10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Charlton) (by leave) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) on the ground of ill health.
– In this morning’s Argus the Prime Minister is reported to have said that this Parliament, if it thought fit, could limit the jurisdiction of the authorities it would appoint under the power to be conferred by a proposed amendment of the Constitution so that they could not fix hours outside a certain maximum and minimum. I should like to know from the right honorable gentleman whether, if he is correctly reported, it will be within the power of this Parliament, when appointing these authorities, to fix the minimum and maximum number of hours in any or in all industries ?
– I have not seen the report in the Argus; but I remind the honorable member that questions should not be asked to elicit legal opinions from the Leader of the Government.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That unless otherwise ordered, the House shall sit on each Tuesday at 3 o’clock p.m.; on each Wednesday and Thursday at 2.30 o’clock p.m.; and on each Friday at 11 o’clock a.m.
On two occasions recently it has been necessary for the House to meet earlier in the week than Wednesday, which under a Sessional Order is now our first day of meeting. Uncertainty as to the days of meeting renders it difficult for honorable members to make their arrangements, and as, during the next few weeks, the business to be dealt withwill render it necessary for theHouseto meet one day more a week, I think it best to have the matter settled definitely.
.- I do not know that it is necessary for the House to meet on . Tuesdays from now until the end of the session. Judging by the notice-paper, there is not very much business to be transacted during the next week or two. The Development and Migration Bill and the Judiciary Bill are the only two measures of importance to be disposed of, and it is conceivable that both can be dealt with in two weeks. The Treasurer will be fortunate if he has his budget ready for delivery by the second week in July. Of course, if the States Grants Bill is to be proceeded with it will take some little time ; but the Government would be well advised to leave in abeyance the proposal to deprive the States of the per capita grant. An attempt to give effect to it would endanger the chance of having the referendum proposals carried.It would certainly bring about a conflict between the States and the Commonwealth. I venture to say that very few people would stand behind the Commonwealth if it endeavoured to force the States to accept the proposal without affordingthem ample time to consider it.
– The honorable member cannot discuss that matter under cover of this motion.
– I am aware of that, but the honorable member does not happen to be now in the chair.
– I am aware that I am not in the chair; but I do not desire to have any less privilege than the Leader of the Opposition. If, under cover of this motion, he is permitted to traverse the merits of the Government’s proposal to deprive the States of the per capita grant, other honorable members may claim the same privilege. I ask, therefore, if he is in order in doing so ?
– The honorable member would not be in order in discussing the details of the proposal referred to, but I understand that he is merely making a passing reference to it to indicate the nature of the business now before the House. I assume that he will not discuss the details of any proposed legislation.
– I would not have proceeded further along those lines, because I realize that it would be quite out of order for me at this juncture to discuss any particular proposals of the Government. I should take no exception to the Prime Minister’s proposal if I thought it was necessary to meet on Tuesdays,but I see no reason at the moment for doing so. It will be three weeks before the budget is delivered, and the Government will not be able to proceed with the debate on its financial proposals until honorable members have had a reasonable opportunity of considering them. Therefore, we shall have at least a month in which to discuss the small amount of business now on the noticepaper.
– I offer no opposition to the motion, because I realize that the Government is the best judge of the measures to be submitted to Parliament, and of the time their discussion will take; I rise merely to ask the Prime Minister if he is in a position to indicate how long it will be before the House rises? Information on that point would guide us to some extent in determining the reasonableness of the present proposal.
– The matters which have yet to be considered by the House will require it to sit on Tuesdays for the balance of the session; but, should the optimism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) be justified, the House can alter the proposed arrangement. Honorable members are now asked to agree to meet on Tuesdays “unless otherwise ordered.” The Government will ask the House to consider several matters , that are not yet on the business-paper, such as the agenda-papers for the next meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations and the Imperial Conference.
– Including the Locarno Treaties?
– Yes. Time for the discussion of these important matters can be got only by meeting on Tuesdays. ‘ The Government proposes that the House shall continue in session until the beginning of August.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Referring to the notification in the Commonwealth Gazette of the 17th June, 1926, inviting applications for the position of engineer to take chargeof the Telegraph and Telephone Workshops, Sydney -
Is it proposed to abolish the position of manager of the workshops at present held by Mr. Clayton in an acting capacity, or is it . intended to fill the position of workshops manager, vice Mr. M. Thompson, retired?
In the event of the abolition of the workshop manager’s position and the appointment of an engineer, is it proposed to retain the positions of telephone and telegraph mechanicians?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Dr. MALONEY (through Mr. E.
Riley) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has his attention been drawn to the statement in Mr. Henry Ford’s article, published in the press, viz., that “ a ton of wood refuse produces £2,400 worth of tar, acetate of lime, &c, after treatment by Mr. Ford’s plant”?
If so, in view of the unending waste of timber and wood in Australia, will he request the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research toconsider the importing into Australia of smilar machinery and plant to that used by Mr. Ford?
– I have seen the statement to which the honorable member refers. The suggestion will receive consideration.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In regard to questions 1 and 2, the information desired will have to be obtained from the Sugar Board, which has control of the sugar industry. More precise particulars are desired as to what refinery is referred to. Information will be obtained in regard to question 3.
Dr. MALONEY (through Mr. E.
Riley) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the great amount of unemployment at present existing in Melbourne, will he have a list made out giving the names of the secretaries of all Commonwealth Departments at which men and women can apply to be listed for employment, and also the names of the officers who will register their applications ?
– Action is being taken to have a list prepared on the lines indicated by the honorable member.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
– Before dealing with the various requests made by the Senate, I remind the committee that no action can be taken by my department upon those requests until they have been dealt with by this committee. Immediately the requests have been approved or rejected, the Collectors of Customs throughout the Commonwealth will be notified by telegram to act accordingly, In order to save time and ensure uniformity in the application of the committee’s decisions upon the requests of another place, I move-
That any amendment made in the schedule of the bill by the committee shall have effect on and after the day following the day the amendment is made, excepting where the committee otherwise decides, or the contrary intention appears.
.- The Government has a majority in the chamber, and if the Minister would indicate his attitude towards the suggestions made by the Senate, that intimation would have practically the same effect as the proposed resolution.
.- It is quite improper for a former Minister for Trade and Customs to importune the present Minister to put himself in afalse position. Those who have been in charge of the Customs Department know that the Minister is adopting the correct procedure. It is far better to let the committee understand that when it acts the Customs Department can act.
– Others than the honorable member can read between the lines.
– I do not know what attitude the Government intends to adopt towards these suggested amendments, but whether it recommends to the committee their acceptance or rejection, and whether or not the committee adopts the recommendation, a resolution such as the Minister has proposed is necessary.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s request. - Leave out “ January, 1927 ‘”, insert “ October, 1926.”
.- The request of another place is that the deferred duty shall operate from the 1st October next instead of from the 1st January, 1927. I gave a pledge to this committee that the duty would not be applied until a . sufficient quantity of rennett of satisfactory quality was produced by local manufacturers. I repeat that pledge, and move -
That the requested amendment be made.
Motion agreed to.
Item 105- (aa) Piece goods, cotton, silk or containing silk, but not. containing wool, knitted, in tubular form, or otherwise -
Senate’s request. - Make sub-item (aa) read, “Piece goods, cotton, silk, or containing silk; artificial silk or containing artificial silk, but not containing wool knitted in tubular form or otherwise … (1) ad valorem, British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 15 per cent.; (2) other, ad valorem, British. 20 per cent. ; intermediate, 30 per cent. ; general, 35 per cent.
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) agreed to - to -
That the requested amendment be made.
Senate’s request. - Make sub-item (d) read -
(1) Artificial silk, or containing artificial silk, or having artificial silk worked thereon, except piece goods enumerated in sub-items (aa) and (f), ad valorem, British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The committee will notice that the item of real silk has been accepted by another place as it left this committee, but the duties relating to artificial silk have been altered. In regard to the possibility of developing the manufacture of artificial silk in the Commonwealth, communications have passed between my department and the Tasmanian Government, and some misapprehension has arisen. The Premier of Tasmania has informed me that his Government is seriously negotiating with a substantial firm to establish the artificial silk industry in that State. At present artificial silk yarn from Great Britain is admitted free, but if imported under the intermediate or general tariff is subject to a duty of 10 per cent. That is not sufficient to encourage the manufacture of artificial silk in the Commonwealth. On behalf of the Government I desire to inform the committee that upon receipt of satisfactory assurances that this industry will be established in the Commonwealth in a substantial way, the Government will, after due investigation and report by the Tariff Board, propose a deferred duty upon artificial silk yarn, to be brought into operation as soon as the bulk of the Commonwealth requirements can be supplied locally with an article of approved quality.
.- The requested’ amendment raises an important issue. For the first time it is proposed to differentiate between silk piece goods and so-called “ artificial silk.” Another place has acted with great wisdom in proposing this differentiation, although the duties suggested are not adequate to meet the situation. Under the 1921 tariff the duties on silk piece goods were - British, 15 per cent. ; intermediate, 15 per cent. ; and general, 20 per cent. The present tariff, when introduced to this committee, proposed that the duties should be 10 per cent., 12 per cent., and 17½ per cent., respectively. This committee amended the item by restoring the- general rate to 20 per cent. The Senate has accepted the duties agreed to by this committee, but has made a special sub-item of artificial silk, and suggested . duties of 15 per cent. British and intermediate and 20 per cent. general. It is time that this controversial item was discussed more widely, and the rates made higher than the Senate has proposed. The remarks of certain senators have been challenged by circulars delivered to honorable members of this chamber, and by letters written to the press by manufacturers, importers, and retailers. As a result a great deal of misconception has been created in the minds of honorable members and the public. The term “ artificial silk “ is a misnomer - a gross, deliberate, and farreaching misrepresentation, and it may be said with propriety that the use of misleading terms of this kind constitutes a fraud upon the public. The pure foods laws of the State Parliaments require that the public shall be informed of the nature and quality of the commodities it is buying. Similarly this Parliament should, to the extent of its legislative powers, protect the public as far as possible against misrepresentation and fraud. It is not contended that so-called artificial silk contains any real silk. It is the product of a secret process evolved by one firm in Great Britain, but I understand that its basis is wood pulp, associated with tin. It is inflammable, and when used for articles of attire may be dangerous. The United States Congress, whose powers to legislate in respect of trade and commerce are not limited as are the powers of this Parliament, declines to allow this manufacture to be admitted into the country under the name of artificial silk. This article in the United States of America is described as “rayon.” British traders associated with the wholesale and retail textile trades . have been deliberating for a considerable time as to whether the Commerce Act should operate in the same way, butso far they have not been able to agree on the term to apply to the article. They think that “rayon” is unsuitable; but their desire is apparently the same as that of America - to eliminate the word “ silk “ from the description of these goods, so that the public may know that it is not buying silk. The traders of Great Britain and America - countries which are doing an enormously larger trade in all articles of attire, and of fabrics generally, than this country - are not fools. They know far more about the business than we do, and the time has arrived when we should consider whether we should not compel the manufacturers of artificial silk to label it according to the character of its elements.
– It is labelled “ artificial.”
– And retailers cut short the word “ artificial,” and use the term “ art. silk.” Thus the public, in its endeavour to discover the truth, is misled more completely than if the word “ artificial “ were used. Some honorable members are more closely acquainted with the softgoods trade than I, and they can check the facts for themselves. The Commerce Act should be altered to give the Minister for Trade and Customs, or his department, power to insist that adulterated articles of this kind shall be described in a way that will prevent the public from being misled. One consideration that affects my judgment is that, although people may desire this article for its appearance - the sheen and beauty of its surface - it clearly competes, to the extent of its success in trade, with some of the commodities in which Australia is vitally and basically interested. I refer particularly to wool. There cannot be a wool man in Australia who. does not witness, with some degree of apprehension, the invasion by this trade, particularly in respect to women’s garments. In a newspaper recently I read a statement by one of the principal British manufacturers of male and ‘female clothing regarding the changes that have taken place in recent years in the habiliments of men and women. That manufacturer said that it takes two ablebodied sheep to clothe a man, but that one enterprising and vigorous silkworm can clothe a woman. . Not from personal experience, but from credible information, I believe there is some truth in that statement. As artificial silk competes with all articles of dress material, whether made of cotton or wool, it is quite plain that the more it is used the more it is likely to lessen the sale of our basic product, wool. The subject is well worthy of the consideration of the Government.
– The manufacturers of artificial silk goods say that they use a lot of wool.
– They do not dare to declare that to the public of Great Britain.
– They state it in their pamphlet.
– That pamphlet, by the way, was printed in Great Britain. Some information was given in the Senate about Courtaulds Limited, the British company which was established to make artificial silk by a secret process; but I should like to give honorable members some more explicit information on the subject. This monopolistic concern was in full operation during the last year prior to the war, and the first year for which I have been able to obtain figures is 1914. The profit of the firm in that year was £520,000. I do not know what the capital of the company was then, but it is now in the neighbourhood of £20,000,000. I have not been able to obtain the profits for 1915, but in the following years it was: 1916, £1,083,000; 1917, £1,170,000; 1918, £1,184,000; 1919, £2,280,000; 1920, £1,804,000; 1921, £1,684,000; 1922, £3,018,000; 1923, £2,916,000; 1924, £3,880,000; and 1925, £5,112,000. As a result of those gigantic profits it has been able to appropriate in the last three years the following sums to reserves : - 1922, £1,250,000; 1923, £1,400,000; 1924, £1,650,000. The total amount appropriated to reserves from 1914 to 1924 was £7,349,000.
– Are those the disclosed or the actual reserves?
– Those appropriations were made from profits. I know nothing of what the English law compels the company to disclose. I have worked out the procedure adopted by the company with respect to its share interests. The figures read like a fairy tale. I know of no commercial undertaking in this or any other country that is comparable with it. The richest gold mines that ever broke out in Australia, Africa, or anywhere else have not given anything like the result of this company’s trading operations. The shares have been watered on many occasions, and some of the figures I shall give. My calculations boil down to this - If a shareholder had bought 100 shares at £1 each in 1914, and held them until to-day, they would now be worth £4,905 to him. The rates of declared and paid dividends per annum, apart from watered stock and reservations , have been - 1914, 12J per cent. ; 1915, 20 per cent. ; 1916, 30 per cent.; 1917, 30 per cent.; 1918, 32J per cent. ; 1919, 40 per cent. ; 1920, 35 per cent.; 1921, 37$ per cent.; 1922, 67$ per cent. ; 1923, 90 per cent. ; 1924, 120 per cent. In the year 1919 the company doubled its ordinary stock by giving bonus shares on the basis of one to one, and in 1920 it trebled its stock, so that 100 shares in 1914 became 200 in 1919 and 600 in 1920. In 1924 it issued 400 preference shares for each original 100, therefore 100 shares in 1914 by that year became 600 ordinary and 400 preference shares. The valuation, according to the last English quotations, is £6 10s. each for ordinary shares, so that 600 of such shares are worth £3,900. The 400 preference shares at par, are worth £400, and the dividends received on the 100 shares amounted to £605. Thus the total return from the original £100 would be the sum of £4,905 which I have mentioned. That is equivalent to an interest of 4,800 per cent, or 400 per cent. per annum uniformly for twelve years. As one who has done some research into the effects here and elsewhere of trading operations, dividend paying, and share splitting, I say that not in modern commercial history has there has been anything so tragically successful as this undertaking. “When we are considering the fixing of duties and the influence of this business on our trade, we should not fail to remember that the benefit accrues to a gigantic world monopoly, the richest and most lucrative investment that this or any other country has ever seen.
– Did the company call up additional capital when it watered its stock?
– I do not think so ; there is no record of it. At the rate of profit disclosed, it did not need extra capital. It would not need even a premium on shares; it could just split them, and issue the necessary scrip. So far as my calculation of the present value of £100 invested in 1914 is concerned, it does not matter whether capital was called up or not. In the desire we all feel to assist British industries, we must be careful, in cases in which huge profits go to a small group of men, not to let our sympathy run away with our judgment. I think the duties suggested by the Senate are unduly low. I have heard from the Minister for the first time to-day that” there is a prospect of establishing this industry in Australia. I do not know how that can be, unless the right to manufacture under this secret process has been bought from Courtauld and Company by an Australian enterprise.
– Or the parent company may be opening up here.
– If the Australian business were a branch of the oversea company, I should be the better pleased. One effect of the 1921 tariff and subsequent amendments of it has been to induce a number of British manufacturers to establish enterprises in this country, thus providing work and wages for Australian workmen. To that extent the tariff has been of benefit; but if all the profits go to England at the rate of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. a year, and to one group of enterprising and successful investors, I feel less inclined to give a preference to
Great Britain than when the conditions of manufacture are competitive. We should not accept in its entirety the suggestion of the Senate. The Senate’s amendment fixes for artificial silk the three rates of duty which formerly operated against silk. Those rates are not unnaturally high. I doubt whether we should have lowered the duty for anything except British silk, in the hope that Great Britain might obtain a larger share of the trade in silk articles. If you would permit me, sir, I would move for an increase in the duties from 15 per cent., 15 per cent., and 20 per cent. to 20 per cent., 20 per cent., and 25 per cent. respectively. As it would not be in order for me to move such an amendment, I suggest that the Minister for Trade and Customs should do so. Such an alteration would effect a desirable check on this trade, and, to some extent, encourage the use of our Australian woollens for human underwear and overwear. It would also indicate that, no matter how satisfied the people who wear, these goods may be, we do not intend to allow trade, which is based on deception, to go unchecked in this country.
.- After listening to the remarks of the right honorable member for Balaclava. (Mr. Watt) on this matter, one is forced to the conclusion that the Senate has rendered good service in seeking to distinguish between artificial and real silk. It is enlightening to learn that the authorities will not permit artificial silk to be imported into the United States of America in any form that may deceive the people; and I submit that we should take similar action. I hold, of course, that we should do all we can to foster Australian industries; but we have no evidence that this is one; all we have in that regard is the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), that it is likely to be established. It would appear from the remarks of the right honorable member for Balaclava, however, that it cannot be established here unless certain patent rights are acquired.
– Or some knowledge of the secret process.
– It certainly does not follow that because we cannot manufacture artificial silk we should permit- those who can to make fabulous profits in selling it to our people. The profits of this company are staggering, and I, for one, am totally opposed to permitting such a monopoly to extract from the public more than a fair thing. At least, if artificial silk is to be permitted to come here, we should take some of the plunder for the benefit of our people. There can be no doubt that it is plunder, if the statement of the right honorable member for Balaclava is correct, and I have no doubt that it is. A move is on foot to establish the wood-pulp industry in Tasmania, and, as wood pulp is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of artificial silk, the company concerned in that enterprise may be able to acquire the right to manufacture artificial silk here; but, as things are, I support the suggestion of the right honorable member for Balaclava that the duties should be increased. Generally speaking, I am not favorable to imposing high duties on goods that are not manufactured or likely to be manufactured in Australia ; but we are entitled to do so on the goods, of a company like this. The balancesheet that has been referred to shows that a profit of from 100 per cent, to 120 per cent, was made by the company in ODe year. I regret that honorable members were not given sufficient information on this matter when it was before them previously; but, even though I may appear to be somewhat inconsistent, I intend to support the suggestion that has been made, and I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs will accept it.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) would not be in order in moving an amendment to increase the duties, but I shall treat his proposal as a suggestion to the Minister, who would be in order in moving in that direction.
– I doubted whether I would be in order in moving for an increase in the duty, so I merely suggested it ; but I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs will earnestly consider the representations that have been made, and himself move as I have suggested.
.- I am glad that the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) does not intend to importune the Minister, but I trust that his suggestion will be accepted. I take a wider view of the matter than the right honorable member, for I realize the effect that this trade is likely to have upon our great woollen industry. It would be against the best interests of Australia for this wool-out-of-wood industry to be established here at the expense of the real wool industry. I do not know whether we can by legislation affect the fashion for wearing this seductive apparel.
– How does the honorable member know it is seductive?
– The right honorable member’s illustration and arguments satisfied me on that score, but I shall not pursue that aspect of the matter further. It would be a serious thing for us to encourage anything that would adversely affect either wool production or manufacture in Australia. We produce in Australia wool in abundance that is not excelled in quality in any part of the world, and we ought to do everything possible to stimulate its manufacture here, We have established woollen mills in practically every State to manufacture the requirements of our own people; and I hope that honorable members will do all they possibly can to increase these manufacturing operations. If, having first class raw material here, the adaptability of our people is not sufficient, with the aid of modern science, to enable them to manufacture it to such a degree that we shall be able to export as well as supply our own requirements in manufactured goods, we should give up all claim to being a first class nation. Any attempt to stimulate a temporary fashionable trade at the expense of our great woollen industry would be madness. I welcome the suggestion of the right honorable member for Balaclava; and, in the interests of our great foundational industry, which so successfully tided the nation over its serious crisis a few years ago, I trust that the Minister will adopt it.
.- I also urge the Minister to accept the suggestion of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), but on different grounds from those of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). The world does not stand still in regard to the arts and sciences, and new materials are always being manufactured for general use. If, for economic reasons, our womenfolk have decided to use artificial silk extensively, I do not think that any storm of protest that the honorable member for Wannon and others who hold similar views may raise will alter things. It is a pleasure for me to walk along the streets of Sydney and Melbourne and see from 75 per cent, to 80 per cent, of our women and girls wearing beautiful silk or artificial silk stockings. Even girls who are earning only the basic wage can afford to buy artificial silk stockings, for they may be purchased at 4s. lid., 5s. lid., and 6s. lid. a pair. How many of us would like to go back to the fashion of, say, ten years ago, when even the small length of stocking that the prevailing fashion permitted us to see was of heavy texture, coloured black or navy blue. The figures quoted by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) give the surest indication that artificial silk has come to stay. It is asserted that the fortunate proprietors of the formula for its manufacture made in one year a profit of £4,500,000. They have exploited the whole of the world. Ladies of every nation use this material in stockings and other garments, and it is abo used in the manufacture of articles of clothing worn by men. Its manufacture will be continued, and the question is, whether we should allow it to be confined to England or should encourage or compel it to be carried on in Australia. By the proposed increase in the duty, we might impress upon the holders of the formula the desirability of establishing factories in Australia for the manufacture of artificial silk. I believe that its manufacture is a simple process. It would not be affected by our climatic conditions, and. while it requires no great labour, it is an industry that is eminently suited to Australia. The question may be considered from two points of view - that of those who believe that a high tariff is of advantage to the woollen industry of Australia, and also that of those who believe that the increased duty would lead to the establishment of an industry here to meet the requirements of the women folk of this country. Artificial silk is regarded by our women folk as necessary, and there can be no question that the articles made from it are beautiful. I have some ladies’ garments here, which are turned out by the Lustre Hose Company, of Sydney, at a price of 7s. Sd. each. Honorable members will notice the sheen and lustre of these beautiful garments. They are manufactured in Australia by Australian workers, under Australian conditions, hours, and wages. I have a sample, also of artificial silk, of tubular material piece goods, with a figured design, knitted in Sydney bv the same firm.
– That means that the yarn is imported.
– Yes ; but the piece goods are manufactured in Australia, and will compete successfully with the. imported article. If the Minister accepts the suggestion to increase the duty, the effect will probably be that the whole of the artificial silk goods used in Australia will be manufactured here. I am not very much concerned about the effect upon the woollen industry, because manufacturers of these goods frequently combine a little wool or cotton with the artificial silk, and the increased use of artificial silk for the manufacture of garments will very probably lead to an increase in the use of wool. In any case, artificial silk has come to stay, and it will be used in Australia.
– It should be properly described.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman. The Customs Department should take action against unscrupulous traders who, after importing artificial silk goods, properly marked, mutilate the description, and sell them as silk. The average purchaser knows as well as the manufacturer what are silk goods and what goods are made of artificial silk, but traders who attempt to mislead the public should be penalized for their misrepresentation.
.- We have heard some very startling figures as to the profits made by manufacturers of artificial silk.
– The profits made by a British company,- I think, were chiefly referred to. These staggering profits have rather carried honorable members away. I remind them that the profits made in the manufacture of artificial silk have no connexion with the item under discussion. The increase suggested by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) in the duty on the item would have- no effect whatever on the manufacture of artificial silk, because the item deals with made-up articles of clothing. If, as suggested by the honorablemember for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), the duty should be increased merely to encourage the making up of artificial silk in the garments here, then the profits made by manufacturers of the material have nothing to do with the case. The honorable member for Darling has pointed out that artificial silk is being imported into Australia, and is being made up into garments by Australian workers. Apparently the existing duties are sufficient for this purpose.
– The honorable member for Darling seems content that Australian hands should remain idle.
– I shall come to the argument of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) directly. Apparently, under the existing duties our work-people can be profitably engaged in making up these articles of clothing. An increase in the duty on artificial silk would only make the carrying on of the industry referred to by the honorable member for Darling more difficult.
– No. It is only on piece goods that the increased duty would be levied.
– The item under consideration deals with made-up articles of clothing, not including piece goods, and, therefore, an increase in duty on the item would only render more difficult the carrying on of the industry referred to by the honorable member for Darling. I do not defend the extraordinary profits made by the British company manufacturing artificial silk. It is obvious that that company is selling at a price very much higher than it could afford to take, and yet give the public proper service. It is fallacious to suppose that the proposed increase of duty would reduce the profits of the British company. The right honorable member for Balaclava argues on the assumption that the manufacturer of the raw material always pays the duty.
– No; but the increased duty would make the manufacturers sell at a lower price, or, paying the increased duty, “they would make less profit.
– If they sold at a lower price, the consumption of their goods might be greatly increased, and there might be no decrease in their profits. The argument of high protectionists, that the foreign manufacturer pays the duty, has over and over again been proved to be fallacious. My objection to the proposed increase of duty is that it must impose an extra burden, not upon the manufacturer of artificial silk in Great Britain, but on users of the material in Australia. Instead of being carried away in an outburst of indignation because of the high profits made by a manufacturing company in Great Britain, we should consider the effect of the proposed increase of duty upon our own people. The honorable member for Darling rightly expatiated upon the tremendous extent to which articles made of artificial silk are now used in Australia. He explained that under the existing economic conditions women and girls are able to buy these goods at very low rates, and are thus able to dress in a fashion that is both becoming and desirable. But if we increase the duty, we shall make it more difficult for our women and girls to dress themselves in this material. Honorable members may say what they like about the desirableness of adopting certain fashions, and the honorable member for Wannon may rage against the displacement of wool by artificial silk, but those who try to stand in the way of fashions remind one of Canute reproving and trying to restrain the advance of the sea. The increase of the duty would impose an additional burden on every woman in this community, and, I think, would lead to a very severe protest.
– The increased duty would be on piece goods.
– That is not so, and I have pointed out that the basis of the argument in support of an increased duty is the profits made by the manufacturer’ of the raw material.
– Does the honorable member think that a great woolproducing country should do anything to facilitate the entry of such goods as artificial silk ?
– I do, emphatically.
– The honorable member is very candid.
– I have always been candid and, I think, consistent in my attitude on these matters. The honorable member for Wannon, in my opinion, takes a short-sighted view in supposing that the introduction of this material will have a serious effect upon the wool industry. We aredealing with only one of a hundred similar items, and we cannot consider the effect upon the woollen industry of one item like this. My contention is that our whole high protective policy, so far from protecting the woollen industry, has the effect of handicapping it. Instead of affording protection to our woollen industry, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) suggests it will, this duty will prevent and hinder the sale of our wool in exchange for those articles we purchase abroad.
– There is nothing to hinder our wool going out.
– Certainly there is, if anything is done to prevent our purchase of goods in return for the wool. We can only sell our wool by purchasing goods abroad.
– The honorable member should not open up a discussion on the economic aspect of the question.
– The last thing that the honorable member and other protectionists desire is to discuss the economic aspect of the question. They would rather make an appeal to sentiment which has no foundation behind it. One effect of high protection on our woollen industry is the inducement it offers to nations abroad to grow wool in opposition to us. As a matter of fact, our’ woollen industry is already meeting with serious competition abroad, and only a few days ago our newspapers were alluding to the increased export of our well-bred sheep to South Africa, which is growing wool in opposition to Australia. If the Minister adopts the suggestion to further increase the duty on artificial silk, it will impose an extra- burden on every one in the community, when already the cost of living is exceedingly high. Like the flowers that bloom in the spring, the argument about the high profits made by certain people in Great Britain has nothing to do with the case. I propose to vote against the Senate’s request, and against any proposal to further increase the duty on artificial silk.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) is under a misapprehension in thinking that the rates of~ duty under discussion apply to made-up clothing, and, therefore, could have no effect on the company referred to by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). As a matter of fact, the duties apply to piece goods, the importation of which does affect the profits of that company. The duties on artificial silk piece goods have no relation to yarn or the raw material used by Australian manufacturers. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Perth is opposed to any effort to build up or protect Australian industries, primary or secondary; but the points so forcibly put by the right honorable member for Balaclava should appeal to him. We are not likely to be influenced by the high profits made by the manufacturers of artificial silk, but they certainly give us some idea of the profitable nature of the industry. I agree with the right honorable member for Balaclava that this article is wrongly described. It has no more right to be called silk than it has to be called steel or iron. The right honorable member for Balaclava has made out a strong case for an increased duty, but I do not think the increase he has suggested is sufficient. A duty of 20 per cent, on an article of this description would have very little effect. I think there ought to be a flat rate per yard in addition to an ad valorem duty of 20 per cent. We are entitled to give due weight to the arguments submitted by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). Our woollen industry is one of our staple industries. We depend upon it to keep our country solvent, and we ought to encourage the wearing of woollen goods by discouraging the use of artificial silk. Fashion may demand the wearing of artificial silk, but when we are considering an economic policy for Australia it is well for us to consider the needs of one of our own staple industries as well as the health of our own people. It cannot be good for the health of our community to wear so much wood and tin made up into a form described as artificial silk, instead of those finer wools produced in Australia which can be made up into the most beautiful garments one could wish to wear.
– Would the honorable member ask our ladies to wear woollen stockings ?
– Certainly. I have not been carried away by the enthusiasm of the honorable member for Darling and his references to the beauty of artificial silk stockings. I do not claim that in a tariff we can lay it down that people must wear certain articles; but we can, at any rate, encourage the use of one article and discourage the use of another. Above all, we ought to encourage the use of aa article which is made from raw material produced in Australia. But if people will insist on using artificial 6ilk, then I join with the honorable member for Darling in urging that it should be made in Australia. I hope that the Minister will accept the suggestion of the right honorable member for Balaclava and impose an additional ad valorem duty, and I trust that on top of that he will impose a flat rate. Many of the piece goods classed as artificial silk contain considerable quantities of cotton. A duty of 20 per cent, on such goods would amount to not more than a few pence per yard. To make the duty effective we shall have to deal with these articles in the satisfactory way in which we dealt with cotton tweeds - by the imposition, of a flat rate. In the tariff as -it left this House the duty on artificial silk was the same as the duty on real silk. That was unfair, because a 20 per cent, duty on silk goods would be very much higher than a 40 per cent, duty on artificial silk. In order to prevent this country from being- flooded with these articles, I suggest the imposition of a flat rate as well as a 20 per cent, ad valorem duty. I cannot suggest what the flat rate should be, because one would need to go into the invoice values of these goods to ascertain what would be an effective rate to impose.
– I have listened very attentively to the arguments put forward suggesting a modification of the Senate’s request in the direction- of raising the duty to 20 per cent. British and intermediate and 25 per cent foreign. Without entering into the details of the matter I confirm what has been said by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that the item refers to piece goods only. There are other items in connexion with silk and imitation silk, but this item refers only to silk piece goods. Honorable members may recollect the statement I made in dealing with this item that there was a possibility of establishing the artificial silk industry in Australia, and I promised that should the industry be established on a basis that would enable it to supply the bulk of Australia’s requirements with goods of a satisfactory quality duties on artificial silk yarn would be proposed by the Government. I accept the suggestion made by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) for several reasons: Nothing has so far been said this morning about the beneficial effect the establishment of the artificial silk industry will have on the defence of Australia. Its establishment, however, will be another step towards the development of our secondary industries. In. accordance with the almost unanimous feeling of the committee, I accept the suggestion of the right honorable member for Balaclava.
Motion,- by leave, amended to read -
That the requested amendment be made with the following modification : - “ That the rates of duty bc ad. val., -British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 20. per cent.; and general, 25 per cent.”
– I think that honorable members would be prepared to go much further than the Minister proposes. I understand that artificial silk is a mixture of cellulose and tin, the cellulose being made from wood and perhaps other articles. Tin is a. much better conductor of heat than wool or cellulose. As a matter of fact, cellulose is among the non-conductors of heat. Derivatives of tin are known to be injurious to health, and even cancer has been ascribed to them. It is possible that minute particles of tin in a fabric worn next to the skin will act as a conductor of heat in severe changes of temperature, to the detriment of the. health of the wearer. I suggest ‘ to the Government that this matter is worthy of inquiry by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. As the majority of the English-speaking people have adopted the word “ Rayon,” it might be advisable for the Minister to compel the use of that term instead of “ artificial silk.” In regard to the patent rights of this process, some years ago the opinion was widely held in this Parliament that a patent should not hold good in this country unless the owners of it were prepared to manufacture it in Australia. Certain European patentees have been compelled to manufacture in the United Kingdom in order to protect their patents there. I wish I could induce the Minister to adopt the principle that patentees who will not manufacture in Australia should be compelled to disclose their formulae. Certainly in connexion with foods and drugs the public is entitled to know the ingredients of the commodities it consumes. I suggest to the Minister that the duties on ready-made articles of artificial silk should be increased. Failing that, he should ask the Department of Health or the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to report whether garments worn next to the skin and impregnated with metal particles are injurious to health.
– That matter could be more appropriataely debated when the Commerce Bill is before the House.
– We must encourage our Australian manufacturers to make more use of our fine merino wools. Of course, beauty and brilliant colours in a texture will always attract the eyes of women. When I was in Japan, silk stockings could be bought for 6s. 6d. a pair. The counterfeit in artificial silk is costing in Australia about 5s.11d. a pair, but the wearing quality of real silk is much greater than that of the synthetic article. I remember that in my student days in London, the English firm of “Liberty “ placed on the market a fabric called “ art silk,” which became very popular, and still has a great vogue. I suggest that the application of the term “ art silk “ to artificial silk misleads the public, and should be prohibited.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Item 118 -
Senate’s request: Make sub-item (a) read -
– I cannot agree to the request made by the Senate, because the subdivision of the item relating to carpets will create difficulties and anomalies in administration, which we desire to avoid. The Government proposed, in September last, a reduction of the general duty on carpets and rugs. At that time, there appeared to be no possibility of developing Australian manufacture, but since then I have been informed that the suggested reduction of duty has discouraged two schemes to establish local factories for the production of carpets. As the Government has no desire to stifle a prospective Australian industry, I intend to propose amodification of the request by restoring the duties imposed under the 1921 tariff. The bill, as it left this committee, had reduced the duties, but the Senate has proposed an increase in respect of portion of the item. Since the tariff left this committee, the representative of a very big English firm has urgently requested that the existing duties be not interfered with, because of the possibility of establishing carpet factories in Australia. I therefore move -
That the requested amendment be made with the following modification : - Make sub-items
and (b) read -
Carpets, Carpeting, Floor Cloths, n.e.i.,
Floor and Carriage. Mats of any textile material except coir; and Floor Rugs and Coverings not being of rubber and not being Furs or other Skins or Carpet Felt, Undercarpet Felt, or Carpet Felt Paper; Saddle-bag in the piece or otherwise, ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
And on and after 25th March, 1926-
This proposal will also . ensure that the duties on linoleums and floor coverings shall continue at the rates previously fixed by this committee.
Motion agreed to.
Requested amendments in items 144, 152, and 176 made.
Item 229 (Residual oil and crude petroleum).
Senate’s Request. - After sub-item (b) insert the words - “ By omitting the whole of subitem and inserting in its stead the following sub-item : -
(1) Vegetable oils, edible, n.e.i., including salad, cooking and fish-fry ing oils, per gallon - British, 2s.; intermediate, 2s. 6d.; general, 3s.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This requested amendment is the result of a recent report by the Tariff Board, and if it is made it will assist the dried-fruits industry, and will not hamper any developmental enterprise in this country.
Motion agreed to.
Requested amendment of item 269 made.
And on and after 1st January, 1927, ad val. - British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - Add the following new sub-item (c) : -
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
It will be of interest to honorable members to know that argol is the principal raw material used in the manufacture of cream of tartar, and that it is proposed to establish an industry in Sydney for the manufacture of that chemical. The duty proposed will place the Australian, manufacturer on the same basis as the English manufacturer with whom he will have to compete.
Motion agreed to.
Requested amendments of item No. 281 made.
Motion, by Mr. Pratten, proposed -
That the requested amendment be made.
– This item provides, inter alia, for the imposition of a duty on wristlet watch cases. In the old tariff there were certain anomalies which pressed very heavily upon those engaged in the watch trade, and although they were removed by the alterations proposed in this tariff, the representative of the Government in the Senate moved a request, the effect of which is not only to restore them, but even to make them worse. Apparently it was represented to the Minister that watch cases were being manufactured in this country. As to that I think he was misinformed. It is evident that in altering this duty the Government aimed at encouraging in . this country an industry that could manufacture a substantial number of watch cases. It clearly did not contemplate the making of individual cases by hand, but the stamping of them out by machinery, as is the practice in other countries where they are made. For the industry to have a reasonable chanceof success in a market of 6,000,000 people, it must manufacture the cases in considerable numbers. If it can make only six or eight cases a month or a year, its operations will not be very profitable, because the machinery required is expensive. I went into a jeweller’s shop the other day, and was shown 58 varieties of wristlet watches, and I was informed, and believe, that there are hundreds of varieties. Honorable members who wear wristlet watches may see for themselves, by comparing their own watches with those of their fellow members, that there is a very great variety of them. While that is true of men’s watches, the variety of ladies’ watches is even greater. There are octagonal and oval watches, and watches of many different sizes and shapes. Members of the trade assure me that no industry for the manufacture of these watch cases is established in this country, and that there is no possibility of one being established. Imported cases come, for the most part, from Switzerland. Although British firms make some cases, they import most of their requirements, and place English works in them. Sometimes they import both works and cases, and merely fit them together. Here are some figures comparing importations of complete watches with importations of watch movements for insertion into Australianmade watch cases : -
It is evident that the industry of watchcase making in this country is negligible, and that the few cases made here are made by hand for special purposes. It costs more for a winding stem turned and fitted in this country to a wristlet watch than for a good imported watch. Therefore, in order that the industry may succeed, it must be standardized, and must produce only one kind of watch case. To do that with wristlet watches would be to impose upon the retailer the impossible task, in view of the varying tastes of individuals, of selling wristlet watches of only one pattern. The Minister has been led to believe that something is possible which our common sense tells us is impossible. I ask him not to accept the requested amendment.
.- There has been much complicated negotiation in connection with this matter. In the first place the Government proposed a reduction of duty on all watches, but later it was discovered that a small industry, which we did not wish to discourage, existed in this country. Protests were lodged by those concerned, and an alteration was made in the item in this chamber. Conferences were held between the Comptroller-General of Customs and representatives of the trade, and ultimately all the conflicting interests were brought into line.
– Since yesterday?
Mr.PRATTEN. - This week. The right honorable member will notice that power is given to the Minister by departmental regulations, not only to help the local industry, but also to prevent injustice from being done to the retail traders. The position is, so far as I can discover, satisfactory.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– During the luncheon adjournment, I had the opportunity of listening to explanations by both parties concerned in this matter. (Quorum formed.) I do not admit that I am denser than other people, but I am not able, unaided, to understand the position. The Collector of Customs, and also the people who first instructed me, have assisted in causing my present mental state. It now remains for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) to make the position clear. I am informed that the manufacturers interested would be satisfied with an assurance from the Minister (1) that watch movements not suitable for the cases proposed to be made in Australia would be allowed in free; and (2) that all movements should be allowed in free if and when the people asking for this protection fail to produce cases in satisfactory quantity. If the Minister will give that assurance, I shall be satisfied.
.- I give the right honorable member that assurance, but I retain the right to be the arbiter between the parties, so . that nothing shall be allowed in free that “will interfere with the development of local industry.
Motion agreed to.
Item further consequentially amended.
Item 320 - Consideration of Senate’s requested amendment postponed.
Senate’s Request. - After “ tyres’” insert “ or storage batteries”.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The object of the amendment is to enable us to make another step towards the building of an all- Australian motor car. The local industry is now able to supply all the storage batteries required for motor cars used in Australia.
Motion agreed to.
Item 366 -
Senate’s Request. - Make sub-item (b) read as follows : - “ (b) Carillons and bells, including fittings therefor, but not including structural iron or steel, as pre-, scribed by departmental by- laws, ad valorem, British, free; intermediate, 10 per cent. ; general, 20 per cent.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The amendment is necessary to give full effect to the intention of the Government, that only fittings not manufactured in Australia shall be admitted free.
Motion agreed to.
And on and after 1st July, 1926 -
Senate’sRequest - Make sub-item (b) (second occurring) read as follows : - “And on and after 1st July, 1926-
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The object of this amendment is to fix the specific time after which vessels will not be admitted free.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s Request. - In sub-item (g) after “ whaling “ insert “ trawling “.
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) agreed to -
That the requested amendment be made.
Postponed item 320 -
Provided that any such films printed from a negative which was not the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom shall not be entitled to entry at the rate of the British preferential tariff under this subitem.
Senate’s Request. - In sub-item (c) (2) (b) leave out “ lid.” and insert “ 2½d.”
– I move -
That the requested amendment be not made.
I have given more attention to picture films than to any other single item in the tariff schedule since I have had the honour to administer the Trade and Customs Department. Almost as soon as I accepted this portfolio in 1924 I took steps to have inquiries made practically all over the world with a view to ascertaining the exact position with regard to the manufacture ofpicture films; and, as honorable members know, the Tariff Board has inquired into the matter on several occasions. The provision in the schedule I introduced, was based upon the result of those inquiries, and did not increase the existing general duty, but abolished the British duty. My inquiries haveproved conclusively that no reasonable increase in the duty on picture films, at present, would achieve the object that we desire, namely, the successful production and exhibition here, on a large scale, of British, Australian, and other dominion picture films; but any increase would give the picture exhibitors an excuse to charge higher admission prices to the general public.
– The contracts provide that any increase in dutymay be passed on to the general public.
– That is so. I am convinced that an increase of duty at present would not achieve our desideratum, but would only act against the interests of moving picture patrons. If the Australian public were assured that the imposition of a higher duty would benefit the local and British film manufacturing industry, they would not object to having to pay slightly increased prices of admission to picture shows; but some of our picture producers have stated definitely that an increase in duty will not help to any appreciable degree to solve their difficulties. In 1924-25 duty was paid on more than 21,000,000 feet of imported picture film, and if we accede to the request of the Senate, and increase the existing duty by1d. per foot, it would yield approximately £90,000 of additional revenue; but, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) pointed out, by interjection, that would be passed on to picture patrons. I have given a considerable amount of attention to the censorship of picture films since I have been administering this department. I am sure that honorable members realize that the interests affected are powerful and rich, and on that account exercise considerable influence. So far as censorship qua censorship is concerned, all that is possible is being done, and in fairness I should also say that the bulk of the importers have accepted, and do now accept, the standard laid down. The figures given in the Chief Censor’s report, a copy of which has been placed in the hands of every honorable member,, show that very few British films are being imported, and my inquiries go to show that very few British films are available, even in England itself. My inquiries further show that the production of British films, is diminishing. Speaking from memory, the production of films in England is only about 50 per year, and the proportion of American films shown in England is somewhere about nine-tenths of the whole of the films exhibited. In spite of this, the question of encouraging British films is a very live one here, and in the Dominions generally it is periodically raised. The dominion governments seem to be eager to do their part, if British films are available. In spite of the strong proBritish and anti-American film sentiment in the Dominions, British films are not available. So far as I know, there is not one accredited representative of the British film industry in the Commonwealth to-day, whilst the big American nlm companies all have agencies here, prepared to book a whole year’s programme in advance. In such circumstances, honorable members will realize that the mere raising of the duty on films by Id. per foot would not materially affect the position. Some more drastic and compelling action must be taken which will compulsorily adjust the screening of films to include a fair proportion of British and Australian productions. 1 am taking advantage of the opportunity to give honorable members information, which I believe they will consider interesting. I now bring under their notice some practicable proposals that have been made and considered with a desire to assist Australian producers in the successful establishment of the film industry in the Commonwealth. One suggestion made was to grant to Australian cinematograph film producers some bounty payable from funds collected by the imposition of the entertainments tax. Another suggestion was to give a bounty to Australian cinematograph film producers, payable out of the duty collected on imported cinematograph films. A practical suggestion was that a percentage restriction should be imposed on the importation of foreign films when British or Australian films are available. A further suggestion was to impose an import-export restriction, a method by which, whilst embodying an import percentage restriction, as provided for in the suggestion I have just mentioned, provision would be made that for every determined number of feature, films imported, an Australian feature film of an approved standard would have to be purchased and exported by companies or persons importing feature films. Still another suggestion was made, that every contract made by a film-importing company with Australian exhibitors should contain a clause entitling the exhibitors to a remission of the film hire on any non-Australian film displaced by the action of the exhibitors in showing an Australian film. Honorable members will see that these suggestions could not all be carried out by the Trade and Customs Department, which controls only importation and exportation. .To solve the difficulty, the State Parliaments will have to co-operate with the Commonwealth Parliament. This co-operation has already been promised by -the Victorian Government, and the Victorian legislation, when passed, should be extremely interesting, and should afford a guide to the action which should in future be taken when dealing with this matter.
– What is the nature of the promised Victorian legislation?
– To compel exhibitors to show on every programme- a certain proportion of British or Australian films, and, further, to ask the Commonwealth censorship to co-operate in the direction of discriminating between films suitable for exhibition to children and those which might be exhibited to adults, and to prevent the exhibition of certain films to children. With- reference to the import restriction proposals put forward, an opinion was obtained from, the SolicitorGeneral so that the Minister’s powers regarding the action proposed might be clearly defined. Outlines of the various schemes suggested were also submitted to the Solicitor-General, and in answer to the questions put to him he advised me as follow : -
The importation of cinematograph films may be prohibited by proclamation under section 52 of the Customs Act 1901-1923, and such importation may be made subject to licence, and to approval by the Minister for Trade and Customs.
As a condition governing importation, the Minister has the necessary legal power under the Customs Act to restrict the importation of foreign films to a certain percentage of Australian requirements; and to require the importers of foreign films to produce in Australia or purchase the exhibition rights of an Australianproduced film and export such film abroad in accordance with a proclaimed ratio as may be outlined in any approved scheme.
Under the suggested power of refusing approval of imports, it would be possible for the Minister to legally ‘ grant power to any board or committee to determine in case of dispute between film importer and Australian film producer what is a reasonable .minimum purchase price for Australian-produced films. Where the price offered by the importer for local production is, in the opinion of the committee, unreasonably low, the Minister could withhold approval of imports. Where the price demanded by the Australian producer is, in the opinion of the committee, unreasonably high, the Minister could relax the limitation on imports.
It is clear that in these circumstances the Minister for Trade and Customs would be placed in the position of a dictator, so far as the importation of films is concerned, and I tell honorable members quite candidly that should the production of British and Australian films be developed on a reasonably large commercial scale, I shall have no hesitation “whatever in exercising the powers which Parliament gives me to see that British and Australian pictures shall not be frozen out of programmes shown to the people of the Commonwealth. Whilst I personally sympathize with the reasons which prompted a majority of members of another place to request an increase of the duty, which is a significant gesture of the times and illustrates to a remarkable degree the desire of our public men to enCourage British and Australian film interests, I cannot accede to the request. The problems confronting the Government on this subject would still be unsolved, -even if the requested amendment of the item were made. Honorable members will see from the proposals I have outlined that the Government realizes the seriousness of the situation, and is giving consideration to it with the keenest possible desire to develop the film-producing industry along the lines desired by the House. England, so far as film production is concerned, must first help herself. The Empire will provide a large and profitable market for even the most ambitious productions, and it is surely within the ability of our business men and statesmen to arrange co-operation between the Motherland .and the Dominions which will result in the production of films that will foster and develop the sentiment and traditions of the Empire. I am glad to be able to say in connexion with this matter that our Migration Department has turned out a considerable quantity of Australian films. Speaking from memory, I think the production this year will run to about 500,000 feet. The series of films made by the Migration Department and known as the “ Our Own Country Series “ has been exhibited throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and I can say from personal knowledge and from inquiry that it has everywhere been received with considerable approval. No one is more anxious than I am to see on our screens evidence of such development; but I do not think that it could be hastened by acceding to the request of another place to increase the duty on imported films by Id. per foot, an impost which would be passed on to the people. So far as censorship is concerned, we are doing our best to carry out what I believe is the unanimous desire of this Parliament, but nothing can be done to increase the exhibition of British and Australian films in the Commonwealth until sufficient such films are available. When they are available, I shall unhesitatingly use my powers as Minister for Trade and Customs to see that none are frozen out.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) is to be commended for his decision to refuse the request for an increase in the duty on imported films. One can conceive that the author of the request was actuated by the highest motives. He, no doubt, discovered that there are approximately 1,300 picture theatres in Australia, in which many million pounds have been invested for buildings, plant, and equipment. If he consulted statisticshe found that last year the picture shows were attended by about 100,000,000 people, and - he naturally assumed that the field open to us might provide a rich harvest for a new Australian industry. If, however, he had had the experience of those engaged in the production of pictures in Australia, he would know that they had left behind them a record of bankruptcy, failure, and loss, and this would probably have deterred him from suggesting the course he has proposed. The apparent paradoxical nature of the position is easy of explanation, though it involves a factor which even the Minister for Trade and Customs has overlooked. The difficulty is not due to the importation of American or other foreign films; the want of a proper sentiment on the part of those who attend picture shows, or the anxiety of exhibitors to exclude from their programmes either English or Australian films. It is due to the fact that the people who attend the shows want something different from what they are given by Australian producers. “Under their present contracts, exhibitors have to bear the burden of any increased duty that may be imposed. They are prepared to insert Australian pictures here and there in their programmes; but, if the extra duty were imposed on foreign films, one of their first acts would be to discontinue the exhibition of. Australian pictures, because, if they did not “ deliver the goods,” they would find the seats of their theatres empty. More than one exhibitor has learnt from experience that, if he screens films that are not popular with his patrons, his business at once falls away. It is well known that English and Australian pictures are not as well liked as other films are. If the exhibitors are forced to pay the increased duty, they will have to economize in, perhaps, three directions. First, they will have to leave Australian, and perhaps English, films out of their programmes. Their next step will, probably, be to increase the prices of admission. In the third place, they will probably reduce their staffs. I feel sure that no member of the committee desires to see those results brought about. It is useless to overlook the fact that the people must be provided with programmes that appeal to them. No attempt should bc made to force them to accept Australian and English films. It would be just as reasonable to exclude from the public galleries the paintings of artists in foreign countries as to prohibit the showing of pictures produced overseas.
– Would the honorable member regard pictures featuring “ Tom Mix “ as works of art ?
– No. M’any pictures cannot be approved of; but the work of our censors is exceedingly well done. The censorship in Australia is probably more drastic than in any other part of the world, and many objectionable films have been prohibited. Nobody will deny that Professor Wallace, in Melbourne, and Mr. O’Reilly, in Sydney, are doing their work in that respect most satisfactorily. But I point out that the patrons of picture theatres are mainly persons who live on the basic wage, and these shows often provide the only means of entertainment and instruction for their leisure hours. It would be improper to increase their burden by levying an extra duty that would be passed on to them. Apart from the physical aspect of the matter, the mental aspect should be considered. Surely the workers are entitled to have the best pictures screened before them. Often a working man has no opportunity to leave his own district, let alone travel abroad, and it is a source of- great pleasure to him to see pictures of beauty spots such as Lake Como and parts of Switzerland.
– It would also be of great advantage to him to be shown some of the fine scenery of Australia.
– Nobody is more desirous than I am that Australian -pictures should be presented. I am not opposed to the encouragement of the production of films in Australia ; but I claim that the proposed increased duty would discourage it. Those engaged in the industry here are averse from the imposition of any additional tax. Mr. Arthur Shirley, in the production of the Australian picture, “ The Mystery of a Hansom Cab,” sustained a heavy loss. In his evidence to the Tariff Board, he contended that an increased tax on the patrons would not help the producers. Australasian Films Limited put £50,000 into the production of pictures in Australia, but the venture was not successful. No doubt other Australian producers will have a similar experience. It will be impossible to popularize Australian films until the quality of the pictures shown is improved. Better organization of the local industry is needed; but that involves increased capital, which will not be forthcoming until the demand for the Australian film increases. ‘ Therefore, the market must be developed by a process of natural growth. ‘
– Does not the honorable member think that -the local industry could be assisted ?
– Not bv an increased duty of’ Id. a foot, nor by the method suggested by the Minister.
– Does the honorable member know any way in which assistance could be given?
– No. Should we exclude works of art and literature produced abroad, simply because we have artists and writers in Australia? If we did that, we should reduce ourselves to a state of intellectual bankruptcy. Any attempt to exclude foreign pictures, in order to force upon the picture patrons films that they do not wish to see, would npt bring about a development of the industry in Australia, and would be an act of tyranny. Persons who attend picture theatres are entitled to see the best films that the world offers, and, if they are compelled to witness Australian films to the exclusion of others, they will withdraw their patronage.
– Who proposes that?
– The object of the proposer of the duty is manifestly to exclude overseas films, in order to bring about an increased production of films in Australia. The Minister’s suggestion would not benefit the industry one whit. The Tariff Board has reviewed the matter in the light of the sworn testimony of witnesses competent to express considered opinions on it, and it would be regrettable if the committee set its decision aside. I urge honorable members not to accede to the request.
– The cry that it is impossible to sell Australian goods has been heard in every retail shop. The argument of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) -could be applied to every manufactured article mentioned in the tariff schedule. Some years ago, when the duty on imported films was imposed, petitions against it were drawn up, and we were told that it had resulted in increased prices being charged to the patrons of picture shows. Subsequently the duty was reduced but the picture-show proprietors did not reduce their prices. I hope that a committee of this Parliament will make a thorough- investigation into the picture -business, which is now under the control of a strong combine, to which the imposition of an extra duty of Id. a foot on films would be a mere bagatelle. We must deal with this combine in a more drastic way. An expert picture producer who arrived in Sydney from America a few weeks ago, with a capital of £250,000 behind him, proposes to commence taking pictures in Australia. He says that we have some of the finest scenery in the world. I hope that when he is established this House will be strong enough to conduct an investigation into the ramifications of the combine. No one is anxious to exclude pictures that are likely to be an intellectual treat to Australians : but the majority of the pictures we get from America are representations of cowboys who wear big slouch hats and belts into which revolvers are thrust. They are shown flying around on horseback, drinking, or dancing with women in a saloon. That’ is the class of picture we are told will elevate us or bring out the best that is in us. Some of the American films only serve to excite children, and are certainly of no benefit to their morals. I am pleased that the Minister, although he has not made any definite statement, intends to do something to check this importation, but in any case we. ought to- have a thorough investigation into the- profits made by the combine. A duty of 2d. a foot on a film is of no consequence to it, because once a film is landed it passes from State to State and town to town, and is screened thousands of times. Pictures can be produced in Australia, where we have some of the finest scenery in the world, and the people in other countries would be only too pleased to see them ; but the aim of those who are now in control of the industry is to discourage the production of such films. I hope that the Government will submit drastic proposals for dealing with this great combine, which is levying on those who attend picture shows a toll quite out of proportion to the value of the pictures themselves.
.- I am more concerned about the subject it opens up than about the actual proposed increase of duty on films. Australia is, apparently, to be the happy huntingground of a country that closes its doors firmly against anything that Australia could send to it. It is a country that has a one-way trade with Australia. I have no wish to make anything in the nature of an attack upon the great United States of America, but some of the methods it adopts for the extension of its trade are wonderfully astute; much more so than those adopted by the British Empire. Australia is overwhelmingly in favour of building up first its own industries, secondly the industries -of Great Britain, and thirdly the industries of those countries with which it has reciprocal agreements. The Americans specialize. They generally pick out special lines for Australia, but they do not do as Australia does; they do not lose all sight of their goods once they are exported. They are too clever to do that. They follow their goods to the countries to which they are sent, and there they establish their own organizations for the distribution and control of those goods. This is done with such commodities as oil, machinery, motor vehicles, and films. By the adoption of these methods America has become a powerful competitor in Australia with our own manufacturers of the machinery which is used in the tilling of our 0Wl] fields. In Western Australia more American than Australian machinery is used.
– The Western Australian farmers show poor judgment if they use imported machinery.
– I am not referring to the judgment that our farmers exercise. My object is to draw attention to the acute business tactics of Americans, which bring about the result I have indicated.
– The Sunshine harvesters beat American machines in Western Australia.
– I am pleased to hear that, but America is an object-lesson to the world in the guardianship it exercises over its trade, both internal and external. We can get practically no Australian primary products into the United States of America, because that country protects its primary industries up to the hilt. Even Great Britain is unable to protect its own film industry against American competition, and, that being so, we cannot hope to protect the interests of the British film industry in the Australian market. But we can do something to protect our own film industry other than by the method favoured by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) - the building up of a sentiment in favour of our own films, which are very seldom on view. I hope that something will be done by the Government in a practical way, but exactly what can be done is a matter for the Minister to decide. It is ridiculous to contend that Australian audiences would not enjoy the screening of Australian scenery, or the intellectual treat of viewing character sketches filmed in their own country. I hope that the Government will exercise a greater control over the importation of films whose object is apparently to let the world know how modern Americans live. I was confronted with the difficulty of censoring films referred to by the Minister. The Commonwealth Chief Film Censor - Professor Wallace, whom I appointed - is a splendid man. He is not a kill-joy. He . has a fine sense of the intellectual. I think his powers ought to be enlarged. If an arrangement could be made with the States by which he could act as agent for the States, thus avoiding divided control, great benefit would be obtained, so far as the morals of the community are concerned, and many of the difficulties now confronting the Minister would disappear. However, unless Australia’ watches its home market, it will be Americanized, not only in regard to pictures but also in other respects.
– If the proposed increase of duty would encourage the Australian picture film industry, I should be strongly in favour of it; but as the Minister (Mr. Pratten) has shown, even in the opinion of the picture producers of Australia it is unnecessary to impose this extra duty, because they do not need it. I see no reason for penalizing those who attend picture shows by the imposition of a duty which cannot possibly help an Australian industry. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) has mentioned several producers who have lost money in trying to popularize Australian films. Mr. Stewart F. Doyle, who lost £100,000 in equipping studios, is rot in favour of an increase in the duty, nor is Mr. Beaumont Smith, who has produced seventeen Australian films. These gentlemen say that in order to attract people to the screening of an Australian picture it is necessary to sandwich it between imported films. Apart from the Commonwealth Government films and “ The Sentimental Bloke “ no Australian films’ have been successful abroad. The rights for “The Sentimental Bloke” were sold for a very small sum, but the purchaser - some one in London - made £25,000 out of the picture. That the majority of films shown in Great Britain are of American origin is sufficient answer to those who say that British films should take the place of American films in Australia. I am against the Americanization of this country, but, to a great extent, the sentiment of the people of the United States of America is also the sentiment of the people of Australia. Their films appeal to our sense of right and our manliness quite as much as do those produced. in Great Britain. I attend a picture show about once a week, and my experience of British films is that they generally depict the King reviewing the troops in the rain, the Prince of Wales opening some “ tin-pot show,” the unfurling of the British flag in some little village, and the peasants bowing and scraping to Royalty. I. am as loyal as any man, but I do not think those are the sentiments that we should endeavour to foster among our Australian people. We can be loyal without idolizing any man. Pictures of that nature do not appeal to Australians.
– The honorable member should speak for himself.
– While I have no doubt that the honorable member fori Indi (Mr. Cook) is prepared to toady to Royalty, he would not do so to the same extent that the peasantry of Great Britain do. Personally, I do not want these distorted ideas of what loyalty demands of us to be presented to my children. A few years ago, numbers of French films were shown in Australian theatres. Those films may have presented what was regarded as the correct thing in French life, but they did not appeal to Australians. The sentiment expressed in American films is usually better than that of French films.
– I found it necessary to prohibit a number of French films.
– Mention has’ been made of the number of films depicting American “ cow boys.” I should not be surprised if many honorable members, after a strenuous week here in the performance of their duties, sit in easy chairs and peruse Zane Grey’s books. The great out-door life of America, presented to his readers by Zane Grey, is better for the youth of Australia than the perverted view of life they gain from many socalled society dramas. My only objection to American films is the tendency to deal with divorce cases, and to depict scenes of domestic infelicity. Such scenes are repugnant to our sense of propriety. Reference has been made to that class of Australian film bearing the title “Know Your Own Country.” These films are being exhibited in almost every picture theatre in the United States of America by the combines to which reference has been made, and their exhibition does not cost Australia a penny. It is true that those who present the pictures to American audiences pay nothing for the films to the Commonwealth Government, whereas local producers are required to pay a small fee for the privilege of exhibiting them, but the advertisement which Australia receives probably justi fies the Government’s action in making the films available to American theatre proprietors free of cost. Australian sentiment has been exploited by returned Australians who probably have taken, in the United States of America, the oath of naturalization, but come back here as true-blue Australians. Honorable members will possibly remember a picture entitled “ Jewelled Nights,” in which Louise Lovely appeared.
– A splendid picture.
– Not only was that film exhibited in Australia, but Louise Lovely herself appeared on the stage for a few minutes each night. For that she is said to have been paid £100 a week. The honorable member for Wannon decried the American method of following their products overseas.
– I did not.
– The methods adopted by our American rivals should be adopted by us.
– That is what I said.
– I should be strongly in favour of presenting to the Australian public a programme of Australian pictures if it were possible for the whole programme to consist of such’ pictures. That, however, is impossible. The American picture-producing companies, with their tremendous resources, are able to produce films in America which it would be impossible to produce here. Our population is too small. I admit that Australia should make a start in this industry, but I do not think that the imposition of an additional duty of1d. a foot on films imported from America will assist in that direction. The effect of the higher duty would be to raise the price of admission to the picture theatres; it would assist no Australian industry. On the contrary, the workers of Australia would be called upon to pay higher prices for admission to theatres showing American films. For the reasons that the imposition of the higher duty would not assist the Australian industry, that American pictures, on the whole, are healthy, and appeal to the manhood ofAsutralia as much as those which come from other countries, and that it would place a further burden on the poorer people in the community, I am not in favour of the Senate’s request.
– If the effect of agreeing to the Senate’s request would he to establish another Australian industry, honorable members would be justified in agreeing to it; but it would not have that effect. Rather would the increased duty retard the picturemaking industry in Australia. Evidence to that effect has been given before the Tariff Board by those engaged in the manufacture of films in Australia. They realize that for many years it will be impossible for Australian producers to supply Australian audiences with a full programme of pictures made in this country. Consequently, Australian films must be shown in company with films produced in the United States of America. Mr. Brunton Smith, who is the largest manufacturer of Australian films, in giving evidence before the Tariff Board, said that any increased tariff on American films would not assist the Australian industry. While we must deplore the fact that Australian audiences prefer American films to those made in their own country, we must take things as we find them; we must give the people what they want. Otherwise this industry will lapse. Most of the films manufactured in Australia have plots similar to those of the American films. Producers in Australia have found that, unless they do that, the people will not patronize their productions. Reference has been made to an Australian film entitled “The Mystery of a Hansom Cab.” That was a good film; hut did it convey any Australian sentiment? Most honorable members know the plot, which for the most part is laid in Melbourne, and they will agree that, if it were true, it would be nothing of which Melbourne need be proud. For films to be successful they must, to an extent, be sensational. Sensationalism is not Australian sentiment. I should, however, like to see it a rule that every programme of pictures shown in Australia should contain a certain proportion of Australianmade films.
– That is a matter for the States.
– In that case, the Minister can do no more than exercise a rigorous censorship over all films. Notwithstanding that American films, imported into Great Britain, are subjected to a tax of 5d. a foot, 95 per cent. of the films shown there are of American origin. It is, therefore, hopeless for us to expect that by the imposition of a much smaller tax, British films will take the place of American films in this country. The climatic conditions of Great Britain make the cost of producing films there much greater than it is in the United States of America. An artist in Los Angeles, in California, can frequently do, in one hour, as much work as would take him three or four hours in England. Our climatic conditions certainly are better than those of Great Britain, but, compared with the population of the United States of America, we are only a handful of people. That this big industry cannot be successfully established in our midst is a matter for regret; but we must take things as we find them, and we must admit that it is hopeless for us to expect to compete with American film producers. The effect of increasing the tariff on American films would be to increase the price of admission to picture shows; and, as pointed out by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) it would be the poorer people who would have to pay. The price of admission to the big city theatres, where the actors appear in person, is almost prohibitive to all but the rich. It has been said, and said truly, that the picture show is the poor man’s theatre, that every six weeks the entire population of Australia visits the picture theatres. That being so, the Government should proceed warily, and avoid the increased prices of admission which must inevitably follow the raising of the duties on films. Some months ago the Government won popularity by reducing the entertainment tax, and the picture-show proprietors were enabled to reduce the prices of admission. If the Government now increases the duty on films, the public will suspect that it was merely seeking kudos by giving with one hand what it proposed to take back with the other. I congratulate the Minister upon not agreeing to the Senate’s request.
Mr. HILL (Echuca - Minister for
That this bill be now read a second time.
The measure relates to moneys required for the Grafton to South Brisbane railway, and amends sections 4 and 6 of the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act 1924. At a conference of Ministers of the Crown held in Melbourne in July, 1920, it was agreed that two experts from abroad should be appointed with one Australian, not employed in the railway ser: vices of the Commonwealth or the States, to Consider and report upon the unification of the gauges, the gauge most desirable to adopt, and other phases of this important subject. The Commonwealth and the States agreed to abide by the decision of that body, the Commonwealth to bear one-fifth of the total cost of the work and the remaining four-fifths to be borne by the five mainland States concerned, upon a per capita basis. The royal commission was appointed in 1920, and on 22nd September, 1921, presented a report, which was printed as Commonwealth Parliamentary Paper No. 141 of 1921. The royal commission recommended 4 ft. 8^ in. as the standard gauge for the Australian railways; and this recommendation was unanimously accepted by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States. The royal commission also recommended, amongst other matters, that a standard 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge railway be provided between Brisbane and Fremantle, and that all railway lines of 5 ft. 3 in. gauge now owned by the States of Victoria and South Australia be converted to the standard gauge. Agreement could not be arrived at between the Commonwealth and the five mainland States as to the actual commencement of the work recommended by the royal commission; but, after discussions and conferences, the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland agreed upon works giving a standard gauge connexion between Sydney and Brisbane, and providing for the construction of a railway of standard gauge between Kyogle, in New South Wales, and South Brisbane, in Queensland, and the relaying and strengthening of the existing railway between Grafton and Kyogle, so as to bring that railway up to the standard. The agreement was ratified by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of New South Wales and Queensland in October, 1924. It provided that the Commonwealth, in the first instance, should furnish the money required for the work on the understanding that the States of New South Wales and Queensland would contribute to the cost in the proportions that the populations of those States bore to the total population of the five mainland States of Australia, the Commonwealth contributing one-fifth of the quota in terms of the resolution of the conference of Ministers in 1920, and also, for the time being, the sums which under that arrangement would have been contributed by the States of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia had they been parties to the agreement.
– Yes. The Grafton-South Brisbane Railway Act 1924 made the necessary financial provision, and, under section 4, the Commonwealth Treasurer was authorized to borrow moneys, not exceeding £3,500,000, together with such further sum as might be necessary to meet discount and flotation expenses, and, pending the borrowing of the money, to advance to the council out of moneys in the Commonwealth Public Account sums not exceeding £3,500,00.0. That amount was the estimate submitted by the royal commission in 1921 of the cost of providing a standard gauge connexion between Sydney and Brisbane. The agreementratified by acts of Parliament provides for a council, consisting of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the Chief Railways Commissioner for New South Wales, and the Commissioner for Railways, Queensland, to have entire control of the work. Shortly after the appointment of the council, surveys were put in hand, and all necessary data prepared -to enable a proper estimate to be arrived at. The council now advises that the work estimated by the royal commissioners to cost £3,500,000 will cost approximately £4,000,000. In justice to the royal commissioners, I must explain that the estimate of £3,500,000, upon which the agreement was based, was prepared on data submitted by the States and checked by the royal commissioners; but no proper surveys df the sections had been undertaken, either in New South Wales or Queensland, and “the estimate could be regarded as an approximation only.
– Has the route been changed ?
– Not so far as I am aware. It was not until the railway council assumed control that proper surveys were made or reliable estimates prepared. The council has been in communication with the Commonwealth Government, and a conference has been held between representatives of the Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, and Queensland. The House is now asked to grant the additional £500,000, so that authority may be given to the railway council to continue the work and bring the desire of the Commonwealth and the two States to fruition. New South Wales and Queensland will accept their increased financial obligations on. apercapita basis. The work is divided into four sections. Upon the first portion between Grafton and Kyogle, a distance of 85 miles, approximately £675,000 has been spent to date in substituting 60-lb. for 80-lb. rails, and strengthening and ballasting the line which originally was unballasted.
– Was that amount included in the first estimate ?
– Yes; but the estimate will be slightly exceeded. The second section is a length of 26½ miles between Kyogle and the Queensland border, for which a contract has been let to the New South Wales Government. The third section is the 60½ miles from the border to within 8 miles of South Brisbane. For that section the Queensland Government is the contractor. The fourth section is the concluding 8 miles to South Brisbane, making a total of 95 miles of new construction, plus 85 miles of line re-laid. The fourth section is being constructed departmentally. The line on the fourth section runs adjacent to and parallel with the existing line through a number of busy suburban station yards, and as a considerable amount of station yards work was involved, and trains are running night and day, it was hardly practicable to give the work to a private contractor. The public tenders for the two sections closed on the 1st September, 1925, and simultaneously the Chief Railway Construction Engineers of New South Wales and Queensland submitted sealed estimates for the work in their respective States. After consideration of the tenders and the estimates referred to, the council decided to have the work carried out by the respective Chief Railway Construction Engineers of New South Wales and Queensland, but as the financial provision under the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act 1924 was for £3,500,000 only, and the work is now estimated to cost £4,000,000, the council necessarily had to submit the whole matter to the Prime Minister and the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland. The Commonwealth Government considered the representations of the Railway Council, and on the 26th September, 1925, the Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland as follows : -
With reference to the letter of the 17th instant addressed to you by the Chairman of the Uniform Railway Gauge Council, GraftonKyogleSouth Brisbane railway, I have to advise that this Government has carefully considered the position which has now arisen in connexion with the tenders recently received for carrying out the work between Kyogle and a point near South Brisbane. In addition to tenders from two contractors, the Uniform Gauge Council received sealed estimates prepared by the Chief Railway Construction Engineer of your State, and of Queensland, which were opened at the same time and treated by the council as tenders. Whilst the contractors in their tenders guarantee to carry out the work at the fixed prices named, no undertaking or guarantee has been given so far as the sealed estimates are concerned, and this Government can only agree to the construction within your State being undertaken by your Government upon a guarantee being entered into by you that the sealed estimate put in by your Chief Railway Construction Engineer is to be treated as a tender binding upon your Government in the same way as an ordinary contractor is bound by the terms of his contract. Under this arrangement your Government would be required to make good any excess amount due to the cost of the work being under-estimated by your chief railway construction engineer. A correct comparison between departmental estimates and the public tenders would thus be effected, and the parties to the agreement would be in a better position to determine the ultimate cost of the work. My Government views with alarm the largelyincreased total estimated cost of the work, an.d it will be necessary to approach Parliament for a sum greatly in excess of the original estimate of £3,500,000. The action now suggested would enable Parliament to be approached with some confidence that the additional sum required can be relied upon as being sufficient to cover the necessary expenditure. I shall be glad of early advice as to the views of your Government in regard to this matter.
A similar letter was sent to the Premier of Queensland. That Government replied promptly, and further correspondence with it ensued, but’ no reply was received from New South Wales for a considerable time. The tenders having closed in September last, and the settlement of this matter being urgently necessary, a conference of the parties interested, convened at the instance of this Government- assembled in Melbourne on the 23rd January, 1926. The conference consisted of the honorable the Commonwealth Treasurer, the Minister for Works and Railways, and the New South Wales and Queensland Ministers for Railways. At ‘ this conference an agreement was arrived at whereby the ministers would recommend to their respective cabinets that a guarantee be given to the Railway Council that the various works incorporated in the schedule of quantities, on which tenders were called, would be carried out at the rates quoted by the respective chief railway construction engineers in the sealed estimate; or, in other words, that the sealed estimate would be submitted as a firm tender, and a contract entered into by the Railway Council, subject to the following : -
The Railway Council was thereupon advised that this Government had no objection to the work being carried out by the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland under the conditions named, and the council was assured that, on the understanding that the conditions named would be complied with, this Government would take steps to bring before the Parliament a bill to have the amount of £3,500,000, authorized by section 4 of the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act of 1924, increased to £4,000,000. A meeting of the Railway Council was held in Melbourne on the 3rd February, 1926, and in tho course of it the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland officially advised the council that they were prepared to regard the sealed estimates of their chief railway construction engineers as firm tenders, and to carry out the work at the prices quoted, subject tothe conditions I have just named as topayment on a. quantity basis, adjustment for or against in the event of increase or decrease in wages, &c. On this assurance the council unanimously .decided that theworks for which tenders were called should be undertaken by the StateGovernments of New South Wales and. Queensland respectively, and legal agreements were drawn up and signed asbetween the Governments of the Commonwealth’ and the respective States, and the Railway Council. Agreement how having been arrived at, this House is asked to authorize the provision of the extra £500,000, placing those Governments in practically the same position as ordinary railway contractors. A copy of each of the two agreements is now laid on the table of the House. An extract from the agreement reads -
The Commonwealth agres that it will takeall steps necessary to have this contract ratified by the Parliament of the Commonwealth as early as possible, and the said State agrees that it will take all steps necessary to have this contract ratified by the Parliament of the said State as early as possible.
The bill now submitted, in addition to providing for the extra money, provides for the agreements being ratified by this Parliament.
– Will the Minister lay on the table of the House the original and subsequent plans of the railway to show -whether a variation was made in the route?
– I am not aware that there were any original plans on which the Railway Council based its estimates. But plans have certainly been prepared, and quantities have been taken out by the Railway Council. A few weeks ago I laid on the table of the House copies of all the papers connected with those .matters. Let me give the House, some information about the tenders, without disclosing who the tenderers were. Public tender No. 1, in New South Wales, amounted to £1,059,868, plus departmental supervision £32,000, a total of £1,091,868.
Tender No. 2 was for £1,011,975, with £32,000 for departmental supervision, making a total of £1,043,975. The sealed estimate of the New South Wales railways, as sent in by the railway construction engineer, which is now a firm tender, was for £1,020,306, plus £25,500 for engineers’ services, making a total of £1,045,806, which is only £1,800 above the lowest public tender. As the New South Wales Government will not seek to make a profit out of the work, and may reasonably be expected to do the work better than a private contractor, the Railway Council decided to accept that tender. There was one public tender from Queensland, of £1,293,941, with £40,000 for departmental supervision, making a total of £1,333,941. The sealed estimate submitted by the construction engineer of the Queensland railways was £1,130,142, which included supervision charges. The Queensland railways’ tender was £203,799 lower than the public tender in Queensland.
– Did the Railway Council ask the New South Wales Government to reduce its figure, seeing that it was higher than the quotation of the lowest tenderer ?
– The estimate was based on schedule prices throughout, and those prices must have been, on the whole, similar to those of the public contractor. If the State makes a loss, it will have to bear it; if it makes a profit, it will retain it.
– But the public tender was lower, although it included the prospective profit of the tenderer.
– But only by £1,800. There will be some difference between the allocation of the expenditure between the States and the Commonwealth as at first proposed, and at present intended. Under the present arrangement, the Commonwealth would have provided one-fifth of the £3,500,000, and the remaining four-fifths will be paid’ by the States on a per capita basis. Thus ‘ the Commonwealth would provide £700,000, Queensland £410.036, and New South Wales £1,127,077. The Commonwealth would also provide on behalf of Victoria £818.509, on behalf of South Australia £266.939, and on behalf of Western Australia £177.439. Including its contribution of one-fifth of the amount, the Commonwealth would provide £1,962,887. Under the proposed arrangement, the Commonwealth will provide an additional £100,000, making its contribution £800,000 instead of £700,000; Queensland’s contribution will be increased to £468,613, and the New South Wales contribution to £1,288,088, while the Commonwealth will be expected to provide £935,439 for Victoria, £305,073 for South Australia, and £202,787 for Western Australia. The Commonwealth’s total under that proposal will be £2,243,299. The Government has given this matter a large amount of thought and attention, and submits its proposals as being the best decision in the circumstances. The Government believes that the firm tenders of the two State Governments should be accepted, and it confidently asks the House to ratify its decision.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. A. GREEN (Kalgoorlie)
The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has assured me that Miss Louise Lovely, the film actress, is a fine type of Australian, and a most worthy” woman. I wish to make it quite clear that I did not cast any aspersion on her. If anything that I said in committee on’ the tariff could be taken in that way, I withdraw it, on the assurances that. I have had from the honorable member
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Littleton
Groom). - The honorable member is not in order in referring to proceedings in committee, but I have allowed him a little latitude, in the circumstances.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked the Treasurer (Dr- Earle Page) this morning to explain the position of Mr. Fullerton, who he said was employed elsewhere but was still drawing pay from the Treasury. I am sorry that the Treasurer did not see fit to answer such a simple question with a straight-out “Yes” or “No,” but, instead, asked that it should be put on the notice-paper. I have brought this matter forward, not in any party political spirit, or in animosity to the Treasurer, but because I consider that a serious principle is involved. The charge made by the honorable member for Dalley is grave, though, the Treasurer, notwithstanding that he is the custodian of the public purse, does not appear to consider it so. He ought to be aware that persistent rumours are circulating in the city that, although Mr. Fullerton is doing nothing at all for either the Treasurer, or other members of the Government, he is drawing a salary from the Treasury. I hope the Treasurer will either deny the rumours or else tell us exactly what the position is.
– The question of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) was long and complicated, and I asked that it should be put on the notice-paper in order that I could in due course supply him with full information. Ever since the first private secretary was appointed for the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Joseph Cook) in 1916, it has been the practice in this Parliament to permit party leaders to select a private, secretary whose salary would be a charge on the Government.
– But Mr. Fullerton is the publicity agent of the Country party.
– Mr. Fullerton’s position is quite clear. He was chosen as private secretary to Mr. Mcwilliams, the Leader of the Country party, in 1920, after consultation with the then Prime Minister. I know that he is not a member of the Public Service, but neither are the secretaries of some other parliamentary leaders, notably the secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Mr. Fullerton does a great deal of important work to assist me as Leader of the Country party. He attends here at 2 o’clock every afternoon, and remains in attendance until late at night.
– But the Treasurer has also a private secretary - Mr. Bagot.
– He also is kept fully occupied with departmental matters; and works a good deal of overtime. In fact, I have brought his case before the Public Service Board to see whether some extra remuneration cannot be provided for the additional work that he is doing. The multifarious duties that members of Parliament, and particularlyparty leaders, have to discharge in these days renders extra help absolutely necessary. During my first year as a member of this House, I was unable todo my work satisfactorily without outside assistance, which I found myself, and I concluded that it was better to get the part-time services of an experienced man than to have the full time of a man at a low salary, without the experience requisite to give reliable advice. The item in the Estimates which provides for the salary of these officers comes before honorable members every year, and so far as I know, up to date, no exception has been taken to it.
.- If the case of Mr. Fullerton is to be taken as a precedent, honorable members of the Labour party, when they occupy the Government bench, will be entitled to employ the secretaries of the Australian Labour party in the various States to assist them. I do not think that that is a desirable state of affairs, and I should like to hear what the Prime Minister thinks about it. I do not desire to cast any aspersions on the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), for I know that he has a good deal of work to do; but a gentleman who is engaged in -outside business, and particularly in publicity work for one of the political parties, should not at the same time be receiving payment from the Treasury. I understand that this gentleman was on the pay sheet of the Prime Minister’s Department, but, to the Prime Minister’s credit, be it said, he removed his name. I think he ought to go further, and state definitely the policy of the Government in regard to the matter.
– The Treasurer’s reply was most unsatisfactory. I am amazed that he should countenance a gentleman who is doing publicity work for bis party receiving a salary from the Treasury. It would be most unfortunate if this case were taken as a precedent.
– The Treasurer has a private secretary, apart from Mr. Fullerton.
– In anycase, Mr. Fullerton, who is responsible for supplying Country party apologetics to the country newspapers, should not be paid by the Government.
– He indulges in criticism of the Nationalist party at times.
– But his chief gibes are at the expense of the Labour party. Judging by the volume of newspaper publicity work that he does, and considering that he is engaged in other business also, he can have very little time to devote to helping the Treasurer. I do not deny the right of the Leader of the Country party to have a secretary, but I deny the right of the Country party to have its publicity officer’s salary paid by the Commonwealth.
– If that can be done for the Country party it can be done for the Labour party.
– If this is to be taken as a precedent, no one can say where the practice will end. I am sure that the party on this side, if in power, would never do anything of the kind. I do not know this gentleman. His name, we are told, appeared on the pay-sheet of the Prime Minister’s Department, but was removed from it, I take it, by the Prime Minister when he came to understand that the duties that he performed ought not to be paid for by the public. The Treasurer has told us that a gentleman doing the work for the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is paid for out of the public purse; but that gentleman does nothing else but act as private secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. A parallel case- would be if the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate obtained another assistant, in addition to the one he has at present, to do the propaganda work of his party, and asked the country to pay for his services. Would the Treasurer stand for that? The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and honorable members on this side, would not ask for any such thing. It would be interesting to know whether the Prime Minister and other members of the Ministry approve of this kind of thing.
– The position with regard to the employment of private secretaries is perfectly clear and definite, and none of the things that have been suggested by honorable members opposite could possibly take place. It has been stated that any party, on coming into power, could attach to itself a staff of assistants and remunerate them from the public funds. The leaders of the respective parties are each entitled to a secretary to assist them, and this assistance is paid for out of the public funds. Items appear on the Estimates every year covering expenditure of this kind. In addition every Minister is entitled to a private secretary, and it is within his discretion to decide who shall fill the position. The Public Service Board has defined the limits of the remuneration which may be paid to the private secretaries of Ministers. No person other than the secretaries to the leaders of parties and the private secretaries to Ministers can be paid out of the public purse, unless their employment is approved by the Public Service Board. Ministers and leaders of the parliamentary parties have absolute discretion as to whom they shall employ as their secretaries. Any honorable member who has held office will agree that it is essential that a Minister or the leader of a parliamentary party should have assistance to enable him to carry out his work, and should have absolute discretion to seek that which he thinks will best enable him to do so. No salary vote can appear on the Estimates except for a private secretary to a Minister, the secretary to the leader of a party, or some officer whose appointment has been approved by the Public Service Board. I do not know who occupies these positions.
– Is it possible for the leader of a party who is also a Minister to have two secretaries?
– Is it the position of the Treasurer that, as leader of a . party and also a Minister, he has two private secretaries ?
– That is so. Provision was made in the Estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department for the. past few years for a secretary to the leader of the Country party, and also in the departmental Estimates for a private secretary to every Minister. That has been reviewed. It was considered a little anomalous that there should be a secretary to the leader of a party, who. is also a Minister of the Crown, and for his salary to appear in the Estimates of another department. The previous arrangement is to be altered. Every Minister is entitled to a private secretary, and such other assistance as he requires, provided that the payment made for that assistance is authorized by the Public Service Board.
– Has the other assistance in this case been approved by the Public Service Board ?
Mr.BRUCE. -No salary can appear on the Estimates unless that approval has first been obtained. I stress the point that every Minister or leader of a political party should be entitled, within the amount which Parliament agrees should be paid out of the public purse for the purpose, to choose the individual or form of assistance which he considers will best enable him to carry out his work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260625_reps_10_113/>.