12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers. .
– In this morning’s Canberra Times appeared the following cable message : -
The Italian Government has instructed its Canberra, representative to denounce the proposed trade treaty and to nieo join other representatives in a general protest.
It is not yet definite what the proposals will be, but Italy plans to treat butter from Australia like Australia treats cheese from Italy.
Officials estimated’ that the proposed treaty will cause 40 per cent, decline in Italian exports to Australia.
As the Italian Government contemplates retaliatory action on account of the recent alterations to the Australian customs tariff, will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, in the interest of the butter and other industries, negotiate with that Government with a view to a more peaceful adjustment of tariff differences)
– The trade relations between Italy and Australia are governed by the treaty between Great Britain and Italy which was ratified on the 30th Juno, 3883. The Australian colonies, with the exception of South Australia, became parties to the treaty, and on the establishment of federation the Commonwealth inherited benefits and obligations thereunder. By the treaty Italy is obliged to give most favoured nation treatment to the products of British countries, including Australia, except perhaps South Australia, and in return the Commonwealth is bound to give to Italian products treatment as favorable as is given to those of any other foreign country. I have no knowledge of the treaty referred to in the cable messages published in the Canberra Times. The Italian Chamber of Commerce in Sydney waited upon me recently, and asked that the intermediate tariff be applied to certain imports from Italy, on the ground that Italy buys annually approximately £5,000,000 worth of Australian produce, whereas Australia’s purchases from Italy do not exceed £1,450,000. I replied that the fullest consideration would be given to the representations of the deputation, but that it was unlikely that any action would be taken before the meeting of the Imperial Conference this year.’
Retrenchment at PORT Augusta.
– I have ‘been advised that many men are being retrenched from the Commonwealth railway service at Port Augusta. Will tie Minister for Markets and Transport ascertain whether that statement is COrrect; if it is, will he investigate the possibility of retaining the services of those men because of the depression that is general in South Australia?
– I shall enquire into the matter immediately. Possibly the retrenchment has been necessitated by the completion of the works on which the men were engaged.
– Arising out of the refusal of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs of an application by the honorable member for Swan on behalf of the Perth knitting mills for the remission of duty on certain woollen yarns, I ask the Minister whether he will lay on the table a list of all concessions, whole or in part, of customs duties payable on imported woollen or cotton yarns from the 1st January, 1930, to date?
– All by-law admissions are published periodically in the Commonwealth Gazette, and in that way the information is made available to honorable members and the public.
– Does the Gazette publish particulars of the values of such admissions, or of the firms in whose favour concessions have been made? If not, will the Acting Minister supply, that information to honorable members when requested so to do?
– I shall look into the matter. If it is considered advisable the details will be supplied. The practice followed now in regard to by-law admissions has not differed from that which was in force when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Trade and Customs.
– The by-law concessions were not as numerous then as they are now.
– For many years past a return has been placed before Parliament showing concessions granted -under items 174, 415, and 415a of the tariff. By the amending act of 1929 the duty of classifying these admissions was taken from the Tariff Board, and the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has informed me that owing to that alteration the submission of a periodical return to Parliament is no longer necessary. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will publish each year a list showing, not only the concessions, but ako the names of the persons to whom they were made, and the reasons for granting them?
– I shall discuss ‘ the matter with the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, and’ let the honorable member have a reply.
distribution of militarystoRES.
– The Premier of New South Wales has announced that the military clothing made available by the Commonwealth to the. States for the relief of the unemployed will be handed over to returned soldiers’ organizations for distribution amongst their members. Will the Prime Minister instruct that the clothing be allotted to the various local governing bodies for distribution? These bodies are better informed regarding the sufferings and privations of the unfortunate unemployed in their districts.
– The Commonwealth could not accept the responsibility of distributing through local governing or other bodies the military stores that are being made available for the relief of unemployed, and, therefore, asked the State Government to take delivery of the clothing and equipment, and arrange for their distribution. The material is being handed over unconditionally, but. on the understanding that it will be given to the most necessitous cases, and that there will be no differentiation between sections of the community. I was rather surprised, therefore, to learn that the Government of New South Wales had handed this clothing and equipment over to the Returned Soldiers League. In a communication sent to the Premier of New South Wales, I have said that whilst the Commonwealth Government does not object to the Returned Soldiers League distributing clothing to necessitous soldiers, it was undesirable that the whole of the clothing allotted to the State should be distributed through that channel. I suggested that the services of charitable organizations, and, in the country districts, local governing bodies, should be utilized. The clothing and equipment made available by the Commonwealth is intended for the relief of necessitous cases without sectional distinctions.
– As the Minister for Markets and Transport has been good enough to accede to the request of Messrs. Lyons, Tully and myself that the services of Mr. Gunn be made available for an investigation of the hop industry in Tasmania, will he authorize Mr. Gunn, while in that State, to extend his inquiry to the small fruits industry?
– I shall inquire whether it is possible to accede to the honorable member’s request.
– Has the Prime Minister ascertained whether there is any truth in the report published in the Age last week that the cactoblastus, after having eaten out the prickly pear at Laidley, attacked a crop of tomatoes?
– A report submitted by the Council of Science and Industry is reassuring. In an area where the cactoblastus had destroyed the prickly pear, and was, therefore, without its natural sustenance, a patch of unripe tomatoes was attacked by the parasite. However, the caterpillars very soon died when the injured tomatoes began to ripen. Before this parasite was released it was thoroughly tested on all plants of economic value, and it invariably died within 48 hours when deprived of prickly pear.
– No damage was done at Laidley.
– That is so; and it would be a mistake to start an alarm regarding the cactoblastus, which is likely to prove one of the most beneficial parasites ever introduced to Australia.
Report of Australian Delegate - Revision of Statute - Accession of
United States of America to the Protocol of Signature.
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra- Prime Minister) [11.15]. - I lay on the table the following papers : -
Report by Sir William Harrison Moore (Australian delegate) at the Conference of the State Signatories of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, held at Geneva, 14th September, 1929.
Protocol for the Revision of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice.
Protocol for the Accession of the United States of America to the Protocol of Signature of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice.
I move - by leave -
That this House approves the Protocol for the Revision of the Statute of the Permanent
Court of International Justice, dated Geneva, 14th September, 1929.
That this House approves the Protocol for the Accession of the United States of America to the Protocol of Signature of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, dated Geneva, 14th September, 1929. At the conference relating to the Revision of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice and the accession of the United States of America to the court, held at Geneva, in September, 1929, Sir William Harrison Moore, under instructions from the Commonwealth Government, signed, on behalf of the Commonwealth, the two protocols, copies of which I have just tabled. The Statute of the Court of International Justice was adopted iri 1920, and at the Ninth Assembly of the League of Nations in 1928, it was resolved that the time had arrived for an examination of the Statute to determine what amendments experience had shown to be necessary. A committee of jurists was appointed for the purpose and they gave the matter full consideration, and made certain recommendations to a representative conference which Sir Harrison Moore attended ‘on behalf of the Commonwealth. That conference adopted the proposals which were suggested. These were embodied in the protocol adopted by the Assembly of the League of Nations. That protocol is now before the House. The principal amendments deal with the number of the judges forming the court, the sessions of the court, and the procedure with regard to advisory opinions. Formerly, there were eleven judges and four deputy judges, but it is now proposed to have fifteen judges and no deputies. The judges are debarred from exercising political or administrative functions; which the deputies were not. Then, instead of holding annual sessions, the court is to be regarded as permanently in session, and will hold itself in readiness to function at any time. There has been difficulty in getting sufficient judges with the court holding annual sessions.
– It will not necessarily sit perpetually, but it will be in permanent session, and the judges will always be at the disposal of the court when their services are required.
As to the second protocol, the United? States of America last year intimated to the parties to the protocol that an exchange of views might lead to an agreement as to the conditions under -which that country could adhere to the statute. The Council of the League referred the matter to the committee of jurists that was examining the constitution of the court. A protocol was drafted by the committee,, and sent by the Council of the League to the conference that was then considering the revision of the courts’ statute. That conference approved of the protocol, and the Council, and also the Assembly, of the League accepted it. This protocol is really an agreement between the United States of America and the States which have accepted the jurisdiction of the permanent court. It will come into force when it has been ratified by all those States and the United States of America. The most important articles of the protocol are those numbered 5 and 8. Number 5 relates to advisory opinions of the court and number 8 empowers the United States to withdraw from the court. These have been drafted to overcome difficulties arising from the fact that the United States is not a member of the League. The United States of America stipulated that the court should not entertain a request for an advisory opinion as to a dispute affecting it without its consent. Article 5 is a rather long article and I shall not read it. Its effect is that the United States of America will be advised of every request for an advisory opinion, so that an exchange of views may take place to determine whether that country is effected. If it considers that it is affected, and objects to an opinion being obtained, and the Council decides to proceed, it may, under article 8 withdraw from its adherence to the Court. We hope that such an occasion may not arise. The United States of America signed the protocol on the 9 th December last. The protocol appears eminently satisfactory to the Commonwealth.
– Is it practicable* for the documents which the right honorable the Prime Minister has just tabled, and which deal with important international matters in which Australia is concerned, to be made available to honorable members in some convenient form ?
–That will be done.
Debate on these motions severally adjourned on motion by Mr. Latham.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The above quantities are milligrammes. The principle of distribution was that radium should be placed in the principal medical school teaching hospitals, or where there was no university in the principal public hospital.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the proposed grant of £100,000 to coal-miners -
Does he intend to ask for the authority of Parliament before granting such a large sum?
If not, upon what constitutional authority does he propose to make the grant?
Will he make available for the relief of unemployed in Western Australia part of the £100,000 proportioned to the population of that State?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Distribution of Defence Equipment
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Australian broom manufacturers and millet-growers have an adequate production to meet the requirements of Australian consumption, has he yet given consideration to their request for a prohibitive tariff against the importation of Italian millet brooms, bassine, and of Palmyra fibre; if not, why not?
– This is one of a very large number of applications for tariff increases which are now receiving careful consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether any steps are being taken to complete the work of the revision of the Standing Orders of this House, which was initiated by the previous Government?
– It is hoped that it will be possible to arrange for the Standing Orders Committee to meet at an early date with a view to a finalization of the work done by the Standing Orders Committee of the previous Parliament.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - 1.Does he intend to carry out the proposed installation of an automatic telephone exchange at Newcastle this year?
– There is no intention at the moment of installing automatic equipment at Newcastle and the other places referred to.
– On the 21st May, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked me two questions, upon notice, relating to the expenditure of the Defence Department. The honorable member has since notified me that he desired slight amendments in the wording of his questions. I now submit the ques tions in their amended form, together with the replies : -
– On the 21st May, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked the following question, upon notice -
In view of the frequent discoveries of illicit stills in the various States of the Commonwealth, will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House -
How many illicit stills have been found in each State during the past five years?
How many prosecutions have been launched in connexion therewith, and how many convictions recorded?
What quantity of spirit has been confiscated as a result?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Western Australia,1; Tasmania, 0. (b) Number of prosecutions launched - 25; number of convictions recorded -25.
– On the 15th May, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) asked the following question upon notice -
– On the 28th May the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) asked me the following question -
Will the Minister for Works have prepared a statement setting out the works that have been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works during the last five years, together with those that have been approved by it, but have not yet been put in hand !
To that I replied to the effect that I would endeavour to have the statement prepared. In reply to the honorable member’s question, I invite his attention to the statements appearing in the 14th and 15th General Reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. These statements set out the whole of the proposals investigated by the committee, together with the results of the inquiries. The following is a list of those works recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on
Public Works during the last five years which have not been put in hand : -
Construction of boys’ naval training establishment at Geelong, Victoria.
Extension of trans-Australian railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, South Australia, and the laying of a third rail to provide a railway of 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge on the South Australian S-ft. 3-in. gauge railway from Red Hill to the Central Railway Station, Adelaide. (This work conies under the control of the Department of Transport.)
Construction of new wharf at Garden Island naval establishment, New South Wales.
Permanent Administrative Offices, Canberra.
Erection of Commonwealth Offices, Sydney.
Erection of Commonwealth Offices, Brisbane.
Australian War Memorial.
Establishment of automatic telephone exchange, City West, Melbourne.
Establishment of automatic telephone exchange, Caulfield East, Victoria.
Development of civil aerodrome at Mascot, New South Wales.
Establishment of automatic telephone exchange at Hurstville, New South Wales.
Establishment of automatic telephone exchange at Brunswick, Victoria.
Construction of public baths, Canberra.
Erection pf cottages, Canberra.
Compensation to Retrenched Officers
– On 29th May, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Bill returned from the Senate with a request for an amendment.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Many years have elapsed since the Commonwealth entered, for the first time, this “ new province of law and order “, if I may adopt the phrase of one of the distinguished jurists - perhaps the most distinguished of them - presiding over the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. One can readily anticipate the oft repeated criticism of those who say that in this jurisdiction law has not always been observed nor order maintained. So much is readily admitted. But tb.complete realization of ideals is impossible of achievement in any phase of human activity, and certainly is not likely to be realized in its entirety in the clash of conflicting interests that necessarily arises in the industrial relationships of a young country. Peace, in industry, remains an ideal devoutly to be wished for. The Government has a mission to proceed unfalteringly along the rugged path that leads to this result; and an emphatic mandate to employ for that purpose the processes of conciliation and arbitration. But on our way we must encounter again, as we have encountered before, the implacable opposition of those who believe that no legislative enactment should bo intruded in the age-long conflict between capital and labour, in which they are pleased to believe that the doctrine of freedom of contract should have full play. Unrestrained freedom of contract inevitably means the oppression of the weaker By the stronger, of the dependent by the independent, and the triumph of selfinterest over elemental right. A mere re-statement of this truth is sufficient. It no longer requires argument to support it, for the very sufficientreason that the intervention of the State, through its instrumentalities, between employer and employee, has become generally accepted by all practical, thinking people. Men who resist the logic of experience retain the right to indulge their theories, but the vast majority of our people, who are guided by the realities of the case, decline to return to conditions from which they have only too slowly and painfully emerged.
In this chamber I speak, up to this point, for the great majority, for these views are supported not only unanimously by the Australian Labour party, whose spokesman for the time being 1 have the honour to be, but also by many honorable members on the opposite side of the House, including my learned predecessor in office, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham).
To clear the issue I cannot do better than recall some statements made by the Leader of the Opposition when he was a member of the previous Government, and also by the leader of that Government. First let me repeat, from Ilansard of 21st September, 1928, at page 7083 of volume 119, the following observations of the present Leader of the Opposition which were quoted with approval on that occasion by the Leader of the present Government : -
We arc apt to over-emphasize our own particular local difficulties. I am rather tired of hearing Australians speaking of Australia as a “ land of constant strikes.”
If you look at the actual figures and statistics you will find that we are really better off than most countries. The position in Australia to-day is this. In the Arbitration Court 149 unions are registered. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of unions which in recent years have struck or ceased work: whether by lockout or strike.
As sensible men, let us recognize that and not let us exaggerate our industrial troubles.
In his speech on the motion for the second reading of a Conciliation and
Arbitration Bill, in 1927, reported in Hansard, Vol. 117, page 3275, the honorable gentleman said -
The general abandonment of industrial legislation in Australia, which is sometimes suggested, would not solve any problem, but would open the way to a period of social and industrial unrest, and to the perpetration of individual injustices, for which the Government is not prepared to accept the responsibility.
In the same speech, reported on page 3277 of the same volume of Hansard, the honorable gentleman said -
The expressed opinion of some is that the whole system has serious defects which cannot be amended, and that, therefore, it should be ended. The Government does not, at the present time, subscribe to that view. The abolition of the court would not solve any problem; on the contrary it would create new, problems without any satisfactory means at hand for solving them, lt is necessary to face the realities of the situation.
The last Prime Minister, the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce, speaking on the Transport Workers Bill on the 21st September, 1928 - vide Hansard, volume 119, page 7075 - said -
The System of arbitration was designed to effect a peaceful settlement of disputes; and it must be admitted that it has worked extraordinarily well. Hundreds of industries, and hundreds of thousands of men, are to-day working under the awards of the court, without difficulties arising and without dislocation of industry.
The statement of -the same right honorable gentleman, in his speech in the second-reading debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, on the 17th May, 1928, reported in Hansard, volume 118, page 4999, shows ‘how completely men of diverse views, including, in some cases, men of deeply conservative opinions, have been conquered by the theory of industrial legislation as the cure for industrial wrongs. The right honorable gentleman said on that occasion -
The people of Great Britain, as that country began to advance industrially to the position of the chief manufacturing nation of the world, became conscious that hideous abuses were being practised in the industrial sphere. Employers were using men, women, and children as mere chattels, and in many cases abominable injustice was being done to them. In order to protect themselves against exploitation, employees began to gather together in groups, and to act co-operatively in their own interests. That action was bitterly resented by employers. Everything was done to prevent the growth of co-operation among the working classes, and the establishment of the principle of collective bargaining. But the struggle continued,’ and the workers gradually and irresistibly established that principle. They did it with the sympathy and with the. full support of public opinion. Employers were often stupid and misguided, and it was from them the opposition came; the great body of public opinion was behind this great effort of the workers to secure equitable and decent conditions.
These quotations, which need not be elaborated, bring out in strong relief the fact that honorable members opposite, as well as honorable members on this side of the House, are deeply pledged, by their votes and through their leaders, to this policy of industrial conciliation and arbitration. If the case rested there, it would be a valid argument that the great majority of the members of Parliament represent the great majority of the people of Australia on this subject. But it does not rest there. Without wishing to reopen the wounds or revive the memory of the casualties incidental to the last general election, the fact remains that this Government, which is in office backed by the largest single party that ever in the history of Australia supported a ministry, is the living evidence of the swift and devastating punishment which came Upon the political party opposite when it fell away from its declared allegiances and sought to destroy the bond which it had -so emphatically ratified between it and the people, evacuating the field of high endeavour which it had occupied in a manner so spectacular, and leaving to others, here and there, who might care to take it up, the hurden of responsibility which it had so weakly cast aside’. Upon that the country pronounced judgment; an emphatic and an unpleasant judgment for honorable members opposite. Justice required - it might be poetic justice - that the Leader of the last Government should go down with the ship whi’ch he had brought to wreckage. But the honorable gentleman leading the Opposition is still with us, as, indeed, also are his few devoted supporters who, after almost incredible terrors and sufferings, have come painfully ashore. On main principles I am entitled to hope that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) will be in agreement with the Government; on- matters* of detail we can afford to differ.
The late Government made, among many errors, the cardinal error of seeking to attach to a measure of conciliation and arbitration the penal sanctions of the criminal code. It did not originate that policy. The members of that Government, and particularly the present Leader of the Opposition, sought to extend it and to make it more punitive. Nor did we originate it. But we seek to reduce and modify and, as far as practicable, to. remove the penalties, and so we place in the forefront of the bill, not the clashing weapons of strike and lockout, but the solvent remedies of goodwill and conciliation. Although we have marching orders from the people along these lines which we are taking, and although the people have accepted our teaching that these lines are the best, we do not put this measure forward as the full and final expression of our policy in this regard. Less than two years ago we fought the then Government strenuously, We resisted the imposition of the network of irritating contrivance with which it had over-lain the act.. Our objections have been upheld on appeal to the highest court in the land - the people - and our first duty, therefore, is to remove the obnoxious clauses in which these irritating processes to which I have referred have found expression. The bill contains some important new provisions, hut we are still awaiting that measure of legislative freedom by which alone the people’s Parliament can operate effectively in their interests.
The original act was passed in 1904, and it has already been amended twelve times- in 1909, 1910, 1911, twice in 1914, in 1915, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1926 1927 and 1928. Honorable members opposite say that we will wait a long time to give effect to our policy, and they smile grimly at this long list of efforts to improve the act. But if they would reason with a little more clarity they would recognize the obvious fact that these various amendments, to which I have referred of set purpose, are, in a large measure, the inevitable consequences of the absurd limitations upon our legislative power. They go far to prove the popular demand for conciliation and arbitration, and the need for the removal of the self-imposed straight- jacket in which we are encased like a limb in plaster of paris. They prove nothing against conciliation and arbitration as a principle. The amending act passed in 1928 marked a new stage in connexion with the amendment of the arbitration law. Under it, provision was made for the holding of secret ballots, either on the application of dissatisfied members of an organization or by direction of the court; the penalties for offences were greatly increased ; many new offences were provided for, accompanied by drastic penalties, and detailed provisions were made in certain cases for the enforcement of penalties against the property of organizations. There is no doubt that the passage of that act was responsible, to a large extent, for the destruction of that spirit of goodwill which should exist between employer and employee, and should be a feature of any arbitration legislation designed to settle disputes between them and to promote industrial peace. The present bill has been framed with the primary object of making the arbitration law more effective, or promoting goodwill in industry, and of undoing, as far as possible, the mischief which was wrought by the enactment of many of the provisions contained in the act of 1928. At the outset, the chief objects of the act are stated in section 2, and the first of these objects, as contained in the existing law, is that of preventing lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes. It is proposed to omit this provision, and to substitute as the primary object of the act the promotion of goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration. It is proposed to omit the sections of the existing law prohibiting lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes, and for this reason the definitions of “ lockout “ and “ strike “ contained in section 4 of the act are being repealed, together with the whole of part n., except section 9.
The existing law contains, in section 18a, a provision requiring at least three judges to sit on a case in which the question at issue is that of increasing the Standard hours of work in an industry, or of reducing the standard hours of work in an industry to less than 48, or, where the standard hours of -work in an industry are less than 48, reducing the standard hours at all. It is proposed to amend this provision by requiring three judges to deal with a case where the question at issue is an increase in the standard hours of work in an industry, or a reduction of the basic wage, or an alteration of the principles on which it is computed. Having regard to the objects of the act, there seems to be no good reason why it should bo necessary for more than one judge to sit in cases where the question at issue is that of reducing the standard hours of work in an industry to less than 48, or, where the hours are already less than 48, reducing them still further. In this connexion it is to be borne in mind that it is the duty of the court to adjust wages and conditions. On the other hand, it is a matter of policy, so far as possible, to establish, as a measure of social justice, standards as to hours and wages, in violation of which no industrial tribunal is free to act. This Government hears in mind the pledges which it gave to the people and the mandate that it received at their hands in regard to the maintenance of basic standards. That is the substance of the solemn compact on this subject between the Parliament and the electors. Faced with unprecedented financial obligations and responsibilities, the Government stands firm to its accepted promise and pledge on this vital matter, recognizing, as it does, that the undermining of basic standards must be reflected in increased destitution, reduced purchasing power, inroads upon the primary necessities of the working class in the community, with consequent and dangerous impairment of national security and solvency.
Under the existing law, the GovernorGeneral has power to appoint one or more conciliation commissioners, who shall have such of the powers of a judge, under sections 16 and 16a of the act, as are assigned to them by the Governor-General. It is felt that the employment of conciliation commissioners is desirable to give effect to the Prime Minister’s public declaration to rid the court of excessive legalism, and to bring the parties in closer touch by means of consultation less formal than the machinery of the court, as at present constituted, provides. It is felt that these commissioners should have all the powers of a judge for the purpose of pre venting or settling industrial disputes, except certain powers which are enumerated in paragraph, c of clause 8. The decision to give wider powers to conciliation commissioners necessitates the alteration of a number of sections of the Principal Act. Those alterations are to be made by a series of consequential amendments throughout the bill.
An important departure is made by clause 11. As I have already indicated, the Arbitration Court for a considerable time was hampered in its operations by continual appeals to the High Court of Australia, frequently on questions of pure technicality. In 1914, an effort was made to terminate this interference with the work of the Arbitration Court by the enactment of what is known as section 21aa. The method adopted was to give to a justice of the High Court the power to determine whether, in law, a dispute existed. At that time the President and the Deputy Presidents of the Arbitration Court were also justices of the High Court; and if, in the exercise of their arbitration jurisdiction, the question arose whether a dispute existed or not, they could sit in chambers as justices of the High Court, and in that capacity decide the matter finally and conclusively. When in 1926 the Arbitration Court was reconstituted at the instance of the Bruce-Page Government, by the appointment of judges with life tenure, the jurisdiction conferred by section 21aa of the act became no longer exercisable by a justice engaged in arbitration work. The High Court justices being no longer so engaged, that jurisdiction was exercisable solely by a justice of the High Court. Now that the judges of the Arbitration Court are appointed with life tenure, there seems to be no reason why the power that was formerly exercisable by a justice of the High Court who might also hold the office of President or Deputy-President of the Arbitration Court should not be exercised by judges of the Arbitration Court. Accordingly, it is proposed to give to the judges of the Arbitration Court the power to determine finally whether or not a dispute exists. In order that it may be made clear that any decision given by a judge of the Arbitration Court is final, it is proposed to declare that sub-section 4 of section 21aa is to be read as an exception prescribed by the Parliament to the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court under section 73 of the Constitution. Tha: section provides, inter alia, that the High Court shall have jurisdiction, with such exceptions and subject to such regulations as the Parliament prescribes, to hear and determine appeals from all judgments, decrees, orders, and sentences of any justice exercising the original jurisdiction of the High Court, or of any other federal court, or of a court exercising federal jurisdiction. The Constitution, therefore, specifically contemplates that the Parliament may, if it thinks fit, declare exceptions to the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court. It is in pursuance of that power that the amendment contained in clause 11 of the bill is proposed to be made. “ ?
By clause 17 of the bill it is proposed to repeal section 25d of the existing law, which compels the court, before making an award or certifying an agreement, to take into, consideration the probable economic effect of the award or agreement in relation to the community in general, and the probable economic effect of the award or agreement upon the industry concerned. Section 25d was one of those that were inserted in the act by the amending measure of 1928/ The Government considers that no such direction should be given by the legislature to the court. Apart from the matters of fundamental policy to which I have already referred, the court is free. The functions of the judge, however, are primarily arbitral and not legislative. The matters which the court, under this section, is invited specially to consider, involve grave considerations of public policy of the first importance, in respect of which the Government alone can have an intimate knowledge, and with regard to which, as trustee for the people, it must take full responsibility.
It is proposed to amend section 27 of” the act by requiring that both the leave of the court and the consent of all parties must be obtained before a party may he represented by counsel, solicitor, or paid agent. Hitherto it has been possible for a. party to be so represented either by leave of the court or’ by consent of the parties.
Clause 24 of the bill proposes to repeal section 33, which was inserted in its present form by the amending act of 1928. This is one of the sections which had the effect of antagonizing employer and employee, and of introducing excessive legalism into a law that was enacted for quite a different purpose, namely for the settlement in a practical and commonsense manner of the difficulties that arise between employer and employee.
Clause 28 proposes to repeal section 38c of the existing law. That is another section that was inserted by the 1928 act. It compels the court to consider in every case whether the matter at issue should not rather be dealt with by a State tribunal than by a Commonwealth court. It is considered that such a provision is entirely unwarranted. It is the duty of the court in the case of every industrial dispute that is brought before it to take steps immediately to endeavour to settle that dispute^ not to consider in the first place whether the dispute is one that ought to be handed over for settlement to some other and presumably subordinate tribunal over which neither the court nor the Government itself has any jurisdiction.
Section 3?n is one of a number of penal sections that were inserted by the 1928 act. lt is proposed by clause 29 of the bill to repeal it. That applies also to sections 47 and 48, which it is proposed to repeal by clauses 34 and 35 of the bill.
Section 50, which it is proposed by clause 36 to repeal, also contains certain penal provisions, the existence of which is undesirable if goodwill between employer and employee is to be promoted.
Clause 37 proposes to repeal sections 56a to 56g inclusive. Those sections deal with the holding of secret ballots by organizations. They were enacted in 1928, but they have been entirely ineffective in the direction of serving any useful purpose. On the other hand, they have been the subject of much controversy and bad-feeling, and are rightly regarded as an inexcusable interference with the self-government of organizations.
Clause 39 proposes to repeal paragraphs i and I inclusive of sub-section 1 of section 60 of the act. Those paragraphs were inserted by the ill-fated act of 1928, with the object of increasing the penalties imposed upon organizations for non-observance of awards, &c.
By clause 40 it is proposed to re-insert the provision that was contained in the original act of 1904, making it impossible for a member of an organization to resign or to be discharged during the pendency of a dispute. That section was repealed by the 192S act.
Clause 41 proposes to repeal sections 62 to 64 of the principal act, which give the Governor-General power to proclaim organizations under the act. The effect of such a proclamation is to make the act apply to an association whether it is registerable or not. It is considered that that is an undesirable power. One of the objects of the act is to encourage the registration of associations as organizations ; but if an association prefers not to register it should not be possible for registration to be forced upon it by an external authority; nor should the registration of other than associations formed in good faith, and under prescribed regulations, be encouraged.
Clause 42 repeals sections 70a and 70b. Those sections refer to matters that are more fit for adjustment and determination by the rules of the organizations themselves. As they now stand, they are calculated to inflame intra-union differences and to lead to litigation, with consequent legal costs and friction between the parties. It is proposed that those minor differences shall be left for adjustment in the organization itself.
Section 72 of the Principal Act, in its present form, was enacted in 1928. It imposes heavy obligations on organizations to keep lists of names and addresses of members of organizations, and, under penalty on the organization and the secretary, or other prescribed officer of the organization, to file with the Registrar copies of those lists. The framers of this provision had, apparently, little knowledge of the movements of working men from place to place, and of the difficulties of keeping a record of addresses, especially in the case of unions with many thousands of members. It is proposed by clause 43 to modify to some extent the provisions contained in this section, and to omit the penalty.
Clause 44 relates to section 72a, which was inserted in the Principal Act by the 1928 act. This section deals with the appointment of auditors and the audit of accounts of organizations. An audit is recognized to be desirable in the interests of members and sub-section 1 is retained. The other provisions are considered unnecessarily punitive ; for the general oversight which the court has over organizations is sufficient. We require that an auditor be competent, and not necessarily qualified.
Clause 45 proposes to repeal the penal provisions contained in sections 86a to 86d, which were inserted by the 1928 act, and also to repeal section 87 of the Principal Act, which relates to the counselling or procuring of offences against the act. These sections relate to matters more properly dealt with under the Crimes and Police Offences Act than in a measure of conciliation and arbitration. The same remark applies to section 89b, which also is repealed.
Apart from some main provisions which have been indicated above, the bill will be seen to be one rather for discussion in committee than in general debate, and I commend it to the House in the hope that it will have a speedy passage, and that our united efforts will have some substantial effect in realizing the object which I am sure every honorable member desires to achieve, namely, goodwill in the great industrial undertakings of this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.
Message reported recommending appropriation for the purposes of the amendment to be made upon request by the Senate.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. FORDE) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of the amendment to be made upon request by the Senate in a bill for an act to provide for the payment of bounty on the export of fortified wine, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s request) :
Cla use 6 -
The rate of bounty.. . shall be one shilling and ninepence per gallon.
Provided further that no bounty shall be payable in respect of wine which is not shown, to the satisfaction of the Minister, to be the product of areas planted with vines on or before the thirty-first day of March, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight.
Senate’s request -
After the word “ twenty -eight” insert “ or in the case of an irrigation area planted with vines with the assistance of the Government of a State, before the commencement of this act.”
. -I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
Its purpose is to deal with a situation that has arisen in South Australia. Some returned soldiers were settled on irrigation blocks at Cadell which were afterwards found to be unsuitable for wine grapes. They were moved to Loveday irrigation area in 1928 and 1929, and there plantedout vines during those years. These men have already experienced bad times and sustained losses, and this amendment is introduced to save them from a further setback. It is proposed at the instance of the South Australian Government to remove all doubt as to the eligibility of these soldiers to receive the bounty.
.- The amendment is approved by South Australian members. It relates to plantings which are substantially not new-, but were made in connexion with the transfer of soldier settlers from blocks on which the seepage dueto irrigation destroyed the vines they had originally planted.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 28th May, vide page 2240) :
Clause 4 (Execution of agreement authorized).
.- I move -
That the following proviso be added - “ Provided that the Commonwealth shall not execute, an agreement in the form in the schedule with any State unless and until, at a ballot of wheat-growers in that State taken in accordance with the laws of that State, a majority of wheatgrowers entitled to vote at that ballot have recorded their votes in favour of the scheme specified in the agreement in that form.”
The remarks made by the Minister and other members on the Government side on Wednesday indicated that the Government will not accept the amendment. I a.m amazed at its reluctance to add this safeguard to the bill, but it is in keeping with the general hostility of honorable members opposite to the principle of the ballot. By another measure introduced into this House this morning, members of trade unions are to be deprived of the right to control their own affairs by means of a ballot. Whether this reluctance to extend the principle of the ballot is due to the many troubles which Labour unions have had in connexion with their internal elections, I cannot say, but there is certainly a consistent antagonism to provisions which assure to organizations full control of their own affairs. The Minister and other critics have objected that any provision for the taking of a ballot by the Commonwealth would be an invasion of a sphere that essentially belongs to the States. My amendment provides, not that a ballot shall be taken by the Commonwealth, but that the Commonwealth shall not enter into an agreement with any State until a ballot of the wheat-growers, in accordance with the laws of that State, shall have been taken, and a majority of those entitled to vote in such ballot shall have signified their approval of the scheme specified in the agreement. It is impossible to have anything more democratic or consistent with the professed views of honorable members opposite, yet they have expressed some reluctance to incorporate it in the bill. It will not place any more responsibility upon the federal authorities in giving effect to the provisions of the bill, and if the assurance which the Minister says he has received from the State authorities are genuine, it will not place any additional responsibility upon them. It merely provides legislative enactment of the principle which the Minister has enunciated on many occasions, and ensures that the wheat-growers shall be consulted in a bona-fide manner before being compelled to scrap a certain section of their present marketing system. The refusal to incorporate such a safeguard in the measure cannot but help to raise suspicion such as .exists in connexion with the trade union matters where certain cliques always desire to retain control. It would suggest the existence of some understanding between the supporters of the Government and certain vested interests which, under the co-operative system, have had a grip on a portion of the farmers’ marketing arrangements. “Fundamentally that vested interest differs very little from the vested interest of the wheat merchants. Honorable members opposite have frequently referred to the ‘ wheat merchants as those who farm the farmers, but unless a safeguard of this nature is incorporated in the bill there will be a suspicion that officials or cliques in the co-operative movement may become interested, and in turn handle the work in the hope of making a profit.
– I cannot see how the honorable member’s argument applies to the suggested ballot.
– There is always difficulty in effecting a change when an undertaking is under the control of a clique. When officers of a trade union organization are once elected, it is very difficult to select others. I do not suggest that that is always . due to a manipulation of the ballot, as it is largely in consequence of the tremendous advantage obtained by those in control whose names are well known to the voters.
– Does not the honorable member believe in re-election?
– Yes. Provision is made in the schedule for election by ballot of members of a wheat board who will be in control of the scheme outlined in the schedule. If my amendment is negatived a safeguard which- should be provided for the wheat-growers will be deliberately rejected. [Quorum formed.] The method of balloting which I suggest differs considerably from that provided in the bill, inasmuch as it ensures that the wheat-growers will not be in any way coerced. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said that he believed in taking a ballot of the growers in any industry before coercing a minority, and went so far as to suggest that he would favour more than a. bare majority being required; in fact, he mentioned 60 per cent, as a fair minimum. The Minister has suggested that those who are opposed to certain provisions of the bill have not yet called for a division on any clause.
– I referred to the fact that there was no division on the second reading of the bill.
– I intend to press for a division upon this amendment, and if honorable members wish to take a definite stand to prevent a safeguard from being incorporated in the measure, which will ensure that the wheat-growers are genuinely consulted, their names should be recorded in the official report.
– I cannot support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), for the obvious reason that, if adopted, it would place in the hands of the State authorities sufficient power to destroy the bill by refusing to take a ballot.
– That can be done now. A State need not sign the agreement.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) can surely realize where this amendment will lead us. The. words “ in accordance with the laws of that State “ are used. What would be .the position if a State government did not wish to provide for a ballot?
– It would not sign the agreement.
– It has been frequently stated that, from a constitutional view-point, the Commonwealth Government is discriminating as between States ; but that is entirely wrong, as no discrimination by the Commonwealth can arise as a result of this legislation. The Commonwealth Government is not preventing, but is urging, the States to assist in this scheme. If one State, in consequence of State policy; does not wish .to assist, surely it cannot be contended that there is discrimination by this Parliament against that State.
– That is not the point.
– Every State should take -a ballot to give its wheat-growers an opportunity to express their opinion upon this measure. The responsibility of taking a ballot within a particular State is within the province of the Parliament of that State, and not of this Parliament.
Sitting suspended from. 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
I support the amendment of the honorable member forWakefield (Mr. Hawker), and cannot understand why the Minister will not accept it. When it was suggested a few days ago that this amendment would be moved, it was said that it might involve constitutional difficulties, but the Minister has since receded from that position. He now says that he will not accept it, because to do so would be discourteous to the States. Surely no State could regard it as a discourtesy for this Parliament to insert a reasonable safeguard in a bill which may involve the Commonwealth in the expenditure of a large sum of money. Unquestionably, some farmers in all the States will object to the principle of compulsory pooling, and it is advisable, therefore, that we should have an assurance before the scheme is put into operation that the majority of the farmers in the different States are favorable to it. Unless a provision of this kind is included in the bill, the Government of some States may become parties to the pool without consulting, the farmers, and surely nobody desires that to happen. The wheat-growers should he consulted on a matter like this, which so vitally concerns them. If the Minister has any substantial reason for refusing to accept the amendment I should like to hear it; but he has not advanced one so far. We do not desire to wreck the bill; we only wish to make the pool as perfect as possible.
.- When I first read this amendment I thought I could support it ; but on further consideration I find that some alterations must be made to it before I can agree to it. As drafted it may, if agreed to, have the effect of preventing a State Government from making an agreement with the Commonwealth Government in regard to the pool even though a vote for the scheme may have been given by the farmers of that State under a State law. In New South Wales there is a marketing act which can become operative in certain industries only after 662/3 per cent. of the persons entitled to vote in that industry return a 662/3 per cent, majority in favour of the proposal. If a 662/3 per cent. poll of wheat-farmers returned a 662/3 per cent. majority in favour of the compulsory pool, it would mean that about 45 per cent. of the persons actually entitled to vote could authorize the Government to become a party to the agreement; but if this amendment is agreed to the Government of the State may be prevented from participating in the pool unless more than 50 per cent, of the farmers actually entitled to vote decide in favour of the scheme.
In Victoria I understand that it is proposed that a 55 per cent. majority of those who actually vote in a poll shall be sufficient to authorize the Government to become a party to the agreement. If only 70 per cent. of those entitled to vote in Victoria record their votes, an affirmative vote amounting to a 55 per cent. majority of those exorcising their vote would be less than 50 per cent. of those entitled to vote. But if the amendment is agreed to it would be necessary to obtain a majority of more than 50 per cent. of those entitled to vote before a State government could sign the agreement. The amendment readsProvided that the Commonwealth shall not execute an agreement in the form in the schedule with any State unless and until, at a ballot of wheat-growers in that State taken in accordance with the laws of that State, a majority of wheat-growers entitled to vote at that ballot have recorded their votes in favour of the scheme specified in the agreement in that form.
The words “taken in accordance with the laws of that State” suggest that we should have some respect for the laws of the State, but the amendment would have the opposite effect inasmuch as it would override the law of the State with respect to the requisite majority. I, therefore, suggest to the honorable member that he should omit the words, “ a majority of wheat-growers entitled to vote,” and insert instead “ a majority of wheat-growers who record their vote.”
But I have another objection to the amendment in its present form. Queensland already has a compulsory pool for wheat, in connexion with which a ballot was taken. The Government of that State may, therefore, reasonably say, that as the farmers there have already agreed to the principle of compulsory pooling, there is no need to incur the expense of taking another ballot.
– A second ballot was taken, and the favorable majority was larger than in the first ballot.
– It may be argued that those ballots were taken in respect to a State compulsory pool, whereas this is a Commonwealth compulsory pool; but it may be reasonably assumed that the farmers who voted in favour of the principle of compulsory pooling for the State would not object to it for the Commonwealth.
– Surely it would all depend upon the character of the Commonwealth pool ?
– The Queensland Government has taken the attitude Indicated by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson).
– In these circumstances, it would seem to be unnecessary to oblige Queensland to take another Pallot.
I shall support the amendment only if the honorable member will agree to the insertion of the words “ a majority of the wheat-growers who record their vote “ instead of “ a majority of the wheatgrowers entitled to vote,’’ and of a provision making it unnecessary for a State which already has a compulsory pool upon which the farmers have voted, to take another ballot on the subject.
.- It has been interesting to hear the objections raised on various grounds to the insertion in the bill of a provision that a ballot of wheat-growers shall return an affirmative majority in favour of the proposed ^compulsory pool before the Government of the Commonwealth may become a party to it. The Minister has assured us that the States intend to hold ballots, so there can be no objection to the principle of the amendment. The Minister has also said that he is not prepared to proceed with the establishment of a Commonwealth compulsory ;pool, unless the farmers approve of it. The whole idea of the bill is that there :shall be a pool only if the Governments of at least three States, after securing the approval of the wheat-growers in their States, become parties to the agreement.
– What if the result of the ballot is an affirmative vote under the State act, and not under this legislation ?
– That is the point to which I am coming. The question is, should this Parliament itself insist upon being satisfied that a satisfactory majority of the wheat-growers is in favour of the proposals, or’ on the other hand, should it leave that matter entirely to be determined by the laws of the State so that even on a 5 per cent, vote a majority might effectively approve of the proposal ?
– In previous marketing legislation we were always prepared to accept a majority of those who voted and not a majority of those entitled to vote.
– That is a matter of detail as to the extent of the majority; I am for the moment dealing with the principle of the ballot. Why should we not say in the bill that there must be a ballot, and a certain majority in favour of the scheme, before it can be introduced? One argument advanced against the clause is that in Queensland a ballot has been taken ; but it is impossible on the face of it for that statement to be accurate.
– I said that a ballot had been taken in Queensland on a State compulsory pool.
– That has nothing to do with this scheme. A Commonwealth pool is quite different from a State pool, because, in the former case, the view nf any particular State would depend altogether upon the provisions of the Commonwealth pooling system. At the end of the agreement in the schedule to this bill, there is a rather remarkable equalization clause, and I have considerable sympathy with those who are to work it out. They may think that it is all right now, but we have already had a taste of the controversy that is likely to arise concerning geographical and other advantages. The view entertained of a Commonwealth pool in a particular State would depend, among other matters, upon the precise equalization provisions to be adopted. Of course other clauses in the agreement will determine what the effect of the pool in a particular State will be, and we are all sufficiently aware of the controversy which lias already taken place as to the basis upon which any extra charge imposed upon the people as a whole shall be apportioned among the States, to know that there is a great deal of difference between the various schemes for wheat pooling on a Commonwealth basis. Now we have a particular scheme before us. The scheme this week is different from what was submitted to us last week. Honorable members have only to look at the heavy print in the agreement to know that a large number of alterations has been made. Many of them are much needed improvements. The scheme is certainly different this week from what it was last week.
– The general principle of the bill has not been changed.
– One of the most important clauses in the agreement, the equalization clause, has been altered.
– Not at all; it has merely been made clearer.
– It has been altered for reasons which recommend themselves to those interested in the scheme, and to them the last clause of the agreement ad it now appears is a distinct improvement upon the original clause. There is now in the clause an expressed reference- to a geographical position; b, any shortage in production during the season to which the equalization applies, owing to unfavorable conditions in that season; and c, an excess in the average price enjoyed in respect of wheat of the 1929-1930 season sold for use or consumption within the State, over the average price of Australian wheat of t[hat season sold for export. Those are new provisions.
– I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that the first conference of the wheat-growers held sit Canberra agreed to those conditions. The verbiage has- been altered to make the intention clearer.
– Those are new provisions. The original agreement provided that any geographical or other advantages enjoyed by a State should be taken into account. In place of that the three provisions that I have mentioned have been inserted in the schedule. Until this legislation is passed by both Houses of this Parliament it is impossible for any one to know what the scheme is to be, and, therefore, no past ballot, taken under a State marketing act for the purpose of enabling the producers of that State to determine whether they will have their product pooled under a State scheme, caD possibly have any relevance to this Commonwealth scheme. An amendment may still be made to this legislation which may entirely alter the character of the scheme. Accordingly, any reference to past ballots must be dismissed as irrelevant. What this amendment proposes is that there shall be a ballot taken on the agreement itself. That is to say, the wheat-growers should be given an opportunity of declaring whether they want this pooling scheme. It would be quite wrong to ask the wheat-growers generally whether they were in’ favour of some form of pooling and not to submit the precise proposal to them. ‘ Accordingly, there must be fresh ballots in every State before it can be said that the farmers have voted on- this scheme. Then the question which arises is what is a proper majority to stipulate for such a ballot? Is that to be left entirely to State law or should this Parliament stipulate a certain majority? That is a matter upon which I have no particular views so long as there is a ballot conducted under State laws and not under Commonwealth laws, and so long as the ballot, is fair and shows a real majority in favour of the scheme. I support the amendment because, after all, it requires only a majority of the wheat-growers entitled to vote, and, in any scheme like this, under which the products of the minority are to be dealt with” against its will, we should require at least a majority of those interested.
– Would the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) insist upon compulsory voting ?
– No, because I do not know how that could be carried out. Surely those interested in the scheme would be sufficiently concerned to take part in the ballot.
– In any case a majority would be a majority of those interested, because those who did not vote would naturally not be interested.
– All wheat-growers arc pecuniarily interested in this matter.
Unless those who axe so anxious to introduce this compulsory scheme into Australia are sufficiently interested to cast a vote, it. appears to me to be difficult to justify the dragooning of the minority into the scheme. I support the amendment.
– All the arguments that we have heard this afternoon were advanced over and over again the evening before last.
– That does not got away from the facts.
– No new arguments have been advanced, and 1 am convinced, from the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that be is against the whole scheme, lock, stock and barrel. The amendment which has been moved shows that the Opposition’s sole object is to destroy the. bill. If honorable members opposite are really sincere in their statements that the growers should have an opportunity to vote on the scheme,’ they should be prepared to accept the evidence that I have given that a vote will be taken in each of the. States concerned.
– What is the objection to stating that in the bill?
– If the Leader of the Opposition were anxious to expedite this scheme he would not want a double assurance. The trouble is thar the- Opposition does not want the scheme. On the 27th May the Premier of South Australia made the .following statement: -
My Ministers arc co-operating- with the Commonwealth Government in its proposals to establish an Australian wheat pool. A ballot of all the growers in the State will be taken at an early date, and if the result shows that there is a majority demand for the pool, the necessary legislation will be introduced.
– Is there any legislation in South Australia under which such a ballot could be taken ?
– The statement is plain enough. The Premier of South Australia has, in effect, said that this scheme is to be submitted to the wheat-growers of South Australia, and if there is a majority vote in- its favour, the State Parliament will introduce the necessary legislation. The Minister for Agriculture in Victoria, Mr. Slater, is reported to have made the following statement on the 27 th March
Thu. . State Government could not complete its part of the scheme until the federal legislation was passed by the Senate. ‘It would not be necessary, however, for the Government to pass its legislation before taking a ballot of the wheat-growers on the question. The ballot could be taken and the decision, if favorable, embodied in subsequent legislation. The date of the ballot has not yet been fixed, but preparations are now being made for the taking of the ballot.
I come now to the pamphlet that was issued by Mr. Thorby, Minister for Agriculture in a non-Labour Government in New South Wales, explaining to the wheat-growers of that State the provisions of the measure that was passed by the New South Wales Parliament. In it he -said -
A marketing board cannot come into existence unless two-thirds of the producers qualified to vote have participated in the poll, and unless two-thirds of those voting desire it. A marketing board, therefore, when constituted, will be brought into being by a substantial majority, and will possess a clear and unmistakable mandate to function on behalf of the industry.
Therefore, we have it on the authority of that gentleman that full provision is made in the New South Wales Marketing Act for the taking of a ballot; and a definite assurance has been given by the Premier of South Australia and the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria that they will make similar provision. At the present time there- is a Marketing Act on the statute-book of Queensland. The Minister for Agriculture in that State attended tie conference that was held in Canberra. I then understood from him that if he were assured that under our. legislation nothing would be done that would ‘ bring about a departure from their Marketing Act, it would not be necessary to take another vote in that. State. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) rightly raised the question of equalization, and suggested that the . operation of the equalization provisions might mean a departurefrom the terms of the Queensland act. As a matter of, fact, under the equalization proposal, any advantage that Queensland enjoys at the present time in regard to the price received for wheat: sold for home consumption will not be in any way endangered; consequently, thereis nothing in the equalization scheme tha.fc will cause a departure from their act. So far as Queensland is concerned, the objection of the Leader of the Opposition is groundless. As there will be no departure from their act, it will not be necessary to take another vote there. But the amendment of the honorable member for Wakefield, if given effect, would necessitate the taking of another ballot. I do not object to any honorable member wishing to be sure that a ballot of the -wheat-growers will be taken. I, myself, definitely want to be assured of that; and at the present time I have every assurance that I consider necessary. I do not think that there is need to include such a provision as is proposed in the bill; and I am advised that to do so would be to interfere with what is the concern of the States.
The Leader of the Opposition has stated that he would insist upon the condition that there must be a majority of growers in favour of the pool, but that he would not insist upon a compulsory vote.
– I should not very much mind a compulsory vote; but it seems to me unnecessary.
– The honorable gentleman definitely stated that he would not have a compulsory vote, but that he would insist upon a majority of the growers approving of the pool before it was established. The logical corollary of the latter requirement is a compulsory vote. I can give honorable members no more definite assurance than I have given; and I do not see why we should trespass upon what is the province of the States.
.- There are good grounds for the amendment. But I also favour the amendment that has been suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). It is all very well for the Minister to say that Queensland is quite willing to come into the pool, and that it will do so without taking a fresh vote, on the assumption that the vote taken for State purposes is sufficient. Queensland knows that she stands to lose nothing, but is certain to gain 6d. a bushel. I should like the Minister to explain the position of Western Australia. I am anxious to support the amendment so as to be assured that the growers in Western Aus tralia will have a vote. The bill places upon the government of the States the responsibility of making good one-half of any loss that may be incurred. The wheat-growers may be very anxious to have a compulsory pool under certain circumstances, and I desire that they shall be consulted. It is possible, however, that they never will he consulted; and if clause 16 remains in the measure they will be subject to this compulsory legislation although they have not been asked to say whether they approve of it or not. That position is the outcome of the division of responsibility between the Federal and State Governments. In this matter the interests of Western Australia are far greater than are those of Queensland and Tasmania. The wheat industry is the life’s blood of that State. Yet, because the Commonwealth Government will not follow the usual practice in regard to assisted industries of accepting the whole of the responsibility, this State may be loft out of the scheme. Some assurance should be given that the wheat-growers will he consulted.
– Let the Western Australian Government take a poll.
– The Western Australian Government is asked to accept a liability that is quite inconsistent with the principle upon which the assistance to all other industries has been based. This differentiation against the wheat industry is causing general dissatisfaction in that State. Western Australia has been called upon to bear its share of bounties to industries in other States, but in regard to the wheat industry, which is the mainstay of Western Australia, the Government is placing half the liability upon the State. The adamant attitude of the Minister makes me doubt his sincerity. I ask him whether, in the event of a compulsory pool being established, the premium on exchange in connexion with wheat sales overseas will be credited to the pool. The exchange today is in favour of Australia to the extent of £6 2s. 6d. per cent, which is equal to 3Jd. per bushel.
.- Although the Minister has made several speeches and innumerable interjections, he lias not answered thu questions of members of the Opposition regarding his reasons for refusing to accept the amendment. This legislation is intended for the benefit of the wheat-growers, and surely no one will deny that they should have an opportunity to say whether they favour it. There is a great deal in the contention of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that a poll should be taken, and that a majority of those voting should decide whether a compulsory pool should be established. The scheme lias not much interest for the growers, if they are not prepared to record a vote for or against it. If out of 5,000 growers 1,000 do not vote, because either they have not made up their minds, or do not understand the scheme, or are not interested in it, -it would be absurd to count them as opposed to the scheme. A majority of those who exercise their franchise should bc sufficient. Will the Minister- explain why he is not prepared to insist that the State Governments shall take a ballot of the wheatgrowers ?
– In view of the assurances given by responsible State Ministers, why is the amendment necessary?
– Those assurances .are merely statements published in the newspapers.
– Does the honorable member doubt that such assurances have been given ?
– Assurances in the newspapers carry no weight. If a State Government assures the Minister in writing that it will take a ballot of the growers, it will do so. But in view of the considerable amount of Commonwealth money that will be at stake and the great importance of the proposals to the farmers, it is not too much to insist that a State Government shall give an official undertaking to consult the growers. It is absurd to accept newspaper statements that State Governments have promised this and that. Is the Minister hiding anything, that he finds it necessary to oppose the amendment?
– Does the honorable member think that Queensland, which already has a wheat pool, should be required to take a ballot? -
– Most decidedly. The Queeusland growers at present look to the State Government to discharge certain obligations. If Queensland adheres to the federal pool, the State Government will transfer some of its obligations to the Commonwealth. I suggest that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker J should eliminate from his amendment the words “ entitled to vote.” The amendment will then require merely a majority of the growers actually voting to decide whether the State will or will not support this compulsory wheat pool. I am of opinion that the Minister should accept some amendment of this clause as a direction to the State Governments that the wheat-growers shall be consulted on this particular scheme.
.-1 propose to give one good; and sufficient reason why the amendment should not be accepted. In Victoria, which has approximately 20,000 growers, an affirmative vote of 10,001 would be necessary if the amendment were accepted. Possibly not more than 13,000 growers would exercise their franchise and it would be almost impossible to get an affirmative vote of 10,001, out of 13,000 going to the poll.
.- 2 support the amendment. This legislation is not only drastic but absolutely coercive. Supporters of the bill have stated that the overwhelming majority of the farmers in New South Wales and Victoria are in favour of . a compulsory pool. Let us put that statement to the test by means of a ballot.
– Let the State Governments put it to the test.
– This scheme involves the expenditure of Commonwealth money, and the duty of this Government is to see that it is adequately safeguarded. I am not in favour of a scheme which takes away from a man the right to market his product as he chooses, especially when such coercion may be applied by a minority of those engaged in the industry. A compulsory pool should not be brought into operation, unless the majority of the wheat-growers are in favour of it. I would be prepared to accept the New South Wales requirements of a 66 per cent, poll, and a 60 per cent majority of those voting.
– The Victorians will not agree to that.
– When we are enacting coercive legislation we should impose restrictions that will prevent the future of the industry from being decided by a bare majority of those voting. In the past, Queensland has controlled its own wheat through the State pool; in the future the control may be exercised from Melbourne. Many changes have occurred since the . Canberra Conference, which, after all, represented only a small proportion of the wheat-growers.
– In proof of his assertion that he has assurances that the ballot will be taken in each State according to State law, the Minister read certain statements. 1 asked him whether they were official telegrams giving him definite personal assurances, hut he did not reply. The fact is that the statements which he read were merely extracts from newspapers’. These cannot be regarded as a sufficiently definite undertaking on which to base legislation -involving the expenditure of millions of pounds. The Minister before he told the committee that he had definite assurances from the States should have obtained from the State Premiers an official promise that ballots would be held. I cannot understand why the honorable gentleman declines to insert a provision requiring that before a pool can come into operation a ballot of the wheat-growers shall, be taken. Mr. Trethowen, who has been mentioned as a supporter of the Government’s proposals, when dealing with the New South Wales pool in 1927, said that the wheatgrowers should be entitled to the same concession in the matter of ballots as members of a trade union organization. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said that the adoption of this amendment would result in the defeat of the bill. That is an extraordinary statement. Why should the measure be defeated if a simple machinery provision, such as that proposed by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), is inserted? If the Minister will not agree to the amendment there must be some sinister reason. The measure appears to have been drafted in such a way as to give the members of the Wheat Board a good deal of latitude, and an opportunity to manipulate the control of the pool by regulation. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) said that he would not agree to a ballot being decided by a majority of the wheat-growers in a State ; but if this amendment is defeated I shall remove that objection by moving an amendment to provide for a simple majority of the wheat-growers voting at the ballot.
.- The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) said that I did not understand what was meant by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). I plead guilty. I now understand what is intended, and am more emphatically opposed to it than before. The fear has been expressed that under this measure the wheat-growers will not be able to express an opinion; but such a condition can arise only if a State Government refuses to provide for a ballot. Which State does the honorable member for Lilley not trust? -Such a position could arise only by the deliberate act of a State Government preventing the wheatgrowers in that State from expressing an opinion.
– I do not distrust any State.
– The Minister has, in the plainest possible terms, informed the committee on numerous occasions that a ballot of the wheat-growers will be taken, which clearly indicates the policy of the Government in this respect. If a State Government deliberately refuses to take a ballot, that is the responsibility of that State and not of the Federal Government. In the amendment the words, “ a majority of wheat-growers entitled to. vote at that ballot have recorded their votes” are used. Some time ago a vote was taken on the question of establishing a compulsory wheat pool in Victoria, when there was an intense campaign on the part of both those in favour of and those opposed to the pool. Of the 19,630 ballot-papers issued to the wheat-growers only 11,353 were returned. No fewer than 8,277 wheat-growers did not return their ballot-papers. The ballot was conducted under the postal voting system. In the absence of compulsory voting it is difficult to get a heavy poll. On that occasion 5,430 wheat-growers were in favour of the pool and 5,923 were opposed to it. If that ballot had been taken under the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Wakefield, it would have been necessary to obtain 9,815 affirmative votes out of a total of 11,353, which was an impossibility. I have no desire to impute motives; but it appears to me that the sole object of this amendment is to destroy the bill.
.- I have followed the discussion on the amendment of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) with a great deal of interest. Honorable members opposite are, of course, supporting the bill, but I am more concerned with the objections raised by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who sit on this side of the House and who represent wheat-growers especially. Their objection to the amendment is that if a ballot is taken an insufficient number of wheat-growers may record their votes to provide the majority necessary to justify the State in which they are growing wheat to become associated with the pool. That seems to suggest that in their opinion a majority of the wheat-growers are not in favour of the bill, and unless they are, there is no justification for the measure at all. During the second-reading debate it Was argued that a majority of the wheatgrowers were in favour of a Commonwealth wheat pool, but honorable members, particularly those representing the wheat-growers, are afraid that if the matter is put to a test it will show that they do not want a pool.
– We desire a ballot to be taken ; but that is the business of the States.
– If this agreement is entered into, it may cost the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money, but we could support the measure if we were sure that it is in the interests of the wheatgrowers. I am always anxious to assist the primary producers, including the growers of fruit and of potatoes and other commodities who will have to contribute towards the cost of this scheme, which is to assist only one section of primary producers. At present as there is no evidence that the wheat-growers, as a body, are demanding a pool, we should put the matter to a test. If at the poll taken in Victoria in 1927 only 12,000 or 13,000 wheat-growers out of 20,000 took the trouble to vote, there does not appear to be any justification for this measure. I intend to support the amendment, and am surprised that the Minister is not willing to embody it in the bill. If his objections are only of a minor character, such as whether there should be a majority of wheat-growers or of those voting, ii should be easy to overcome the difficulty. Why should a Government which claims to represent democracy object to this proposal? It appears only reasonable that provision should be made in the measure for the taking of a ballot. This Parliament is responsible for the measure, and should be assured that the wheat-growers for whose special benefit the measure is introduced desire this arrangement, otherwise we should reject the bill.
.- I like this amendment and I intend to vote for it; particularly as it provides for a majority of the wheat-growers entitled to vote, and not merely a majority of those who do vote. This is the most important industrial measure that has been brought before the Hou3e for many years. If a compulsory1 pool is established, it will inevitably mean that a special price will be charged for Australian wheat used for local consumption, and that fancy prices will be charged for bread. We must look at this proposal squarely. I cannot understand honorable members opposite, who represent important industrial centres, losing sight of the fact ‘ that if this measure is passed there will be a sharp increase in the price of bread.
– I ask, Mr. Chairman, if the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) are relevant to the question before the Chair.
– 1 have permitted the honorable members to refer briefly to other phases of the subject under discussion, but I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the amendment before the Chair.
– I know that this aspect of the subject is not pleasant to honorable members opposite. Before this pool is put into operation we should at least know that the majority of the wheatgrowers of Australia are favorable to it..
A bare majority is the very minimum that we should accept. It is amazing to me that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and the honorable member forWimmera (Mr. Stewart), should even think of making it easy for a minority of the wheatgrowers to force this method of marketing on the whole industry ; and yet that may occur if the amendment is negatived.
– Would the honorable member favour compulsory voting at these ballots?
– Yes, I should be prepared to agree to that; but the machinery for it would have to be set up. The Government is actually proposing first, to coerce the farmers, and then - and this is the most serious aspect of the whole thing - to make it easy for the price of bread to be increased to the Australian consumers. I shall never be a party to a proposal of that character. If this policy is pursued there will be a steep increase in the price of bread, and subsequently in the basic wage, and the whole cost of production in Australia. Honorable gentlemen opposite are adopting an amazing attitude in not accepting the amendment.
.- If any further evidence were required to justify an amendment such as I have moved, the honorable member for Gippsland has supplied it, for he wishes to make it possible for the dominant clique in the wheat industry to compel the farmers to adopt the compulsory pool. The Minister for Markets has taken an extraordinary course in connexion with this whole matter.First he said that a ballot of the wheat-growers would be taken ; then, on Wednesday night, he said that he had received assurances from all the States that they would hold ballots; and to-day he has told us that the Queensland Government knows by instinct, smell, or some other means, that the wheat-growers of that State are favorable to the compulsory pool and that, therefore, a ballot is not necessary there. A good deal has been said about the majority that should be required to authorize the establishment of the pool, and the honorable member for Wim mera (Mr. Stewart) quoted certain figures of a Victorian ballot on a pooling proposal. If he had quoted the figures of a New South Wales poll, in which the voting was compulsory, he could have shown that it is much easier to get an absolute majority when such a condition is provided for. There is nothing in the amendment to prevent a State from making the voting compulsory. In New South Wales the Marketing Act provides that a66 per cent. majority in a 66 per cent. poll shall be necessary to make the act applicable to a particular industry, and the honorable member for Wimmera says that he thinks a 60 per cent. majority of those voting should be required. The South Australian Government has announced that it will be satisfied with a bare majority of those who vote. In. all these circumstances, I trust that the amendment will be agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Parkhill) proposed -
That the words “ entitled to vote “ in the proposed amendment be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “voting.”
Question - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment on amendment negatived.
Original amendment negatived.
.- This clause authorizes the Commonwealth to execute not only the agreement in the form in the schedule, but also any other agreement which is necessary to be made by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the agreement in that form. That is a very general form of authority which has not yet been inserted by this Parliament in other bills, such as export control bills, and bills relating to roads, &c. I ask the Minister what is the object of the clause?
– This clause is necessary to obtain power to make an agreement to give effect to the bill itself and the schedule, and, in addition, to any other agreement which may be considered necessary, such as an agreement with the Commonwealth Bank in regard to the financing of the proposal.
Clause agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 4 - (3.) There shall bo payable monthly out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund … a sum equal to five shillings upon every gallon of spirit . . . upon which spirit duty of excise is paid or has, since the twelfth day of March, One thousand nine hundred and thirty, been paid.
Senate’s amendment -
After “ paid “, second occurring, insert “ at a rate in excess of the rates of duty in force on the said twelfth day of March.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment rectifies an omission in the bill regarding the trust account. As the clause stands at present 5s. duty on every gallon of spirits duty paid since the 13th March has to be paid into the trust account. A considerable quantity of fortified wine in bond will be dutypaid at the rates of duty on fortifying spirits operating before 13th March. These rates were in force when the wine was fortified, the duty then being 5s. or 6s. per gallon of spirit. It is the intention of this bill that 5s. on every gallon duty-paid at the higher rates of 10s. and 11s. only shall be paid to the trust account, and this amendment provides accordingly. I have shown the amendment to the Leader of the Opposition, and I do not think that there is any objection to it.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
The following papers were presented : -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Scat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1930, No.6 - Liquor.
Public Service Acts-Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 55.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In view of the intention of the Government to reduce the personnel of naval and military establishments, is the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) in a position to state whether naval cadets will this year be admitted to the Jervis Bay Naval College as previously?
.- I wish to refer to the unfair propaganda of the Country party, which has frequently been complained of in this chamber. Honorable members have found it necessary to complain on more than one occasion of the statements published in the Country party Bulletin. It is political propaganda of the worst type. No honorable member objects to fair criticism. I am complaining, not of the action of the newspaper proprietors in publishing this propaganda, because it is forwarded to them and published in good faith, but of the subject-matter of the propaganda. The latest article deals with the present political situation and the first portion of it reads -
Labour fought the elections largely on its ability to correct the industrial position and protect the basic wage. On April 25 the Trades Hall Bureau of Statistics issued figures showing that despite Labour promises, the federal basic wage had fallen by 3s. Od. throughout the Commonwealth, and the unemployment figure has reached record proportions.
– What is the cause of the reduction in the basic wage?
– It is consequent on a reduction in the cost of living. Most of the large labour organizations are working under awards or agreements whereby the basic wage is altered from time to time according to the increase or decrease in the cost of living. The reduction in the basic wage has nothing whatever to do with this Government. The Labour organizations are prepared to abide by the agreements that they have entered into, and although they have accepted increases in wages in the past, as a result of an increase in the cost of living, they are nowprepared to accept a decrease in the basic wage as a result of a decrease in the cost of living. As a result, the basic wage of Australia has now been reduced by 3s. 6d. per week. This propaganda is circulated by the Country party to try to convey the impression throughout the country that the Scullin Government is responsible for that reduction of wage. The subject-matter of the Bulletin is full of similar misrepresentations. Only a few weeks ago an honorable member had occasion to complain of the false impression conveyed by an article published in the Country party Bulletin. An honorable member’s name was used in such a way as to convey the impression that he was responsible for a certain statement, whereas a portion of it was made by someone else. Those errors are intentional, and it is high time that action was taken by all honorable members, irrespective of party, to protect themselves from these misrepresentations. Country party members have always urged that the basic wage and the cost of living should be reduced. They have contended that the main consideration is not the amount of the wage, but how much it will purchase. They should be the first to applaud a reduction in the cost of living. The rest of the report in the Bulletin is just as misleading as the first portion, as is shown by the following statement: -
In reply to these attacks the Prime Minister quoted the fact that £1,000,000 had been made available by the Federal Government to the States for alleviation of unemployment
No one denies that this is so. But what the Prime Minister did not confess was that this £1,000,000 was raised by the Bruce-Page Government and that it had been given to the States long before Labour assumed office. All the Prime Minister did was to make available to the States a million of money set apart for them by the previous Government. And while hu gave them this money which rested in a trust fund, he agreed that the States’ contribution to the roads scheme should be. discontinued and with it the expenditure of a million and a half of money which would otherwise have been used for this purpose every year for the next seven years.
That is a most unfair statement. The £1,000,000 referred to was taken from a trust account, but it was not made available to the State Governments by the Bruce-Page Government in the way that the report indicates. It was in a trust fund when this Government came into office; it had not been availed of by the States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. Because of the distress that existed prior to Christmas this Government made it available to the States to put in hand relief works. The article is misleading in the statement that this money was taken out of the Federal Aid Roads Grant. The States were not compelled to carry out the provisions of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, inasmuch as it was not necessary for them to provide 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth. The latter portion of the article, which states that the Prime Minister agreed to suspend the agreement from now on, is a wilful misrepresentation and as far from the truth as any statement could be. The agreement remains intact. If the people believe this propaganda they will be under the impression that no further grant is to be made under the agreement. The last portion of the article states -
The Federal Government is giving the States £1,000,000, while something like £10,500,000 may not be spent during the next seven years on road works.
When the £1,000,000 was made available to the States no mention was made of a suspension of the grant for the next seven years. The agreement is still in existence, and, as time goes on, this Government will have to make provision for its contribution to the fund. I ask the Prime Minister and the Government to take particular notice of this insidious form of propaganda, and to place the true facts before the people so that it will not continue indefinitely without hindrance.
.- I regret very much that this question has been raised at a .time when the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has had to leave to catch a train for Sydney, and, therefore, is unable to reply to the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey). That honorable member, and, apparently, other members of Mb party, appear to have excessively tender susceptibilities. It is a remarkably good advertisement for the publicity of which he complains, when his feelings are so easily ruffled by it. The statement has been made on many occasions, and has been repeated by the honorable member for Grey this afternoon, that honorable members who sit on this side attempted, during the last election campaign, and have beer. attempting since, to reduce the basic wage. I give that statement a flat denial. No such intention has ever been evinced by honorable members on this side. We desire rather to increase the purchasing power of the basic wage.
We have been attacked because of a press article drawing attention to the steady growth of unemployment and criticizing the method adopted by the Government in making available to the States £1,000,000 out of the Federal Aid Roads Fund, to provide a measure of employment. When it took that money the Government was really guilty of raiding a trust fund, established for a specific purpose, under an agreement with the States, which stipulates that they shall provide 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth.
– Did the honorable member use the expression, “ raiding “ ?
– I say that to my mind the action of the Government practically amounts to the raiding of a fund that was established for the purpose of constructing roads, under an agreement that required the States to provide 15s. for every £1 provided by the Commonwealth.
– And that agreement is part of a Commonwealth statute.
– That is so. The action of the Government was directly at variance with on agreement made be tween the Commonwealth and the States, and passed by this Parliament. Because the States are not required to provide 15s. for every £1 contributed’ by the Commonwealth, the expenditure upon roads may be less than would be the case if the agreement was observed. We understand that it is the intention of the Go?vernment to endeavour to amend the agreement so that, for the remaining seven years, the States will not be required to provide 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth. Under the agreement as it now stands, the States would be required to spend in the next seven years, £10,500,00(k the Commonwealth providing £14,000,000. If it is true that the Government proposes to amend the agreement so as to waive the condition that is laid upon the States, the expenditure in the next seven years may be £10,500,000 less than if the agreement were carried out; consequently, the amount of employment provided may not be nearly so great as it would have been were the terms of the agreement strictly adhered to.
– I join with the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) in deploring the effect that this misrepresentation has in country electorates, particularly at the present time. There is need for harmony in industry today, and no action should be taken to introduce a disturbing element. [Quorum formed.] The following paragraph in the article from which the honorable member for Grey has quoted grossly misrepresents the position : -
Labour fought the .elections largely on its ability to correct the industrial positron and protect the basic wage.
The inference is that this Government was responsible for the reduction in the basic wage; but that is not in accordance with the facts. The basic wage is fixed by a properly constituted tribunal, and fluctuates with the cost of living. Honorable members opposite instead of allowing such misrepresentations to be published should have considered their ill-effect upon industry. The article continues -
On April 25th the Trades Hall Bureau of Statistics issued figures showing that despite labour .promises the Federal basic wage had fallen by 3s. 6d. throughout the Commonwealth and the unemployment figures has reached record proportion.
As the awards governing rural workers had been abolished both in New South Wales and Queensland, that, too, is absolute misrepresentation.
. -In reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) whether, in view of the retrenchment of defence expenditure, the Government intended to have cadets enrolled this year for the naval college at Jervis Bay, I wish to say that, as the services of a number of officers who were educated at that college are being dispensed with, the Government does not intendto ask for further cadets this year.
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra- Prime Minister) [4.12]. - I was astonished at the extravagant and unreliable statements made by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) in regard to the main roads agreement; He charged the Government with raiding a trust fund, the mainroads fund, to the extent of £1,000,000. No raid has been made by the Government on any fund. The main roads agreement between the Commonwealth and the State Governments provided that this Government should find £2,000,000 yearly, for a period of ten years, to be placed at the disposal of the States for road-making purposes. The sum of £1,000,000 that has been made available to provide relief work for the unemployed is additional to that grant of £20,000,000. What we have done is to make the total available to the States for road-making £21,000,000 instead of £20,000,000 as originally agreed on. The contention that less money will be spent, because the States are not being asked toprovide 15s. for every £1 thus given by the Commonwealth is absurd. That condition continues to apply in the original agreement. The additional grant of £1,000,000 was made merely to relieve the prevailing acute unemployment.
– Probably had the Commonwealth insisted that the States should contribute in regard to it on a like ratio to that required in the main roads agreement, it would not have been possible for them to accept the grant.
Mr.SCULLIN.- That was definitely stated by the representatives of the
States. Returning to the allegation that a raid was made on the Main Roads Fund, I remind honorable members that at the last Premiers’ Conference the State Premiers, in consultation with the representatives of this Government, unanimously agreed that it would be impossible to continue to contribute 15s. for every £1 advanced’ by the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Government is prepared to agree to a variation of the agreement, but that can be effected only with the unanimous consent of the States. The suggested variation is that the Commonwealth should make available from the proposed federal tax an amount of £2,000,000 a year, to be placed at the disposal of the States for road construction, free from the condition that they should contribute 15s. for every £1 advanced. It has been demonstrated by the States themselves that they cannot fully avail themselves of the money to be provided under the main roads agreement if they have to continue to contribute 15s. for every £1 received. They have made it plain that they cannot afford to spend so much money on road construction. The Commonwealth is not forcing anything on the States; on the contrary, it is generously endeavouring to meet their requests for the lightening of theirobligations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300530_reps_12_124/>.