the taxation authorities, go astray or are stolen, which causes great inconvenience and annoyance to taxpayers, will the Minister representing the Treasurer consider the advisability of despatching all such letters by registered mail?
– I ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper so that I may obtain an answer from my colleague, the Treasurer. At the same time, I put it to the honorable senator that many hundreds of thousands of commercial transactions are settled by cheques sent through the post, and it is not the usual procedure to send them by registered mail. However, I shall let the Treasurer speak for himself on the matter.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether his colleague has caused hundreds of tradesmen to be dismissed from departments under his control during the past six months? What action has the Minister taken to ensure that trade apprentices who had served a portion of their appren ticeship terms shall finish their training and become efficient journeymen ?
– I ask the honorable senator to put his question upon the notice-paper.I have no knowledge of the allegation that he has made. I am quite certain that the Minister concerned is sufficiently worldly wise to take any action that may be necessary to ensure the adequate training of apprentices and the maintenance of a flow of apprentices into the trades in which tradesmen are employed by the Australian Government.
– As Dr. Frances Moran, Regius Professor of Law, Trinity College, Dublin, who is now touring Australia, is the only woman professor of law to occupy a university chair established by Royal Charter, will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether the Government has arranged any function in Canberra in honour of this distinguished woman jurist ?
– I am happy to announce that at the request of a fellow Queenslander, Mrs. A. E. Axon, acting on behalf of the Australian Federation of University Women, Dr. Moran will be the guest of the Australian Government while she is visiting Canberra. The request that this distinguished visitor should be suitably honoured during her visit to Canberra was referred to the Prime Minister, who readily and with pleasure approved the arrangements.
– On the 22nd September, Senator Aylett asked the following question concerning the discontinuance of the payment of tuberculosis allowances to sufferers declared cured but unable to obtain employment for health reasons : -
Is it possible for such persons to appeal to any official body to settle a dispute between government and industrial doctors?
The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply : -
Tuberculosis allowances are payable only to sufferers who are infectious or in serious danger of becoming so. That is, they are payable only to sufferers who are a hazard to public health. Tuberculosis allowances are not payable to sufferers who are not such a hazard even although they may have been so impaired by tuberculosis as to make them temporary or permanent invalids. These people may, however, be entitled to invalid pensions or other social service benefits in common with people who are temporarily or permanently impaired by other diseases. The State Directors of Tuberculosis are the Commonwealth’s medical referees for tuberculosis allowances purposes. Any sufferer who has good grounds for believing that his tuberculosis allowance has been cancelled while he is still infectious or in serious danger of becoming so, may complain to the Director-General of Health, Canberra. The Director-General will make an impartial investigation and decide the matter in accordance with the facts.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether an advisory committee, composed of a representative of each State except Tasmania, has been established to advise the Minister for Health on matters relating to negotiations between representatives of medical benefits funds, industrial organizations, and the Department of Health, pursuant to the Government’s national health scheme? If so, will action be taken to include a representative of Tasmania on the committee?
– I shall be very pleased to direct the attention of the Minister for Health to the honorable senator’s representations and endeavour to obtain a considered reply for him at an early date.
– I wish to direct a question to you, Mr. President. On the 23rd September I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health an important question in connexion with prescriptions for age and invalid pensioners. As the Minister was unable to answer the question at the time, will you inform m-3 why the question was not placed on the notice-paper in the usual way? Will a record of the question and the answer be included in Hansard in due course?
– I inform the honorable senator that had written notice of the question been handed to the Clerk the question would have appeared on the notice-paper. However, both the question and the answer, when given, will appear in Hansard.
– I point out that the question to which Senator Ashley has referred was asked without notice. I did not request him to place the question on the notice-paper, but undertook to obtain a reply for him as soon as possible. The question that was asked by the honorable senator was as follows : -
Is it a fact that the friendly societies’ dispensaries are filling prescriptions for age and invalid pensioners for 4s. Cd., the same price that chemists are being paid, and that the chemists allege that the prescriptions cost them approximately 10s.? As the friendly societies’ dispensaries claim that they can make a profit on the prescriptions at 4s. (id., will the Minister give the Senate an assurance that before a now arrangement is made with the chemists and before any contract is entered into, full consideration will be given to the ability of the friendly societies’ dispensaries to make a profit on a prescription at 4s. (id. when the chemists claim that they cannot prepare it for less than 10s.?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
Prescriptions for pensioners are priced according to the type of medicament, such as mixtures, lotions, drop, &c, and the quantity prescribed. For each of these various types an a verage price per ounce or other appropriate quantity, is paid. Any comparison therefore, between the price paid to the chemist and the actual cost, can only be considered in regard to a particular prescription. However, it is a fact that the cost of a particular prescription could exceed the price paid by the Government and conversely that the price paid by the Government could exceed the price usually charged by the chemist. . As the question of profit or loss is one affecting both chemists and dispensaries alike, any proposal submitted by the chemists that would increase the cost nf benefits, will bo very carefully considered.
On the 22nd September, Senator Anderson asked the following question in connexion with Commonwealth-State relations in regard to the treatment of sufferers from tuberculosis: -
Is it a fact that the New South Wales Government is not conducting a proper chest survey, which is an essential part of the plan to combat this deadly killer? Is it true that the New South Wales Government is not providing proper hospitalization for sufferers from tuberculosis? If these are facts, will the Minister inform the New South Wales Government that unless it takes vigorous steps to implement the agreement in the way that: other States are doing, the Commonwealth will consider terminating the agreement and- itself undertake the task, in accordance with the . powers that it received by referendum?
The following reply has been furnished by the Minister for Health: -
It is a fact that the New South Wares Government is not itself carrying out extensive mass chest X-ray surveys. It has, however, commenced to do some of this work and is at present getting the stait and equipment together to enter the mass X-ray field upon a bigger scale. Although the State itself is not active upon an extensive scale, it is, in collaboration with the Commonwealth, sponsoring the activities of the Anti-Tuberculosis Association of New South Wales. This is a voluntary body and is at present conducting mass chest X-ray surveys of the congested areas of Sydney and suburbs upon the grand scale. The Anti-Tuberculosis Association was in the mass X-ray field before the State. It is a fact that, as in other States, there are not sufficient tuberculosis beds in New South Wales. The State is, however, endeavouring -to make this deficiency good. It has had projects approved by the Commonwealth which -will provide a further 744 beds. Some of these ;have already been provided and, as far as J am aware, the State is endeavouring to corn.plete the remaining projects as quickly as possible. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the Commonwealth to take over tuberculosis services in any State. These services are traditionally a State affair and the Commonwealth would be exposed to charges of overlapping and overcentralization if it attempted to take them over. Moreover, only the States have, in their own territories, the compulsory powers that are essential to a successful tuberculosis campaign.
On the 22nd September, Senator Critchley asked the following question : -
Is the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Health in a position to inform the Senate of the progress made in the negotiations, between the Minister and representatives of the chemists in respect of the dispute which has arisen over the charges for dispensing medicines and which has aroused wide-spread public interest in recent weeks?
The Minister for Health has informed me that he met the federal council of the Pharmaceutical Guild in Canberra on the 16th September. The outcome of that meeting was that the guild undertook to submit further proposals to the Minister for Health as soon as possible. These proposals have been received and are now being examined.
On the 24th September, Senator Cole asked the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services inform the Senate whether instructions have been given by the Social Services Department that when a pensioner becomes eligible and applies for the pension, a medical card shall be forwarded to him or her? Will the Minister ensure that such instruction is given so that pensioners get their medical cards without further application? Many pensioners have gone for long periods without medical cards because of ignorance of the regulations.
The pensioner medical service is administered by the Minister for Health, who has furnished the following reply: -
Consideration has been given to the automatic enrolment of all eligible pensioners in the pensioner medical service, but it has been found that automatic enrolment would not be a satisfactory basis for the conduct of the service. Some pensioners may not desire to be enrolled in the scheme. Others arc permanent inmates of State benevolent homes or institutions where free medical attention is provided. These persons do not need the benefits of the pensioner medical service. Arrangements have been made to ensure that a pensioner may apply for enrolment in the .pensioner medical service at the same time as lie applies for his pension. When the pension is granted a pensioner medical service entitlement card is forwarded to him. Four hundred and eightynine thousand pensioners had enrolled in the pensioner medical service at the 30th June last. This represents about per centum of all eligible pensioners.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health noticed in the daily press reports to the effect that chemists have fixed the 8th October as the dead-line date by which the Government must make up its mind in the dispute between them and the Government concerning free medicine for age pensioners? Are negotiations taking place, and is any progress being made? Does the Government propose to do anything to prevent the chemists from resorting to direct action?
– I have noticed press reports concerning the matter referred to by the honorable senator. I assure him that negotiations are taking place between the Minister for Health and the chemists. We all hope that a satisfactory solution will be reached.
– Since the Parliament reassembled, petitions have been presented by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber on behalf of superannuated officers praying that the Government relieve them of certain disabilities under which they are suffering particularly because of the inadequacy cif their superannuation benefit to meet inflated costs. Is the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to inform the Senate whether the Government has yet given consideration to those petitions and whether it will be pleased to grant them?
– I am confident that the Government will give full and earnest consideration to any representations that are made to it in a proper manner as these petitions have been presented to it. I am sure that the honorable senator will appreciate the fact that the affairs, or circumstances, of any one section of the community cannot be considered in isolation. The pattern of our economic life as it affects all sections of the community must be considered as a whole, as it is indivisible. The fullest consideration will he given to the petitions that have been presented to the Government on the matter .that the honorable senator has mentioned.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs read the report published in to-day’s press that yesterday the New South Wales Labour Government decided to introduce legislation to make provision for compulsory preference in employment to all unionists in that State as a step towards the introduction of compulsory unionism? When the precise terms of the projected legislation are made known, will he make a statement to the Senate as to the effect that that legislation will have on preference in employment to ex-service personnel which is the policy of this Government and is embodied in Commonwealth legislation? If it is found that there will virtually be no preference left to ex-servicemen in industry in New South Wales as a result of the Cahill Government’s projected legislation, is any means available to this Government to enable it to restore to ex-servicemen the preference which they now enjoy as a right ?
– I suggest that the honorable senator keep in mind the very important matter that he has just mentioned and raise it again should the projected legislation by the Nev? South Wales Labour Government come into force. In fairness to the Labour Government in Queensland, I point out that compulsory unionism has operated in that State for many years and that it has not worked to the disadvantage of either ex-servicemen, whose rights are fully preserved, or employers as a whole. Compulsory unionism in that State seems to have worked quite satisfactorily; and it has not the terrors for me that it might appear to have for some of my colleagues. Whether the projected legislation in New South Wales will he on the same lines as that which is in operation in Queensland, I do not know. However, I again suggest that the honorable senator should bear the matter in mind and raise it again in the circumstances that I have indicated.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping’ and Transport relating to statements which appeared in the Queensland, press during the Senate election campaign . which gave the impression that the Government has placed certain orders for’ ships with the firm of Walker BrothersLimited, of Maryborough. If it is a fact’ that the Government has placed such; orders with that company, are the shipsbeing built? If they are being built’,, does the Government intend to sell them to private enterprise in accordance with its policy?
– An order was given to Walker Brothers Limited, of Maryborough, for the building of two ships. What will be done with them upon their completion will be decided as a matter of government policy. I shall! be pleased to let Senator Brown know of the decision when it has been made-
– On the 24th September Senator Tangney asked me whether answers to questions upon notice asked in the Senate could he printed separately each week and despatched to all senators, as is done with questions upon notice asked in the House of Representatives. 1 then said that I would look into the matter and see whether her suggestion could with advantage be acted on. The reason why questions upon notice in the House of Representatives are printed separately and circulated among members of that House is that such questions are not asked orally in the chamber, and neither questions nor answers appear in the actual report of the proceedings of that House. They are published as “an addendum at the end of the report of that day. Members of the House of Representatives, other than the member who actually asks a question, have no knowledge of questions upon notice that are answered until they see the printed report. In the Senate questions upon notice are asked and answered in the chamber, so that all senators are aware of them, and they are incorporated in their proper sequence in the Hansard Senate record. To extract these questions from the rest of the record would cause considerable printing difficulties and added cost.
– On the 22nd
September, Senator Cole asked the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inquire fromhis colleague when it is proposed to erect the promised line foreman’s homo at Queenstown, Tasmania? At the present time the line foreman is living in a sub-standard home at Zeehan. When the nature of the weather experienced on the west coast of Tasmania is taken into consideration, I am sure that the Minister will agree that this state of affairs should not he allowed to continue.
The Postmaster-General has advised me as under : -
Endeavours are being made to purchase a residence for the line foreman at Queenstown and it is hoped they will be successful.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) No. (b) No. (c) No.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
National Airlines Commission to .pay rates on all premises it occupies to the local government bodies concerned?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished me with the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions : -
H.M.A.S. Horsham has been in reserve at Fremantle since 1945, and has not been in thu active employment of the Royal Australian Navy since that date. She is one of a group of unmodernized minesweepers which were retained for possible use in an emergency. Owing to the increasing size of the reserve fleet caused by ships being paid off as new ones are built and commissioned, it has been decided to dispose of certain of the older vessels for which maintenance personnel cannot be spared and which are surplus to those considered’ necessary for defence requirements. H.M.A.S. Horsham was undergoing her routine refit and docking when this decision was made and, as she was one of those for disposal, all work on her was stopped. The ship is in a seaworthy condition as far as watertightness is concerned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator SPOONER read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The primary purpose of this bill is to increase the amount of the statutory exemption from pay-roll tax from £1,040 per annum to £4,160 per annum or, in other words, four times the amount of the existing exemption. Hitherto the exemption has been at the rate of £20 a week, or £86 13s. 4d. a month. Those employers who pay wages in excess of £20 per week have been required to register for pay-roll tax purposes and to pay tax at the rate of 2-J per cent, on the excess of the wages over that figure. The tax is payable monthly. In each monthly return, the employer has been entitled to a deduction of £86 13s. 4d. on account of the statutory exemption. Where the payroll varies from month to month and the full amount of exemption is, therefore, not claimed in the monthly returns, the law provides for adjustment on an annual basis in order to ensure that the full statutory exemption is secured.
The present exemption of £1,040 per annum is the same amount as was provided at the inception of the tax in 1941. Since that time, rates of wages have increased to such an extent that many small employers have been brought within the scope of the tax by reason of that fact alone, and without any increase in the number of their employees. It appears, furthermore, that some of the smaller employers have found substantial difficulty in meeting their obligations under the law, because of inadequate office facilities and pressure of business operations generally.
In these circumstances, it has been decided to increase the annual exemption to £4,160 as from the 1st October, . 1953. When this amendment becomes law, registration of an employer for pay-roll tax purposes will be required only if he pays wages in excess of £80 a week. The monthly deduction for wages paid in each of the months of July, August and September, 1953, will be £86 13s. 4d., but will be raised to £346 13s. 4d. in respect of wages paid in October, 1953, and subsequent months. This means that the higher deduction will be allowable for the first time in the returns to be furnished early in November, 1953, in respect of ‘October wages. The annual adjustment will be made on the basis of £3,380 for the financial year 1953-54 instead of £1,040. The amount of £3,380 has been arrived at by taking the first three months at the old monthly allowance of £86 13s. 4d. and the remaining nine months at the new monthly rate of £346 13s. 4d. In later financial years, the annual adjustment will be based on the full rate of £4,160 per annum. At present, there are approximately 90,000 employers who are liable to pay this tax. It is expected that, as the result of the proposed increase in the statutory exemption, approximately 50,000 of these employers will cease to be liable for payroll tax.
Action is also being taken in this bill to amend the law to authorize exemption from pay-roll tax in respect of wastes paid by certain international authorities or organizations, namely, the Imperial War Graves Commission, Specialized Agencies of the United Nations, the South Pacific Commission and the United States Educa tional Foundation in Australia. In anticipation of such an amendment, tax has not been collected from these bodies, and the bill will ratify this arrangement.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 24th September (vide page 271), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill provides for the abolition of Commonwealth tax on all entertainments held after next Thursday, the 1st October, and makes provision for matters incidental to that main purpose. The Government says that the entertainments tax is vexatious and irritating. The Opposition can agree with that statement, and, in fact, we would also agree with it if it were applied to any kind of tax. All forms of taxes are vexatious and irritating. Some involve more departmental and accounting work and form-filling than others do; and I presume that it was from that viewpoint that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) made his comment about the vexatiousness of this particular measure. I say, at once, that the Opposition supports the measure and is very glad to see the Australian Government vacate this field of taxation.
I suppose that is all it is really strictly necessary to say in relation to the measure; but I am sure that Government supporters would be disappointed if I allowed the opportunity to pass without making some general observations, and I think that they would be disappointed if those observations were not at least critical. I propose to direct attention to a number of matters incidental to the demise of this tax. The first of those matters is that this is the first bill forecast in the Treasurer’s budget speech that has come to this chamber. I record the fact that this bill has come to the Senate ahead of the budget itself. The Senate has not had an opportunity, formally, to debate the budget, and it is clear that that document and an appropriation bill, cannot come to us until passed by the House of Representatives. We have had a broad opportunity to discuss the budget on’ a motion that the budget papers be printed, but that does not alter the fact that we are considering this measure, which is a part of the budget proposals, ahead of the budget itself. There is nothing legally wrong with that, and I do not voice complaint on that ground. To whom will this measure give financial relief? It will give relief to those who provide entertainment in Australia and to those who can afford to pay for such entertainment. Whilst the Opposition does not begrudge that relief to persons in either of those categories, we say strongly that if any proposals that are contained in the budget are to be speeded through the Parliament, one would expect that there would be speeded to this chamber bills designed to give relief to the most needy in the community, namely, those in receipt of pensions of all kinds. The Opposition would co-operate in any move that the Government desired to make in order to expedite the passage of the measures dealing with pensions and social services benefits. It has already been indicated that those particular bills are not to take effect until the first pension day after they have been passed. At this moment, we do not know whether that will be a matter of days, or of weeks. In the mean-time, the most needy section in the community must await whatever benefits are due to them under the budget proposals. I comment adversely upon the fact that a bill to grant relief to persons who are not in necessitous circumstances has been rushed into this chamber to become law immediately and to operate from the 1st October. When I made the suggestion on a previous occasion that pension legislation might be expedited, an honorable senator opposite said that I should know very well that that could not be done. If he was thinking of legal difficulties about the passage, of the budget, that thought is completely disposed of by the fact that we now have “before this chamber one of the measures contemplated in the budget. But if the honorable senator’s remark was directed te the physical difficulties involved in making available the proposed benefits to recipients of pensions, I reply that I know the methods of the Department of Social Services and am aware that the moment the Government makes up its mind to grant certain concessions that department does not wait for the passage of the relevant legislation, but goes into action immediately and prepare to pass on as quickly as possible those benefits to the beneficiaries. Without knowing what has happened on this particular occasion, I should say that for weeks past officers of the Department of Social Services have been working on the proposals in respect of pensions so that immediately the benefits became applicable they can speedily be made available to those entitled to receive them.
My second observation is that as the amount of money involved under this measure, having regard to the provision to be made under the total budget, is small, it is extraordinary that there has been so much delay on the part of the Government in abolishing the entertainments tax. Collections of this tax rose from £2,900,000 to £5,100,000 in 1946-47, and last year to £6,700,000. That amount is not large having regard to the commitments which the Government entered into in 1949 when it promised the electors that rates of taxes could and would be reduced. It is rather extraordinary that this measure of relief, which affects a great number of individuals who patronise entertainments, should have been postponed for a period of four- years. The Government did not take this action in 1950, or during the early part of 1951; and, of course, having regard to its position throughout.. 1951-52, it would not have contemplated reducing taxes, because at that stage it was greatly increasing not only the total volume but also the rates of taxes.
– To check inflation.
– The Government was singularly slow in observing that inflation was under way throughout 1950 and during the early part of 1951. I simply comment that the rigorous measures which it saw fit to introduce in the financial year 1951-52 were largely made necessary by its blindness to the inflation that was developing during the preceding two years of its regime. Perils I may be pardoned for making the observation that this belated relief in this particular specialized field comes almost on the eve of an election and, from the Government’s point of view, is very opportune. The conclusion is inescapable that at this moment the Government, in wooing as many electors as possible, has picked on a relatively small tax, which yields about £7,000,000 a year, the remission of which will benefit all the bodies engaged in providing entertainment and the millions of people who, throughout the year, patronize those entertainments. The Government expects to receive applause and acclaim, but above all votes, although it could have remitted this tax immediately after it took office. That it should do so belatedly, after nearly four years of office, indicates to the Opposition that the Government has an eye upon its own advantage rather than the relief of people who at least are not necessitous, whether they provide or buy entertainment.
The next comment that I shall make relates to what is happening in the States, and the effect on the finances of the States the abolition by the Commonwealth of entertainments tax. It is true that some of the States were in the field of entertainments taxation before the war. They vacated it by agreement with the Commonwealth during the period of the war. Now that the Commonwealth has announced its intention to vacate this field shortly, some States are ‘moving into that field again.
– States in which Labour governments are in office.
– That is right, and those States have been criticized by members of the Ministry for re-entering the field of entertainments taxation. One Minister in another place quite recently described the action of those States in coming back into the entertainments taxation field - a field that they enjoyed before the war and prior to the introduction of uniform taxation - as a fraud, and as a denial to the people of Australia of the benefits that the Australian Government seeks to confer upon them. It ill becomes this Government, or any member of it, to criticize what States do in the exercise of their own sovereignty, in relation to taxation or any other matter. The financing of their own bodies is entirely their own affair.
– What about lotteries ?
– I shall comment about lotteries before I conclude my speech. The States have vast responsibilities in connexion with housing, development, the building of schools and hospitals, and transport. I again remind honorable senators that the States were in a hopeless condition at the end of the war because of the depreciated value of their permanent ways and the fact that they were six years behind in the restoration of their rolling-stock. The States have great responsibilities and duties that concern their people very intimately. I deplore the fact that any member of this Parliament, particularly Ministers, should seek to dictate to the State governments what they should or should not do. I think that that i» quite improper. That is entirely a matter for the States concerned. I think that some of the States have been forced into the position of coming back into this field if only by one circumstance, that is, that Victoria has announced its intention to come back into the entertainments taxation field. That action will increase the level of severity of taxation upon the Victorian people. When the Commonwealth Grants Commission considers the finances of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, it always compares their severity of taxation with the average severity of taxation in the standard States of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The action of the standard States in imposing more severe taxes will make the relative position of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia more difficult before the Commonwealth Grants Commission, because when the commission comes to consider, for instance, Western Australia, it will find that the incidence of taxation of the standard States is far more severe than it is in Western Australia. As honorable senators who have studied the methods of the Commonweatlh Grants Commission will know, if the severity of taxation of a claimant State is less than the average severity of taxation of the standard States a deduction is made from the proposed grant. Some States, if only for the reason that they want to preserve their relative position of severity of taxation with the standard States, will be obliged to come in. Tet I suggest that the Commonwealth is playing with a double-headed penny in this matter. At present we have the spectacle of a Minister claiming that the imposition by a. State of entertainments taxation is a fraud.
– That would be a legitimate criticism if he were a citizen of that State.
– I do not consider that any member of this Parliament should, in his official capacity, criticize what the States do in raising their own revenues. The Minister to whom I have referred is a citizen of Western Australia, but his remarks were quite generally directed to the States that were coming into the entertainments taxation field; they were not confined to Western Australia. However, I do not concede that be was justified in voicing a criticism of a State. I contend that he was not justified in doing so. Although the Government is complaining about the States re-entering the entertainments taxation field, I venture to say, having in mind this Government’s desire to abolish uniform taxation, that at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in the not distant future we shall hear from the same’ Government a statement to the effect that the Commonwealth lias vacated two forms of taxation in order to permit the States to enter those fields. I refer to land tax and entertainments tax. The Commonwealth will say, “We have vacated two fields of taxation that you may enter”. That argument will probably be used by the Commonwealth to resist claims for increased income tax reimbursement grants. I hesitate to adopt the role of a prophet about anything, but I am completely certain that we shall hear that argument from the mouths of Ministers who are now claiming that the imposition of entertainments taxation by the States is a fraud. The States will be reminded of the opportunities that have been afforded to them as a result of the Commonwealth abandoning those fields of taxation. I hope that I am wrong in my prophecy, but I shall watch with very great interest the proceedings at future meetings of the State Premiers with the Commonwealth, and I shall be very surprised if I do not hear arguments of that kind advanced by the Commonwealth. Therefore, in truth, 1 believe that the Commonwealth is playing with a double-headed penny in this matter. It is seeking to gain an immediate advantage by abandoning these fields of taxation so that the States may enter them, and later it will deny to the States increased grants in relation to reimbursement of tax, and chide them for not having helped themselves.
In my fourth comment I shall endeavour to show that the Government seems to be completely assured that the people of Australia are going to receive a benefit as a result of the remission of entertainments tax. The Minister made no reference to that very important matter in his second-reading speech. One would have thought that in the absence of constitutional power to ensure that admission prices would be reduced in proportion to the remission of tax at least the Government would have expressed a hope that the remission would be passed on to the people who patronize entertainments. I think that there is no power in the Commonwealth to ensure that those who provide entertainments shall reduce their prices by the amount of tax to be remitted from the first of October. But there is not a word about that aspect of the matter in the Minister’s speech; not even a request to the entrepreneurs of entertainments to attend to that aspect of the matter; not even a hope expressed that that would be done.
One must remember that the Government parties were responsible for denying to the Commonwealth Parliament the power to ensure that those who patronize entertainments shall benefit by this reduction. Those parties fought against a proposal to give power over prices to the Federal Parliament when that proposal was put to a referendum.
– The people rejected the proposal.
– Yes. They rejected it after accepting the advice of the present Government parties. I know that the people decided the issue but the Government parties must accept a large measure of responsibility for the fact that the Federal Parliament does not possess the power to ensure that the people will receive the benefit of this remission of taxation. Because costs are rising many of the entrepreneurs in the entertainment field will not reduce their charges. Some have already announced publicly that they do not intend to reduce them. They have stated that because of rising costs it will be necessary for them to retain existing prices which are made up of the admission charge plus the appropriate rate of entertainments tax. What sort of position is this for the National Parliament to be in? It has set out to give a benefit to the people yet it cannot ensure that the benefit reaches the people ! That is the position. What credit the Government may expect to derive from this bill will be negatived if a high percentage of entertainment entrepreneurs decide not to change admission prices.
I should like the Government to state what broad, national economic purpose will be served by the remission of this tax. I have no doubt that the bill will have a good psychological value. That is important. People may consider that prices are falling if the price of entertainment falls. That would be an important contribution to the national economy. But the Government would have been better occupied if it had decided, instead of remitting this tax, to remit those taxes which affect the national cost structure. It would have been better advised to propose greater reductions in pay-roll tax and sales tax which affect commodities that are in daily use by the people. Many of these items add to costs and make difficulties for our exporters in our foreign markets. They also place our own manufacturers in difficulties in attempting to compete with imported articles. Whilst the Opposition supports and welcomes the abolition of the entertainments tax at the federal level we say coldly and emphatically that the abolition of the tax will not serve any specific economic end. Such a concession could better have been given in another way. On behalf of the Opposition I support the bill and undertake that the measure will not be unduly delayed by the honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
– It is gratifying, indeed, to hear the Opposition express its support of this measure, although it was noticeable that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) did not bring to the support of the bill the enthusiasm that he has shown on some other occasions. His criticism was, indeed, a lame one. It seemed to spring from the fact that some popularity might accrue to the Government by virtue of the fact that it had decided to do away with this iniquitous tax. In order to bolster up his argument, the Leader of the Opposition took the course, unusual for him, of wandering into the field of speculation and asking what the Commonwealth Grants Commission might do at some future unspecified time. He also harked back to what might have happened if the Commonwealth had had power to control prices. The argument concerning prices control has been answered in the past and will be answered more particularly in relation to entertainments tax in the future simply by the operation of competition. As a member of a party which is, by long tradition, a low tax party, and as a supporter of a government which, during the last couple of years, has made remarkable reductions in taxation, I give the most enthusiastic support to this measure, which will do away with entertainments tax. I remind the Senate that this is the second tax that this Government has abolished in two years. That is a very noteworthy achievement. The aspect of this proposal which most appeals to me is that it will afford general relief to every member of the Australian tax-paying public. This tax has frequently been referred to as a luxury tax. That is an entirely erroneous idea because it falls most heavily on the family man who seeks to provide a modest form of entertainment for his family.
The relief which will he extended by this bill is to be denied the Australian taxpayer by the actions of some of the State governments. I regret that the Labour Government of Western Australia has used its sovereign power to rush a bill through its legislature in order to provide that from the moment the federal tax is removed, a State tax will be imposed. Of course there is nothing to prevent any State from taking such action as that. The States have sovereign power which they can use as they wish. But I suggest that political ethics and political morals are concerned in this matter. When this tax was first imposed by the Australian Government in 1942 it was imposed on the understanding that the amount collected would be reimbursed to the States. That has actually happened in respect of the current year 1953-54. When tax reimbursements and special grants were discussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers some weeks ago, reimbursements were determined on the basis that the entertainments tax would continue to be levied by the Commonwealth Government. Therefore it can be said that tax reimbursements for 1953-54 include a. component for the entertainments tax; yet now, various State governments, including the Government of Western Australia, are seeking to impose a further tax !
– There is no reimbursement for indirect taxes.
– I shall quote passages from Hansard of 1942 and 1946 to show that there is. Introducing the original Commonwealth entertainments tax in 1942, the then Treasurer, Mr. Chifley said -
The Government, therefore, decided to approach the State Governments with a proposal that they should, upon payment of compensation, vacate the field entirely and leave it to the Commonwealth. The first approach was made at thu Premiers Conference held in Melbourne during August. One State only, namely, Tasmania, indicated at the conference that it was willing to agree to the suggestion of the Commonwealth. The other four States, namely, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, desired to (rive the matter further consideration and requested that the Commonwealth should put. its proposals in writing. The Prime Minister, therefore, wrote to the Premiers of the States, and they have in reply signified their willingness to vacate the field in favour of the Commonwealth for the duration of the war and one year thereafter. The States are to be compensated upon the basis of the revenue formerly received by them from this source.
When the entertainments tax was carried into the permanent peace-time taxation structure of the Commonwealth in 1946, the principle of compensating the States was preserved. Speaking on the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Bill in 1946, Mr. Chifley said-
Because of its financial commitments, the Commonwealth must also remain in the field of entertainments taxation. At the same time the Government recognizes that the reimbursement grants fixed in 1942 will not be adequate to the States responsibilities in peace-time, and it proposes to increase the reimbursement payments.
The answer to Senator Benn’s interjection is to be found in the following passage from the same speech : -
Under the present legislation, separate tax reimbursements grants are paid to each Statu concerned in respect of income tax and entertainments’ tax, respectively. It is now proposed to combine these payments, so that as from the 1st July, .1940, the reimbursement in respect of both income tax and entertainments tax will be covered by the one grant.
It is clear, therefore, that the principle of compensating the States existed not only when the entertainments tax was first introduced by the Commonwealth as a war-time measure, but also when the entertainments tax legislation was given permanent application in 1946. Speaking on the Entertainments Tax . Assessment Bill 1946, the effect of which was to delete section 29 of the principal act which imposed the time limit of the duration of the war and one year thereafter on the operation of the entertainments tax, Mr. Chifley said -
The effect of the bill therefore is to remove the time limit which has been placed on the operation of the act and to give indefinite operation to the act. When the act was passed in 1942 arrangements were made “with the Governments of those States which had been imposing an entertainments tax, for the field to be vacated by the States in order that the Commonwealth might impose and collect one uniform entertainments tax throughout Australia. The States were compensated for the loss of entertainments tax revenue by a grant from the Commonwealth revenue. The arrangements were in fact based on those which hud been enacted for uniform income taxation. As the legislation for uniform income taxation was expressed to expire at the end of the first financial year after the war, the same expiry date was adopted in the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act. In view of its present financial responsibilities, the Government proposes to continue in the entertainments taxfield, and has made provision in the States Grants (Income Tax and Entertainments Tax Reimbursement) Bill for reimbursement payments in respect of both income tax and entertainments tax.
I suggest, therefore, that that principle, which was established in 1942, given permanence in 1946, and has operated to date, was applied in assessing reimbursements grants for the current financial year. Therefore, the action of certain State governments in imposing entertainments tax means, in effect, the imposition of a double tax, at least for the current financial year, on the very people whom this Government is seeking to relieve. Those people will be placed in the position of a person whose mail has been rifled and a cheque removed from a letter. That is precisely the effect of the action of the State governments in reimposing the entertainments tax, and it is as well that the public should be made aware of this fact. I commend the Government for moving out of this tax field.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 10th September (vide page 37), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This hill relates primarily to the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund. That fund was created in 1930 and, when introducing the necessary legislation, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, expressed the hope that the fund would be materially augmented by donations from public-spirited citizens. Having regard to the statement by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in his second-reading speech on this bill that the fund contains only £3,000, it would seem that Mr. Scullin’s expectation was not realized. The law, which has been amended from time to time,provided for the establishment of a fund which shall consist of donations from the people and the income from investment of the donations. The act provides for the appointment of four trustees, who shall be the Commonwealth Astronomer, the Secretary Department of the Treasury, the Secretary Department of the Interior, and another person to be appointed by the Minister. It is provided that the trustees shall invest the fund and, each quarter, pay the income over to the Commonwealth Astronomer who, in turn, is entitled to invest it or expend it. Trustees are required to make an annual report, in July of each year, to the Minister, and the Commonwealth Astronomer is obliged to make a similar report to the Minister in the same month.
This bill purports to repeal all earlier acts, to rename the fund the “ Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund “, to create it as a trust under section 62a of the Audit Act, and to merge it with the very great trust fund of the Treasurer, amounting to approximately £566,000,000. The trustees will be abolished. The Commonwealth Astronomer’s account also will be abolished, and, in future, the fund will consist of donations by the public and moneys to be appropriated by the Parliament. Although this bill seems innocuous,I suggest that a point of fundamental importance is involved. Incidentally, the Minister, in his secondreading speech, did not give us very full information concerning this fund. The actual amount held by the trustees is £3,178, and approximately £2,400 is in the Commonwealth Astronomer’s Account. Having regard to the smallness of the amount invested, it seems to me that the Commonwealth Astronomer has simply accumulated those funds from year to year without expending them; otherwise it is most unlikely that, between 1930 and the present time, the fund would have risen to approximately £2,400. Clause 5 (3.) provides that - Moneys standing to the credit of the Fund nay be applied, in a manner approved by the Minister, for the purposes of the Observatory.
That provision seems innocuous enough, but I point out that many donations may have been made, and future donations certainly will be made, upon particular terms and conditions, such as that the money must be applied for a certain purpose. A trust usually attaches to gifts by donors. If this legislation is passed in its present form by the Parliament it will enable the Minister completely to disregard the terms upon which a donation is made. The disposition of a donation, both as to capital and income, may be made in a manner approved by the Minister. I think that that would be fundamentally wrong and would override a trust. It seems to me that the proposition has only to be stated in order to be recognized by everybody, including the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is in charge of the bill, as one which requires correction.
The explanation given by the Minister concerning the need to introduce this bill is that it is unwieldly to have three high government officials signing cheques. The truth is, however, that the present trustees, the Commonwealth Astronomer, the Secretary, Department of the Treasury, and the Secretary, Department of the Interior, did not even carry out their statutory duties in this respect. If one looks at the account for the year ended the 30th June last, it will be seen that interest in respect of three quarterly periods was paid on the 26th March. The reason stated by the Minister is therefore not a legitimate one, because the three officers to whom I have referred were obliged to sign only two cheques in the twelve months which ended on the 30th June last.
The need to ensure observance of the terms upon which a donation is made was adverted to by the Auditor-General in a letter dated the 27th August, 1952, which was addressed to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), when the position of this trust fund was being discussed. Mr. Brophy said -
The question of the control of analogous funds in the Department of Health has been under consideration by this office, and I am suggesting to the Treasurer that a provision on the following lines be inserted in the Audit Act which is at present under consideration for revision.
The relevant provision referred to by the Auditor-General is as follows : -
That moneys donated by any person, and accepted by the Commonwealth for a purpose expressed by that person, may be credited to a head of the Trust Fund and may be expended for that purpose, subject to any act applicable thereto.
The Auditor-General has thus directed attention to the need to ensure that the wishes of a donor of money shall be observed, but this bill, as drawn, throws the principle completely aside. There is no suggestion from the
Minister for Shipping and Transport, or from the Government, that it is intended to amend the Audit Act, as proposed by the Auditor-General. I hope that the Minister will take notice, first, of the principle involved, and secondly, of the remarks of the AuditorGeneral. In addition, I suggest to him that whilst this fund has not built up into reasonable proportions, the chances of further donations being attracted to it will be completely denied if donors will not be able to specify the purposes to which they wish their money to be directed.
– Why will they not have that right?
– That is my point of objection to the bill.
– Donations will still be recognized as trust moneys.
– The honorable senator was not in the chamber when I referred the Senate to sub-clause (3.) of clause 5 of the bill. I have suggested that the sub-clause should include some qualifying words to deny absolute power in the Minister to ignore a trust. In my opinion the following words should be added : - “ subject to the terms of any trust in relation to those moneys “. A clear principle is involved. When the honorable senator returned to the chamber, I was drawing attention to the fact that the Auditor-General had already indicated that there should be provision under the Audit Act to ensure that purpose. I do not think that there will be much prospect of attracting further money to the fund unless it is made clear to prospective donors that their wishes in relation to the use of the money will be respected and not overridden by a Minister. The Minister may be able to tell us whether the Government contemplates amending the Audit Act along the lines suggested by the Auditor-General. If it does so, there will of course, be general application of the provision not only to this fund but also to a good many other funds, and my objection will be met.
I have no doubt that the people of Australia have little appreciation of the importance of the Commonwealth Observatory to themselves. Yet, the observatory plays a vital part in their daily lives. Recently, the Canberra press contained a report of an interview with Dr. Hogg, chief assistant of the observatory, who had just come back from abroad. Dr. Hogg is reported to have said -
The science of astronomy holds a high place in defence programmes in the United States. It was assisting work on meteors, probably for future application to space travel. Solar radiation was being used to heat one of the homes of the Lick Observatory. Augmenting the normal supply, it had reduced fuel costs considerably. A solar furnace, which caused certain heat-resistant substances to run like water, was also in operation.
So the work of the observatory is related to practical living and the affairs of life. Its scientific work has practical application in many ways. For instance, it aids navigation and aviation and is opening up possibilities of the kind referred to by Dr. Hogg. “When the Minister replies, I should like him to indicate whether the Commonwealth Astronomer has ever expended any money from his fund. He might also inform me from what sources the moneys have accumulated to approximately £2,400, and whether it is correct that there has been only one item of expenditure, in respect of the payment of approximately £250 last year to Dr. Dunning, who apparently had a trip abroad.
– That payment was in respect of costs involved in bringing Dr. Dunning to Canberra.
– Can the Minister say whether that is the only payment that has been made, in the last 23 years, from the fund ? Can he also say why the fund has been allowed to accumulate and has not been used? Did not the observatory have an opportunity to use it?
– The payment to which the honorable senator has referred, and another for a similar purpose, have been the only payments from the fund for many years.
– I think that the community recognizes that this is government work. The public cannot be expected to endow something which it considers a government activity. I am not in any war deploring the fact that the fund has not been more generously sup ported by the public. Indeed, I do not know that it is wise to seek private benefactions for what, after all, is definitely a governmental activity.
– in reply - I am informed that amendment of the Audit Act, along the lines referred by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), is under consideration. I appreciate the points that have been made by the honorable senator during his detailed discussion of the bill. However, I invite his attention to the following comment which has been made by the Auditor-General, Mr. Brophy, in connexion with this matter: -
Without reflecting in any way on the main pur.poses of these two acts, I do suggest that the rigid definition of trustees and the financial provisions make both acts unwieldy.
I think that it was purely for administrative purposes that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) decided to amend the legislation. I am assured that the Minister has no power to approve of anything that is contrary to the conditions laid down by a donor in making amounts available to this fund. I am also informed that the fund has not received any donations and the credit balance from time to time is derived from interest payments. I shall direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to the points that have been raised by the Leader of the Opposition so that they can be answered when the bill is under consideration in another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– My interest in this measure was stimulated by the matters that were raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). He said that the bill would authorize the Minister controlling trust funds for the Commonwealth Observatory to apply them in such a way that they could be expended for purposes that were not within the ambit of the fund. I was heartened to hear the reply of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) and his assurance on that point. I rise to add that the point seems to be founded on sub-clauses (2.) and (3.) of clause 5. If the Parliamentary Draftsman so framed the bill as to permit the loophole that was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, the result would be a relaxation of the confidence that one usually places upon the observance of strict principles of equity. I direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that sub-clause (3.) of clause 5 refers only to moneys standing to the credit of a fund. Sub-clause (2.) provides that moneys to be paid into the fund shall be donations for the purposes of the observatory received by or on behalf of the Commonwealth and moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of the observatory. Honorable senators will notice that in paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-clause (2.) the Parliamentary Draftsman has drawn a definite distinction between moneys which emanate from a parliamentary vote and donations for the purposes of the observatory. The only private moneys that are authorized under this bill to find their destination in the fund are donations for the .purposes of the observatory. Subclause (3.) simply states -
Moneys standing to the credit of the Fund may be applied, in a manner approved by the Minister, for the purposes of the Observatory.
Therefore, the very description of the purposes for which the private moneys have been donated is carefully preserved in the language that authorizes the Minister’s expenditure. All that he has to approve is the manner in which the moneys should be spent. For what purpose? They can be spent only for the purposes of the observatory, and only moneys that come from funds for the purposes of the observatory ever get into the fund.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th September (vide page 38), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is similar to the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund Bill 1953 in its effect because it recasts the Forestry Trust Fund. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has indicated that the balance in the fund is less than £200. Therefore, the matter appears to be relatively insignificant, but I have noticed, on examining the speech with which the former Minister, Mr. Blakeley, introduced the Forestry Bureau Bill 1930 that some fairly substantial donations to the fund were recorded. Mr. Blakeley stated in a section of his speech which is recorded in Hansard of the 10th June, 1930, at page 2577-
We are fortunate in having a number of patriotic citizens and organizations which have shown a practical interest in forestry, and in even the short time that the Forestry School has been established some notable donations have been made to it. The Sydney and Suburban Timber Merchants Association makes an annual grant of £50 to the School ; a private citizen donates £10 annually for the best essay by a student on forestry; and the trustees of the Schlich Memorial Fund, established in honour of the late Sir William Schlich, one of the leading foresters in the British Empire, has made a gift of £75 to the school, to be invested for the purpose of providing a gold medal each year for the best student.
I draw the attention of the Minister to the following additional extract from Mr. Blakeley’s speech : -
A magnificent donation of £5,000 was made by Mr. Russell Grimwade, of Melbourne, who provided a travelling scholarship which is available every two years.
I have no idea what happened to it, nor have I made any inquiries, but obviously the fund was started with a capital amount of £5,000 for a particular purpose. I ask the Minister what has happened to that fund. Is it still in existence? Has the money passed out of the Forestry Trust Fund? How is it invested? According to the Minister, the fund now amounts to less than £200, and I should like more information about it.
I return to the point that I made in the debate on the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund Bill. The proposition is similar. Clause 5 of this bill provides that moneys standing to the credit of the Forestry Trust Fund may be applied in a manner approved by the Minister for the furtherance of forestry. -I appreciate that the Minister has stated that consideration has been given to the matter of protecting the position of the trust by an amendment of the Audit Act. But that does not convey to my mind that the Audit Act will be altered accordingly. 1 think that it would bc wise to include some words in the relevant clause to ensure that the terms under which donations are made to the fund from private sources, with a specific trust attaching to them, cannot be abrogated by the Minister. “Would the Minister be more specific as to the Government’s intentions in amending the Audit Act? Is he in a position to inform the Senate what happened to the fund that was initially established by Mr. Russell Grimwade?
– I rise to support the bill, and I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has raised several matters in connexion with it. I think that the Parliament must abandon the habit that has grown up over many years of accepting machinery measures that are brought forward with a brief explanation. Often they simply represent a decision that has been reached by some department, or, occasionally, by some minor official. I have read the bill and the second-reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) and it is clear that the bill should be passed. The principal act establishes the most elaborate machinery for carrying out rather small functions. It is like having a steel hammer to crush a nut. Since there is to be a body within the Treasury to administer trusts, it is correct that this trust should be transferred to the control of that body, but I believe also that there is much merit in the original conception of establishing a separate body of trustees.
It is a great pity that the funds are so small, and I express that opinion irrespective of the explanation for their size. Forestry should be close to the heart of every true Australian. One of the pleasing features of the National Capital is the number of trees that have been planted in Canberra. Apart from the beauty of trees, the utility side of afforestation is most important to Australia. As to the fund, it is a pity that a very fine conception has apparently come to nothing. The fund is now very small and its administration is to be handled by a few officials. Honorable senators are entitled to much more information on this bill and similar machinery measures than Ministers of various governments have been accustomed to give them. While I support the bill because I believe it is necessary, I deplore the situation that has led to its presentation.
– in reply - I remind the Senate that the Secretary Department of the Treasury and the working hours of the officials who are acting as the trustees of the fund under discussion are not confined to 40 hours a week. Their work imposes a tremendous load upon them. Before alterations to the relevant measures were decided upon, the Auditor-General, Mr. Brophy, was consulted. The fund now stands at £170 and honorable senators will recognize the difficulties that arise when the Secretary, Department of the Treasury, the Secretary, Department of the Interior and the Director-General Forestry and Timber Bureau have to perform the duties associated with this and other similar funds. The fact that the fund is audited by the Auditor-General and that it was brought to his notice when the this bill was under consideration, is sufficient evidence that this machinery measure will not affect the basic principles of trusteeship, hut will lighten the load of men who are considerably overworked.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred to the early donations to the fund. I am informed that they have been used for specific purposes and that the balance to the credit of the fund now is only £170. I have not at my disposal information that would enable me to say whether the Government intends to amend the Audit Act along the lines suggested in this debate. Honorable senators will appreciate, of course, that when a Minister is acting for another Minister, as I am doing now for the Minister for the Interior, it is not possible for him to have at hand all the information that might be sought. I shall obtain the information sought by the Leader of the Opposition who has taken particular interest in these important matters. When the measure is before the House of Representatives - for certain reasons the Government is anxious to expedite its passage - I shall discuss with the Minister for the Interior the points that the Leader of the Opposition has raised and subsequently inform the honorable senator of the Minister’s views on them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to the fact that in 1930 Mr. Scullin, who sponsored the original bill, indicated that a donation of £5,000 was made for one clear and specific purpose, namely, the financing of a travelling scholarship every two years. If that were the sole condition upon which that money was provided, that scholarship should still be available. I make it clear that I do not know whether, when the money was applied to some other purpose, the Government in office was of the same complexion as the present Government or was a Labour government. I am simply looking at the principle involved in this matter. Mr. Scullin said that this money was to be applied for a particular purpose but; on the face of it, it has been expended in some other way without the permission of the donor. I am referring to the remarks which Mr. Scullin made when he announced the benefaction. The money may have been expended for forestry purposes, but that is not what the donor intended. That is the basis of the objection that I am now making. The point I make is that, in case the Audit Act is not amended in order to ensure that moneys made available for particular purposes shall be applied to such purposes, provision should be made in this measure to ensure that the trust shall be observed. In order to put the matter at issue and direct particular attention to it, I propose to move an amendment to clause 5. That clause reads as follows -
I move -
That, in sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 5, after the words “ Moneys standing to the credit of the Fund may . . . “ the following words be inserted : - “ subject to the terms of any trust in relation thereto,”.
The insertion of the words which I propose should be inserted cannot possibly cause any harm. It is quite arguable whether the proposed new section as drafted would not enable the Minister to override the terms of a specific trust. I do not propose to embark upon a lengthy dissertation on the law of equity. If the proposed new section is amended as I suggest, the relevant part of it would read, “ Moneys standing to the credit of the fund may, subject to the terms of any trust in relation thereto, be applied in a manner approved by the Minister, for the furtherance of forestry..”. The amendment which I propose is unexceptionable, and would put the matter beyond issue. If the Audit Act is not amended, then there will at least be this provision; and if it is hoped to attract further private donations to a fund of this nature, such an assurance will need to be very obvious to persons contemplating making benefactions.
– I cannot accept the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). In any event, the proposed amendment is unnecessary. I again assure the honorable senator that I shall direct the attention of the appropriate Minister to the matters that he has raised. The special grant made by Mr. Grimwade was for the purpose of making provision for a travelling scholarship every two years. The. interest earned from that money is sufficient to make provision for a scholarship approximately every three years.
– Was that income paid into the Forestry Trust Fund?
– No; it was paid into a specific account for a specific purpose.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator R. W. Pearson.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th September (vide page 41), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure was adequately explained by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) when he introduced it on the 10th Septemberlast. The Opposition supports the bill subject to the Government giving an assurance which I shall seek from the Attorney-General. I do not propose toweary honorable senators by speaking at length upon a legal and technical bill of this nature. I simply comment that in respect of service and execution of judgments each State, broadly speaking, is an entirely foreign country to other States and that in the absence of some overriding provision of international law, or of specific arrangements among the States, one State’s process could neither be served nor executed in another State.. The public mischief arising from such a position is so apparent that even in pre- federation days the Federal Council of Australasia passed a measure which made some necessary provisions; and, of course, when the Commonwealth was instituted very specific power was vested in this Parliament to make laws in relation to the service and execution of the process of one State in another State. There is ample constitutional power for what is undertaken in this measure. Section 122 of the Constitution, in effect, gives the Commonwealth complete power in relation to its territories. If one had to scramble for further constitutional authority, one would find it in the external affairs power, that is as between the Commonwealth and the trust territories. The Opposition has no objection to the extension of the facilities provided to the trust territories, as distinct from Commonwealth territories.. Inasfar as the amendments affect the States, after all is said and done that is the business of the States, not the Commonwealth. I should like an assurance from the Attorney-General, if he is in a position to give it, that in deciding matters between one State and another, or between several States and one other, the States have at least been consulted, that they know what is happening, and that they do not object, or at least that they do not disapprove. If that assurance is forthcoming I assure the Government that the Opposition will not oppose the speedy passage of this measure. I do not intend to traverse its individual provisions, which were dealt with adequately by the Attorney-General in his second-reading speech.
– in reply - In reality, clause 6 is the only clause that directly affects the States. It inserts a new section 15 in relation to the service of summons or other process issued upon information on oath. That is a direct alteration of the provision of the original act, which limited the kind of process which could take advantage of the section. That clause has been the direct result of consultation with the States over quite a long period of time. The remaining provisions of the bill relate very largely to incorporating in the act provisions that have operated in connexion with the territories by way of regulation for a very long time. I am not able to say that the States have been directly consulted about those provisions, but since the measure was introduced in this chamber copies of the bill have been sent to all of the States and no objection has been received from any State in connexion with any provision of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.20 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 10th September (vide page 39), on motion by Senator O’Sullivan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a measure to amend the Customs Act. The Minister has explained the provisions of the bill rather fully in the course of his second-reading speech. I do not know how many honorable senators are familiar with customs law and practice but I am not one of them. Finding considerable difficulty in following the effect of some of these provisions, I approached the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) who was good enough to make his officers available to members of the Opposition in order to explain the bill. I thank the Minister for his courtesy in that matter. I should like to place on record the fact that the officers who attended members of the Opposition were very informative and helpful. I think I might also claim that we were helpful to them. I understand that following the discussions a matter has emerged concerning which the Minister will move an amendment to this bill. So the conference had mutually satisfactory results. The Opposition is, not concerned with the earlier clauses of the bill which deal with machinery matters designed to facilitate business and eliminate administrative procedures. “We have no objection or comment to offer with regard to those clauses.
But the Opposition has a great deal of concern and diffidence about the provisions of clause 6 of the bill which seeks to insert a new provision into the principal act. It provides, in the new proposed section 271, that where an item of customs tariff or a proposed item of a customs tariff is expressed to apply to goods or a class or kind of goods as prescribed, the Minister may, subject to the succeeding section, make certain by-laws. In other words, it is for the Minister to say to which goods a particular duty shall apply or which goods shall be exempted from duty in favour of a special imported. In the first place, that is a vast power to place in the hands of a Minister. Its exercise has continued since federation and affects goods worth many millions of pounds every year. It behoves the Parliament to be assured that every possible safeguard shall be imposed in relation to the exercise of that great power. I understand that in the case of importations by municipalities, mainly of capital goods, the refunds of duty and such concessions amount to about £10,000,000 in a year. As the Minister indicated in his second-reading speech, applications for refunds of duty are legion. They involve heavy administrative work on the part of the Department of Trade and Customs.
In the new clause which sets out a number of new sections a departure is made from established practice. I understand that the effect of the clause will be to make a distinction between a by-law that is to operate for a specified period or an indefinite time and what are called “ one-day by-laws “. I understand that a “ one-day by-law “ relates to one shipment only of a particular article. It is proposed to short circuit departmental procedure by giving the Minister power to make a by-law which will only become operative when published in the Commonwealth Gazette. It is also proposed to give him power to make what is called a “ determination “. I understand that, prim’arily, the power to make a “ determination “ will be confined to the “ one-day by-law “. It is proposed to make the determination of the Minister effective from the moment that it is placed in writing. The bill proposes to place upon the Minister an obligation to let every one know what he has done by publishing particulars in the Gazette. But the bill does not impose any time limit in which the Minister shall publish the notification in the Gazette. Clause 2 stipulates that notice of the making of a determination shall be published in the Gazette and that, the notice shall specify certain particulars. In the interests of every one concerned,’ the widest publicity should be given to by-laws of this nature. Under the provisions of the bill, a Minister could publish the notice fifteen years after the event. That point was raised with the Government’s officers and I understand that they admit that the point is well taken. I understand that the Minister intends to move an amendment to provide that he shall be obliged to publish the notice in the Gazette as soon as practicable after the determination is made.
– That might be fifteen years later.
– No. That could not be. However, the bill could not stipulate that the publication be made forthwith because that might be prevented by such events as the closing of government offices during the Christmas period. The Opposition will be content to have the Minister move an amendment to provide that publication shall he made as soon as practicable after the determination is made. I cannot suggest a better formula, having regard to the difficulties of the department.
Now let me review this subject. Ah importer may want to import a particular class of goods which he thinks cannot be manufactured in Australia and which he thinks is not manufactured in the United Kingdom. He may make an application to the Minister for Trade and Customs for permission to import the good* duty free. He does not wait for a decision. He immediately proceeds to import the goods because various procedures have to be followed as a matter of departmental practice, not as a matter of law. The Minister circularizes particulars of the application to chambers of manufactures and all manufacturers in Australia who he thinks are likely to be interested in the fabrication of the particular goods. These inquiries take a considerable period. Further, if the application affects British preferential trading, inquiries have to be made in the United Kingdom. Those inquiries take a considerable time and I suggest that there are two reasons for that fact. The first is the wide area to be covered; the second is the absence of enthusiasm on the part of the British authorities to facilitate the importation into Australia of articles from countries other than their own. That seems to be a perfectly natural disposition. Consequently, years may elapse before a decision can be made by the Minister. In the meantime, the goods arrive, the duty is paid, and the goods go into circulation. If an item of capital equipment is imported, by a municipality for example, there is no difficulty about the refund of duty that is subsequently made under by-law or determination because the body which has paid the duty and is still using the article receives the refund of duty. In such a case there is no trouble. But I see the possibility of trouble in the case of consumable goods. Duty is paid when they come into Australia. They go from the importer to the wholesaler, and from the wholesaler to the factory or the retailer. If the item concerned is cloth it may finally be used to make a suit of clothes. Quite a long time afterwards, the Minister may make a by-law with retrospective effect to operate at the time that the shipment came into Australia. Accordingly a refund of duty is made to the importer. If in the meantime the goods have all been sold and have gone into use in the community and the purchasers cannot be identified then an importer could conceivably receive two refunds of duty. As he will have added the amount of the duty to the price of the goods when he sold them he will receive that amount from his customer over and above his ordinary profit and he may omit to refund it to the customer. In addition, he will receive a refund from the Government, consequent upon the Minister’s decision.
It behoves honorable senators to ensure that this great power of the Minister should be buttressed with every possible protection. If goods have gone into circulation and ultimate purchasers cannot be identified I think it reasonable to suggest that no refund of duty should be made. If only some of the goods have gone into circulation and the purchasers cannot be traced then a refund of duty should be ma’de only in respect of those which remain to be sold. They are completely reasonable propositions. Every honorable senator should be concerned to ensure that an importer could not obtain two refunds of duty, one from the purchaser and one from the Government. Perhaps the Minister for Trade and Customs may be able to point to some provision that will cover this objection. I should like him to tell the Senate the practice of his department. Howfar does the department concern itself with ensuring that the ultimate purchasers of goods receive the benefit of refunds? One Opposition senator has suggested that, where practicable, goods that have gone into circulation should be marked “ application for refund of duty pending”.
– The documents relating to the transaction could be so marked.
– Yes. There may be difficulties in the way of implementing that suggestion. I do not express any strong opinion on whether it could be done or not. I rather think that it could not be done in all cases. As Senator Cooke has interjected) at least there should be a document indicating that an application for a refund of duty is pending. Of course, with small articles of small value, imported in bulk, the distribution of the refund of duty, down to the last penny, would again not be practicable. Nevertheless, the Opposition believes that it sees a problem there, and would like the matter to be thoroughly canvassed by the Senate.
The Minister for Trade and Customs would, I am sure, welcome any safeguards that can be written into this legislation to ensure that everything he does shall be beyond reproach. In that connexion we have been very fortunate in the Commonwealth sphere. I have never heard of any Minister for Trade and Customs abusing this power; but that is not the point. What concerns us as legislators is the necessity to ensure that so far as we can provide in legislation, no abuse can arise. The practical suggestion I make for consideration by the Government is that there should be a further amendment of the act to provide that no refund of duty shall be payable unless the ultimate purchaser or user of the goods is to receive the benefit of that refund. Take, for instance, the importation of a commodity such as steel for the construction of houses. The importer makes an application for a refund of duty. Long procedures are followed. The steel goes through all the channels from importer to wholesaler, from wholesaler to retailer, and from retailer to user. The steel is used on the construction of homes all over Australia, and, I suggest, is at that stage completely unidentifiable. A year or two later, the Minister for Trade and Customs orders a refund of duty. The importer has collected from the wholesaler and the wholesaler from the retailer who in turn has collected from the user. The importer has been reimbursed. Why should he get a refund from the Government unless the benefit of that refund is to be passed right along the line? If there is no precaution in the legislation to ensure that the refund shall be passed on, why should we not address our minds to this problem?
I quite readily confess that I have no particular knowledge of customs law or procedure. I have not lived in that field at all and there may be a complete answer to my criticism. This measure shows the Government to be in a good frame of mind because we on this side of the chamber have had the joy of seeing honorable senators opposite concede the virtue of one point that we have made outside this chamber. We have not approached the measure in a party political spirit. I am posing to . the Senate a problem which the Opposition considers to be worthy of the attention of this chamber. So far as I am aware, this is not an urgent bill and it may be worth while for the Senate to appoint a select committee to consider it. Such a committee could take evidence from manufacturers, importers and customs officers. It could speedily review the whole procedure, and ascertain whether or not adequate safeguards exist. Such an inquiry would he a good education for any honorable senator and I should like the Senate to give some thought to that proposal. However, whether the Opposition will ultimately move for the appointment of a select committee depends upon the trend of the debate, and upon the information it is given. An inquiry into the whole matter could be carried out speedily. It could not extend beyond the 23rd of this month because it has been officially announced that the Parliament will be prorogued on that date, and as honorable senators are no doubt aware, the prorogation of a parliament terminates the life of its committees.
The Opposition believes that clause 6 should be thoroughly examined to see that adequate safeguards exist to ensure, first, that speedy notification is given to the public of what the Minister does either by by-law or determination so that our local manufacturers may know what goes on; secondly that importers shall not collect the duty from both the purchasers of goods and from the Government; thirdly, that action shall be taken to ascertain whether it would be practicable to ensure that the benefit of the duty shall lie passed right down the line to the consumer.
I shall briefly refer the Senate to the provisions of the bill itself so that the broad argument I have outlined may be followed clearly. Proposed section 271 empowers the Minister to make bylaws. Under paragraph (Z>) he will have the new power to which we take no exception. We believe it to be a necessary power. Proposed section 272 sets out what the Minister may specify in by-laws. Proposed section 273 provides that a bylaw shall be published in the Gazette and shall take effect - and here are the important words - or be deemed to have taken effect from the date of publication, or from a date (whether before or after the date of publication) specified by or under the by-law.
A by-law made by the Minister has no effect until it appears in the Gazette, but then it has retrospective operation. It may go back to cover a transaction which took place years before when goods came into the country. In contra distinction to that, proposed section 273 (1.) provides -
The Minister may determine, by instrument in writing, that, subject to the conditions, if any, specified in the determination, an item, or a proposed item, of a Customs Tariff that is expressed to apply to goods, or to a class or kind of goods, as prescribed by depart- mental by-laws shall apply, or shall be deemed to have applied, to the particular goods specified in the determination.
Then sub-section (3.) states in effect that where the Minister determines that an item shall apply, or shall he deemed to have applied, it has the same force and effect as if those goods were specified in the by-laws. That determination takes effect instantly. It can have retrospective operation, and under proposed section 273 b (2.), there is an obligation on the Minister to publish it in the Gazette. At that point the Government, I understand, has agreed to interpose a safeguard which will require publication in the Gazette as soon as practical.
I shall not run through the other provisions of the bill because the Opposition has no points to raise in relation to them, but I should like the Minister in reply to give to the Senate some idea of the total amount of money involved in refunds granted under by-laws. If he can tell us the figure for 1952-53 so much the better, but if he cannot, the figure for any prior year will give the Senate a general idea of the amount of money involved. There is an express provision in this legislation - I understand it has always been the law - that the by-laws now to he published by the Minister in the Gazette are not to be deemed statutory rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act. That means that once the Minister makes his decision it cannot be reviewed by the Parliament. The by-law may not be disallowed as an ordinary regulation may be disallowed. Therefore, it is an absolute power. I do not for a moment suggest that this power has not been exercised properly in the past, but I do think that the Senate could profitably devote its attention to the matter, particularly in relation to the three points I have raised - the earliest possible notification to the world, the prevention of double payments to importers, and the treatment of goods that are subject to a pending application for a refund. Apart from those observations, which are intended mainly to seek information and to state the Opposition’s difficulties, we have no objection to the bill.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has raised some very important and interesting issues which, I think, can be considered in the spirit in which they have been put forward. I do not wish to bring this debate down to the party political level, but one matter that has been overlooked so far is the system of import licensing, to which honorable senators opposite objected most strenuously at one stage but which they now support as a means of protecting Australian industries. Under the import licensing system no exporter will send goods to Australia until an import licence for those goods has been obtained from the Department of Trade and Customs in this country. That deals very effectively, I believe, with the possibility mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition that goods may be imported and sold before a refund on them is sanctioned. My experience of the Department of Trade and Customs under governments of all political shades is that a set procedure is followed. The department first investigates whether the goods that he seeks to import are available in Australia. If the answer to that question is in the negative, the department then inquires whether comparable goods can be obtained from Great Britain or from other British Commonwealth countries to which preference extends. Then, having been satisfied on these points, the department considers the granting of a licence to import the goods from some other source. “When it comes to the question of allowing the goods to enter this country duty free, it is necessary to convince the Government of the necessity to forego the revenue that it would otherwise obtain from levying the duty applicable to those goods. The first question, therefore, is whether the necessity exists. If, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests, goods were imported and sold, there would be no need for a refund of duty, or for a by-law in respect of them, because obviously they could be sold at a price which included the duty payable, and the Government would not be bereft of its revenue.
My experience has been that, in all governments, the Minister for Trade and Customs has first asked himself whether the goods concerned can be sold, and secondly, whether a sound reason exists for the making of a by-law. I am in complete agreement with the Leader of the Opposition in respect of consumer goods imported into Australia and sold with duty having been added. I agree that, in that instance, there is no need for a by-law under which the importer may apply for a refund, because the goods have been sold. I also agree that there would be no possibility of passing on to the consumer the benefit of the by-law. If the benefit of a by-law cannot be passed on to the consumer, in my opinion the bylaw should not be made. That is an elementary rule of the Department of Trade and Customs, regardless of the political colour of the Minister in charge of the department.
I have used the words “ consumer goods “. If the goods are capital goods, particularly for the use of local government authorities, no question arises, because obviously any refund of duty will go straight to the local government authority, which is the importer. Generally, a by-law is made in favour of such an authority. If the goods are bulldozers or agricultural machinery, for instance, the effect of the by-law is easily traceable. It will reduce the cost of such machinery to primary producers.
In the debate on this bill, honorable senators have overlooked the fact that an import licence must be granted before any importation of goods takes place. To my knowledge, no overseas manufacturer would accept an order unless it were accompanied by such a licence. I have had a fair amount of experience in this connexion, and I have yet to learn of an importer sufficiently stupid to place an order overseas whilst awaiting a bylaw, then to accept delivery of the goods and sell them, while still awaiting a by-law. The most ignorant importer knows that, by such actions, he would forgo any claim to the granting of a bylaw which he might otherwise have. Therefore, I feel that although the Leader of the Opposition has raised some interesting points in this debate, he has done so rather to initiate discussion, as he has so often done in the Senate with very good results, than to attempt to build up a case which is supported by practice. However, I agree with the honorable senator that no Minister for Trade and Customs should make a by-law unless it can be asserted that the ultimate benefit of such by-law will reach the consumer. That should be his prime objective.
– I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). This bill is a most complicated one, and I hope that before I resume my seat I shall be able to convince honorable senators of the need for a great deal of scrutiny in regard to the matters with which it deals. It may be possible, as Senator Henty has said, for governments and local government authorities to trace the effect of ministerial action in remitting duty, but, in my opinion, it is not always easy to do so. I have in mind an instance in which a contractor undertook to carry out a certain major work which necessitated the importation of heavy equipment. “When the contract price was agreed upon, the duty which- would be payable on such equipment was calculated and added. “When the job was completed, an application was made for refund of the duty on the ground that the equipment could not be made in Australia, and the application was granted by the Department of Trade and Customs. However, that refund did not reach the contractor because he had safeguarded himself against the payment of duty when assessing his price for the work.
– “Why did the honorable senator, as Minister for Trade and Customs, grant the application?
– I did not say that I had granted it. However, that is not an uncommon practice, and, in my opinion, is a proper one.
Many commodities come into the country in respect of which no applications are made for refund of duty payable. There are also many articles in respect of which refunds are made. Timber, which is imported from the Scandinavian countries or Canada, for instance, which is landed on the wharf at Sydney, Melbourne or Fremantle by the importer, may be distributed to his agents throughout the Commonwealth, and then to contractors, who finally sell it to persons preparing the plans and specifications of homes. Is it seriously suggested that the house-builders, or even the contractor, will receive a refund of duty paid on that timber? I do not think that any honorable senator would contend that that could be done.
– “Would a by-law be made in those circumstances?
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity to voice his opinions on this matter. I am endeavouring to assist the Government, as was the Leader of the Opposition. The question is, which is the best course for the Government to follow. I think that the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that the Opposition is prepared to assist the Government to find a solution of these problems, and that is what I am trying to do. The ramifications of the matter are great. As I understand it, the members of all political parties in this Parliament are on common ground in this respect. Personally, I should not give to any Minister authority, for a number of years, to deal retrospectively with applications for refund of duty. I do not think that that should be done. Whether the goods affected are capital equipment, clothing, or anything else, the duty position should be an equitable one, not only from the point of view of the importer but also from that of the consumer. During my brief experience as Minister for Trade and Customs, I experienced great difficulty in regard to many such matters. It is with those difficulties in mind and, I hope, with some understanding of the position, that I have participated in the debate.
– I welcome the amendments that have been circulated by the Government because, in my opinion, they will strengthen the bill. My mind is now more open on this matter than it was when the debate commenced, because some of the points presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) seem to me incontrovertible, whilst Senator Henty has undoubtedly spoken with the voice of experience. However, if I understood the honorable senator properly, he stated that the fact that the benefit of a by-law would not be passed on to the consumer would operate against the “ranting of by-law, and that, in practice, a by-law would not be made in such circumstances. He further stated that import licences are, in themselves, a safeguard against such a thing happening. However, as I understand the matter, import licences are of a temporary nature. The granting of them may, from time to time, be restricted with some degree of severity, as we have seen during the last few years. Therefore, he does not convince me that the amendments to the bill are a complete answer to the points that have been raised by the Leader of the Opposition. I can see nothing wrong in an amendment that provides that the Minister shall not grant a refund of duty unless it is proved to his satisfaction that the refund is not merely a hand-out to the importers. I suggest that so far from- placing the onus on the Minister, it would throw the onus upon the applicant for a refund. If he can prove that he has. sold half his goods and that the other half still in store includes merchandise that the Australian public should be allowed to buy without import duties, surely the importer should receive that benefit on the remaining goods. I am not convinced that such a proposition would not be agreeable to a Minister as some honorable senators have suggested. I have some recollection that a similar problem arose earlier in the life of this Government in connexion with imports of timber, and I had some sympathy for the Minister of the day in his predicament sr.-rn] although he was criticized by honorable senators on this side of the House.
The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that a select committee should be appointed to report to the Senate on this- measure before the Parliament is prorogued has much to commend it. I can see nothing against it. The suggestion was that the Government should have a majority of members of the committee and that the chairman should be a supporter of the Government. Senator Henty, who appears to be an authority upon this matter, has said that certain events could not flow from a system of by-laws. I believe that they could happen and I am not certain that they do not happen. I suggest that the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition would be a sensible way out. It would give satisfaction to me and many other honorable senators and show to the people that we are seeking an improvement of the existing practices.
– The suggestion from the Opposition side that a select committee should be appointed to consider this bill seems to be throwing a distant fly. The legislation with which this amending bill is concerned contains much more momentous issues appropriate for the attention of a select committee than the details with which this bill is concerned. I remind honorable senators that the Commonwealth of Australia was conceived by those whose minds were preoccupied by the idea of customs and tariffs. Very early in the history of federation that policy, which originally belonged to all political parties, was exploited by the party that is represented by honorable senators on the Opposition side. In the first five years of federation, their predecessors made it plain that customs and excise would be exploited by them. They held the shortsighted view that they” could create wage conditions artificially within the Commonwealth, whether it could sustain them or not. In the following 45 years, they have shown unabated enthusiasm for the pursuit of the same destructive theories.
Unfortunately, events have moved upon us so rapidly and urgently in the last couple of years that the failing structures of the Customs Act had to be invoked by the present Government to rescue the economy of Australia by the use of yet another barrier. That barrier prevented the people from getting with some degree of ease the consumer goods that are made abroad and are available in abundance. The Government was compelled to introduce a policy which amounted almost to the total restriction of imports. When it did so, the only complaint of the Opposition was that the restrictions had been delayed too long. The degree of prohibition has since been relaxed progressively. On a former occasion, honorable senators discussed a proposition that the import restriction policy should continue and six justices of the High Court of Australia were equally divided upon the question whether or not the existing Customs Act gave the government of the day that power. Fortunately, in the last sessional period of the Parliament, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) remedied the difficulty and made his authority dependent upon regulations. I am now anxiously awaiting the promised statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) upon the development of that policy and its continuance, because I believe that this matter is of the greatest significance to the economy of the country.
The high cost structure that has been developed within the country has been buttressed by the customs harrier which has been progressively strengthened. Now, a policy of import restrictions has been added to the bulwarks. That is a handicap to those who want to keep the supply of consumer goods on a reasonable basis and to those who need capital’ goods for development. Therefore, it is one of the really important matters in the national economy. A third protection that is enjoyed by the manufacturers of Australia as I understand it is the present rate of exchange. it is significant that within the last two months the advocacy of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures has been directed to creating additional tariff boards as a barrier against overseas goods. Recently I have seen an announcement of at least one additional tariff board that had been or was in the process of being appointed. I have referred to the broader issues only because to my mind they will he found eventually to be more significant than anything that is contained in this bill. Within the perspective of those issues, I should be interested, on a suitable occasion, in the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the subject of trade and customs in the light of information from those experienced in the subject, both inside and outside the relevant departments.
I shall turn now to the matters that are mentioned in the bill.
– It is about time, too.
– The interjection came from Senator Grant, who cannot, see the connexion between the statements I have made and the broad matters upon which his leader has thoughtfully addressed the Senate. I am very interested in the urge that is evident in the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to provide safeguards against the wide powers that may be exercised by the Minister for Trade and Customs. It is a tribute to the long line of Ministers for Trade and Customs, who have possessed such ample powers to confer favours on individuals, particular sections of the community or industries, that there has been so little scandal in the past 53 years of federation. However, we do not want to drift into a comfortable feeling of acquiescence in loose methods. Those people who permit a system to abound in loopholes and then suddenly discover abuses are accessories before the fact. I shall ask for a full explanation of the first provisions of this bill which seek to extend authority to perform the office of an officer of customs to persons who are authorized to do so in writing by the Minister. It may be that a need for acting officers has arisen from practical exigencies in the department. I have not the slightest acquaintance with the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs nor have I had advantages in that connexion such as those possessed by Senator Henty who has had practical experience in the exporting and importing of goods. But as some sort of a lawyer I have sufficient intuition to know that when responsible powers to deal with the public are entrusted to a section of the Public Service, it is necessary to make sure of the security that goes with the responsibility.
The whole of the Public Service, Federal and State, lias been built up on the conception that the Public Service needs to be independent, not only in relation to the public, but also to its paymaster - the government of the day. That is why the Public Service has been conceded the degree of independence which I fear it sometimes exerts against its real employers. But, in relation to officers of customs dealing over the counter in all parts of Australia in trade and commerce transactions with merchants and merchants^ clerks, it is necessary to make sure that those officers are persons who, by reason of their security within the service, can be expected to carry the responsibility commensurate with their office. That is why I frown upon a disproportion of acting officers in the Public Service. They aa-e dismissable at pleasure, and a significant proportion of acting officers within the department would introduce an element of weakness.
The next matter to which the Leader of the Opposition referred was refunds of duty. I acknowledge the advantages of the present system, but it should be accompanied by certain safeguards. I shall be interested to learn from the Minister, when he is replying to the debate, whether the Government contemplates that cases of the kind which the Leader of the Opposition instanced will arise, that is, cases in which two years have elapsed after the actual entry of goods, refunds of duty will be authorized. If that is so, it would appear to me to be remarkable that so long a delay should be due to congestion within the department. What other circumstances could give rise to a practice of that kind? With respect to distinctions between day-to-day regulations and continuing by-laws - I hope that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong - I take it that a ministerial determination is merely a decision that a by-law is applicable to a particular item in the schedule, and is really an administrative decision. It is highly desirable that a determination should be in writing, as the bill pre scribes, and it is also highly desirable that it be published. But I do not think that such an interpretation is other than an administrative decision by the Minister that a particular article comes within a certain category of imported goods. If there is more to it than that, I should like to be enlightened by the Minister on that point. Subject to the provisions in relation to the appointment of acting officers of Customs, I support the measure; but in doing so, I indicate that I am eagerly awaiting a comprehensive statement, as has been promised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), with respect to the continuance of the Government’s import restrictions policy.
– Senator Wright, at the commencement of his speech, referred to widening the ambit of this debate to permit honorable senators to deal briefly with the general subject of customs and the utilization of customs duties as an economic instrument of Government policy. The Australian Labour party has always advocated the protection of Australian industry in order’ to ensure its expansion. Senator Wright did not commence his story back quite far enough when he referred to the existing import licensing provisions and said that the only complaint of the Opposition was that they were to be only temporary. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in one of his budget speeches, stated explicity that at one stage during the last three years, as an antiinflationary measure, imports were not restricted in any way whatsoever, but that the position got entirely out of hand and the imposition of import restrictions was deemed to be necessary in order to correct that position which the Government itself had caused to arise. Thus, Senator Wright did not take the story of this matter back far enough. However, I do not intend to widen the ambit of this debate by dealing with that subject. Senator Wright acknowledged the value of appointing a select committee of the Senate to investigate customs regulations ; and if he is prepared to accept the major proposition he cannot refuse to accept the minor proposition put forward by the Opposition that such a committee should be appointed to conduct investigations within the limited terms of this measure.
The honorable senator made several other points that are worthy of consideration. He referred to the ever-increasing tendency to widen the powers of the Minister within the limits of the Customs Act which has given a great deal of concern not only to members of the Parliament but also to particular committees of the Parliament that have been constituted to keep under examination administrative acts of the Government. I refer to the Standing Committee of the Senate on Regulations and Ordinances. This is another illustration of power being given to the Minister to make determinations which may, or may not, have the meaning that Senator Wright has suggested that they might have, and, like the honorable senator, I should welcome an explanation from the Minister of the real effect of such determinations. In any event, the Minister is now empowered to make determinations that may involve the expenditure of a considerable sum of money on the part of individuals and also the welfare, and even the livelihood, of many persons. Therefore, the exercise of such a power should be accompanied by effective safeguards. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) pointed out, such a by-law shall not be deemed to be a statutory rule within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939 with all the implications of that situation. As I have said, the gradual extension of ministerial power under the Customs Act has received the attention of the Standing Committee of the Senate on Regulations and Ordinances. Whilst that Committee is not given an opportunity to examine every regulation that has been promulgated since federation, and which is still extant, nevertheless, it endeavours to keep its eye on as many regulations and ordinances as it possibly can. The. fourth report of the committee, dealing with the trade diversion policy introduced in 1936, states -
The point I make is that that committee was of the opinion that something was being done which should have been done, and could have been more properly done, by legislative enactment. Significantly enough, the chairman of that committee which brought in that report was the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who has taken charge of this measure in the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan). The committee in that report emphasized that something which it believed should have been done by statute had been done by regulation. The same committee, in its eighth report, which related to the 1951-52 session, -dealt with the import licensing regulations that were introduced in 1939, and in that instance it emphasized that something which previously had been done by regulation was being done by ministerial determination. The committee in its eighth report stated -
The following passage indicates that we are getting away from parliamentary control : -
I shall not read to the Senate any more of the report, as I have already read out the operative part of it. A ministerial determination is issued in lieu of a by-law and the by-law itself is not subject to the Rules Publication Act. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, vast powers now reside in the Minister. This is a new process, probably necessary for administrative purposes, which is going to affect the livelihood of the importer. It also involves the question of justice to the consumer of goods. If such actions of the Minister are not to be the subject of parliamentary control, at least a provision should be inserted in the legislation to ensure that on all occasions the Minister’s authority shall be exercised scrupulously and with due regard to the necessity to ensure that the consumers shall receive the advantage from the exemption of importers from duty. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned three reasons why a select committee should be appointed. From the passages that I have read to an committee it should be evident to all honorable senators that we should have more time in which to think about the mechanics of the measure that is now before the chamber. That is the first point that I make. It should be within the competency of such a select committee to consider whether there could be devised a method more constitutionally acceptable and administratively practicable than the present method. I do commend the Government on the amendment as far as it goes, as I consider that the fullest publicity should be given to determinations by the Minister and at the earliest possible opportunity.
I come now to the less technical and more pertinent part of the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition. I refer to action to ensure that duties from which an importer has been relieved shall benefit the consumers. In view of the importance and magnitude of this matter, and the number of people that are involved, I think that a select committee composed of members of both sides of this chamber should inquire into this aspect of the matter with the greatest of goodwill, and dissociated completely from political considerations. That would buttress the Minister in his administration of the Customs Act, because the Minister is vulnerable to attack on the ground of integrity, and would obviate the possibility of a charge being levelled against him. It would also protect the people who should be protected. I support the motion.
– I rise to support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The measure before the chamber has been introduced for the purpose of amending the Customs Act 1901-1952. It is based on experience that has been gained over the years in customs administration. I support Senator Wright’s tribute to successive Ministers for Customs and the excellent manner in which the staff of the Department of Trade and Customs has handled many difficult cases that have involved huge amounts of money. There has never been a breath of suspicion a boil t the administration of the department. As Senator Wright has mentioned, this subject could be extended to embrace a consideration of the respective merits of free trade and protection, and whether manufactures in this country should be openly encouraged. However,
I shall not go further than to say that I personally support a protectionist policy. Indeed, Labour has supported that policy since before federation. The Australian Labour party actively supported such a policy during its early teething stage, and still supports it. Had not that policy been applied continuously through the years Australia would not have been so well prepared as it was to withstand the impact of two world wars. The Leader of the Opposition has raised the question whether, as a. result of administrative action, one section of the community could gain an advantage at the expense of another section of the community. That involves a consideration of whether the consumers are assured of any advantage by reason of the issue of a by-law. Every effort should be made to ensure that the consumers will gain the benefit -of exemptions from customs duties. I am confident that the evidence that may be adduced by a select committee composed of members of both sides of this chamber to consider the subject of by-laws would provide us with material on which to base a completely new approach to our efforts to streamline the customs legislation in the light of 50 years of experience by the1 Department of Trade and Customs, the importers, and the manufacturers. In my opinion the evidence that would be gathered by a select committee would be invaluable to the Parliament, in view of the increasing degree to which the Government is controlling the activities of industrialists and importers. The objective of the committee should be to devise ways and means of streamlining and tightening up the customs legislation. Its activities should be conducted in a spirit of goodwill, and divorced from political motives. It is probable that members of the staff of the department could suggest how dead wood could be eliminated from the legislation. Other members of the community ra ay be able to make suggestions that could be implemented with advantage. I summarize my thoughts on the subject by emphasizing the need for streamlining the customs legislation, and the necessity to take steps to ensure that the benefit from exemptions from customs duties granted by bylaws shall be passed on to the consumers.
Since the bill was introduced the Government has seen fit to move two very important amendments. The first provides that a by-law shall have no force until it has been published in the Government Gazette, and the second amendment provides that a determination shall be published in the Government Gazette as soon as it has been made. Although the amendments refer to relatively minor factors they are nevertheless important, because I can remember an instance of criticism being levelled at the Minister in connexion with the importation of timber. In that instance it was alleged that an importer derived an undue advantage of £200,000. The fact that such a criticism can be levelled at the administration must be a cause of constant embarrassment to a Minister who is endeavouring conscientiously to administer his department. It is imperative that the bill before the chamber should be tidied up. I support very strongly the proposal that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition that an investigation should be conducted by an all-party select committee, which should be clothed with the necessary authority to investigate the subject fully.
9.29]. - *in reply - I am sorry that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) is absent from the chamber this evening. His absence is due to the fact that he is suffering from a severe attack of influenza. The Government is eager to have this measure passed by the Senate in order that it may be debated in another place. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) devoted a considerable amount of time to the technical aspects of the. proposed amendment, and he lias had an opportunity to discuss with the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs the practical working of the by-law system. It would be impossible for me to reply to all of the general statements that have been made about the relative merits of customs and free trade, particularly as most honorable senators who have mentioned them have no real knowledge of them. Therefore, they consider that a select committee should be appointed to tell the people who have had years of experience how to sr.- M do their job. That argument does not impress me. If we concentrate on what this amendment proposes we may do better than if we were to examine all the other points that have been raised.
I think’ that the main point raised by the Leader of the Opposition concerned goods admitted under bylaw in respect of which a .refund of duty is made. He expressed doubt as to whether it was possible for the department to ensure that any refund was passed on to the consumer. He will appreciate that the policing of that type of problem presents great difficulties. But the Department of Trade and- Customs has a fine record. It has men with years of technical and practical experience. “When an application is made for a by-law admission of goods the department’s trained men make a most searching investigation before a decision is made. I think that the greatest number of applications . for the admission of goods under by-law would come into the category of goods not commercially manufactured in Australia. . Although the department has a splendid record of the various types of industries in Australia, sometimes it takes two or three months to determine whether an article is manufactured in Australia. In order to obtain the department’s consent to admittance of a parti,cular item under the by-law provision it is necessary to make out a very satisfactory case. It has been suggested that that takes some time. In cases in which goods are to be admitted to Australia from a country other than the United Kingdom investigations have to be made in the United Kingdom in order to ascertain whether the item could be manufactured there. Our agreement with the United Kingdom Government provides for obtaining the permission of that Government to the admittance to Australia of goods from another country at a special rate of duty. That may take a considerable amount of time. It is laid down that if a rebate of duty is granted in certain cases, it may only be granted on condition that the refund iE passed on to the purchaser of the goods concerned. “No system is perfect, but I assure the Senate that there is nothing to fear in relation to the administration of these matters. The general public watch very closely and carefully examine all items that Come into Australia under by-law as they are published in the Gazette. The ramifications of the chambers of commerce and the’ chambers of manufactures provide an important safeguard in connexion with this procedure.
The Leader of the Opposition asked what amount would be refunded under this bill in a given period. I understand that the department does not keep a record of that information. I should think that it would be considerable, but I am satisfied that ample safeguards have been taken.I cannot believe that this amendment will do other than tighten up the law. It will make it easier for departmental officers to administer the law without taking risks. I am sure that honorable senators will not expect me to give a technical appreciation of this most important amendment. However, the notes which were supplied to the Minister in connexion with the bill stated that before the introduction of the bill the Minister made “ one-day by-laws “ which, when published in the Gazette, validated the administrative act of admitting these goods free of duty or at reduced rates of duty. The ministerial determination now proposed is that some action be taken before freedom from duty or reduction in duty is allowed. The determination in itself is a legal instrument. It is obviously preferable for the legal instrument to be in existence before the concession is granted.
Senator Wright raised the subject of “ acting officer “. In 1952, Australia imported over £1,000,000,000 worth of goods and current imports are being made at the rate of about £600,000,000 a year. In an area as large as Australia it is necessary for the department to appoint reliable men to act for it in isolated areas. However, such appointments are few compared with the permanent administrative staff of the department.
The Government is eager to have this bill passed through the Senate and I appreciate the attitude that has been adopted by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, who have put the bill above party politics. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber desire to safeguard the interest of the people. The suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition represent an intelligent approach to a bill which is mainly technical in character. Considering the amount of goods and revenue handled, the Department of Trade and Customs is one of the most efficient public departments in the Commonwealth. I suggest that any other points relating to the bill might be dealt with better at the committee stage: However, I am sure that the Senate will not expect me, acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), to explain matters that are far beyond the scope of this small amended bill which will not give the Minister or his officers greater power, but will improve existing administrative procedure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Under Standing Order 196 (a) I move -
The motion is quite . clear. I foreshadowed it at another stage of this bill. I invite attention to the fact that it proposes that the committee shall furnish its report by the 23rd October. I agree entirely with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), that there ought to be no politics in this matter. I do not see any politics in it. But it is necessary to provide safeguards which I have already outlined to the Senate, and I do not think that the Senate has sufficient information before it at this stage to enable it to ensure that this legislation does not still contain great gaps which we have this one opportunity to close. The select committee, the appointment of which I have proposed, would find it necessary to work hard. I have suggested that the Government should have a majority of three senators to two Opposition senators. The examination of experts from inside and outside the department, and the examination of manufacturers and importers by the committee would serve a real and very useful purpose.
– It would not be possible to do that by the 23rd October.
-NA - In recent years select committees have furnished very valuable reports in a fairly short time. From my experience on such committees I can say that if there is a will to dispose of a matter quickly it can be disposed of. The real point at issue is clause 6 of the bill. If honorable senators feel completely informed about those procedures and completely confident thai they cannot be improved further after what they have heard in this chamber I should be very surprised. Honorable senators opposite cannot console themselves with the reflection that imports are controlled by import licensing. Licensing is but an ephemeral control. The Government has announced more than once that licensing exists for the one specific purpose of restoring the balance of payments position and that that control will be removed as early as possible. Only recently the Government gave considerable relief from the control and it is on the point of making a firm statement regarding its future policy in connexion with that -matter. In many cases, two years elapse before an application for : refund of duty is dealt with. I do not make that statement from my own knowledge. I make it on the basis of information given to me by officers of the Department of Trade and Customs. I am unable to cite specific instances; but when they were asked why the power to make a retrospective by-law should not be limited to a period of say six months or even one year, their answer was that such a limitation would be unreasonable because many applications took up to two years to consider. I was informed also that almost invariably applicants for exemption from duty, import the goods the moment they lodge their applications. The goods arrive and the duty is paid. I am not stating that of my own knowledge ; I am repeating the information that was conveyed to me by customs officers. There is a very obvious reason why immediate importation is desired. If a man decides to import say an item of capital equipment, he does not want all sorts of other applications to be joined with his. -He wants a “ break on the field “. He wants to get his consignment in well ahead of any similar goods that may be imported by his competitors. His rivals may not know until .the by-law is published a long time afterwards that certain goods are being imported. If an importer is bright enough to get an idea ahead of his competitors, he is entitled to derive some benefit from his initiative. Every one has the same opportunity. “When I am told by experienced customs officers that many - I cannot say “ most although I am under the impression that this applies to the great majority - of these applicants are a long time awaiting a decision, it is completely clear to me why government officers object to limiting the retrospective operation of the by-law. I had a personal experience with the department that I can cite to the Senate. An application was made through me to the present Minister for Trade and Customs for the importation of a particular kind of light cloth for the headdress of a certain religous order in tropical areas. The usual procedure was followed. Manufacturers were circulated and asked whether they could make this cloth.’ Manufacturer after manufacturer said that he could make it and the Department of Trade and Customs in due course forwarded a list of those manufacturers. However, when a firm order for the cloth was offered, each manufacturer in turn said that he had been mistaken and that he could not make it. The procedure took several months. I think it is reasonable to assume that local manufacturers do not expedite such inquiries. Why should they ? That is an actual case for which I vouch. Knowing the delays that attend that procedure, what course does the importer adopt.? The wise importer, orders his goods immediately he lodges his application, and they arrive in this country long before a determination on his application is made.
– What happens to the goods he has imported if he is informed that they can be manufactured locally?
– He will have to pay duty on them. In such circumstances, I understand, the Minister will not grant an exemption. There is no. urgency about this bill. No great issues depend upon the speedy passage of the bill. Its provisions are of a machinery kind. It has been debated on a non-political plane. In fact the debate to-night has reached a standard that the Senate does not very often attain. The heat of political controversy has been entirely absent, and I invite honorable senators opposite to maintain that atmosphere. We may not have an opportunity to review this measure again and before we conclude our consideration of it, we should be sure that it contains all possible safeguards. One naturally does not expect the Minister for Shipping and Transport to be fully acquainted with customs matters. It is unfortunate that ; to-night the Minister for Trade and Customs has been unable to be present. His absence, I acknowledge, is unavoidable, and is due entirely to his illness. My submission to the Senate is that the bill should be treated objectively and in a non-political spirit. I do not propose to traverse again the arguments that I adduced earlier, but I ask honorable senators to bear them in mind.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. I hope to see this bill through all its stages by 10.30 p.m.
Question put -
That the motion(vide page 304) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section two hundred and seventy-one of the Principal Act is repealed and the following sections are inserted in its stead : - “271. Where …. “273b. - (J.) A by-law made under this Part -
shall be published in the Gazette;
shall, subject to this Part -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) has circulated certain proposed amendments of this clause. I presume that it will be better to deal with them separately.
I move -
That sub-paragraph(a) of paragraph (1.) of proposed new section 273b be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-paragraph : - “ (a) shall be published in the Gazette and has no force until so published; “.
– I thank the Minister for accepting the principle which was suggested by the Opposition to the Government privately, but frankly, I do not think that the addition of these words will carry the matter any further. We are now referring to by-laws.
– This is a great compliment to the honorable senator’s own amendment.
– My amendment was directed to another matter, that of determinations. Proposed new section 273B at present reads-
Paragraph (b) makes it completely clear that publication in the Gazette is the starting point for the by-law to become effective, whether immediately, prospectively or retrospectively. The addition of the words proposed, although inoffensive to me, will do nothing, because the position has already been covered adequately in paragraph (b). which provides that the by-law cannot take effect until it is published in the Gazette.
I argued with the Minister’s officers for the inclusion of a clause at this point which would limit the retrospective operation which the clause might have, and I was met with the answer that that could not be done because many, if not most, of the applications take a long time to determine. Inquiries have to be prosecuted in Australia and in England. The Government was not prepared to accept the limitation. That is the point with which the Opposition was primarily concerned. Met with the facts, as put to us by the officers, we felt that we should abdicate from the argument which we were pressing.We know that applications take a long time to determine; but we were pressing for limitation of the retrospective operation of a by-law. I suggested that perhaps a period of six months or one year might meet the case, but was met with the argument that some applications may take as long as two years to determine. Whilst I am not objecting to the words proposed to be inserted, and while I appreciate that the proposal to insert them represents a gracious gesture on the part of the Government, it seems to me that they will not add anything to the clause.
– I understood that during the secondreading speech of the Minister, compli ments were passed to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) as the parent of this progeny. As I understand the position now, the honorable senator is on the defensive. Although not encouraged by his denial of parentage, I should like the Minister to engage in a little consideration and, I hope, discussion of this amendment. In its context, it will read -
A by-law made under thisPart -
shall be published in theGazette;
We are invited to alter that wording to the following: -
– That is not grammatical.
– It is sound sense; and grammar can go by the board as far as I am concerned. However, reading that paragraph, as it is proposed to be amended, in conjunction with paragraph (b), the following result is obtained: -
1 suggest that that has only to be read for its inconsistency to be apparent.
The only purpose of the amendment is to say that the by-law, in addition to being published in the Gazette, shall derive its force from that publication and have no force until so published. Yet the very next paragraph purports to give to the by-law itself the capacity to antedate itself, because it provides that the by-law shall take effect from a date which may be before the publication, if that date is specified in the by-law. I invite my esteemed colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, to reconcile that position, if he is able to do so.
– My interjection was not meant to be a frivolous one. If I were writing the phrase I should say, “ shall be published in the Gazette and shall have no force until so published “. I am not a draftsman, but that seems to me to be grammatically correct.
– I rise merely to assist Senator Wright’s memory as to what I said earlier to-night. I deny parentage of this particular provision. Indeed, I had not seen these words until a few moments ago. The honorable senator may recollect that when I was speaking of the amendments that were circulated on my behalf, I was referring to determinations; not to by-laws, and I used the words “ As soon as may be practicable “.
– The printed amendments at present before the committee were being circulated at the time, and 1 thought that the honorable senator was referring to them.
– I did not have the printed amendments in my hand until a moment ago. I think that the point made by Senator McCallum is a legitimate one. I agree entirely with his sub. mission that the wording should be “ and shall have “ instead of “ has “. I think that the proposed wording is exceedingly clumsy. In my opinion Senator Wright’s point is also well taken. It seems to me that the Minister should pay the committee the compliment of answering the points that have been raised.
– I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) would not expect a Minister to disagree with advice tendered by the Parlia:mentary Draftsman. I am not prepared to; accept any amendment other than that ‘on which advice has been tendered to me as -Minister acting for the Minister in “charge of this hill. The only assurance I can give the honorable senator, and other honorable senators, is that if they will give, me an opportunity to discuss this point with the Parliamentary Draftsman I shall do so and also raise it with the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs when the bill is being discussed in another place.
. r-J. should like the Minister to be a little more explicit. Is the point raised by Senator McCallum the one that he proposes to discuss with the Parliamentary Draftsman, or does he propose to discuss the point raised by Senator Wright?
– I shall discuss both matters.
– Does the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) consider that he is treating the committee fairly by asking it to agree to the passage of legislation when, even in his own mind, a doubt exists whether the wording of this clause is contradictory, as mentioned by Senator Wright, and whether it is grammatically incorrect, as stated by Senator McCallum? Neither he nor the Senate generally should allow the legislation to leave this chamber in that condition. 1. suggest, with respect, that consideration of the clause should be deferred for, say, five or ten minutes, so that the Minister may be able to obtain advice. It seems to me that ‘he should not hold this chamber up to ridicule, as he would, in my opinion, if he allows the legislation to leave the Senate in the form which the Government proposes.
– I do not profess to he an expert in customs law or the details of the hill before the committee, but I should like to comment on the two points that have been raised. Incidentally, they do not seem to be points of any great moment. The first, raised by Senator McCallum, is in relation to the use of the words in the amendment “ and has no force until so published “. I agree that the phrase, associated with the preceding words “ shall be published in the Gazette “, perhaps does not make a very pretty sentence, hut I know that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Draftsman prefers to use the present tense when describing the operation of the act. Even in the bill now before the committee, honorable senators can see the same kind of thing. It is not completely the same, but I can illustrate my point by referring to proposed new section 273c, which states, “ This part does not authorize the making . .”, not “This part shall not authorize* . . . “. The Parliamentary Draftsman is referring to an instrument at the time when it comes into operation as an existing instrument. It has no force at that stage. Something must happen to it first - it shall be published in the Gazette. I find no difficulty in the interpretation of the relevant phrase. As a piece of literature it may not bc pretty, but the Parliamentary Draftsman prefers to deal with that type of matter in the way he has dealt with it in this bill.
On the other point, I do not believe there is a great deal in the addition to the paragraph, but apparently it has been considered by the Parliamentary Draftsman after discussions with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and Customs officers. I do not think that the’ new provision (a) is inconsistent with provision ‘(b). The proposed new sub-section deals with two different matters. It is provided that the Minister may make a by-law. The moment that he does so, the instrument comes into existence. By its terms, that instrument may indicate that it is to take effect from the date of publication or from a date, whether before or after the date of publication, specified by or under the by-law. In other words, the instrument itself will indicate whether it is to take effect immediately, from a preceding date or on some subsequent date. But the instrument as signed by the Minister at that stage has no force. It derives force from the new clause. That is all that this new clause provides. It; ensures clearly that the instrument which may claim to take effect prior to, at the time of or after signature by the Minister, does not have the force of law itself until it is published in the Gazette. For those reasons, I suggest that the paragraphs are not inconsistent.
– If I were at cross-purposes with the Department of Trade and Customs on any problem, I would not go past any one of the three brilliant legal authorities honorable senators have heard to-night. Honorable senators have listened carefully to them and have discovered that all those brilliant gentlemen are at variance with each other and the Parliamentary Draftsman. Is that not plain evidence that something is not clear in this measure? Are the legal authorities in this chamber wrong and the draftsman right or is the position the other way about? If honorable senators are in trouble in understanding this measure, they have to go to the honorable sena tors, the members of the legal brains trust, who have spoken in the committee to-night.
– When they cannot agree, they will consult Senator Aylett.
– I would not go to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) for an explanation because he has said, in effect, “ Whether it is good or bad, we will go on with the bill “. I support Senator Kennelly. I have listened seriously to the honorable senators with legal knowledge, and I believe other honorable senators did so as well. They are at variance. The Minister also has said, in effect, “ I am in doubt myself, but if the bill is not right, we can put it right in another place “. I suggest that the clause be deferred until the legal members of the committee and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) have conferred so that they can put it into a form that will satisfy everybody.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That, in sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (1.) of proposed new section 273b, after the word ” Gazette “. the following words be inserted : - “ as soon as practicable after the making of the - determination “.
– I move -
That, after proposed new section 273f, the following section be inserted: - “ 273G. No refund of duty under aby-law or determination shall be made unless the Minister is satisfied that in the case of goods imported for resale, the benefit of the refund shall be passed on to the purchaser or purchasers of such goods.”.
In support of the amendment, I ask the committee to recallthe arguments that I adduced earlier and the comment thai was made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). He told the committee that a by-law was made providing for a refund of duty only on one condition. That was that the benefit resulting from the by-law was to be passed on. If that is the case, the proposed new section merely gives effect to something that is, in fact, done by the Minister at his discretion. I believe that the debate to-night has convinced everybody that there should be no remission of duties except in such cases. I suggest to the committee without further argument that the amendment should be supported.
, - From advice that has been tendered to me by the departmental officers, I understand that the amendment is unnecessary. The act provides specifically that unless the Minister is satisfied that the benefit is passed on, admission of the goods under by-law may not be granted.
– I thank the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) for the advice that he has given the committee. I postulated the possibility earlier to-night that there may be- some such provision. Will the Minister refer me to the specific section of the Customs Act, as I should like to consider it for a moment to make sure that it applied to the by-laws of the kind under discussion?
– I am advised that the provision is made in proposed new section 273b (2.)(Z>).
– The proposed new sub-section, as amended, reads - (2.) Notice of the making of a determination under this Fart shall be published in the Gazette as soon as practicable after the makin;; of the determination, and the notice shall specify -
the kind of goods to which the determination applies;
the item or proposed item for the purposes of which the determination was made.
That means that the Minister, at his discretion, may or may not insist that the benefit must be passed on. The use of the words “if any” indicates clearly that it is a matter for the absolute discretion of the Minister. 1 accept the statement of the Minister that the practice is not to allow a by-law admittance of goods unless the Minister is satisfied that the refund will be passed on. If that is the practice, why should it be a matter of discretion for the Minister, and why should it not be written into the act as a specific provision ? Assuming that it is the practice not to grant a by-law concession unless the refund of duty is passed on to the purchasers, what possible objection can there be to accepting the amendment? The committee must see clearly that there is no obligation upon the Minister to impose that condition. It is only a matter of practice at the moment for the Minister to take the precaution to ensure that the refund of duty is passed on. If that is what the Minister relies upon, it is not acceptable to me. I believe that it is an additional reason why the amendment that is now proposed, or any improvement upon it that the Minister can suggest, should be written into the legislation.
– I believe that I heard the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) inform the committee that th<? provision that is proposed in this amendment is already in the Customs Act. Apparently that was a mistake. The specific reference of which he spoke is th, provision in the bill which, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said, is simply a statement that any determination, if it includes conditions, shall be included for publication in the Gazette. I know that the Minister’s statement to the committee was based upon information that was supplied to him, but I claim, definitely and unequivocally, the right as a member of the committee to assert that no information shall be passed on to the Minister unless it is strictly justified. There appears to be no provision for gazettal in the Customs Act equivalent to the effect of this amendment. I desire to make my protest. The- proposed amendment is quite unjustified.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Reid).Order ! In conformity with the sessions!’ order relating to the adjournment of theSenate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having reported accordingly,
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating: to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
, - I should like to be informed by the appropriate Minister whether this Parliament or the Australian Government has power to insure that the law of a State shall be enforced when that law is being broken and the Government of the State con cerned declines to take action to enforce it. All honorable senators are aware that in recent weeks Tattersalls lottery in Tasmania has been featured prominently in the newspapers. Recently, a visitor from a country in the sterling area informed me that he was able to buy share tickets in that lottery through a certain -company. In the light of the information that he gave to me, I deemed it’ to be my duty to ascertain the facts. I propose to outline, the information which came into my possession and which I have every reason to believe is authentic. In 1935, a Labour government, which came into power in Tasmania in 1934, decided, out of the blue, to license companies to sell share tickets in Tattersalls lottery. 1 refer particularly to a company that is known as Prudent Investors Proprietary Limited. “Whilst the proprietors of Tattersalls lottery were permitted to ply for business only in Tasmania, persons resident in other States were able to buy tickets in that lottery; and, somehow or other, the proprietors of the lottery were enabled to do business with residents in New Zealand. Prudent Investors Proprietary Limited was licensed to sell share tickets and that company has been doing a big business in countries in the -sterling area. It has several off-shoots, including Investments Proprietary Limited and the Lucky Fred Syndicate. The licence authorizing those companies to sell share, tickets in Tattersalls lottery -was issued by the Tasmanian Government under regulations which were passed under the Tasmanian Gaming Act, 1935. Those regulations specifically provide -
The amount to be charged by the holder of a licence under sub-section (0.) of section 10 for any portion of or share in a ticket in any lottery shall not exceed one and a half times, the proportionate price of the corresponding portion of or share in the face value -of such lottery ticket.
The whole amount to he received in respect of any one ticket shall not exceed seven shillings and sixpence for every five shillings of the price paid by the holder of such licence for such ticket.
In recent debates in this chamber) we have heard quite a lot from members of the Opposition about prices control. That regulation is an example of prices control of lottery tickets by a Labour government which permits sellers to make a profit, of 50 per cent, on each ticket or portion of a ticket which they may sell. Tattersalls itself sells tickets at 5s. each and the proprietors of the lottery pay tax at the rate of 6d. on each ticket.
I am not engaging in a heresy hunt. I raise this matter, because it involves a grave principle. I have in my hand a list of shareholders in Prudent Investors Proprietary Limited which shows that, with minor exceptions, those shareholders are also shareholders in Investments Proprietary Limited.” The State Government that licensed Prudent Investors Proprietary Limited knows as well as I do that only two of those shareholders are Tasmanians, the. remainder being wellknown Sydney people. I shall not mention their names because I do not think that the names of private individuals should be bandied about this chamber. The shareholders to whom I have referred include secretaries and housewives, and also a solicitor. The Tasmanian Gaming Act 1935 provides that tickets in Tattersalls lottery cannot be sold at a sum in excess of 7s. 6d. and that tickets of a ‘ face value of £1 in Tattersalls Melbourne Cup sweep cannot be sold at more than 30s. Sellers are allowed to make 50 per cent, profit. The point I make is that the companies which I have mentioned are breaking that law and that the Tasmanian Government has failed to take any action to ‘ prevent them from doing so. I am led to believe that those companies sell tickets in Tattersalls lottery in countries in the sterling area and that they demand payment for the tickets in sterling so that instead of a payment of 7s. 6d. for an ordinary ticket, or 30s. for a ticket in Tattersalls Melbourne Cup sweep, they receive payments of 9s. 6d. and 37s. 6d. respectively. The Treasury should be interested in this matter insofar as it relates to regulations in respect of foreign currency. I also wonder whether the PostmasterGeneral’s Department can take action in the matter because this Parliament has passed regulations to enable proprietors of Tattersall’s lottery to do business through the mails. There is not the slightest possibility that the State Government will take action in the matter. That Government has been in office since 1934 and is not due to go to the country again until 1955. In view of the fact that the affairs of this lottery arc now so much in the news, it is about time that a clear statement was made by the appropriate Minister on the matter that I have raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Papua and New Guinea Act -
Ordinances - 1952 -
No. 10] - Evidence (New Guinea).
No. 102 - Papua and New Guinea Copra Marketing Board (No. 2).
No. 103 - New Guinea Land Titles Restoration.
No. 106- Lost Registers.
No. 106 - Trading with Natives.
No. 107 - Police Offences (Papua).
No. 108 - Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement).
No. 109 - Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Papua).
No. 110 - Customs (Export) Tariff.
No.111 - Native Village Councils.
No. 112 - War Deaths Registration.
No. 113 - Cacao.
No. 1 14 - Hallstrom Live-stock and Fauna (Papua and New Guinea) Trust.
No. 115 - Appropriation 1952-53.
No. 116 - Seamen (Foreign).
No. 117 - Police Offences (New Guinea) (No. 2).
No. 118 - Appropriation (No. 2) 1951-52.
No. 119 - Summary Ejectment.
No. 120 - Native Plantations (Papua).
Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining)
Ordinances - Statement showing particu lars of permits granted.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior- C. K. Waller.
Works- G. W. Curtis, A. R. Evans, B. J. Fitzgerald, S. Gilovitz, K. G. Gold, N. W. Phillips.
Re-establishment and Employment ActRegulations Statutory Rules 1953, No. 83.
Senate adjourned at 10.4.0 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 September 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19530929_senate_20_s1/>.