24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuliin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the Minister, Mr. McMahon, is already negotiating with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation in relation to anomalies and injustices under the long service leave legislation? If it is a fact, does the Minister consider that the federation is furthering its cause by threats of more 24-hour stoppages, as suggested by the Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle branches? Is the Minister aware that these lawless actions have the support of Mr. Stoneham, the Australian Labour Party leader in Victoria, who said that he guaranteed the federation the support of the Australian Labour Party? Can the Minister inform me whether Mr. Stoneham was voicing the opinion of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour Party or whether he was acting as- spokesman for the whole of the A.L.P. movement in Australia?
– There seems, Mr. President, to be a certain amount of disorder on the other side of the chamber, as well as on the wharfs. The Minister for Labour and National Service has been holding discussions about what are alleged to be anomalies in connexion with the long service leave provisions. As the Minister has already informed the Australian Council of Trade Unions that he is prepared to continue the discussions and has asked for a date to be set, I do not imagine that more stoppages on the waterfront could in any way further the case which the A.C.T.U. and the Waterside Workers Federation wish to put forward. I am aware that Mr. Stoneham has indicated, in spite of the facts, a sympathy for continued stoppages on the waterfront. I do not know whether he is speaking for the Victorian Labour Party; he could be. I do not know whether he is speaking for the Australian Labour Party. I do not know who speaks for it. All I know is that it speaks with about six different voices.
– I preface a question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government, by saying that I have seven questions on the notice-paper, some dated as far back as 1st March. I admit that the preparation of an answer to one of them would take some time. I note that I shall receive an answer to one of the questions to-day. What concerns me is this: Are the answers to be kept until this chamber is in recess, when I shall receive the answers as letters? I believe that the questions we ask ought to be answered within a reasonable time. Can the Minister give me an assurance that these questions will be answered in the normal way when the Senate is sitting?
– I shall do what I can to expedite the answering of questions that Senator Kennelly and others have on the notice-paper. This is not the first time that delays have occurred. It takes a while to have the answers prepared, but I will do what I can to obtain them as quickly as possible. On the second point, unless my recollection is at fault the letter that is sent during the recess is only a letter of courtesy. The question itself is answered in the ordinary way when the Parliament re-assembles.
– I do not think the Minister can substantiate that.
– I will check that point, but my recollection is that my ministerial officers ask me whether they will send a letter out or whether they will leave the question until Parliament re-assembles.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has any consideration been given by airlines operating at the major airports of Australia to the carrying of passengers by special conveyance from the terminal building to aircraft, and vice versa, as is done in the United Kingdom, on the Continent and in the United States of America? Airports are becoming larger, and distances between the terminal buildings and aircraft are increasing. When aircraft arrive in bad weather, or late at night, great inconvenience is caused to travellers, particularly elderly people and those not in the best of health
– The Department of Civil Aviation is giving continuous attention to the problems of traffic handling, both of aircraft and of passengers at airports. The design of airports, of course, depends largely upon the traffic pattern the particular airport is catering for, and on weather conditions at that airport. The department believes that rather than cater for passengers by taking them by bus or other vehicle from the terminal building to an aircraft, it is a better practice to bring the aircraft as close as possible to the airport terminal, especially in Australia where we are not troubled a great deal by bad weather conditions.
Possibly Senator Wardlaw has in mind the new airport terminal at Melbourne. At that airport passengers now have to walk farther than previously and, I think, farther than at any other Australian airport at the moment. The department has, as the honorable senator knows, constructed covered fingers out to the various aircraft, and I am glad to be able to say that the windy conditions which are sometimes encountered on the rather longer-than-usual walk will shortly be mitigated as the result of glassing in these fingers. This will add to the comfort of passengers. I repeat that, generally, it is the objective of the department to get the aircraft as close to the terminal as possible rather than park them a long way from the terminal and provide vehicles to take passengers to and from the aircraft.
– In view of the fact that Great Britain is about to join the European Common Market, with a consequent threat to part of Australia’s export trade, can the Leader of the Government say whether any steps have been taken to establish new trade agencies in other parts of the world, particularly in the South-East Asian area, in order to boost our export trade?
– The answer is, *’ Yes “. A vigorous policy has been pursued over the last two or three years of opening new trade posts and appointing new trade commissioners. I ask Senator Hendrickson to place his question on the noticepaper
– Senator Sandford, you mean!
– I think everybody will sympathize with me in making that mistake. I ask Senator Sandford to place his question on the notice-paper. In replying to it I will arrange to provide a list of all the new trade posts that have been opened. From memory, I think that seventeen such posts have been opened in the last three years.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by reminding him that his report concerning the operations of the Department of Civil Aviation, tabled last year, contained a statement regarding aircraft equipment loans obtained by Ansett-A.N.A. and guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government. Will the Minister now say whether Ansett-A.N.A. is continuing to meet its obligations in respect of government guaranteed loans? What is the guaranteed amount at present outstanding?
– I am glad to be able to tell the honorable senator that Ansett-A.N.A. has always paid instalments under guaranteed loans on the due date or before due date. The organization is continuing that practice. Loans raised under government guarantee from 1952 onwards, including all loans in respect of the old Australian National Airways, amounted to £9,100,000. The first of those loans, which was for the purchase of DC6B aircraft, was repaid some time ago. I am very happy to be able to tell the Senate that within the last fortnight Ansett-A.N.A. has completed repayment of the second guaranteed loan in respect of DC6B aircraft. The only outstanding loan guaranteed by the Government in respect of DC6B aircraft is a balance due to the Australian Mutual Provident Society. That loan will be repaid in a matter of a few weeks. The only government guaranteed loans now outstanding are those loans that apply to two Viscounts purchased in about 1957, and to two Electras that were purchased pursuant to the 1958 legislation. The total amount outstanding is £2,100,000, compared with the initial guarantee of £9,100,000.
T hasten to correct what is in some quarters a common misunderstanding. Of the twenty-odd turbo-prop aircraft owned by Ansett-A.N.A., government guarantees now exist in respect of only four of those aircraft. The guarantees have never involved a cash advance by the Government to AnsettA.N.A. The government guarantee is extended to Ansett-A.N.A. in order to permit this private enterprise firm to obtain money at a rate of interest which, although not as good as that available to its governmentowned competitor, is better than it would otherwise be able to obtain on the loan market.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that the new sugar agreement provides for a continuance of the domestic sugar rebate to the fruit industry at the rate of £5 a ton. Will the Minister acknowledge the courtesy of the Minister for Primary Industry in affording me an opportunity to peruse the recommendations and conclusions of the sugar inquiry committee? Will the Minister indicate, if he is in a position to do so, the nature of the evidence given by the fruit interests in relation to the domestic sugar rebate? If the full evidence is not available will he endeavour to supply a summary of it?
– I shall convey to the Minister for Primary Industry Senator Wright’s appreciation of his efforts in this matter to date, and ask him to supply the honorable senator with the additional information now sought.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been directed to an article by the aeronautical correspondent of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ which appeared in to-day’s issue of that newspaper, relating to the use of jet aircraft within Australia after July, 1964? One section of the article is in these terms -
Before the new jet airliners come into operation here a great deal of work will have to be done by the Department of Civil Aviation to complete facilities for. them. This work involves lengthening and strengthening of runways at the principal airports, and the installation of new radar, navigation and communication aids.
Australia, it seems, will be the last continent to bring jet airliners into use on domestic services.
Has anything been planned yet in relation to the lengthening and strengthening of runways and the installation of new radar, navigation and communication aids at Adelaide airport prior to July, 1964? Is anything contemplated in relation to any other airport in South Australia under the control of the Department of Civil Aviation?
– I have not seen the article and I shall be interested to read it. I am reminded of the wisdom of the Government’s decision in 1957 not to permit at that time jet aircraft on domestic routes. The honorable senator who, I know, is very interested in civil aviation, will recall the very many technical and operational troubles which were encountered by some overseas countries that rushed into the use of jet aircraft without having facilities to cope adequately with them. In addition, it is well known that if a country is an early purchaser of new equipment that country becomes something in the nature of a guinea pig, and being a guinea pig with aircraft is a particularly costly and painful experience.
The honorable senator has pointed out that considerable work will have to be done by way of providing facilities to cater for jet aircraft prior to their introduction in about June, 1964. That is acknowledged. I can assure the honorable senator that the best efforts of my department are bent towards the provision of correct and adequate facilities to cater for this new equipment. I do not know precisely what is required at Adelaide. I know that, so far as runways and basic requirements are concerned, Adelaide is well served at the moment. I doubt whether any work will be necessary to provide for domestic jet services at the Adelaide airport. Technical equipment may be required, of course. I shall make inquiries within my department and let the honorable senator know the result. If there is any further information regarding the work being done throughout the entire Australian network which I think might be of interest to him, I shall also make. that available.
– I should like information about the work being done at other airports in South Australia.
– I shall have a look at that aspect, too.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, who, I understand, is in charge of the Public Service Board. Will the Minister direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that at yesterday’s graduation ceremony at University of Sydney degrees were presented to 78 women who had graduated in science and law? Will the Minister remind the Prime Minister of the great dearth of scientists in this country and of the loss of many of our trained scientists, mainly because of employment conditions in the Public Service? Although it is not possible for me to assert that all the women who graduated in science at University of Sydney yesterday will apply for positions with the Public Service, will the Government make every effort to attract those graduates to our own services by removing the anomalies which now exist under the Public Service regulations?
Senator SPOONERS share Senator Robertson’s satisfaction on seeing so many women graduates at the ceremony in Sydney yesterday. 1 hope that a good number of them will enter the Commonwealth Public Service. 1 remind the honorable senator that if they do so they will be employed on comparatively favorable terms, having regard to the conditions that are being offered elsewhere. The honorable senator may know that the policy of the Commonwealth Government is to pay to women employees the full margin rates that are paid to male employees. That condition of employment in the Commonwealth Public Service is a good deal more advantageous than are conditions elsewhere. Margins over and above the Public Service Arbitrator’s awards are paid to men and women employees of the Public Service on a basis of equality.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that the Government of the United States of America appointed a negotiator to attend the secret negotiations on West New Guinea between the Dutch and the Indonesians? Also, is it a fact that the negotiator has’ put forward proposals which suggest that the entire administrative staff of West New Guinea should be withdrawn and replaced by people from neutral countries? Does not the Minister consider that that would mean replacing experienced people by others who do not understand the handling of the people of New Guinea, and that it would probably lead to chaotic conditions such as those in the Congo?
– I understand that, a citizen of the United States of America has been present at the talks which have taken place between representatives of the Dutch Government and the Government of Indonesia in this matter. The precise terms on which those negotiations have taken place, or may take place in the future, have not been indicated by either of the governments concerned. Therefore, I do not think that any statement whether the press reports concerning them are accurate or not should be made. It would be wrong, I think, for the Australian Government, which is not a party principal in the matter, to comment at this stage on proposals which are the subject of the negotiations.
Representations by Senators; Departmental Procedures.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Some weeks ago, in common with a number of other honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, I asked the Minister whether he would make certain that the offensive practice of directing to members of the House of Representatives copies of letters sent by Ministers to members of the Senate would be discontinued. The Minister said, in reply, that the matter was under .control, and that probably the practice would be abandoned. However, only to-day I received a letter from the Department of Social Services informing me that an answer to -representations I had made had been sent to a member of the House of Representatives. This matter is most important to the Senate, and I now ask the Minister: What is the present position?
– I do not think that, in reply to Senator Armstrong previously, I went so far as to say that I thought the practice would be changed. I think I said that I hoped it would be changed. I am sorry to say that this matter slipped my mind. I thought it would have been settled before this. I will make inquiries of the Prime Minister and find out the present position.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that temporary duties on nitrogenous fertilizers were removed recently? On what date did the alteration take place? What was the amount of the duly on sulphate of ammonia and on urea?
– Temporary duties on these products were removed on 4th April, after the receipt of a report from the full Tariff Board. I think the temporary duty on sulphate of ammonia was £5 5s. a ton and that on urea £11 10s. a ton.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation comment upon an article that was published in a recent issue of the “ West Australian “, in which Mr. Watkins, the director of engineering of TransAustralia Airlines, was reported as having said that if the Federal Government had given that airline permission to buy Caravelle jet airliners, it would have had those airliners operating on the Perth run from 1959?
– I saw a report of an address that Mr. Watkins gave to the Perth Rotary Club last Friday. I regret that I did not know that he was to speak at that function, because I should have liked to listen to him. The first thing I want to do is to repeat what I said in answer to another question earlier this afternoon. The decision made by the Government in 1957 was not directed particularly at Caravelle aircraft. The purpose of the Government was to keep jet aircraft off the Australian domestic air routes, for the reasons which I gave a few minutes ago. In the light of experience both here and overseas, that decision has been shown to be a very wise one. It has saved the Australian taxpayers a great deal of money and has not impaired the efficiency of our air services. I am pleased to be able to say that, because I have bitter memories of the Government’s 1957 decision in respect of jet aircraft attracting a lot of criticism both here and overseas. However, any one who reads the overseas aircraft magazines now will learn that that decision has been acknowledged to have been very wise.
I thought that the interesting part of the statement by Mr. Watkins was that in which he is reported as having said that if the ordering of Caravelles had been authorized by the Government in 1957 they would have been on the Perth run in 1959. One is very fortunate to be able to exercise a bit of hindsight, Mr. President; but the fact is that the Mark I. Caravelle, which was recommended for purchase by TransAustralia Airlines in 1957, would probably not have been able to carry an economic pay-load on the Perth-Melbourne route, and probably would have suffered a very great pay-load penalty even on the Perth-Adelaide route.
It is true that after the Mark I. Caravelle was developed and put into operation modifications were made to it. I think the Caravelle that is being produced to-day is the Mark VI. That aircraft probably would be able to operate quite satisfactorily to-day on the Perth-Melbourne route. However, Mr- Watkins, if he has been reported correctly, was not talking about only one aircraft; he was talking about the Mark I. Caravelle of 1957 and the Mark VI. Caravelle of 1959. I repeat that sometimes it is very handy to be able to exercise a bit of hindsight. It will be interesting to see what the decision of Trans-Australia Airlines on its new aircraft will be. The Mark VI. Caravelle is still available, but it is in a much more competitive field now than it was in 1957. It has to compete with the Boeing 727, the de Havilland Trident, and possibly the British Aircraft Corporation’s III. Those aircraft will be available in 1964 or just after that year. It will be interesting to see whether the Australian National Airlines Commission’s preference still runs to the Caravelle.
The other question asked by Senator Branson related to the use of a particular type of aircraft on the Perth run. This matter was referred to by Mr. Watkins. I understand that it was also referred to editorially in this morning’s “West Australian “ as a result of Mr. Watkins’s address. The decision on this matter is truly one for the airlines to make in the light of commercial considerations. The duty and obligation of any airline, whether it is government owned or privately owned, is to get the optimum or best commercial result from the use of its fleet. As much as I and every other Western Australian would like to see more Electra services on the east-west run, the plain fact is that the pay-loads on that run do not prove as good commercially as the pay-loads on other routes in Australia.
I have discussed this matter with the airlines. The Department of Civil Aviation has also discussed it with them. Whilst I believe that the airlines provide all the Electra services that are justifiable, such services are limited by the comparative commercial results obtainable throughout the Australian civil aviation pattern. In fairness to the airlines I say that during the summer they put on additional Electra services to the extent that it is possible for them to do so, and to the extent that they are a commercial proposition.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that, according to military authorities, 90 per cent, of Army recruits are dental cripples and that enlisted men have an average of seven decayed teeth requiring immediate treatment? In view of those facts, and the conclusive evidence that I have placed before the Government over the last three years in respect of the dental health of children in Australia, will the Minister accede to my repeated requests to have an Australia-wide survey conducted into the dental health of our school children?
– I do not know whether military authorities have declared that 90 per cent, of recruits are dental cripples. I am not prepared at this stage to say even that the Government will consider a survey of the dental needs of Australian school children. As the honorable senator well knows, the States have sovereign rights of which they are very jealous, and which we are determined to assist them to uphold. Hospitals, dental treatment, and allied responsibilities in that field are primarily matters for State governments. The Government has not considered invading this field. As time goes on, it may be that consideration will be given to the suggestion made by the honorable senator, but for the present no thought is being given to his proposal.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
At what price did the deputy chairman of the Tariff Board assess taximeters in his report of 8th March, 1962, in relation to which he recommended a temporary duty of £4 per meter in addition to 25 per cent. British preferential tariff and 35 per cent, most-favoured-nation?
– The answer is as follows: -
This information is not available in the deputy chairman’s report. The relative costs of taximeters are discussed in the report but the actual figures are not disclosed because they were submitted in confidence to the deputy chairman. It is clear from his report, however, that the relative costs of taximeters were only one of the factors taken into account by the deputy chairman in determining the recommended level of temporary duty.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
Has Communist China ever repudiated and refused to pay moneys owing to Japan and Ceylon, or to any other country?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
Following further inquiries into this matter I confirm the observation I made on 28th March in respect of mainland China’s good reputation for meeting its financial commitments. No information has been received to suggest that mainland China has repudiated moneys owing to any country. On the contrary, our inquiries have confirmed that in the ‘ case of Japan, mainland China has met in full payments due in respect of commercial transactions. In the case of Ceylon also, there has been no repudiation by mainland China of financial commitments.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-Genera], upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
– On 28th March, Senator Wright asked me in a question without notice for certain information relating to the operation of the statutory reserve deposit system. In reply I promised to refer the matter to the Treasurer with a view to obtaining the desired information. The Treasurer has now furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s inquiry: -
At 21st March, 1962, the aggregate amount held in the Statutory Reserve Deposit Accounts of the trading banks with the Reserve Bank of Australia was £236,300,000. It is not practicable to relate the assets of the Reserve Bank to any particular liability of the bank. The total assets of the Reserve Bank (excluding the Rural Credits Department) at 21st March were £1,067,000,000, the main assets being gold and balances held abroad of. £528,000,000, and holdings of Government and other securities including Commonwealth treasurybills of £418,000,000.
Movements in the balances in the Statutory Reserve Deposit Accounts of the trading banks are brought about by changes in the statutory reserve deposit ratio determined by the Reserve Bank in accordance with the needs of credit policy and ‘ by variations in the level of deposits with banks to which the statutory reserve deposit ratio is applied. Over the twelve months ended February, 1962, the aggregate amount held in Statu-‘ tory Reserve Deposit Accounts fell by £70,600,000. In this period the statutory reserve deposit ratio determined by the Reserve Bank was reduced from 17.5 per cent, of deposits to 12.5 per cent. The lower ratios were determined as follows: - 19th April, 1961, 16.5 per cent.; 10th May, 1961, 15.5 per cent.; 21st June, 1961, 14.5 per cent.; 30th June, 1961, 13.5 per cent.; and 12th July, 1961, 12.5 per cent.
– I have to inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Sandford resigning his position as a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave “ -agreed to -
That Senator Sandford be discharged from further attendance on the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
– I have to inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator McKenna nominating Senator Cooke to fill the vacancy on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Regulations’ and Ordinances caused by the resignation of Senator Sandford.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Cooke, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order No. 36a, be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Standing Committee on Regulations and- Ordinances.
Debate resumed from 10th April (vide page 897), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the Senate adjourned last night I had commenced to refer to the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade as they affect this legislation. I should like to speak very briefly on that aspect. As is well understood in this Senate, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade restricts member nations in respect of protective measures, and those restrictions sometimes cause embarrassment to a member nation which wishes to impose protective duties. Under Article XIX. of the agreement, however, there is an important provision which has been availed of by many members when they have desired to seek additional protection for a particular industry. The article provides that where an industry, or a part of an industry, is being threatened by serious damage from foreign imports the member nation can suspend the application of Gatt and impose measures of protection to prevent the elimination of the industry. Of course, the provision relates only to those items which concern the particular member nation and does not relate to what I might call the remainder of the items that are exported by various member nations. So this article does not exhaust the action a member nation can take with respect to protection. But I invite the attention of the Minister to this particular aspect because 1 feel that it is relevant. In his reply will he state whether this legislation has been introduced in pursuance of, and in accordance with, the let-out provision of Article XIX. of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade?
I turn now to some aspects of policy that are involved in this proposed legislation. As is quite obvious the legislation is framed for the protection of our secondary industries. I want to refer to certain aspects of this protectionist policy as it has operated in Australia for some years, and I then want to comment about corresponding policies in relation to primary industries. Both those matters are germane to the bill. It is almost trite to say that our economy has been functioning for many years under a high protection policy. Government supporters and Opposition supporters agree that it is a desirable policy. Indeed, this policy is now so firmly built into our economy that anybody who suggested tampering with it would be in serious trouble.
So firmly built in is this policy that in some quarters the general pattern of protection afforded under it is regarded as artificial. I will refer to that aspect later, because it was mentioned by Senator Wright. Of course that protection is artificial, but our entire economy is built on a framework of artificiality. I do not condemn the policy because of that. Because of the very nature of our economy we must, in this age of paper money and juggled finances, accept the proposition that our economy shall be artificial. The same thing applies to all nations. I do not refer to our economy in any derogatory sense when I say that it is built in an artificial way. It is inevitable that the major trading nations, and other nations also for that matter, should base their economies on artificial frameworks. Those economies are artificial because they are well beyond the bounds of laisser-faire, if I may use that expression.
It is well to keep in mind the broad concepts of our protectionist policy and what we are aiming at in adopting a policy of high protection for secondary industries. The first broad aim is to build up and maintain a strong and ever growing secondary industry in this country. For many years our secondary industry was wrapped up. with our primary industry to the extent that we felt that we had grave economic weaknesses because of the imbalance in our economic pattern. Not only do we accept the proposition that we must protect our secondary industries in order that they may flourish, but we also have a further object in view in that, by encouraging those industries, we hope to provide the highest possible living standards for the workers in them. That is the second broad aim in the protectionist policies that we adopt.
That second element is well demonstrated whenever arbitration proceedings are held, much to the disgust sometimes of employers, and sometimes to the disgust of employees. Broadly speaking, over many years past, we have had that second element inbuilt in the economy - an attempt to provide the highest possible living standards for the people engaged in secondary industry. I think that we have succeeded to the extent that our living standards are now the pride of most Australians, and the envy of most other countries. A lot of the success in improving our living standards stems from the protection that has been afforded to our secondary industries.
It is only by adequately protecting our secondary industries that we can maintain a policy of full employment. Naturally, our immigration policy depends very largely upon the capacity of secondary industries to absorb a large inflow of migrants. A third and fundamental element of our protectionist policy is that without it we would sadly lack a proper defence force and a proper population ratio to protect this nation. Those matters to which I have referred - full employment, an immigration policy and an adequate defence force - are directly related to this matter of protection.
We must relate this protectionist policy to the present legislation. In this modern age, when international competition is fierce -I will not digress to talk about the Common Market or our concern because America is not inclined to trade with us - we must, when applying a protectionist policy, consider not only tariffs but also import controls. Both those activities are pursued quite rigorously from time to time by every modern trading nation. Of course, those activities are criticized by parliamentary oppositions the world over as being part of a stop-and-go policy. There is nothing unique about stop-and-go policies with regard to protection. Such policies are being implemented by every large trading nation in the world, from the United States of America down to minor nations such as Israel and Egypt. All those nations have very desirable stop-and-go policies to protect their secondary industries, and to maintain their policies in relation to employment and other matters. Australia cannot afford to be unique in this regard. Within our broad policy relating to protection we must at times, whether we like it or not, accept the inevitable, and agree to a certain amount of import control.
I want now to refer briefly to the situation that exists in Britain and the United States of America, because our trade patterns very frequently are similar to the patterns in those nations. For example, in the United Kingdom there is a wellestablished organization acting under the aegis of the Board of Trade, which of course is a government department. That organization is virtually in control of the tariffmaking administration. Within it there is no established system for the public hearing of applications for new or additional tariffs to protect an industry. The hearings are conducted in private although any interested person may submit a case. It is not a statutory authority but, as is typical in a wide range of British administration, a rather loose organization which I think brings a great deal of flexibility to the consideration of questions such as this.
Another aspect about the British system of protection which I think is interesting is that the organization is given authority to deal with questions relating to protection in the overall national interest. I make that observation because I think it is rather important. The organization has a much broader franchise, shall I say, than that which limits the activities of the special authority which is proposed to be created by the legislation now before us.
– But it is less effective, is it not?
– No, it is much more powerful because its terms of reference give it the right to investigate cases in the overall national interest. If you turn to the clause section of the bill, to which I shall refer later, you will see that the terms of reference of the special authority that we propose to set up are very much narrower than those in the British system. I shall draw a very strong inference from that, but I shall leave my remarks until I am dealing with that aspect of the matter.
The Federal Parliament of the United States has established a tariff commission which has very wide powers. It has the authority to investigate, on the application of any person, problems relating to any section of local industry which is threatened in any way by the importation of articles already being manufactured in America. I shall not go into the details, but, broadly speaking, that commission has the obligation then to report to the President, who has extraordinarily wide powers to act on the commission’s recommendations. He may accept or reject them. If he accepts the findings of the commission he has the power to proclaim higher duties or impose import quotas. In fact, he has almost absolute power to act. Of course, he may also reject the commission’s recommendations, but I emphasize the positive side of his power in that he has the right to impose any duty or other restriction which is considered necessary in the circumstances. All that the President need do then is to report to Congress upon the action that he has taken. The President’s decision may be altered only by a two-thirds majority of the Congress. Honorable senators will see, therefore, that the American tariff organization is most powerful and centralizes almost unlimited power in the hands of the President.
America’s actions in recent years in relation to protection are of interest and are well known to honorable senators. The Senate will well remember, for instance, how the President’s action in 1958 affected our exports of lead and zinc. Out of the blue, America cut our quota, which had been the subject of an agreement, by 20 per cent, a year, causing serious concern to lead and zinc producers in Australia. The President was supported by Congress. I could mention many items covered by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which America has selected to bear increased tariffs or import restrictions to protect local industry in the United States, but 1 shall not weary the Senate by mentioning them.
I make one further reference to the wide powers exercised by countries in relation to these matters. As early as 1958, the Federal Republic of West Germany imposed what amounted to a prohibition on all imports of either coal or coal products. The executive, which possesses extraordinary powers, took this action to protect German industry. This kind of thing is going on throughout the world. In this generation when competition is so intense, I do not think there can be any question that we must accept the position and fall into line with other countries by adopting policies similar to theirs. If we do not, our economy will collapse.
From that point we must pass to a consideration of other elements in this policy because it affects other industries. I do not believe that we can dispose of the problem at that point. We must commence there and consider the primary industries. I do not think it is necessary for me to do more than remind the Senate that our primary industries play just as important a part in our economy as do our secondary industries. I know that some people consider the primary industries to be more important than the secondary industries, and other people hold the opposite view. Those arguments are academic and you get nowhere with them. I do not think they are valid arguments to be used in this debate, for example, because I do not think any one can establish the relative importance of the two great sectors of our economy. Primary industry is so named because it is basic to the economy. Without it the nation cannot exist. But the same thing can be said about secondary industry. It is not much good growing wheat unless some one can buy and consume it. There are two parties to the contract, the buyer and the seller.
Let us look at the situation in relation to our primary industries. They are important because they provide 80 per cent, of our export trade. That fact highlights their importance to Australia. In addition they provide, to a very large extent, the raw materials used by our secondary industries. They also provide our overseas funds for the importation of commodities that are required by the secondary industries. Finally, they provide a great measure of decentralization in this rather difficult continent which is dominated so much by very strong interests in Melbourne, Sydney and the other capital cities.
There we have a broad picture of the importance of our primary industries, so far as the pattern of our economy is concerned. It is quite wrong to argue that either sector of industry is more important than the other. We are living together as Australians. In this artificial economy that we have built up, we must accept the fact that it is futile to argue in that way. The proper attitude to adopt in a debate of this nature is to acknowledge that both sectors of industry are essential and that unless it can be established that this particular legislation will have the effect that Senator Wright suggested, the legislation should be passed. It does not follow that if it has an inflationary effect, as Senator Wright claims it will, there should not be corresponding protective action by the Government to assist those industries that are affected by inflation.
– Is that not like a dog chasing its tail?
– We are living in an economy that is not a natural one at all. It is an artificial economy.
– While that is true, you must give some thought to costs so far as our exports are concerned.
– I shall come to the matter of costs. At the moment, I am saying that I do not agree that this legislation will have the effect that Senator Wright claims it will have. Even if it did, we would have to accept that as a fact of life, and we would have to assist those industries that were being affected adversely. When you live in an artificial economy you have to act accordingly, and it is of no use blinking the fact.
Let me refer to a case in point. Due entirely to artificial factors over which the gold-mining industry of Western Australia has no control, costs within the industry have risen. Because of another artificial factor over which the industry has no control, it is forced to sell the gold that it produces at a world fixed price. Those are the two fundamental factors which go to make up the problem of the gold-mining industry. It is of no use saying that in those circumstances the gold-mining industry, which is a primary industry, must not be supported so that it may overcome those unfortunate handicaps that are artificially imposed. No one argues in favour of that proposition. I hope that in due course the Government will consider the case that has been put to it by the gold-mining industry.
I singled out the gold-mining industry because it came first to my head, but the proposition I have mentioned applies to every facet of our economy. We cannot avoid maintaining the very high and very desirable standard of living that we have achieved. Such a standard of living could be achieved only in the artificial way that I have mentioned. While that is a most desirable thing to attain, we cannot stop there. We must keep on going in this age when we are beset overseas by intense competition, and at home by the need to maintain a high standard of living and the condition of full employment which, in certain circumstances, becomes so embarrassing and difficult to maintain. If the secondary industries are to be protected and if this legislation will have an inflationary effect on other sectors of our economy, which I dispute, it seems to me elementary that those sectors must be assisted, too.
I turn now to the thesis propounded by Senator Wright, in which he claimed that this legislation would have a serious inflationary effect on primary industry. I dispute that. I do not think the legislation will have that effect. I put to the Senate that this is not a measure which seeks to re-impose the high level of import restrictions that was extant two years ago. That is not the intention of the legislation. Let me mention two matters to indicate why I think I am right in that contention. The import restrictions of two years ago, and for some years before then, were used for two very important reasons. First, they were used at a national level as a means of sustaining full employment. I agree entirely with the policy of full employment, but I do not think that import licensing is the right way to go about sustaining that very desirable condition. I do not believe for a moment that the policy which is now proposed intends that the special authority machinery will be used at a national level to sustain full employment. I shall show in a moment why I hold that view. Secondly, our import control organization, as it existed for some years, was used at a national level as a means of controlling our overseas balances and, of course, correspondingly to restrict imports. I do not think for a moment that this legislation intends that the special authority, in its consideration, shall have regard to that factor.
Those are the two factors which, in my opinion, were overriding considerations when it came to the implementation for some years of policies related to import controls. They were, I think, wrongly used for those purposes, but nevertheless they were used to maintain our overseas reserves and to maintain full employment. That is where we made the mistake in the lavish use of import controls. This particular piece of legislation, Sir, does not have that purpose at all. If we look at proposed new section 18a we will see that it provides that the special advisory authority shall report to the Ministers- fa) whether it is necessary that urgent action bs taken to protect that Australian industry in relation to the importation of those goods;
That is the actual term of reference to the authority. I suggest that that does not involve a consideration at a national level of the matters I have referred to. To that extent, I think that Senator Wright is quite wrong when he suggests that implementation of these policies in pursuance of the legislation will have an inflationary effect. I do not think it will, and for that reason I support the bill.
– The Senate should be grateful to Senator Vincent for his careful review of the legislation before the chamber. We may quarrel, of course, with some of the conclusions .that he has arrived at after studying the measure, particularly his statement that all trading nations have a stop-and-go economic policy. That may be true up to a point, but it is also true that the United States of America is making great efforts to get away from a stop-and-go policy. We in this country are making ho effort to do that; we are persisting with temporary measures, which are part of a policy of stop-and-go. In 1959, .a commission was appointed in the United States of America to examine the problems of the internal economy, and its report was presented at the end of 1961. Honorable senators might find it to be interesting reading. The task of- the commission was to consider the effects of money and credit oh wages, prices and growth. It will be seen from the report that people in the United States arc making great efforts to get away from what they call a cyclical economy.
Senator Vincent referred to the British system of protection and said that the powers exercised under the British system are very much’ wider than are the powers mentioned in this bill. That is a matter of interpretation. The honorable senator explained that the British system of protection operates only when the overall national interest is affected. It seems to me that under the British system the power to deal with these problems is a very restricted power. The responsible authority does not have power to act unless the overall national interest is affected. Under this legislation, although it is perhaps drawn in harrow terms, the special authority that is to be appointed will have power to act when a particular industry is affected, and will not have to wait until conditions are such that the overall national interest is affected.
I shall be very disappointed if the powers granted by this legislation are not used for the purpose of restoring and maintaining full employment. That is the great national issue before the Parliament at present. I should be reluctant to believe that this measure is not designed to bolster the inadequate measures that the Government brought down earlier in this session of the Parliament in order to try - I give it credit for trying - to restore conditions in which there will be something near to full employment.
Senator Vincent claimed that the policy of protection in Australia was endorsed by political parties, and that any party that tried to depart from it would be in serious trouble. I noticed that the Minister, in his second-reading speech, referring to the Government, said -
It has always recognized that, in special circumstances, quantitative restrictions could be necessary as a measure of protection for a particular industry, either combined with or as an alternative to a tariff.
Most of the troubles that afflict the Australian economy to-day have arisen from the foolish action of the Government in abandoning import licensing in February, i960. I still maintain that that action was the prime cause of a vast number of people becoming unemployed in Australia at the end of 1961, although I admit that the measures that were announced in the Budget in August, 1960, and on 15th November, i960, also had an effect.
Perhaps import licensing as we knew it was a little too strong. There was room for modification of the system, but there was no justification for its complete abandonment. When import licensing was abandoned, Australian industries and Australian workmen were left at the mercy of international traders in high-cost countries, such as the United States of America, which have well-developed and modern means of production, and in low-cost countries, which have an unfair advantage in competing with a country with a high standard of living.
I do not regard the power of the special authority to recommend the imposition of a tariff duty as being of any importance.
The Tariff Board Act was amended in 1960 to give that power to deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board. The grant of the power to the special authority that will be appointed under this legislation will not change the position. For the purposes of this debate, one can disregard that aspect. The only really new power that will be conferred on the special authority is the power to recommend quantitative restrictions of imports - in other words, selective import controls. Because the Australian Labour Party believes in selective import controls and in tariff protection for Australian industry, it will not oppose this bill. However, there is plenty of room for criticism of the terms in which the bill is drawn.
One question that is exercising my mind at the moment is: How shall we get over the undertakings that were given to the International Monetary Fund when we borrowed from it in 1961? When we abandoned import licensing, and approached the International Monetary Fund for assistance in order to bolster our overseas credits, we had to give an undertaking that we would continue the policies that were being followed at that time. Under the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, we are not allowed to re-impose import licensing except for the purpose of protecting our overseas balance’s. In the Minister’s second-reading speech I fail to see any reference to this measure being for that purpose. It is purely for the purpose of protecting Australian industry. Therefore, if the application of quantitative restrictions is proceeded with to any great extent we may be embarrassed by the member countries of Gatt in respect of that matter.
Another question that one may ask is related to the Minister’s statement that the 1960 measure was, in the main, giving satisfactory results. If the only reason for the introduction of this bill is the protection of Australian industry, why is it necessary to give the special authority power to recommend quantitative restrictions? Australia has had tariff legislation since 1921. The Tariff Board has been operating under that legislation since that year. Why is it considered proper to give to a subordinate body - that is, the special authority - greater powers than those of the board? The board, after a full inquiry, has power to recommend that certain tariffs be imposed. That is the limit of its power. The authority is a one-man authority. We do not decry the ability of the person who has been selected as the authority, and no doubt the Government will select other Australians whom it considers are the most capable to carry out the duties required of them. In fact, this measure gives to a single person greater powers than those of the Tariff Board itself. This special authority can recommend not only increased tariffs but also quantitative restrictions. In many cases he has the power to recommend both in respect of an industry.
The aspect of this matter that disturbs the Australian Labour Party is that the authority is set up to examine industries and make reports to the Minister, and then the Minister has the power to implement the recommendations of the authority without reference to the Parliament. It is true that the report of the authority must be laid on the table of each House of the Parliament within a specified time. However, I remember that after the 1960 measures were introduced, within two weeks of the Parliament rising after the autumn session, the first report of a deputy chairman was placed before the Minister. That report recommended an increased tariff and the Minister implemented the recommendation of the deputy chairman, as one would expect him to do. So, increased tariffs were operating in an industry for the whole of the winter recess, without any reference to the Parliament. It is true that within seven days of the Parliament assembling for the Budget session the reports were laid on the table of each House and the Minister’s action was approved by the Parliament. That does not mean anything to me. If a Minister implements the report of an authority or a deputy chairman, he has the numbers on the floor of the Parliament to carry the recommendation. So, the Parliament’s approval of his action is purely a machinery operation. It does not carry any weight with me to say that the Parliament approved the Minister’s action. In these days the Parliament does not repudiate the actions of a Minister. That aspect does not interest me at all. However, I am interested to know that a tax can be applied on the recommendation of an authority and without the permission of the Parliament. The Government would be very wise if it re-considered that provision.
– You can rest easily because that has been the procedure with the Tariff Board itself for 40 years.
– Very often I have heard you become quite loquacious about members of the Opposition being socialists. Nearly every time I come into this chamber I learn something from the anti-socialists. This is one such thing. The Minister may be able to imagine what the Australian Labour Parry could do in using measures of this type if it had the reins of government.
– There is no need for me to use my imagination because when the Labour Party has been in office we have seen it use exactly the same procedure.
– I doubt that.
– This has been the procedure for 40 years. Sometimes proposals have been tabled in the other place and remained there for six months; but they have been law and taxation has been charged without the approval of the Parliament.
– 1 put it to you, Sir, that the Government should consider this matter very seriously. The power given to the authority goes even further than power for the Minister to impose a tax without the authority of the Parliament. The tax can then remain in operation until three months after a full inquiry and report have been made by the Tariff Board. If the special authority recommends a duty because of circumstances existing at the time in an industry, and subsequently the Tariff Board conducts a full inquiry into the industry, comes to the conclusion that the tariff that is being applied is too high and recommends a lower tariff, the higher tariff recommended by the special authority can be continued for three months after the Tariff Board report is made. lt could be an unsavoury way of getting revenue into the hands of the Government. ] do not accuse the Government of intending to use it in that way, but the field is open for action of that kind. When I look at the measure, I have in mind the effect that it will have upon unemployment. That is the matter that mainly concerns me in relation to all the temporary measures that are being introduced. What effect will they have upon unemployment? It is disgraceful that in this country, which is crying out for development, we should have idle men and idle machines. If- this measure will not have, with other measures, a cumulative effect in reducing unemployment, I shall be very disappointed. I hope that it will have such an effect, and that the Government’s moves - although I cannot see eye to eye with the Government in regard to them - will cure unemployment.
The main quarrel of the Australian Labour Party is that these measures are of a temporary nature. There is nothing sound or solid behind any of them. We must consider current world events. We see the failure of the mission of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). I do not blame him for that. I think that he is working very vigorously on Australia’s behalf, but he is not having the success that we expected he would have. It seems that Australian industry will be in a much worse position until we are able to find other outlets for the commodities we produce. When such a large manufacturing country as America, which could flood Europe with manufactured and primary goods at the drop of a hat, tells Australia that the system of preferences has to go, we should forget about the European Common Market and make vigorous attempts to build up trade in other places that are closer to us. If we are not able to do that, the outlook for Australian industry and the unemployed will be very poor.
– This bill is, in a sense, a machinery measure for a temporary purpose, and I support it. But it contains a couple of provisions to which I wish to refer, because they may lead to something undesirable. I approve of power being given to a body to recommend either a duty or, in an emergency, a quantitative restriction. I am not very happy that this will be another authority, connected more closely with the department and not with the Tariff Board. I have listened very carefully to the reasons that the Minister has given and I have a feeling that they are not the complete reasons and that there are other considerations in the back of some minds. I cannot hide from myself the fact that import restrictions of one kind or another have for some years been the favourite weapon of people whom I shall call marginal manufacturers, not people who are able, with some tariff assistance, to establish a stable industry, but mushroom people who spring up overnight and wish to retain what is, perhaps, an overcapitalized industry or one that should not exist.
The debate has ranged, here, in the other place, and outside, over the whole field of protection, and it is well that we should clear our minds of a good deal of misconception. I have heard, even from the Opposition front bench, and in the other place, most curious name-calling. We all have accepted - I shall state clearly in what sense I accept it - the policy of protecting native industry, both primary and secondary, but yesterday I heard Senator O’Byrne talking about free-traders. In my innocent youth, a free-trader was a person who wanted no duties at all, no tariff, no bounties, no kind of protection for industry, and a protectionist was a man who wanted a tariff. But in the vocabulary that is being bandied round to-day, a free-trader has become a man who believes in a tariff, and a passionate protectionist - to use a “term that I heard from a colleague in my own party somewhere else - is a man who “wants to fling overboard all our experience in tariff making and to indulge in these quantitative restrictions.
I was very happy when the old, and I think very bad, system of import controls was completely abolished. I admit with hindsight - we all have a little - that it is possible that it would have been better had that been done in stages and not virtually at one stroke. But a bad system has gone and I hope that it will never be restored. The new method of quantitative restrictions must be examined very, very carefully and compared with the tariff system. Why must there be protection? To put it briefly, it is because we all accept protection. Even those wicked people who have an inclination towards free trade believe that trade is a good thing in itself, that it is a civilizing influence, and that we are not doing a good thing by restricting it. We accept a tariff policy for this country because we believe it is necessary to our progress. It is all the more necessary now that our population is being increased by migration. We think that if the tariff or the method of protection is properly devised, it really does increase our total wealth.
Some 30 odd years ago an inquiry - I believe the latest inquiry and the only full inquiry - was made into the system of protection in this country. It was made by an informal committee set up by Mr. Bruce, when he was Prime Minister in 1927. After, I think, over two years’ investigation, it reported in 1929. Everybody who speaks on the subject and everybody who wants to understand protection in this country should read that report. If it is obsolete, that is only because no inquiry has been made since on the same scale.. That committee consisted of Professors Brigden, Copland and Giblin, Mr. Dyason - a member of the stock exchange, a man of great imagination and very great general capacity, and one of the finest citizens this country has had - and Mr. Wickens, who was the Statistician. I want to read to the Senate a paraphrase of some of the conclusions arrived at after a comprehensive study of the tariff system as it worked at that time. The first is that sufficient evidence is not available to support the contention that Australia could have maintained its present population at a higher standard of living under free trade. How sober that is! How sane and how sensible! The committee did not say dogmatically that without protection we could not have developed sound industries. It said simply that it had not been able to obtain evidence to show, as some people evidently still believed, that we could have reached the same position under free trade.
Let us remember that there are manufacturing industries which have developed without tariff protection, some of them very great. There was a time when our steel industry needed no tariff protection. I do not know what the exact position is to-day. My grandfather and father were manufacturers on a small scale. They manufactured old-fashioned horse-drawn vehicles, and they were pompously called coach builders. That was a title my father always derided because about the only thing he had never built, he said, was a coach. He never enjoyed any tariff protection. The importation of other vehicles was always permitted.
Luxurious types of vehicles were imported, but my grandfather and father were able to carry on a successful business without protection. The only conclusion the committee came to was that on the whole the evidence seemed to point to the fact that a tariff was necessary to develop certain industries, but not all of them. Generally speaking, Australia has increased its population and its living standard under protection, and possibly because of protection.
Secondly - and this is a most important consideration - the members of the committee said that some applications and extensions of protection have been wasteful and have cost more than the value of the benefits gained. They produced documentary evidence to support that assertion. I can give honorable senators one piece of striking evidence that was not mentioned by this committee in its report but which came out in the evidence. Among the Australian industries being protected was the toymaking industry. Because of the protective tariff the price of every toy in the Commonwealth was raised. When the industry was investigated it was found that one man and one boy working one lathe in a back-yard shed in a congested Sydney area were the only ones involved. That is the sort of extravagant and wasteful protection which we wish to avoid at all cost.
Thirdly, this committee found that the adoption of a considerable, but not unlimited, protection is justified; but extreme applications of protection would mean a net loss and possibly would involve us in a much more than proportionate loss. This is not a loss we could easily carry but a net loss to the national income. The Tariff Board had been established, I think, some six, seven or eight years before this report was considered. The board pointed out that our tariffs - all of them - contained very bad features. The first tariff imposed was a moderate one because, after all, New South Wales had not been, a protectionist colony. Very few duties had been imposed. George Reid was twitted about one particular duty: 1 think that the only protected industry was the sugar industry on the north coast. Reid’ used to use. the simile that industries should be like small puppies; they should be thrown into the water and taught to swim. The sugar industry on the north coast was always known as the dry dog because it had never been thrown into the water.
The tariff legislation which was put through the two Houses, and to which modifications were made in the Senate, was very moderate in nature, being partly revenue-producing and partly of a protectionist nature. The protectionist element was mainly to conserve the existing industries in Victoria, although heaven knows why those industries needed protection. They were doing very well and protection enormously enhanced their market in Australia. With protection the Australian market became an almost exclusive market for them. The Victorians were very keen on federation - much more so than any other State - and the obvious economic reason was that the Victorian market had grown too small for the industries they had built up and they wanted the whole Australian market. The Massey-Harris tariff, as it was called, was introduced after the First World War.
– The Massy Greene tariff.
– I thank Senator Wright for his correction. It was introduced by Mr. Massy Greene, who was at one time a senator in this chamber. He was a member of the House of Representatives when, as Minister for Trade and Customs, he introduced the tariff bill to which I am referring, lt imposed such a disproportionate burden on the rural community that 1 think it was rightly regarded as being the main reason for the Country Party coming into existence.
Then the Tariff Board commenced its work. 1 wish to speak of the work of the Tariff Board with the highest possible respect. Ever since the board has functioned effectively tariffs have given, in the main, adequate protection; and the board has had regard to other producing interests and also to the interests of the consumers. It astonishes me that in all the discussions in this and in another place hardly anybody has mentioned the consumers. That is because of the unfortunate fact that we have to organize as producers. A system of organization has grown up by which traders, merchants, manufacturers and people engaged as employees band together to enhance the price of their own products, but there is no countervailing force. When consumers do organize they can do it very effectively. One of the most effective consumer organizations in the world is the British consumers’ co-operative movement. A small body of working men found that they were being charged too much by the local store. Instead of asking the Government to help them, and instead of relying on purely union action, they got together and organized the co-operative society. They did their own buying and brought into existence a very great movement. The movement has not been so successful in this country. Possibly that is because we as a people lack some of the habits - I will not say the qualities, because we have the fundamental qualities - of spontaneous organization which exists in other countries, notably in the British Isles. At any rate, it is a curious thing that you can always get cheers and votes by standing up and saying you are being supported by one of the great pressure groups which is organized on the basis of production, but when it comes to consumption, people seem to forget that such a thing exists.
I do not forget that I represent at this moment some 3,960,000 consumers - very close to 4,000,000. It is their interest that is my primary interest. It is, of course, in the interests of Australia that we should develop all our industries for production, but it is equally in the interests of everybody in this country that we should enjoy the products of those industries. I like the term passionate protectionist. I think I will use it to distinguish between a sane protectionist like myself and the passionate protectionist who wants to force everybody to have the products of his own country. It does not matter whether he is an Australian, an American or somebody else, his desire is to restrict the consumer by forcing him to buy an inferior article simply because it is produced in his own country. In many cases it would be better for us not to enter into competition with certain commodities at all. If a commodity can be well produced in another country, if it is not essential for defence and if, in an emergency when we are living an austere life, we can do without it, why not divert out activity to something else?
Let me refer again to G. H. Reid, who had the one dry dog - the sugar industry. He at last decided to remove the protection that had been afforded to the sugar industry. The sugar-growers on the north coast asked him how they would get on without protection. He advised them to raise cows. Most of them accepted his advice and they have prospered. Their action in giving up sugargrowing has helped Queensland, because although a little sugar is still grown on the north coast of New South Wales, most of our sugar comes from Queensland.
I wish to make one specific reference to quantitative control. I am prepared to examine any new idea. I have come to approve of the Tariff Board and of the imposition of duties that are adequate, and no more than adequate. But I am not prepared to reject out of hand any other suggestions. However, I fear this method of quantitative controls. No evidence produced by the Minister or anybody else has dispelled that fear. In my view, quantitative controls are a bad and clumsy method. I believe that the method of the tariff is much better. But there is a third method that most people seem to have forgotten, but of which Adam Smith and other economists approved. I refer to the method of the bounty. The great trouble with the bounty is that people know they are paying it. The money is counted, and the people know what the industry is costing. With a duty the consumer still pays, but nobody can count the cost, and it therefore cannot be set against any particular industry. It is claimed in the document from which I earlier quoted that the only reason why the bounty is not used is because of political expediency. Well, political expediency is not altogether a bad thing if you interpret it properly. Some things you cannot do because they are politically impossible. You may desire to do certain things, but you know that you will never get a majority to support you, so you have to use another method. I wish the Tariff Board, and all the people concerned with protection, would remember that the bounty is, I think, the safest, sanest and, in the long run, least costly way of subsidizing an industry.
Let me refer briefly to the possible effect of quantitative restrictions. I understand that the method adopted, particularly by the passionate protectionists, is to estimate that
Australian industry can get a certain proportion of the market. They say that Australian industry can get 80 per cent, of the market, and therefore they will allow foreign manufacturers to have the remaining 20 per cent. The protectionists claim that this method will not result in a rise in prices. I doubt whether their reasoning is right. I imagine that the person who is importing goods from abroad is doing so with the idea of making as much profit as possible. If he finds that he cannot obtain more than 20 per cent, of the market, he will charge at least what the local manufacturer is charging. The importer will not attempt to force the local man out of business by lowering his prices because he is restricted to 20 per cent, of the market.
In my view, a duty should be fixed only after a full, impartial and just inquiry with a public hearing. That is a handicap on the importer. You could regard it as a start of 300 yards in a race over 1 mile, or you could regard it as a heavy-weight handicap given to a horse to carry in a race. If the horse with the heavy handicap can still win its race, that is good for all the horses in the race. The same principle applied to trade results in greater efficiency and a better price for the consumer.
I do not want to appear more knowledgeable than Senator Vincent, but his picture pf the part played by the President of the United States of America did not coincide with the image that I obtained from my reading of the Constitution of that country. Senator Vincent gave the impression that the President had a general discretion. He has not. Any discretion that he exercizes is under statute. The power to impose tariffs lies in Congress. In his last message to Congress on the State of the Nation the President appealed passionately for power to modify existing tariffs. Without that power - the act has not yet been passed - he is unable to modify tariffs. He may have some narrow statutory power, but I think that the picture conveyed by Senator Vincent was, perhaps unwittingly, not quite correct.
I do not wish to engage the attention of the Senate any longer on this matter. I support the measure. I do so, not passionately, but very soberly, with a full intention of watching its operation. I hope that the Senate will regard itself not only as a watch dog for our primary and secondary industries, but also as a watch dog for the consumer - the ordinary Australian citizen who, after all, is entitled, although we did not write it into the Constitution, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
– The Senate is indebted to Senator McCallum for a very thoughtful contribution to the discussion on the subject of protection. At one time a debate of this description would have attracted wide publicity. It would have been a great issue to be brought before the public. But to-day, because of a changed outlook on these matters, very little notice is taken of any move to increase protection or the various duties.
Unfortunately, this bill comes before the - Senate, not because of any great demand to encourage new industries, but as a result of panic legislation introduced by the Government a few months ago. We have already dealt with three measures that were brought down following the Government’s panic move. This bill is another sample of that kind of legislation. It is designed to remedy the conditions that developed after the Government rushed in and prescribed a nostrum for the cure of our economic ills without first carefully diagnosing the complaint. Amongst other things, the Government decided to remove restrictions on imports. Over-night, restrictions were lifted, and there was a great influx of goods from overseas. Many Australian industries that were built up under the protection of tariffs have almost gone out of existence. Many others, particularly the textile industries, are struggling to keep afloat.
I was very interested in the matters dealt with by Senator McCallum. As I have said, in former times this matter would have received a great deal of press publicity. It is interesting to recall how protection was first afforded to industries. A very large section of the community, including the chambers of commerce, still becomes articulate in its complaints against the imposition of duties to protect Australian industries.
The matter which the honorable senator raised in relation to the controversy in the very early years of federation between New South Wales and Victoria is indeed very interesting. Continual complaints are made that following the imposition of restrictive duties upon the importation of certain finished goods or materials the Australian manufacturer is inclined to take advantage of the absence of competition to make exorbitant profits. He tends not to put the best class of workmanship into the manufactured article, and this of course, is reflected in his profits. A protective tariff helps the manufacturer who wants to get rich quickly.
The Labour Party has had its views about protection. In the early years quite a number of the old Labourites, especially in New South Wales, were avowed free traders. They believed that the imposition of duties on the importation of manufactured articles was likely to increase the cost of living. They were anxious to ensure that workers in receipt of low wages should be able to obtain goods at a fair and reasonable price. Our primary producers who were compelled to sell their products on the world’s markets had to compete with cheap labour countries, but when they purchased machinery or other necessary goods in Australia they had to pay a higher price because of the protective tariff. Discussion on the question waxed loud and vehement. There were grand debates in the early days of the Parliament.
Eventually the Labour Party postulated a system of protection which would ensure that manufacturers paid a fair and reasonable price for their .goods; that they sold their goods to the consumer at a fair and reasonable price and that they paid their workers a fair and reasonable wage. As a result of the new policy of protection espoused by the Labour Party at that time a great revolutionary change took place in Australia because, following the introduction of legislation by early Labour Ministries, the inquiries took place which finally decided upon the method of determining our basic wage.
During the course of his remarks Senator McCallum mentioned Massey Harris. As he quickly realized, he meant Massy Greene. But it was the Massey-Harris - H. V. McKay agricultural implement manufacturing organization, producers of the Sunshine harvester, that brought the basic wage question to the forefront. Mr. Justice Higgins was appointed to conduct an inquiry into matters related to the new protection policy which had been introduced by the Fisher Labour Government. He had to decide whether, under the terms of the legislation, the company was paying a fair and reasonable wage to its workers. As all honorable senators know, after a very lengthy hearing Mr. Justice Higgins determined that the company was not paying a fair and reasonable wage. At that time the wage was 5s. a day, and His Honour declared for 7s. a day.
Later the High Court of Australia ruled that the award was ultra vires the Constitution. That is now a matter of history. The High Court ruled that this Parliament had the power to fix tariffs but not the conditions under which the tariffs should be applied. It was held that, in effect, the government of the day had determined that if an industry were to receive protection, it had to do those things which I have mentioned, that is, it had to sell its commodity to the consumer at a fair and reasonable price, and pay the workers engaged in the industry a fair and reasonable wage. This, the High Court ruled, was unconstitutional. However, the system of protection which the Labour Party of those days was anxious to implement was established, although if we had been able to get over the decision of the High Court Australia would be developing, at least in the industrial world, more tranquilly than it is at present.
All that we can do is fix a tariff to protect our industries. I think it is now generally accepted by- the Australian community that protective tariffs are in the best interests of our industries. That system has remained in operation despite the activities of the Tariff Board which was brought into existence for the reasons given by Senator McCallum, that is, to ensure that duties would not be applied in a will-o’-the-wisp method, as it were, but only after exhaustive inquiry.
In more recent years protection to Australian industries has been given in various ways. The present Government has used the system of import licensing. That form of protection is open to debate. Many people believe that “the setting-up of the machinery to administer import licensing aided the growth of bureaucracy and that the power to conduct this important activity
In our economic system was subject to the whim or the will of people who were not responsible to this Parliament. Public servants had the right to determine whether the importation of certain materials should be allowed.
Senate Courtice. - That applies to all nations.
– It does apply to all nations, but is it the best system? I am not suggesting that it is the perfect system by which we can protect our economy. It was being implemented by people who were not responsible to this Parliament. I am aware of the difficulties associated with such a system. During the operation of import restrictions I experienced difficulty in endeavouring to obtain the entry into Australia of machinery that was essential to the textile industry. I also had difficulty in trying to ensure that certain raw materials were made available to that industry, for the purpose of keeping it on an even keel. I know of the difficulties, but by and large, I believe that the system worked very satisfactorily.
For reasons best known to itself, the Government decided to do away with import restrictions, with the result that many industries found themselves on the verge of extinction. On 9th December last, however, the Government began to realize that it had done something wrong. It soon became apparent that many people were taking an interest in the Government’s economic policy. Those people expressed their views in no uncertain manner at the polling booths. Collectively, they did more to educate the Government on the requirements of the people than J id all the deputations that had ever come to Canberra before then. As a result, the Government is now trying to retrieve lost ground and to repair the damage that it did previously.
The Government has now said, in effect, “It might take too long for the Tariff Board to conduct an inquiry in the usual way. We will therefore improvise a system whereby, in a state of emergency, assistance can be granted to particular industries. The special authority that we propose to appoint may declare that an industry is entitled to a protective duty. The recommendation will be referred to the Minister.” However, this procedure is not final and conclusive. I do not know whether the industries which received such a terrific shock as a result of the Government’s previous action will feel altogether confident that the measures now being taken are the best that could be taken. As I have said, the procedure is not final. Eventually, of course, a matter dealt with by the special authority will be referred to the Tariff Board and another inquiry will be held. This procedure is of a stop-gap nature. It is another part of the Government’s stopandgo policy. As I said recently in this place, when we were discussing another matter, if the Government had been alive to the situation and had retained proper control of the economy there would have been no need for it to introduce panic legislation of this kind.
Will the tariff procedure which the Government now proposes to implement be the most efficient and effective means of restoring our economy to the position that we want it to occupy? Unfortunately, despite the activities of the Government, industry is not yet satisfied that the green light has been given to it to proceed confidently, in the knowledge that the future is secure. It is not yet prepared to do that, despite the temporary measures which the Government has taken. We on this side of the chamber will not oppose this legislation because it seeks to afford at least a measure of protection to industry in the immediate future, but we want to see the Government taking steps to ensure that proper investigation is made of the requirements of the various industries which apply for protection against the harmful effects of a flood of goods from outside sources.
As we know, Australia will have a terrific problem to face in the near future. In my humble opinion, we have reached a very important stage in our history. For years we have been dependent on protection to allow our industries to develop. There has been an open go, so to speak, for many of the commodities that we export. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade has regulated our trading arrangements with many nations of the world. We have permitted the importation of goods under by-law arrangements. We have arranged preferential tariffs with certain countries. So we have gone on; but what will be the future position of Australian trade if and when the whole of Europe accepts the Common Market arrangements? I think it is fair to say that we can obliterate the word “ if “ from such a consideration and substitute “when”. Tariffs will then disappear. There will be a vast change in the whole of the European economic structure. We will be deprived of certain markets. A period of time will elapse before that happens, but the certainty that it will happen is staring us in the face.
Is the Government getting down to business and preparing our industries for that great change which certainly will come about in the very near future? I hope that the Government will consider this matter most seriously. I hope, too, that it will give the question of tariffs the same attention that earlier governments gave to it, and that the whole matter of our fiscal policy and the economic future of Australia will be adequately taken into account. It may be that it is beyond the capabilities of individual Ministers to study this subject. They may not have the opportunity to do so. Perhaps we should appoint a commission to investigate the future trade possibilities of this country, to go right into the matter and to deal wtih it scientifically, so that the Parliament might be able to frame measures to protect our industries.
While we on this side support the proposals embodied in the legislation, we acknowledge that they are no more than expedients. We do not for one moment agree that the measures which the Government proposes to take represent the be-all and end-all of the solution of our economic problems. I hope that in the very near future the Government will consider seriously the effect that the Common Market arrangements may have on our industries.
– I view this legislation with some trepidation, not because I do not agree with tariff protection for efficient or for expanding industries - I do - but because I do not think that the legislation is getting to the root of the trouble. We are establishing a complicated procedure, and I do not think we need have such complication. I believe that we must have a Tariff Board which is adequately equipped, and I think that the board should be backed by efficient anti dumping laws. I stress the need for efficient anti-dumping laws because that is one of the reasons given, certainly by the manufacturers, for the need for legislation of this type. The manufacturers claim - I think quite rightly - that nowadays producers can sell their commodities on their home markets and make their profits on those markets. They can then afford to reduce the price of the commodities and sell them at a lower price on foreign markets. That being the case, I acknowledge that we need some speedy machinery by which dumping can be prevented or by which sellers can be prevented from getting over or under the tariff wall.
In examining this matter, I think we must recognize that there are two main problems, a short-term problem and a long-term problem. The short-term problem is a local problem. It concerns unemployment, lack of confidence, the consequent lack of demand for goods or the reduction of buying and the need to increase our population. We must press ahead with immigration, because a larger population will mean a larger home market, and with a larger home market mass production will eventuate, followed by lower unit costs and that will make it easier to dispose of our goods in Australia and overseas. That is something that we must strive for in order to solve our long-term problem, that is the problem of increasing exports. With the European Common Market in operation, we may find it more difficult to sell our goods in Britain or Europe, but I am quite confident that we shall be able to make up for any loss of trade there by finding other markets nearer to us if we go out and sell with vigour and enthusiasm and do not let our costs rise. I have a fear of this type of legislation, permitting the imposition of quantitative restrictions, because I think such restrictions could have the effect of causing costs or prices to rise.
I support the bill because I think it will help us to solve our short-term problem and because it has been said that it is a temporary measure. That has been said very emphatically by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), speaking in another place, and by the Acting Minister for Trade (Senator Henty), in the second-reading speech that he delivered in this chamber. I support the bill because I think there is a need for a temporary measure designed to restore confidence and to get people back to work as fast as possible. However, I am afraid that it will aggravate the longterm problem.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was signed by Australia and by most of the leading trading nations of the world. 1 fear that we could be accused of contravening that agreement by imposing quantitative restrictions at this time. It is stated clearly in that agreement that a country may impose quantitative restrictions on imports only in order to correct a balance of payments problem, and I do not believe that Australia has such a problem at the moment. Contrary to what Senator Sheehan said, referring to what he called the Government’s mistakes, I believe the fact that we do not have a balance of payments problem is due to the Government’s courage in taking the action that it took recently. It imposed credit restrictions in order to solve our balance of payments problem. That that courageous action was correct has been proved by the figures. We now have a very healthy balance of payments position. The loan of 78,000,000 dollars that we negotiated with the International Bank recently has been repaid in very quick time.
It has been said that many of the leading trading nations of the world have imposed quantitative restrictions on imports. I have here a list of, I think, the main trading nations, showing every product that is subject to some import restriction. In almost every case, the product concerned is a primary product. I do not think that we propose at this stage to impose quantitative restrictions on imports of primary products. The restrictions will be imposed mainly on manufactured goods, in order to help our secondary industries to reestablish themselves and in order to get our unemployed people back to work. If a secondary industry were given the benefit of a quantitative restriction of imports, I wonder whether it would be willing to submit to price fixing, to conditions regarding rate or quality of production and so on, as the primary industries do. When imports are restricted to assist a primary industry, conditions of that kind are imposed on the primary industry concerned. I wonder whether a secondary industry would be willing to submit to that. It had been said that the United States of America has its own form of protection, but it is significant that during the last week or two the Government of that country has announced a policy of making trade more free and of reducing tariffs.
I say again that it is important to stress that the machinery envisaged by this bill is temporary machinery for emergency purposes. I think it would be impracticable to impose a time limit on the operation of the bill, because I can visualize the difficulties that would arise if the period set for the operation of the legislation had almost expired when an industry applied for protection. That would be a quite impossible situation. However, I hope that when the permanent legislation is introduced during the Budget session we shall see that some way has been found of getting rid of legislation of this type.
I am rather perturbed to find that the special authority itself will not ask an industry that applies for protection to prove that it has plans for expansion or that it can become efficient within a short time. I realize that the Department of Trade probably will ask for information about those matters, but it seems that the special authority will not take those aspects into consideration. If I am wrong in that, I shall be very pleased to be told about it. I believe there is a great need for the Tariff Board to ensure that the only industries which will be protected will be those which are efficient or which can prove their ability to become efficient within a short time. It would be useless to have a tariff which was protecting inefficient industries, and I believe that in some instances that is what is being done at present.
However, it is impossible for the Tariff Board, as it is constituted or staffed at the moment, to make the sort of reviews of industries that are required to prevent this. The Government has announced that it will appoint a special authority to hear applications for emergency protection, and it has said that that procedure will release the deputy chairmen to go back to their work on the Tariff Board proper. However, the board is suffering, not from a shortage of board members, but from a shortage of trained expert staff. It is short of project officers - the men who examine the evidence and produce the reports. I should like the Minister to tell me whether the Public Service Board or the Department of Trade has determined the minimum number of officers of this type that the Tariff Board should have. I should like to know whether, if that has been done, the board has its full complement of such officers at present. 1 believe that if the board were provided with more expert’ officers it would be able to cope, not only with the work it has on hand at present, but also with the reviews necessary to ensure that no inefficient industry will be protected by a tariff.
One other weakness of this legislation is that it will permit political pressure to be brought to bear. There will be political pressure when an industry applies to the department for permission to have its case heard by the special authority. Obviously, there will be tremendous pressure on the department to allow cases to be heard. If the department gives permission for a case to be heard, the authority may recommend the imposition of quantitative restrictions.
– The authority will not be subject to pressure.
– I did not say that it would. I said that when an industry applies for protection, ‘pressure will be brought to bear on the department to pass the application on to the special authority. If the authority grants protection, and if the Tariff Board, having examined the case, rejects the authority’s recommendation or says that it would not be a good thing to impose quantitative restrictions to help the industry concerned, immense pressure will then be brought to bear on the Minister, because he will have received two separate opinions and will have to decide what shall be done. I think it is bad to do anything that will permit of political pressure being used, because it could lead to bribery, corruption and all sorts of other undesirable things. 1 believe it was wise to set up an inde-pendent Tariff Board, thus removing applications for tariff protection from the possibility of political pressure. I believe that the board should continue to be independent and that it should be properly equipped so that it can carry out its three main tasks. They are, first, to examine applications for emergency tariff protection; secondly,, to make a more general inquiry into the position of an applicant industry; and thirdly, to review the operation of tariffs that have been previously imposed.
We should not delude ourselves and believe that this type of legislation will please all the people all the time. There will be sections of the community who will be pleased with it. It is obviously pleasing to the members of the Labour Party, because they like any form of control. I think it will please some of the small manufacturers, because they will be given the protection that they need.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I said that I would support this legislation because I believe that it contains a temporary element which, perhaps, will solve our immediate problems by restoring confidence, increasing demand for local products and therefore getting people back to work. That, in turn, will stimulate migration, which will tend to help us arrive at our .goal of mass production. Of course, we must make that our goal because that is the only way that we will reduce our unit costs and make easier the task of exporting our goods and selling them on competitive markets. I also said that I believed that in this legislation there was a danger that we might make our long-term job of increasing exports more difficult. That problem is certainly ‘ before us at present. It is aggravated by the prospect that the United Kingdom might enter the European Common Market and then Australia would have to find other markets and no longer would be able to receive the British preferential treatment.
The first aspect of the long-term problem is that of costs. I have just mentioned that that problem can be aggravated by this form of protection. I have also mentioned the difficulties under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That agreement states that a country may impose quantitative restrictions when it has a balanceofpayments problem. I have pointed out that Australia has no such problem now, thanks to the Government’s measures adopted last year which have corrected any tendency- in the wrong direction. One difficulty which
I believe needs to be pointed out is that Gatt states that quantitative restrictions may be used only when a country has a balance-of-payments problem. Article XIX. points out that when a country has a difficulty due to increased quantities of imports quantitative restrictions may be used. In Australia at present there is no such problem of increased imports.
The Acting Minister for Trade, in his second-reading speech, and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), before he went overseas, quoted examples to show how this legislation would be of value. The Minister for Trade said that should there be a recession imports should accept their share of the difficulty and therefore be reduced. I submit that such action would not be in accordance with Gatt. I believe that we would invite trouble if we used such an example as a reason for the imposition of quantitative restrictions. The Acting Minister for Trade, in his secondreading speech, quoted the example of dumping; that is where a country has made its profit on the home market and then dumps the goods on another market at a lower price in order to sell them. I believe that that problem should be solved by more efficient anti-dumping legislation.
I think I have made it quite clear that I am in favour of protection for expanding and efficient industries; but I stipulate that the industries should be efficient or should have prospects of becoming efficient very soon after they ask for protection. That is not the position in Australia now. The Tariff Board cannot possibly cope with all that must be done to ensure that that is the position. The board has not sufficient staff to enable it to review the cases in which it has granted protection. If the Tariff Board itself were given more staff - by that I mean trained staff such as project officers who could assist board members in their work of examining evidence, making reports and so on - the board would be quite capable of coping with the triple task, the performance of which I believe is essential to the achievement of the aim of protecting our expanding and efficient industries.
I do not believe that in the long run there is any need for a special authority. What will happen in this instance is that the special authority will relieve the deputy chairmen temporarily so that they may return to their work on the Tariff Board. However, the bill provides that the special authority will be able to use the staff of the Tariff Board. Again I submit that the Tariff Board will be short-staffed. The staff position may become worse as more and more special authorities are appointed to deal with a pile-up of demands from industry. I believe that increased staff is the answer to the problem of ensuring that our industries are protected efficiently and that a constant review is made of those industries to see that they are, in fact, becoming efficient.
I do not believe that this bill will please a great many people. I believe that it will please the small manufacturers. Obviously they are the people in need of protection, and quite rightly so. They should be pleased with this bill. It may also please some of the large manufacturers, but I do not believe that it will please them all. In the world to-day there is a trend towards freer trade. The Government of the United States of America has recently passed legislation leading towards the reduction of tariffs. That seems to be the trend to-day, and I believe that Australia must follow it. We also need to remember that although our manufacturing industries are doing a wonderful job in employing people, building up standards of living in Australia and helping us to increase our population by providing goods and employment opportunities, they employ only about one-quarter of the Australian work force. We must be careful not to lean over too far in pleasing that section of the work force and forgetting the other three-quarters of the work force who may suffer through a rise in costs.
I repeat, Mr. President, that I support this legislation because it is temporary. I shall be watching with great interest when the permanent legislation is introduced in the next Budget session. I hope that there will be no need for this type of action to be taken and that we then will be able to say that the Tariff Board has been reinforced by efficient, trained staff and is able to carry out the triple task that it has in hand.
– Mr. President, the genesis of the bill now before the Senate lies, in my view, in the import restrictions that were imposed in the “ Gazette “ of 8th March, 1952. At that time the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) dramatically imposed a system of wholesale licensing of imports. These are the opening words of the statement that he made on that occasion -
To-day a “Gazette” notice is being published under which import licensing is applied to all goods passing into Australia, with certain minor exceptions indicated in the notice.
He had a great deal more than that to say, of course; but that indicates the sweeping nature of the system and the dramatic suddenness with which Australia was precipitated into that system of import licensing.
At that time we were told that the measures would be temporary; that they were not to be taken as designed to provide any degree of protection for Australian industry; and that they were for the sole purpose of protecting the balanceofpayments position. Those three principles were re-affirmed1 year after year. In fact, the regulations and restrictions that were to be temporary endured for a very lengthy period indeed of almost eight years. Yesterday Senator Wright asked what was the proper definition of “ temporary “. I address my mind to that question in this context: 1 suggest that it means anything from one day to eternity. That seems to me to be the most fitting definition of it, having regard to the actions of the Government in relation to these “ temporary “ measures.
From time to time those original import restrictions were eased. That easing was always followed by a tremendous flood of imports. Then, right on the heels of that flood came a clamping on of the controls again. The notable instance of that was in 1954 when, in April, on the eve of an election, there was a great easing of the restrictions, followed by a tremendous flood of imports and a colossal loss of our overseas sterling reserves and, in October of the same year, a clamping down of the restrictions once more. Then, in February, 1960, with the same dramatic suddenness with which the restrictions were introduced, they were, for all practical purposes, abolished overnight. That was followed by a flood of imports. I suggest that if the thoughts that later came to the Government for the protection of Australian industry had been in its mind when it abolished import restrictions, Australia would not be in the trouble that it is still in and that it has been in, and there would not have been anything like so much unemployment. Instead, with the flood of imports that followed that sudden lifting of all controls, we have seen industry after industry, particularly many of the great employing industries, such as the timber, paper and textile industries, in very great distress. The flood of imports disrupted the economy for a very long period.
Then, following its usual form, the Government retraced its steps. After the abolition of import restrictions in February, 1960, the Government introduced in August, 1960, new legislation providing emergency tariff machinery to enable quick action to be taken to prevent serious damage to either a newly established industry or an old-established industry. It was then that the idea of special advisory authorities was conceived. They were presented in the persons of the deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board itself, who could recommend the imposition of an emergency duty, but there could be no question of quantitative controls on imports. The introduction of that procedure, I suggest, was an attempt to shut the gate after the horse had bolted, and it was a rather timid attempt. That is shown by the fact that the Government now, twenty months later, has to make another attempt, and an inadequate and inefficient one at that.
So we get the legislation that is now before us. In my view, there is only one substantial difference between it and the legislation of August, 1960. It is that the special advisory authority may now recommend, and the Minister may put into operation, quantitative restrictions on imports. One might say that that is the one new element. In my view, the bill that we are now considering, treated by many as of vital importance, really adds nothing except the machinery of a special advisory authority to what has been provided in section 50 of the Customs Act for a very long time. That section, in different form, was in the law in 1952. Regulations under that section were used to permit the declaration in the “ Commonwealth Gazette “ that caused the introduction of import licensing.
– Would you not say that those regulations go even further than the proposed legislation?
– No. I am dealing not so much with the regulations as with their authority, the section from which they spring, which is at present in this form -
The Governor-General may, by regulation, prohibit the importation of goods into Australia.
He has a complete right.
– Either conditionally or unconditionally.
– Either conditionally or unconditionally. There is a sub-section that provides that he may make the prohibition absolute, may restrict it to all importations of goods from a particular place or, as Senator Wright says may make it subject to specified conditions or restrictions. The provision has been in the act in a different form for a long time. It was re-enacted in 1952. By and large, how does the machinery we are now considering compare for effect with the colossal power already conferred in the act? It provides only certain machinery to achieve certain limited results, when the Government, under that section, is armed with an omnibus power.
What is really wanted - it is not a matter of the Government’s arming itself with more legislative power - is a will on the part of the Government to act for the protection of Australian industry, both primary and secondary. The Government has actually been forced by the people of Australia at the election, by their blunt indication that they would not tolerate interference with established Australian industry nor permit levels of unemployment of the order that we knew, into a complete reversal of the policies it followed since February, 1960. We cannot help but feel that the Government’s mind does not run with its protestations that this is a measure for the protection of Australian industry. The Government already has available to its hand most ample and complete machinery.
One’s doubts about the bona fides of the Government are confirmed by the statements of spokesmen of the Government.
The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), on Sunday, 11th February, made this statement, which was published the following day -
In connexion with the normal functioning of the Tariff Board, the Government proposes to amend the Tariff Board Act so that under certain circumstances the Tariff Board, after a full inquiry may recommend that protection should include import restrictions where the tariff alone would not give the necessary measure of protection.
There was a forecast, in the most explicit terms, by the Minister for Trade, that a permanent power would be vested in the Tariff Board to make, in a proper case, a recommendation that, in substitution for or in addition to a duty, there should be quantitative restriction. The board has never been vested with that power, but there was an assurance that it would be. Yet the Acting Minister for Trade (Senator Henty), in his second-reading speech, mildly said that other measures were contemplated, and that Tariff Board procedures were being reviewed. He left us with the vague hope that what was so specifically promised by the Minister for Trade would be done at some time in the distant future.
When the Prime Minister spoke in the Parliament quite recently, he used terms indicating that something of that kind would be done, and he said that he hoped it would be done in the budget session. How can industry in this country have confidence in a government that says to industry, “We shall not only give you immediate emergency protection with both duty and quantitative restrictions, but we shall also give the Tariff Board itself the power to recommend quantitative restrictions,” if, when the legislation comes down, there is no provision for the second and major element in the Government’s programme? What would be required to accomplish it? One simple sentence, one small clause, is all that would be required, but it is not there. How can the Government expect industry to go ahead with confidence? I heard a plea - I have made it myself on another bill and in another context - from a Government senator last night that in order to provide certainty there ought to be a five-year plan.
– Five-year policy.
– I accept the correction. There ought to be a five-year policy so that industry can see ahead and know what to expect. It is certain that industry has not yet recovered, and one reason is the vacillation of the Government, and its promise to do something and its failure to accomplish it.
Let us assume that the special advisory authority makes a report under this measure and recommends quantitative restrictions, and that on the necessary reference to the Tariff Board of that particular industry the board promptly puts in a report. The board can either recommend or deny quantitative controls such as the advisory authority has imposed. It has no power to do otherwise. If it denies the controls, what does the Government do? lt says it lacks the power to proceed, and within three months of the report from the Tariff Board the action taken on the report of the advisory body ceases to operate. What does the Government do then? It does nothing or it exercises the vast power that it has under section 50 of the Customs Act and imposes quantitative restrictions.
One can see the process of doubt and hesitation on the part of the Government, the failure to honour its pledges to industry. Still it is prepared to express surprise that industry does not display vast confidence and go immediately ahead. It is unfortunate that legislation of this type does not help industry in that category. The Government, in the course of second-reading speeches of ministers and otherwise, claims that this economic procedure has been brought within the ambit of the Tariff Board Act. That would leave the impression that it had been married to the procedure relating to the Tariff Board; but on examination that is not so. The new bodies - the special advisory authorities - can be and are obviously intended to be divorced altogether from the Tariff Board. It is true that under the legislation the deputy chairman of the Tariff Board may be appointed as an authority, but according to the Minister’s speech it is not contemplated that that will be done. The Minister indicated that members of the board will be free now to continue their normal activities with the Tariff Board, and therefore the Government has, at least in contemplation, that the special advisory authorities will be drawn from sources other than the Tariff Board. That represents a clear by-passing of the Tariff Board itself.
The special advisory authority is given power under this act to use the staff of the Tariff Board, after consultation with the chairman, the chairman of the board having the final say. But the section goes on to provide that once the staff is made available then the chairman of the Tariff Board loses all control over that staff. In two respects, as I have enumerated, there is an undermining, in my view, of the status, authority and prestige of the Tariff Board. I feel that whatever action the Government wanted to take of an emergency nature - and the Government claims this action will be taken only in emergencies and only for restricted purposes - it might well have been left not merely in the Tariff Board Act but under the control of the board itself. I think it is a mistake that that has not been done.
I want to refer now to the position of this legislation in relation to Australia’s obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In Article XI. is very elaborate provision making it completely mandatory upon a member of Gatt to have no prohibitions or restrictions other than duties, taxes or other charges. They are never to be instituted nor maintained by any contracting party. Minor exceptions are set out in that article. I pass then to Article XII. which deals with restrictions to safeguard the balance payments. There are very elaborate provisions that permit the imposing of import restrictions by a country without attracting retaliation or penalties, if it is necessary for the country to safeguard ito balance of payments position. Finally, in Article XIII. there are again very elaborate provisions dealing with non-discriminatory administration of quantitative restrictions. They are, of course, intended to apply only in a situation where a government takes action to prevent damage to its overseas reserves, or its general balance of payments position.
I invite the Minister to say how far the failure of the Government to honour its word that the Tariff Board would have vested in it power to recommend quantitative restrictions has been conditioned by the thought that such an approach would be in breach of its contract under the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That might well be what has caused the Government to halt. I think that one of the major mistakes that has been made by the Government in relation to this legislation is that if it were to have quantitative controls it should not have shifted the case for them off the base that we need to protect our balance of payments position. We have a very good case under Gatt once we rest on that basis. We have a very good case because down the past ten years on an average our balance of payments has been down £165,000,000 a year. We have met that position mainly in two ways. First, by heavy borrowing overseas, and secondly, by a heavy and unpredictible inflow of capital into the country - a capital inflow which has dried up remarkably in the early part of the current financial year. They are two very dangerous elements upon which our balance of payments relies at the moment. The mere fact that we rely so heavily on those two sources is a complete justification for our imposing quantitative restrictions on imports in order to protect our position. That is the direct, the honest and the efficient way to control the position.
We could put up a case that our balance of payments position is threatened. Gatt provides for a threat to a balance of payments position. We could combine with that argument the fact that there is a common market problem facing this country that could be completely disastrous unless some protection is found, either temporarily or permanently, for some £200,000,000 of our primary and important exports. All these things, I think, could be thrown into the scales to prove that we have a perfect case for import restrictions to protect our balance of payments position -and to guard against the threat that faces us. If we did that we would be in no argument with our fellow members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. After all is said and done we can point to -how heavily in debt we are year after year and to the invisibles in our balance of payments position. It is an intolerable position from the viewpoint of future financial security that we should be so dependent on overseas borrowings and an inflow of foreign capital. That capital can vary from year to year. It can take flight at any time and might even take flight at a most inopportune moment. Our overseas reserves at the moment- £526,000,000 in mid-March - are nothing to be enthusiastic about. They are fairly reasonable, but they should not give us any great confidence. They would not allow us to stand a severe siege. Ours is a vulnerable economy, dependent on the prices that overseas people will pay for our products. We cannot condition those prices. That is another reason why our balance of payments position is vulnerable.
The Opposition objects to this legislation on the grounds to which I referred in August, 1960. The Opposition objects to the fact that under this legislation a Minister of the Crown may, when the Parliament is not sitting, impose a duty or charge without reference to the Parliament. I have refreshed my mind on what I said on 23rd August, 1960, and I do not wish to alter anything that I said on that occasion. The principle for which we then contended holds good to-day. On that occasion we voted against the Customs Bill in order to drive home the point that we thought it was quite wrong for a Minister of the Crown to impose a charge or a duty without reference to the Parliament. We took the point that such action should be taken only by the Parliament. I repeat my support of that principle to-night. We have made our protest in a significant way, but we will not oppose the legislation.
What we are witnessing now is a complete reversal of this Government’s policy. It is a complete volte-face, like many others that this Government has made. Soon after February, 1960, we were told that import licensing bad gone for ever.
– You are making a pretty good case for its restoration.
– I do not need to argue for the restoration of import licensing. That was part of our policy at the last election. We favour import licensing. The Government at least, at the direction of the people of Australia, given at the last elections, is going some distance along the way towards import licensing. No one will convince me that the Government, which said that it would never go back to any form of import licensing, is not resorting to a form of import licensing -by what it describes as quantitative restrictions. Under this scheme a determination will have to be made as to how much goods of a certain kind is to be imported, and how much is to be imported by each individual. There is no other way to do it. You come right back to import controls of the character we have known all along. We welcome this change on the part of the Government, and I accept Senator Hannaford’s soft impeachment that I am building a case for import controls.
Looking into the future, I do not see how we can protect Australian industries without some form of quantitative control. Many of our industries are vulnerable. Some may not be completely economic, but those that I have in mind are necessary to the self-sufficiency and defence of Australia. Even paper would be indispensable from a defence point of view. Our paper industry cannot be allowed to languish or go out of existence simply because paper can be imported more cheaply from other countries. I do not see how industries of that type can be expected to flourish without some form of quantitative control. If we do not give them an assurance that we will protect them, how can they plan the expansion of their activities that is so necessary if we are to absorb migrants, and the young people who are leaving school now in floods? Next year, there will be an even greater number of school-leavers seeking work than ever before. Secondary industry is the medium that must expand to absorb our migrants, and, above all, the school-leavers. How can industry proceed with confidence? How can it expend the necessary capital and enter into the commitments necessary to expand? This legislation does not help industry to do any of those things. This legislation is too tentative. The Government is not honouring the promises that it made to industry.
It has been said that if we impose quantitative restrictions, and so protect Australian industry, costs will rise. But that does not necessarily follow. I agree with the Prime Minister, who recently acknowledged in the Parliament that quantitative controls would not increase costs.
– In those terms?
– I think so. On 4th April last, as reported in “ Hansard “ at page 1298, the Prime Minister said -
I have listened with great respect to arguments which suggest that a quantitative restriction will load costs more than a high tariff. All I want to say at this stage is that J am unable to subscribe to that view.
Later he said -
But, Sir, I just offer my own view that there will be cases in which the imposition of a quantitative restriction will reduce the risk of having costs and prices rise in Australia.
I am sure that the right honorable gentleman had two elements in mind when he said that. As long as there is domestic competition, and an assured market that will justify quantity production, prices will come down. You need the two elements of competition and quantity production. Those two elements will combine to bring prices down. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia has directed attention to an instance where prices were reduced under the system of import licensing, and I have no doubt that the Prime Minister had that factor in mind when he submitted the argument that I have quoted.
I recognize that it is not enough to give an industry protection by way of duty or import restrictions, and then allow it to run its own course. It must be kept under review to see whether it is proceeding efficiently and with due economy and, above all, to see that its prices are reasonable. In the review that the Government is now making of the Tariff Board and its procedures, one recommendation I would make is that a section be set up within the board to watch what goes on under the protection that has been accorded. The board should not wait for an industry to need further protection before examining that industry. Any industry that relies upon protection of any form should be under close scrutiny all the time in the aspects that I have mentioned.
– Do you suggest continuous supervision by the Tariff Board?
– Yes, by a section of the board. It is the body that knows all the facts surrounding a particular industry. It is the body that recommended protection to the industry. I cannot at the moment think of a body better suited to supervise the workings of such industries. A separate section of the board might be devoted to that purpose. 3ut while there is protection for industry I agree that there should be surveillance. I can imagine no more severe sanction for an industry which was not behaving itself than to say to it, “We shall allow imports in duty free for a while to teach you a lesson.”
– That was envisaged in the Constitution, was it not, as a function of the Inter-State Commission?
– That might well have, been one of the duties envisaged for it. I think the control of tariffs was one of them. As the honorable senator will know, the Constitutional Review Committee suggested that the Inter-State Commission should be revived for that and other useful purposes. It may well be that rather than have a section of the Tariff Board attending to the surveillance aspect, the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission would enable that function to be discharged under that body’s cloak. I would not con.travert that.
Various amendments were suggested or forecast by Senator Wright. I am not in a position to comment upon those at the moment so I shall reserve what I have to say until we reach the committee stage of the debate.
I conclude by stating that we do not oppose the measure despite the criticisms I have made of it, despite the fact that I think it adds little to the existing legislation, and despite the fact that it is a mere machinery measure. It may do some good. Unfortunately, the form of its presentation and the absence of adequate power being given to the Tariff Board to make recommendations in relation to quantitative restrictions do not, in my view, give the needed confidence to industry to proceed. That is unfortunate because the Government certainly at present is striving in many ways to give a stimulus to the economy. I believe that the quickest way to do this is to restore the confidence of industry and help it to expand and move forward. Until industry sees the road ahead plainly for a number of years with a clear light at the end, one cannot blame it for hesitating to embark upon that road without true leadership.
– We have just heard a very thoughtful contribution by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I was very pleased to hear him conclude by stating that the Opposition will support the legislation. Although he covered a very wide field, at times going well outside the ambit of the bill, it was pleasing to learn that the Opposition would support the measure.
Once again Senator McKenna took the opportunity, as he has done often during debates in this sessional period, to call upon the Government to plan at least five years ahead. That is something which the Opposition has stated time and time again during the last few weeks, often claiming that the Government has no long-term plans. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that this Government always has had a long-term plan for the expansion and development of this country. However, no government can go to any industry and say that it will do so and so for a number of years. Owing to our dependence on primary industries, our economy is finely balanced. We all know how our primary industries are affected by the prices that we are offered overseas for our goods.
This debate has been proceeding for two days and many speakers have covered a considerable amount of ground. Therefore, I dp not propose at this stage to traverse the ground which has been covered already, but I do rise to support my colleague, Senator McKellar, and to state where the Country Party stands in relation to this legislation. It will be recalled that although Senator McKellar, who led the debate for the Government, supported the legislation he expressed concern at the proposed use of quantitative restrictions and the extent to which they would be used.
He also stated his concern at the effect of rising costs on our primary industries. This is a natural concern to be felt by a man of Senator McKellar’s calling. He is himself a primary producer and he has spent all his life on the land. He knows the problems that primary producers are facing at present, and he knows the necessity to keep costs down in our primary industries and in our export industries generally. Although Senator McKellar expressed himself in this way some honorable senators who followed him in the debate inferred that the members of the Country Party were running away from their obligations to the primary producers. This is definitely not true. We in this corner of the chamber have had a thorough look at the legislation and all that is involved in it, and we have reached the decision that we shall support it.
What is the purpose of this legislation? AH the bill does is to provide for the appointment of special advisory authorities to operate under certain prescribed conditions. In other words, as Senator McKenna has said, it is a machinery measure. To learn how that machinery will work let us turn to the bill. Proposed section 18a of the act is in these terms -
Where it appears to the Minister that urgent action may be necessary to protect an Australian industry, in relation to the importation of any goods, pending receipt and consideration of a report of the Board in relation to those goods, he may request a special advisory authority specified by him to undertake an inquiry, either in relation to the importation of those goods generally or in relation to the importation of those goods from a particular country or countries, and to report to the Minister -
whether it is necessary that urgent action be taken to protect that Australian industry in relation to the importation of those goods; and
if such urgent action is necessary - whether, having regard to the public interest, the protection can appropriately be provided by means of a temporary duty or, if it cannot be so provided, whether it can appropriately be provided -
by means of the temporary restriction of the importation of those goods; or
by means of a combination of both a temporary duty and the temporary restriction of the importation of those goods.
That is all that this legislation involves.
As Senator Vincent pointed out during his speech, it is quite wrong to say, as has been said during the debate, that this measure proposes to give to an outside body some of the powers of the Parliament. The honorable senator stated that the powers mentioned in the bill are already exercised by the Minister. My colleagues and I had regard to that fact when we considered the bill, and that is one of the reasons why we are supporting it. However, as Senator McKellar has stated, the Australian Country Party has been somewhat concerned about the legislation. First, we have been concerned about the degree to which quantitative restrictions will be used. We hope that when the restrictions begin to operate they will do so sparingly. We also have been concerned about the effect that quantitative restrictions will have on costs in the export industries, particularly the primary industries.
It has been stated in this chamber many times that rising costs are the greatest bugbear of primary producers and of the export industries generally. We know that rising costs are primarily responsible for the predicament in which the primary producers find themselves to-day. That is a matter of concern to all of us, because the primary industries are the greatest earners of export income. As has been said on numerous occasions, the primary industries earn 80 per cent. of our export income. What has the Australian Country Party done about the matter of costs in the export industries? In order to answer that question, let me refer to the conditions that existed at the time that I became a member of this chamber. At that time, the parliamentary section of the Country Party had appointed a committee to consider the costs of primary producers. The committee made a report which was later presented to the federal executive of the party. Because of the information which the report contained and the conclusions reached by the committee, the federal executive decided to have the report printed in booklet form so that the people of Australia might have an opportunity to appreciate the trends in the primary industries.
With that information before it,the Country Party, led by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), stressed to the people of Australia the important part being played by the primary industries in building up export income. Mr. McEwen was one of the first to direct attention to the big drop that had occurred in the earnings of primary producers compared with those of other members of the community. Because of the impact which the thinking of the Country Party in that respect made on the people, and because members of the party were continually pointing to the dangers of consistently rising costs, other people started to get on the band wagon. Many of the primary producer organizations came to the Government and asked it to do something about this problem of rising costs. Let me take honorable senators back to February, 1960, when the Government took certain economic action. The most important step then taken was the removal of nearly all the import restrictions that were in operation at the time, which had an immediate effect on the export industries. Despite what the Opposition may say to the contrary, I am sure that the measures taken by the Government at that time, together with those which have been taken subsequently, have held costs in the export industries.
The Tariff Board Bill, Mr. Acting Deputy President, is a measure which is designed to protect secondary industries against the adverse effects of excessive imports from other countries. It is to be hoped that one of its greatest merits will be in taking up the slack in employment. We all realize that if we are to continue to bring migrants to this country we must have jobs available for them. Those jobs will have to be provided by the secondary industries, and for that reason we shall need to have more factories. For the reasons I have given, I support the bill. I hope that at a later date we shall again have an opportunity to have a thorough look at the tariff procedures of this country.
– in reply - I have had an opportunity to prepare answers to most of the questions that have been asked during the debate. I shall commence by referring to the matters that were raised by Senator Cooke, who attacked the Government on the ground that it should have considered four years ago the possible effects on Australian industries of the European Common Market arrangements. He implied that for four years we had done nothing, and that not until the last twelve months had we taken note of the position. I point out to the honorable senator that four years ago Great Britain was a member of the European Free Trade Association, commonly known as The Seven. She had organized that association and she was an active member of it. At that time there was no thought that she would enter the European Economic Community. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was then overseas organizing a new trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia. As a result of that agreement, the preferential duties on 1,006 items were reduced from 12£ per cent, to 7i per cent. It is nonsensical to allege that the Government was doing nothing in this matter four years ago. The problem was not with us at that time. The basis of the thinking of the old country then was the European Free Trade Association.
Senator Benn and one or two other members of the Opposition have claimed that there was no mention of measures such as this in the policy speech that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) delivered during the last general election campaign, or any indication that the Government was thinking in terms’ of measures such as this. I have in my hand now a copy of the policy speech that the Prime Minister made at the City Hall, Kew, on 15th November, 1961. In one part of the speech the right honorable gentleman said -
The Government will of course continue its policy of protecting economic and efficient Australian industry through the Australian Tariff Board. However, we do not regard the present tariff system as static. During 1960 the Government created means for providing temporary tariffs for industries which might otherwise be seriously damaged pending normal review and report by the Tariff Board. It will also examine possible ways of overcoming the particular difficulties of certain Australian industries where production efficiency and a reasonable cost level require the maintenance of a continuing high volume of output.
In view of that statement, it is nonsensical to suggest that this measure was not in the mind of the Government.
Senator Buttfield referred to the staff of the Tariff Board. Following the introduction of temporary duty legislation in 1960 and again more recently, action was taken by the Government, through the Department of Trade and the Public Service Board, to increase substantially the number of the officers to whom Senator Buttfield referred, with a view to ensuring that there would be no delay in the work of the Tariff Board. The extent of this increase can be gauged from the fact that the number of these officers at present is double the number in 1960. Further appointments have been made recently, and others are pending. I think that deals with the point made by Senator Buttfield, that the board was short of staff and needed additional staff to enable it to carry out its work properly.
– It does not give a full answer.
– What I have said may not be a full answer to the honorable senator’s question, but I have not had enough time to get the details of staff numbers. If the honorable senator saw the figures, perhaps she would be more satisfied.
Senator Kennelly raised the matter of advertising in newspapers. The present legislation provides that advertisements of an inquiry to be held by the board shall appear in two newspapers in the State in which the inquiry is to be held. As the board is to move to Canberra and some of the hearings will take place in Canberra, it was felt that there should be a newspaper advertisement of a forthcoming hearing in every State of the Commonwealth and in the Territories - which would mean that an advertisement would appear in the Canberra newspaper - as well as in the “ Gazette “, so as to give the widest possible coverage. It will not be the Government that will arrange for these advertisements to be inserted. That will be done by the Tariff Board. I assume that if the board chooses one newspaper in New South Wales, for example, on one occasion, it will be completely impartial and choose another newspaper in that State on the next occasion. Senator Kennelly became somewhat parochial and wanted to know what would happen in Melbourne. I assume that if the Tariff Board chooses the Melbourne “ Age “ on one occasion, it will choose another Melbourne newspaper on the next occasion. I do not think the honorable senator has any cause for worry. I believe the Tariff Board will act quite impartially in these matters.
Reference was made to the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the question was asked whether the imposition of quantitative restrictions would constitute a breach of the provisions of that agreement. Article XIX of the agreement provides that in certain circumstances, when an industry is being damaged by imports emergency action can be taken. There has been a further interpretation of that article to the effect that when the demand for a product in a country falls and the volume of the imports of the product, calculated as a percentage of the demand, has increased, then, even though the actual volume of imports has not risen, restrictions may be imposed. Therefore, the Government feels that the imposition of quantitative restrictions will be within the terms of Article XIX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
– Can the Minister tell us whose interpretation that was, and when it was announced?
– I understand that it was an interpretation by the contracting parties, but I do not know the date of it.
Senator Wright raised one or two matters which I think call for some comment. In one part of his speech he said -
The third feature of this legislation that I note, Mr. President, is that, whereas the imposition of the emergency tariff was the function of the deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board, the recommendation for an emergency tariff or quantitative restrictions under this bill is the province of a special advisory authority. It is a lovely flash of Canberran genius to call this government-appointed official a special emergency authority. One can see the cauliflower blooming! In other words, he is a government appointee and is outside the structure of the Tariff Board.
I think honorable senators, in considering this matter, could well cast their thoughts to the deputy chairmen of the board, who have been acting for the last eighteen months under legislation such as this, with power to recommend not quantitative restrictions but emergency tariff duties. They are appointees of the Government. They were appointed in exactly the same way as the special advisory authority will be appointed. In fact, every member of the Tariff Board is an appointee of the Government, if you like to use that expression. He is appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Government. I do not think it is right to insinuate that the special advisory authority, because he will be a Government appointee, will be in a position different from that of a deputy chairman or any member of the Tariff Board.
– A certain degree of independence is guaranteed by the legislation to members of the Tariff Board.
– A certain amount of independence will be guaranteed to the special authority. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that I believe that the members and deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board, in whom I have the greatest confidence, and the special authority, in whom 1 have no doubt I shall have the greatest confidence, will act in a completely impartial and independent way. Senator Wright also said - i therefore say that we have a great respon sibility to guard against re-introducing or making permanent specific legislative machinery for the re-introduction of import licensing, even in respect of selected industries. Who selects the industries? The Minister of the day.
Later he said’ -
Harken not to the lawyer’s suspicions. Harken to the* businessman’s approach, which is that selective quantitative restrictions would be infinitely worse, because the Minister selects the industries.
Let me pause here to point out that, under the legislation that has been in operation for eighteen months, a deputy chairman of the board chooses the industry in relation to which there is to be an emergency hearing. For 40 years the Minister has been choosing the industries in respect of which references are made to the Tariff Board. I think Senator Wright has completely failed to realize the full responsibilities that go with a ministerial portfolio. Perhaps that is understandable, because he has never had one himself. After criticizing the bill and suggesting that the operation of some of the provisions should be limited to a period of two years, he said that a policy in these matters should be laid down for not less than five years.
Senator McCallum raised one or two matters. He said that industries in Australia could be over-capitalized and inefficient. He said that he would like to see the special authority make an approach to that aspect of industry before granting any protection. 1 hope that I am quoting him correctly. I think that is what he had in his mind. It has been pointed out quite frequently in this debate that the emergency hearing may be likened to a fire brigade action. The criterion upon which an emergency hearing is based is entirely different from the criterion of the Tariff Board. I strongly contest any suggestion that this legislation, by any stretch of imagination, could give anybody the impression that the Government, any member of the Government or anybody in this Parliament has not full confidence in the Tariff Board or that this legislation shows a weakening of their confidence in the board. I disagree profoundly with any such impression.
Under this emergency legislation the criterion is this: Is an industry being irreparably damaged or being damaged by imports? That is what the special authority will have to decide. If he decides that the industry is being so damaged, he takes only a holding action because he has to report to the Government within 30 days of receiving the request for the inquiry, and the Government has to table his report in the Parliament. The Minister has to refer the matter to the Tariff Board and then the normal processes of the Tariff Board continue. Instead of the industry being irreparably damaged, its position can be held until the Tariff Board has made its report to the Minister. The Minister then tables the Tariff Board report in the Parliament. Action is taken in another place by introducing a tariff proposal. Once parliamentary sanction is received, that proposal becomes the law of the land.
I do not believe that we could get the speed of action that is so necessary in this facet of protection if we injected that procedure into what is really a fire brigade action. Action has to be taken by the special authority within 30 days, and he may have to hear two or three cases in that period. It does not mean that every decision will take 30 days to make. That period may not be necessary. With due respect, I do not believe that we could inject into the emergency system the Tariff Board processes that are and always will be valuable and necessary. Under those processes the Tariff Board has the time to sift and probe evidence. It is able to take evidence under oath and then to make a long-term report on protection for an industry. No one would wish for one moment to interfere with that function which has been accepted by all governments from both political sides over the years. I believe thatI have answered all the questions that I noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
– This clause provides that the bill will come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. I remind the committee that last night the Acting Minister for Trade (Senator Henty) said that his second-reading speech contained 47 references to the fact that this is a temporary measure. When Senator McKellar was addressing the Senate yesterday, he said that the first thing we had to realize about this measure was that it was permanent in that it set up permanent machinery to impose temporary restrictions. The matter is a little confusing. The bill has been debated on the basis that it is a stop-gap measure and wilcome up for review with other matters included in the Tariff Board legislation which are expected to be dealt with in the next Budget session.
We have been reminded of many objections on principle to the proposals in the bill, except in case of emergency. Therefore, it is clear that this bill is intended to provide only for an emergency. In view of that, Mr. President, I suggest that it is our duty to see that the bill expresses that it will not operate for more than two years after it receives the Royal Assent. To that end, I move -
At end of clause add the following sub-clause: - “ (2.) The operation of this Act shall cease at the expiration of two years from the date of its coming into operation.”.
– Would you re-enact it then?
– It would always be competent for the Parliament, if it thought fit, to re-enact the measure then. A temporary provision such as that in the legislation is the best way to ensure that the matter does come before the Parliament for re-consideration.
We have been reminded that when the import licensing provisions were introduced originally in 1952, they were introduced on a much more comprehensive basis and a more arbitrary basis than these provisions and they were then announced to be temporary. They continued for eight years. A good deal of opinion has been expressed to the effect that they should have continued for longer than that. That is all an argument for the proposition that this is temporary legislation which we should ensure operates for two years, at the most, without further consideration by us. I hope that the Minister and the committee will be able to accept the amendment, which is designed simply to see that we do our duty in ensuring that this particular temporary measure exists for no longer than two years.
– I do not altogether agree with Senator Wright’s suggestion that the bill has been debated upon the premise that it is a temporary measure. I can see no reason to assume that the legislation, as such, is temporary. I quite agree with Senator McKenna’s argument that the procedure recommended by the special authority shall be of a temporary nature, and thus must always remain so. That is of the very essence of the legislation, but I see no reason to suggest that the measure itself is intended to be temporary, and I suggest that it should not be temporary. As the Minister and others have said, the measure is for the purpose of providing emergency assistance in a state of emergency, either by the tariff or, if the tariff does not provide a proper remedy, by quantitative restriction. If the operation of the measure were to last for only two years, it could do more harm than good.
What would happen after the expiration of two years if the legislation became ineffective? A manufacturer might be confronted with one or more of these situations: There might be a spate of imported products from a country having a much lower living standard than ours, and therefore a much lower production cost. The market would be flooded with a large quantity of goods which would, in fact, spell ruin to the manufacturer. No remedy would then be available to him except through the usual channel. I suggest that the bill is designed to provide quick, temporary relief, so that the position may be properly investigated.
Let us suppose that a manufacturer, as has happened from time to time, is confronted with the dumping here of large quantities of imports from such highly industrialized nations as Japan, Germany or the United States of America. Such nations, which are heavily endowed industrially, are in the habit of endeavouring to poultice this country with their surplus production at a price much lower than cost, to the extreme embarrassment of local manufacturers. This legislation is intended to last so that, in those circumstances, quick remedial action of a temporary nature may be taken by the authority until the full merits of the case can be ascertained. One can easily imagine the sudden embarrassment of a local manufacturer upon a violent fluctuation of overseas prices for commodities he imports for the purpose of manufacture. Very prompt consideration should be given to his predicament. I could name many other circumstances wherein prompt action would be necessary, so I cannot altogether subscribe to Senator Wright’s argument that if this legislation is desirable at all it should continue only for two years. If Senator Wright is arguing that this legislation is not desirable, he should say so. To say that it is desirable only for two years is, I suggest, not attacking the problem in any way. It is merely postponing the evil day. I think that one should be either for it or against it. Adopting a period of two years would get us nowhere.
I also remind the Senate that, as Senator McKenna has said, this is a purely machinery measure, that even greater powers are already vested in the Minister, and that the Minister is now - I think for a very good reason - in the form of legislation, handing over some of the power to an independent tribunal. That is a most desirable course, which Senator Wright has frequently advocated in this chamber, and which I support. In the absence of this legislation, far greater power of a permanent nature is already vested in the hands of the Minister. Therefore, I fail to see any merit in Senator Wright’s argument that the legislation should be temporary.
– The amendment proposed by Senator Wright has quite a lot of merit. I have listened to the speeches from both sides, which were punctuated with references to “ temporary “ this and “ temporary “ that. Some provisions that were intended to be temporary have become permanent. We said that certain things would happen when import restrictions were lifted, and those things did happen. The Government said that it was abolishing import restrictions, which would never be brought back. We as a party believed that import restrictions should be removed over a period, but not suddenly, as was done by the Government. We support the bill because of the economic situation that has arisen. Really efficient industries will be able to carry on under their own power, at which stage quantitative import restrictions may be removed altogether. Senator Wright has suggested that the legislation be reviewed within two years. I think that two years is quite a sufficient period in which to see what is happening. I believe that import restrictions should, in the long run, be lifted, and I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment.
.- The Government is unable to accept the amendment, for a very good reason. The amendment does not, as Senator Cole said, provide that the legislation be reviewed within two years. It provides that the legislation shall cease to operate in two years. That is entirely different from a review. As Senator McKenna pointed out, this legislation is merely a machinery measure to go into the Tariff Board Act so that when an emergency arises it can be dealt with under this legislation by temporary action being taken. The legislation was never intended to be temporary itself. Of course not. The1 Tariff Board Act is almost as old as federation.
– This bill was introduced only last week.
– This is an amendment to the Tariff Board Act.
– It is only an amendment.
– You had your opportunity to put your point of view. The request made in this amendment is not for a review but that the machinery should cease. Let us have a look at what could happen if this legislation were to cease in two years. An emergency might arise in, say, the timber industry or the paper industry. It might arise three months before this legislation is due to cease. The legislation is used to hold an emergency inquiry and a temporary duty is recommended. That procedure might take a month. If the Parliament is not in session the measure that is taken would automatically lapse at the end of the two-year period and no power would exist to do anything for the industry concerned. I agree entirely with Senator Vincent that we are placing this, machinery measure on the statute-book to deal with emergencies for all time.
– In a temporary situation.
– That is right. We either have it or we do not have it at all. It is quite impossible for the Government to accept the amendment.
.- The Opposition opposes the amendment for the reason that if it were passed by the Senate it would cause chaos in industry. The legislation provides that help can be given to an industry, but if this amendment is carried, at the end of two years that help will cease altogether.
– Or the position might get worse.
– The position might get worse. I believe that we have seen enough of what has happened in the past to warrant legislation such as this which will give us the authority to act with great speed. It will mean that we will not have so many of our people unemployed in a particular industry because some foreign country - be it friendly or otherwise - decides to dump goods into Australia at a price with which we cannot compete. We must guard not only the industry but also the human beings who work in it.
I do not think it would be possible to protect industry if a clause such as has been suggested were inserted in the bill. I think it would destroy one of the main reasons for the necessity for such a bill. It is the responsibility of the Minister to submit to an authority for an investigation an industry which the Minister thinks should be helped, with the idea of giving it immediate relief. I think the case submitted by the Minister cannot be faulted, and I hope that the Senate will oppose the amendment submitted by Senator Wright.
.- It appears to me that the objections which have been raised by the massed battalions on the left and the right are considerably exaggerated. Honorable senators on both sides appear to suggest that if at the end of two years there were grave conditions that ought to be guarded against in order to protect certain industries, there would be no possibility of guarding against such conditions and giving assistance to industry if this amendment were carried. If this most remarkable measure is so wonderful how have we got on without it over the last 50 or 60 years? I cannot understand why the accumulated intelligence of both sides of the chamber did not realize that this was necessary years ago. I do not think that I am living in the past when I say that.
I lived through a period when we had import licensing in this country, and I would not like to live through that period again, because I think the operation of import licensing was most unjust. It penalized certain industries and people and gave advantages to others. We had the extraordinary position existing of a firm having an import licence for the extensive importation of olive oil when, according to the name and the purpose for which it was set up, it was an electrical trading company. There is a good deal of logic in Senator Wright’s suggestion. He said that this legislation introduces a very extraordinary and remarkable procedure. I do not see in the bill any provision for appeals against the decision of the advisory authority. Even in the worst days of import licensing there was a provision for appeals, but in this particular case the gentleman appointed is a dictator. There are good grounds for saying that if you are going to appoint a dictator, his term of office should be temporary.
The position appears to me to be wrong. This is a new and very extraordinary procedure. We are going to put a man in charge of something which is fundamental to the future of this country, and we are saying, in effect, that although under the old import licensing system there was a right of appeal, there will be no appeal from the person in charge of this procedure. Why not have a provision that at the end of two years the matter will be reconsidered? Some people seem to suggest that the Government would not have power to review the legislation or to replace it by better legislation. Is there anything wrong in allowing this legislation to run for two years and at the end of that time making a decision whether to re-introduce it or improve it? I do not think that that would harm industry so very much.
People in industry have told me that the thing they object to about the economic decisions of the Government is that they never know where they are. Legislation is brought in and they do not know whether it is going to be left on the statute-book or be repealed. As in the case of sales tax on motor vehicles, additional tax can be imposed one month because, as we were told, it is vital to the economic future of the country, and in four months’ time it can be discovered suddenly that the legislation has achieved the economic salvation of the country in that short period. People in industry will tell you that they do not mind what the Government does if only it would stick to a particular economic policy for a certain period of time. The average businessman would say that if import licensing were re-introduced, with a promise to review the position in two years, he could plan his business accordingly. Simply to carry Senator Wright’s amendment does not mean that at the end of two years all protection ceases. All it means is that the Parliament of this country shall examine the record of this legislation and, if it has been good, the Parliament will re-enact the legislation. If the legislation has not been good the Parliament will introduce something better. I think we would do a good turn to industry if we let it know that these particular import restrictions will be reviewed in two years’ time.
– I do not think Senator McManus has done himself full justice to-night. He accused the Government of not having a firm policy. He said that citizens of this country do not know where they are going. In almost the same breath - in actual fact he did not draw breath - he advocated the cancelling out of the provisions of this legislation after two years. Having drawn breath, I ask the honorable senator to place himself in the position of a merchant or manufacturer in Australia who is conscious of the significance of this legislation, and who is told that after two years the legislation will be reviewed and may or may not be re-enacted. Is that a nice situation in which to place an industry that is endeavouring to expand, and which may be affected violently over-night by imports from overseas? I do not agree with Senator McManus that the Government does not know where it is going. I suggest that he does not know where he is going as far as the proposed amendment is concerned. He is now trying to do what he unjustly accused the Government of doing in relation to economic policy.
Let me make one other comment about this very un-McManus-like speech. The honorable senator stated that there was no right of appeal. Apparently the worthy senator is not conscious of one or two things about this legislation. First, it is not the beginning and end of all tariff protection legislation. It forms only part of a pattern of legislation and proposed legislation. It is quite clear from what the Government has said that the Tariff Board will be endowed with power to consider the decisions of the special authority - decisions that are of a temporary nature. Then the board may take steps to do something else by way of review.
– How long will that take?
– I am not talking about time. I am talking about the honorable senator’s contention that the legislation does not provide for an appeal. Does he suggest that there should be a right of appeal against the type of assistance provided under this bill? The assistance cannot run for more than three months. How many appeals does the honorable senator want? Not only will the Tariff Board review the whole matter in open court-
– Within 30 days?
– No. The board will give proper consideration to every aspect of the problem. Anybody may give evidence before the board. You could not have a fairer investigation than the investigation that will be conducted by the Tariff Board, which will be in the nature of an -appeal. In addition, anybody who is interested in the industry concerned may at any time go to the board and initiate proceedings by way of review or otherwise with respect to the situation then existing in that industry. A right of appeal is open at all times to any interested person. Surely that should satisfy Senator McManus. How could you have any more appeals?
I agree with Senator McKenna’s proposition that a special section of the board should be interested exclusively or substantially in reviewing these matters. That was a very good suggestion. The suggestion is complementary to the existing pattern, because where industries become inefficient, where costs have reached the stage that special assistance is no longer warranted or where quantitative restrictions should be curtailed, the matter may be thrown open again. That is a very sensible suggestion, but that is not what Senator McManus was talking about. This legislation is, I suggest, a temporary measure designed to deal with an emergency. It is in the nature of an ex parte application for an interim injunction. Senator Wright and Senator McManus will understand what I mean by that. I have never heard a more futile argument than that put forward to-night by Senator McManus. He has made much better efforts than that.
– I intervene briefly to answer the question posed to the committee: How did we get on before this legislation was brought in? I answer that by stating that section SO of the Customs Act gives most complete and arbitrary power to the Government to prohibit by regulation the importation of any type of goods at all. Whatever defects this particular legislation has, it does break down that position a little because it interposes a special advisory authority, who is not a dictator because he does not decide anything. The authority makes a hurried inquiry that must be completed within 30 days. . He then makes a recommendation.
He dictates nothing, lt is a matter for the Minister, representing the Government, to decide whether the recommendation will be adopted or whether it can be broken down somewhat. The legislation is, to that extent, an improvement on the position that existed previously.
If the Minister decides to adopt any part of the special advisory authority’s recommendation, he must immediately make a reference to the permanent Tariff Board. I thought Senator Vincent drew out this point quite well. So even the decision of the Minister is temporary only. It may have force for a period of only three months after the Tariff Board, with the fullest public inquiry, involving the taking of evidence on oath, and with opportunities given to all interested parties to attend, makes its recommendations. I do not see an element of dictatorship in what has been done. I have been critical of it already in this place as a relatively no-account procedure and I have answered the points which have been raised.
Finally, if there . is an argument for delimiting anything, I think it would be delimiting the operation of a ministerial pronouncement upon duties or quantitative restrictions. That is rather a queer way to state the position but I think it. is strictly accurate. What we are doing, and what is intended by this legislation, is to make permanent, legislation to deal with an emergency which may arise at any time, but only to give temporary currency to what may be done about the emergency. So, it is permanent legislation for temporary action. If you want to delimit something it should not be the permanent legislation because the difficulties which are envisaged by the act might arise this year, next year or the year after. The power lies dormant until it needs to be exercised.
I could understand the logic of an argument or an amendment directed to imposing a two-year limit if the Tariff Board were dilatory, if it slowed down and could not deal with a reference from the Minister and if the emergency quantitative restriction imposed at the instance of the Minister was current for more than two years. I could understand the logic of an amendment addressed to correcting that state of affairs and forcing a review of the position, but I cannot accept the suggestion that there should be an end to this legislation in two years. I understand that some 60 applications - I think I am right in that figure - await hearing by the special advisory authority. One can well imagine that the special advisory authority might not have time to deal with them all in two years. The appointment of several special authorities may have to be considered.
– That is where I see the cauliflower growing.
– It may be a matter of the acuteness of the need of the industry. I think that the number of applications is symptomatic of that. Let us suppose that some grave emergency arises just before the expiration of the two years delimitation period proposed in the legislation. No action could be taken perhaps for months until the Parliament were called together. But the position would not be as bad as that because always there remains section 50 of the Customs Act which may be used at any time. That section confers an omnibus power which permits far more severe action than is provided for in the legislation now before us.
The Opposition’s viewpoint is that this is permanent legislation to deal with emergencies which may arise at any time and to provide purely a temporary solution of the problem. If there is to be any attack upon the legislation it should be upon the proposed temporary solution of the problem.
.- A debate in committee on matters of this kind serves to let us understand more clearly each speaker’s point of view. We have heard a definite and unequivocal declaration by Senator Vincent, reinforced by the Minister, that this is intended to be a permanent piece of legislation. My disquiet increases because my consent to the emergency legislation of 1960, which gave the Minister extra-parliamentary authority to act on the advice of a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board to impose customs duties, was induced solely by the argument that developments consequent upon the somewhat abrupt termination of the whole system of import licensing in the previous February, had created a situation in which rescue action was needed. Against the arguments that were then advanced - I thought they were rather out of character but nevertheless I give the Opposition credit for its temporary support of a principle - the Labour Party defended Parliament and opposed that measure. I think it is more with a harkening to the voice of the manufacturers that the Labour Party has joined with my colleagues to-night in wanting to give permanent life to that very piece of legislation which it condemned in August, 1960. So much for that piece of logic.
The next point is the proposal in this bill that the Minister, after acting on the advice of a special advisory authority, may proclaim a quantitative restriction. My friend Senator Vincent argued that there is no need to place a time limit on that because a situation of serious concern may arise as a result of dumping. We can remind ourselves that we passed pretty peremptory legislation to guard against that in the year before the Japanese Trade Agreement was concluded. If the Minister is satisfied that dumping is occurring, either generally or in respect of goods from any particular country, he may issue a proclamation following which anti-dumping duties of a prohibitive character may be announced. So we do not have to rely on import licensing or quantitative restrictions to cope with dumping.
Senator Vincent then asked, why we should be concerned at the permanent continuance of this piece of legislation because there is a much more awful elephant in the cupboard.
– It is a tiger.
– Senator Vincent claims it is a tiger in the cupboard. Perhaps that is more appropriate. He said that in 1952 we gave the Executive power to prohibit imports by regulation, generally or specifically; to prohibit the importation of goods from a specified country. Indeed we did. But “ Hansard “ is studded with statements to the effect that we on the Government side regarded the use of that power as justified only in cases of extreme emergency and that it was our unswerving policy to get rid of the restrictions as soon as the international balance-of-payments position made that possible. I think we all applauded the Government’s decision of February, 1960, to dispense with them. I am pleased to have the statement by Senator McManus supporting the Minister for
Trade (Mr. McEwen), the Treasurer (Mr. Holt) and many more of my colleagues in their belief that the system which operated prior to February, 1960, was, to use the words which appear in “ Hansard “, iniquitous and arbitrary. Do we really derive comfort from the fact that there is reserved power conferred by an iniquitous and arbitrary system, and that that now justifies us in setting up for the first time, on the basis of permanent legislation, this adjunct to tariff-making? I should think that mere reflection on that situation, remembering that we are now contemplating approving of this as a permanent measure, ought to daunt us.
I turn to the argument of my friend, Senator Henty, that this proposed amendment does not say the measure will be brought up for review; it says that the bill shall cease to exist. In terms, it does say that, but that does not mean that the Tariff Board Act will cease to exist because of this amendment. I would not impute to any government which occupied the treasury bench failure to be vigilant should an emergency prevail. Surely, in such circumstances, the Government would bring before the Parliament the advisability of continuing the measure, or of amending it. To base an argument on the distinction that exists between a measure ceasing to operate and its being brought up for review is to misunderstand the parliamentary aspects of this form of amendment.
My disquiet is concerned with the idea that this is to be a permanent measure, because I believe that the interests of the country require that costs be kept down. The procedure proposed is an inflationary method of providing protection. It is open to gross abuse. In the interests of the exporting industries and also of the consumers, it is essential that we be vigilant not to allow legislation of this kind to go on the statute-book as permanent legislation without providing for its review.
– I do not pretend to be in any sense fully seised of all the aspects of all the arguments that have been advanced on this measure to-night. However, listening to the last remarks of Senator Wright, it seemed to me - whether rightly or wrongly I am not fully qualified to say - that he replied to most of the arguments put for ward except the argument advanced by Senator McKenna. As I understood the proposition put forward by Senator McKenna, it was that under section SO of the Customs Act as it at present stands the Minister has complete power, in effect, to place quantitative restrictions or other restrictions on the import of goods into this country, and that that is a power which is in his hands at the moment in accordance with a permanent piece of legislation which is now in existence.
If that is the case, does not this legislation which is now before us place a limitation upon an unlimited power which the Minister has at present? Does it not introduce a procedure which must be gone through with a public inquiry as a part of it, whereas at present restrictions may be imposed without a public inquiry? If that is so, I cannot follow the argument. This legislation is introducing nothing new other than a limitation upon a power which is at present unlimited, and other than a requirement that a public inquiry is necessary before a restriction can in fact be made permanent. I would very much like to hear Senator Wright’s remarks on that proposition which, as I understand it, is the proposition that Senator McKenna advanced.
– Senator Wright avoided answering the important argument put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). It may sound strange, coming from me, but I believe that this is an honest attempt by the Government to cope with a situation that has developed in this country. We have to appreciate the reason for the introduction of this bill. The fact is that the unemployment problem is a very great one. The way to overcome that problem is to encourage industrial development in every possible way. By doing that, more people will be provided with employment. The Government proposes to seek advice from an expert. In fact, I should say that the expert selected by the Government is the leading authority on the subject in Australia. Expert advice was available to the Australian Labour Party when it was in office, and we made extensive use of it, although not quite so openly as the Government proposes to do.
When we were in office, we kept a finger on all the situations that developed in regard to our overseas trade and trading matters^ generally. It was not necessary for us to take the action that the present Govern-^ ment is taking. I regret very much the necessity to introduce this bill. I do not want to engage in a condemnation of the Government and its economic policy. Senator Wright must accept a degree of responsibility in that regard. Nevertheless, I believe that the economic policy of the Government has brought about the situation which the Government is now trying to correct. In my opinion, this is an honest attempt to cope with the situation that we are facing.
I do not believe that the Government, by means of this measure, is seeking to take from the Senate any of its powers. I appreciate that the Minister and the Government will seek very able advice in their consideration of tariff matters and the difficulties of our industries. No doubt the matters with which the special advisory authority deals will be referred eventually to the Tariff Board. I do not think Senator Wright need have any qualms at all about this legislation. The Government surely would not keep in existence legislation that had ceased to have a definite purpose. I would be the last one to support any move to take from this Parliament the powers that it has in connexion with the tariff and taxation.
I cannot see what else the. Government could have done in view of the situation that confronts us. I admit, of course, that the Government proposes to place a terrific weight of responsibility on Sir Frank Meere. No doubt he will have others to assist him. I am sure he will be of great help to the Government. I am also sure that he will not be guilty of inflicting on the country advice that is not in our best interests. I believe that the greatest mistake this Government ever made was to separate the Department of Trade and the Department of Customs. Some of our best public servants graduated from the old Department of Trade and Customs. In the days of the Labour Government, there was a wonderful set-up for the administration of trade, tariffs and matters of that kind. No difficulty was experienced until this Government came to office. By means of this legislation, the Government is attempting to restore some of the conditions that obtained when Labour was in office, and I for one am fully in accord with the Government’s /action. - Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) [10.10].- I rise again only out of courtesy to the remarks made by the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton). First, let me make a passing reference to what has been said by Senator Courtice. One has no quarrel with his long-retained affection for the old Department of Trade and Customs. However, he has said that this legislation has been introduced because of an emergency. It is that very fact that prompts me to suggest that the operation of the legislation should be limited to the period of the emergency and that more thoughtful and comprehensive legislation should be introduced to provide a permanent basis for dealing with recurring emergencies.
Senator Gorton acknowledged that he did not hear the whole of the first part of the committee debate. He was quite correct in saying that section SO of the Customs Act gives power to the Governor-General, by regulation, to prohibit absolutely the importation of goods into Australia, or to prohibit the importation of goods from a specified place or unless special conditions or restrictions are complied with. The section goes on to provide that a licence may be issued subject to conditions the Minister lays down, and that the Minister may vary the conditions even after the issue of the licence. That is all acknowledged. I said in my speech during the second-reading debate that I hoped I would be corrected by the Acting Minister for Trade (Senator Henty) if that were not the position. Apparently it is claimed to be the position by all sides, and I accept it.
I am a supporter of a Government, the Treasurer in which, in November, 1960, said -
Moreover, import restrictions had always been resented by the community and we had undertaken to get rid of them as soon as we possibly could. Having got rid of them, the Government firmly intends, as I said in my Budget speech, to keep out of them.
– That was not said in the Minister’s speech.
– No. I want to make a point briefly out of courtesy to the clear proposition that was put to me by Senator Gorton. Although import licensing on a comprehensive basis is still permitted under section50 of the Customs Act, there has been an unequivocal declaration by the Government that it will not use that legislation. I base my argument, first, on the ground that, for practical purposes, I can rely upon that declaration. The evidence that the Government does not intend to use that general legislation is its promotion of this piece of legislation. I acknowledge Senator Gorton’s submission, which I made myself last night in my speech during the second-reading debate.
One of the aspects of this legislation which attracts me is that the Minister does accept some curtailment of his powers in that, before a quantitative restriction can be imposed under this legislation, it must be recommended by a Government appointee with a great deal of standing and independence. The Minister’s power is limited to action in an emergency, and it is qualified by the necessity to get a recommendation. Nevertheless, this measure will insert into the structure of the Tariff Board an entirely new function - the function, not of protecting the balance of payments, but of protecting an Australian industry by quantitative restrictions. It is because that proposition is so unique that I think it would be prudent to limit the period of operation of this measure, although not of the edicts made under it, to two years. If there were any circumstances of emergency affecting the economy in about two years’ time, the legislation would then come before the Parliament for review.
– I should like to put the record straight. Apparently Senator Wright was not present in the chamber a little while ago when I made a quotation from the speech that the Prime Minister made to the Australian people last year, in which he announced the policy on which the Government was eventually returned.
– I was here when you read it.
– I think that quotation entirely destroys Senator Wright’s point. I shall read it again. It is as follows -
The Government will of course continue its policy of protecting economic and efficient Australian industry through the Australian Tariff Board.
However, we do not regard the present tariff system as static.
I interpose there to ask: How could we? The Prime Minister went on to say -
During 1960 the Government created means for providing temporary tariffs for industries which might otherwise be seriously damaged pending normal review and report by the Tariff Board.
It will also examine possible ways of overcoming the particular difficulties of certain Australian industries where production efficiency and a reasonable cost level require the maintenance of a continuing high volume of output.
That is the part of the Government’s statement of policy on which this legislation is based. I find myself in agreement with one statement that Senator Wright made yesterday. He said -
A policy should be laid down in these matters for not less than five years. The idea of tinkering one year and mending the leak that develops in the tank in twelve months’ time by another temporary emergency measure is calculated so to depress industry that confidence will never grow and become stronger.
That is my view. Let us not tinker around with this matter. Let us have this legislation as a permanent thing.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Wright’s amendment) be added.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 45
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 10 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 11 (Meetings of the Board).
– This clause states that section 11 of the principal act is amended by omitting subsection (6.) and inserting a new subjection. In a procedure such as this bill envisages, I believe that the widest possible notice of an inquiry should be given. I recognize that through trade and other journals the industries that are in need of protection no doubt will know that an inquiry is to take place.
– Who did you say would know that an inquiry was to take place?
– I should think that the industries concerned would know, up to a point. I believe that notice should be given other than that to industries that are interested. Everybody is entitled to know what is happening. The sub-section that this clause proposes to delete from the act reads -
The Board shall, by advertisement published in two newspapers circulatingin the State in which the inquiry is to be held, give reasonable notice of its intention to hold any inquiry under this section, the subject of the inquiry and the time and place at which the inquiry is to be held.
Proposed new sub-section (6.) reads -
Before the Board commences to hold an inquiry referred to in sub-section (4.) of this section, the Board shall give reasonable notice in each State and in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, by advertisement published in the “ Gazette “ and in a newspaper circulating in the State or Territory . . .
The board does the advertising, and it should not cheesepare. It should give inquiries the widest possible publicity. Let me refer to the Minister’s State of Tasmania. How many people in Launceston read the “ Mercury “? They read the Launceston “ Examiner “. Surely the cost is not a factor that is considered. The amount of work involved should not be a factor either, because once the advertisement has been drawn up it can go auto matically to all newspapers. It is true that under the sub-section that is being deleted from the principal act the board had to advertise in two newspapers in a State. This clause goes further and embodies more or less the whole nation when industries may be affected. In the interests of everybody, I believe it is wise for the board to give the widest possible publicity to the fact that an inquiry is to be held so that any person who desires to give evidence, to see the special authority, or to submit a case for or against, by whatever means he proposes to use, will know about the inquiry. The Government is cheeseparing in this matter. This provision is petty and small. Whilst my purpose is not to move an amendment to this clause, I hope that common sense will prevail and that at least members of the Government will be satisfied in their own minds that the widest possible publicity will be given to any inquiry that is being held.
– The Government wants to advertise only in the “Sydney Morning Herald “.
– I am not worried about what the newspapers say now. In the end, when the pressure is on, they will all get behind the Government. I think that this is a case of cheese paring. If, as the Minister said, the department’s desire is to have the provision in this form, it does not do the department very much credit.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 14 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 15 -
After section eighteen of the Principal Act the following Part and heading are inserted: - “ Part V. - Inquiries and Reports by the Special Advisory Authorities. “18b.- (I). “ (2.) An authority undertaking an inquiry under this section in relation to any goods shall conduct the inquiry in such manner as he thinks fit.
an authority has, under section eighteen d of the Act, reportedthat it is necessary that urgent action be taken to protect an Australian industry in relation to the importation of any goods and that the protection can appropriately be provided by means of, or by means of measures that include, the temporary restriction of the importation of those goods; and
the Minister has referred to the Board for inquiry and report the matter of the necessity for new or increased duties on those goods, the Minister may take action for the purpose of the restriction of the importation of those goods.
.- I move -
In sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 18b, leave out “in such manner as he thinks fit”, insert - “ (a) in the manner referred to in sub-sections (4.) and (5.) of section eleven of the Principal Act, and
provided that the authority may limit the time for hearing any applicant or any objector, and subject thereto, in such manner as he thinks fit “.
Reference has been made to the fact that the special emergency authority will be an officer outside the membership of the Tariff Board. Any inquiry by the Tariff Board, on any application for an alteration of any item in the tariff, under section 11 (4.) of the Tariff Board Act-
The next succeeding sub-section makes an exception of matters as to which the board is satisfied that the evidence is of a confidential nature, in which case the evidence may be taken in camera. I think that I am correct in saying that the whole of Australian commerce has regarded as one of the traditional measures of the board’s independence, one of the things that have made the reputation of the Tariff Board what it is, the requirement that the board shall hear in public applications and objections to applications, and act only upon evidence on oath. If that provision is necessary in the case of the Tariff Board, whose members enjoy a degree of independence that will not belong to the special emergency authority, the same safeguards should be provided in the case of applications of the kind described in this legislation.
I am mindful, of course, that this authority will act on occasions of emergency, and the fact that the legislation requires him to report within 30 days from the Minister’s submission shows that Parliament will require him to come to a decision within a limited time. It would, therefore, be unreasonable to require him to take evidence, unlimited as to time, in public and on oath. My amendment proposes to apply to the manner in which the special emergency authority deals with applications provisions which have been in the Tariff Board Act since 1924, requiring that the evidence be taken in public and on oath, with a proviso that the authority may limit the time that shall be occupied in the submission of evidence by the applicant or by an objector. If those safeguards are appropriate in regard to matters dealt with by a full board, consisting of a number of independent members, they are much more required in the case of a single person, who has not the independence associated with membership of the Tariff Board, and who acts alone. These safeguards are, I submit, much more appropriate to this situation than they are to proceedings of the Tariff Board. They have always been regarded as an essential and real safeguard, promoting the Tariff Board’s reputation for integrity in respect of its decisions.
– The Government cannot accept this amendment. We are not making any attempt to alter the work of the Tariff Board or the provisions applicable to it. The whole idea is to give assistance speedily to an industry. The special authority must work quickly in order to complete a case, or even two or three cases, in 30 days. Senator Wright recognizes that paragraph (a) of his amendment would not work, because he has proposed a proviso to the effect that the authority may limit the time for hearing any applicant or any objector. If the special authority said to an applicant or objector, half-way through the putting of his case: “Time! I cannot hear you any more.
Next, please “, one can imagine the screams to members of the Parliament by all those persons whose cases had been part heard. They would say: “What can you expect? He did not give us time to put our case properly.”
I say quite frankly that the amendment could not possibly work. The provision proposed in paragraph (a) is completely contrary to what has been going on for the past eighteen months, during which deputy chairmen have been dealing with emergency measures. They have used a procedure exactly the same as that which is being laid down for the special authority, and we have not heard one objection. Senator Wright approved of that procedure when the legislation for that purpose was before us. The Senate would be well advised to reject the amendment.
– 1 do not propose to take up much time. The whole intention of the legislation is to get speedy action. When the Minister submits a case to the special authority, the decision must be received within 30 days. It will then come here. If we adopt the procedure proposed in the amendment, we may be placing the special authority in such a position that he cannot fulfil the function for which the legislation is designed. No one wants false evidence. The person who will be appointed as a special authority is trained in the receiving of evidence, and has spent a lifetime in dealing with these matters. I believe that the proposed safeguard is not needed, as it would possibly be needed in cases where ample time was available in hearings before the Tariff Board as a whole. The object of this bill is to deal with an emergency. The case will be submitted to the Minister as quickly as possible and within 30 days the Minister will act if he so desires. There is no compulsion on the Minister to act, but I think that there is every possibility that he will act and will refer the matter to the Parliament within days of his receipt of the request. I think we will have to rely on the good sense, good standing, and experience of the individual. He will have to weigh the evidence, get the job done and help an industry which needs help. In those circumstances I do not think the amendment should be carried.
.- I thought I made it clear in my original speech that I recognized that time was of the essence of this operation. I rise only to rebut the implication that has been submited to the committee that my amendment is impracticable and will not work. It is not a very reasonable suggestion that the emergency authority would proceed in such a way that when a party was half way through his case the authority would then limit the time and say, in effect, “ Get out, gentlemen, I have not time to hear you further.” I would imagine a well-ordered procedure. As the Minister said in his second-reading speech an applicant should prepare a welldocumented case and submit it to the advisory panel of the Department of Trade. That panel would then advise the Minister whether to submit the case to the special emergency authority. If the Minister made the submission to the special emergency authority the well-documented case would bc the first thing that the applicant would submit. 1 would imagine then that the authority would indicate that he would hear the application in seven days time, and unless otherwise ordered he would limit the applicant to two hours, and would hear objections for two hours on the same afternoon, subject to any further order. It would be useless for him to be dilatory about the process he would adopt. In this way he would give those who were objecting to the special application the satisfaction of having some knowledge, in a real sense, of what submissions were being made by the applicant.
At the present time the legislation does not guarantee that the persons who object will have any real knowledge of the application. When Senator Kennelly criticized the advertising of the application, he did so as if there were some political content in his submission. The purpose of the advertisement is to inform people who have an interest in objecting. I realize that advertisements are not particularly efficient in bringing to anybody concerned notice of the application, but if a public hearing is to be held, with evidence taken on oath, people do get to know about it; and it is in that sense that I take it that the Minister in his second-reading speech said that notice of applications of this character will be given to all persons directly concerned.
My only purpose is to ensure that the same safeguards that govern Tariff Board procedures shall apply to the procedures of the special emergency authority.
Before I sit down let me say thatI recognize that there is one factor that gives one less concern about this procedure than the procedure adopted in connexion with import licensing. In the case of import licensing one never knew the identity of the officer who made a decision for or against him. Here, by reason of the appointment of a special emergency authority, you do know the identity of the officer who will make a recommendation either for or against you. That is an additional safeguard. I would have hoped that my submission to the committee would have received more acceptance than it has. It is an additional safeguard that the substantive hearing be held in public and the evidence upon which the authority acts for or against an applicant be submitted on oath. That means only, of course, by statutory declaration or oral evidence on oath.
.- I move -
In sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 18f, leave out “take action for the purpose of the restriction of the importation of those goods “, insert “ by regulation provide for the restriction of the importation of those goods -
specifying the total imports of such goods for one year;
specifying the persons entitled to import such goods; and
specifying the proportion of the total quantity of such imports for one year to which each licensee is entitled”.
Clause 15 proposes to introduce several new sections. The amendment on which I have just addressed the committee arose under proposed new section 18b. I now direct attention to proposed new section 18f, which reads - (1.) Where-
That proposed new section does not specify the action that the Minister may take. It says simply that the Minister may take action for the purpose of the restriction of the importation of goods. It has been said in the debate to-night that the only action that he could take would be to issue import licences and to prohibit imports by anybody who did not have a licence. I rather think that that is the meaning intended by the action that the Minister should take, but it is not stated specifically. Nor is it stated in what manner the Minister is to distribute the benefit of any quantitative restrictions among importers in the trade.
As honorable senators know, there was considerable injustice in the operation of the import licensing system. Smith would get X quota and Jones would get Y quota, and a great sense of grievance was felt by those individuals. The arbitrary fixation of each individual’s import quota was left to ministerial decision. The intention of my amendment is to require the Minister to quantify the total embargo and then split it among the people who benefit by the import licences. I suggest, first, that this be done by regulation, which is an instrument which comes within the authority of either House of the Parliament. If they disagree, each House has the right to disallow the regulation. But, what is more important, the Parliament is required to give attention to a system whereby equity and justice shall be done to importers so that no unfair discrimination occurs.
The system makes no provision for people who desire to set up as importers. New importers are not noticed. The intention of this amendment is, I think, inadequately expressed, but I hope that the committee will write into the act a safeguard to ensure that the Minister’s decision, taken on the recommendation of the emergency authority, will operate with equity and justice to all people trading in the imports under consideration.
– I appreciate the purpose of Senator Wright’s amendment, and I appreciate his desire to see that equity and justice are done in these matters. 1 concur in his proposition that during the implementation of import licensing there was grave dissatisfaction among the recipients of quotas.
The amendment proposes to rectify that position through the machinery of a regulation under the act. Let us pause there to see whether the amendment will ensure equity and justice to the applicants. Let us examine the possibilities of what may transpire under that proposal. 1 do not quarrel with Senator Wright’s premise. There is always the possibility that injustice can be done in certain circumstances, and injustice certainly was done heretofore. However, 1 submit ‘ that graver injustice might be done, and there would be a likelihood of a greater number of injustices, if Senator Wright’s proposal were adopted, because it requires that the decision be put before the Parliament by way of regulation. That means that this Parliament then has the right to reject the regulation. The onus is thrown on to Parliament to ensure that measure of justice and equity which, as Senator Wright so very properly suggests, is sometimes not otherwise assured.
Let us examine how the proposed system would work. The onus is to rest upon Parliament. That would mean, I suggest, that the Parliament would have to attempt to decide the issue, but it would not have before it the evidence that had been submitted to the authority. In short, we would be asked to make a decision without having heard the evidence. With great respect to Senator Wright, I do not think that that would be the best way to handle this problem. It is a good idea to prevent injustice and inequity, but surely this Parliament could not possibly make a proper quasijudicial decision on these matters when it had not before it any of the evidence that was available to the authority before it made its decision. If I could misuse a phrase, we would make justice worse confounded by having the onus put upon us as a Parliament to ensure that equity was being preserved. For that reason, I cannot see how a regulation of the nature suggested would assist the cause that Senator Wright so ably espouses.
.- The Go vernment cannot accept the amendment. I think all of us would wish to give justice to all importers. But just imagine the position of an importer who has received a licence, and who has placed orders overseas. Suppose his goods are half way across the water. Suppose then that representations are made by his competitors and that the Parliament disallows the regulation, making his licence null and void. I need go no further to show how impractical is Senator Wright’s proposition.
I go all the way with Senator Wright’s submission that justice must be done at all times to the nth degree, but I agree with Senator Vincent that this amendment would bring in its train far greater anomalies and injustices than even the previous system. The amendment presupposes that there will be a licence. There may or may not be a licence. There are ways of dealing with this matter other than by licensing.
– I do not address myself to the amendment. In the expectation that the committee will adjourn in a few minutes, I pose a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) in order that he may consider it before giving me an answer at our next sitting. The Minister has told us that the action to be taken under this legislation will be based on Article XIX. of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Proposed new sections 18e and 18f empower the Minister to take action to impose duties or, alternatively, import restrictions. That power is derived from Article XIX. of Gatt. I understand that this action is being taken because of the need to do something quickly. If that is so, will the Minister please refer to paragraph 2 of Article XIX., which reads -
Before any contracting party shall take action pursuant to the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article, it shall give notice in writing to the contracting parties as far in advance as may be practicable and shall afford the contracting parties and those contracting parties having a substantial interest as exporters of the product concerned an opportunity to consult wilh it in respect of the proposed, action.
If there is need for speed’ in these matters, and if we are acting under Article XIX. of Gatt, what does the Minister say about the obligation to give all the other contracting parties as much notice as possible and to consult with them? I realize that there is a further provision that in an extreme case you may still persist with your action without consultation, but you have to come back to consultation.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly) -
Historical Relics - Parliament: Speech by Member - Equal Pay for Sexes.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– When I had the honour of seconding the motion for the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech, I appealed to the Government to preserve the early historical relics that now exist in Australia. I repeat now what I said then. To-day we are so close, in point of time, to the foundation of Australia that there are still many very wonderful and priceless relics in existence. Many are in danger of being lost to posterity because of a growing generation which seems bent on destruction rather than construction and preservation.
I mentioned some relics which were worth preserving, but I am sure honorable senators will know of very many others. However, I should like to mention now some which I omitted to mention previously. 1 am encouraged to do so because of the many inquiries which have been made of me in relation to this matter. I am encouraged also to persevere in my request to the Commonwealth Government to form the present State national trusts into a Commonwealth body and then supply funds for the very worthy purposes for which the presenttrusts were set up. In addition, I am encouraged by the visit to Australia of Lord Euston, Chairman of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in the United Kingdom. Some honorable senators may have heard his intensely interesting broadcast while he was in Australia. Lord Euston specially mentioned St. James’ Church in King-street, Sydney. Honorable senators will remember that I mentioned this church as a priceless piece of our early history.
A fortnight ago I was astounded to read in the “Daily Telegraph” that the Royal Exchange building at the corner of Pitt and Bridge streets, Sydney, was to be demolished so that a 27-storey office block could be built on the site. This building is of beautiful early colonial architecture and is almost the only one of its kind left in Australia. It is more than 100 years old and stands on land ceded by Queen Victoria herself in 1853 as a special grant “ to be used as an exchange wherein merchants or other persons concerned in commerce . . . may conveniently meet for the purpose of transacting commercial affairs “. Under the terms of the grant, the land reverts to the. Crown if the Sydney Exchange Company goes out of business, but by some extraordinary manipulation a Sydney firm has managed to gain possession of the building and it now proposes to erect a 27-storey office block in which it will provide accommodation for the Sydney Exchange Company, thereby defeating the purpose of the grant of this land as a very special gift to the people of New South Wales. That building means as much to Australia and to many of the older Australians as do many of our early churches, and action should be taken to prevent its demolition.
In Melbourne recently some one decided that the Cobb & Co. stable at Craigieburn stood in the way of progress. This person wants to sub-divide the land in the area for housing purposes. So, this beautiful old stable must go. In most other countries town-planning authorities would make such an historic bluestone stable, with its 100 years of history of Cobb & Co. coaches behind it, the centre of a new housing area. Built near the Craigieburn railway gates, the stable formed the first changing point out of Melbourne for the stage coaches.
The National Trust of Victoria would have liked to save this building and have done something with it, but because of lack of funds the trust has not been able to prevent its destruction. These things are happening almost daily in every State. I urge the Commonwealth Government to adopt the suggestion made by Lord Euston that a committee be formed, similar to that which exists in the United Kingdom, to classify historic buildings and relics with a view to their preservation. By making the existing national trusts and historical societies a Commonwealth body, the worthwhile work of pioneer Australians could be saved from destruction and preserved.
Among the examples of relics which I mentioned earlier in the sessional period I included that wonderful treasure, the Sydney General Post Office, the clock tower of which, for safety reasons, was removed from that beautiful building of pure Gothic architecture during the war. As I suspected, many people do not know the history of the clock and I have been asked to state it. I am grateful to the President of the Senate for this opportunity to place on record some of the features of this priceless heritage. I am also indebted to Mr. Bertram Ford of the Town Planning Association of New South Wales for some of the details which I shall mention. Few people realize what a really beautiful piece of architecture the Sydney General Post Office is. The clock tower, when it is reerected, will stand on one of the most wonderful buildings ever erected in Sydney. But so much of Sydney is crowded with huge buildings that unless you stand well up Martin-place you cannot really appreciate the beauty of the General Post Office. When I state the history of the clock I am sure honorable senators will agree that it has been worth waiting to hear.
The Sydney General Post Office clock is the finest in the world, not even excepting Big Ben in London, and it kept time to’ within two seconds a week. It was set going by Lady Jersey, wife of the then Governor of New South Wales, the Earl of Jersey, on 16th September, 1891. Thousands gathered in Martin-place on 11th November, ,1918, to hear its joybells ring at the end of World War I. On Armistice Day, when the clock chimed the hour of 11 a.m., all traffic stopped to observe two minutes’ complete silence. In addition, the chimes rang out the old year and rang in the new.
The lantern over the clock showed a red light at night when a southerly buster was signalled from Jervis Bay. In the daytime a flag bearing the letters J.B. was hoisted above the tower on a flagpole to signify the same thing. This was done as a warning to sailing boats on the harbour that a wind storm was on the way, and also to inform citizens suffering from a heatwave that relief was coming. The clock dials, which measured IS ft. 8 in. in diameter, were 150 feet above ground level, and the lantern was 210 feet above the street. The dials, four in number, were of cast iron glazed with opal glass. They were illuminated at night. These figures are important, as the diameter of a clock dial is directly related to its height from the ground, so that any attempt to alter this building or its tower externally could be disastrous.
The clock chimes automatically cut out at 11 o’clock each night and commenced again at 6 o’clock in the morning. This was done so that the striking of the clock would not disturb any one sleeping nearby in the city. However, a flash every hour during the night gave the correct time. The bells played an air composed by Handel to these words -
Lord through this hour.
Our footsteps guide,
So by Thy power
No steps shall slide.
There were five bells, four to chime the Cambridge quarters, and one known as the Great Parkes, named after Sir Henry Parkes, our famous statesman, to chime the hour. Each bell bore the imperial crown and the monogram V.I.R. The clock and the bells cost £5,470, a relatively small sum. The contract for the supply of the clock and the bells was entrusted to Mr. Henry Daly of Sydney, under whose supervision the clock was constructed by Messrs. J. B. Joyce and Company, of Whitchurch, Salop, England. The bells were cast by Messrs. John Taylor and Company of Loughborough, Leicestershire, from designs and specifications supplied by Lord Grimthorpe, and under his direction. Mr. Daly bound himself to accept Lord Grimthorpe’s approval of both clock and bells before they were shipped to the New South Wales Government.
The bells were five in number, the largest, or tenor, weighing 5 tons. They were taken from a peal of ten and they chimed the Cambridge quarters, familiar to English ears. Messrs. J. Taylor and Company, who cast the bells, also founded the great bell of St. Paul’s, London, which weighs 17 tons. The bells of our clock were the largest ever to be shipped from England. The notes struck by the bells were, starting with the first quarter, C sharp, B, A and E. The hour bell struck A. The chimes of the clock were wound daily, but the clock itself was wound only every eight days. Without these chimes, Sydney is a soulless city.
The statuary over the main entrance in Martin-place showed Queen Victoria seated under a canopy of stone adorned with cupids. Below, and also in Sicilian white marble, recumbent figures represented Britannia clasping the hand of Australia and presenting her with a wreath. This beautiful statuary was executed by the famous Italian sculptor, Signor Fontana, and was an exquisite piece of work. One might search the world over in vain to find its equal. The numerous stone carvings included the figures of four State governors, namely, the Earl of Belmore, Lord Loftus, Sir Hercules Robinson and Lord Lisgar. There were also stone carvings of La Perouse, Tasman, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus - and Captain Cook, which will rejoice Senator Maher’s heart.
The entire building was designed by the then Government Architect, Mr. James Barnet, and is an outstanding architectural masterpiece. The foundation stone was laid on 27th October, 1881. The building was completed in 1884 and the tower in 1886. The clock was installed in 1891. The General Post Office clock means as much to Sydney people as Big Ben does to London. During the evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk, Big Ben carried a message of hope to the people of the United Kingdom. The idea of observing a moment’s silence was born at that time. Broadcasts from London stopped for one minute at 9 o’clock each night throughout the war while Big Ben chimed. Notwithstanding one of the worst bombing blitzes in history, Big Ben continued to chime throughout the war, telling the people of the world that England was still unconquered. A high Nazi official described Big Ben as England’s secret weapon and one to which the Germans could find no answer. The broadcasts of the chimes travelled round the world.
When the tower is restored it is intended to reconstruct it in reinforced concrete, faced with the original stone, and to replace the original iron spiral staircase with reinforced concrete stairs. A lift also should be provided, as the clock and the tower were always great tourist attractions in the past. Extensive views could be had from the circular iron platform inside the lantern over the clock, 210 feet above the street. The citizens of Sydney protested strongly when the tower was being taken down, and they received a definite promise that both the clock and the tower would be restored “ as soon as possible after the war “. On 9th August, 1950, Mr. Anthony, who was then Postmaster-General, wrote, “ You can be assured that the tower will be re-erected in its original position as soon as major works confronting the Postal Department have been overtaken”. On 16th March, 1953, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) wrote to assure the town planning association that the Commonwealth Government was not deliberately deferring the restoration of the tower and the clock and that that would be done as soon as circumstances permitted.
The following lines from Tennyson’s poem “ In Memoriam “ are inscribed on the bells, one line on each bell, commencing with the largest: -
Ring out the false, ring in the true. Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to all mankind, Ring out false pride in place and blood, Ring in the common love of good.
It is now officially admitted that there is nothing wrong with the foundations and that the cost of restoration of the tower and the clock would be only £130,000. That figure includes provision for a contingency fund of £20,000, so that the actual official estimate has come down considerably. The department was said to be afraid to tackle the task of restoration because the cost was supposed to be so great. I ask the Minister representing the
Postmaster-General to give ear unto our cry and to restore the clock tower. I am sure honorable senators will agree that the restoration of this wonderful clock should be given priority by the PostmasterGeneral in his planning for the next Budget.
I again urge the Federal Government to give financial aid to national trusts and historical societies in each State, so that they may have the funds necessary to collect the priceless relics in our country and to preserve them for our enjoyment and for posterity. I remember reading once that yesterday’s trash may be the treasure of to-morrow. Things that are now regarded as junk may be rescued as jewels by another generation. My advice to the Senate is: Let us make up our minds to rescue our jewels while we have the opportunity and not wait for a future generation to seek priceless treasures which might well have vanished by then.
– Last week I was one of a number of senators who had the honour of a send-off, which I personally thank you for arranging, Mr. President. I was not aware that on the same day a send-off was being organized for me in another place by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). According to press reports, he accused me of having prepared a brief, based on which the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) made a speech. According to the press, Mr. Snedden stated that that was not true, but Mr. Calwell refused to accept his denial and proceeded to say that the honorable member for Hindmarsh - that is Mr. Clyde Cameron - the honorable member for Banks - that is Mr. Costa, I understand - and the honorable member for Bendigo, Mr. Beaton, had told him - I am sure this was said in hushed tones - that they had seen the honorable member for Bruce conversing with Senator McManus and a notorious newspaper scavenger around this place.
– Would that be Alan Reid?
– I understand that was the gentleman. Mr. Calwell said -
They saw them handling documents.
I like that touch very much. He went on to say -
I said that the honorable member for Bruce had come in here and used the argument that an outgoing senator, a lame duck senator from Victoria, had, if I may mix my metaphors, gone to Western Australia in order to sing his swan song.
In that last sentence Mr. Calwell did not merely mix his metaphors; he also mixed his syntax.
I do not want to treat this matter very seriously. Mr. Calwell is often a target, and no doubt he is entitled to fire a few shots back. However, I am somewhat intrigued to learn that I am under surveillance in this Parliament. I feel inclined to ask whether the honorable member for Melbourne has constituted the honorable member for Hindmarsh, the honorable member for Banks and the honorable member for Bendigo his personal corps of G-men. Are they members of an intelligence corps, keeping watch upon my nefarious activities? I should like to know whether that is so, because I would hate to see other honorable members who may perhaps wish to speak to me brought before their party because of their association with so obviously undesirable a person as I happen to be.
Let me say something about the gentleman who was referred to as a notorious newspaper scavenger. Except for the conversation the other night, I have not spoken to Mr. Reid on any occasion this year. If Mr. Calwell suggests that I supply Mr. Reid with inside information about his party, that is not true. Mr. Reid obviously has such a large and extensive clientele among members of Mr. Calwell’s party, who supply him with inside information, even with the minutes of meetings of the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party, and give him ball-to-ball descriptions of everything that happens in the caucus, that he has neither time nor energy to waste upon anybody such as myself.
In his final remarks, Mr. Calwell talked about my swansong, about my being a lame duck and so on. I am surprised at that. It is a blow to my pride. I thought he considered me to be a little bit too active. However, there is in those remarks a suggestion that Mr. Calwell believes there is something humiliating or disgraceful in being defeated at a parliamentary election. That may be his personal attitude. I remember that he waited twenty years for the Melbourne seat. He waited twenty years for the angel of death to remove an obstacle from his path. During that time he had opportunities to contest many forlorn hopes for Labour, to contest many swinging seats, but he would not run the risk of defeat. He waited twenty years for the best Labour seat in his State.
That was his personal business, but I want to say that I see nothing wrong in defeat at a parliamentary election. Better men than Mr. Calwell is or than I am have been beaten at parliamentary elections. One of them was the late Jim Scullin. He lost his seat in 1913, but he came back and became the Prime Minister. The late John Curtin was defeated in 1930. No doubt somebody with a sense of humour similar to Mr. Calwell’s said that he had sung his swan song, but he came back and became the Prime Minister. The late Ben Chifley was defeated in 1930, but there was no disgrace in that. Those were men who did not wait 20 or 25 years for a safe seat. They contested tough seats, and they won them for Labour.
Let me say in conclusion that I think the Labour Party is reaching the silly stage when members of Parliament, responsible people in the community, see you talking to somebody in the King’s Hall and” then run to the leader of their party to peddle tales.
There is another matter to which I want to refer. I have been asked to raise it by the secretary of the Federated Clerks Union in Western Australia. There was a reference last week to equal pay for equal work. Senator Cant referred to a question that I had asked and said that I was a dishonest person because I was a member of the Federated Clerks Union in Victoria but had done nothing to see to it that female clerks employed by trade unions in Western Australia got equal pay for equal work. I do not think that Senator Cant was at his best when he made that statement. I have been asked by the secretary of the Clerks Union in Western Australia to reply to the allegation of dishonesty that was levelled at me and, by implication, at him. This is what he says -
Female members of the Clerks’ Union who work in the offices of Western Australian unions are paid equal pay - the male rate - if they do bookkeeping. If they do not do book-keeping, they do not get equal pay.
As Senator Cant knows, the Western Australian practice has been for combined applications to be made to the court by the Trade Union Industrial Council, from which the Clerks’ Union is excluded because it has refused to pay affiliation fees to the A.L.P. It is mandatory to do this in Western Australia before a union can belong to the Trade Union Industrial Council.
The Trade Union Industrial Council has never made this application to the court. The Clerks’ Union alone would have no hope of success on the issue. It is not known what is the case in the offices of the Australian Workers’ Union, with which Senator Cant was associated, as their girls are not members of their appropriate union, the Federated Clerks’ Union. Senator Cant was formerly an Australian Workers’ Union industrial officer, but he never made any application to the court for equal pay.
In view of the fact that I was criticized in the press by some people because I said that as equal pay for equal work was trade union policy, the trade unions themselves should give equal pay for equal work, it may be of interest if I relate the facts briefly. In New South Wales, under an agreement with the Clerks Union, female employees of trade unions are paid less than male rates. In Queensland, about 30 per cent, of the female officers of the trade unions receive the male rates of pay, but the majority do not.
In South Australia very few unions pay the male rate to female employees. In Tasmania, the Federated Clerks Union office has no female staff; in other unions females are not paid the male rates. That is the position.
I am pleased to say that my State of Victoria has the best record in the Commonwealth. Only one trade union in Victoria does not pay its female employees the male rates of pay. That is not the fault of the Victorian branch of the union. In that union such decisions are made by the federal office, which will not permit the Victorian branch to pay females the male rates.
– The Teachers Union of Western Australia does so, at my request.
– I am very pleased to hear that. I conclude by saying that
I do not acknowledge any personal dishonesty. I am a member of the Federated Clerks Union. I have done everything I can to support the principle of equal pay for equal work. When I was in the Australian Labour Party office, I strongly supported the agreement under which the girls employed in that office received the male rates of pay. We in Victoria have nothing to be ashamed of when only one union does not give equal pay for equal work and that union would do so but for the fact that its finances are controlled from Sydney, where the unions do not pay male rates to girls employed in their offices.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 April 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620411_senate_24_s21/>.