8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.DeputySpeaker (Hon. J.M.
Chanter) took the chair at 2.30 pan., and read prayers.
– What action, if any, has been taken to fill the vacancy caused by the transfer of Mr. Knibbs from the office of Commonwealth Statistician?
– Applications have been received, and are now being considered.
– Is the Government pre pared to have a report made on the unemployment throughout Australia,with a view to ite co-operation with the State Governments in absorbing the unemployed?
– I shall put the question before the Acting Prune Minister.
– On 2nd June last I asked the Minister’ for Works andRailways the following question : -
My information is that the cost of supervision is about 30 per cent, Will the honorable) gentleman have the promised reply obtained, giving the facts as on the date of the asking of the question?
– I am sorry, that, owing to my absence from Melbourne, the matter has been overlooked. . I do not think the cost of supervision is as much as stated, but I shall give the honorable member the full information.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister make available for the information of honorable members the cost of the Central Administration and State branch offices of the Federal Taxation Department during the years 1917-18 and 1920- 21?
– I shall be glad to do so.
– In view of the situation at Cockatoo Island, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether shipbuilding is to be proceeded with at Williamstown. It looks as if there were a falling off in the work there. What are the intentions of the Government in the matter?
– I know of no change of policy in connexion with the Williamstown yards, where, I believe, shipbuilding is proceeding, and will continue.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the information collected by the Commonwealth Trade Commissioner in the East is supplied direct to the. State Governments, so that persons throughout Australia may have equal opportunities of. exporting goods for which there may be a market?
– Quite a number of inquiries have come from the Trade Commissioner in the East, and the practice is. to make them public as soon as they reach us. This is done in such a way that people in all the States have the same opportunities for taking advantage of the information.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister give the House any in? formation about the recommendation of Mr.. A. B. Piddington, the Basic Wage Commissioner, with reference to the am plification of the Labour and Industry Statistical Bureau? I understand that certain representations of his were approved of by the Government, but nothing has been done.
- Mr. Piddington submitted a document of some kind, the details of which I do not recollect at the present moment, regarding further’ action in connexion with the development of a scheme for the payment of child endowment.
– What I referred’ to was a recommendation for the amplification of thepresent Bureau of Statistics concerning Labour and Industry, and the enlarging of the present machinery.
– That is what I have in mind. Nothing has been done, and I do not know that it is contemplated to do anything. We are not proposing to carry out the scheme in its entirety, having gone, I think, as far as we can afford to go at the present time. Proposals for further bureaux and new expenditure must be considered seriously before theycanbe adopted.
– You are not answering my question. You do not understand it.
– Then put it on the notice-paper, and do not be insulting.
– You should be courteous enough to give a proper reply, and not evade the point.
– Seeing that the public of Australia, and of New South Wales in particular, have suffered great inconvenience through the lack of telephones, and, as a firm in Sydney has 2,000 automatic . telephone instruments in stock, will the Postmaster-General take into consideration the purchase of these instruments?
– The firm in question seems to be pushing its business pretty strongly, because, I understand, the adjournment of the Senate is to be moved this afternoon to permit this matter to be discussed there. In October last, tenders were called for the supply of telephone instruments, and this firm tendered unsuccessfully. The offer which was accepted is now being carried out, and a supply of instruments is on the way and expected daily.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the Shipbuilding Board has issued instructions which will have the effect of materially reducing the wages of workmen at Cockatoo Island? Will the right honorable gentleman inquire into the matter and see that no reduction of wages takes place without the matter being first referred to the Shipbuilding Tribunal for decision?
– I shall be very glad to make inquiries as to what has actually taken place. I take it that the Shipbuilding Board is undertaking the task and obligation laid upon it in the terms of the recommendation of the Royal Commission. More than that I cannot say now.
– Some men are losing 10s. or 12s. per week.
– Does the honorable member suggest that they will receive that amount less than they would get in private employement?
– I do not suggest it; I say it definitely.
– I shall have the matter inquired into.
– I have received from Western Australia a lengthy telegram in regard to the export of flour, and the concluding words are “ Our mills compelled to cease milling, owing lack of space, although we can obtain United Kingdom orders.” Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that there is any lack of shipping for the purpose of exporting our produce to the Old Country?
– My impression is that there is no lack of shipping, but I understand that flour is not a remunerative cargo, owing to the lack of back loading. My opinion is that shippers fight shy of flour as a cargo, because it does not pay them to carry it. Itis a regrettable circumstance, but there it is.
– Is the Assistant Min ister representing the Minister for Repatriation aware that undue levies are being made upon returned soldiers for whom homes are being built by theWar
Service Homes Department? At first the statutory limitation of price was £700, which was subsequently raised to £800, but some houses are now costing £875, and the Commission is asking the applicant to pay down the excess £75 in a lump sum. Will the Assistant Minister do something to relieve the position, as many returned soldiers cannot afford to pay down such a large lump sum?
– It was not the uniform practice of the Commission in the past to require the immediate payment in cash of any surplus in excess of the statutory cost. The whole matter of excess cost is receiving careful consideration by the Government, and I hope to make an announcement in regard to it in a few days.
– Having regard to the increasing army of unemployed, will the Government obtain a report from the various State Governments on the subject with a view to co-operating with them to absorb the unemployed? Or do the Government indorse the contention of the Premier of South Australia (Mr. Barwell) that wages must fall before any assistance can be given to the unemployed ?
– In regard to the latter part of the question, I express no opinion on the economic aspect of this very distressful matter. That can be left for other occasions.
– That is a very safe answer.
– It is an answer that fits the case. As to the first part, it is true that there is a very great deal of distress throughout Australia, and amongst unemployed soldiers. In accordance with the promise I made yesterday, the Government have considered the question. In the first place, I should like to make it clear that this is not a matter of soldier repatriation. The Government never undertook to keep soldiers in employment in perpetuity. What we did undertake was that when the soldiers returned, they should be restored as far as possible to the same position as they occupied before the war in regard to employment. It is claimed by the Repatriation Department that this has been done in a very generous way.
– The promise made to the soldiers before they left was that they would never lack work.
– The Government have pruned down the promise.
– All I reply to the honorable member for Macquarie is that he has had no personal experience of that. The position is tbat all the returned men. have either repatriated themselves, or have been repatriated by the Department, and it was never contemplated that the Department should carry a soldier until his life ended. It merely undertook to give him a start on his return to Australia. That was done.
– All the soldiers were to be given farms.
– Many of the gentlemen who to-day are perambulating the streets, and leading the unemployed, have been treated very generously by the Repatriation Department. Two or three of the gentlemen who interviewed me as a deputation a, couple of days ago have been treated very well.
– One of the men said that he had no work for two years.
– One of them has received over £100 from the Department for sustenance.
– Why did not the Department find him a job?
– The honorable member does not know that the man was not found a job.
– No; but I know plenty who have nob been.
– Many for whom jobs were found did not stay in them.
– I call the attention of the House to the disorderliness of these continuous interjections. A member asks a question, and when a Minister rises ‘to answer it, four or five answers come from other honorable members to whom the question was not addressed. I ask honorable members to restrain themselves.
– The bulk of those soldiers who to-day are, unfortunately, out of employment have already received very generous and ample assistance from the Repatriation Department. Every obligation undertaken by that Department has, I think, been fulfilled, and this question of unemployment, there fore, is not at all a matter of repatriation. Many of these men have been back from the war for three, four, and five years, and have been in employment nearly the whole of that time. To-day, unfortunately, they happen to be out of employment.
– They are beginning to feel the effects of the war.
– Order !
-One of them told me the other day that he had been engaged with a firm as a brass finisher, and that he was now out of employment simply because the Court had awarded a minimum wage of £6 2s. 6d., and, in consequence, a number of men had been discharged by the proprietors.
– The right honorable gentleman pretends that all the unemployment is due to Arbitration Court awards ?
– I am merely telling the House what this worker told me, and the honorable member, if he chooses, may “ have it out “ with that man. This man had been told by the proprietors that they could no longer afford to keep him in employment - that it paid them better to import the material than to make it in Australia under present conditions.
– I shall cite cases showing quite the contrary - cases in which soldiers have been dismissed because of incapacity through war infirmity.
– If the honorable member refuses to obey the orders of the Chair I shall name him.
– I am asked for information, and I am trying frankly to give it; but, apparently, the more I give the less satisfied some honorable members are. This matter is, purely and simply, one of unemployment; and, unfortunately, a large number of soldiers are included amongst the unemployed.
– And yet you are bringing immigrants to this country !
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I shall not continue, because what I say does not seem to be very welcome. I was about to make some suggestions, but I shall keep them until there is a better atmosphere.
– Will the Acting Minister for Defence investigate the case of a returned soldier, named Green, who was employed at the Small Arms Factory, and was dismissed because, owing to war infirmity, he had lost possibly twelve months out of three years? Will the Acting Minister make an investigation with the object of having Green reinstated ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the case.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question with reference to the proposed advance of £2,000,000 for the purpose of the Burnett lands settlement scheme. I am in receipt of a telegram to-day from an unemployment committee in Brisbane, to the effect that a resolution has been carried at a mass meeting urging me to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the proposed £2,000,000 loan for this scheme, with a view to absorbing the unemployed. It is not possible for me to take that step to-day, at all events, and, perhaps, the same purpose can be achieved if I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Will the right honorable gentleman be good enough to make a statement with regard to the intention of the Government in this matter, and will he, if possible, make the loan that is desired ?
– I wish to make it quite clear that this Government has neither the machinery nor, I think, the primary obligation to look after the unemployed of Australia. That is a matter that has been gladly, freely, and frankly taken charge of by the Queensland Government and also other State Governments, whose obligation it is.
– Surely the Commonwealth has some obligation?
– If the Commonwealth Government can help in any way to relieve the situation, that is quite another matter. I hopethat the conditions now obtaining are extraordinary and abnormal - that the present unemployment may be only of a temporary character. One cannot say, however, because it is a trouble that is afflicting all countries; it is part of the process of the readjustment of industry, and arises from world causes over which we have only the slightest possible control. But it is an ugly and nasty position to face, and, I hope, in speaking as I do, that I may not be accused of want of sympathy with those unfortunate people who find themselves in a condition of unemployment to-day. What I have in my mind at the moment is to see if we cannot get into communication with the State Governments to the extent, at any rate, of assisting some of the more distressful cases amongst the returned soldiers. If that could be done I should not be at all averse to making available a small sum of money for the purpose of relieving the most urgent cases.
– Can you give us any idea of the sum ?
– I could not say at the moment.
– Three or four million?
– Three or four million ! I am afraid all the money I could make available at the present moment would not be enough to open up and develop the Burnett lands.
– Give the scheme a start.
– This matter, I am afraid, must await a more convenient opportunity, and, at any rate, must be considered in connexion with our whole financial obligations and outlook for the year. Unfortunately, I have not an unlimited purse, however much I may desire to assist the Government ‘of Queensland to develop these lands. I believe whole-heartedly in the Burnett lands scheme as an excellent immigration proposition. My trouble is that I have not the millions to hand over; and I shall proceed very shortly to ask the people of the country to give me a further loan for the purpose of discharging our own immediate obligations to the soldiers. Until the financial outlook is clear,’ I regret I am unable to commit myself to large expenditure, either in Queensland or elsewhere.
Payment of Interest
– Has the Treasurer seen the report in the Herald of last night of an interview with Mr. Collins, the Secretary to the Treasury, and more particularly the following : -
Regarding the £3,934,000 agreed upon as interest, under the authority of Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister, Mr. Collins signed Treasury bills for this amount and handed them to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The interest was originally due on March 31 last, but, owing- to exchange difficulties, it was necessary to defer payment, and the Treasury bills will full due on September “30 next, the Commonwealth having the right, however, to defer payment- of half of the amount .until March, 1922.
I ask the Treasurer whether that is, generally, correct, and whether the Treasury bills, of which he spoke some little time ago, were issued for the purpose of this payment to Great Britain?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will place his question on the notice paper. I hear the statement now for the first time, and I believe that the facts are substantially correct; hut I shall give the honorable member a correct answer to-morrow, if he will give notice.
The World’s Peace: Limitation op Armaments - Australia’s Attitude to International Affairs.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “The attitude of Australia towards international affairs, and especially in respect to the following matters: - (a) The desirability of approving and supporting any more’ made in the direction of the preservation of the world’s peace by the limitation of armaments; (6) the necessity of requiring, in the public interest, more ex.act information of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference now sitting; (c) the necessity of instructing the Prime Minister of Australia that he is not to approve of any commitment with regard to foreign relations except subject to the condition that such commitment shall be ratified by the people of Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- My reason for taking this course is that I deem it to be a matter of very great importance that the representatives of the people of Australia in the National Parliament should give ready and willing approval and support to any movement for the permanent preservation of peace among the nations. of the world. That is the main purpose for which I submit this motion. I have subsidiary purposes, which are referred to in paragraphs (b) and (c), of the particulars of the matter of definite urgent public importance to call attention to which the motion is moved. I refer to the necessity of requiring more exact information of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference now sitting in London, and also the necessity of imposing some limitation upon the powers of the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes), particularly in the matter of approving of any commitment in regard to foreign relations. The whole of the people of, not merely Australia, but the British Empire, and I suppose the whole of the peoples of the world, must have been gratified at the invitation extended by the President of the United States of America to a conference at Washington, which will deal, among other subjects, with the question of the limitation of armaments. I think it well that the views of the people of Australia on such an important matter should be voiced in the National Parliament. It is necessary for us to show that, although the Prime Minister happens to be in London, the Government of Australia is here, and it is very desirable that our views, giving support to any move in the direction named, should be known promptly. It should be known that we favour anything that makes in the direction of the permanent preservation of peace. I hope that anything I may say may not be regarded as uttered in any party spirit. My reference to the Government of Aus-, tralia being here in Melbourne, and not in London, arises out of the fact that a tendency has been shown quite recently to leave in the hands of the Prime’ Minister in London matters that, in my opinion, should be dealt with here. I refer to an answer given yesterday by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) to a question put to him as to trading with Germany. The right honorable gentleman said the matter was being considered in London, and when I asked him who was considering it he replied, “ The Prime Minister.” We ought to be able to decide such a question here, and, moreover, it ought to be promptly decided.
I suppose almost everybody will agree that it is desirable that something should be done for the preservation of peace and to avoid the horrors of war. Quite apart from the distress and misery that are wrought by war, we all desire that the tremendous burden of taxation, which falls upon all the people, and largely upon the ‘ workers - the tremendous burden involved in remaining prepared for war - should be lifted. No one has less to gain and more to lose by war than the workers. It is, therefore, meet that any move in the direction of the maintenance of permanent Peace should receive the prompt approval of the representatives, of the workers.
It is hardly necessary for me in a House so well informed as this to refer to the many resolutions that have been passed by the representatives of Labour not only in Australia, but in other parts of the world, indicating their desire to have something done in the direction of not only the limitation of armaments, but absolute disarmament. It may ‘not be possible to bring about disarmament in the very, near future, but that ought to be the ultimate object. It is the ideal condition in which the Nations of the world should be. Meantime we may hope that something can be done in the direction of the limitation of armaments. I should like to refer to a resolution passed by the British Labour party on this subject, and also to the views expressed by one or two prominent statesmen and military men upon the question. On 22nd April, 1919, at the Independent Labour party Conference, held at Huddersfield, a resolution was passed unanimously to this effect -
That in the opinion of this Conference the. future Peace and Liberty of the whole world demand nothing less than total disarmament on the part of all nations, and that this should be the policy of Great Britain hence-‘ forward.
Lord Northcliffe, if I may quote him, in a statement published on 4th November, 1918, wrote -
So we may come to a condition in which if there be international security there will he a contest, not as to which country shall maintain the largest army’ or navy, but as to which country shall most completely disarm.
And a writer in the Daily News and Leader, commenting on a speech by Field-Marshal Haig on the doctrine of preparedness for war, wrote on 13th June, 1919 -
Is there any truth more firmly established than this, that if the world organizes for war it will insure war, and that if it wants peace it must organize for peace….. Is the old tragedy to’ begin all over again with new characters in a new- setting ? Is that all the wisdom that the slaughter of the flower of Europe has taught us? Against such teaching the mind of this country will rise in indignant -protest.’ It will demand that the disarmament of the enemy shall be followed by the disarmament of the Allies. If the statesmen will not take the lead iri abolishing war, the peoples of Europe will abolish it themselves* by their own direct action.
The move taken by the President of the United States of America in calling the proposed Conference to deal with the subject of the limitation of armaments presents, I think, a fitting occasion for us to express our- approval of such action, and to venture the hope that the result of the Conference will justify our expectations. It will help to strengthen the possibilities of its achieving success if the Parliaments, including those of the overseas Dominions, take the opportunity to definitely express their views.
I wish to refer now to the views put. before Parliament by the Prime Minister concerning the Anglo-Japanese Treaty. In the course of his statement, prior to leaving for England as the delegate for Australia, the right honorable gentleman made no reference to the question of the limitation of armaments, and the fact was pointed out at the time. He confined himself to the narrow ground of the renewal of the . Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The Prime Minister made no reference, either, to the rights of China. The Treaty has to do largely with affairs in. the Far East, with the rights, ‘ or the claims, of Great Britain and of Japan, and of others, to certain privileges in China. Further, the Prime Minister made no reference to the views or wishes of the. Chinese. I am glad to note that the Conference suggested by the President of the United States of America will include a representative of China, because the interests of that country are considerably involved in any Treaty which may .be finally concluded between the respective powers. In the speech delivered in this House, the Prime Minister showed a distinct tendency to subordinate the interests of Australia. .
– Oh, no!
– That was my impression, and the impression conveyed to sections of the press which do not usually accord support to the Labour party. It was pointed out that the Prime Minister had expressed views which might have been expected 100 years ago of the type of man known as “ Little’Englander.” That, at any rate, was the comment of one of the leading Melbourne journals. The Prime Minister not only then revealed a tendency to subordinate Australia’s interests, but he is showing the same in his utterances on the other side of the world. I need only call attention to the contrast between his attitude and that of the Prime Minister of Canada. I am expressing the views not only of the Labour party, but of a large majority of the people of Australia, when I say that we require a great deal more information concerning the Imperial Conference than we are getting.
Mr.Watt. - Hear, hear!
– We are getting only reports which sound uncommonly like the Prime Minister’s own statements.
– Hear, hear !
– It would seem that the Conference is being conducted in secret, and that the Prime Minister, or some representative of his, is sending out to Australia reports of what Mr. Hughes said and did, and of how Mr. Hughes has dominated the Conference. We have even had slabs of speeches actually delivered in this House cabled from London back to Australia, and being paid for by somebody.
– And then we get press guesses on top of all that.
– That is so. We should be supplied, at any rate, with the respective views expressed by the representatives of the various Dominions.
– Supplied by whom?
– By the Conference to , the Governments of the Empire.
– I agree with the honorable member. The views should be really representative and truly reflective of those actually expressed at the Conference. There should be an official report.
– There is an official report issued every day:
– There may be; but I very much doubt it.
– It is sent all over the Empire by means of the press.
– No! It is no good pretending that.
– The reports which we receive from London would lead us to believe that the Prime Minister has been responsible for every successful move made at the Conference. Indeed, the right honorable gentleman almost claims now to have been responsible for the step which has been taken by the President of the United States of America.
– Of course, this is not “ party “ at all.
– I am trying to keep the debate apart altogether from “ party.” I am speaking now of Australia’s delegate at the Imperial Conference - Australia’s only mouthpiece. The Prime Minister has announced, regarding the step taken by President Harding, that he himself, in this House, said something similar.
– So did hundreds of thinkers throughout the Empire.
– The Prime Minister is claiming credit for something which is diametrically opposed to what he put before this Parliament before he left for England. I hope the motion will lead to some step being taken to secure exact information of what is happening in London. And, because the information! which we are at present receiving is inexact, and because we know that the representative of Australia is differing from the representatives of other great oversea interests, such as Canada and South Africa, it is all the more necessary that we should place some limitation upon his powers. Further, before he can bind Australia to any commitment regarding foreign relations, it should be determined here that any such proposal shall be subject first to ratification by the people of Australia. I moved in that direction, indeed, before the departure of the right honorable gentleman, and I pointed out that it was desirable that we should know the views of Canada and South Africa, and how far the interests of China were involved; and that we should, if possible, take a bird’s-eye view of the whole situation after having threshed out and discussed every aspect in conference. Thus only, and not until then, could the people be expected to come to a conclusion. I was not, and am not now, prepared to leave this grave matter entirely in the hands of the Prime Minister; neither are the people generally. It is for that reason that I have framed the third paragraph of my motion. From the scanty information I have been able to obtain through the press reports, it would appear that the Prime Minister of Canada favoured a referendum on the subject.
– I have not seen that.
– The right honorable gentleman’s remark shows that the reports must be very scanty.
– It does not show anything of the kind.
– Then it shows that the right honorable gentleman does not read the newspapers.
– It shows either that the honorable member has read something and does not understand it, or that he is making an incorrect statement.
– The right honorable gentleman is wrong in both matters. I read and thoroughly understood it.
– You understood that the Prime Minister of Canada wanted a referendum ?
– On what?
– With regard to the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. At all events, that was stated in the press. If the right honorable gentleman suggests that the statement was not true, the remark shows the need for more exact reports of what is taking place in London. The necessitv for getting; the views of the other Dominions of the Empire, particularly of Canada and of South Africa, still remains, and we should know the views of China on the matter before a conclusion is come to. The following cablegram was sent from Shanghai on 11th June last. It was addresed to the members of this House, and came as representing the views of eighteen different bodies -
The Anglo-Japanese Alliance has been the greatest disturbing factor of peace in our Par East, for it has emboldened japan to make descents on China on every opportunity. Wo Chinese keenly feel the affronts, indignities, aggression, suffered from Japan for the sake of peace. On the Pacific tradal interests and f riendly intercourse the renewal of the Alliance would be most unfortunate. We appeal to you to direct your representatives at the coining Convention to debar its renewal.
– This is the first I have heard of it.
– It was handed to me, and I opened it. I then showed it to the
Leader of the Country party, and afterwards sent it on to the Acting Prime Minister.
– It is unsigned.
– That is an unfair statement. Honorable members, if they look at it, will see that it was sent on behalf of the following bodies: -
Representative, Zunlanching Manchuria and Shantung Silk Association, Shantung Guild, Shanghai General Export Association, Shantung Honan Pongee Guild, Skin and Hide Guild, Nanking Provincial Association, Hupeh Provincial Association, Fur Guild, Wookiang Association, White Silk Guild, Egg Products Association, Shaoshing Association, Ningpo Provincial Association, Huph Guild, Hankow Cotton Merchants Association, Waste Silk Association, Tobacco Merchants Association, Cantonese Guild
– The right honorable gentleman does not suggest that the cablegram was a fake?
– I do not suggest that.
– There is no doubt that it was cabled from Shanghai, addressed to the representatives of the people of Australia in this House. It deals with a matter, in which the Chinese are concerned, which is being discussed at the Imperial Conference, to which we have sent a representative.
– Would it not have been more effective to send it to the Conference ?
– The same message may have been sent to the Conference. At any rate, it has been sent to us in the hope that we may pay some heed to its statements. I do not wish to say a word which could be construed as hostile to the Japanese. I have no hostility to that nation, and desire to be on the most friendly terms with it. I think that we can have friendly relations with them, . and can consider their interests in the Pacific, and at the same time give due and just consideration to the representations of China on points which that country wishes us to bring before our representative in London. I have drawn attention to this matter entirely because I deem it to be of paramount importance that this Parliament should express its approval of, and give help to, any movement for the limitation of armaments. I hope that when this limitation has been achieved a further step may be taken, and that conscription may be simultaneously abolished in all countries. As General Smuts has said, conscription is the tap-root of militarism, out of which grows war. This is a step in the right direction. Therefore, I consider that I am not only justified in moving the adjournment this afternoon, but that I was in duty bound to make plain what I conceive to be the views in this matter of the vast majority of the people of Australia.
.- I think that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), if he desires the limitation of armaments, should have supported the League of Nations; but, if I remember rightly, he ridiculed the formation of that League.
– That is not correct. I did not do any such thing.
– Some public men have ridiculed the League.
– They include the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– The honorable member considers it the duty of this House and of public men generally to do what they can to bring about the limitation of armaments. He would go further and abolish armaments.
– If all nations would agree to it.
– It is that “if” which stands in the way of it being done. This Parliament has ratified the Covenant of the League of Nations, and has thus shown its desire for the fulfilment of the objects of the League, among which is the limitation and reduction of armaments, so far as may be possible without lessening the national safety.
– You are lecturing President Harding.
– I regret that I did not know this matter was to be discussed today. Had I done so I should have had a copy of the Covenant of the League of Nations with me. I remind the honorable member that the League is composed of at least forty-four nations.
Mr.Fenton. - Is the United States of America a member of it?
– I shall come to that. China, which asks that the AngloJapanese Treaty shall not be renewed, is a member of the League, and all the members of the League have solemnly declared that they will respect the. integrity of that country and each other.
– Yet China is being cut up all the same.
– Why do we need the Anglo- Japanese Treaty?
– I presume because the League of Nations has been so much decried.
– Is not the Treaty contrary to the League?
– Great Britain and Japan declared last year that the Treaty, although in accordance with the spirit, was not in accordance with the letter of the Covenant of the League, and they have agreed to revise it, to bring it into accord with that covenant. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition desires that we shall support the United States of America in endeavouring to bring about a reduction of armaments as proposed by President Harding. I agree with him that we should not say anything to offend any nation, and throughout my public life I have endeavoured to avoid giving offence. I have heard members in this House, or outside of it, refer in objectionable terms to the United States of America, but I think it is a mistake to do so; and although I hesitate about curbing liberty of speech and the liberty of the press,. I think that there should be a law to prevent any newspaper from ridiculing foreign countries as a certain print has ridiculed Japan, because such ridicule does nothing but harm.
– I heard you say some hot things about the Japanese when you were in this party.
– I have never reflected on the Japanese nation, though I have pointed out that the rates of wages paid in Japan are lower than they should be. While not desiring to offend the United States of America, or to reflect on President Harding, I ask honorable gentlemen whether that country, whose last President was really responsible for the League of Nations,’ has done right in standing out from the League, and in endeavouring to set up a new League, apparently in opposition to it?
– What is the main reason for the United States of America staying out of the League of Nations ?
– One of the main reasons was that the American people did not wish to join a League that appeared coercive, and to become entangled in European complications. That has been their attitude all along, although, no doubt, owing to the war America will find, as Australia has found, that it will be very hard, for any civilized country to keep out of any world war that occurs in future. The only way in which nations can keep out of war is by promoting and fostering the League of Nations. I invite the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Rya’n), who, by his reply to my interjection, appears to be in favour of the League of Nations, to have the maintenance of the League placed as a plank on the platform of the party he represents. I do not believe we shall bring about any reduction or limitation of armaments unless we support the League of Nations.
In regard to the Imperial Conference, the honorable member for West Sydney must know that conferences of that character, at which delegates are assembled to discuss matters affecting the Dominions and the Empire, cannot be opened to the press.
– Why not?
– Presumably for the same reason as certain conferences which the honorable member has attended in this country were not open to the press. It would not do the Empire or the Dominions any good to publish daily any differences of opinion among the delegates.
– It would be a disastrous procedure.
– It might be disastrous if in the middle of a discussion, and before the minds of delegates were properly informed as to the views of others, their differences were made public, and discussed in the public press. I should like to know from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition whether he is opposed to the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.
-i have expressed my opinions very clearly on another occasion. The honorable gentleman should take the trouble to read those remarks.
– A simple “Yes” or “ No” would serve. The Covenant of the League of Nations is a great Charter that we should all support, and if we will but act up to it we shall not require any of those international agreements for which the Covenant of the League of Na.tions provides. Certain regional understandings are respected by the Covenant, but in view of the attitude of some public men towards the League of Nations it will be impossible for some nations that have signed that Treaty to absolutely abandon their agreements. I cannot now discuss what might happen if Britain denounced the Anglo-Japanese Treaty.
– If the honorable member can tell me the final form of the AngloJapanese Treaty I shall say whether I am for or against it.
– I believe that the final form of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty will be acceptable to the League of Nations, and if so, it must be acceptable to the United States of America.
– Can the honorable member say why the United States of America is not agreeable to Britain and Japan making a Treaty?
– I am unable to say what the particular objection of the United States of America is. But I know that there are certain individuals in America and in the United Kingdom who are engaged in the endeavour to stir up strife between the people of the two countries. I have been informed that Mr. Hearst is one of those gentlemen in the United States of America, and the proprietor of John Bull, in England, is another. But the pepple of the two countries should not be misled into hostilities by these men.
– It does not follow that if the League of Nations approves of the draft of the new Anglo-Japanese Treaty, America will do the same, because America is not bound by the League.
– I think it is deplorable that America has stood out of the League.. She should have come in with the other forty-four nations and trusted to her immense influence to secure an amendment of the Covenant in conformity with the desires and traditions of the American people.
– And she should accept her share of the responsibility, too.
– Will the honorable member say whether he is for or against the Anglo-Japanese Treaty before he knows what form it will take?
– I have read the AngloJapanese Treaty.
– Then, what is the use of the Conference ? The Treaty is fixed up!
– There is very little humour in that. The honorable member’s endeavour to be witty is as elephantine as his attack upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– Fancy the honorable member for Capricornia as a judge of humour !
– The honorable member, who was so shocked at my joining the National party that words failed him-
– Oh! That is where the sting is.
– There is no sting, but the honorable member made an attack upon me in my absence. I shall take another opportunity of dealing with him and his claims to political modesty - this gentleman who was so shocked at my lack of political morality.
– I am not at all shocked; it was what I expected of the honorable member.-
– The honorable member expressed himself as so shocked that he could not find words to express himself. When I think of the numerous parties to which the honorable member has belonged, his chopping about from one to the other-
– I hope the honorable member for West Sydney will come to Capricornia so that we may discuss our differences on the public platform.
– “Bread or blood!”
Mr.- Mahony. - “ Socialism in our time.”
– It is quite true that twenty-five years ago I advocated “ Socialism in our time,” but I have not done that for twenty years. Why? Because of that human nature of which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is such a typical example.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not think this House can be expected to exhibit its best paces on an important set of problems of this kind suddenly sprung upon it. If the circumstances were such that the invitation of President Harding, or any other world development, demanded an expression of opinion by the representatives of the Australian people, it would be far better to attempt it upon due notice, and then honorable members, irrespective of their party adherence, might display what they considered to be the feelings of the Australian people. I do think, however, that the honorable and learned gentleman who moved the motion was correct in interpreting the unanimous view of the Australian public to be in favour of peace, its establishment and maintenance, and a strong yearning towards disarmament; and, if we debated the matter for weeks, we would not find one dissentient from those theories. Therefore, I do not think we need waste much time in admitting that that is the expressed opinion of the representatives of the Australian people, irrespective of parties, in Parliament assembled. I would not have risen but for the argument of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) in regard to the reports from the Imperial Conference. I do not wish to reflect upon our representative or any representative at the Conference, but there are only three ways in which the publicity in connexion with a Conference of this kind could be conducted. The first was to admit the reporters, and deal with the problems of Empire openly in front of them. If these were normal times I would not object to that procedure in respect to some of the questions to be decided at the Conference, but to-day the world is disturbed to its taproots; and until the flux disappears and stability returns it is a dangerous experiment for any world-wide Empire to open its doors to other nations so that they may hear the counsels of the overseas Dominions and the Government of the central Kingdom. Admitting that procedure to be impolitic at the present time, the next best course would be for the Conference to deliberate in private, and for its chairman to issue an official report at the close of each sitting or periodically throughout the week’s session. That is the most desirable and practicable form of publicity in all the circumstances, and I regret that that course is not being followed, although the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) suggested that an official report is issued every day. If that is so, the public are not informed of it. I have read the cable messages in the metropolitan press, and although following the matter at close quarters, and with deep interest, I have seen no official report. The information published divides itself into two parts. The first comprises statements made by delegates of the respective Dominions. In our case we hear most of what the Australian
Prime Minister says, and except in regard to communication between the parts of the Empire by ocean or by air, practically nothing of what is said by others. The other questions, foreign policy, defence, and the renewal of the AngloJapanese Alliance, were dealt with prior to the Prime Minister’s departure, and on them we heard his pronouncement. What I appeal for is a presentation of a two-sided discussion. If, for example, there is a conflict between the two great Dominions of Canada and Australia, due either to a different conception of their interests or to temperamental differences between two leaders, we should know what the views of Canada and Australia are, and how far it is possible to reconcile them. T do not think we can get that information unless we have a clear report from the Conference itself, described as an official record. The next method is self -reporting, which I think is dangerous as leading to selfglorification by the leaders of all the Dominion Governments. We see in almost every line of the cables hazardous guesses of pressmen anxious to inform the Dominions, stating that, “ It is” on reliable authority reported,” or, “ It is commonly understood,” and so on. That class of information is bad enough in connexion with political gatherings here in Australia. We see it when the Labour party meets in private conclave, either in Caucus in the House or in conference in the constituencies; and those of us who have been some time in- politics know how little one can rely on the guesses of pressmen outside locked doors as to what transpires inside.
– It is astonishing how right they are sometimes!
– Sometimes they get very near to the truth. I have known pressmen to guess with such wonderful clairvoyance that one has been almost able to put one’s finger on their informant. I have no doubt we have all had experience of that kind, but we know the unreliability that is likely to creep into such guesses. I do not believe that this Empire, so weighty in its parts and so light in its links, can be held together and governed in critical times of its history by hazardous guesses of pressmen or by the self-advertisement of Dominion leaders. I hope it will not be thought by the Acting “Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) that in my case, at any rate, whatever he may think of the honorable member (Mr. Ryan) at present leading the Opposition, I have any desire whatever but to obtain exact and safe information which the leaders of the Empire feel that they ought to give to the different parts of that Empire. That is all I appeal for. It is true, as the honorable member for West Sydney has said, that no man can say whether he will be in favour of the renewal of a Treaty the final form of which he has not . seen. But in recent utterances which I have felt obliged to make in my constituency, as doubtless other honorable members have done, I have expressed the desirability of a renewal in a certain form.
– Subject to what?
– Subject to the nonforfeiture of the principles on which this nation has founded its union; I refer to the policy of a White Australia. I have also conditioned it, as the Prime Minister did, and as numbers of honorable members did, by a strong desire that America shall be satisfied with -the form of the contract. .In more recent utterances I have submitted that the interests of China should be considered. Without attempting to also appreciate, let alone explain, the possibilities of conflict of interests in these great Asian dominions, I have said that I thought that Great Britain would probably be better able to influence the sympathetic consideration of Chinese interests by Japan if she were in alliance with Japan than if she had broken the alliance. I say, further, and I say it as no hasty utterance, but as one arising out of as much thought as I have been able to give to the problem, that I think that Britain and this part of her Dominions, including Australia and New Zealand, are much, safer in a free alliance in treaty form with Japan that we should be without a treaty of any kind. The renunciation of the Treaty- after this Conference would place Japan midway between two alternatives - either of remaining in a state of “ splendid isolation,” to use the immortal phrase of William Ewart Gladstone, or seeking new alliances that might be less friendly to America and to Britain. I would sooner see the status quo preserved by an oriental alliance than risk a renunciation and asearch for fresh partners either by Japan or Britain. That is all I think one need say at this stage on that point.
There is only one other question to which I may be permitted to refer for a few minutes. What has apparently caused the honorable member for West Sydney some concern is the liberty of action which he considers the Prime Minister may think he enjoys to determine foreign issues for us without our consent. I think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) before he left was quite frank on that point.
– No Minister ever went away making such explicit declarations.
– Some of them alarmingly explicit, but I listened to every word that the Prime Minister said, and I think he was quite fair to Parliament and to the people. He said, for example, in regard to defence - which now comes into this foreign policy argument more intimately than ever before - “ I shall commit Australia to nothing without the consent of Parliament.”
– He could not.
– He could, but he gave that assurance. He could commit us with the responsibility of his executiveship ; but he said he would not commit us to any promise without consulting Parliament.
– Is he not in a position to approve the final form of the Treaty without our ratification?
– I was about to deal with that. There were three questions which the Prime Minister elaborated - the question of defence, the question of the AngloJapanese Treaty and its prospective renewal, and, thirdly, the general question of foreign policy. As to the Treaty, the right honorable gentleman laid down the conditions on which he would be prepared to accept a renewal, and without which he said he would bring it back to this House. To those conditions there was no objection in the House, either by silence or utterance.
– Yes, there was.
– I speak from memory, and,of course, subject to correction; but that is what I remember of the occasion.
– Did the Prime Minister not consider that, in the final result, he could approve without the sanction of America ? .
– So far as I remember, the Prime Minister, in dealing with that phase of the question - which he has since elaborated in more definite form, according to the cables, at the other end of the world - said he would do his best to have the Treaty in such a form that it would secure the concurrence of the authorities of the United States of America. That is all, I think, to which he pledged himself. Later on, if the cablegrams are to be trusted, he said that it was essential that America should approve, and I think he went further and suggested that she should be a party to the compact.
– But he did not say that here.
– He did not say that here; but as to what he did say here, which is one thing we know-
– The only thing we know.
– As to what he did say here, a unanimous House, so far as I remember, agreed that it was all right.
– The Prime Minister stated the conditions on which he himself would be prepared to commit his Government and people to a renewal.
– There was an amendment moved, and a division taken.
– There were complicated issues in connexion with that division.
– There was a division on the question whether there should be a referendum.
– All I am arguing now is that, whether the situation is satisfactory to the House or not, we cannot complain that the Prime Minister was not perfectly frank as to his intentions and desires on this issue. If Parliament had desired to condition him, it could have done so, and it did not.
– I admit that the Prime Minister took a good deal of latitude, and that the House allowed him to take it. I thought it wrong, and said so at the time.
– The honorable member will admit that, according to the division list, the vast majority of the House thought otherwise. On the general question of foreign policy I have never heard it suggested that any new alliances, any new relationships, would be formally approved and Australia committed without our knowledge.
– The Prime Minister has definitely stated since his arrival in England that he would consent to no such thing.
– I was npt aware of that, but I may have missed it in my reading.
– That shows how unsatisfactory the whole position is.
– On the contrary, it shows how satisfactory the Prime Minister has been trying to make the matter.
– We have not been told so.
– It would be impossible, it is unthinkable that the Prime Minister should go away with an absolutely blank cheque on the first occasion on which the Dominions have been summoned to consider the general question of foreign policy. It does not matter how much we attempt to understand international relationships which have been familiar for centuries to statesmen of the older parts of the Empire, no man from Australia, however learned or however able, could go as an expert to a conference on general foreign policy.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened with great interest to what has been said by the various speakers, and particularly by the mover (Mr. Ryan), whose speech, it really seems to me, consisted of a blessing on the new proposal ‘for disarmament, and a rather severe criticism on the conduct of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at the Conference. This, of course, was to be expected from the honorable member.
– Not necessarily.
– I think that it is as inevitable as “King Charles’ head,” and, therefore, we may expect it on any and every occasion when the honorable member rises to address himself to the question.
– The honorable gentleman admits that I have been consistent ?
– Quite; I am not complaining as to the honorable member’s consistency, but as to his unreason, which is quite another matter. However, may I also be permitted to say how heartily I agree with all that has been said in favour of the proposals for disarmament ? Right from the beginning I have placed my faith in the ultimate sanity of the American people; from the beginning I have advocated, with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, closer relationship .between the English-speaking peoples. I have believed, and I believe profoundly to-day, that that offers the one hope of ultimate peace to this weary, war-stricken world of ours; I see no other prospect but through some combination of this kind. America is a nation which has emerged from the war with her resources undiminished and her strength unsapped, and both by reason of her inherent strength, and of her position in the world, she is the one nation able to take the leadership of this movement for disarmament - it so comports with all her traditional experience, it is so ingrained into the very texture, the very warp and woof, of the American character and American life. I am glad, indeed, to see that both France and Great Britain are giving their whole-hearted support to the leadership of the American people in this movement. I hope nothing will intervene to prevent this Conference taking place, or, when it does take place, to prevent the happy consummation so devoutly to be wished.
And now as to the secrecy of the Imperial Conference. I know, of course, what the honorable member for West Sydney has in his mind, though I confess I do not know what is in the mind of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). I do not yet know exactly what the last-mentioned honorable member desires more than is being done at the moment. We cannot have details of the discussions which take place within the doors of the Imperial Conference.
– We could have details of the discussions on the ocean and air communications of the Empire. Instead of getting the views of the delegates of the other Dominions, we get only one view.
– That is the one question on which we have more detailed information than perhaps any other.
– Yes, but we have not an official report.
– I take it .that we have such official reports as the rest of the Empire, including the Mother Country, is receiving. A communique is issued every evening, and it goes over the Empire, and over the world indeed, by means of the press. There is no other means of Kkich I know.
– The press do not tell us that. So far as we know, no official news is given.
– Official news is issued every night, and cabled to us” through the press. If the press chooses to place its own peculiar imprint on such matters we cannot help it.
– Does the President of the Conference issue an official report?
– I understand that there is a Committee which every night gathers up the proceedings of the Conference, and decides what shall be published.
– This is the first we have heard of that.
– Not at all. The information has appeared in the cablegrams. This procedure has been adopted ever since there have been War Cabinets. It is singularly like the procedure of the Inter-State Labour Conference the other day.
– The right honorable member will admit that one has only to read the cable messages concerning the Imperial Conference that are published in the Australian press to know the source from which they come.
– That is the honorable member’s point all the time. He is concerned only with a non-party attack on the Prime Minister.
– No. I think my criticism is justifiable.
– It is the sort of thing that we may always expect from the honorable member.
It is impossible in my judgment to discuss in the press details of what is proceeding in the Conference. Take the question of reparations. Undoubtedly there will be the widest divergencies of views as to the allocation of the amount coming to the British Empire and the basis on which it shall be distributed. That in itself is a matter which I should imagine would give rise to controversy.
– Does the right honorable gentleman believe that that phase of the inter-Allied allocation of the reparation payment has been re-opened?
– I should think so.
– Has the right honorable gentleman any information to that effect ?
– No accurate information.
– Then, I think the honorable gentleman is wrong. The Prime Minister himself said in this House that that question was settled.
– It has not been settled in detail.
– The Prime Minister said that the allocation within the Empire was to be on the war bill basis.
– What is the bill? There, again, we have room for controversy. What is the bill for each State ? What does the bill include ?
– The right honorable gentleman ought to know.
– I know exactly what our bill is, and have taken care that we should know what it is ; but differences of opinion are likely to occur even concerning a question of this kind. Then, again, take the question of the government of Egypt, which is being considered just now, and in which we are more closely and vitally interested than any of the other Dominions, since Egypt is at the very gateway of our entrance to the Mother Country. Are the details of that question to be discussed in public? Are we to discuss the details of that question opening out and ramifying as it does into all sorts of delicate international relationships, and all sorts of delicate racial questions as within the Empire itself? Do not honorable members recognise how impossible it would be to discuss such a question publicly, or even to publish the details of a two-sided discussion such as is suggested by the honorable member for Balaclava ? Tha less we discuss these questions iri the open the better will be the result of the Conference, and the better, I submit, will be the result when the discussions have had their way. When we send a plenipotentiary; to discuss these delicate questions, ramifying into all kinds of international by-ways and into the sphere of diplomacy, we must be prepared to trust him. In no other way of which I know can such matters be safely discussed. There are some matters which might very well be published to the world, but it is not for me to say what should be published. It is for the combined Conference to determine what shall be given out, and it does so, and issues to the press every evening a statement of the day’s proceedings.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that the Conference instructs that a 12-inch report of what the Prime Minister of Australia says, and a £-inch report of what the Canadian Prime Minister says on any subject shall be sent to Australia?
– I venture to say that there is less sent to Australia concerning our Prime Minister than is cabled to Canada regarding the utterances of the Canadian Prime Minister.
– I differ from the right honorable gentleman.
– I have no doubt on the subject; and while on this point I would like to tell the House that Canada, at this moment, has four or five Ministers in London, whereas we have but one. South Africa has two or three, but we have only one. My latest information is that Canada has a huge staff of all kinds of assistants in London at the present moment.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say what objection there could be to letting us know the Canadian view on the Anglo- Japanese Treaty’’ question, just as we know the view of “the Prime Minister of Australia on the subject?
– We do know it. We have learned what it is from the information which has been supplied by the Conference to the press. The honorable member knows very well what is the Canadian view.
– I have been trying to gather it from the cable messages, but have seen no report of the views of Mr. Meighen, the Prime Minister of Canada, on the subject.
– I have seen the reports of the Conference issued and published in the press, and Mr. Meighen’s view has been made very clear.
– What is it?
– I take it that Mr. Meighen, at the moment, is against the renewal of the Japanese Treaty, because from his. present position he sees in it something which is inconsistent with the relationships which Canadian people think they ought to shape towards America. That is what I read from the cables.
– That is mere guessing; but a straight-out statement to that effect has not been reported here.
– What is the date of these cable messages ? -
– I am afraid the honorable member wants neither the date nor the information. If he got the information ho would be sorry that he had asked for it. The press is pouring out such information as is available, and we know pretty well as much about the Canadian attitude as we do about our own.
– Will the right honorable gentleman tell us what is the attitude of the Prime Minister of South Africa on the question of . the renewal of the Japanese Treaty?
– I cannot at the moment; but what does that prove?
– Nor can the right honorable gentleman tell us what is the attitude of New Zealand.
– It is well known that the New Zealand attitude agrees with our own. New Zealand is in favour of a renewal, but desires that care shall be taken that in the renewal of the Treaty nothing is done, if possible, to antagonize the United States of America. That is our attitude and the attitude of New Zealand, but it is not, or has not been up to the present moment, the attitude of the Canadian delegates at the Conference. There has been a difference of opinion on that point; that much has been made clear by such communications as have been issued by the Conference itself.
And so I come back to the point that, in respect of these matters involving so many troublesome considerationstroublesome from the point of view of their delicacy and their international effect - we must make up our minds to give a large measure of discretion and of trust to whatever plenipotentiary we send to take part in the deliberations of such a Conference. (Extension of time granted.) The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Ryan) wants us to instruct the Prime Minister that he is not to approve of any commitment in regard to foreign relations, except subject to the condition that such commitment shall be ratified by the people of Australia. He wants to submit details of foreign relations - the details of the Japanese Treaty, for instance - to a referendum of the people.
I do not believe that that is the best way of conducting our international relationships. Neither in this nor any other country could we conduct them by means of a popular appeal and a presentation of them to the people such as is contemplated here. It would be fatal. There could be no more prolific cause of war than the universal adoption of the referendum in respect of matters of foreign relationships.
– Rubbish !
– I am sorry that I have to utter what the honorable member regards as rubbish.
I come now to the position of the Prime Minister. What has arisen since he went away, I wonder, to make it necessary to send after him these instructions? I venture to say that since he has been in London no possible exception can be taken to any attitude that he has so far assumed, and of which we have any knowledge. He has defended the interests of Australia with rare and conspicuous ability - with rare and conspicuous patriotism - and I marvel at the man who can cavil at his attitude as we are hearing and reading of it every day. Never has this country had a better, more intelligent, more patriotic representation at the Seat of Empire than it has to-day. Here is what the right honorable gentleman said before he left these shores, and I take it that every word of this statement still holds good -
If I am asked whether the Commonwealth is to be committed to anything done at the Conference, I say quite frankly that this Parliament will have the amplest opportunity of expressing its opinion on any scheme of naval defence that is decided upon before the scheme is ratified. As to the renewal of the Treaty with Japan, this is my attitude, and I submit it for the consideration of honorable members: I am in favour of renewing the Treaty in any form that is satisfactory to Britain, America, and ourselves. I am prepared to renew it in those circumstances. Jf it is suggested that the renewal should take a form which would involve the sacrifice of those principles which we ourselves regard as sacred, I am not prepared to accept it. In such circumstances, I shall bring back the Treaty to this Parliament.
I think I have put the situation fairly, and, since these matters hare sometimes to bc settled quickly, I want honorable members to say whether they will give me the authority I ask for. With regard to the expenditure involved in any naval scheme, the House will not be committed to the extent of one penny. The scheme will be brought before Parliament, and honorable, members will be able to discuss, and accept or reject it. If honorable members say that we ought to accept the Treaty in any form, whether it involves the sacrifice of those principles in which we believe or not, I cannot agree; but I am prepared to agree to anything short of that.
Those are the Prime Minister’s statements of the 7th April last. And, on the 22nd April, in the course of the final utterance delivered by the Prime Minister before leaving these shores, he said -
The Government give an assurance that all matters involving the expenditure of public moneys, and affecting the interests of this country, such as the questions of naval and military defence, and any schemes for the. adjustment of foreign policy, together with the terms of the Anglo-Japanese alliance - if it should be renewed - will be hrought before this Parliament.
Surely that should satisfy the honorable member.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister say that any commitment concerning the Anglo-Japanese Treaty will be subject to the ratification of this Parliament ?
– I have read the Prime Minister’s own words, and there I leave them. The honorable member may interpret them as he pleases.
– We do not want something which is ambiguous. The phrase, “ will be brought before this Parliament,” does not indicate that Parliament will be asked to ratify.
– Nothing that the Prime Minister has done or said can give warrant for suspecting the slightest departure from the lines which he laid down prior to leaving these shores.
– May I move for an extension of the time allotted to this debate by one hour?
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to move his intended motion ?
– The Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and other honorable members, desire to speak. Are the Government unwilling to grant an extension ?
– In the circumstances, I am agreeable to an extension to 5 p.m. [Time extended accordingly.]
.- The motion is good in that it enables honorable members to do two things: first, to secure by the expression of their views a much more complete record of what is transpiring at the Imperial Conference - for I hope that that will be the outcome; and, secondly, to indicate a unanimous wish, that Australian opinion should be represented, if possible, at the disarmament Conference, and, indeed, that it is the desire of Australia to see a reduction of armaments throughout the world. It has been a misfortune that the United States of America has not become a member of the League of Nations, but the next best condition for the peace of the world is an alliance of the English-speaking peoples, which President Harding, in his first official utterance, announced as one of his objectives. Hie idea was that the English-speaking peoples should draw more closely together for the carrying out of common duties in the world, not so much, for the exclusion from the brotherhood of others, but for the better brotherhood of all others. I trust that the present movement inaugurated by President Harding will be consummated at no distant date. The opportunity has come by which the only important element outside of the League can take a distinct place with the other nations, and we all urgently desire to see specific results from the President’s invitation.
One other important point has been raised to-day, namely, the need for Australia having better representation in London, and for a better system of dealing with our external affairs, here and at Home. Mr. Lloyd George has said that the proposed Conference will overshadow the Imperial Conference. Is it necessary that, whenever a vital gathering such as has now been projected is to be held on the other side of the world, and whenever our external relations are to be considered, the business of this country must be held up just because we have not yet provided, as other portions of the Empire have done, for a proper arrangement, or sequence, of our international functions? When the British Minister for Foreign Affairs is away the House of Commons still carries on and transacts full public business. Australia has now come to the parting of the ways; she has been admitted, though not, perhaps, full grown, into the comity of nations, and she discovers new “ national and international obligations.
It is essential that we enter deeply into foreign affairs. It is inevitable that the
Government of this country should, at any time, and always, be held responsible for its attitude towards foreign policy just as for its domestic policy. Our isolation has forever gone, and, in this regard, it is utterly necessary that Ministerial duties should be so rearranged as to permit a constant channel of communication between the centre pf the Empire and the Commonwealth Government and Parliament. There is a new orientation of affairs, both foreign and domestic, in which Australia is involved; and the need for a re-arrangement of our system of government in order to cope with our obligations is strikingly apparent. Also, there is now, more than eVer, need for increased economy and control in all our public services because of those increased obligations.
In my view, to submit all treaties, including the .specific Treaty under debate, to the direct arbitrament of the people would be impossible. But the Government should be prepared to take full responsibility for its negotiations, just as the Government of Great Britain must accept responsibility for the various treaties and alliances in which Britain ia involved..
– There is just this difference, that Parliament cannot undo what is already done, when it comes to a matter of foreign relations, no matter what the opinion of Parliament and the people may actually be.
– But Parliament can undo the Government. It is impossible to expect continuous negotiations between the whole of the people of one and the whole of the people of another nation’. There must be fullycredited and responsible plenipotentiaries; and the only way in which they can be adjudged is by making them responsible direct to the . Parliament, and thus, finally, to the people. I maintain that the assurances which the Prime Minister gave that he would bring all fresh Treaties back to this Parliament, and which have been emphasized to-day, were satisfactory in all respects. He laid down definite conditions, and the Government must be looked to to make them good. We should be satisfied with that position; but if the promises referred to are not kept, it must be for Parliament to take acttion.
.- I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and to note that he approves of the view that this Parliament should receive fuller information concerning what is taking place at the Imperial Conference. Thehonorable member for Cowper -(Dir. Earle Page) also expressed the view that there should be more complete information supplied concerning events in London. It was pleasing to hear these views today from the leaders of the various parties in this House. In the past Australia has suffered through the paucity of information given to us about foreign affairs and our relations with and responsibilities to other countries. At Conferences dealing with matters of far-reaching importance we have been committed to burdensome agreements without the approval of our people being sought ; but the time has now come when Australia must be consulted in regard to all these matters. Every member of the population, no doubt, would approve of the general disarmament of the nations, and the statesmen of the world might well work for that. The recent war, with its immense sacrifice of human life,- wealth, and material, in the barbarous struggle of nation against nation,, has revealed to us most strikingly the need for other arbitrament in international disputes than that of the sword. I welcome the proposals of the President of the United States of America. “We can all join with him in giving encouragement -to a policy of disarmament. As to the treatment of Australian interests at the Conference now being held in London, I think that we in Australia are entitled to more information. We cannot consent to be committed to the renewal pf the Anglo-Japanese Treaty without being heard on the matter. It is only reasonable that this Parliament should be asked to ratify any agreement before it binds this people. I, for my part, shall insist on expressing the views on this and other matters of those whom I was sent here to represent. Suppose that, as a result of the present misunderstanding between the Chinese and Japanese, they came into conflict, how do “we know that Australia might not, under the terms of the Treaty, be compelled to fight on the side of the
Japanese against the Chinese ? Or, suppose there was a dispute between the United States of America and Japan about the Island of Yap, from which radiate communications linking up the East with America and Australia, how should we stand under the Treaty ? Should we be compelled to fight .on the side of the Japanese against our American cousins? ‘ I, for my part, am not ready to shut my eyes and open my mouth and accept what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may choose to give me. I wish to know all about these matters in advance, and the’ people .of Australia should be instructed concerning them. If the renewal of the Treaty is a good thing, and likely to benefit the people of Australia, there should be no secrecy about it.
– Why does not the .honorable member read the Treaty ?
– It is in the melting pot now, and none of us know how it will emerge from the Conference. But before it is ratified we should have an opportunity of expressing our views upon it. I should welcome any means for maintaining friendly relations between Great Britain, the United States of America, and Japan; but I am opposed to the acceptance of any Treaty until its conditions are known and understood. The proposed Treaty may contain the germ of another world conflict.
– It may still do that after it has been approved by the people of Australia.
– Yes; but the wisdom of the people of Australia would have been applied to the examination of its probable results.
– Would the vote of the people make us safe?
– The vote of the people saved this country from the shackles of militarism, which the right honorable gentleman would have put on them.
– That vote led to the slaughtering of many thousands of good Australians.
– That is a slander on the people of this country. The right honorable gentleman’s present conduct in allowing’ returned men to walk about looking for work is something to which he should pay attention.
– This is more in your style.
– I hope that the result of the discussion may be that we shall get fuller information about what is taking place at the Conference, and that before Australia is bound by. any treaty, her people will have an opportunity to ratify it.
– I have no intention to prevent a vote by talking too long onthis motion.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that this was a non-party matter. Why, then, is a vote needed?
– I am one of those who think that more information should be given to the people of this country about what is taking place at the Conference in London at the. present time, especially considering the enormous issues at stake. Of course, no one would wish a word to be said which might jeopardize the success of the important work in hand. I am sure that there is not a man in Australia who would desire another war. The wrecks made by the last war are too much before our eyes, and we have not forgotten the terrible loss of life, and the maiming of human beings that it caused, while the financial troubles which followed in its train are still with us. We must, therefore, all pray that we may never have another war. Fortunately the prospects of peace never were brighter than they are to-day. The news from. Ireland is most gratifying. I believe that the King’s speech at Belfast has done more to secure the good-will of the people of Ireland than anything that has occurred for generations.
– And the mediation of General Smuts.
– And the mediation of one of the biggest intellects under the British Flag to-day.,. the Prime Minister of South Africa. I hope that the result will be that before long we’ shall have a Parliament sitting in the South of Ireland and another in the north, giving to the people of that country Home Rule, which will afford them every satisfaction, and that this will remove one of the stumbling blocks to. the progress and peace of the Empire. As for the’ invitation of the President of the United States of America to the nations to try to bring about the limitation of armaments, we welcome it. I regret that the great Republic did not do before what it is doing now. Had America thrown in its lot with the League of Nations the peace of the world” would have been secured. I hope that the treaty with Japan will be renewed. There can be no doubt that ifwe were to reject the alliance with Japan another alliance would be formed which would be a menace to the peace of the world. . I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will cable to the Prime Minister in London asking if there is any further information in regard to these great matters which can.be safely given to the. people of Australia; and, if so, to send it to us. I do not think it is at all likely that the United States of America willconsent to the British Dominions being represented at the Conference which President Harding has convened. The Acting Prime Minister, who was at the Peace Conference, will recollect that one of the greatest objections which the United States of America had to joining the League of Nations was that, because of the Dominions having separate votes on the Council of the League, the British delegation would have greater voting strength than would the United States of America.
– On the contrary, President Wilson was in favour of Australian representation, and said we had earned it.
-I know that President Wilson was, but unfortunately he did not carry the majority of the American people with him, as was proved very shortly afterwards at the Presidential election. In reading the election speeches of. the Republican leaders, I found that one of their gravest objections to the League was that the granting of votes to the British Dominions would give to Great Britain a preponderating strength in the deliberations of that body.
– That point was not stressed by responsible leaders.
– I differ entirely from the right honorable gentleman. If he will look up the newspaper files containing the speeches of the Republican leaders during the Presidential election he will find confirmation of my statement. I am looking forward to splendid results accruing from the Conference which is to take place between
Great Britain, the United States of America, and Japan. If these three great maritime nations decide that there is to be no more war there will be none for many yeairs to come. I pray God that that may be the result of their deliberations.
– I failto see why this debate should have been promoted at all, and I am afraid it may be regarded as a reflection on the man whom we unanimously chose to go to London to do good work for Australia. It was generally conceded that Parliament was wise in sending the Prime Minister to England supported by the House’s expression of confidence in him. We should not do anything by word or vote that would reflect upon him or convey the ideathat we have changed our views since he left Australian shores. On the contrary, everything thatj has happened tends to show that he is acting wisely. There is proof of that in the fact that the President of the United States of America has expressed a notable change from the views which we understood were held by the American people until recently. I think it very likely that the opinion expressed by this House before the Prime Minister’s departure helped to bring about that conversion. Australia has as much at stake in this regard as any other country in the world, for what country would run greater risk from a misunderstanding between the nations? We should at every opportunity show to the outside world a united front on this matter. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) usually gives careful consideration to these questions, but on this occasion he has acted unwisely in initiating a discussion which might create an idea that the Opposition, at any rate, holds an opinion different from that expressed by the House before the Prime Minister left for England.
– The honorable member for West Sydney merely wishes to help the Prime Minister.
– I hope that was his intention; but he adopted an extraordinary method.
– The main ppint of my motion does not touch the mission of the Prime Minister at all, but relates to much more important subjects.
– The honorable member has asked for further assurances from the Prime Minister, and that additional instructions be sent to him by Cabinet. Those requests would convey the idea that some change of opinion had taken place in Australia during the last few weeks. Does the honorable member for West Sydney honestly believe that we should be acting wisely in taking a referendum of the people upon the question of whether or not there should be an alliance with our neighbours, the Japanese ?
– Referenda have been taken upon much less important matters.
– Does not the honorable member think that if this matter were discussed in the country statements would be made which, instead of cementing the present good feeling between Japan and Australia, would tend to destroy it?
– Is it not as important to submit for the approval or disapproval of the people the renewal of the Anglo- Japanese Alliance as it is to submit the question of 6 o’clock closing ?
– The latter is a purely domestic question, which the people can be asked to decide without risk of any offence to our neighbours.
– Is not the power of the people above the power of any one man ?
– The power of the people is all right when it is properly used ; but there is a danger that it might be improperly used, and that the people would be misled by irresponsible persons who would stir up a feeling of hatred against another nation. If common sense can prevent the possibility of such a thing happening, so much the better for this young country. This evening’s Herald quotes the Prime Minister as having said in London -
I hope and feel sure than an arrangement will be reached satisfactory to Japan, America, China, and the British Empire, -
– He never mentioned China before.
– He mentions it now - leaving the road clear for the greater conference on disarmament, at which the Great Powers will be present. If they desire disarmament, disarmament will come.
Having regard to our small population and very heavy taxation owing to war obligations, we are more anxious than are other people to avoid the heavy cost of armaments.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
South Wales, has also had an acting postmaster in charge for some time?
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Cost of Running
askedthe Minister in charge of Shipping, upon notice -
– The answersto the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The figures at 30th June, 1921, were -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The following particulars give the information desired : -
asked thi Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The necessary information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether he will make a report in connexion with the condition of the houses recently erected by the Commonwealth Government at Lithgow, the condition of the streets and footpaths surrounding such houses, the condition of the approach to such houses, as to whether a number of the houses are in a fit state for human habitation, as to whether the Commonwealth Government or the municipal council of Lithgow is responsible for the alleged bad and inadequate drainage system now in operation at the area, the cost of building, including the purchase of land at each house?
– I would invite the honorable member’s attention to a letter of 1st July, 1921, from my Department, stating -
I am directed to recall that the whole project was exhaustively inquired into by the Public Works Committee, who recommended as follows: -
The general consensus of opinion is that the area required as a site is admirably suited for the purpose for which it is intended.
The scheme was undertaken by the Commonwealth in collaboration with the municipal council, who approved of the plan of subdivision, and it was a condition of the Commonwealth proceeding with the work that the council should, amongst other things, carry out certain drainage works, particularly constructing culverts, &c. Owing to certain circumstances the council has been delayed in executing the works referred to; this, combined with the abnormal rainfall during the months of March, April, and May last, viz.; - 1,619 points as against an average of 785 points, has caused the conditions you referto. The council anticipates getting the culverts, &c, put in at an early date. Authority has been given ‘by the
Minister, for the construction of a deviation channel to divert the water from the hills, and subsoil drains to be laidaround certain of the cottages. It must be remembered that this is not a completed work, andshould not be judged as one.
The temporary trouble arises from the municipal council not having carried out their undertakings. It would be absurd to say that any of the residences is not fit to live in. The cost of site and construction of building has not yet been finalized, and until that has been done it is not considered advisable at the present time to make any statement in that regard.
– I asked the question only to ascertain whether it is advisable for people to live in the cottages. I say it is not advisable.
– The honorable member has the answer.
– Thank you very much !
Message received from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this Bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds
Act - First Annual Report (for year ended 31st May, 1921) by tbe Trustees.
Defence Act - Regulations. Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 118 and 119.
National Relief Fund - Final Report on th6 Administration up to 1st March, 1921. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Debate resumed from12th July (vide page 9921), on motion by Mr. Greene -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Fenton had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “ now “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words in place thereof : - “ withdrawn for the purpose of immediately recasting and re-introducing so as to provide for -
.- 1 join with other members of the Opposition in expressing profound regret and disappointments at the inadequacy of this Bill. It will fail entirely to carry out the promise made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to provide legislation which would secure protection, not only for the manufacturer, but for the employee and the public generally. This is to be much regretted, for the present is a signal opportunity, by means of a properly administered Tariff, to establish the Commonwealth on a firm industrial basis. As a matter of fact, the Bill does not disclose any really serious intention’ on the part of the Government to deal with those commercial agencies that are now working to rt,ne detriment of the public by undue inflation of prices and the non-observance of those fair and reasonable conditions that should govern the industrial life of this community. Even supporters of the Government have expressed themselves as quite dissatisfied with this measure, and have not hesitated to express their scepticism as to its efficiency. It is possible that, with my inexperience of political life, I had considerable faith in the promise of the /Minister for Trade and Customs, only to find it misplaced; and, in future, I shall certainly be more careful about accepting assurances of the kind. The honorable gentleman has not taken advantage of the opportunity presented to test the question, and place the powers of the Commonwealth absolutely beyond dispute. I have endeavoured as a layman to acquaint myself with the legal side of the question, and, after considerable research, I have satisfied myself, as I hope to be able to satisfy honorable members, that this Parliament has every power to deal with protected industries, and to see that those employed in them, and the public generally, receive just and reasonable treatment. I candidly confess that when I was regarded as one of the minor lights in the Labour movement, while the Prime Minister was a prominent and formidable figure, I was under the impression that these powers were not within the Constitution; but I have since investigated the matter, and, though recognising, my own limitations; I have come to the conclusion that it was a wrongful decision by which the High Court, in 1908, subordinated the Commonwealth. The case before the Court, The King v. Barger dealt with an Excise matter. An Excise Bill ‘had been passed by this Parliament in 1906, when the late Sir William Lyne was Minister for Trade and Customs, and the late Mr. Alfred Deakin took a very interested part in the debate. Mr. Justice Isaacs, who “ was the Attorney-General of that day, gave the House the advantage of his legal learning, and assured honorable members that there was nothing in- the measure to invalidate it under the Constitution. In the High Court, a majority decision was given against the Commonwealth by the late Sir Samuel Griffith,’ the late Sir Edmund Barton, and the late Mr. Justice O’Connor. Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice .Higgins dissented, and, at length, substantiated their contention that the decision was not in accordance with the desire and design of the framers of the Constitution. The chief reason why the Bill was regarded a3 ultra vires is to be found- in the words of the head-line to the case, “ Implied prohibition,” as shown in the report of the case in volume VI. of the Commonwealth Law Reports ‘ of 1908. That was the chief consideration upon which the learned Justices based their judgment. It was sufficient, in their opinion, to justify the decision that the Act was ultra vires. It is further set out in the head notes to the judgment that the Court held that -
If the control of the domestic affairs of the States is in any particular forbidden by’ the Constitution, either expressly or by necessary implication, the power of taxation cannot be exercised so as to operate as a direct interference with those affairs in that particular.
It would seem to be clear, according’ to this judgment, that it is not within the power of the Commonwealth to impose duties of Excise in such a way as would amount to a direct interference with the domestic aff airs of a .State! The implied prohibition in the Act in question was the chief reason for the judgment that it was ultra vires. I have devoted a good deal of research to this subject, with the object of assisting the House in arriving at a proper decision, and I hope I shall not be unduly. interrupted. The principle laid down in this judgment as to an implied prohibition being a guiding factor in determining the validity or. otherwise of a Commonwealth Act has been declared to be unsound. . In the case of the
Amalgamated Society of Engineers versus The Adelaide Steam-ship Company and Others, reported in volume 28, part 2, of the Commonwealth Law Reports for 1920, the majority judgment given by Chief Justice Knox, Mr. Justice Isaacs, Mr. Justice Rich, and Mr. Justice Starke contains this passage -
There are other cases in which the doctrine of implied prohibition is more or less called in aid to limit the otherwise plain import of legislative grants to the Commonwealth; it is sometimes difficult to say how far the decision is dependent upon such a doctrine, and therefore we hesitate to pronounce upon those cases and leave them for further consideration, subject to the law as settled by this decision; but it is beyond any doubt that the doctrine of “ implied prohibition “ can no longer be permitted to sustain a contention, and, so far as any recorded decision rests upon it, that decision must be regarded as unsound.
This later judgment given by a majority of the High Court Justices laid it down that in determining the relationships of the Commonwealth and the States under the Australian Constitution, it was unsound to declare that a Commonwealth Act was invalid because of an “ implied prohibition “ contained in it. The judgment proceeded -
We have anxiously endeavoured to remove the inconsistencies fast accumulating and obscuring the comparatively clear terms of the national compact of the Australian people; we have striven to fulfil the duty the Constitution places upon this Court of loyally permitting that great instrument of government to speak with its own voice, clear of any qualifications which the people of the Commonwealth, or, at their request, the Imperial Parliament, have not thought fit to express, and clear of any questions of expediency or political exigency which this Court is neither intended to consider nor equipped with the means of determining. We therefore answer the two questions in the terms to be stated by the Chief Justice.
In the face of that decision there is good justification for the contention that the judgment of the Court in The King versus Barger is open toconsiderable doubt, and that there is grave doubt as to whether or not the Excise Act in question , was really ultra vires. In the interests of the Australian people, and in order to preserve the powers and prestige of this Parliament, the Government should lose no time in submitting a test case in respect of this point, so that we may know exactly where we stand., and what are our powers in regard to the imposition of Excise duties, subject to certain conditions designed to bring about effective protection for the people. I hope the Minister (Mr. Greene) and his colleagues will carefully consider the terms of the judgment given by a majority of the Court in’ the case of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers versus The Adelaide Steam-ship Company and Others in 1920, and pay special attention to the minority judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Higgins and Mr. Justice Isaacs in the case of The King versus Barger. They very emphatically declared their conviction that it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution to vest in the Commonwealth supreme power in respect of taxation. Section 51 of the Constitution provides that -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth in respect to … .
Taxation, but so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States.
The Excise Act to which I have been referring was held by the High Court in 1908 tobe ultra vires because of an implied prohibition which it contained. As a layman that does not appeal to me as sound law. To the credit of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) be it said that long before the judgment of the High Court in the later case of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers was given he declared his absolute conviction that the Commonwealth Constitution gave this Parliament sufficient power to deal with those who were unduly raising prices and exploiting the people in respect of the commodities required by them. It is most satisfactory to find that opinion confirmed in this later judgment of. the High Court, and we are justified in the circumstances in supporting such an amendment as is now before us, since it would enable the Government at the earliest moment to test the question that was decided against the Commonwealth in 1908. The judgment in The King versus Barger unduly curtailed the powers of the Commonwealth Legislature in respect of taxation, although sound argument had been advanced that the powers of the Parliament of the Commonwealth in that regard were equal to those of the States. In the Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, by Quick and Garran, the following passage appears at page 550 : -
The term “ taxation “ covers every con’ceivable “.exaction which it’ is possible for a (Government to make, whether under the name of a tax or under such names as rates, assessments, duties, imposts, Excise, licences, fees, tolls, &c. . . . From the foregoing definition, it appears . that the . taxing power of the Federal Parliament is very wide and comprehensive.
If we have not power to impose an Excise duty, subject to certain conditions, I fail to’ see that our powers have any range at all. If that is the position, then our powers are most circumscribed, and we aTe confined within the most narrow limits that the framers of a Constitution could impose upon a Legislature.
The Australian Constitution was based very largely upon that of the United States of- America, and although the Constitution of the United States of America has been in operation for something like 150 years, and Congress-‘ from time to time has taken to itself very wide, powers of legislation - especially in connexion with the imposition of Excise duties - with respect to the domestic concerns of the States, every attempt to show that, such legislation is ultra vires has absolutely failed. In the light of experience drawn from America in support of the belief that the judgment given in 1908 was unsound, we have a perfect right to ask the Government to afford a test. ‘ The grant of powers to the Federation, under the Constitution, was intended to be absolute. The reserve powers given to the States did not permit, or include, .any right of interference with those specifically granted ta the Commonwealth. There is no reserve power possessed by ihe States under which they may enter into the realm of those powers conferred upon the Federal authority. According to section 90 of. the Constitution, this Parliament has ‘absolute and supreme power over Customs and Excise. ‘ If the Excise Act of 1906 is adjudged ultra vires, there can certainly be no power held by the States to give effect to legislation of (he kind. It is plain, then, that the power of imposing excise must belong to someone; and, if the specific authority is iti doubt, we have a right to claim that a. case be cited before the ‘High Court in order that the whole situation’ may be cleared. If the measure of 1906 had been enacted in the United Kingdom, or in any other unified State, it would have been regarded as thoroughly constitutional. The powers of the Commonwealth in this matter are plenary and absolute. There is nothing within the Constitution which can justify the view that an Excise measure is unconstitutional. Following the matter further, and dealing with the contention concerning, an ‘ implied prohibition, I call attention to the latter portion of paragraph II.. of section 51, “ But so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States.” Nothing contained in the Excise Act of. 1906 suggests any intention to discriminate between States or parts of States. Without doubt, . the law was to apply equally and universally. That circumstances may differ in one State from those in another has nothing to do with the Federal authority ; they will be purely local and locally governed. It might be contended that our income tax legislation affords undue discrimination between States or parts of States in that, because- there are larger’ families in Queensland than in South Australia, a greater measure of exemption is granted to the people of Queensland. The fact of there being larger families in one part of Australia than in another is a circumstance which is purely local. The powers of income taxation, are universal and uniform. Further developing my argument, I remind honorable members that an Excise Act was passed by the Federal Legislature making it possible for certain persons to secure exemption, in the sugar industry, if they employed white labour only. The idea was to deal effectively with Kanaka labour. That Statute demonstrated the power and control held by the Federal authority over ari industry and over the conditions which should govern it. That Act has never been challenged; it. still stands; and, so long as it remains, I maintain that there is power within the Constitution to afford protection to’ those engaged in any industry, . both concerning the rates and the conditions governing it, and the prices which should be charged for the commodity produced by it. Concerning the matter of the division of power between Federal and State authorities, there is considerable difference as- to where the purview of the one begins and of the other ends. A good’ principle has been laid down, however^ by Chief Justice Marshall, of -the United States of America, who, in giving judgment in the Supreme Court, in the case Givens. v. Odgen, stated: -
This power,, like all others in Congress, is complete in itself, and may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other- than those prescribed in the Constitution.
I contend ‘that* there is nothing prescribed in the Federal Constitution which could deprive the people of -effective protection from exploitation on the part of commercial brigands in this country. Neither authority, State or Federal, is to hamper - or impede the other in the exercise of its powers, but it is evident, from the judgment given in 1908, that the Commonwealth Parliament has been hampered in respect of the exercise of its power . of legislating- for the peace and good government of the people. It is contrary to rea-‘ son to curtail the expressly granted provisions of the Constitution. Mr. Justice Isaacs, delivering his opinion in the case to which I have referred - it will be’ found at page 98 of the Commonwealth Law Reports for 1908, volume 6 - said -
It must .not be forgotten that, always apart from express restrictions - there being no more limit on the power of Commonwealth taxation than on that of a State - persons may be taxed in any class, at any rate, for any reason.
The High Court held - in my opinion unwisely - that this Parliament had not the power to impose the tax which they were reviewing, because of certain other provisions in the measure which provided for its imposition. The only obligation imposed by that measure, however, was that of paying taxation or being exempt under certain circumstances. The measure did not impose the conditions for the carrying on of an’ industry. No one could be sued in any criminal or civil Court for. neglect to- apply certain conditions to his industry. In framing the law, Parliament was careful not to trespass on, the domain of the States. Mr. Justice Isaacs ‘ said, further, at page 105-
To accept, the defendants’ arguments here appears to me to do violence to the plain words of the Constitution, and’ to recede altogether from the accepted notion of Federal powers in America, on the Constitution of which -our own was supposed to he based, and to .judicially limit, rather .than interpret, the grant of national powers.
Then on page 114 Mr. Justice Higgins is reported to have ;said - 4and I feel it de- sirable not to unduly curtail these citations, because they may. be very valuable to our people -
Now, by section 51 of the Constitution, the Parliament has, subject to the Constitution, “ power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with regard- ‘to- . . . taxation; but so as not to discriminate between States or parts .of .States.” So the Parliament has, prima facie, power to tax whom it chooses, power to exempt whom it chooses, power to impose such conditions as to liability or as to exemption as it chooses:
– Did not the majority of the Bench declare that what Parliament did in -passing the Act they were reviewing, was not to impose a tax?
– The majority based their . judgment1 on an implied prohibition.
– They based their decision on a doctrine that is now exploded.
– Quite so. In the case’ of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers versus The Adelaide Steamship Company the High Court indicated that this -was an unsound principle to follow.
– Does the honorable member say that the decision in the case to which he refers overrules that in the Barger case?
– No; but it gives us reason to believe that the decision in the Barger case was not in accordance with the .Constitution.
– It overrules the reasoning in. the Barger case.
– Quite so. The Act of 1906, which was under review, gave certain exemptions from taxation if certain things were done, but did not compel any person to .do these things. If he did not do them, he could not. enjoy the exemption. Similarly under our income tax legislation any one who makes a substantial donation to charities or public institutions roan secure a corresponding exemption from assessment, but any one who does not make such donations gets no consideration. Mr. Justice Higgins said, further -
The mere fact, therefore, that the Federal Parliament lays down certain unusual conditions as ‘to wages in a taxation Act does not moke that Act void, provided that it does not purport to_ regulate wages in the sense of making a ‘law, a legislative command, to pay wages.
According to the more recent opinion of the High Court we have justification f or thinking that if a test case were submitted now, the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament in this matter would be interpreted in accordance with the desires of the framers of the Constitution.
– Assuming you have the power, what could you do to achieve the end in view better than is proposed in the Bill?
– The Bill merely proposes to set up another Board, which will have no direct power of protecting the people. We have had a Tariff Commission, and the Inter-State Commission has inquired into Tariff matters, but the people have not been protected as the result of these investigations. Scathing indictments were made against the manner in which certain persons had conducted their industries and businesses, but the public have not been protected from exploitation in consequence of these exposures. The proposed Tariff Board would merely have to submit a report once a year.
– No; as often as one was asked for.
– That is not provided for in the Bill. The Ministry propose merely to set up another Board, and that will be of no direct advantage to the people. . The smallness of the remuneration which the members of the Board are to receive proves that the Government does not seriously intend to effectively prevent captains of industry from charging the people exorbitant prices, or from refusing the proper industrial conditions to their employees. I hope that this Parliament will accept its constitutional obligations, and by agreeing to the amendment take a step towards the exercise of the power which correctly belongs to us, and thus prevent the injuring of the consumers by the extortions of the manufacturers whose industries we have protected.
.- If I thought that the Tariff Board would merely have to make an annual report to Parliament, I would not support the Bill, because it would be merely creating another Board such as we have had in the past. The Inter-State Commission made a Tariff investigation, but the Government paid little or no attention to i ts reports, on the ground that they were made some years ago,, and that circum stances had so altered since that they did not meet the ease. If the proposed Tariff. Board is not going to keep its fingers on the pulse of commercial and industrial activities, reporting immediately to Parliament when alterations of the law are necessary, it will be useless. Therefore, this Board will be, or should be, different from any Board of which we have had experience in the past.
– Will the honorable member point out where in the Bill that is provided for?
– It may not be expressly provided for in the Bill, but it should be, and it is certainly contemplated, because the Minister is bound to refer certain things to the Board.
– How , can it be contemplated if it is not expressed in the Bill?
– I am very clear as to what the intention of the Government is. But if they do not mean to do as I have suggested, I shall vote against the second reading.
– The Bill provides, for only an annual report.
– The Board is bound to provide an annual report, -but the Minister is compelled to refer certain matters to the Board for inquiry and report, and the Board is supposed to report at once so that Parliament may strike while the iron is hot. Clause 14 refers to the matters which may be referred to the Board, including the acts of a manufacturer who is charging unreasonably high prices, or acting in restraint of trade.
– There is no reference to the retailer.
– The Bill deals with the manufacturer, and even if this Parliament possesses the constitutional powers which honorable members opposite have contended it does possess, I do not think that any action likely to be taken would bring us into more direct touch with the retailers than will be possible under this clause.
– Would it not be more satisfactory to have a. test case?
– I do not see that any good could come from such a case. The problem can be tackled more directly and effectively by the means provided in the Bill. No honorable member will advocate high prices and unfair dealings, and the proposed Board will give us a better chance of coping with such matters than we have ever had’ before, because, if a manufacturer is acting unfairly, Parliament can deprive him of the protection afforded by the Tariff. That is the most direct way in which an offender can be hit.
– That method might destroy the industry, and we do not wish to do that.
– What more effective action could be taken under the amendment proposed by the honorable member - for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) to prevent the manufacturer treating the public unfairly ? Time would be wasted by obtaining reports, and taking action, before the High Court; whereas, by the machinery provided in the Bill, Parliament can reach the offender at once, and punish him more effectively than would be possible by a long process of anti-Trust legislation and kindred enactments. I am not enthusiastically in favour of the Board, .because I realize the danger of creating another sub-Department, which may make only periodical reports instead o’f dealing with every reference promptly and in the right way. It is possible for a Board comprising three members of the right stamp, and working in the proper way, to render the country an incalculable service. But any other sort of Board would merely mean the burden of an a additional sub-Department. confusion worse confounded, and a hindrance instead of a help.
– Might it not be that a certain duty is justified, but the price charged by the manufacturer for his commodity is not justified ? How would the honorable member deal with such a case?
– In those circumstances the duty would not be justified.
– Parliament should be able to say to the manufacturer, “ We are prepared to help you with a certain duty if you will comply with these conditions, namely,, treat your employees fairly and charge reasonable prices to the public. If you do not conform to those conditions Parliament will reduce the duty or repeal it.” Action of that kind is the benefit I expect from this Board.
– That is a pious platitude.
– It is a practical possibility if this machinery is properly
Worked. If the Board is not to do as I have suggested, it will be no more effective than was the Inter-State Commission in relation to Tariff matters.
– Did the honorable member ever know of a Board that did good work?
– Honorable members do not seem to appreciate the- difference between the proposed Board and others. This body will be in direct and constant touch with the Tariff, and Parliament should have reports and recommendations upon all the changing circumstances’ of commerce and industry. Its position will not be on all fours with that of the Inter-State Commission. If I did not see a chance of some practical benefit emanating from this proposal I would not espouse it ; if the Board is merely to make the compulsory annual reports it will not satisfy me. If necessary, the Bill can be amended in such a way as to oblige the Board to report with reasonable expedition upon every reference to it. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) argued last night that the decision of the High Court” in the case brought by the Amalgamated Engineers against the Adelaide Steam-ship Company overruled the earlier decision of the Court in the Barger case. Certainly that decision did overrule a lot of other decisions, but I doubt if there is any member of this House who, without a close study of the judgment, can form an opinion as to where the High Court’s pronouncement actually leaves us. It overruled some well known decisions ; but not the Barger case.
– The latest decision proves that the Barger judgment was very unsound.
– It does not.
– It overruled all cases that were dependent upon the doctrine of- “ implied prohibition.”
– It overruled many cases, but the High Court was silent in regard to the Barger case. And I am not at all certain that a litigant’ could rely upon the decision in the Amalgamated Engineers’ case to have the judgment in the Barger case reversed if a similar issue were taken to the Court. The judgment in the Amalgamated Engineers’ case was not conclusive in this respect. ,
– Why not be guided by it? -
– I do not wish to take any risks.
– The honorable member will admit that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) have put up a strong argument that is nearly conclusive?
– I admit that there is a lot to be said for their contention. But I maintain that the latest decision of the High Court has not conclusively upset the judgment in the Barger case.
– It will be found, when the opportunity for obtaining a decision is given, that the contention of the honorable member for Hume is right.
– So far, the High Court has not said so. We can achieve more under this Bill, if it is operated as it is intended to be, than would be possible if the suggestion contained in the amendment were adopted. If we rely upon the general powers conferred by the Constitution to see that manufacturers charge only fair prices, there will be almost interminable delays before finality is reached; whereas the machinery provided in this Bill will enable Parliament to speak at once. If Parliament can deal with the manufacturer, what need is there to proceed further, having regard to the fact that in many cases the manuvfacturer sells direct, through his agents or travellers, to the users. There is a chance of some good being done under this Bill, but I desire to be certain that the Board shall report quickly to the House, so that Parliament may deal with the matter before the conditions change.
– This Bill proposes a Board that is to be responsible to the Minister, and not to Parliament.
– If the Bill does not make it clear that Parliament is to have a voice, then it can easily be made clear by the addition of a few words. I am opposed to the creation of Boards, as I am opposed to new Departments or additions to the Public Service, which is already too large for a population of 5,000,000.
– You are trying to make it bigger.
– At the present tame I am ; but we have adopted a Tariff which involves millions of .money, and the appointment of a Board of three qualified men affords the possibility of “ good business “ for the Commonwealth.
– Could not one man do the work ?. ,
– I prefer three as against one man - or five men, if we are to have despatch. If, as has been suggested, the Minister is to be free to take what action he chooses, then the Board will be a mere useless appanage.
– That is all the Bill proposes.
– The Bill shows that that is not the intention; in any case, we are quite competent to make the meaning quite clear.
– The vote on the amendment’ will show who are for the producer and who are for the profiteer.
– The honorable member is ‘quite wrong. The amendment gives no indication of what is going to be done under it - or how it is to be carried into effect - whereas the Board has a chance to do something practical and ex- peditious. If a manufacturer is charging fair prices there is no need to go any further so’ far as he is concerned ; but if it is desired to deal with retailers, then general legislation of an anti-Trust character will be necessary, involving much greater powers on the part of the Commonwealth than are given in the Constitution, even though the recent decision shows these powers to be greater than we o thought they were.
– What is your objection to the amendment ?
– The Bill will be more expeditious, hitting the manufacturer in the only possible way - through his profits.
– What about the distributors ?
– The amendment will be of no use in that direction without the additional powers I speak of, notwithstanding the decision in the case of the Amalgamated Engineers against the Adelaide Shipping Company. No one can say exactly where that decision has left us.
– We should find out.
– The amendment will not enable us to find out, and even a case in the High Court will not give finality.
– Is it not the distributor, and not the manufacturer, who is .getting the large profits?
– Possibly so; but this Bill does, not hit the middleman, and neither does the amendment, as the Constitution, with the High Court decision thrown in, stands at present.. A further grant of large constitutional powers will be necessary, if this Parliament is to achieve the objects aimed, at in the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
. -During the consideration of the Tariff, which this House has just passed, I, and I feel sure, other honorable members, felt the necessity for more definite and reliable information regarding the many industries affectedby the protection which it was proposed to afford, and I, at least, found thatthe necessary information in very many cases was not forthcoming. It must be quite obvious that, although honorable members generally are familiar with a certain number of industries within the Commonwealth, they cannot have a sufficient knowledge of the whole of the industrial life and- manufacturing interests of the Commonwealth to be able to judge what is fair and reasonable protection to alford in every instance. The honorable member who is anxious to do what he believes to be the right thing in the interests of the whole community-, and is not prepared, as some are, to go to any lengths to keep out the imported article, in. order to insure that Australia shall produce the whole of its. requirements, feels ‘this need for further information… We were overwhelmed with literature purporting to give information regarding, the different items in the schedule as we came to them, but most honorable members will admit that information obtained from such sources could not be regarded as reliable, since it came from interested parties. I feel that a Board constituted on the lines proposed in this Bill could, and’ would be able to supply Parliament with the particulars that are absolutely desirable and necessary if a considered vote is to be cast. If for no other reason than that I would support this Bill.
Under clause 14 the Minister may refer to the Board for inquiry and report such matters as the Necessity for new, increasedor reduced duties, and the deferment of existing, or proposed deferred duties.” It. must be obvious that the Tariff schedule,despite the careful con-‘ sideration that the Minister (Mr. Greene) gave to it before it was submitted, and notwithstanding the careful attention given to it by the House, still contains some anomalies, and that it will be necessaryto have before us reports and advice fromsuch a Board when we proceed to revise it.
– The honorable member does not suggest that we should have such reports before we deal with any requests that may be made to the Senate?
– Certainly not. We have not yet passed this Bill,Ind if the debate is to go on as at present, we may not have dealt with it before the Senate has concluded its consideration of the Tariff.I am contributing, my quota to the debate, not with any such object in view, but because I feel it is necessary to give the reasons why I shall support the Bill rather than the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton).. One of the purposes of the proposed Board - and a purpose which all honorable members consider to be most important - is that of giving consideration to the prices charged by manufacturers who are adequately protected by the Tariff. Paragraph h of. clause 14 provides that the Minister may refer to the Board for inquiry and report -
Any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff, and in. particular in regard to his -
charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods; or
acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public. and under sub-clause 3 it is provided that -
If. the Board finds; on inquiry that any complaint referred to it under paragraph h of sub-section (1) of this section is justified, it may recommend-
that the amount of duty payable on the goods, the subject of the complaint; be reduced or abolished .
have long held the opinion that, although it may not be possible for us to regulate prices generally, it should be possible to deal. with those manufacturers who may be charging unreasonably high prices for their goods, and who are. receiving the benefit of a highly protective Tariff, by withholding or abolishing the duty. If a manufacturer can obtain excessive prices for his goods, then obviously the necessity for a highly protective duty in respect of them does not exist. That, I think, will be conceded. If we are going to give manufacturers the benefit of high protection, the public in general are entitled to expect that they shall be dealt with fairly by the manufacturing community. I am not going to say that we would be justified in attempting to regulate prices generally throughout the Commonwealth, nor that we should be justified in restricting trade, as I believe we should by trying to insist upon all imported goods being sold at fixed rates, such as would be considered by a Board, after inquiry, to be reasonable. But I do say that the public generally, who have to pay for the protection afforded our manufacturers, have a right to insist upon those manufacturers “ playing the game “ by them, by supplying their manufactured articles at what is considered to be a reasonable price. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, in the first part of his amendment, proposes practically to deal with the regulation of prices in the way proposed by the Bill as it stands. He speaks of obtaining “ adequate guarantees for the primary producers and consumers generally that they can obtain locally-manufactured articles or goods at reasonable prices.” That is, in effect, what the Bill proposes to do.
– We have no guarantee that that will be done.
– The purpose of the amendment is really to do that which the Bill already proposes to do. Whether or not the means provided in the Bill will bring about the desired result is quite another question. The only remedy proposed is the reduction or abolition of the protective duty applying to goods in respect of which an unreasonable price is charged. The honorable member for Maribyrnong does not set out in his amendment what he would do to insure that primary . producers and consumers shall obtain their goods at reasonable prices.
Mr.Fenton. - The honorable member would not expect me to do that in an amendment.
– I admit that it would be scarcely possible for the honorable member to set out in his amendment what his remedy would be. That being so, it would be necessary for me to see the measure he proposes to introduce before I could say whether or not the remedy proposed by him would, in my opinion, be effective.
– He would, at least, provide the remedy of abolishing the duty, plus something else.
– In my opinion, the abolition of the duty is the only remedy the honorable member could put forward, and, therefore, I think his amendment is unnecessary. I do not know to what extent he expects the House to go to insure an adequate guarantee to the consumer that he will secure his manufactured goods at reasonable prices. Everything depends, of course, upon the interpretation of the word “reasonable.” Coming to the second part of the amendment, we find that it refers to “ tho securing of proper wages and conditions for those employed in protected industries.” I admit “that this Bill does not attempt to regulate the conditions obtaining in protected industries. In that; respect the amendment goes very much further than does the Bill. I take it that the honorable member, in referring to a guarantee that the consumer shall obtain his goods at a reasonable price, means that he wants to insure that the prices of our manufactured products shall be fairly cheap. He wants the wages of those engaged in the protected industries to be very much higher; he wants the employees to have better conditions and shorter hours; and, at the same time, he desires that the consumer shall get his goods at lower prices. I do not know how it is possible to have shorter hours and higher wages and at the same time to have lower prices.
Mr.Fenton. - What I desire is that the profits, instead of going into one pair of pockets, as at present, shall be shared by the manufacturers, their employees, and the consumers.
– In all probability, honorable members opposite, with myself and others on this side of the House, are in agreement on that point, otherwise we should not be supporting this measure. If we are going to protect industries to such an extent as to build up in this country huge monopolies and give them absolute control of prices, then we are overdoing the policy of Protection. We have relied upon the possibility of having such a measure passed as would insure that our
Protective Tariff would not only be effective in the encouragement of industry, but also that users of manufactured goods would obtain them at reasonable prices. So far, all honorable members are in agreement that that should be the ideal. It is only upon the question of means that honorable members differ. If the proposal contained in the amendment is to fix prices I am not in agreement with it, because I am of opinion that price fixing -, cannot be done with satisfaction. -The. public do not desire it. Our experience during the war was anything but satisfactory to the consumer. -Price fixing by a State or by a Board or by any other authority has failed. The system as a system has been discredited. Even if it were possible to ascertain’ what was -a fair and reasonable, price at which to sell a commodity, it seems to me that the price, when fixed, would not give satisfaction.
– Is not the price of sugar fixed now ?
– It is, and who can say that it has given satisfaction to the consumer ? Any attempt to fix prices merely intensifies the evil. The effect of fixing the price of sugar was to increase the cost.
– Some one fixes the price of everything. The question is, who should ?
– What we need is free and open competition, and plenty of it.
I am interested particularly in the constitution of the Board and in the action likely to be taken by the Government upon receipt of a report from that body. Some criticism concerning this matter , of procedure has been offered by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and the Minister (Mr. Greene) has given an assurance that should there be anything unsatisfactory in the verbiage of the clause dealing with the procedure it will be amended. It is proposed that the Board, after making due inquiry, shall report to the Minister. Parliament should take action, and not the Minister. I am not willing to delegate to the Minister any more powers than he possesses to-day. I am not sure that I would not withdraw from him some of the powers given under the Customs Act. It is not sufficient for the Minister merely to lay the report upon the table of Parliament. Parliament should be able to deal with such questions as reductions, or increases, or the abolition of, duty.
– It will have to 3o so; there is no question about that.
– I am glad to have that cleared up. It will be agreed that the constitution of the Board is allimportant. The honorable member for Balaclava has suggested that the projected fees will be quite inadequate to secure the very best men, I hold that the members should be paid fixed salaries. The whole of their time will be occupied by their duties. With regard to the constitution of the Board, I agree that an officer of the Department should be its chairman; but, in the selection of other members, I hope that whatever Minister or Ministers may have to make the appointments from time to time, they will not allow their own views or policy- namely, as between Protection and Free Trade - to influence them. It is well that the Minister for Trade and Customs should bring before Parliament a Tariff so framed as to conform with the policy publicly announced by his Government; but, when it comes to a matter of selecting the -personnel of the Board, prejudices’ in either direction should not be given rein. Any one who has been associated with an organization advocating a Protectionist policy should not have a seat as a member of the Board any more than an individual who is a well known advocate of Free Trade. I am not one who believes that, simply by offering high salaries, the best brains are to be secured. First of all, men of character are wanted, men of natural ability. The mere fact that a man has been successful in business will not necessarily fit him more fully than any other to sit upon the Board. It is likely that a man who has had some experience in varied “branches of industry will prove more valuable than a successful business specialist. I believe that the Board will be able to give to the Minister and Parliament information which will prove very helpful upon occasions when the Tariff has to be revised. I do not expect that the Board will do everything that is desired, but it is an attempt in the right direction. While I sympathize with the objects of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), I cannot support his amendment, because I think that it would be ineffective.
.- It seems to me that if’ we were to have a Tariff Board it should have been before the Tariff schedule was discussed. When we were considering the Customs and Excise Tariffs every manufacturer in the country placed information before us, and it was impossible to know what figures were reliable and what were not. Members, however, received information from all sources, and had to judge of its value as best they could. The proposed Board, apparently, is to do what each member did for himself during the Tariff debates. It is going to collect information on Tariff matters, and this information will be placed before Parliament; but it will remain for members to discuss the pros and cons of every proposal, just as they have done recently. Should a Board be appointed, I think it will not be wise to pay its members at the rate of £5 5s. a sitting for working intermittently. The members of any Board should be independent of manufacturing and business interests, so as to be able to deal with matters without bias or prejudice, and for such men the proposed remuneration would be insufficient. It will be necessary to appoint to the Board, should a Board be constituted, reliable men, who. will be paid decent salaries; but I see no need for a Tariff Board at all. Clause 14 requires the Minister - to refer to the Board for inquiry andreport any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection’ afforded to him by the Tariff. It will be very difficult to say when a manufacturer is doing that. Who is to determine what is an unfair profit? A manufacturer possessing, a large plant, and having a big turnover, may, if his management be good, be producing at a very much lower cost than another in a smaller way ; but could it be said that the smaller man was charging too much because the larger man was making a good profit by charging the same prices for his goods? Besides, it is often not the manufacturer, but the middleman, who makes the big profits ; . and there seems to be nothing in the Bill to prevent the making of profits by the distributor. In the past, many of our woollen mills have sold their output for a term of years at specified prices, giving, of course, a fair profit. But theFlinders-lane merchants, who have purchased the goods, have charged very high prices for them, and have made much bigger profits than the manufacturers. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent that sort of thing. The Bill does not go far enough to protect the consumer of locallymanufactured goods, andI cannot see how he is to be protected. We have had one set of lawyers declaring that this Parliament possesses certain powers which enable it to fix conditions of manufacture, and another set declaring that it has not those powers, so itis hard for a layman to make up his mind as to the constitutional position.
– Is it not time that the question wastested?
– I think that it has been tested, and that the High Court has declared that we have not the necessary powers. The penalty provided by the Bill for taking undue advantage of the protection afforded to an industry is the removal or reduction of duties; but that does not prevent the middleman from, charging what prices he likes.
– There is nothing in the Bill to protect those employed in an industry.
– Members opposite seem to have worked to secure for themanufacturers the highest profits possible, and there must be some understanding behind their policy. The members of the Labour party did all that they could to- place the highest duties on everything that the producers of the country have to buy, and now the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and others are exercised in their minds as to what further action they should take.
– On what side are you going to vote?
– I shall oppose the Bill, because I do not think that it can be effective; If it would prevent the charging of undue profits, I should support it; but I do not think that it can do that. The honorable member for Maribyrnong asks for adequate guarantees for the primary’ producers and consumers generally, so that they may obtain locallymanufactured goods at reasonable prices; but how is he going to bring that about ?
– How do farmers fix prices now ?
– A farmer has to sell in the world’s markets.
– You fix the prices of butter and of: wheat.
– No; the various Governments have done that in making purchases in the open market.
– Does the honorablemember say that the producers companies do not fix the price of butter every week ?
– The price of butter is not fixed. . I am altogether opposed to the fixation of prices. There has been too much of it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), when Minister for Trade and Customs, was the first to fix prices. He prohibited the export of butter except at a certain price, and thus showed what interest the Labour party has in the primary producers.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there is no way of giving adequate guarantees for securing that the primary producers shall obtain locallymanufactured articles at reasonable prices ?
– I cannot see how that can be done, and it cannot be done under this Bill. The honorable member for Maribyrnong wishes also to secure proper wages and conditions for those employed in protected industries. , Why does he not say, “ to those engaged in them. “ ? Is it only ‘the working man who is to have a fair deal?
– We desire a fair deal for all.
– Remembering the honorable member’s attitudeon the Tariff, I should like to know why he moved this amendment, if it be not that his conscience is pricking him?
– It gives effect to what has been our programme for the last ten years.
– When the honorable member’s party was in power, and had an opportunity to place on the statute-book legislation of the kind he now advocates, he did not move in this direction. Why did he not raise his voice then in favour of it, and see that laws were passed to give effect to it?
– So we did. An Act was passed which the High Court held to be invalid; but we say now that that decision has been altered.
Mr.GIBSON.- If that legislation was invalid, similar legislation passed to-day would be invalid. What was wrong then cannot be right now. I should like to know how the honorable member for Maribyrnong will insure to the farmer a reaper and binder at a fair price? Mr. McKay has put down a plant at a cost of something like £50,000. Is the fair price of a reaper and binder to be determined in accordance with his manufacturing costs? Because it may be that other firms could manufacture more cheaply.
– Do you think that you are paying a fair price now for these machines ?
– The present price is unfair.
– Then it should be reduced.
– Yet the Anti-dumping Bill insists that importers must charge a 20 per cent. profit, otherwise such goods will be classed as “ dumped.” If it had not been for the definite promise made to Mr. McKay two years ago, we might now be getting a reaper and binder for £80 instead of having to pay £103 for one, and this under a 10 per. cent. Tariff, while under the 45 per cent. Tariff, . a binder will cost us about . £130, while the Canadian farmer can get a similar machine for £60? I cannot see that the Bill will benefit in any way the purchasers of articles manufactured in this country under the Tariff.
.- I rise, with pleasure, to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). I indicated in my earlier speech that I was very disappointed with the provisions of the Bill, in that they did not carry out the assurance given by the Minister in the earlier stages of the Tariff discussion that steps would be taken, within the legislative power of the Commonwealth, to insure that consumers and primary producers would be able to purchase locallymanufactured articles at reasonable prices, and also that adequate wages would be paid in protected industries. I thought I made my position quite clear, but, in view of the speech just made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), I shall recapitulate briefly what I conceive to be the position in regard to the Tariff. As a Protectionist - and I claim that no policy but Protection is sound for this country - I pointed out that it is the duty of Parliament, which has control over the imposition of Customs duties-
– The honorable member should have listened to the speech made to-day by a member of his own party in another place.
Mr.RYAN. - I do not wish to listen to the speeches fn another place. I desire to reason this question out from bedrock principles, and not by means of catchpenny arguments. For a country like Australia a protective policy is necessary. By no other method can we make this country great and self-contained. If we fail to realize the necessity for making it self-contained, which can be done only by a policy of Protection, we have utterly failed to learn the lesson of the war. If anything has been driven home to us by the war it is that a community must be able to produce, within its own borders, all things necessary for the carrying on of the community, and must not be dependent for supplies upon markets overseas. If Australia had been dependent upon overseas countries for everything she required during the war she would have been in a very bad position. But, as a corollary to a policy of Protection, it is necessary that Parliament, which imposes that policy, shall follow it to its logical conclusion and insure, so far as lies within its power, that the consumers and primary producers receive their manufactured requirements at reasonable prices. Surely no one can cavil at that policy. The Minister has failed, in this measure, to bring forward proposals that will protect the primary producer by insuring that he will get his machinery at a reasonable price, or that will insure proper conditions for those engaged in protected industries.
– The honorable member wants to guarantee the wages of the industrialists. Will he guarantee the wages of the primary producer?
– I desire to guarantee’ that he should be protected in regard to the price he pays for articles manufactured in* Australia.
– How would the honorable member arrive at a fair profit?
– If the honorable member says that he cannot arrive at a fair profit and that we can do nothing, that is the end of the matter so far as he is concerned. I say we can do something, and must do something, otherwise we have no right to be here. If we can do nothing, we might as well hand over our guns.
– There is a set of lawyers on one side saying that we can do nothing while the lawyers on the other side say that we can d/> something.
– Something may be said for those who contend that there is no constitutional power to act, and also for those who contend that there is such power, but nothing can be said for those who merely criticise and say that we can do nothing. T submit that we can do something, and that it is our duty to do it. I congratulate the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) and the other honorable members who spoke from this side of the House upon their clear exposition of the law in regard to the power of Parliament to act in this matter. They have dealt very fully with the interpretation of the Constitution by the High Court in 1908, and recently in the case brought by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers against the’ Adelaide Steam-ship Company. It has been clearly demonstrated that the High Court, as at present constituted - Chief Justice Sir Adrian Knox, and Justices Isaacs, Higgins, Starke, Rich, and Powers - has definitely decided that the doctrine on which the Barger case was decided in 1908 is now exploded, and that the Commonwealth Constitution must be decided according’ to. the principles laid down by the Privy Council in the case of Webb v. Outtrim and according to the meaning of the plain language contained in the document.
– It is possible for the High Court to give two different decisions a.t different times.
– That is a fact that the honorable member need not have come into Parliament to learn. But to-day the Court is composed differently from what it was in 1908, and its recent decision definitely overrules former decisions by a majority of the High Court’. Those decisions which interpreted the Commonwealth Constitution in a narrow way represented the views only of a majority of the Court, namely Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir Edmund Barton, and Mr. Justice O’Connor; Justices Isaacs and Higgins always dissented from that view.
– The Judges who constituted the majority were three good men.
– I have nothing whatever to say against them. They were three very able men and three good Judges. If I were discussing them I would have nothing but the highest encomiums to pass upon them. But I am dealing with the decision’s of the Court in an abstract way, and I say that a full Bench of the Court as now constituted has decided that the doctrine upon which the decision in the Barger case was based is now exploded, and that for the future the reasoning applied by those three learned Judges shall not apply. Therefore, I contend that we have power to legislate on lines similar to the Excise Tariff Act which was held to be invalid in 1908, and, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), to pass legislation similar to the Sugar Excise and Bounty Act, which, as honorable members know, was passed in order to secure the employment of white labour in the sugar industry in Queensland and abolish the employment , of coloured labour. So much for the power of this Parliament. It does not rest with me or with the Minister or with members in the Corner to decide the matter, but the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), speaking as a member of the legal profession from the Government side of the House, has admitted that the arguments adduced by laymen on this side of the House are nearly conclusive. Even he is nearly convinced - I have no doubt that he is actually convinced, but will not admit it - that the contention from this side of the House in reference to the power of this Parliament is conclusive. Then, why not take a step, by means of effective legislation, or what will be effective legislation if it is passed, to carry out the objects I have indicated, namely, to secure to the primary producer his manufactured articles at a reasonable price and to also secure, what was the object of the Excise Tariff Act, the payment of proper wages and the observance of proper conditions in the manufacturing industries? It is our duty to exercise what we conceive to be our power, and have the question as to the existence of that power decided by the High Court, which will be uninfluenced by anything said on this side of the House, or by members on the Government side, or by honorable members in the corner.
– The -Court’s decision is an invitation to us to do so.
– Exactly. It is admitted that the Bill brought forward by the Minister does not profess to do anything to secure proper wages and conditions for those employed in the manufacturing industries. The Government did not set out to do that. It is admitted, also, by a majority in the House that there is no effective provision in .the Bill to insure that the primary producer should secure manufactured articles at reasonable prices.
– How are wages to be fixed in the primary industries?
– I am just coming to that. It has been suggested that no honorable member on this side’ of the House has shown how this system can be carried out, and that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has moved an amendment without having any idea as to how it can be made effective. In other words, honorable members in the corner say that we can do nothing, and that our talk is so much make-believe. I shall address myself to that aspect of the case, and show how something can be done. It is admitted, and it is common ground, that if this amendment is carried there will still remain only the remedy proposed in this measure, namely, the power to reduce or remove the duty upon any protected article. But the honorable member for Maribyrnong proposes to go further ; he wants, not only the remedy provided in the Bill, which, after all, is ineffective, but also to place upon the statute-book provisions which will, be effective in compelling the observance of certain conditions in the industry and the vending of manufactured articles at reasonable prices. For illustration, I need only refer to the Sugar Excise and Bounty Act. That measure provided for the payment of an excise duty unless certain conditions were complied with. Parliament there said, as it did in the Excise Tariff Act, “ If you do not sell your manufactured article at a reasonable price, to be decided by a competent and independent tribunal, or pay a decent wage to your employees, you will have to pay an Excise duty.”
– The honorable member is not quite right.
– Will the honorable member explain to me wherein I am wrong ?
– Excise was leviable on all sugar made in .Australia, and then Parliament gave back a bounty on whitegrown sugar.
– That is exactly the same principle. I was referring to the Barger case.
– Barger’s case involved a different principle.
– The same principle applies.
– In Barger’s case the Excise was to be paid ; but there were exemptions on complying with certain conditions.
– That is a different thing.
– But the same principle applies. The Minister may say that it does not; hut I am glad to see nods of assent from honorable members opposite, who do not agree -with me politically. The same principle applied in the case of the Sugar Excise and Bounty Act.
-It is a different principle.
– Not at all; the result was the same. Therefore, by the exercise of the Commonwealth power of taxation, itcan be so arranged that an Excise duty is payable; but an exemption may be made in the case of those manufacturers who supply their manufactured article at a reasonable price to the primary producer. Is that not a way in which it can be done? Does any one question- do the members of the Corner party question - that it can be done in that way? Unless the amendment is carried it will not be possible to put in this Bill any such provision. If we do not take the present opportunity to deal with the matter, we shall not have another.
– To ibe logical, the honorable member ought to go further, and fix the prices at which all other products shall be sold.
– I am going just as far as is necessary for the case before me.
– I do not propose to wander all around the compass, but to confine myself to the distance I can go on the subject-matter with which I am dealing.
– That is the “nigger in the pile,” is it not?
– There is no “nigger in the pile.”
– You would limit the price at which the article is sold?
– I would limit it to a reasonable price. I, however, would not decide that, but would have some tribunal or board, if honorable members chose - some competent and capable body.
– This Board can only recommend to Parliament; it cannot fix prices.
– That is all the Board can do ; and it is for that ineffectiveness that I condemn the Government, and also condemn honorable members in the Government corner for not being prepared to do something effective. Only the adoption of this amendment will enable somethingeffective to be done.
– After all, “Codlin’s their friend.”
– The subject is too serious to be passed off in that way. What I wish to impress on my friends in the Country party is’ that this amendment is moved for the purpose of doing something effective in the interests of the primary producers and others who come within its ambit.
– When the price of wheat, say, is very high, the Board would have power to bring it down to a reasonable limit; do you suggest that?
– I have not suggested anything in regard to that, but have confined myself to the amendment.
– I am speaking of the amendment, and I ask what would the Board or the Government do if the price of the product fell below the cost of production?
– Need I assure the honorable member at once that I do not think that the Government will do anything likely to be in the interests of the primary producer. That is what I have been trying to impress on the House all the time.
– That is why the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) likes us; he knows jolly well the Opposition would not do so!
– I am not concerned with whether the honorable member would prefer the present Government or a Government from this side. All I am concerned now with is the welfare of the great body of the people who have sent us here, and whom, at some stage, we have to face and ask for a renewal of their confidence. I am just reminded that, as I have often said, I am entirely in favour of the primary producer getting a fair return for his labour.
– How are you going to give it to him when the world’s market price is below the cost of production?
– How do the honorable member and his colleagues propose to do it now? Our friends opposite, who say that they represent the farmers, admit that they can do nothing. However, I do not wish to be drawn away from my purpose, and that is toendeavour to show that the amendment is the only effective way of achieving the objects we have in view. This Bill is, a milk-and-water affair - a stave-off affair, which puts a fetter upon the Minister. One of the Government supporters has said that this Bill will be useful when the next Tariff is before us; but goodness knows when that will be! . .
– Not before the next elections !
– In the meantime it is proposed to build up another Department, involving more expenditure, which the taxpayers will have to provide. We go on creating Department after Department to no good purpose whatever.
– Would the amendment, if carried, do away with the Tariff Board?
– The amendment would make the Bill effective,, and not necessarily mean a Tariff Board, seeing that the Minister, at the present time, nas all the powers proposed to be conferred on the Board, and- can,, use the Tariff branch, of the Customs Department to make . all the necessary inquiries. The Commonwealth - has carried on - for all these years without any necessity for this Board: and why this sudden proposal, after we have passed the Tariff - after, the time has gone by when the information could be utilized ? This is a make-believe Board. .
– Order ! The honorable member ‘has already spoken on the Bill, and must confine himself to’ the amendment.
– I refer to the Mill only so far as it is connected with- the amendment, and I am showing that the amendment will turn a make-believe into a reality. If - honorable members will not take this opportunity of doing something really effective, they will . have no further opportunity. The members of the Coun- try party cannot introduce a Bill and pass it, nor can we on this side; .we- can do nothing until; our friends on the Treasury bench bring forward a measure which we may amend, or re-cast. I repeat, that if we allow this -opportunity to pass, the chance of assisting the primary producer is gone. I hope that ‘honorable- members will bear that fact in mind, and realize their responsibility when we come to vote.
.- We have had many Boards and many Commissions to. deal’ with the -Tariffs, and what has ‘ become of them ? The ablest
Royal Commission that I think was ever appointed by the Federal Parliament was that which dealt with the Tariff in’ the first years of Federation. I am sure that the Leader of the House (Sir Joseph Cook) will bear me out when I say .that that Commission appointed by both Houses was one of the ablest bodies of men that ever took evidence throughout Australia. The evidence taken was exceedingly valuable, and a Tariff Bill was introduced by the late Sir William Lyne not very long after the report was published, although that gentleman did not give effect to any one of the recommendations therein. We have had Boards and Commissions dealing with Tariffs and price- fixing ; and now it is proposed to ‘ appoint another. The idea is to appoint three men, who are to be the judges of all the industries, all. the company operations, and all the industrial life of this country. Why,’ it is a positive farce! Supposing the members of this Board start out with an. investigation regarding harvesters - and they could not start on a much better commodity - by the time they have taken evidence and threshed it out, and presented their report to the ‘Minister, they will have had to start another investigation in an entirely opposite line of activity. It is expected that three men chosen by the Minister will be experts on every conceivable subject under the sun. We have had’ a very good example of such expectations in- the case of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, where .a Judge was expected to be an arbitrator in the shipping industry to-day, and in the shearing industry to-morrow - was expected to have a full knowledge of all the industries, all the lines of demarcation between the different trade union*, and pf all the differences between capital and labour. It is too much to expect any man to become an expert in all the ramifications of our industrial life. And may I be pardoned for saying that the result of. some of -the Court decisions - I say nothing reflecting on the honour or capability of the gentleman in question - would, have been ludicrous if they had not been so serious. Now. we are asked to appoint a Board, one member of which is to be selected from the Administrative Staff of the Department, and the other two from outside, who are expected to deal withnall the phases of industry in Australia. This Board, T suppose, is expected to report to the Minister some’ time, on this side of the Day of - Judgment!
I object to any Government or Parliament trying to shirk its legitimate responsibilities. This Bill is a camouflage, an attempt to take away from the Minister the responsibility that is rightly his.
– I call the Bill a “makebelieve “ ; there is not much difference between us.
– We may call the Bill what we choose. There may be many amendments moved; and this reminds me of the story of the boy who took a mongrel pup to an old Dutchman, and asked him where he suggested the dog’s tail should be cut, whereupon the Dutchman replied, “ Shust behind de ears.” That, I think, would be the best way to deal with this Bill - cut it “ just behind the ears.”
– The honorable member surely got that out of Comic Cuts.
– I do not wonder at the right honorable gentleman being a little bit afraid, and just a wee bit ashamed, of the Tariff Bill that has just been passed; and I suppose that now the Government desire some way of removing the responsibility from their own shoulders. However, the House, in its wisdom, has passed the Tariff Bill, and now it is proposed to appoint a Board, one member of which has hitherto been employed in the Customs House wholly and solely in dealing with imported goods. Heaven knows that some of the decisions given in the Customs House regarding these goods are peculiar enough !
– I suppose the honorable member thinks he could have done the work a good deal better !
– I do not; I am not like the Minister, an expert on all the industries of. Australia. However, if I had had information supplied to me as copiously as he had, I suppose I should not have been a very much worse judge than himself. With all due deference to the Government Departments, I may say that the fact that a man is a first-class Government official sometimes invalidates his judgment in outside business matters. He has given the best years of his life to the Service, and we know that service in the Customs House is particularly restricted.
– That argument would apply both ways. He would know as much about the business of the man outside as the man outside knows about his business.
– But it is the man outside with whom the Government are proposing to deal.
– A Customs official learns a lot about the business of the man outside.
– But not much about the manufacturing industries of Australia. His attention is devoted to importations and the collection of duties in respect of them.
– Does the honorable member really believe that a Customs official does no more than that?
-I know that what I say is correct.
– I do not, and I have been at the head of the Department for nearly three years.
– Then what else do the Customs officials do?
– A great deal more. If the honorable member thinks they do nothing more then he knows nothing about the work of the Department.
– The honorable gentleman, of course, is the centre of the whole of the industrial life of Australia, but I tell him now that the Board which he proposes to appoint will give no better result than has been obtained from other Boards that have been created. Take the Inter-State Commission. We had on that Commission three exceedingly capable men. They held office for years, and I ask honorable members to point to one good result from their labours.
– Their reports have not been put into operation.
– Their reports have never been dealt with by the Parliament. Then, again, the Basic Wage Commission travelled all over Australia, its inquiries extending over a very considerable time, but what was the result of its report?
– It did some very good work.
– But what actual result have we obtained from its labours? We are now asked to repeat the same error. We are to appoint three gentlemen to this Board, and we propose to ask them, as experts, to advise the Minister and the Parliament on the intricacies, the expenditures, and manufacturing and labouring conditions of every industry in Australia. No matter how capable these men may be, the result of their labours will be exactly that which has followed the appointment of other Boards. “We have already too many Boards in Australia. There is too great a tendency on the part of the Federal Parliament to place on outside Boards responsibilities which rightly rest upon itself.
After these various Boards have sat for months - and in some cases for years - after they have taken evidence all over Australia, and drawn up reports at very considerable cost to the country, what happens? Their reports remain a dead letter. Not the slightest attention is paid to them by the Parliament, and they have no actual result. Very good reasons will have to be advanced to induce me to consent to the creation of any more Boards.
– Is the honorable member of opinion that this Bill cannot be made of any service?
– I believe it will not be of any service. On the contrary, it will be a source of irritation and annoyance. It will pester and worry people, and very often not the people whose business enterprises ought to be investigated. The Government propose under this Bill to appoint one Board to deal with all the industries of Australia. If honorable members were invited now to write on a slip of paper the name of the industry which they thought should be dealt with first of all, we should find that there was a very considerable diversity of opinion on that subject alone. Still, we are to have a Board, consisting of three men, who are expected to have expert knowledge of all the industries and all the ramifications of the industrial life of Australia. We have passed the Tariff, for good or for ill, and my contention is that we should stand up to it.
– That is what I think we ought to do.
– Then, I hope the honorable member will join with me in voting against the second reading of this Bill.
.- When the Tariff schedule was before us, I voted consistently for high Protective duties, with the object of establishing our industries on a sound footing, because the Minister (Mr. Greene) told us that the Government would bring in a Bill providing for the appointment of a Tariff Board which would remove anomalies and deal effectively with any monopolies that might be created to exploit the people. It was because of that promise that I voted consistently for a Protective Tariff. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.- Ryan) has pointed out, this Bill is very good, so far as it goes, but it stops short at the point of providing means for preventing manufacturers from charging too high a price for their protected goods. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) wants to go a step further. In effect, he says that it is all very well to take steps to prevent the manufacturer, who enjoys the benefits of a Protective duty, from exploiting the people, but we should follow up his goods and see that those who distribute them to the consumer do not exploit the public. It has been said that there are constitutional difficulties in the way of giving effect to the amendment. I am only a layman, but it seems to me that if it is within our constitutional power to prevent a manufacturer from exploiting the public, it should not be unconstitutional for us to go a step further and see that those who distribute his goods do not exploit the public. If we have power to regulate and control the prices charged by a manufacturer, we ought to have power to regulate and control those who sell to the consumer the manufactured article. The honorable member for Maribyrnong does not provide for more than that.
– He provides for a great deal more. The honorable member is firing only one barrel of what is really a double-barrelled gun.
– That is not so.
– The amendment applies only to locally-manufactured goods, so that imported goods would not be subject to any control.
– One thing ‘at a time. Surely a Tariff Board of three members specially appointed to inquire into these matters could do better than the Minister and his staff might reasonably be expected to do. They will have the” time and the capacity to gather more information than any honorable member who has to be in attendance here, and also to attend to the requirements of his district, could hope to collect on these questions. The Minister could not be expected to master the details of every industry in
Australia, and he is very rightly calling to his assistance a Board of experts who will help and advise him. Members of Parliament have a thousand and one things to attend to, and are quite unable to give up the whole of their time to. an investigation of what is being done in any one industry. The information which this Board will be able to furnish should be of advantage to the Parliament and the country.
– Does the honorable member say that there are no experts in this House?
– I do not. We have in this House men who are as capable of forming a sound judgment as are any to be found outside. The Minister would do well to accept the amendment, which is submitted in a friendly way from this side of the House.
– We already have one Arbitration Court; surely we do not want to set up another.
– The amendment does not provide for the setting up of a new Arbitration Court.
– It provides for an Arbitration Court, a Price Fixing Board, and a few other things.
– The amendment, if given effect to, would strengthen the hands of the Minister. We have been told that if, as the result of a Protective Tariff, an industry is well established here the price of its products will come down. The Minister has pointed out that one of the consequences of the establishment of the agricultural implement making industry in Australia is that the price of such implements is lower here than in other countries. Why do honorable members of the Country party object to this Board ? They say that the man on the land has to pay too much for his machinery. Here is a golden opportunity for them to secure redress. The Country party should be prepared to support the creation of this Board. Upon its establishment they could ask the Minister to call- upon it to inquire and report whether or not the prices charged for farming implements are unreasonable.
– We are not so simple as to expect this Government to set up a Tariff Board to harass the very people who have put them where they are.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that the Government are so dishonest 1
– I do not say they are.
– The’ Government are proposing, by means of this Board, to obtain the best information possible in regard to our protected .industries and the prices charged for their products. If the Country party think that Mr. McKay, for instance, is charging too much for his agricultural machinery, they should support this Board, which, if proof of overcharging were forthcoming, would recommend the removal of the Protective duty on such machinery. I fail to see why the Country party should not support this amendment.
We have increased the duty on picture films, and we are told by those who conduct picture shows that every week over 1,000,000 admission tickets are sold.
– I do not think that is so.
– They say that 67,000,000 tickets are sold annually.
– The year before last I think 95,000,000 entertainment tickets were sold.
– That is inclusive of theatre tickets. I am speaking only of picture shows. An amendment of the Tariff has been made, increasing the duty on films from 1½d. to 3d. per foot. The extra duty derived from this source will probably cost the people concerned £60,000 to £70,000 per annum. I understand that the intention is to put an extra Id. on all tickets for the “movies.” If that is done it will pay the tax and permit the picture people to pocket more than £400,000. If there were a Board constituted as I would like to see it, the added charge would be submitted to that body, and the public would thus be protected against exploitation. . I support the principle of the appointment of a Board, for its mere existence should have a tendency to keep prices down. But the Board should be given greater powers. It is stated that we cannot fix prices. But everything we buy has a fixed price. Some one, or some body, has put a < price upon it. Would it not be better for a Parliament-controlled Board rather than some secret combination to do so? This Parliament will not be doing its duty unless it tries to protect the consumer, the worker, and the manufacturer as well. The question has been asked, How can one fix a price on a falling market? We should fix a price that will not come down ; that is the ideal.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the price of wheat being 9s. per bushel?
– I am not in favour of the price of bread being what it is in view of the price at which wheat can be bought. The amendment would prove a step in the right direction, and I hope it will be made the law of the land. Certainly, nothing can be lost by its acceptance. I have the utmost confidence in the legal opinion and assurance given by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.. Ryan), than whom there is no greater constitutional authority in this Parliament. I urge honorable members to support the amendment.
– I am not prepared to support, the Bill in its present form. I believe in having courts of inquiry and in tribunals for the collection of public data. But the Government have been misleading Australia in sending three men upon jaunts up and down the country just to collect reports of which no notice is taken. The Inter-State Commission had practically the same powers as this Board will have. The proposal here is merely to resuscitate a body of which nobody took the slightest notice. The Inter-State Commission made valuable investigations, came to. invaluable decisions, and rendered reports of which no notice was taken. This Bill is merely misleading the people. If honorable members are satisfied with it they are not hard to please. There was much railing ori the part of members of the Country party during the course of the Tariff debate over the enormous prices which they were being forced to pay for implements by exploiting manufacturers, and they called upon the Government for some protection. They said, “ Protect us against the people who in the form of Combines, charge us what they like, and who, by private understandings among themselves and with our own manufacturers, exploit us right and left.” I said that I was prepared at any time, if the Country party were in earnest about the matter, to bring into operation the effective Protection set out in the platform of the Labour party. That is the only solution of the difficulty. While manufacturers are allowed to exploit the consumers there will always be the same difficulties. Not only have the farmers been robbed. The woollen mills are a very good example of what has been going on generally. These woollen manufacturers have robbed the people right and left. They have been merciless. Practically all the manufacturers during the past six years have absolutely robbed the people. The only difference between their methods and those of the pickpocket is that the one has been illegal and the other legal; and the former has been the worse form of robbery. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) proposes to give the Board certain powers. Ambiguous language is used in the Bill. Probably it has been so drafted on purpose. The Board may be asked to inquire into “ the fiscal and industrial effects of the Customs laws of the Commonwealth.” What does that mean but a close examination of the whole of the industrial affairs of the country? That would be an impossibility, and, therefore, the proposal is an absurdity. The Country party is now having the acid put upon it. If its members desire to protect country consumers, here is their opportunity. I appreciate their perplexity. I would suggest that they take early steps to get some of the farmers and settlers connected with the Law Courts to join their party, so that they may not continue at the disadvantage of having no legal opinion at their disposal on occasions such as this. The legal members of the Labour party have this to their credit, that they have been successful in the cases which they have taken to the Courts of Australia and of the Empire. Our Deputy Leader (Mr. Ryan) has been highly successful with cases beforo the Privy Council, which shows that his law is as sound as a lawyer’s law can be, though, with all due deference to him, that is not saying much. I have seen the legal profession upset decisions so often that I am afraid that I have not much faith in their interpretation of the law. After all, what is the law on a particular point is the determination at the moment of a body of men whose members are continually changing, and are, at best, subject to the failings of ordinary human beings.
– The final Court of Appeal is always right because it is the final Court.
– Yes; and rich litigants are often sorry that there is not another Court to appeal to, in the hope that on another toss the penny may fall head instead of tail for them. The Country party believe that this proposal is loaded. Its members think that the “nigger is in the wood-pile” ready to spring out on them, to confiscate their land and products.
– The Country party see that you have opened the door to commercial dishonesty.
– That is not so. We would say to whatever body or tribunal might be established, “ We have received complaints about the manufacture, distribution, and sale of reapers and binders. We wish you to make an investigation into the matter, calling the necessary experts to help you. If you find that the farmers are being exploited, we shall take action to prevent it, and to have a proper price fixed.” It would be absurd to have an investigation made, and then to say, “ Although our suspicions are proved to be well-founded, we are not prepared to fix prices.”
– The absurdity lies in the imposition of tremendously high duties.
– You say that you” wish to prevent the exploitation of the farmers and of the community generally, and we desire that fair prices shall be fixed to that end.
– Who would do that?
– Reports would be presented to Parliament, and it would be for Parliament to deal with them.
– What you want is anti-Trust legislation, and you should try to get it apart from this Bill.
– Wc are- hitting now not at Trusts, but at the many and varied manufacturing industries which are protected by the Tariff, which we wish to .prevent from overcharging the community. There are very few Trusts in Australia. Leaving out of account that which controls the tobacco business, and one or two others, there are none.
– This Parliament has not the power to fix prices.
– Quite a number of members have given the House dissertations on constitutional law, and I do not see why I should not do the same. So far as one can see, this Parliament has the right to impose a duty on any given article. It has also the right to abolish or reduce a duty, and it may withhold protection from an industry. Therefore, the threat of Tariff action where prices are unreasonable should be quite sufficient to do what is needed. That is not price fixing.
– The members of the Labour party are discovering that they have been taken down in connexion with the Tariff.
– No. As I told the honorable member before when he interrupted me with his interjections, if the members of the Country party were in earnest about protecting the producers they would join with us in compelling the Government to prevent the exploitation of the consumers. The honorable member and other members of his party have said that they will do all in their power to prevent that. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) said practically the same thing.
– We did not expect this double-barrelled amendment.
– You did not expect a proposal which would give you the protection for which . you ardently clamoured, but which you reject when it is offered. The members of the Country party cannot continue to sit on the fence. They must be with the Government and in favour of the exploiters, or with the Labour party against them. Every member of the Labour party went to great pains to make his position on the Tariff clear. We .said, “This Tariff does not suit us, but because we believe that Australia should be self-contained, we accept it until we can have it altered.” Every member of the party reiterated the statement that he stands for the effective protection which is a plank of the Labour platform. Failing that effective protection which will protect the manufacturer, the workman, and the consumer, we exercised our discretion in regard to Tariff matters. We were not a united party when the Tariff was being dealt with.
– You were not united on the explosives duties.
– No. But on a measure to provide effective protection our members would not be disunited. If a Labour government introduced a measure to give effective protection, no member of this party could vote against it. Every member of the Labour party has signed a pledge to support, advocate, and vote for effective protection, and could not remain in our party if he did otherwise.
– Does that include Senator Gardiner?
– He has signed the pledge, and ho man would keep it more loyally. We know of the exploitation that is taking place, and we see that this is a make-believe Bill. We realize, and apparently the Country party realizes it, too, that the Bill as it stands cannot do what the Minister says it will do. We have, therefore, offered our solution of the problem, and it has been rejected by the Country party.
– Where have you heard that?
– The honorable member for Wimmera is loud in his declaration against it, and the honorable member for Corangamite has declared against it, and we have been told that it is unconstitutional. Its constitutionality, however, could soon be tested, and would soon be tested were our proposals put into operation. If they are not put into operation by this Government, they will be put into operation by the next. There is just one other point. The members of the Country party are afraid that if we start to fix prices it will not be long before the prices of primary products are fixed by law.
– The sooner the primary producers go to the Arbitration Court and demand a living wage, the better.
– It is that that the Labour party stands for. We have a policy regarding primary production. We say that the man on the land and his family should be paid a fair and reasonable wage like any one else, plus a reasonable profit. It is possible to fix the remuneration for labour, and to lay down the conditions of its employment, and it is equally possible to fix the price of a bushel of wheat or a pound of wool.
– How can you fix the price of Australian primary products sold on the London market ?
– It is a good thing fox the farmers that effect was not given to the insistent demand for London parity.
– We have always had to accept London parity.
– If the farmers were getting London parity for everything they produced, and continued to get it, the primary industries would soon languish.
– Yes, under Protection.
– The Labour party, recognising the need for the primary industries, has made provision that they shall not languish, no matter what the prices of primary products may be in other lands. I shall vote against the Bill, because it doesnot carry out the promises of the Minister who introduced it. It would create a Board which would be without power, and which would have a mandate obviously too great to be carried out by any three men.
– The amendment has been moved obviously for political purposes rather than to convey an idea of anything practical that can be done by this Parliament.
– It is a plank in our platform.
– And obviously the amendment has been moved in order to carry out that plank in the platform. The amendment proposes that the Bill be- withdrawn for the purpose of immediately recasting and re-introducing it, so as to provide for -
The object of the Tariff is to secure the establishment within Australia of industries. Those who support the amendment say that their object is to regulate the sales within Australia of goods made in Australia. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) knows very well that this Parliament has no power to interfere at all with any sales within any State of articles produced in that State.
– It is time we got the power:
– I agree with the honorable member that wider powers are needed, but that is not the point. If a large manufacturing industry were established in New South Wales, where one-third of the Australian population lives, this Parliament has absolutely no power by any law it canpass to regulate in any way a single sale within that State of the products of that industry.
– The Minister is wrong. We can make the manufacturers pay an’ Excise duty unless they sell at” fair prices.
– The power this Parliament possesses over trade and commerce is set out in sui-section 1 of section 51 - “ Trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.” That limitation is an elementary fact, which everybody knows, and it is idle to lead the public to believe that this Parliament has power to interfere with any contract of 6ale made within a State. The utmost power we have in regard to commerce .within Australia is in respect of transactions between States. The honorable member for West Sydney must know that, in respect of sales within a State, we have no power of regulation under the trade and commerce provision of the Constitution, and that we have no Dower to fix directly or indirectly the price of goods sold within Australia.
– I did not advocate price fixing.
– I thought the honor- . able member did, but apparently honorable members opposite withdraw” the suggestion that we can give any guarantee in respect of sales of goods at reasonable prices. Then what .guarantee can we give?
– How was the Commonwealth able to fix the price of sugar?
– The sugar was bought and paid for by the Commonwealth, and is ours to do with as we please. In regard to paragraph b of the amendment, “ the. securing of proper wages and conditions for those employed in protected industries,” the only direct power which the Commonwealth possesses is the arbitration power, which applies only to disputes extending beyond one State. There is no power whatever to single out any protected industry within a State.’ Then we are thrown back upon the powers of taxation possessed by the Commonwealth by means of Customs and Excise. We cannot impose Customs duties, because these goods are not imported from abroad, but, are produced within Australia. Thus we are limited to the powers of taxation by means of Excise, and that brings us back to the decision in the Barger case, which still stands as the law of the Commonwealth. The High Court, judgment prohibits us from attempting, in the guise of Excise taxation, to interfere with industrial conditions, the regulation of which is reserved to the States by the Constitution. No one will seriously contend for one moment that we can attempt to legislate directly upon the industrial conditions within a State; that is distinctly reserved, by the Constitution, to the State authority.
– I do not admit that. The honorable member is begging the whole question, and indulging in special pleading for the profiteer.
– It is a. cheap method to suggest the profiteer in order to create a prejudice and prevent the true facts of the case being ascertained. Even though the honorable member may not admit it, he knows, in his heart, that what I say is. true.
– I do not.
– Can the honorable member point to any section in the Constitution which gives this Parliament power, by direct legislation, to create labour laws within any State?
– I can point to a specific section of the Constitution that enables its to carry out the purposes of this Bill.-
– The honorable member is unable to point to any section such as I have indicated. Anybody who has read the Constitution knows that my contention is correct, and we have been endeavouring, ever since this Parliament was established, . to overcome that limitation. Honorable members are now thrown back upon the one power of taxation by way of Excise.
– The arbitration power does give this Parliament authority to interfere with State laws.
– Only in respect of a dispute extending beyond any one State.
– That is always the case.
– It is not. This amendment asks for power to deal with the. conditions in every protected industry. A particular industry may be established in only one State, and it is not possible for a dispute in that industry to extend beyond one State. This amendment is only a political placard, designed to bluff the electors. The honorable member for West Sydney has said that, although it is true that the High Court held, in the
Barger case-and I speak feelingly, beeause I argued that case before the Court and endeavoured to sustain the power for which the honorable member is contending, but was overruled-
– Will not the Minister admit that the doctrine of implied prohibition, upon which that decision was largely based, has been overthrown by a recent decision of the High Court?
– The honorable member now uses the words “largely based.” When he was speaking he said that the doctrine of implied prohibition was the only ground upon which the decision in the Barger case rested.
-Ido not withdraw anything I said.
– The honorable member says that we should reintroduce legislation similar to the Excise Tariff Act, which was upset in the Barger case, and ask the High Court to reverse its previous decision.
– And I say that the Court would reverse it. .
– The honorable member bases that argument upon the decision in the recent case brought by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers against the Adelaide Steam-ship Company. In that case the Court laid down what it believed to be the rule of interpretation, and quoted from a judgment of Lord Haldane, which included the following words : - “ I think that the only safe course is to read the language of the Statute in what seems to be its natural sense.” The judgment of the High Court referred to other decisions of the Privy Council elaborating the principles of interpretation, and the honorable member for West Sydney argued that if the High Court will apply those principles of interpretation to the taxation power, it will wipe out the whole of the Barger judgment. I do not think the honorable member can have read recently the judgment in the Harvester case, or he would not make that statement. In that judgment the majority of the Court, namely, Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir Edmund Barton, and Mr. Justice O’Connor, pointed out very distinctly that in the guise of one form of legislation, namely, the taxing power, this Parliament could not invade the powers which are reserved to the States; that in determining whether a particular law is or is not within the power of the Com monwealth Parliament, regard must be had to its substance rather than to its literal form.
– But those men are all dead.
– I suppose that the greatest reformers the world has known are dead; and are we to infer from the honorable member’s interjection that everything they advocated is now unsound? I think the honorable member would have been better advised if he had listened to his Leader, who paid a just tribute to those three great Judges.
Mr.Cunningham. - I am saying nothing against the men.
– The Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, at the conclusion of the judgment in the Harvester case, said -
The foregoing arguments lead to the conclusions - (1) . That the Act in question is not in substance and exercise of the power of taxation conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament by the Constitution.
That is to say, the Act purported to be in the form of taxation, but in substance it was a usurpation of the power reserved to the States to regulate the conditions of labour. The next conclusion is -
At page 77 the Court said -
Afurther argument was founded on section 55, whichprovides that - “ Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.”
This provision seems to indicate that the word “taxation” was used in its ordinary sense, and not in a sense which would authorise the dealing with matters that would ordinarily be” dealt with in a separate Act. Such matters were to be dealt with by separate laws, as to which the competency of Parliament could be examined and determined upon independent grounds. The proviso in the Act in question cannot, of course, be regarded as “ of no effect,” for to do so would be “ to make a new law, not to enforce an old one.” But, since other provisions are forbidden to he inserted in a law imposing taxation, it follows that if such provisions are inserted, and if by rejecting them the Act would have an operation inconsistent with the expressed intention of the Legislature, the whole Act must fail of effect.
It was because this Parliament placed in the Act the provisions dealing with industrial matters that the Court held they were invalid, and could have no effect. The third conclusion was as follows: -
– What is the effect of the Amalgamated Engineers’ case on Barger’s case ?
– It does not affect either the first or second conclusion, but it may’ affect the third. The High Court in the Amalgamated Engineers’ case specially refers to those cases which are fundamental, and which have been overruled by it, and Barger’s case is not amongst them.
– There is a drag-net reference to all cases of implied prohibition.
– Of course; and the honorable member has admitted that it is not solely on the doctrine he referred to that that judgment is based. “Under the circumstances, I submit that this Bill is within the competence of Parliament, and does deal effectively with the matters therein referred to. In a case where a manufacturer does attempt to take undue advantage of the provisions of the Tariff, investigation may be made, and the remedy is with Parliament, inasmuch as Parliament can revise the whole sca’le of duties,, and remove the benefits that are being abused.
– The real remedy is to repeal the whole of the Tariff Bill !
– That suggests a man who cuts off his leg because he has a corn on his toe. It is necessary to have such cases as I have indicated properly investigated by an impartial tribunal, which the Bill creates.
– Why was this not done twelve months ago ?
– The fact that we did not do this twelve months ago is no reason why we should not do it now.
– The Government have put the” cart before the horse”
– No; the Government are hitching the horse to the cart. This Bill is an exercise of powers this Parliament possesses, whereas the amendment is simply a political placard with a view to leading the public to believe that this Parliament has powers that it does not really possess.
. We have been repeatedly told by honorable members opposite that the wording of this amendment is very cunningly de vised; in fact, it bears evidences that, though the “ hand “ is the hand of “ Esau,” the “ voice “ “ is the voice of “ Jacob.”
Mr.Fenton. - Who is Jacob?
– I think that honorable members opposite could very well answer that question. To begin with, what is this amendment?
– It merely crystallizes the platform of theLabour party on tho subject.
-The Labour party’s platform, especially on this question, resembles nothing so much as a patchwork quilt, which the housewife worksup by putting in at random any coloured patch that pleases the eye.
– The patchwork quilt serves its purpose all right .
– But never so well as a properly woven rug. It is a remarkable fact that, though the decision referred to was given fourteen or fifteenyears ago, the Labour party, which has been in office many times since, has never attempted to achieve the object they now profess to have in view.
– The constitution of the High Court has only recently been altered.
– The fact, however, remains. What we are offered by this amendment is nothing substantial, but simply a dream of the New Protection, to which I have yet to learn any honorable member in this corner objects; all that we say is that, under the Constitution as it at present stands, it is impossible. When it is suggested that there should be a Convention to remedy all the faults in the Constitution, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) is amongst the foremost in opposition. So far as the prices of primary productions are concerned, it seems to me that the stand taken by honorable members opposite is just one of arrant humbug. We are all rather suspicious of the words in the amendment, “ adequate guarantees,” as applied to the primary producers, because we find that when the world’s parity is greater than that which the Labour Governments of Australia think should rule here, action is taken by the Labour party to restrict the primary producers. As to the Labour party’s idea of fair prices, we saw, during last year, how butter was being sold in Victoria at 274s. per cwt., whereas the price in Queensland was 236s. ; and the same sort of thing may be observed in regard to nearly every primary product. What happened ? As soon as the price of wheat dropped this year a few pence below the guaranteed price, there was a howl of indignation,not merely from honorable membersopposite, but practically from all sectionsof the community. Consequently, I am very suspicious of the way in which these guarantees will be observed.
-If the honorable member will look up thedivision which took place upon the butter agreement, he will find that we stood for a higher price than did the members of the Country party.
– The party to which the honorable member belongs attempted to block an arrangement which proved of very great benefit to the butter producers throughout the Commonwealth.
– Perhaps the honorable member will admit that the butter which was vended in London by the Queensland Government upon behalf of the Queensland producers realized more than was realized by the Commonwealth for the Australian producers generally.
– Did the Queensland Government retain that money for its iown use?
– No; it distributed it amongst the butter factories.
– By means of a cunningmove, which has for its object the securing of one or two additional seats by the party opposite, we are asked to support a proposal which is admittedly an impracticable one. Recently we have heard a great deal about the attitude which has been adopted by the members’ of the Country party. We have been referred to as a sectional party. We have been told that honorable members opposite constitute the only party which represents every section of the community. I would like to direct attention to one word in the amendment which, as I have previously remarked, has “been very cunningly drawn. The amendment speaks of “the securing of proper wages and conditions forthose employed in protected industries.” It willbe notedthat it does not -mentionthose ‘ ‘ engaged “ in pro>tected industries. The dairyman who works his own farm, and the wheat-grower and banana-grower who work their own areas, will thus be excluded.
– We will accept the honorable member’s idea and substitute “engaged” for “employed.”
-Quite recently a book upon Australia has been published by a very able Parliamentarian, who has had many years of experience of every country in the world - I refer to Viscount Bryce. In that publication he repeatedly points out that the most sectional party which he has found anywhere is that which professes to represent everybody - the Australian” Labour party.
– We do not represent the capitalist.
– When was Viscount Bryce out here, anyhow ?
– He was here six or seven years ago, and he is one of the best informed men in the world.
– Will the honorable member quote the passage in which he makes the statement that has been attributed to him?
– Unfortunately, the library copy of his book has been taken away, but I will show the honorable member the passage iri question tomorrow.
– The honorable member cannot do so.
– The Country party is in no sense a sectional party. Itrepresents the inhabitants of every country district throughout Australia, and also - as has been proved in New South Wales - a great many of the metropolitan residents in addition. It takes into consideration the interests npt merely of the employer, but also of the employee; of the townsman, as well as the farmer - of every interest in the community.
Coming to the Bill itself, I regret that it comes a good sixteen months too late.
– Better late than never.
– There are some other objections which I have to its proposed constitution. The principle underlying it is a good one, and one which should have been operative long ago. Butto bring it forward at the tail endof the Tariff discussion is surely to put thecart before the horse.
– There was a good deal to be done, apart from the actual preparation of the Tariff in theHouse.
– I would like to show the use which a Tariff Board might have been to us had it been established sixteen months ago. A Tariff is important either for revenue purposes or for protective purposes. There is no doubt that the present Tariff has been imposed both for the purpose of raising revenue and also for the purpose of protecting certain industries. The Treasurer will admit that while it is his business to find the revenue which is required to carry on our Public Service, it is equally his duty to consider the effect which the method employed for raising that revenue will have, upon the lives of our people. Upon whether indirect taxation is levied in greater or lesser degree will depend whether our lands will be cultivated or merely grazed, how many people will live in the country, and how many in our cities, what industries -they will follow, and how wealth will be distributed amongst them. Taxation determines the whole of these things. The Prime Minister, at Bendigo, prior to the last election. very properly emphasized the need which exists for encouraging our secondary industries; but he laid no emphasis on the need for encouraging primary industries. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) in introducing this measure deplored the fact that in regard to Tariff matters generally, the information which is available is very inadequate. Throughout the whole of the Tariff debate the honorable gentleman enjoyed a .distinct advantage by reason of the fact that he alone, because of the activities of his officers, had exact and up-to-date information at his disposal. If last year, concurrently with laying the Tariff schedule on the table, he had submitted a Bill for the creation of a Tariff Board, one could have supported it much more readily, because it would have been of great value to every honorable member. The Board needs to be rather different from what the Minister suggests at the present time. I am glad to see that he proposes that its composition and its functions shall be strictly non-partisan. He suggests that the chairman should be an official of his Department, and, in my opinion, the aim of the Board should be to secure data which may be utilized by revenue Tariffists and Protectionists, by moderate Protectionists, or by Prohibitionists, but it should advocate neither doctrine. It should examine the effect of the Tariff rates from every angle. We have had a great deal of discussion as to the effect- of various Tariff rates on prices. No phase of the Tariff is more the subject of controversy than is its effect on- prices, and a governing body with power to demand information and facilities to cover a wide field could throw light on many dark corners of the Tariff controversy in this respect.
Under sub-clause 2 of clause 14 the Board is to investigate the industrial effect of the Tariff both on the manufacturer and the labourer, and also to investigate the relation of Tariff duties to competitive conditions.
– That i3 a rather big order.
– It is; and I am not hopeful of the Board being able to accomplish so much; but that, at all events, should be its aim. With information on those subjects we should have been able to approach many of our Tariff problems much better fitted than we were to solve them. It is admitted that the true principle of Protection in all protective legislation is the maintenance of such duties as will equalize the difference between the cost of production at home and abroad, and provide also for a reasonable profit to Australian industries. We have had no evidence on these points that we could regard as unbiased. We have been dependent entirely on evidence from biased sources. There have been numerous ex parte statements, but very little scientifically produced results. Quite apart from the operation of the ordinary Tariff, if we are to have the intermediate Tariff and commercial treaties between Australia and foreign countries, it is necessary that we should have some organization to investigate Tariff relations and to determine the effect of bargaining Tariffs and other economic alliances. Most Tariffs, and. our Tariff is no exception to the rule, are formed solely with domestic interests in mind, and the reciprocity and bargaining features are tacked on as an afterthought. It seems absurd at this stage to be fixing an intermediate Tariff in this direction, and we would have been more successful in our deliberations if we had had evidence of the effect of the Tariff on the various mandated islands and our territories, and had been able to promulgate a definite scheme that would enable us to retain a considerable portion of the island trade.
I do not think that the Tariff Board should be a report manufactory, but it 6hould be able to organize its files and technical staff in such a way as to give immediate assistance, not only to the Minister, but to the. House. In addition, it seems to me that the experience of other countries with regard to free zones or ports, and the desirableness of their establishment in a country like Australia, should be considered. Certain parts of Australia are almost inaccessible from other parts, and it seems to me that we should have evidence to enable us to determine what should be their Tariff relations with the rest of the Commonwealth.
– How would the honorable member get over the constitutional provision which prevents us from making laws with regard to trade and commerce which discriminate between States or parts of a State?
– If we found that we could not deal with that matter because of our constitutional limitations, such a discovery would impress upon us the desirableness of cutting up this country into workable areas, so that we might have sufficient lines of communication to enable those areas to be properly handled. There are some parts of this country which are so isolated that Customs duties which might be quite appropriate so far as, say, Melbourne, was concerned, would operate in them very harshly. For instance, let us consider the position of Broome, which is entirely removed from all manufacturing centres in Australia, and probably dependent for its supplies, to a large extent, on outside sources.
– Is the honorable member for or against the amendment?
– I am definitely opposed to it because I think it is impracticable. If I received an assurance that the Bill would be altered very materially in Committee, especially in regard to its provisions relating to the composition of the Board, I should be prepared to vote for its second reading, so that we might see what could be done to improve it in Committee. I should like, however, to see the Bill withdrawn and reintroduced at a later stage in the year, when we might expect to have a very much fuller debate upon it than is likely at present, when honorable members are promised that, with the Tariff debate over, a brief recess will soon be reached. For that reason, I would urge the Minister not to press the Bill at this stage. I suggest that he withdraw it and introduce it later in the year. The creation of this machinery is not of the most urgent importance.
-Does not the honorable member think that the Board should be created and proceed soon as possible with its investigations?
– What is still more important is that the Board should be properlyconstituted. We need to take care that it is composed of the most experienced and best-qualified men it is possible to secure. If at this time the Bill is not receiving the consideration it deserves, nothing would be lost by postponing it for two or three months, when a more matured consideration might be given to it.
In conclusion, I would refer, briefly, to the experience of the United States of America. The first Tariff Board of the United States of America was established by President Taft in 1909, when he appointed three Republicans as members of it. In 1911, two Democrats were added, so that the Board would not be of a party character. It immediately undertook the study of industrial conditions, and the cost of production, both at home and abroad. Its investigations were conducted scientifically, and were found to be of such value that a permanent Tariff Commission was established in 1917.- That Commission has not, merely revised and codified Customs administrations and laws, and Customs legislation, for submission to Parliament, but has also been able to do a considerable amount of research work and direct American capital into profitable industries, such, for instance, as the manufacture of dyes and. pearl buttons.
In the circumstances, I think that nothing would be lost and probably a great deal would be gained by postponing the further consideration of this measure for, say, three months. After the recess, we should be able to give it a more mature consideration than it is likely now to receive.
– The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) implied that I cast reflections upon the three lately deceased Judges of the High Court. I did nothing of the kind. My reason” for pointing out that they were dead was to show that there was a new set of Judges on the High Court Bench, and that the men who were dead would not be able to record their decisions in any future cases, whereas the -three men who had taken their places had recorded entirely different views. Since the High Court has the final say in interpreting the Constitution, I submit that it is worth our while to go to it and endeavour to obtain a decision from it. I am satisfied that if the Minister for Works and Railways had occupied the position of Premier of Queensland, he would never have taken a case to the Privy Council, and would never have won a case, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) did when he occupied that position. He took those cases to the Privy Council on appeal in the face of the decision of the Judges of Queensland, and of the opinion given him by the best legal authorities in that State. He took them to the Privy Council off his own bat, and won. The Government are evidently afraid that they would hurt their supporters by approaching the High Court on the lines suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr, Ryan), and outlined in the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton), which voices the platform of the Labour party.
– It is surprising that Labour Governments during the last few years, such as the Fisher Administration and the Hughes Administration, did not try what you are asking for now..
– The three Judges to whom I referred as being deceased have not passed away very long. It was of no use going to the High Court while they were there. J udges vary very widely in their opinions and points of view. Three of the High Court Bench, as itwas then constituted, decided in a certain direction, while two others, who. are still on the Bench, dissented from them,so that, after all, itwas, really only one man’s opinion that prevailed. The, humanelement enters largely into the decisions of Judges.In Queensland, they did not want to allow a Judge to sit because he was appointed by a Labour Government. It was the Lords of the Privy Council who upset their prejudices, and ordered that he shouldsit. I believe the men who are on the High Court Bench now would record a decision on the lines outlined by the honorable member for West Sydney. The members of the Country party say that they agree with the Government that nothing can be done. If people da not want to do anything, it is very easy for them to convince themselves that it is useless to move. ‘ These members, who are cqntinually accusing everybody else of adopting the go-slow policy, are going slow themselves so far as concerns taking any steps to protect the people of Australia. They rely upon stirring up prejudice against honorable members on this side of the House, and on ridiculing us in our honest endeavours to carry out the true intention of the Tariff.
– Does the honorable member say that no ridicule ever comes from his side to ours ?
– No ridicule that is not deserved. The object of the Tariff is to provide employment for people in Australia, and to provide us with those necessaries of civilization, especially when we are cut off from communication with other parts of the world. We cannot hope to have a great nation here if we are all farmers, and itis of no use to produce any one commodity solely. We are sending millions of money out of Australia every year to provide good employment for people in other parts of the world, thereby forcing our people to produce commodities that are hard to dispose of. Who will say that we do not produce more than five or six times as much wheat as we can consume? It is very hard to get rid of that wheat overseas. At the same time we are sending millions of money away to buy motor cars and other commodities that could be produced here. We send away millions of pounds worth of wool and import our finished woollen goods, and in connexion with that raw material we had recently an excellent example of how, when trade outside our own territory is dislocated, we may be left in an unfinancial position.
– Are you arguing that we should keep both the, wheat and the, motor cars?
– No, but it is necessary in addition to producing the wheat that wo should have the men here to make the motor cars and other manufactured articles and eat the wheat. We should not have to Bend it overseas to feed the men in other countries who make the motor cars, and pay them there, and then import the motor- cars here. In our own country we should have a bigger population and a more ready sale for our commodities.
– How many men would we require in this country to eat all our wheat while they are making the motors I
– I gave that simply as an illustration of how a great amount of energy is lost by the transportation of wheat overseas and the bringing back of commodities that could be made in this country.
– You talk about bringing people here and then howl against an immigration policy.
– The honorable member has no right to misrepresent us. We are not howling against an immigration policy. We are not against a sound immigration policy. I do not believe in bringing people here to parade the streets of the capital cities. I do not believe in bringing out men to go into industries where there are already ample supplies of labour. A New South Wales Government actually _ discharged Australians to find jobs for immigrants.
– There is room for any number of men on the land.
– But are men being brought here who will go on the land t Incidentally, the Governments are not providing for all the Australians who want to go on the land. We could settle the whole of % our present population on the land and have room for millions more; but, meanwhile, what would become of Australia’s secondary industries through everybody being on the land) Where would we be if we had not the secondary” .industries to fall back upon for the production of necessary warlike material with, which to meet an enemy f The object of this Tariff is to- assist the Australian manufacturer to employ Australians in turning out productions which can compete against imported foreign goods made in factories Where labour is cheaper. I think that the outcome of the Tariff will be the bringing into Australia of many millions of capital for the manufacture of necessaries for the Australian public. We cannot hope for large secondary industries if conditions remain such that the foreigner can undercut us in his prices.
– What objection has the honorable member to the BiU 1
– It does not go far enough; but the amendment has my whole-hearted support. Having given protection -to our manufacturers, it is our duty to see that the distributor and manufacturer between ‘ them do not exploit the consumer. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; -debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 July 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210713_reps_8_96/>.