21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 8 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, further to the question which [ recently directed to him. Could the Vickers biplane in which the late Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith flew to Australia be brought to South Australia, now that it has been removed from the National War Museum at Canberra? Eas the Minister yet had an opportunity no discuss this question with the appropriate Minister in another place? If so, what decision has been made? It may be useful to the Government to know that my previous question evoked public interest in South Australia, as a result of which the Applied Science Museum of the South Australian School of Mines and Industries wrote to me concerning the possibility of housing this aircraft. This unique museum is one of the great cultural and educational centres in South Australia for apprentices, craftsmen and engineers. I have been informed by the director of that institute that it would consider displacing one of its present exhibit aeroplanes in order to house this historic machine.
– On behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who is busily engaged elsewhere, I inform Senator Laught that in 1920, the then Prime Minister accepted the aeroplane to which the question refers on behalf of the Australian Government. In view of that fact, it would be appropriate for the honorable senator’s request to be considered by the Prime Minister. I shall be pleased to refer the matter to the right honorable gentleman for a decision.
– On the 25th May, 1955, Senator Critchley addressed a question to me as to whether I was in a posi tion to inform the Senate what progress is being made with arrangements for th,transfer of ex-servicemen who are in civilian mental hospitals to wards of repatriation general hospitals under the control of the Government, as they art the responsibility of this Government. 1 inform the honorable senator that no such arrangements are being made. As honorable senators are no doubt aware, it hasalways been the Government’s policy to” provide, where possible, separate accom.modation from civilian patients for ex servicemen suffering from mental dip orders as a result of war service.
If the honorable senator is referring to repatriation patients needing restraint the Expatriation Department’s authority to provide medical treatment in reaped of an incapacity due to war service does not include the power to restrain a patient who requires custodial care. This power is vested in the State authorities by State legislation. In the larger States, most of the restrained patients are in the repatriation blocks of State mental hospitals, but in the smaller States where the numbers are insufficient to warrant the building of separate blocks for the segregation of homicidal or suicidal patients, they are, housed in special State accommodation.
The psychiatric patients for whom the Repatriation Department has a responsibility and who have been admitted to a State mental hospital are kept under constant review by the department. Regular visits are paid by officers of the Repatriation Department, both lay and medical, to observe the conditions of the patient and discuss his treatment, diet, clothing and comfort with the State authorities providing the active treatment of the patient. When the patient is fit for discharge from the State institution, he returns to the care of the Repatriation Department, if necessary, either as an outpatient or as an in-patient at a repatriation general hospital.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to a statement made recently by President Eisenhower in which he recommended to the United.’
States Congress an increase of the minimum wage in the United States of America by 15 per cent, because of the increased cost of living? Does the Australian Government contemplate taking similar action?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred, but it is common knowledge that the cost of living in the United States of America has been rising. The honorable senator will appreciate that the Australian Government, as a government, has no constitutional powers at all to fix hours, wages or conditions of labour.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs read a report of the fall in Australian exports during the current month to the extent of £10,000,000 or £11,000,000? What does the Minister think that Australia’s overseas balance will be at the end of the current financial year ? Does the Government contemplate any further corrective action by way of import restrictions ?
– The _ Government is keeping under continual observation the trend of overseas trade and the quantity of imports and exports. It is true that the present trend is adverse to the Australian economy, but the import restrictions which were tightened from the 1st April last, will not have any great impact on Australia’s overseas trade until about September or October. That section of the picture will then be clearer, and we shall know what effect the restrictions have had, and whether further restrictions will be necessary. In the meantime, if there is an increase of export income, that will make the outlook brighter. An unfortunate circumstance which will affect imports is- the unhappy industrial upheaval in the United Kingdom at present. All those circumstances are being taken into account, and the over-all position is being kept under constant observation. The Government hopes that, with increased production in Australia, and by earning a bigger export income, it will not be necessary to take any further action in the way of import restrictions, but I am not a prophet. The Government knows that no country can restrict itself into a state of prosperity, although we may be able to restrict ourselves out of a state of insecurity or bankruptcy. We can only work and produce ourselves intoprosperity, and I hope that that is the way we shall carry on.
– Will the Minister indicate the type of imports that are affected at present?
– The range of imports runs into tens of thousands of commodities. There are schedules, as the honorable senator is probably aware. We have “ A “ category items, listed on the more essential level. In “B” category there are many thousands of items of less importance, and also commodities of which there is a reasonably adequate local supply. To recite those items offhand would be quite impracticable.
– Can the Minister inform the Senate of the amount of Australia’s overseas credits at the present time, and can he say what he expects theposition will be in six months’ time, before the corrective measures he referred to take effect?
– I do nor carry these figures in my mind. However, if the honorable senator will read the newspapers each day, he will be able to ascertain the amount of Australia’s overseas balance. If he cannot find them, I shall be happy to supply them to him. As to what the position is likely to be six months hence, I can only say that I hope it will be strong and healthy. I am not a prophet, however.
– In view of the Minister’s answer to my previous question, I now ask him whether he can say that the information given in the press is authentic ? If it is authentic, is he in a position to say that the press statement? about Australia’s secret service also arecorrect ?
– Order !
– I should also like to know whether the information published in the press is supplied by the.
Government, and can, therefore, be accepted as authentic?
SenatorO’SULLIVAN.- The honorable senator’s question is obviously so silly that any answer of mine would not help him.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Repatriation been drawn to a statement by the Minister for Health in Tasmania, Dr. Turnbull, in which he criticizes the Australian Government for proposing to build a tuberculosis ward in the hospital at Hobart, and states that there are ample empty wards in district hospitals in that State which the Commonwealth should use? Can the Minister say whether it is the intention of the Australian Government to build a tuberculosis ward at the Repatriation Hospital in Hobart?
– I did see a report of such a statement by the Minister for Health in Tasmania, and all I can say is that, as Minister for Repatriation, I am not aware that any ward for tuberculosis patients is being built at the Repatriation Hospital in Hobart. I hope, however, that there will be an extension of wards in the hospital there. For some years this work has been on the list of jobs to be done.
– In view of the fact that the current Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will expire this year, can the Minister for National Development say whether the Tasmanian Government, which withdrew from the present agreement,will be invited to join in the new agreement, should one be contemplated?
– To the extent that the honorable senator’s question impinges on policy, I cannot answer it. The extent to which it impinges on policy would be in relation to the form or content of any arrangement with the States. As to the rest of the question, if there is to be a new housing agreement - and I emphasize the “ if “, because again that is a question of policy - it must naturally follow that every State would be given the opportunity to say “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ to it, irrespective of whether a State is or is not a party to the existing agreement.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Are there any reasons why a trainee, when called up for military examination and rejected, should not be told why he has been rejected or what his medical deficiency might be? Alternatively, is there any reason why his parents should not be told what medical defects he may be suffering from?
– My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, has supplied the following answer : -
The policy followed is to maintain the strictest confidence with regard to the findings of national service medical boards. However, where the examination reveals an unsuspected condition for which medical advice and treatment would be desirable, the Medical Board informs the young man of his disability and advises him to consult his own doctor. In such cases, the written advice as to non-acceptance on medical grounds sent to the registrant by the department reminds him that, in his own interests, he should consult his own doctor. The arrangements outlined were decided upon after consultation with leading medical authorities.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - I have received from Senator Toohey an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The serious plight of the Australian dried fruits industry, particularly in the State of South Australia.
– I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11.15 a.m.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– My reason for moving this motion is to draw the attention of the Senate to the very serious plight of the dried fruits industry in South Australia. I begin by saying that I am completely aware of the fact that this matter has already been raised in another place by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer). As a result of the statements that those honorable members made, the Minister concerned submitted to the honorable member for Mallee a written reply which I shall deal with later and which does not in my opinion in any way meet the situation that exists in South Australia in respect to this matter. The two honorable members I have mentioned raised the matter on an Australia-wide basis, and I, too, indicate that it is not my intention to separate, in my remarks, other States from South Australia. If anything is to be done to assist the dried fruits industry, it should be done on a nation-wide basis. However, as I represent South Australia in this Senate, it is incumbent on me to direct attention to the situation that exists in the industry in that State; and I have no doubt that a similar position exists in the industry in the other States.
The areas that I desire to direct attention to are the districts of Berri, Renmark, Loxton, Waikerie and other places of a similar character, whose industries have a great influence on the prosperity and the development of South Australia. A considerable time ago, those areas were nothing but desert wastes, but through the establishment of irrigation systems and agricultural development techniques, that area has to-day been transformed - largely ftp the result of the fortitude of the settlers, who are ex-servicemen in the main - into what might almost be termed a paradise. Governments have played a certain part in the work associated with the development of those projects, but the people who played the major part in the early development of the dried fruits industry are those who to-day are suffering the greatest disabilities through the depression into which the industry has fallen. During the last year or so, those settlers have enjoyed some degree of prosperity, but that has not offset the sacrifices that they made while developing the areas.
In districts like those of Berri, Barmera and Loxton, in South Australia, the community spirit has been developed to such a high degree that its results are an example to the rest of Australia. The’ people engaged in the dried fruits’ industry have not only developed their own fruit blocks and helped to build up Australia’s export trade, but they have also made a great contribution to the building of magnificent towns associated with their primary producing districts. As I said before, the community spirit that exists in those towns is an example to the rest of Australia, and it would be a tragedy if all the work and effort that those people have put into the dried fruits industry, and the areas where they carry on that industry, were to be nullified through the crisis that undoubtedly exists in the industry at the present time.
The co-operative spirit has also been most evident in the areas that I have mentioned. There is no need for me to give a homily on this subject, but 1 must say that the co-operative spirit has been amply demonstrated by projects that have been undertaken throughout these areas from time to time. I have painted this picture of the dried fruits industry because I believe that it is essential that honorable senators should have some understanding of the areas involved and the manner in which they . came into being, before I go on to speak of the difficulties of the industry.
This matter was mentioned recently in another place. It was brought up there by certain members of the Parliament, one representing an electorate in my own State. When the matter was put to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), he replied in a way thai savoured of Kathleen Mavourneen. He said, in effect, that he was aware of the difficulties of the people engaged in the dried fruits industry and was cognizant ‘ of the fact that some action should bf taken to alleviate their position through- _ out Australia. Then he said that he would make certain officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture ‘ available to the industry, so that they could advise the industry on what step? . should be taken to overcome the ‘ difficulties. 1 point out that the very thing that the Minister suggested should be done in respect of the dried fruits industry, that is certain research work, was done by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics as far back as 1952. That being the case, why is it necessary to have further research undertaken in order to examine the difficulties of the industry and to find a remedy for them ? It seems obvious that the Minister’s attitude is : “ Leave it to the growers, and let us hope that the difficult period will pass and that the Government may be able to evade its responsibility “. I do not say that that is exactly the case, but is seems to me that as a research was undertaken in 1952 the results of that research should be available to the Government and to the Minister, and that the Minister should have an immediate remedy to these difficulties. I assure you, Mr. President, that they do require an immediate remedy. There are very grave difficulties facing the industry to-day. Neither I nor any of my colleagues wish to make a political issue of this matter. We believe that an industry, which is so vital to the prosperity and development of South Australia, should be above politics. But, by the same token, we believe that if the Government is not prepared to take immediate measures to extricate the industry from its difficulties, then it is our responsibility to try to spur the Government to action.
Honorable senators opposite, particularly those from my own State, who know as well as I do the problems confronting the industry, will, I hope, support me in urging that some action should be taken to resolve them. This is an export industry, and it is, therefore, vital to the welfare of the people of this country. About 80 per cent, of our dried fruits are exported. The main consuming country is the United Kingdom, which takes about 50 per cent, of the total quantity exported. The remaining 30 per cent, is exported to various countries, lt is known that a preference is extended to Australian growers. That preference may, on the surface, appear to be of some value in the matter of distribution, particularly in the United Kingdom, but other factors intrude into the situation and make the preference something of a mockery. I say very definitely that other governments are more aware of the problems of similar industries in their countries than we appear to be. The United States of America is a leading exporter of dried fruits to the United Kingdom, and that country subsidizes its growers to the extent of £30 a ton. We are at a very serious disadvantage in contending with competition of that kind. Turkey is another exporter of dried fruits to the countries in which we seek to sell OU] products. Turkish growers are subsidized to the extent of £28 10s. a ton. Greece is another competitor in this field. That country has depreciated its currency, and as a result has secured an inestimable advantage over Australian exporters of dried fruits. I might also refer to Canada, but Canada works on a principle which has some relationship to the Californian system, which merely worsens the position because it virtually provides a system of dumping, which again places obstacles in the path of the Australian grower.
I now want to deal with the question of costs. I mentioned earlier that the Bureau of Agricultural Research, in 1952. conducted an inquiry into this industry for the purpose of ascertaining costs. The- experts who conducted that investigation found that the cost of production was about £100 a ton. That was the cost of growing. When I refer to the relevant figures, I suggest that honorable senators will gain some idea of the disadvantages from which the people in the industry are suffering, and from which the Australian people as a whole are also suffering. Dried fruits are a vital commodity because of their value to the export trade. In 1952, experts who inquired into the industry found that the growing costs amounted to £100 a ton. In 1954, the actual prices received were a? follows: - Sultanas, £81 a ton; currants, £80 a ton ; and lexias, £65 a ton. It should be obvious to the Government that this situation calls for immediate consideration. The problems of the industry must be tackled promptly if the industry if to be saved.
In dealing with this matter in the House of Representatives on the 4th of May last, the honorable member fbr
Angas (Mr. Downer) said that he was aware of the possibilities of the industry, and that he was sure that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) would take appropriate steps to see that some alleviation was given. I understand that a meeting was to be held in Melbourne, approximately a fortnight ago, for the purpose of preliminary discussions regarding the requirements of the industry, but the Minister, in replyto the honorable member for Angas, indicated that he would want from the growers suggestions concerning the solution of their problems.
– What was wrong with that?
– There was nothing wrong with it, except that the Minister was well aware of the problems of the growers. He was aware, too, of the suggested solutions which the growers had advanced from time to time. However, he did not refer to that knowledge in his reply to the honorable member for Angas. That, to me, was most interesting. The Minister invited the growers to attend a meeting, asked them to make suggestions regarding the solution of their problems, and stated that he would place at their disposal the services of a team of experts - which had been done previously in 1952 - knowing that, during the last eighteen months or so, the growers had consistently advocated the adoption of a course which the Government could take to remedy the situation. Honorable senators opposite who represent South Australia also will know the nature of that course. I shall deal with that aspect of the matter later in my remarks.
The reply of the Minister to the honorable member for Angas indicated many things, but it did not indicate that something definite would be done, which, of course, is what the growers want. The honorable member for Angas had this to say about the problems of the growers -
One of their many difficulties is that dried fruits are partly luxury products, and therefore the demand in the local market is rather a variable one.
I suggest to the Senate that the products of this industry should not be classed as luxuries. One of the measures suggested by the growers to the Government to assist in their rehabilitation is that sales tax should be removed from commodities which contain dried fruits. That is one way in which the growers, in an endeavour to work out their own salvation, made representations to the Government, but as yet nothing has been done. I agree with the honorable member for Angas when he discussed this matter in another place and said that there should be no luxury application in respect of the description of dried fruits. Everybody knows their nutrition value and while every one agrees that it is necessary that school children should be given milk and their health provided for in every way, dried fruits are as essential a commodity as is any other. I agree with the contention of the growers that sales tax on products that have a dried fruit content should be removed immediately. If that were done, the effect on the industry would be amazing and the growers, not only in South Australia, but also in other States would be given a new incentive. Senator Courtice. - Most other foods are free of sales tax.
– Not processed foods.
– I cannot understand why this commodity should be subject to sales tax. The Government should give some consideration to the request of the growers. The solution of this problem does not affect the growers only. It has a profound influence upon the Australian economy. It also has a great deal to do with the development of South Australia which has not an extensive rainfall. There are other factors also in the irrigation settlements where dried fruits are produced, and all these matters are of vital importance to that State. I wish to refer to the Minister’s letter in reply to the honorable member for Angas. It in no way met the situation and was something in the nature of a “ Kathleen Mavourneen “. It is a long reply and I shall read only some passages of it to indicate how soon the growers of dried fruits in Australia may expect to receive some relief. The Minister wrote -
I felt I should write to you on the subject of the problem of the dried fruits industry at the moment, following your various interviews with me and lie explanations and appeals on behalf of the industry which you have made in the House of Representatives.
I hope you will let growers know that the Government is very conscious of the value and importance of their industry.
Honorable senators will appreciate from that remark that I have not been exaggerating the importance of this industry. The Minister continued -
The letter is evasive, because the Minister must be well aware that the growers have put forward proposals continually in respect of this matter. He continued -
To ensure useful study of such proposals, they of course must be reasonable and capable of practical application. On the other hand, as you yourself have reminded me, any scheme for primary industry stabilization which is to lie embodied in law has to conform to the lejra.1 limiting factors of our Australian Constitution. These are very complex.
The Minister’s letter is also complex. It continues in that strain for about a page and a half and tells the honorable member who asked the question exactly nothing. It tells me nothing, and I am confident that the growers are none the wiser. The passages I have read confirm my contention that it is vague and .meaningless.
Honorable senators may be interested to be told of some of the proposals that have been made by the people in this industry through the federation which is looking after their interests. They asked this Government for a subsidy and for a stabilization scheme, and for the removal of sales tax. They have used every endeavour possible to extract their industry from its present difficulties. They have expended £30,000 a year during a period of three years - that is £90,000 - in publicity to increase the home consumption of their products, but they have met with no result. It would be idle for anybody to say that these producers have not made some contribution towards their own salvation.
The Government seems to give great consideration to other primary industries and it is ironical that, at a time when the wool industry and the wheat industry are both enjoying a period of prosperity, this vital industry should be virtually on its last legs and be denied the same amount of attention. Unless something is done immediately to relieve the driedfruits growers, many of them will have to vacate their holdings. They have to face other problems also which make their position grim indeed. Owing to the extraordinary weather conditions in South Australia last season there was a 25 per cent, wastage of dried fruits.
Some honorable senators might consider that I am being too dramatic and that I am attempting to create an impression of a situation that is not as bad as I appear to make it. It is inevitable that this subject will again be discussed in the Senate unless the Government comes to the assistance of these growers in the near future. I hope that if such a debate takes place honorable senators will remember what I have said this afternoon. It is not as though a group of growers are complaining because they are not receiving as much from their products as they would like. I have visited these areas within the last year or so and have found that their problems are increasing. The wine industry, which is closely associated with the dried fruits industry, has similar problems also and is entitled to consideration as well. Although I have before me- figures which have been compiled by reliable authorities and clearly outline the situation, I do not intend to use them because unless they are studied carefully the mere reading of them does not convey the true picture. I have tried to present the facts to the Senate so that a true understanding of the situation may be gained.
I deny that growers have not submitted proposals to the Government. The Minister should’ be fully aware that they have submitted proposals, and in his reply to the honorable member for Angas, he was unnecessarily evasive. Any examination of the dried fruits industry will produce the same result as the examination that took place in 1952, and that result is readily available to the Minister if he wants it.
Several things should be done by the Government to assist the industry. The sales tax should be removed from all foodstuffs that contain dried fruits, and the Government should immediately grant a subsidy to the growers in order to save this vital industry. It would be useless to pay a subsidy in six months’ time because, by then, the growers will be reaching the limit of their resources. They do not want to make a fortune. All they require is a subsidy that will enable them to carry on and give them some reasonable return for the work they are putting into the production of an important export commodity. If the Government were to give a subsidy now, and examine the situation in six months’ or twelve months’ time to see whether a continuation of the subsidy were justified, no one would quarrel with that arrangement. Something must be done immediately along those lines.
The stabilization of the industry is a matter in which the growers are particularly interested. Stabilization of other industries has been undertaken, and while I am aware - as the Minister indicated in his somewhat long letter to the honorable member for Angas - of the constitutional difficulties that might lie in the way of such an undertaking, I believe it could be achieved. The Government should consider without delay some stabilization scheme, within the limitations of the Constitution, which would provide a sound basis for a vital South Australian industry.
.- All honorable senators will agree that the dried fruits industry is one that is eminently suitable for consideration by the Senate, but I believe that Senator Toohey has exaggerated the difficulties under which the industry labours at present. Also he has not given to the Senate the full story of what has been transpiring between representatives of the driedfruits growers and the Australian Government. For a number of years, this industry has been extremely prosperous. Until 1953, it was one of the most prosperous in Australia, and there is still plenty of confidence in it throughout the States where dried fruits are produced. Dried-fruits blocks are still eagerly sought, and are changing hands at high prices. Business houses in the areas still have order books filled with orders for motor cars and other commodities. In that regard, I direct the attention of Senator Toohey to an article which appeared recently in the Renmark newspaper in his own State, rather deploring the panic talk which is sometimes associated with the dried fruits industry. The article served to show that, although the industry has experienced some recession, it is not in such dire straits a* Senator Toohey would suggest.
Nevertheless, there is a kernel of truth in the extravagant language that Senator Toohey used. For the first time, the industry has been forced to sell its productsin a cold, hard, unprotected world market, which is essentially a buyers’ market, and on which government-to-government trad ing between Australia and the United Kingdom has ceased. I wish to make this point to indicate how Senator Toohey hat exaggerated the situation. He told the Senate that the cost of production was £100 a ton. That amount, I have no doubt, was in Australian currency. Senator Toohey then said that certain dried fruits were sold at £80 a ton, and 1 know that that figure was in sterling. He gave no indication of that fact, nor was there any indication that the homemarket price for dried fruits is far above the export price, and that prices are, in effect, fixed by the Australian Dried Fruits Association, which controls the products virtually throughout Australia Therefore, I believe that Senator Toohey has probably been misled or has wrongly compared Australian currency with sterling.
As I have said, there is a kernel of fact in the statement that the dried fruits industry has experienced some trouble. That is due to three factors. One, as ] have said, is that the dried-fruits grower? have to produce under conditions in which wages, cost of pumping water, boxes, labour for picking, and transport, are all subject to internal regulations. The growers have to sell in an unregulated market. A second factor is -that in th,year under consideration the season was bad for the dried fruit growers, and a large proportion of fruit was damaged. I have two points to make in that regard if it is suggested that the Australian Government should do something about it.
Anybody who goes on the land and adopts an agricultural pursuit knows that he has to be prepared to sustain what are called, for some reason I have not been able to understand, acts of God. They include anything unpleasant that happens in the way of fire, flood or famine in the case of stock-breeders, and frost, rain at picking time, or unfavorable growing weather for dried fruits growers. Unless there is a cataclysmic visitation, the growers must be prepared during good years - and they are prepared - to make provision for the occasional calamitous season that comes along. In any case, as honorable senators know, all governments have recognized that seasonal damage to crops of any kind is purely the responsibility of the government of the State in which the damage occurs. There is no reason why this Government should- shatter that precedent in particular cases of seasonal difficulties.
If this Government is to assist the industry, we come down to the problems of prices and production. Up to two or three months ago, there was a great outcry about over-production of dried fruits. It was said that the market was saturated and could not take all that, we produced. There was some basis for that claim because, up to a couple of months ago, about 18,000 tons of dried fruits was unsold on the London market. That situation has altered. Most of the fruit has been sold, and of last year’s crop, only 6,000 tons is outstanding.
– It is selling readily at good prices.
– That is so. This year’s crop - I refer to that which was harvested about March, 1955 - is estimated to total 79,000 tons. If we add the carry-over of about 4,000, or 5,000 tons, the total to be sold this year will be less than the total which was profitably disposed of last year. The fear of overproduction which was justifiably felt a couple of months ago, has now vanished, owing to the fruit moving on the overseas market. The price overseas is approximately £80 a ton sterling. I do not accept Senator Toohey’s figures as to the cost of production, except as a basis for discussion, because, in arriving at the cost of production, many factors are taken into consideration, such as those people who grow dried fruits as a sideline, their main production being, say, fat lambs. Large capital values are often given to properties by growers, and interest and depreciation are taken into account. That always happens when attempts are made to find out what it costs to grow anything.
– Why would inflated capital value affect the position’?
– Because when an attempt is made to find the cost of production in order to make sure that the grower gets at least that amount, the grower includes interest on the capital value of his land as well as depreciation. The higher he estimates the capital value of his land, the higher the amount allowed for interest and the higher he makes the cost of production. That has always been a contentious subject. To any reasonable, practical man, it is clear that this industry is not now on the breadline, although there is a kernel of truth in the statement that it needs careful watching. I think that Senator Toohey exaggerated the position.
I now turn to one or two things that the honorable senator said the Government should do. He suggested, first, that the Government should remove sales tax on all articles associated with dried fruits. Sales tax is charged only on goods sold in this country, not on products which are sold overseas. Therefore, the question arises : What help would be given to the dried fruits industry by the removal of sales tax? For the price of dried fruits sold in this country is controlled by the Australian Dried Fruits Association, which is an organization formed by the growers of dried fruits. Obviously, assistance to the industry in the home market is not required. It is the export market which needs help, if any market does. It has been suggested that neither the Minister nor the Government has done anything to help the industry. That is untrue. About May last year, the growers of dried fruits approached the Minister and suggested a stabilization scheme for the dried fruits industry. As honorable senators probably know, the industry produces three different kinds of dried fruits - sultana3, lexias and currants. Representatives of the growers wished th.e Government to .bring in & different stabilization .scheme for each of those three types of dried fruits. In other words, they proposed that .a grow.er could make a profit on his sultanas. a profit also on his currants, and that he should keep both of those profits, but if he lost on his lexias, he should not suffer that loss because it would be made up to him under the scheme. Clearly, that was not a proper proposition .to put before any government. I grow two kinds of oranges - r navel and Valencias - and would be happy if some one would guarantee that I could keep any profit on one type of orange, and not bear any losses on the other kind. It was not a reasonable proposition, and, accordingly, the Minister told the representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Association that it did not seem practicable to give effect to it. Having heard the Minister’s reply, the representatives agreed that their proposal was not practicable, and so they told the Minister that they would submit another scheme.
– The growers do not “ put it over “ very often.
– As a grower, I entirely agree with the honorable senator. They did prepare another scheme, and again they approached the Government. Their latest scheme also had its difficulties. They brought up something which has not been mentioned so far in this debate. They drew attention to the difficulty they experience as a. result of not getting advances for their fruit when it is picked. As honorable senators know, considerable time elapses between the picking of the fruit and its sale as dried fruit. This is something in which the Government may be able to help the industry. As I understand the proposal put forward on behalf of the growers, it amounts to this : “ You make advances for the fruit, but we still want all title to it to be vested in the Australian Dried Fruits Association. We want you to make advances to us, but we do not want you to have any rights over the commodity in respect of which the advances are made “. When a government is dealing with public money, such an arrangement clearly is inadmissible. Now, both participants in this attempt to reach a properly worked out stabilization scheme, and to provide for the making of advances, are engaged is the task of appointing a committee to draw up ,a proper scheme. That is the situation as it stands to-day. The Government, through its Minister, has been willing to stand by the Government^ policy to bring in a stabilization scheme when those engaged in any industry say they want it, but its willingness to do so is subject to the proviso that the scheme is fair to taxpayers and consumers, and other members of the general community.
Senator Toohey read a letter which the Minister had written to a Mr. Downer, and claimed that it was meaningless and vague. That letter is not meaningless and vague to me. It states clearly that the Minister is prepared to supply officers to ensure that any scheme which the growers work out is not unconstitutional. Nor was that letter meaningless and vague to the growers of dried fruits, because at Red Cliffs, close to where I live, the letter was read to a mass meeting of growers, who expressed appreciation, and finally adopted a motion that the offer of the Minister should be gratefully accepted. The latest position is that the growers of dried fruits, through their elected representatives, have said that they are content to know that the matter is being dealt with, and that the Government is doing all that can be expected of it.
– As Senator Gorton has said, growers of dried fruits produce three varieties of products - sultanas, lexias and currants. The production of sultanas represents about two-thirds of the total production of dried fruits in Australia. Whenever there is any difficulty in the sale of sultanas there if trouble in the industry. In ‘ addition, probably a greater proportion of currantsin relation to sultanas is grown in South Australia than is grown in the other States. Lexias, of course, can be, and from time to time have been, taken to the wineries to be crushed for the purpose of making “ lolly water “ that is sold around this country. The production of lexias is expanding and the difficulty centres, not on lexias or currants, but mainly on the price that is obtained for sultanas. As soon as the price of sultanas drops, the industry is in difficulties. Senator Gorton said that growers are getting £80 sterling a ton for sultanas, but lie has made a mistake. My information is that the price they are obtaining is £S0 Australian a ton. The cost of production is £100 a ton. The honorable senator omitted to mention the circumstances that have led to the calculation of the present cost of production. In 1952 the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, in conjunction with representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, made a survey and arrived at
A figure for the cost of production for the purpose of determining a minimum price. The idea was that if the price went below that cost of production, there would be a guaranteed payment to the growers equal to the cost of production.
Since 1952, the Committee of the Australian Dried Fruits Association lias kept the relevant figures up to date, so that it is able to say that in 1955 the cost of production is £100, according to the figures that were worked out in 1952 by the officers of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. In fact, the industry is getting only £80 Australian a ton for its 1954 crop - not £80 sterling. £80 sterling would just equal the cost of production in this country, but it is not the price that is being obtained. The price that is being obtained is £20 a ton less than the cost of production, so Senator Gorton made a mistake when he said that the growers were getting £80 sterling a ton. The position is that all of the 1954 crop is not yet sold. As a consequence of this, and as a result of the difficulty in getting adjustments of the payment for the portion of the crop that has been sold, the growers are in difficulties. They have come to the Government from time to time because of those difficulties but the Government says, “ We cannot help you at the moment. We will give you some officers to have a look at your problem “. The growers do not want officers to have a look at their problem. They want help to tide them over the difficulties that they are suffering right now. They made some suggestions about finance and what Senator Gorton said in this respect is quite correct. The Government would . not entertain the question of financing them over their difficult period.
Until May this year there was a guaranteed price for dried fruits because they were sold to the British Ministry of Food, but the sale of portion of the 1954 crop lias been delayed beyond May and that portion will be sold on the open market that now obtains. The crop for 1955 also will be sold on that market. But the dried fruits that are being discussed in this debate and in relation to which the growers are in difficulties were sold on the market in which the guaranteed price prevailed. The figures that Senator Gorton and I have on the quantity of the 1954 crop unsold are about the same. As yet, about 5,000 tons has not been sold. This quantity was unsold when the arrangement for the guaranteed price ended. My friend and colleague, Senator Toohey, has brought this matter before the Senate to stir the Government to do something.
The industry is hampered by the regulations on sales tax. The facts are that there is no sales tax on raisins alone, but so soon as a little sugar is put with raisins and they are rolled into a ball and dusted with some desiccated coco-nut, sales tax of 12£ per cent, is applied to them because they are manufactured goods. The growers say that if that rate of 12% per cent, were reduced there would be greater sales on the home market. The’ home market is the best market for raisins. The best prices are obtained there and the removal of the 12$ per cent, sales tax would promote greater sales. It would cheapen the price of goods containing raisins to the advantage of the industry.. That proposition was put to the Government, though not in the precise terms that I have used. The proposal was made in the manner that Senator Toohey outlined. He spoke of products with some “ dried fruits content “. I have put the proposition by example. Another example relates to the use of raisins and sultanas in bread. Bread itself is free of sales tax. Raisins and sultanas are free of sales tax. However, if bread and raisins or sultanas are mixed, there is a tax of 12£ per cent on the mixture. The growers have asked that this anomaly be rectified, and I see no reason why it should not be remedied.
Take a little tun that is made of flour. Tax has to be paid on it because some sugar has been added to make it a sweet bun. If some raisins are put into the bun the tax is imposed at the rate of 12^ per cent., which is altogether wrong. Every ingredient of such a bun is free of sales tax, but the product obtained by mixing them to make them more palatable is taxed at the rate of 12$ per cent. This is one difficulty that the growers wish to have overcome by Government action.
Another difficulty relates to finance. That difficulty is greater in South Australia this year because, as Senator Gorton said, the crop has been a small one and the growers have not yet been paid for it. The advances have not been 30 big as they would have been under the scheme that operated before. As that scheme has gone by the board, the settlers are finding difficulty in meeting the payments that they have to meet to keep their properties going. For instance, a grower has to pay on the spot before he gets any water. The charge for water is from 30s. to £2 10s. an acre, but if the grower does not have the money to pay for it, his land is deprived of water. The result is a losing proposition to both the grower and the water supply authorities. Those authorities have to have the money to keep their projects going and the growers have to have the water to keep their properties going. There should be some arrangement whereby the Government would advance money, not necessarily to the growers, but to the cooperative packing houses to enable the men in the industry to meet all the expenses that are involved in keeping the industry going until such time as they can be recouped by the returns from the sale of their produce. That is all that the growers have asked for, but their requests have been turned down because the Government, wants collateral or something of that kind. There is ample collateral in the co-operative packing sheds in the Murray River districts.
I cannot speak for Victoria as can Senator Gorton, but I know that the industry on the Victorian side of the border has never co-operated with the industry in South Australia. I candidly confess that it has never been possible to do anything with the growers on the Victorian side of the river because they have made agreements with certain wholesale houses that place their products on the market. Those wholesale houses sell the dried fruits, either in this country or overseas, and they will not let go their rights under the arrangement with the growers. This system obtains in Victoria, but not so much in South Australia. Probably the position in Red Cliffs, which Senator Gorton mentioned, and in Robin Vale, where there are soldier settlers, is the same as in the Murray districts and in South Australia generally. In recent years many ex-servicemen have been settled on irrigated lands. They are growing not only the three fruits thai I have mentioned, but also other fruits which may be dried, such as apricots and pears. Of course, some of those fruitsmay also be canned. I suggest that the heavy production of sultanas, currants and lexias will aggravate the difficulties that the industry will face in selling itf products, not only in Australia but also overseas.
At one time a certain cost formula wat applied, and it stabilized the industry for a while. That formula could again be applied, and prices could be guaranteed to the growers so that they could obtain something more than the cost of production. There is nothing wrong in asking for a guaranteed price, and I suggest that there is nothing wrong in Senator Toohey placing a request before the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who represents the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in this chamber, to make some effort to give the dried fruits growers some relief.
In 1951 the growers harvested a good crop of fruits, but in that year all their produce was sent in bulk to the British . Ministry of Food, and a fairly good price . was paid for it. Since 1951, however, there has been a gradual decline in price. In 1952 the price of our dried fruit? dropped by 30s. a ton and in 1953 it dropped by £10 a ton, and the growers were getting only £95 a ton for sultanas. This year it appears that the price will fall again by about £10 or £15 below the price received for the 1954 crop. If chat should occur, then I believe that the growers will be selling their fruit at less than the cost of production. Honorable senators would do well to remember that, for four or five years before 1951, the growers received poor prices and fell into debt. However, in 1951 they harvested a good crop and a good price was received for it. Their returns for that one year enabled them to get out of debt and start afresh on a good financial footing. Therefore, if we give the growers some help now, we shall not have to help them always, because they must have a good year before long and then they will be able to pay back the money that the Government spends in assisting them.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. When speaking to tuy motion for the adjournment of the Senate earlier to-day, I made a mistake in the name of the honorable member to whom I said a letter had been sent. [ said that it had been sent to Mr. Downer, the honorable member for Angas, but I now find that it was sent not to Mr. Downer, but to Mr. Turnbull, the honorable member for Mallee. I make that explanation so that no complications will be caused in the electorate of either of the two honorable members whom I have named.
– When the adjournment of the Senate is moved to discuss a matter of importance one asks oneself what is behind the motion? In other words, we should consider now whether the Opposition genuinely desires to help the dried fruits industry. Confidence is the basis of all industries, and the honorable senators opposite who have spoken about this particular industry have certainly not fostered confidence in it. Senator Toohey said that a cost survey of the dried fruits industry had been made in 1952. The survey was actually made in 1950 and not L952, and it was a survey of the industry’s operations over the years L948-49 and 1949-50. The object of the survey was to establish the cost of producing dried fruits, so that that cost, could be utilized in computing the price of bulk purchases of dried fruits by the United Kingdom Ministry of Food.
The whole situation in this industry has changed since 1948-49, and I believe that Senator Toohey will agree that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) is justified in his contention that we should not consider conditions in 1948-49, but should consider present-day conditions. That is quite a reasonable suggestion, and Senator Toohey should not attack this Government for what happened in 1948-49. The Minister is to be commended for offering the services of officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and also other assistance, to the growers, so that, whatever may result from this situation in which the industry finds itself, no charge can be laid against the Government that it has not done its best.
I sometimes find myself forced to the conclusion that honorable senators opposite have joined forces with the newspapers in working up a scare about the position of the dried fruits industry. Apparently certain newspapers are trying to undermine confidence in the industry, and that, of course, will do it no good. I do not know why the scare has been started because the industry does nol need panic; it needs a little credit. This Government will give it credit. Honorable senators opposite should remember that the dried fruits growing areas of South Australia are well represented in the South Australian Parliament. For example, Renmark is represented by Mr. Ross Story who was recently elected. 3 believe that both Senator Toohey and Senator O’Flaherty will readily agree with me that that gentleman can quite adequately state the case of the growers to the South Australian Government. As a matter of fact, the Premier of South Australia has offered to defer the water rates owed by the growers, and negotiations in that regard are still proceeding. Not only the growers, but also the business people all along the river are irritated by the unfair presentation throughout this country of their financial stability.
– Nonsense! There must be something wrong with the dried fruits industry.
– I suggest that the dried fruits industry is not assisted by the scare propaganda of the newspapers and the Opposition. If any unbiased person visits the districts that were mentioned to-day, he will be impressed by the abundant faith that all connected with the industry have in it. I do not care whether those people are butchers, bakers, storekeepers, machinery agents, fertilizer suppliers or any one at all; they all have an abounding faith in the dried fruits industry. Therefore, this industry is not in the almost bankrupt position that the honorable senator would wish the people of Australia to believe. Every one connected with the industry, growers and others, has faith in the industry. There is no evidence whatever of any curtailment of expenditure in the areas in which the industry is carried on, neither for plant and equipment, nor for recreational or amusement purposes. As a matter of fact, as Senator Gorton has told us, in Renmark and the other Murray River towns, motor vehicle sales in the past twelve months have reached record proportions, and future orders are also records. Those are the facts. These firm orders are a feature of the business, and I will tell the Senate why they exist. Two years ago, perhaps long before the Opposition ever thought of the dried fruits industry, honorable senators on this side of the chamber took up this same question, and there was no support from honorable senators opposite for those worthy men.
– Mr. President, I rise to order. Do I understand- that Senator Mattner said that when the question was raised in this chamber two years ago there was no support from this side of the chamber? If the honorable senator did say that, I cannot give my opinion of his remark, because of the Standing Orders, but I am sure that on reflection he will admit that he is guilty of a terminological inexactitude.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood).- The honorable senator has not raised a point of order.
– Senator Critchley’s statement is ridiculous; I have not misrepresented him in any way. We have had evidence that Senator McLeay and other Liberal senators have been aware of the position which might obtain in the dried fruits industry. What did the Minister do when the Ministry of Food contract ran out in Great Britain? I have heard nothing of this from the Opposition. The Minister arranged that £80 a ton sterling f.o.b. should be the price for Australian sultanas, £80 sterling a ton for unseeded lexias, £90 sterling for seeded lexias, and £70 to £75 sterling for currants. All those prices were negotiated by the Minister, and were supported by the recommendation of the Australian Dried Fruits Association.
– How long ago was that?
– That was for the whole of last year’s crop.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. That crop has not been sold yet.
– I said “ for last year’s crop “, and any one who understands the dried fruits industry knows that, last year’s crop would be the 1954 crop. The honorable senator knows that the 1955 crop has not yet reached the market. He also knows perfectly well that the figures that I cited for the year to which 1 was referring are quite accurate. There are only about 5,000 tons of sultanas still to be sold, and our sultanas are bringing a great deal more to-day than £80 sterling a ton.
– How can they, if they have still to be sold?
– They are selling well.
– As my friend says, the market is freer, and they are selling well. In the 1954 crop we had 89,574 tons. I will not give the individual figures for currants, sultanas and lexias. Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 tons are unsold. For 1955, production has been 78,900 tons, and if the unsold quantity of 5,000 to 6,000 tons is added we have a total of 84,000 to 85,000 tons of dried fruits to be sold. The business people are quite confident. They know that the growers have 85,000 tons of dried fruits to dispose of, they know the value of that asset, and they know that dried fruits are selling readily. It is true that there has been a lag in payment owing to the delay in the sales. That is where the Government might assist, as I believe it will assist on the matter of sales tax. After all, the estimated amount of dried fruits unsold is only about 5,000 tons, of a total of 80,000 to 90,000 tons. That is not a very large amount. The business houses and the banks have accepted the lag in payments as a reasonable business risk. Perhaps credit has been a little restricted, but it has not by any means been cut off. We realize that on account of this lag in payments some growers may have experienced slight financial stringency, but we believe that this industry is so worth while that the Government will readily give it financial support. We know that in the past, particularly in the last few months, the growers’ representatives have been in consultation with, the Government.
– What for ? The honorable senator has said that they are all prosperous.
– We welcome those consultations. We are pleased that the representatives have come to the Government and discussed their industry. We believe in stabilization. That is one of our avowed principles. We have brought into operation plans for stabilization and, just as the wheat industry had to battle for years-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Senator O’flaherty has indicated that when I said that the price overseas was £80 sterling for sultanas I misled the Senate, because the figure was not stated in Australian currency.
– No, I said that the honorable senator had made a mistake.
– I have obtained the average price for sultanas for the season of 1954. It is £87 sterling.
– I wish to join in this important discussion. I regret very much the manner in which this subject was introduced hy Senator Toohey, when he asked that it should be treated by the Senate in the manner in which he introduced it. Despite the fact that the views of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, regarding the costs of the industry, may not coincide with those of Senator Gorton, I thought that the honorable senator made an informative speech in a conciliatory spirit. Although Senator Mattner and I both come from South Australia, I am afraid I must join issue with him again. Regardless of the opinion of the honorable senator of the political views of the members of the Opposition, he .should not doubt their sincerity. I assure him, through you, Mr. President, that those on this side of the chamber are just as honest and sincere in their approach to the problems of Australian primary producers as is the honorable senator himself. I regret that he tended to become heated during his remarks. I can do that, too, if necessary, but I shall endeavour to restrain, myself on this occasion.
I do not think that either Senator Toohey or Senator O’Flaherty attempted to give the impression that the dried fruits industry is on the verge of extinction. What they did attempt was to point out that there are difficulties connected with this industry which, unless something is done to remove them, will make the future very uncertain for those engaged in it, particularly ex-servicemen. I agree with Senator Mattner that the newly elected member of the Liberal party in the South Australian Parliament has a first-hand knowledge of the conditions of the industry, and I am sure that the honorable senator will not quarrel with me when I suggest that there are two or three other members of the South Australian Parliament, supporters of the Australian Labour party, who are actively concerned with the production of dried fruits and wine in South Australia.
Senator Toohey and Senator O’Flaherty indicated ways in which some relief, at least, could be afforded the people engaged in the industry. From my knowledge of the industry - and I candidly admit that it is limited - I am satisfied that, for many years, the growers have borne imposts which have been quite unfair, and the collective effect of which has affected seriously their financial security. They have waited patiently for those imposts to be lifted. I remind the Government that our dried fruits market in the United Kingdom, which is our main market, is being threatened by growers in countries which are geographically closer to the United Kingdom than is Australia. The growers of those countries are becoming a serious source of competition, and the Australian growers appreciate that that is so. I suggest that those engaged in the industry are not so concerned with the means by which relief is afforded as with the promptness with which it is given, and the justice of it. The aggregate cost of removing sales tax from dried fruits would not be very great, but such action would be of importance to the growers.
Whatever the Government has done or has failed to do for this industry during the last twelve months, the action that has been taken by Senator Toohey, and which is supported by the Opposition, may have the effect of hastening a decision by the Government to help the industry. Although it has been said many times during debate in this chamber that the members of the Opposition are not sincere when they bring forward matters such as this, it cannot really be contended that the desire of honorable senators on this side of the chamber to do their best for the nation is any less than that of those who attempt to stamp themselves with the hallmark of efficiency and to set themselves up as the only ones who are competent to bring forward matters of this kind. As I have said, no matter what they may think of the motives behind the presentation of matters such as this, honorable senators opposite should not question our sincerity.
– I have listened with great interest to the debate on this matter. Honorable senators opposite have a perfect right to express their views on these important matters. I find it very refreshing to get back to discussion of something that really matters, after the brawling that has been going on in other places recently. It was also refreshing to hear
Senator Toohey putting his case moderately and sensibly.
I take this opportunity to express some views concerning the industry, in order that honorable senators may see the position clearly. I think that everybody appreciates that we are in a changing economy, and that very drastic changes have taken place during the last twelve months. The change-over from governmenttogovernment trading to tradertotrader trading has been one of the reasons why difficulties have arisen. In order to bring about that changeover, the British Ministry of Food unloaded on to the London market enormous reserve stocks of certain commodities, of which dried fruits was one. In addition, the dried fruits industry has had to compete with the industries in the United States and Turkey. Those countries have been disposing of their surplus dried fruits by exporting them, with the assistance of a government subsidy. During the month of January, when I was in London, I had the opportunity to confer with the Australian representative of the Dried Fruits Board, and I was particularly pleased to find that, despite the large quantity of dried fruits on the market, the volume of sales that had been made was so great that it surprised even the board member himself. There was very keen buying and the position had improved considerably.
I am not unmindful of the fact thai not only dried fruits, but also wheat and many other commodities, are going to meet keener competition on the world markets. Australian exporters will be faced with the problem of lower prices and surpluses. The one big obstacle which we have to surmount in this country is reduction of costs of production, in order to ease the burden, particularly on primary producers. In that direction, T think that the supporters of the Australian Labour party can help considerably. In fairness to my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), I think it should be said that I doubt whether there is a man in this Parliament who has done more than he has to assist the various exporting industries. In connexion with the dried fruits industry, when it was indicated that the
British Ministry of Food was ceasing to purchase Australian dried fruits, he requested, in order that there should not be a slump in prices, that the British guarantee a floor price up to the end of March. To that request the British Government acceded. He said further -
We will not dispose of our surplus stock by the end of March. Would you be good enough to carry it till the end of May!
And the British Government replied that it was prepared to do so.
From the official records supplied by the department it is interesting to note that the British Government had guaranteed a support price on the 1954 pack on currants - 1-2 crown £70 a ton, 3-4 crown £75 a ton. The respective approximate average selling price of those two lines was £69 and £73 a ton, leaving a deficiency in the first case of £1 a ton and £2 a ton on the 3-4 crown. Senator O’Flaherty mentioned sultanas, on which he is something of an authority. They represent 75 per cent, of Australia’s dried fruit export. The support price was £80 a ton, but the average selling price was £86 a ton sterling. That means that 75 per cent, of our dried fruit export realized a price of £5 a ton in excess of the support price. My officers say that the market is still buoyant and that the price is fluctuating about that figure. The support price of seeded lexias is £90, but they realized only £58, and unseeded lexias, which had a support price of £80 a ton, realized only £50 1 0s. a ton. The efforts of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. M>Ewen) in having the support prices on these lines extended to the end of May means that the British Government was making a contribution of approximately £350,000. The Minister’s work in this matter needs to be stated so as to dispel any misapprehension or exaggeration of the position.
Not only the dried fruits industry but also the poultry, wheat and many other primary industries will have to suffer the rigours of keen competition and lower prices during this changing period. However, during the last eight or ten years God has been good to these producers, and indeed to us all, and has sent good seasons. Good prices have been realized also, but when difficult conditions are experienced in one or two years we must be prepared to meet our obligations. The Government is only a trustee of the taxpayers’ money. It is easy to suggest that industries should be subsidized, but where will the money be found to do that? Is the Government justified in subsidizing one industry at the expense of another? An industry such as this provides many problems, and in the last six or nine months the department has been keeping a close check on it.
I pay tribute to the dried fruits industry as being one of the best organized in Australia. In the early days it cooperated with the Australian Government and arranged an orderly marketing production scheme which was one of the best adopted in this country. Looking to the future, it is obvious that if 75 per cent, of the export - sultanas - is now bringing a good price there will be no great problem if that price can be maintained. If other countries can get rid of their surpluses without dumping them on the London market, or on other markets, by way of subsidy, the Australian position will be assured. However, if we have to meet this competition we will have to consider how to overcome the problem. The Minister has arranged to meet representatives of the industry on the 15th June in Melbourne. Representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Association and the Australian Dried Fruits Board and expert officers from the department will try to iron out both immediate and long-term problems. They will consider a stabilization scheme to help the industry and the general economy of Australia so that important overseas returns may be maintained.
The question of sales tax on processed food in which dried fruits are used has been examined and is still under consideration, and if anything can be done the Senate may rest assured that it will be. I am pleased to be able to announce that the whole of the 1954 pack has been sold. About 5,000 tons of sultanas which are now keeping the market alive are bringing a price of £5 above the support price. I agree with Senator Mattner that scaremongers have suggested that the industry is bankrupt; but that suggestion is an exaggeration. However, I am not unmindful that the future holds some difficult problems. I assure honorable senators that the Government is well aware of those problems as well as of those which are associated with other primary-producing industries.
– in reply - Although there have been some areas of disagreement as to the exact state of the dried fruit industry, honorable senators who have taken part in the debate have agreed that it is faced with grave difficulties; and this motion has achieved a useful purpose in providing an opportunity for honorable senators to discuss them. The debate may have a beneficial result in preserving one of Australia’s basic industries.
Senator Gorton, to some extent, decried some of my statements, but he also admitted that the industry is confronted with severe problems.. I contend that I was not over-emphasizing or overdramatizing the condition of the industry in what I said this afternoon. Senator Gorton took me to task on my criticism of the vague terms of the Minister’s letter in reply to an honorable member in another place. I still say that the Minister seemed to be more concerned with constitutional difficulties connected with a stabilization scheme than with a real understanding of the position and a determined effort to correct it. I take back none of my statements in that regard.
Senator Mattner made an extraordinary contribution to the debate when he said that scare reports had been published in the press regarding the dried fruits industry. I have studied carefully articles in the press in connexion with this industry, and I have not noticed any scare tactics on the part of the press. I found Senator Mattner’s statement rather strange. In my opinion, the press has under-estimated the situation, and I believe that Senator Mattner was unfair to the newspapers. We all criticize the press at some time or another, but when if. directs attention to disabilities in basic industries, the press is worthy of commendation and not condemnation. Senator Mattner’s statement has no substance. He said that the difficulties of the industry had been over-emphasized, but he went on to say that a member of the South Australian Parliament, representing one of the dried fruits areas, had made representations to the South Australian Government because of the difficulties of theindustry. That was a direct contradiction of his previous statement.
Senator Gorton dismissed contemptuously my suggestion that foodstuffs which contained dried fruits should be exempt from sales tax. He said it would not affect the situation if that were done, but the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) indicated that, in his opinion, some degree of assistance could be given in that way. He stated that the Government was considering the matter. Therefore, the Minister’s statement does not support the contention of Senator Gorton.
The debate has been a reasonable one. and has not been marked by hostility. Every honorable senator who spoke had some regard for the disabilities of the dried fruits industry. I hope that the interchange of opinions will resultin benefit to the people who are engaged in the industry so that they will be able to continue their important task of providing food for human consumption in Australia and overseas.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the following paper be printed: -
Nineteenth Report - Treasury Minute and Comments of Postmaster-General’s Department on Twelfth Report of the 1952-54 Joint Committee of Public Accounts - Postmaster-General’s Department presented to theSenate on the 5th May, 1955.
This motion is mentioned in circumstances similar to those which operated in the case of two motions that I submitted yesterday. This particular report was presented in another place, and the motion for the printing of the report was adjourned. Apparently, it was not finally discussed, and was discharged from the business sheet. The Public Accounts . Committee lacks parliamentary authority for the printing of the report, and I submit this motion to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
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 Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act1948-1952 provides retiring allowances to members of Parliament and their widows on a contributory basis. The present basic allowance is £8 a week to a member and £5 a week to his widow. The existing retiring allowances have not been varied since the measure was. enacted in 1948, with the exception of additional allowances of £2 a. week to a member who is 65 or more years of age, and £15s. a week to the widow of a member from.the date he would have reached the age of 65.
Under existing legislation the Commonwealth meets, 60 per cent. of the cost of the basic allowances, and the. balance is financed by the contribution of £3 a week made by each member. The cost of the, additional allowance in relation to age 65 is met by the Commonwealth.
The bill will increase the rate of contribution by members from £3 to £4 10s. a. week. This higher contribution,, together with the Commonwealth’s subsidy of 60 per cent. of the cost of the retiring allowances, will finance an increase in the basic allowance to £12 a week for a member and £10: a week for the widow of a member.. The additional allowance of £1 5s. a week paid to the widow of the member from the date he would have reached the. age of 65 will be discontinued, but the additional allowance to a member who is 65 or more years of age will be raised from £2 a week to £3 a, week, making a total weekly retiring allowance to thesemembers of £15. The cost of this additional allowance will be. borne by the Commonwealth as is done at present.
The bill will also provide for the payment of these increased rates to persons at present in receipt of these allowances. It is not proposed, at this time, to provide for any additional payment by the Commonwealth to the fund in respect of the payment of the higher rates of allowance in relation to benefits which arise from periods of service prior to the date of commencement of this measure, namely, the 16th June, 1955. The bill will defer consideration of any such payment until the second actuarial report upon the fund at the 30th June, 1963.
At the introduction of the scheme for parliamentary retiring allowances: in- 1948, it was recognized that a payment to the fund might be necessary in respect of benefits payable under the act in relation to earlier periods of parliamentary service. Consideration of this was deferreduntil the date of the first annual report of the actuary as at the 30th June. 1956. I mention, far the information of honorable senators, that an examination of the state of the fundi at the present time shows that no paymentof that nature is now required from the Commonwealth.
The other amendment relates to the period of service which qualifies a member for a retiring allowance. The act at present stipulates eight years’ parliamentary service as the qualification for a retiring allowance. Honorable senators will perceive that this provision represents some advantage to them since, innormal circumstances, the course of two separate periods of parliamentary service would extend beyond eight years. Nevertheless, an honorable senator, in extraordinary circumstances, may be returned to Parliament on two separate occasions, and yet complete no more,or little more, than three years’ service. The amendment contained inthe bill will provide) as an alternative, that a retiring allowance will also be payable after a member has been affected for the third time by the dissolution or expiration ofthe House of which he is a member, or upon: the expiration of his office. This alternativequalification will apply toall members, and represents the maximum number of occasions of service in the Parliament which were contemplated when the period of eight years’ service was established. It will be apparent, of course, that honorable senators will continue more frequently to qualify for a retiring allowance under the existing provision, as they are more likely to accumulate eight years’ service than to cease to serve in three periods of the Senate within eight years.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first; time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to facilitate marriages of Australian citizens, and marriages of members of the defence force, outside Australia. Similar legislation, known as the Foreign Marriage Act, has been operating since 1892 in the United Kingdom. The effect of that act is that a marriage solemnized pursuant to its provisions is valid as if it had been solemnized in the United Kingdom with due observance of all forms required by law. That legislation is in force in the various countries of the British Commonwealth, including Australia, and from time to time Australians have been married pursuant to its provisions. But it is not complete, or satisfactory, from the point of view of Australia, because marriages under the act are solemnized by British consular officers and registered in England. What needs to be done to complete our position is, first, to provide that certain marriage officers, who will be ambassadors, ministers, consuls, or other persons in the diplomatic service, shall have authority to perform the ceremony of marriage for Australians over seas; secondly, to authorize chaplains in the armed forces to perform ceremonies of marriage for members of the armed forces serving overseas; and, thirdly, to register these marriages in Australia. The bill achieves these objectives. It authorizes marriages of Australians in overseas countries, according to the requirements of our own laws, and provides for the subsequent registration of those marriages in Australia.
The quickest way to inform honorable senators of the effect of the bill is todirect attention to its more important clauses. Clause 4 contains a definition of “overseas country”; it is defined as meaning a country or place other than a part of the Queen’s dominions. Clause 7 states that the Attorney-General may, by writing, appoint as a marriage officer a. person appointed to hold or act in any of certain offices. The offices specified arethose of -
Failing all those - any other person qualified under the regulations to be appointed as a marriage officer.
The persons who will be appointed marriage officers under this bill, as under theUnited Kingdom legislation, are persons- in what might be called the diplomaticfield.
Clause 9 provides that a marriagebetween parties, of whom one at least isan Australian citizen, may be solemnized in an overseas country by or beforea marriage officer. Honorable senators will see, in subsequent clauses of the bill, provisions for the formalities of registering the certificates in Australia. In future, the proof of a marriage overseas will thus be available inside Australia,, and not, as under the Foreign Marriage Act, only in the United Kingdom.
In clause 14 reference is made to marriages by chaplains. Sub-clause (1.) reads -
Subject to this. Act, a marriage between parties of whom one at least is a member of the Defence Force may be solemnized inan overseas country by achaplain.
When a marriage ceremony is performed by a chaplain, the same procedure will be followed as in the case of a marriage performed by a diplomatic officer, and registration of the marriage will ultimately also be effected in Australia. The provisions relating to certificates and registration will be found in clause 22 and surrounding clauses. Doubts have arisen in recent years about the validity of one or two marriages of Australian servicemen performed by Australian chaplains during the last war, and the opportunity has been taken, in clause 16, to remove these doubts.
The only other aspect of this bill to which I need refer is that the requirement for provisions of this kind arises from a well-established principle of what is called private international law. The effect of it is that a marriage overseas is valid in Australia only if it is valid according to the law of the place in which it is performed. Therefore, if a marriage officer, or chaplain, performs a marriage in a foreign country, before it can be valid in Australia it must be in conformity with the law of that country, or we must ourselves pass a law which makes it a valid marriage for our purposes.
To conclude, I may say that, although the bill contains many provisions, they present no great difficulties. They are well established by long-standing practice. The effect of the bill is to provide added facilities for Australians to be married in foreign countries in circumstances which will produce a registration of that marriage, and undisputed validity of that marriage, in their own country. I think that all honorable senators will agree that these are desirable objectives. So far as I can judge, the bill is aptly expressed to give effect to them. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House . of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (onmotion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Commonwealth grants for university purposes under legislation of this nature have been provided ever since the 1st July, 1950. Before that time there had been Commonwealth grants for research and substantial subsidies were paid to universities in connexion with the reconstruction training scheme. This bill seeks to continue Commonwealth grants for universities for the year 1955 and to repeal the States Grants (Universities) Act 1953 under which grants were paid to the States for their universities up to the end of 1954.
I think I should remind honorable senators of the principles under which these grants are made. The system is rather complicated, involving both basic and second-level grants. Basic grants are fixed amounts and are payable only provided that the university concerned receives a certain measure of income from. State grants and fees. In order to qualify for the basic grant the amount of State grants and fees must be at least sufficient to balance the university’s budget in 1950 and it must also be at least three times as great as the Commonwealth basic grant. If a university receives more in State grants and fees than this “qualifying amount” it then also qualifies for an additional Commonwealth grant known as the second-level grant. This grant is paid at the rate of £1 for every £3 by which the income from State grants and fees exceeds the qualifying amount subject, however, to a maximum limit placed on the grant.
Since 1950 all universities have qualified easily for the basic grant and the question has been how much of the secondlevel grant they can attract. So that the real principle is that the Commonwealth pays grants in addition to the basic grants in proportion to money received from State grants and fees. This means that the Commonwealth specifies in each legislation that certain maximum grants can be paid,but it does not necessarily follow that the maximum grantsare actually paid to all universities. They will only bc paid if the necessary amount of State grants and fees is received. Under earlier legislation the maximum benefits for all States were -
The grants for which universities qualified in 1954 amounted to over £1,400,000. Details of payments to the various universities are, in round figures -
For 1955 this bill proposes maximum grants amounting to £1,700,000 and at the same time, some slight adjustments are made in the distribution of the grants as between universities which I think on the whole will be helpful. I stress that the present proposals are for 1955 only as, during 1955, a review is to be made of the present basis of determining grants in the light of changes in student enrolment and relative costs as between universities since the grants were determined in 1950. Members of the Senate will realize that costs of universities have risen and the pattern of enrolment has changed in recent years. These changes are of importance in distributing the grants among universities since the grants are based on enrolment figures and relative costs of universities.
Since the scheme of grants commenced in 1950 both “basic’’ and “second-level “ grants have been payable to universities under certain conditions. Honorable senators might refer to the schedule. The third column of the schedule shows the “ basic “ grants which are payable under section 4 (1)(6) provided the amount of State grants and fees received, by the university concerned is not less than a “ qualifying amount “ which is shown in the second column of the schedule. This “qualifying amount” originated in 1950 and requires the States which are, of course, primarily responsible for their universities to contribute a certain measure of assistance in order to qualify for assistance from the Commonwealth. The “ qualifying amount “ of State grants and fees was fixed in 1950. It is at least three times the Commonwealth basic grant and also at least -the amount necessary to balance the university’s budget in 19;30.
In addition to the “ basic “ grants provided for under the third column of the schedule the States may also qualify for “ second-level “ grants under section 4 (1) (a) at the rate of £1 for every £3 by which the amount of State grants and fees exceeds the “qualifying amount “. These “ second-level “ grants were originally provided in addition to “ basic “ grants to meet rises in costs since 1950. The maximum “ second-level “ grants proposed for 1955 are shown in the fourth column of the schedule and these have been computed on the basis of the latest enrolment figures readily available for all Australian universities, which arc for 1953. Some allowance is also made for the relatively higher costs of the small and medium-sized universities. Members of the Senate might note that the maximum “ second-level “ grants proposed for 1955 are higher in all cases than for 1954 although the percentage increase varies among the universities because of the changed enrolment distribution since 1950.
Increased grants for residential colleges are proposed and these are shown in the fifth column of the schedule. These grants are in fact part of the basic grant and their increase from £27,082 under the 1953 act to £35,700 under this bill accounts for a slight increase in the basic grants. Grants for residential colleges are a contribution towards administrative and teaching costs and are distributed to universities in proportion to their fulltime enrolments. The enrolment figures on which the 1955 grants have been distributed are those for 1953 instead of 1950 as in the 1953 act.
I might further explain the system by taking the case of the University of Sydney. During 1955 this university will receive a certain income from State grants and fees. Of this income. £783,369 will attract a basic grant of £271,623 from the Commonwealth, which includes £10,500 for residential colleges. In addition the university will receive £1 of second-level grants for every £3 by which State grants and fees are in excess of the amount of £783,369, up to a maximum of £222,000.
Briefly then, the bill makes provision for continuing the payment of Commonwealth grants to the States for universities during 1955 pending a general review of the basis of distributing the grants for 1956 and later years. The maximum grants provided under the bill, namely £1,705,930- £877,130 of “basic” grants and £825,800 of “ second-level “ grants - represent an increase of almost £200,000 on the 1954 grants. The grants for residential colleges have been increased from £27,082 in 1954 to £35,700 in 1955.
I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Laught) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a. second time.
This bill seeks to amend the Matrimonial Causes Act 1945. The Australian Constitution contains power to permit this Parliament to pass laws with regard to matrimonial causes. The subject of matrimonial causes includes suits for dissolution of marriage, nullity of marriage, restitution of conjugal rights, judicial separation, and includes, as incidental to any such suits, matters in relation to damages, alimony, maintenance, the custody, maintenance and education of children, and so on. The original English legislation in relation to matrimonial causes was passed by the Parliament at Westminster about 98 years ago, and almost immediately afterwards the legislatures of the Australian colonies passed similar acts. These acts as amended from time to time still remain the basis of matrimonial causes jurisdiction in the various States of Australia.
The bill before the Senate seeks to confer, as did the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1945, a federal jurisdiction on the State courts which operate under the acts of the legislatures of the various States; but the bill does not seek in any way to extend the grounds of divorce which are included in the State acts. Some explanation of this question of jurisdiction in divorce is warranted and I seek the forbearance of the Senate whilst I attempt to give this explanation. I invite the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the basis of jurisdiction in divorce is that parties shall be domiciled within the jurisdiction of the court considering the matter. The party bringing the case to the court must show a domicil within the State or territory of the particular court.
Expressed simply, domicil of a party may be taken to mean the permanent place of residence of the party, that is, if a person is settled in a particular place such person may take proceedings in the court of that State or territory. The effect of marriage, however, is that a wife thereby loses her pre-existing domicil and acquires the domicil of her . husband. This rule is based on the old common law rule that the husband and wife are one person in law. The severity of this common law rule in other matters of the husband and wife relationship has been largely modified by statute, particularly in regard to property matters. This rule of domicil in divorce is one of the last relics of the predominance of the husband in the eyes of the law.
The severity of this common law rule of domicil can be illustrated when one considers the case of a wife being deserted by her husband, the latter going interstate or abroad. She can take proceedings against him only in the State or country where he has made his new home and only under the laws of that country. Some limited modification has, however been made to this common law rule by the States in that if a wife were domiciled within the jurisdiction of the State courts at the time of the desertion, proceedings can be taken by her in those courts notwithstanding the fact that her husband had changed his domicil. The ability to do so depended upon her ability so prove desertion, which is a technical legal concept, sometimes difficult of legal proof.
By virtue of Part II. of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1945, an attempt was made to deal with the particular problem of the rights of such unfortunate women. Part II. was a war-time measure, and the nature of the limitationcontained in it was that it enabled a wife to take proceedings for matrimonial redress who had been married between the 3rd September, 1939, and an appointed date, later fixed at the 1st June, 1950, provided that her husband was at the time of the marriage not domiciled in Australia and that she was immediately before domiciled in Australia, and provided also she had not at any time since the marriage resided with her husband in a country outside Australia in which the husband was domiciled at the time of the residence. The date eventually fixed under the 1945 act as the last day for commencing proceedings was the 1st June, 1955.
The bill before the Senate answers positively the questions that are no doubt crossing the minds of honorable senators, namely : -
Clause 5 of the bill adds in effect a new part to the principal act of 1945 by inserting as PartIII.a the new part entituled “ Institution of Matrimonial Causes by Certain Women”. As clause 5 provides, a woman, who is a resident in a State or territory and has resided there for not less than three years immediately prior to the institution of proceedings, may institute proceedings in any matrimonial cause in the supreme court of that State or territory although she were or had been for any period required by the law of that State or territory domiciled in that State or territory. The supreme court of a State shall exercise any jurisdiction with which it is vested and the supreme court of a territory shall exercise any jurisdiction which is conferred on it in accordance with the law of that State or territory.
Honorable senators will see that there is in the bill no requirement that the wife must have been domiciled in Australia before marriage. Again, there is no requirement that the marriage must have taken place between certain dates. There is no limitation that if the parties have at any time lived together in the country of the husband’s domicil the relief should not operate. The only limitation with regard to time is that the wife must have resided in the State or territory for not less than three years immediately prior to the institution of proceedings - a reasonable requirement, following the precedent of English law where this valuable jurisdiction now exists.
Honorable senators can rest assured that the recognition of a decree or order given or made in the exercise of any jurisdiction invested or conferred by the bill is provided for by section 6 so far as Australia is concerned, and all courts in Australia are obliged to recognize such decrees or orders. The question of recognition of decrees or orders outside the territorial limits of Australia is governed by the principles of private international law. I think it useful to point out, however, that the Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom decided in 1953 in the case of Tr avers v. Holley that where there was, in substance, reciprocity, it would be contrary in principle and inconsistent with comity if the courts of England were to refuse to recognize the jurisdiction, which mutatis mutandis they themselves claimed.
The effect of this court of appeal judgment is that we can expect recognition in England of theeffect of decrees or orders made pursuant tothis legislation and also in other countries which have similar legislation. To sum the position up -
The bill will afford a measure of social relief that should be of great value. It endeavours to put women on the same basis as men in relation to their rights before the law, thus affording additional recognition of the status of women.
– I second the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 7th June (vide page 669), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a bill to amend the Superannuation Act. The purposes of the bill were clearly indicated by the Minister in the second-reading speech which he delivered yesterday. There are two main purposes. One was prompted by the report of the Auditor-General, who apparently recommended that statutory authorities under the Commonwealth should make periodical payments to the
Commonwealth in respect of their liability as employers to contribute to the Superannuation Fund. Hitherto, under section80(B) of the Superannuation Act, these authorities were notobliged to make any payment to the fund until the liability to the pensioner arose. That is now being changed, to enable the Treasurer to make arrangements with these bodies to make periodical payments. I note that in the second-reading speech the Minister indicated that the intention was for the Treasurer to make arrangements with authorities for their payment to the Commonwealth of the liability accruing year by year for the pensions of their employees. However, on referring to clause 9 of the bill, I find that there is no reference to yearly payments. The payments could, accordingly, be on a monthly, yearly or some other basis. I notice, too, that there is no obligation upon statutory authorities to make this payment. I invite the Minister, either now or in committee, to consider the possibility that a Commonwealth authority might decline to enter into an arrangement with the Treasurer. If that should happen the purpose sought to be achieved by the bill might be defeated. I do not ask the Minister to consider the matter immediately. It will probably be more convenient to consider it in committee. I foreshadow it now so that he may give some thought to the proposition. From a perusal of the Minister’s secondreading speech I gathered the impression that it was to be obligatory for the Commonwealth authorities to make such an arrangement and pay at least once a year their ascertained contribution, but if the Minister will refer to clause 9 of his bill, I think he will agree that that is not so, and that any such authority may decline to enter into an arrangement with the Treasurer.
The other main purpose of the bill is to provide that public servants shall in future contribute for superannuation for the number of units appropriate to the maximum of the salary range of their particular grade. That will involve them in some higher payment originally, because in many cases it may require the taking up of additional units. But, as the Minister quite correctly pointed out, that does not mean that the employee will pay any more in total by way of superannuation contributions. As his contributions are determined according to age, and are strictly related to age, he would pay less now for a unit calculated on the basis of the maximum of his grade than he would pay if he waited to take up the additional unit when he did, in fact, receive the maximum. It may involve him in some higher payment for the time being, but over the complete period of his contributions it will not involve any extra payment. I realize that the new system will provide some administrative relief for those administering the Superannuation Fund, because the basis of contribution for particular employees and the number of units they are entitled to take will be resolved for a period of years, instead of having to be reviewed year by year. I understand that no additional payments in pension are likely to be made by the Commonwealth, except for a relatively insignificant amount.
It is proposed that the legislation shall be given retrospective effect to the 19th January of this year. There is no objection to that. I think that is reasonable, when one considers that salary increases were granted in December, 1954. The Opposition has no objection to the measure. It does not object to the other machinery provisions that are contained in the bill. They are few in number and we do not regard them as vital or important. We support the principles of the two main amendments. In conclusion, I offer the suggestion to the Ministerthat, having regard to the inflation that has taken place in this country, the Government might consider increasing the amount of each pension unit, which, at the moment, is 17s. 6d. Like many other matters concerned with various phases of Australian life, the amount of that unit is probably ready for review. I am not suggesting what the amount should be, but if the Minister is prepared to address his mind to that matter, an announcement on the subject would be of very real interest throughout the Public Service. Consideration of that matter is probably overdue, as certain increases in quite unrelated fields of Commonwealth acti vity were deemed to he. overdue when they were debated in this chamber earlier this week.
Subject to those comments, the Opposition has pleasure in supporting the broad provisions of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
. -I refer the Minister to clause 9, which proposes to add a new sub-section (2.) to section 80b of the principal act. As I recollect it, section 80b provides that a statutory authority, at the time that a pension falls due to an employee, has. to make its total contribution to the fund. If I read the clause, the committee will follow what is intended. It is as follows: -
Section eighty b of the Principal Act isamended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - “ (2.) The Treasurer may enter into an arrangement with an approved authority for the making of payments by the approved authority in lieu of payments required to be made under the last preceding sub-section, being an arrangement which the Treasurer is satisfied will provide a fair basis of payment to the Commonwealth in respect of amounts paid, payable or likely to become payable by the Commonwealth to the Fund or to the Provident Account in respect of persons who have been employed by the approved authority, and the approved authority may apply for the purposes of the arrangement any moneys under its control.”.
I point out that there is no obligation cast by that particular provision upon the Commonwealth authority to make such an arrangement with the Treasurer. The Treasurer is merely authorized to make such an arrangement when he is satisfied of certain matters.
I should like the Minister to address his mind to what will happen if the Treasurer seeks such an arrangement and the Commonwealth authority declines to enter into it. Is compulsion to be used, or may the Commonwealth authority resist Government policy in the matter? It seems to me that, under the provisions of that clause, it may do so. There is no higher provision than that the Treasurer may make arrangements for payments.
It is not stated whether those payments are to be monthly, quarterly, yearly, or otherwise. The second-reading speech of the Minister rather suggested that yearly payments were in mind. I can see that at is possible for an arrangement to be made on that basis, but that has not been provided specifically. The clause is sufficiently wide to enable payments to be made on an annual or any other basis. I am concerned only about those two matters, and I hope it will be convenient for the Minister, at a later stage, to supply the answers.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
– The proposed amendments of the bill are directed particularly to employees of governmental authorities. Clause 9, to which reference was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), relates to those employees. At the present time, government authorities are not required to make provision for superannuation payments until such time as the payments actually become payable. At that stage, the authority concerned is called upon to pay the employer’s portion of the superannuation payment, instead of the Commonwealth paying it. The legislation stems, in part, from the fact that the Auditor-General directed attention, in his last report, to the need for these authorities to accrue in their accounts each year the amount of their liability for superannuation payments. This matter is covered in the bill. Under the provisions of clause 9, the Treasurer may enter into an arrangement with the authority concerned.
During the discussion before the suspension of the sitting, the Leader of the Opposition made two points. First, be asked why it was not mandatory for an authority to enter into an arrangement with the Commonwealth to pay the employer’s contribution, and secondly, why there was not more specific provision to fix the time at which the various contributions should be made. The answer to the first point is that the number and variety of the various authorities militates against such provision. Some of the authorities may prefer to make their own arrangements. Some of them may prefer to meet the liability for the employer’s contribution according to a principle which appeals to them, rather than to pay the amount concerned at regular intervals to the Treasury. The committee will remember that all that the AuditorGeneral said was that the authority should make some provision each year. If an authority does not make an arrangement with the Treasury, that will not affect its liability under the act; it still will be called upon to make the payments as and when they fall due. I think the probabilities are that, in practice, the majority of authorities will make an arrangement with the Treasury, and will make fortnightly payments to the Treasury. However, the Treasury felt that it was not wise, in view of the number of authorities concerned, to impose an absolutely mandatory condition, and to say that payments should be made in accordance with a set of rules. It is hardly necessary to have statutory direction concerning the procedure to be observed, and the Treasury is confident that satisfactory arrangements will be made by all of the authorities concerned.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 2nd June (vide page 647), on motion by Senator O’Sullivan -
That this Senate approves the Government’s decision to accept the revised General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the proposed Agreement for the Organization for Trade Co-operation subject in either case to prior acceptance by the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) supported the motion which he moved in this matter with a very lengthy speech. I am not complaining of the length of it, both because of the importance of its subject-matter and of the great variety of detail involved in.it, In fact, the remarks of the Minister were very informative and most interesting. [ think I should go hack to the origin of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I believe that it is safe to say that its real purpose was to ease restrictions in world trade and to eliminate unfair practices in trade and, in both of those ways, to seek to avoid a very fruitful cause of tension and conflict between nations. In other words, the agreement was intended as a contribution to world peace. I am very ready to acknowledge that the agreement, as then drawn, and as it will stand after the amendments now contemplated by the Government have been made, has fallen far short of perfection. The original agreement, and the amendments to which the Minister has directed particular attention are, as he himself admitted, a product of compromise. The nations concerned are of many kinds and are interested in different types of trade. There are great manufacturing nations, as well as nations that are little concerned with that field of activity. Their interests necessarily must conflict. If there is to be any area of agreement between the nations which are contracting parties to the agreement, it is inevitable that there must be compromise. When there is compromise, there is looseness and laxity, and there are escape clauses. We find all those elements in the. document that is now before us, along with the proposed amendments.
That fact was well recognized by Labour back in 1947 when, after many months of discussion, it was decided, on balance, to support the proposal for the establishment of this world organization known as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I have selected from a speech made on the 11th November, 1947, by the then Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman, an extract which I wish to compare with a paragraph from the second-reading speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs. Honorable senators will notice to what an extraordinary degree those statements are parallel. The reference to Mr. Dedman’s speech on the 11th November, 1947. is found on page 1884 of volume 194 of Hansard. He said -
The task of evolving a charter to suit the interests and ideas nf nil the negotiating parties has been exceedingly tedious and dim cult. It has been necessary to find a way or harmonizing the interests of highly developed and less developed countries, of those with a philosophy of untrammelled private enterprise and those believing in a large measure of government control, of those whose interest in international trade as such is slender, and of those whose very life depends on it. The text reflects the width of the field covered, the ramifications and complexities of the problems which can arise in international trade and the divergent interests of different countries. It may well be that some important factors have been overlooked. The chief preoccupation was naturally with the problems which have been part of recent experience and seem likely to confront us in the near future. Quite different issues and new interpretations may be close over the horizon. Provision has been made, therefore, both for amendments and for a review of the whole charter within a decade of its entry into force.
The review then foreshadowed is now being implemented. That review took place at the end of last year and the beginning of 1955, and the effect of it is reflected in the agreement now presented to the Senate. I invite honorable senators to contrast what Mr. Dedman said with what the Minister for Trade and Customs said, when he moved the motion now before the Chair. The Minister stated -
At the same time, the Government recognized that, notwithstanding the lack of balance to which I have referred, the agreement has fulfilled a useful purpose in some directions. It will be readily agreed that there is a need for some instrument which will be effective in preventing a return to the unbridled economic nationalism which was a. common and unfortunate feature of international trade in the 1030’s. In some respects it has achieved notable success in this direction. It has brought about a high measure of stability in tariffs and has resulted in significant tariff reductions. Its trade rules have prevented any increase in trade discrimination between contracting parties. Annual sessions of the members have provided a forum for the ventilation of complaints and the resolution of other trade problems. Such consultations have considerable value even though their results do not lend themselves to precise evaluation.
In those terms the senator, on behalf of the Government of Australia, has quite obviously paid a very glowing tribute to the performance of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in the years that have intervened since 1947. I find myself in complete accord with the sentiments that he expressed. After all is said and done, in using the words “ unbridled economic nationalism “ tie Minister placed Lis finger upon what was probably the cause not only of the last world war, but also the immediate cause of many of the wars with which the world has been afflicted.
– It is the cause of communism, too.
– It is the cause of many ills. Conflict between nations arising out of conflicting trade interests is a root cause of contention and war. We have heard . the expression “ trade wars “ before this, and it has been coined with real justification. It is safe to say that it was unbridled economic nationalism, allied with other forms of nationalism, which led to the rise of Hitler and to all the evil horrors and disasters which he brought upon the world. It is true also that when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was originally formed, there was in contemplation the setting up of an international trade organization. That was never achieved, and the agreement has run on the basis of a temporary administrative organization through the inter.vening years. There were many factors and causes which, if incorporated in such an organization, would have enabled the operation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade within the last few years to have proceeded much more smoothly. Many of those items never found a place; and it is helpful and cheering to find that now, in addition to re-writing the agreement governing tariffs and trade, an international organization on a permanent base is to be set up to oversee the many ramifications of international trade.
I must admit at once that this particular issue as to the formation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its continuance involves a decision that has to be made on a consideration of the balance of advantage and disadvantage. Nearly every governmental decision finally comes to that issue. There is no all-good solution to any particular problem, and when a decision is made finally it is always because, in the opinion of the deciding body, the advantages of the particular solution outweigh its disadvantages. I think the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade falls into that category and its advantages outweigh its disadvantages. I find myself in agreement with the Government in this matter. I recall very well that there was great opposition from the parties who now constitute the Government at the time that Labour sponsored the entry of Australia into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
– They offered very severe criticism.
– I recall that the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who is, in fact, sponsoring the amendments to the agreement and thereby is upholding the agreement along with the amendments, described it, in effect, as a menace to the British Commonwealth. I am not criticizing him for adopting that attitude. At that time one might well have adopted it; but it is good to know that as he has seen this organization in operation down the years, he has altered his viewpoint and now sees more advantages than disadvantages in it.
In our own community there are great differences of opinion as to the operation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In December last the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia were very critical of the general agreement and preferred to discard it altogether and go back to a system of complete freedom, if not of licence, in the field and area of international trade. The resolution of those chambers, which was published and transmitted to the Prime Minister, read like this -
That in relation to the current. “ review of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade” conference at Geneva, this annual meeting confirms the view that the provisions of the agreement connected with the “binding” of duty rates and preferences and the principle of multilateral tariff concessions, should be dispensed with and advocates the continued participation of the ‘British Commonwealth of Nations in the agreement only on the basis of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade being the instrument of consultative and informative organization in matters of international trade, wilh complete freedom to deal with the necessity for fiscal protection and preferences available to the contracting parties.
The wheat-growers of Australia, as recently as April last, were critical of the operation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and their viewpoint was expressed, as published in the press, in these terms -
The provisions of the General Agreement yu Tariffs and Trade were too severe on Australia and not tight enough on countries like thu United States. The United States could pay its growers a subsidy and yet sell their wheat to undercut the Australian price. If it was logical for Britain to seek cheaper wheat markets and still not go outside the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, it was equally logical for Australia to go to other countries such as Japan for cheaper textiles.
The conference passed a resolution expressing serious concern at the loss of trade with Britain. The resolution strongly requested the Federal Government, provided a guarantee was given, that there would be no Increase in Australian tariffs, to review the conditions laid down in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Ottawa Agreement on Imperial preferences.
The Government, very properly, would not accept a view that meant a return to the law of the jungle in international trade. We find these conflicting views in the community, and to those who hold them I say that they must realize that this matter has to be determined on balance.
The whole position was put rather delightfully by the philosopher, Don Salvador de Madariaga in a statement dealing with human rights. The Senate might be interested in a brief extract from his statement, which puts the whole matter in proper perspective. It was published in relation to a commentary by the leading philosophers of the world on the draft Charter for International Human Rights in 1948. He stated -
In our day, the political society in which we are set has become one. For a number of well-known reasons, nations, the separate societies of the past, have become merged into a world-society; and the chaos in which we all live is due to the fact that this world society being- still without its State, or governmental institutions, the several nations seek to meet the trouble by the disastrous expedient of strengthening their respective authorities. The recrudescence of governmental regulations and the raising of frontier barriers of all kinds are direct, though paradoxical results of the growth of world solidarity.
This paradox can be solved easily once the distinction has been made between objective and subjective solidarity. The owners of - or passengers in - all the cars in a traffic jam are in us “thick” solidarity as the drops of water in a pipe; but their subjective solidarity is probably nihil, and each and every one of them is perhaps wishing the others were dead and in hell. The present chaos is due to the fact that while the objective solidarity of nations has rushed ahead with the increase in the speed of physical and mental communications, their subjective solidarity has lagged behind.
Of the three stages of social nature, man,, nation, mankind, it is therefore the middle stagewhich most requires control and restraint. For it is the nation which, both towards theindividual and towards the world society, turnsan absolutist face. Towards the individual,, the nation, once absolutist on the strength’ of the divine right of kings, remains absolutist on the strength of “ the will of the people “. Towards thu world society, the nation remains absolutist entrenched as it is in the doctrine- - and practice - of national sovereignty.
The problem first understood as that of “ the right* of man “ thus reveals itself as one of the proper relations between man, nation and world community.
From that line of thought, I proceed to suggest that the world must realize that there will have to be some control of nations in regard to international trade. This organization is the child of that thought Along with his speech, the Minister has put before us a very comprehensive document reviewing the whole of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. He sets out there the old agreement, and the words that have been deleted are shown in heavy, black type. The decisions that have been reached and the variations that have been made, or are proposed to be made, are shown in distinctive print. In due course, they will be ratified by this Parliament. As this document was put in our hands only last Thursday, and as it contains more than 100 closely printed pages, I confess that I have not given it the attention it should have, although I have given particular attention to the clauses that are in issue at the moment. On behalf of the Opposition, I thank the Minister for the trouble to which the Government has gone in presenting the agreement and the amendments in such readily acceptable form.
Coming to the big issues raised in the amendments, let me deal first with the binding of tariffs. In the original agreement, Australia agreed, in relation to many items, that it would not increase tariff rates. In return, the other contracting parties, the nations of the world, agreed that they would also bind themselves not to lift tariffs on items of that character,, and on. many items outside those that Australia bound.. It was a reciprocal arrangement between nations in order to stabilize tariffs so that there would be some stability as between nations in the all important matter of international trade. The agreement provided that the unbinding of an item so frozen could only be effected by negotiation and, of course, when a nation sought to unbind one of its own items, it opened up the whole field so that the contracting parties could seek the unbinding of items that they had bound in favour of Australia. It was difficult under the old agreement to set in motion the machinery that would enable an item to be unbound. Even if our Tariff Board made a recommendation for increased tariffs on an item that had been bound under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, it was not possible for the Australian Government to give effect to. the Tariff Board’s recommendation without prolonged consultation and negotiation with other members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization.
It is interesting to note that, since this Government has been in office,, it has continued all the bindings that were negotiated by the previous Labour Government. At the end of each period of three years, the bindings were renewed, but on the last occasion, only for eighteen months to the 30th .Tune, 1955. One must appreciate the need for any Australian government to fight for the right to regulate its tariffs and to have some flexibility in the matter. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show that at least 59 per cent, of all Australian workers in industry owe their employment, at least in some degree, to the protection that is afforded the industries in which they are engaged. One cannot interfere with tariffs of that order and nature without most seriously jeopardizing the employment of almost 60 per cent, of the Australian work force. Therefore, this matter has a very real significance to almost every worker in Australia.
A major improvement achieved by the Government at Geneva is the relaxation of the procedure for unbinding bound items. There is now automatic approval of any request to negotiate an unbinding. There is also a provision that, if negotiation fails, the nation seeking the unbinding may effect it unilaterally without the approval of anybody else. There are dangers, of course, in following that line which may provoke retaliation. Certain other nations, in special circumstances., could arrange an unbinding, but conditionally upon their providing adequate compensation for other nations who are affected by that action. Even when they cannot agree, they are free to proceed with the unbinding of an item hitherto frozen unless the organization holds that the applicant has unreasonably failed to offer adequate compensation. I admit, at once, that there- is some flexibility in the matter of bound items as a result of the Geneva conference, and honorable senators on the Opposition side applaud that move forward. On the question of preferences, particularly affecting the preferences between British Commonwealth countries under the Ottawa agreement, the General Agreement, on Tariffs and Trade sets off -this against any question of discrimination. There was a freezing under the original agreement, a prohibition of increases or new preferences. At. that conference Australia sought a relaxation on the question of preferences, and aimed at more flexibility. We aimed, in particular, at opening the preference question between the United Kingdom and Australia, but, as the Minister admits, no result was achieved, and there is still a. complete freezing of new or increased- preferences. The difficulty in Australia under the Ottawa agreement, as fa.r as I can ascertain it, is that when the preference was arranged originally the duties imposed by Britain to protect Australia were on a quantitative basis, that is to say, so much per lb. or ton. Of course, the value of commodities lessened as inflation began to take effect in the world. On the other hand, of the British preferences - the tariff duties imposed in favour of Britain - more than 50 per cent, were on a percentage basis. That is to say, there is flexibility in favour of Britain. As money values descended, a proper percentage was preserved all the way through, whatever the rise or fall in the price of money. That arrangement operates more to the advantage of Britain than of Australia. I have seen figures to indicate that, in one year, whilst Australia got a benefit of £15,000,000 under the Ottawa agreement, Great Britain won advantages to the value of £200,000,000. That all goes to emphasize the evils that flow from the vast tide of rising costs that has flooded the world since 1947, when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was first established.
I pass now to the third main matter, namely, import restrictions. The original agreement provided that a country could impose import restrictions for the purpose of preserving its balance of payments position. After what this country did, and its effect on the United Kingdom, when on the 8th of March, 1952, there was a. total prohibition of imports and a cancellation of contracts between the two countries, it will be readily understood that the United Kingdom wanted the abolition, or at least the tightening, of that agreement. Mr. Thorneycroft, of the United Kingdom, pressed hard to tighten the position, and to abolish the freedom of countries to act as Australia did. Australia successfully fought against that opposition, except that we lost, as the Minister has admitted, but there has been a complete tightening of the rules relating to import restrictions, and now a country imposing them is obliged to submit to an annual examination by the organization associated with the’ General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of what it has been doing. Thereafter it is open to severe pressure from the other contracting authorities to abolish or ease import restrictions. On balance, it would appear that it did not make any progress under the agreement in relation to that matter.
– We established our right.
– I think it would be better to say we preserved our right. The Australian Government fought off the attack by the United Kingdom.
– Yes. I pay a tribute to the Government for that; be cause it is vital to this country, which it dependent largely on a few major exports of primary produce to maintain our balance of payments position, that we should hold that fort. From the world position point of view, it is a case of a sovereign nation against the rest of the world. It is a matter of either national self-preservation or national selfishness. I prefer to call it a matter of national self-preservation, because we must protect our industries. We can easily be cut ofl from world supplies.
– It is a national responsibility.
– I agree with the Minister, and freely congratulate the Government on at least holding th» fort there.
– It was a chang, of face on the part of the Government.
– I am glad thaT the Government has seen the light, and embraced the agreement. One can congratulate any person who faces realities and learns from facts.
I come now to the question of agricultural surpluses. We all know that agricultural surpluses, particularly foodstuffs, are accumulating throughout the world, and constituting a colossal threat to the prosperity of other countries whose activities are devoted to similar lines of production. When we realize that, at the moment, the United State* of America has a surplus of agricultural products amounting to £3,125,000,000 Australian, we can see the avalanche of agricultural products that could be dumped on the world’s markets at a moment’ > notice, to the disadvantage, even the destruction, of the economy of many smaller nations.
– That is being done.
– The Australian Government fought hard at Geneva to ger something binding and effective on that matter, but again it was not successful. The best it could get was that there would be prior consultation before dumping took place. It could not. win anything better than that. .
– That was mainly because it was thought that dumping should not interfere with traditional trade.
– Yes. There was an agreement that there should be consultation between the nation that had surpluses and nations that might be affected by those surpluses being distributed too freely. The principle that there shall not be indiscriminate dumping has been established, but the contracting parties would not give away their legal right to dump if they saw fit to do so. I agree that the terms of the resolution dealing with that matter will have a moral and persuasive effect, but in its cold terms, the resolution does not give ground for much comfort. However, I do not blame the Australian Government for not getting better results in relation to that matter.
– The Kingdom Government has undertaken to introduce legislation in relation to that matter.
– I am more concerned about the position in the United States than in the United Kingdom. [ recall that, in relation to one matter, the question of a waiver of the right to impose surcharges in connexion with matters dealt with in the Agricultural Act, the tariffs of which are bound, the United States still insists on surcharges on those items.
– Britain has undertaken to take steps to deal with that matter.
– That may be, but I should be happier if the United States would acquiesce in binding arrangements. That country has kept itself free, just as we in Australia have done. It is a question of objective solidarity without subjective solidarity, [n refusing to waive its right to impose surcharges on bound items of agricultural products, the United States stood out against the whole of the contracting parties. As recorded on page 9”> of the printed document, the United States representatives declared that - in deciding as aforesaid, they regret that circumstances make it necessary for the United
States of America to continue to apply import restrictions which, in certain cases, adversely affect the trade of a number of contracting parties, impair concessions grauted by the United States of America and thus impede the attainment of the objectives of the General Agreement.
When one reads a comment like that, one must acknowledge the dominating position that the United States of America occupies to-day in the sphere of international trade. That country is able to hold its position against the world. Still it is a very good thing that something at least has been written into the agreement regarding .the disposal of these colossal surpluses. It is a good thing, too, that a ban, to be operative from the 1st January, 1958, has been placed upon new export subsidies. The export subsidy is a device adopted by many countries to bolster their own production, stimulate their home-consumption prices, and to enable their exporters to compete unfairly on the world markets in the sale or surpluses that those countries themselves do not require. ‘ Export subsidies are to be completely discontinued under the amended agreement as from the 1st January, 1958, and I think that, on balance, this will be to the advantage of Australia as an agricultural country.
I pass over the question of countervailing duties and feel that I have said enough to indicate, first, that the Government and the Opposition are in accord regarding the broad principle of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Secondly, members of the Opposition do not oppose the various amendments that are proposed to be effected to the agreement. Thirdly, some progress has been made, particularly in regard to unbinding bound items. There is a little more flexibility there, though not a great deal in specific legal terms has been written into the document. There is a little more elbow room; more moral suasion, but nothing effective from a coldly legal point of view or enforceable in the international court has come out of the amendments to the agreement. Members on this side are happy to find that the trade organization, which will oversee the whole of the arrangements contained in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, has been set up on a permanent base.
We realize very fully that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its associated organization will provide a most excellent forum for ironing out trade differences, facilitating trade agreements, and generally promoting the nations and the peoples of the world to work very much better together. We are pleased, too, that the Government has followed the precedent set by Labour in 1947 when the terms of the resolution that Labour put to the Parliament were that the agreement be ratified subject to the concurrence of the United Kingdom and the United States. I notice that the Minister, in the terms of the motion for which he seeks the approval of this chamber, has laid down the same conditions. It has been announced that Great Britain already has ratified the agreement, but it is quite proper that this Parliament should take the precaution of ensuring that those two great dominating nations are privy to the agreement before we commit ourselves to it. With those comments and without, I believe, having raised any matters of rigid controversy, I announce that the Opposition supports the .motion..
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) was good enough to pay tribute to the Government for the comprehensive information that it has placed before the Parliament concerning the proposed amendments to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I do not think it would require a great deal of coaxing on my part to persuade him to change the word “ comprehensive “ to “ complicated because there must be a general acknowledgment of the complexities of the documents. Those complexities indeed are inherent in attempting to get down in black and white the basis of trading arrangements between so many different countries. I think it fair to say that it is difficult to follow and construe not only the words that are written into the document, but also the spirit in which the agreements are administered and the spirit in which the negotiations surrounding that agreement occur. In my examination I propose to take some of the effects of the amend ments and show how they will affect Australian trading relations, and to outline the reasons that impelled the Government to proceed along the lines that it has followed in the negotiations. That examination must be superficial because time does not permit me to attempt todeal with the subject in detail.
The first thing that I should like toanswer is the criticism from Senator McKenna, mild as it might have been, contained in the suggestion that whereas in the past the members of the Government parties criticized the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, to-day we are supporters of it and are advocating its confirmation by the Parliament. The reply to that criticism can be put in short terms. Though the amendments that have been proposed in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade at this latest review session are not great innumber, they are of such importance toAustralia as to make this agreement in so many ways a different agreement from the one that was left to the Government. Again, as I have said before, I have to de.il superficially with the issues. Take them one by one. The amendments to the agreement place Australia in a position in which it need no longer have thefear that it might not be able to implement Tariff Board recommendations. This is of tremendous importance and reveals a set of circumstances different from those that were revealed by the words of the document- that existed prior to the revision session.
Australia is also in the position .that it has combated successfully the endeavour to take from it the right to impose import restrictions for balance of payments reasons. Australia has defeated the attempt to tighten those provisions of the general agreement on tariffs and trade. Had that attempt to tighten them been successful, it would have been a serious situation indeed for this nation. In addition, Australia has brought at last an air of sweet, reasonableness intothe world-wide atmosphere in relation to the position of the United States of America and the treatment of those hugesurplus agricultural stocks that are held in that country. Furthermore, there is at least the opportunity for Great Britain, if it so desires, to impose duties on primary products which compete with exports from Australia. Those are important alterations which, with the greatest of respect ito the Leader of the Opposition, justify an alteration in this Government’s approach to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. This decision to ratify the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, with all its complexities, is one of the most important that the Parliament wiM. make in its present sitting. It is important because obviously it goes right to the foundation of our trading activities, and our trading activities are the foundation for national prosperity and all that goes with it.
Where should we start in examining these alterations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? We should start from the basis that although, numerically, ours is a small nation and, geographically, rather remote, we have become one of the great trading nations of the world. The total value of our exports and imports during the last three years have been £1,72S,000,000, £1,385,000,000 and £1,509,000,000 respectively. Those figures prove that as a trading nation we are not inconsiderable; and they are worthy of careful thought. In round terms the volume of our exports and imports is at the level of the exports and imports of Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and other European countries of similar size and standing.
Therefore, it is true to say that we have become one of the big trading nations of the. world, although it is also true that our trade has special characteristics. Our trade is different in quality, and is carried on under different conditions, from the trade of other countries, and we have to take those factors into our calculations when we are considering our position in relation to an international trading agreement such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. For example, we must remember that the kinds of goods that we export are very few in number. Our exports are largely primary products, and are subject not only to price variations, but also to seasonal conditions. Sixty per cent of our exports are- made up of wool and wheat, and 20 per cent, of meat, base metals, dairy products and fruit.
We are not yet self-sufficient in the production of the raw materials and manufactured products that we need for our secondary industries. When exports fall short, we have to reduce imports because of the nature of our economy that I have detailed already. One of the outstanding results of the deliberations connected with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was that we were able to keep the vital right to restrict imports when we found that such restriction was necessary. It is a matter solely within the decision of Australia as to whether Australian imports shall be restricted.
The Senate has heard complaints and criticisms about the restriction of imports. Having regard to our economy and the nature of our trading conditions, it is just a case of .needs must when the devil drives. A short time ago, I had an opportunity to consider the nature of our imports, and the effect of import restriction policies upon those imports. It was most interesting to me to discover that last year no less than 85 per cent, of our imports were goods of a capital nature or goods required by manufacturers. That showed that the great majority of 011] imports are necessary in our manufacturing industries, and, that being so, it appears that manufacturers can overstate their case when they favour restriction of imports.
– Does the 85 per cent of our imports mentioned by Senator Spooner include petrol?
– It includes all imports.
– Is the importation of petrol going to be restricted?
– There is no real solution of our trading problems in the restriction of any trading activity, whether it be imports or anything else. I myself look forward, as I am sure all honorable senators do, to the time when manufacturers can make a larger contribution to the earning of our export income than the contribution of 5 per cent, or 10 per cent, that they are making at the present time. Even if such a stage should arrive, then, because we are so largely dependent on the export of wool, wheat and other primary products, and metals, Lt would be a rather dull person who did not realize the importance of the proviso in the agreement under which, if the national circumstances require it, we can control the flow of imports into this country.
Another matter that I desire to mention was touched upon by Senator McKenna. It is that our overseas trade is predominantly with British countries. Great Britain buys about 35 per cent, of the goods that we export, and other British countries buy about 10 per cent., which totals about 45 per cent, of all our exports. If we exaggerate a little, we can say that half the goods that we sell overseas are bought by British countries. On the other hand, 40 per cent, of the goods that we buy come from Great Britain, and 60 per cent, of all our imports come from either Great Britain or other British countries. That pattern of Australian trade was encouraged by the Ottawa Agreement, under the terms of which British countries give each other preference in trade.
Many figures have been mentioned in this debate, but, in spite of that. I have not seen any reason to. doubt that there is a flow of benefits between Australia and Great Britain under the terms of the Ottawa Agreement. Senator McKenna mentioned the figures £200,000,000 and £15,000,000, but I have never heard any satisfactory explanation of the relevance of those figures, and, for my part, [ do not accept them as having any relevance. It is true that the benefits :hat have flowed under the Ottawa Agreement h:ive been affected by post-war. inflation. It is also true that because conditions have changed since 1932, we need to examine the Ottawa Agreement in order to decide whether it cannot be varied in the mutual interest of British countries. However, if we consider the matter in round terms, we find that we are selling 35 per cent, of all our exports to Great Britain, and buying 45 per cent, of our imports from Great Britain. Therefore, it can be readily appreciated that any variation of the Ottawa Agreement is a matter of major importance, and >ne that should be made very carefully and skilfully in the light of the fact that that agreement has provided a very good basis of trading between Australia and Great Britain for a long period of time. However, while variations of the agreement may be necessary because of changing conditions, we should not be carried away by extravagant statements that trade with Britain is one-way traffic, with all the benefits accruing to Great Britain. Indeed, I hold the view that in the struggle that is proceeding between the dollar currencies and sterling one of the things that the countries of the British Commonwealth should do is to make their developmental programmes complementary, so that our dependence on imports from the dollar areas may be reduced and our exports to those areas increased. That has been a subject of discussion from time to time at the meetings of the British Commonwealth Finance Ministers. At those meetings the developmental programmes of the various countries are considered and discussed. Between the meetings of the finance ministers, departmental meetings are constantly held in London where the development of industries and the production of individual commodities is considered, in order that some planned programme may be maintained.
The third characteristic of the Australian position is the trend towards the growth of manufacturing industries. That seems to be a natural and sound development. Australia is a young and developing country, a country dedicated to high standards of living, and the growth that has occurred in manufacturing industries must be regarded, ] think, as the outstanding change in our economy over the last decade or so. 3 will give some figures. The total number of employees in manufacturing industries has increased from 683,000 in 1939 to 1,073,000 in 1954. The gross value of output from manufacturing industries has risen from £500,000.000 in 1939 to £3,000,000,000 in 1954.
– Has the honorable senator any figures relating to volume?
– I have no ‘ figures in regard to volume. The new capital expenditure and new investment in manufacturing industries has been no less than £1,500,000,000 within Australia during the- last ten years. I think we all want to see that trend continue, and I mentioned those figures in order to illustrate the importance of the provision in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which has removed the apprehension that we may not be able to implement the recommendations of our Tariff Board. Although we have made the progress that I have outlined, we have inherent disabilities and difficulties to overcome in developing our manufactures. Our costs are high and will continue to be high, if only for the reason that our population is, as yet, not large enough to enable full-scale production in all industries. A larger population provides a bigger market, and it gives manufacturers a chance to achieve a bigger turnover and a consequently more satisfactory spread of their overhead costs. Our markets are scattered over a wide geographical area within Australia. Coupled with that natural disability is another serious situation. For various reasons, costs of transport within Australia have got out of hand. I hold the view that costs of transport within Australia constitute the Achilles heel of our manufacturing economy.
– Mostly inflation.
– Well, that solves everything, does it not? Another difficulty associated with the expansion of our manufacturing activities is caused by a natural characteristic of Australians. We believe that man does not live by bread, alone. I think that we could make an appreciable contribution towards a reduction of costs if we had a greater sense of responsibility, or a greater knowledge of the advantages to be obtained from a more earnest contribution from every individual citizen in the community. So what we are doing is this: We are increasing our manufactures behind the shelter of a tariff wall. It is a tariff wall that is not over-lenient to the manufacturer generally. A manufacturer must establish a pretty solid case before he gets the benefit of tariff protection. This development of manufacture within Australia is being achieved in the same way as manufacture has been developed in other countries of the world, most of which have also developed their manufacturing industries behind the shelter of some tariff arrangement.
Under the 1947 agreement, as distinct from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of 1954, contracting parties, who were members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization, were not allowed to increase tariffs on items regarding which they had made a trade agreement, unless they negotiated new arrangements with other contracting parties. We were faced, on the one hand, with the need to negotiate, and on the other hand with the constant recommendations of the Tariff Board. I think that the time is appropriate to pay a tribute to the Ministers who led the Australian delegation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization, our own leader, Senator O’sullivan, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in the House of Representatives. I pay a tribute also to the officers who went with them. That delegation was instrumental in having a special clause written into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That clause gives special exemption to countries which depend upon a relatively small number of primary commodities for their export income. Such countries are in a privileged position. They can enter into negotiations straight away, and they can raise their tariffs without delay. They have to pay compensation, to make a quid pro quo, but they can do that at a later stage. We are in a position, thanks to the gentlemen who conducted the negotiations, where we can give effect fairly promptly to the recommendations of a tariff board if the Australian Government of the day decides that that should be done. When I say “ fairly promptly “. I think that 90 days is the longest period that we can be delayed.
That is all I have to say on this matter. I feel that this revision of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the other documents associated with it. warrant the closest examination by all those who take an interest in publicaffairs within Australia. It is a most important matter. I sum it up in thi* wa.3 : You cannot have international agreements without having critics of them, and you cannot have agreements with such wide ramifications without producing ill effects for some people. What would be the alternative if we decided to stay out of the agreement? L” suggest that we should, be in a very lonely position. We could only stay out if the great nations of the world also stayed out, because if we withdrew on our own, the countries that still remained in the organization would be committed to their arrangements under the agreement. They would have exchanged trading arrangements, and they would be bound by those arrangements. We could not make a deal with any nation that remained a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade without offering similar conditions to other contracting parties to the agreement. Honorable senators should not misunderstand me and assume that I am criticizing or detracting from the agreement. I am putting that proposition only by way of factual examination of the matter.
I have heard it said that adherence to the agreement is almost in the nature of Hobson’s choice. Having regard to that position, and to the arrangement that has been made, I have no doubt that the decision of the Government to recommend our continued adherence to the agreement was sound and correct. I conclude by doing what I did earlier in my remarks. I congratulate the two Ministers who represented Australia in these negotiations, and who were able to have the agreement moulded in the important directions that I have mentioned, and which were so much in the interests of Australia.
– I feel somewhat diffident about addressing the Senate on such an important and complex matter as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The complexity of the subject has been increased greatly by the different ideologies and customs of the various countries concerned, in addition to the differences in the economies and currencies of the 32 nations that make up this very important organization. I welcome the opportunity to pay a sincere tribute to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr.
McEwen). who, undoubtedly, is Australia’s No. 1 negotiator in this field, and also to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) for his very great contribution to the agreement which the overseas delegation successfully negotiated during its recent visit overseas. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the advantages of membership of the organization outweigh the disadvantages. We are still feeling the effects of the Ottawa Agreement, and also the original General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which was negotiated in 1947, but I think that the air has been cleared somewhat by the work done by our overseas delegation. It was probably the most important delegation to be sent overseas in the life of this Government. It succeeded in achieving stability as between nations, and I think that that is something of which we should he proud.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated that the criticism of the agreement by the Opposition was of a mild character. I am very pleased that the Opposition has accepted the agreement. As the Minister for National Development pointed out, the proposed amendments of the agreement are designed to remove instability in our overseas trade. I think that the United States of America has treated Australia very handsomely in regard to surplus primary products. It has been agreed that, whilst it is necessary for the United States to dispose of its surpluses, that should be done with reasonable regard to Australia’s marketing problems. The important matters discussed by the delegation go to the very foundation of our economic security.
In presenting the white paper, the Minister stated, during his introductory remarks, that the agreement itself dated back to 1947, and was a legacy from the previous Labour Government. The present Government, in and out of office, has criticized the agreement strongly. The sum total of that criticism has been that the agreement did not give adequate recognition of the position of countries with problems similar to those of Australia. Most of our troubles seem to have sprung from the old agreement and the
Ottawa agreement, under which Australian preference was expressed in terms of money, such as so much a pound or a. hundredweight, instead of so much per cent.
The review made in Geneva between November, 1954, and March of this year, was the first to be made since the agreement was drafted in 1947. Australia played a major part in bringing about this conference. Since assuming office,’ this Government has had a major opportunity to study the effects of the earlier agreement on the Australian economy. That study confirmed its earlier opinion that it was in the interests of Australia to review certain clauses of the agreement which operated to our distinct disadvantage. The original agreement gave protection to the older countries, which are exporters of manufactured products, without providing a comparable measure of protection and stability, in relation to exports of primary products, for countries such as Australia, which depend for their very existence on the export of a small number of primary products. That created a rather serious situation for this country. It should be appreciated that Australia depends on only seven primary commodities for 85 per cent, of its exports. As the Minister for National Development pointed out, 60 per cent, of those exports consist of exports of wheat and wool, 20 per cent, exports of fruit, meat, dairy products and sugar, and the other 5 per cent, exports of base metals. All of those commodities are subject to market fluctuations and to varying climatic conditions, particularly droughts, which seriously affect their overall production rate.
Although our negotiators admitted their inability to secure all that Australia desired at the conference, nevertheless they were successful in bringing about many improvements of the agreement. I think that that is generally agreed by both sides of the Parliament, and I think it is also agreed that thenegotiations left the way open for further discussion and review. The Government is to be commended for having decided to remain a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, instead of withdrawing, as it was urged to do by certain interests in this country. In my opinion, the friendly approach to the negotiations was manifestly successful. Our delegation did an excellent job and achieved success in an arena of vastly conflicting ideas and claims. The agreement is now on a suitable basis, and we can subscribe with reasonable confidence. In addition to the justification of our claims, our point of view was advanced vigorously and with conviction. The object of the Government, apart from protecting our export primary products, was to give us greater freedom in our tariff policy and safeguard the development, on a sound economic and efficient basis, of our important secondary industries. That is not an unreasonable objective when one considers that the United States of America was nurtured in its early life under the protection of high tariff walls.
The stability of tariffs is one of the primary objectives of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It is secured through the binding of tariff rates. The text recognizes the unique position of countries like Australia which, although supporting fairly high standards of living, depend, in the words of the bill itself -
In a large measure on a small number of primary commodities and rely further on the tariff as an important aid for furthering the diversification of their economies.
As has been said already, Australia depends mainly on seven primary products for 85 per cent, of its exports. Although the figures show that those exports have dropped to about 80 per cent., the balance is being made up of manufactured products. That is a pleasing phase, because it indicates that our manufacturers have the ability and are in a position to export. It proves also that they are manufacturing at a price to compete overseas as well as being able to supply our own people. The Minister has said in this chamber on several occasions that the intention of the Government is to remove all import restrictions as soon as our balance-of-payments position warrants such action. The two most pressing problems for Australia at this conference related to the disposal of agricultural surpluses and to export subsidies on primary products. The United States has large and increasing surpluses of agricultural products and could present a real danger to our normal trade in these products.
It can be said that this agreement, which has been negotiated by the delegation that went overseas, represents only a part of Australia’s problem. “We can expect a greater effort on the part of our primary producers and manufacturers to reduce the costs of production and improve the quality of products. That can be achieved only by increased efficiency. Honorable senators opposite could be instrumental also in using their efforts to improve the transport situation. It must be admitted that we could be given better service by seamen and waterside workers. I believe that there are thousands of bona fide waterside workers who are ready to give a reasonable day’s work.
– What about the shipowners ?
– I do not blame the waterside workers for all the troubles on the waterfront, and I agree that the shipowners have to take their share of the blame. The waterside workers would probably be happier if they had regular employment. I should like to retire about 50 per cent, of them and give the remaining 50 per cent, regular work under 40- hour week conditions. I should also retire 25 per cent, of the casual workers on a pension and give the remainder more employment under reasonable conditions. They would all probably do a better day’s work in such circumstances.
– I had not intended to take part in this debate, but I felt that E must reply to some of the statements that were made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). He indulged in subtle eulogies, of a party political nature, of those who are now associated with the new arrangement of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and it is time that the bubble was pricked. The Minister gave a long dissertation on how the Australian economy has expanded, and subtly suggested that that was due to the activities of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator
O’sullivan) and those associated with them. The facts prove such a statement to be wrong. The truth is thai since 1947, the economy of Australia, particularly in the manufacturing industries, has expanded out of sight under the protection of the agreements that were made at that time.
Yesterday, the Minister for National Development said that Australia had got something out of America. That is not so. He said also that America would not dump any goods on our overseas markets because of a moral obligation contained in the new agreement. The American authorities have distinctly said that they will not be bound by this agreement and that they will go off on their own and do what they like on behalf of their people. Let nobody suggest to me - least of all the Minister - that any notice can be taken of anything that is said in America. Unless an undertaking is in black and white there is no chance of enforcing it. To-day, Californian fruits are going into Canada - they are actually being dumped there - because of the arrangements that are being made and as a result of the subsidy that is being provided to growers in California. Australia has no hope of competing against America in view of the huge quantities of materials which that country has for sale on world markets.
The Minister for National Development said that the national production of this country is now worth £3,000,000,000 a year whereas it was only about £900,000,000 in 1939. Production has expanded since the 1947 trade agreement and since the war. Why does noi the Minister be fair about these thing? and give some credit to those who arranged the first General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? He says that the people of Australia should be pleased with what this Government has done and particularly with those Ministers who have made some minor alteration of this agreement. Those alterations are of only a minor nature. Notwithstanding the fact that the Minister apologized for members of his party who opposed the agreement in its original stages, he was nol then a member of the Senate. It was the present Minister for Trade and
Customs who raised objection against the agreement that the Labour Government brought. down in 1947. He used all the epithets against the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the officers who were responsible for bringing down the original agreement. Now he has reversed his attitude, and the Minister for National Development has apologized for him. The Minister has claimed that because there is a new agreement, he is entitled to change his mind. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was a workable agreement. It was of tremendous benefit to Australia, and all that was necessary was the amendment of one or two minor matters. The Government was not quite sure about them, but it was not game to test the issue.
One point in question was the raising of tariff duties on the product of some particular industry. The Government was not game enough to take action to make the other party prove whether it was right or wrong. It would have been quite all right to raise the tariff if necessary. Raising tariffs is not a solution of the difficulty. The solution is to keep costs down, and not to sack wharf labourers, as one honorable senator on the Government side suggested. Government supporters lose no opportunity of attacking the wharf labourers, but that will not bring costs down or help the economy. The proper way is to get production at a cheaper rate, and that cannot be done by attention to individual industries. It must be done over the entire economy.
The Government should get a firm hand on the finances of Australia and reduce costs in that way first. It should stop buying goods from countries with which Australia cannot trade. If the Government did that, we might achieve a more balanced economy. Instead, the Government is running up debts, and before long Australia will find difficulty in meeting overseas commitments because we cannot export our goods to some parts of the world; and other countries that might buy our goods will not pay the prices necessary to keep our economy buoyant. The Government is to blame for that position because it has allowed inflation to get out of hand. The Minister for National Development has claimed that this Go vernment is responsible for the expansion of production in Australia, and that the only persons who can claim credit for this magnificent effort are the Ministers who negotiated the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I am bound to contradict him.
– The Minister said nothing of the sort.
– The Minister should give some praise to those who initiated this international trade agreement. That would have been the fair thing to do, but, quietly and subtly, the Minister has introduced political propaganda into the debate to bolster the activities of the Government in the eyes of the people. Honorable senators on the Opposition side did not introduce any controversial matter into the debate until the Minister for National Development rose to defend, or apologize for, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) for the statements that he made in 1947. He could have left the matter to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who might have been expected to say that after the agreement had been in operation for a period of time, a few minor amendments have been found necessary. Senator O’sullivan might have added that, after that experience, he found that he had made a mistake in 1947 when he called the Labour Government of that day and the responsible Labour Minister some of the harshest names possible.
I do not like to see politics introduced into a matter of this sort because the first consideration of honorable senators in this connexion should be the development of Australia. However, when the Minister for National Development subtly suggested that, this Government was the only administration responsible for Australia’s expansion, and that no credit was due to anybody else, I felt that the time had arrived when somebody should tell the Minister where he got off.
put the case very well, and I believe that the matter under discussion should be devoid of politics. I was quite prepared to allow the motion to go through without comment but, like Senator O’Flaherty I was not pleased with the speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). He is a master of innuendo.
– It was a very good speech.
– It may have been good from the point of view of Government supporters, but, by innuendo, the Minister suggested that many changes had taken place in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The only important observation that the Minister made was that this- was one of the most important matters that the Parliament would have to discuss in this sessional period. I agree, but it is unfortunate, that the discussion should take place in the closing hours of the sessional period. A review of the agreement must cover many complex questions, and it is not fair to ask honorable senators to attempt to deal with the measure in the short time at their disposal.
I should like to be clear about one statement that the Minister made. He said that this Government had secured the right to control imports as such action became necessary to safeguard, not only industry, but also our trade balances. That right always existed. It existed under the agreement in 1947. If there has been any change in that direction, it has been on the part of some of the other countries which negotiated the agreement. The proof that the right existed previously is the fact that the Government has repeatedly restricted imports. The agreement really stems from the lease-lend arrangement with the United States of America and the United Kingdom and some other countries. Australia did very well out of the arrangement, and it was felt that something might be done similarly to assist world trade relations. This is what the nations concerned had to say on the subject -
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was negotiated in 1047. lt stems from the lend-lease agreement under the Atlantic Charter of 1941 in which governments expressed their willingness to develop agreed rules for the ordinary conduct of international trade and the lowering of trade barriers.
When that situation was presented to the Government iri 1946-47 it had no choice other than Hobson’s choice. No government could have afforded not to take part in the trade arrangement and the eventual trade agreement. That agreement was not entered into lightly by the Labour Government. There were many months of consideration and consultation with those engaged in various industries in regard to almost everything that the Government ultimately agreed to. If honorable senators will look through the agreement, they will find that in few instances was anything of a binding nature accepted by the Labour Government. We took the stand that this young country, which was in need of development, should not have its hands tied and its industries placed in jeopardy. Consequently, we took great care that no injury would be done to our industries. That has been borne out by the experience of the last seven or eight years. As I have said, those who helped to draw up the agreement consulted from time to time persons engaged in industry before any decision was made.
The other innuendo of the Minister was that those who negotiated the agreement last year and this year produced an agreement that was a great improvement on previous agreements because they were able to accept recommendations made by the Tariff Board. That position already existed. Anything gained by Australia in the way of a concession is extended to all other countries which are parties to the agreement. It is almost impossible in these negotiations for any government to get a material advantage over other governments. However, if the Australian Government has gained something that is a slight improvement, I am pleased to learn of it. I know that the departmental representatives are keen men. I go so far as to say that they were the best negotiators who attended the conference. When praise is being offered, we must not forget those who were largely responsible for what has been done. In saying that I do not wish to detract in any way from the work of the Minister, but I am happy to say that we are fortunate in having such men in our Public Service. When the 1947 agreement, which was signed by more than twenty nations, including the United Kingdom and the United States of America, was under discussion it was practically impossible for any government to stand out. For any one in this country to say that Australia should not have been a party to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade would be foolish, because no British country could have afforded to take such a stand.
Some of our difficulties were referred to by Senator O’Flaherty, who told us that it is not our tariff, nor our trade relations, that caused them, but the fact that during recent years our economy has deteriorated to such a degree that even our most favoured industries cannot compete in the markets of the world. I have mentioned this matter in the Senate on a number of occasions, and I now ask the Minister at the table to indicate one thing that the Government has done during the last five or six years to prevent the inflation that is making things so difficult for Australian industries. The Government has applied whip and spur to galloping inflation. Now it talks of obtaining concessions from other countries. That is a physical impossibility, because other countries are alive to their own interests. The United States of America has a large accumulation of surplus products, and is out to unload them on the markets of the world. It is good to know that the anti-dumping legislation on our statute-book has not been interfered with, and is still intact and can be used to protect our industries to some degree. But why does the Government not acknowledge the position, and endeavour, by consultation with all sections of the community, to meet the situation and find a solution? This Government has never attempted to approach the work force of this country to improve the nation’s productive capacity. All it does year after year is to tell us that Communist influences among the workers are responsible for our troubles. That is a wrong policy, and the day is surely coming when the people of Australia will take action to show its disapproval of the Government. That action would have been taken before this had it not been that the Labour party has been in some difficulty, during recent months, because it has attempted to keep politics in this country on right lines by excluding influences which would interfere with Australia’s progress and development. Were it not for that disadvantage, which is of a temporary nature, the Government would be plucked from the Treasury bench very quickly. What is the position to-day in relation to imports1? Those engaged in business and commerce are in a state of unrest, because the harmony that should exist in their relations with traders in the United Kingdom ‘has been interfered with. The result is that Australia is £200,000,000 worse off than it was :a year ago. The Government is spending more than it can afford, and will go down in history as the most expensive Government Australia has had. There are men walking around to-day in receipt of greater incomes than the Prime Minister of Australia received when a Labour government was in office. There must be a halting of expenditure and taxation. I realize, Mr. President, that I am slightly off the track, but my remarks have to do with our trade relations. When the present Government took over from a Labour .government, Australia’s economy and its trade relations with other countries were sound and good. It is not .sufficient for the Minister ‘to say that more persons are engaged in secondary industries to-day than when a. Labour government was in office. The Minister compared the number of persons engaged in secondary industries in 1947 with the number .there in recent years, but a fairer comparison would be the first three years after the Government came into office with the last three years. A study of our secondary industries will show that a great impetus was given to secondary production in Australia during the regime of Labour governments. To-day, costs are so great that we are being priced out of the markets of the world. Fancy Australia’s great meat industry not being able to carry on without a subsidy! It is fantastic that this should be so when prices have been good and there has been a succession of good seasons. High prices for wool and good seasons have enabled this Government to carry on. It has ridden on the sheep’s back for a number of years. Should there be a bad season or two, or let there be a reduction in wool prices, and this Government will be in a sad state indeed.
I do not seek any appreciation or kudos for the form of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that was negotiated by the Labour Government in 1947. I am satisfied to let the work of that Government stand on its merit. The people will appreciate its value more as time goes on. At the same time, I must protest when the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) misleads the Senate by insinuating, as Senator O’Flaherty pointed out, that this Government now has the valuable power to control or restrict imports but that the agreement that was negotiated by the Labour Government in 1947 did not leave such a power in the hands of the Australian Government. The fact is that that power has always existed and has always reposed in the Australian Government. I do not know whether in the negotiations surrounding the amendments to the agreement some countries sought to curb this Government’s policy in relation to import restrictions, and, if they did, the Government might have been able to stall them off, but the powers of the Australian Government in this respect were not made any the less by the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
It is a great pity that the Senate does not have a much fuller opportunity to go through the whole of this agreement, article by article. Such an analysis would be of great value to every honorable senator. The amendments have taken up the time of most capable men for four months and have been given careful consideration. They will have a tremendous effect on our country, and it is therefore unfortunate that the Senate will not have the opportunity to consider their bearing on the trade relations of Australia with other countries, and particularly our trade relations with the United Kingdom. It would be to the advantage of Australia if every -member of the Senate read and understood every article in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 735).
– The bill now before the Senate has, a3 I see it, three main purposes. It is to be known as the Marriage (Overseas) Act 1955 and on referring to it one finds that officers of the Australian diplomatic ser vices who are abroad in other countriesare to be enabled to celebrate marriageswhere one of the parties to the marriage is an Australian citizen. The second purpose is to enable chaplains of the defence forces to celebrate marriages similarly where one of the parties is a member of the defence forces serving abroad. An incidental provision is that marriages celebrated by chaplains during the last war, the validity of those celebrations being doubted, are to be confirmed by this measure. The third main purpose of the bill is to enable registration of marriagescelebrated abroad under its provisions to be effected in Australia, with very great convenience to those who are participants in the marriage. At first sight it strikes one as strange that the Commonwealth should so openly seek to legislate for events that occur outside Australia. Indeed, clause 5 makes the most direct approach in that connexion in that v says -
This act applies both within and outside the Commonwealth and extends to all the Territories of the Commonwealth.
I have always understood, and I think all Australians have too, that the Commonwealth can legislate only in respect of matters that occur within its own boundaries. It rather does surprise one at first sight to find this bill purporting to enable administrative acts to be performed abroad, to create offences in connexion with those acts, and to providepenalties for the offences. The secret to it all, of course, is that the Statute of “Westminster in section 3 has enabled thi Commonwealth, as one of the Dominions, to legislate extra-territorially. This means it may legislate outside its own boundaries. It is quite clear that the states of the Commonwealth upon whom that particular power has not been conferred by the Statute of Westminster cannot act in that way. The very notable ease of the Attorney-General of New South Wales against McLeod quite a number of years ago illustrated that point very well. A man married in New South Wales migrated to the United States of America, re-married there bigamously and ultimately returned to the State of New South Wales where he was prosecuted on account of the bigamous marriage contracted abroad. The defence was entered that the State of New South Wales had no power over an act committed outside its immediate borders. It was held that this defence was good; that the State had jurisdiction over crime only in its territorial aspect, insofar as it was committed within the State of New South Wales. Broadly that is still the position. It was true of the Commonwealth as well, until the Statute of Westminster passed by the United Kingdom Parliament conferred this extra and very wide jurisdiction upon the Commonwealth Parliament.
It will be a matter of convenience to many Australian citizens that this bill should be passed. Its passage will not necessarily free the Commonwealth and the Australian citizen from the entanglements of private international law because the ordinary rule of private international law in relation to marriage is that a marriage is only valid if it is contracted according to the law of the country where it takes place. Internationally a marriage so contracted is regarded in all countries as valid. What this bill does is to provide that a marriage contracted overseas according to Australian law shall be valid in Australia. By reason of the fact that there is a similar type of statute operating in the United Kingdom it is quite certain that the marriage would be recognized there, but it is still an open question as to whether a marriage contracted abroad merely according to Australian law and not according to the place where the marriage takes place would be valid-
– The Leader of the Opposition means, in a foreign country.
– In a foreign country, yes. Whether it would be valid there is still an open question and the position may well arise that a marriage contracted according to our law in a foreign country, while unquestionably valid in Australia, might not be so regarded by many countries abroad. One can concede at once the probably there will not be a great many marriages celebrated abroad under this bill and that when they are celebrated, most of the parties will return to Australia and live here. The only thing that will be important to them is that their marriage should be valid here. But the odd case will arise where one of the contracting parties will ultimately settle in another country and perhaps, if it becomes a matter of divorce proceedings there, where that party might well be domiciled, the local or foreign court that has jurisdiction over the divorce might hold that the marriage contracted under this bill is not to be recognized as valid. That will concern only a small proportion of the cases that will be affected, and the small disadvantage that may arise from that aspect of private international law will be far more than outweighed by the benefit that will accrue to the great majority of our citizens who may feel themselves obliged to take advantage of this law. The Opposition will place no obstacle in the way of the passage of this measure, and I do not want to weary the Senate with a legal dissertation on the matter. Therefore, I shall content myself with the one word of warning that I have already enunciated. We might well have that warning before us, because it is inevitable that some cases such as I have indicated will arise in the future. Then, of course, they will get an undue measure of publicity.
– Hard cases make bad law.
– That is quite true, and it is impossible for this Parliament to legislate to correct that position, because the rule of private international law is to the effect that the place where the marriage takes place determines the law to be applied in deciding whether that marriage is valid. A simple way of overcoming the difficulty would be for any of our nationals who are married abroad pursuant to this legislation, to go through a form of marriage according to the laws of the. place where they happen to be married. If our nationals in those circumstances were to go through two forms of marriage then not only would their marriages not be questioned in Australia, but under the rules of private international law the marriages could not be questioned in any country in the world. 1 believe that unless the procedure that I have outlined is followed, odd cases will occur where the validity of a marriage will be questioned in a foreign court. Of course, that is no reason why this bill should be considered to be defective, because the Australian Parliament cannot legislate in respect of marriage laws in. other countries.
– Our ambassadors or consuls overseas could be informed of that arrangement so that they, in their turn, could inform interested parties.
– Yes, that would be a simple way of getting over the difficulty, and I feel there is some sort of duty cast upon me to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Australian Parliament cannot cover the whole field of marriage law throughout the world. The measure will be quite satisfactory in respect of a person who will, pass ail his days in this country,, and will never need to obtain a divorce in. a foreign country. I say on behalf of the: Opposition that we consider that the measure will serve a good purpose,, and we support it-
Question resolved in the affirmative..
Bill read a second time, and’ passed through its remaining stages- without amendment” or debate.
Debate resumed’ (vide- page 737).
– The Opposition gives its cordial support to this measure. It is in line with the legislative pattern that has been followed for the last three or four years, under which the Commonwealth takes advantage of section 96 of the Constitution to make grants to the States’ under certain condi tions. This bill, like its predecessors, will allow grants to be1 made to the various States on condition that the States pay out the moneys so granted for the benefit of the universities within their jurisdiction. The principles of the pattern are well known to the Senate, and are generally well understood. They have been explained quite fully in the Minister’s second-reading speech.
It is interesting to note that the grant? by the Commonwealth have increased year by year. In 1951-52 they amounted to £1,100,000, and during each of the last two calendar years they have amounted to £1,500,000. Now the various portions of the total grant will amount to £1,705,930. We have already expressed our approval of this type of legislation on many occasions in this Parliament, and I repeat that approval at this stage. The schedule to the bill sets out the basis upon which the grants are to be calculated. The initial basic grant to: the universities of £870,130 is determined, and the relevant component figures are shown in the third column of the schedule. The amounts that are to be collected in respect of fees and State grants to universities are set out in the first column, and the maximum amount payable is shown in the fourth column. The fourth column is designed1 to show a limit on the amount that may be paid, and the limit is £828,800. The fifth column provides for moneys to be earmarked for teaching and’ administration costs of residential colleges of universities,, and the £35,700 there set out is not additional to the two figures that I have mentioned for the basic grant, and the amounts, to be earmarked for certain purposes in connexion with those colleges. At first glance the formula for determining the grant is exceedingly complicated, but. a moment’s consideration proves that that is not so. The Opposition cordially supports the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- In the fifth column of the schedule to the bill there is an indication that amounts will be provided for residential colleges in universities. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) whether those sums will be provided towards the building of university colleges, or merely towards the cost of administration and teaching within the colleges? If the grants are for the latter purpose, does the money for the building of university colleges come from the States under whose jurisdiction the universities are?
– No grant is made by the Commonwealth towards the building of university colleges.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had appointed Mr. Andrews and Mr. Keon as members of the joint committee to consider foreign affairs generally, and in particular to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Covered cable and covered wire, classified under Tariff Item181 (A) (1) (a).
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed(vide page 739).
– This is a most interesting measure, of small compass but of great import, dealing with the sub ject of divorce. It was sponsored as a private member’s bill by Mr.Joske inanother place, and . I pay tribute to Mr. Joske, who is recognized (bythe legal profession as an authority on the subject. The bill is, of course, in impeccable form so far as Australia is able to control the position.
The bill is made necessary, to an extent, by the practical lapsing of the war-time measure which was introduced in favour of women who were married during the war, mainly to persons who came from abroad. Many of those women were deserted, and either could not locate their husbands or were in no position to go abroad to the place where the husband was later domiciled in order to obtain a divorce. The mere cost of doing so was sufficient to prevent them. The bill, of course, provides no new grounds for divorce. It has nothing to do with that aspect of the subject. It confers upon a woman resident in a State of Australia the same rights that are granted to a man who is domiciled in a State for a period of three years.
In all parts of the world, according to private international law, the jurisdiction in regard to divorce is based upon the domicile of the parties. Until now, under our law, the domicile of the husband determined the domicile of the wife. Domicile differs from residence, in that there is a mental element associated with domicile which is not necessarily present with residence. Domicile involves residence in a place with a view to residing permanently in that place. The intention of the person plays an important part in determining whether that person is domiciled in a particular place or is merely resident there. As an illustration of the difference between the two terms I mention the British servicemen who served in India. They may have resided in India for many years, but they never became domiciled there, as their intention was always to return to the United Kingdom in due course. Having that mental outlook, residence in India for 10,20 or 30 years would nevergive them an Indiandomicile. In private international lawdomicile confers jurisdiction in the matter of divorce.
This bill permits a woman who has been resident in a State, and who has grounds for divorce, to make application for divorce in that State, irrespective of where her husband may be domiciled. This Parliament has complete power to legislate in that way, and a divorce granted in those circumstances would have complete validity and effect in Australia. It would also be recognized in England, for the special reason that Great Britain itself has adopted legislation of this type. In introducing the bill in this chamber, Senator Laught referred to what had happened in England in regard to this matter. The honorable senator in the course of his speech said -
The question of recognition of decrees or orders outside the territorial limits of Australia is governed by the principles of private international law. 1 think it useful to point out, however, that, the Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom decided in 1953 in the case of Travers v. Holley that where there was in substance reciprocity, it would be contrary in principle and inconsistent with comity if the Courts of England were to refuse to recognize the jurisdiction which, mutatis mutandis, they themselves claimed. The effect of this Court of Appeal judgment is that we can expect recognition in England of the effect of decrees or orders made pursuant to this legislation, and also in other countries which have similar legislation.
I repeat a comment which I made in relation to another measure which was before this Senate, that while a divorce granted in Australia, based upon residence, pursuant to this bill, will unquestionably be recognized in the United Kingdom and in other countries that recognize residence as a basis for jurisdiction in divorce, there will still be other countries throughout the world which, under private international law, will not recognize such a divorce as having been validly granted. That will not constitute a hardship to the great majority of people who will be affected by this legislation. There does not seem to be any escape from that, as there was an escape in the Overseas Marriage Bill which this Senate debated a few minutes ago.
I should like to direct Senator Laught’s attention to an even later case than that of Travers v. Holley, in which the Court of Appeal in England, on a very interesting set of facts, decided that a divorce based on residence was valid, and would be recognized in the United Kingdom.
– In what circumstances ? -
– I shall read the headnote to this case, which is not a very lengthy one. It is the case of Carr v. Carr, reported in the Weekly Law Reports, volume 14, of the 8th April. 1955-
A wife was granted a decree nisi of divorce on the ground of desertion by the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland in February, 1954, which was made absolute in November. 1954. At the date of the petition, which had been filed in 1948, the husband had acquired a domicile of choice, in England; but the Northern Irish court assumed jurisdiction under section 26 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1939, on the basis that the parties had been domiciled in Northern Ireland when the husband deserted the wife in 1942.
It is a similar case of reciprocal treatment.
– But where the domicile had preceded desertion, and had preceded the residence.
– That is right. The report continues -
Held, that the Northern Irish court had jurisdiction to dissolve the marriage under section 20 of the Act of 1939, and that the marriage had accordingly been validly dissolved. The English courts will respect the validity of a foreign decree of divorce granted on the basis of a jurisdiction which is similar to that claimed for the English courts by section 18 (1) (a) of the Matrimonial Cause* Act 1950. Travers v. Holley applied.
I am merely referring to the fact that the case of Travers v. Holley, which was mentioned by Senator Laught in the course of his speech, has since been confirmed in the case of Carr v. Carr. The principle is there. On that basis, I agree with the honorable senator that a divorce granted pursuant to this jurisdiction would be for the reason that there was in the United Kingdom similar legislation which, I am quite certain, would be recognized. We of the Opposition support the measure.
.- I feel that the Senate is under a very deep obligation to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joseke) for his fine effort in introducing this measure to the Parliament. In the honorable member for Balaclava we have a man who is learned in the law affecting matters of this nature, one whose authority is accepted not only in Australia, but also throughout the world. 1 am sure that every member of the Senate has a. sense of obligation to the honorable member.
Although this is a very small bill, and although it does not say very much, it is a most important one because of what it means and what it proposes to do. We should approach measures which relate to divorce and matrimonial causes with a consciousness of the importance of their implications. In one respect, this bill proposes to make divorce easier for women. Honorable senators have to decide whether or not to support a measure which will have the effect of broadening the field of divorce so far as women are concerned. As the Senate knows, this measure proposes to provide something which has not previously existed. It seeks to vary the requirements in respect of domicile in a manner that will open a much wider field for divorce, so far as women are concerned. Let us be frank about it, and admit that it will broaden the field of divorce for women whose husbands are not domiciled in Australia, but who reside here pursuant to the terms of this bill. Those women will henceforth be entitled to take proceedings for the dissolution of their marriages, something they were not entitled to do heretofore.
– It will not alter the grounds for divorce.
– I have not said that it will, but it will make divorce easier for the class of women to whom I have referred. Therefore, one must approach this question with great caution.
If one believes in broadening the field for divorce then, of course, one would not think twice about supporting this measure, but it does not follow from that that one should vote against this “measure or oppose it. I am one of those conservative people who do not believe in broadening the grounds for divorce at all, but this bill makes for equality in that it will place women on the same basis as that of men in that respect. Therefore, I am forced to the conclusion that one should support the measure because, heretofore, women have been under a great disadvantage in these matters. For that reason alone I, personally, support the measure.
The bill has been criticized in some quarters because, it has been said, there should be a uniform divorce law in Australia to provide the same grounds for divorce in every State. It is to the question whether we should or should not have uniform divorce law that I desire to address myself to-night. The present position in Australia is, briefly, that we have six States and six separate divorce codes, all of which provide different grounds for divorce. The differences in those divorce laws are substantially related to the grounds for divorce, of course. Having regard to that, and also having regard to the fact that the Commonwealth Parliament has power to pass a law relating to divorce which would have the effect of unifying the divorce laws, one is entitled to ask, quite properly, why there should not be a uniform divorce law for all the people of Australia. I suggest that that is a reasonable question.
I think we must go back a little way if we are to try to answer that question, and we must consider the situation that existed in Australia before federation, when there were six sovereign States, all of which had framed their own separate divorce codes before federation had been discussed. They have administered those laws ever since without any interference whatever from the Commonwealth. To-day, we find ourselves, as I say, with six very different codes on divorce. Let me give the Senate a few illustrations of just how much these codes differ. For example, let us consider insanity as a ground for dissolution of marriage. Insanity is a ground for divorce in Victoria, but I understand that it is not in Tasmania. In South Australia, there is a ground for divorce related to the presumption of death. ‘ Where a person has been presumed dead for seven years or more, that presumption gives to either spouse the right to move for the dissolution of the marriage. In New South Wales, that ground does not exist. In Western Australia, a man can get a divorce from his wife if he can prove prenuptial incontinence. That is to say, if h1’*. wife is found to he pregnant to another man. a Western Australian husband can obtain a decree for dissolution of the marriage. In no other State, I understand, is that a ground for divorce at present. In Victoria, a wife cannot obtain a divorce from her husband on the ground of adultery, unless there have been what are called repeated acts of adultery. That is not so in some of the other States. I could cite many examples such as this to show that there are very significant differences in the divorce laws of the States.
In discussing why there should not be uniform divorce law in Australia, I think we are entitled to assume that the States, and a majority of the people of each State, are satisfied with their existing laws in relation to divorce, so that in contemplating this problem of uniform divorce law, the Commonwealth Parliament has to ascertain which set of laws, which divorce code, should be the uniform one. That, very obviously, poses a difficult problem. For example, are we to force people in States other than Western Australia to accept the ground which is known in Western Australia as the five-year separation ground? In that State, a person is entitled to a divorce if he or she can show that the parties to the marriage have been separated for not le3s than five years, and that there is no reasonable prospect of their coming together again. In assembling our uniform divorce code, are we to eliminate that ground, or are we to include it? If we eliminate it from the code, we shall offend the people of Western Australia. If we include it, I have no doubt we shall offend the people of other States. The dilemma is so apparent that I think that I need not elaborate this question much further. When one endeavours to propound a uniform divorce code for Australia as a whole one cannot avoid offending some of the States and probably all of them. At best it would be a compromise without any real virtue. The question, therefore, is whether the Australian Government would be justified, in the circumstances I have stated, in forcing a code of law on all the States, which none of them wants, especially if they have signified that they do not wish it.
Many people are not genuinely bona fide in discussing a uniform code of divorce laws: They use an argument to broaden or restrict the grounds for divorce iii accordance with their wishes. They try to base their argument upon the. possibility of implementing a divorce code which would include the grounds that they advocate. Few people genuinely believe that a uniform divorce code is warranted immediately. Having said that, I am prepared to agree that the time will possibly come when the six States will be called together - when social intercourse among the people of the States has broadened and the people of New South Wales see more of the people of Western Australia - and there will then be a genuine move for a uniform divorce code. This is probably the most contentious question arising from this measure, and that is why I have dealt with it more fully than with other features which can be accepted without argument. The slight disadvantages of the bill were pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition in a thoughtful speech ; but it has a great many advantages, and I think that no honorable senator on either side would suggest that the benefits do not far outweigh the disadvantages that may accrue in implementing it.
I commend the bill and congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) on introducing it in another place. In Western Australia a similar measure has been in operation for some years. Consequently, I can regard this bill objectively. 1 assure the Senate that the Western Australian law works satisfactorily and provides great benefit to unfortunate women who have suffered long under a law such as this Parliament is now seeking to amend.
– I associate myself with the expressions of appreciation of the special skill of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) in introducing this measure in another place. Because I recognize his authority on the subject and the authority of those who have spoken on this measure, I enter this debate with great trepidation. However, I wish to state a point of view simply for the consideration of the Senate. First) I recognize the. fundamental importance of marriage and divorce in a community. I add that it was with the idea of coordinating jurisdictions which would b» authorized to grant divorce that the. framers of the Constitution conferred upon this National Parliament authority to legislate with respect to divorce, so that instead of having six State jurisdictions in divorce throughout Australia there would be but one within our coastline. Had that idea been implemented it would have obliterated all argument as to jurisdiction in respect of either domicile or residence as a ground of divorce. However, for reasons adequately stated by Senator Vincent, it has not yet been found practicable to legislate in this Parliament for a complete divorce code for Australia as a whole, and the result is that the several States still exercise this most important jurisdiction.
It is a commonplace to assert, as the courts since 1897 have asserted uniformly and definitely, that only the court of domicile is entitled to grant a dissolution of marriage. That ruling is based not on a technical view of law but upon the essential view that the court in whose jurisdiction the home is situated shall adjudicate between the spouses as to whether the bond of marriage shall be dissolved. That is a matter of great importance. Because of the increasing importance of divorce, let no honorable senator underestimate the importance of this jurisdiction as a link within our community.
Since 1897, arguments have been advanced on various occasions that the country of residence of a particular spouse should assume that jurisdiction. Sneaking entirely from a remote memory, in 1913, in the case of Stathatos v. Stathatos, the miserable life of the woman envisaged by this bill was dealt with by Mr. Justice Bargrave Deane, who held that the woman, whose home had formerly been in England at the time of her desertion had access to the English courts as the court of her domicile, although her husband during the period of desertion, had, perhaps, acquired another domicile. That decision, meritorious as it was, and acceptable as it was to all human instincts, was doubted as a matter of strict law. Other cases followed in higher jurisdictions which laid down quite rigidly that the court of domicile alone had jurisdiction to grant dissolution of marriage in such circumstances as would be recognized by the. English courts.
This afternoon, when Senator Laught introduced this bill in his most interesting fashion, I was stimulated by his reference to the recent case of leavers v. Holley. I have had the opportunity to consult it briefly, and I find that there it is based upon a conclusion of fact that the court granting the decree of dissolution was the court of domicile. The court of appeal came to a conclusion of fact, and having arrived at the fact that the party was domiciled in New South “Wales, it attributed to the New South Wales jurisdiction the right to dissolve the marriage. A majority of the court went on to add additional reasons based upon a reciprocal acceptation of extensions of that view which had been made both by New South Wales and England. New South Wales did so in its legislation of 1899, and England passed a measure in 1937. I wish to place emphasis upon the fact that the English legislation accords to a deserted wife the right to apply for a dissolution of marriage only when the domicile has been in England at the commencement of the desertion.
Here I wish to supplement a statement that was made by Senator Vincent, and perhaps he will bear with me when I say that I wish to make some small correction of his statement. In that connexion. I direct attention to the fact that Tasmania has passed legislation, the Matrimonial Causes Act which, within the confines of its jurisdiction, has enabled a deserted wife whose husband has acquired a domicile elsewhere since the desertion, to stay in Tasmania and seek divorce from the Tasmanian courts. That is conditional, however, upon the fact of a precedent domicile. That is the provision that is absent from this bill. The relevant section of the Tasmanian act is as follows: -
A deserted wife who was domiciled in Tasmania at the time pf desertion shall be deemed, for the purposes of this act, to have retained her Tasmanian domicile notwithstanding that her husband may have, since the desertion, acquired any foreign domicile.
With that introductory recital, I approach the measure that is before the Senate, and direct the attention of honorable senators to this provision -
Where a woman is resident in a State or Territory and has resided there for not less than three years immediately prior to the institution of proceedings under this Parliament, she may institute proceedings in any matrimonial cause in the Supreme Court of the State or Territory as though she were, or had been for any period required by the law of that State or Territory, domiciled in that State or Territory.
Therefore, the only requirement of a wife, before she applies for the jurisdiction that this measure confers, whether she has been deserted or has been the victim of any other matrimonial offence, is that she shall have resided in the State or territory for three years immediately prior to the institution of proceedings. I realize all the imperfections of my consideration of the matter, unco-ordinated as it is, and restricted by lack of time and other duties. Nevertheless, it seems to me that this measure will permit a wife to go to Western Australia where, because of that State’s advanced and loose matrimonial laws, parties can petition for divorce, whatever their own matrimonial offences may be, on the simple fact of separation existing between husband and wife for a period of five years.
– Surely that is the cleanest and most sensible ground that could be given.
– There will be all sorts of individual viewpoints upon this matter. It is not my purpose to exacerbate any disappointments nor to cite any individual cases. I merely wish to unfold, a proposition of general application, and not to disclose my own personal convictions. I am simply demonstrating that Western Australian law permits divorce upon that basis. It may be that separation has commenced by consent and continued by consent and, so long as it is continued for a space of five years, it is a ground for divorce if the court thinks fit. All I am pointing out is that this bill will enable a wife, if. she has been a resident in that, State, to apply for divorce, even if she has gone to that State and apparently taken up residence especially for the purpose of being within a jurisdiction where she can make her application. That would be the case even though residence for the three years period had been for no other purpose than to qualify under this bill. It seems that the measure will permit the introduction of a petition based upon that sort of residence which is, or may be, entirely unconnected with domicile.
– There will be an influx into Western Australia.
– I doubt whether even those attractions would promote a great influx into Western Australia. I am simply emphasizing that the criterion presented by the bill is residence. The measure does not even require, as the Tasmanian law requires, the words “bona fide” residence, that is to say, for the purpose of individual residence, and not with the idea of qualifying for divorce. I merely say that it may be wise - I put it no higher - to take second thought as to whether the residence under this jurisdiction should not be the residence of a person who was domiciled within the jurisdiction of the court of domicile at the date of the matrimonial offence.
I know that a thoughtful discussion will be led by Senator Laught, who introduced the bill, and for the purposes of that discussion, I point out that no case in England has yet suggested that the English courts would recognize a divorce granted by a court except the court of domicile at the date of the matrimonial offence. While this measure will be sufficient for all cases within Australia, if the husband moves to England after divorce and begets children there, the legitimacy of those children will come into question and, in subsequent divorce proceedings, the validity of the Australian re-marriage would also come info question. If the persons concerned move from England back to their homeland, whether it is Czechoslovakia, Holland or any other countries from which new Australians come, difficulties might arise as to the international recognition of a divorce based upon this measure. I speak with great reluctance on a matter of this sort. This afternoon I read the bill for the first time and immediately a doubt occurred to me. I feel bound to state it for the consideration of the
Senate, and especially of the senator in charge of the bill, because I am sure he would be the last person who would wish to be the instrument of an act that might invite parties in marriage to feel that they had a valid re-marriage after a divorce based upon this legislation, and later to find that re-marriage unrecognized, their children considered illigitimate, and the succession to their property invalidated. These matters I place before the Senate for its consideration.
I shall add one further point. Senator Vincent has explained why it is not proper at the present time for the Commonwealth to pass uniform divorce laws. [ believe that in another place to-day a bill dealing with the right of appeal in divorce to the High Court was introduced. We have had in the Senate to-day a hill relating to extra territorial marriages. This bill is the third piece of legislation on the subject of marriage and divorce that has come before us. Had there been that degree of mutual consideration that I think there ought to have been, these measures, fundamental and important as they are, could have been co-ordinated and embodied in one much more satisfactory and acceptable measure.
– That is what is wanted - uniform divorce law.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11.30 a.m.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Earlier to-day, I gave some figures showing the prices received by the growers of dried fruits for their products.I said that sultanas returned to the growers £81 a ton, currants, £80 a ton, and lexias, £65 a ton. Those figures are in Australian currency. I also said that those prices were less than the £100 a ton which the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics and the committee of the Australian Dried Fruits Association claimed was the average cost of production. Their conclusion was based on figures for 1952, brought up to 1954. I went on to say that, on that basis, the growers were losing £20 a ton in Australian currency. I questioned the figures given by Senator Gorton, who said that the prices paid were in sterling. He accused me of trying to mislead the Senate, and toldus that he had confirmed the figures, and that the price was £87 a ton sterling. If the growers were paid £80 a ton sterling that would be equivalent to £100 in Australian currency. The growers of dried fruits know that they are not getting that amount for their products. They are getting £20 a ton less in Australian currency for the 1954 crop. Except to say that the 1955 crop had not been sold, I did not mention this year’s harvest. Any one who talks about the growers having been paid in sterling for the 1955 crop does not know the facts, because none of this season’s crop has yet been sold. Indeed, the 1954 crop has not all been sold. My information came from a member of the Dried Fruits Board, which is in close touch with the committee which arrived at the cost of production, and is responsible for distributing the amounts received for dried fruits sold overseas. The figures I gave are in Australian currency, not sterling.
– Senator O’Flaherty would probably agree that any figures published in the official journal of the Australian Dried Fruits Association showing the prices paid for dried fruits to growers would be accurate. I have here a copy of that journal, which, after giving the average returns to growers for the 1953 season, stated -
Marketing conditions for 1954 make it difficult to estimate average returns,but the following assessments, based on conditions at the moment, are quoted : -
Currants (1-crown) f.o.b. returns, £102 per ton.
I think there has been some confusion between f.o.b. returns and returns to growers.
– I am not confused, and that is why I gave my explanation just now. I know what the growers get.
– The official journal of the Australian DriedFruits Association gives the f.o.b. return for currants at £102 a ton for the 1954 crop. The honorable senator challenged those figures. They returned to the grower, in the sweat box - and Senator O’Flaherty knows what that is - £81 a ton for cur rants. Sultanas at £103 a ton f.o.b. returned to the grower £82 in the sweat box. Lexias at £93 a ton f.o.b. returned £70 in the sweat box. These assessments are for Victoria, and the values for South Australia would be about £1 a ton lower for each variety. These are official quotations from Australian Dried Fruits News, the official journal of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, and I consider that those people are well able to give us the exact figures.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 June 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19550608_senate_21_s5/>.