13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a Bill for an Act for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to Taxation, Insurance, Banking, Foreign Corporations andTrading or Financial Corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, and other matters, from being introduced and passed through all its stages without delay.
.- The Prime Minister showed me a copy of this bill ‘fifteen minutes ago. No doubt the Government has been receiving legal advice on this subject for at least 24 hours, and has also seen a copy of the bill just passed by the New South Wales Parliament. I am not in that position. I have seen only the somewhat scanty newspaper reports relating’ to that important legislation; but I point out that whatever may be the effect of it - and I shall say something about that later - it cannot be enforced for fourteen days. In those circumstances, honorable members should be given a reasonable opportunity to see copies of this bill, and to study the implications of it. We certainly shouldnot be asked to rush it through in this way. In these circumstances, I cannot agree to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. If there is urgency -
– While Australia is crashing!
– I do not think that we should be stampeded. For my own part I shall refuse to accept any responsibility whatever for legislation dealt with under these conditions.
– Is the right honorable member supporting Mr. Lang?
– I . am not. At the right time I shall say what I have to say in regard to the legislation which has been passed by the New South Wales Parliament. At the moment, I will say only that this Parliament should not allow itself to be stampeded.
– I also oppose the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders for the same reasons which have led me to’ oppose similar motions that have been moved recently. It is grossly unfair to the Opposition to ask them to’ deal with bills which they have had no’ opportunity whatever of considering. The time of this Parliament has been continually occupied during the past few weeks in the pursuit of a vendetta against New South Wales. I have made it abundantly clear in the speeches that I have made here that this Government and the New South Wales Government, are simply making moves oh a political chessboard. Every move whichthis Government has made has been frustrated by a move made by the State Government. This Government is bringing ridicule not only upon itself; but also upon this Parliament and the people of Australia, because of the internal warfare in which it is engaged for the purpose of removing from office a government which was elected constitutionally. We know very well that a promise was made , to the electors towards the end of last year that if the United Australia party obtained a majority in this House, it would, by hook or by crook, remove the Lang .Government from power. This Government has not introduced a single measure during its term of office with any other object in view with . the exception of a very inadequate unemployment relief bill which cannot do anything to relieve the. distress of our’, people or cope with the major problem of unemployment which is facing us. Its activities have been marked by political spleen of the worst nature. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I, and the other honorable members who sit .with me in this corner, will do- everything in our power to resist the passage of this bill. The Government is simply trying to discredit the Lang Government in the eyes of the electors. This measure is the sixth, if we count certain amendments .intro duced hi another place, that this Govern1 ment has brought down to embarrass tie New South Wales Government. Daring the time that wo have, been dealing with these matters,, the unfortunate unemployed of Australia have, in many cases, been left without food or clothing and no effort has been made to supply their needs. The Government is concerned more about the overseas .bondholders who- arc not in need, than”: about the people of Australia who have’ been reduced ‘to deplorable straits. I warned the Government when it first set out on its present course that its financial agreements enforcement legislation could only bring about a state of chaos and insurrection. Honorable members opposite seem to be absolutely careless whether this country is or is not steeped in revolution.
– The honorable member must not proceed along those lines.
– With due deference to you, Mr. Speaker, there is a grave possibility of such a happening. “~
– That is a very different thing from saying that the members of this honorable House are careless whether such a condition of things is or is not brought about.
– I do not say that honorable members are intentionally careless whether revolution does or does not occur, but that the effect of their actions may cause a revolution. I have been brought very closely into contact with the people of New South Wales, who are suffering, and I know their temperament. The State Government is endeavouring to protect them. In their present state of mind, the people of New South Wales, who are hungry and ill-clad, and who see little - children, in sore . need of food and clothing, may cause trouble.
-I rise to a point of order. I submit that’ the honorable member is not discussing the question of urgency, but is dealing generally with the subject of ‘ unemployment. I ask that he be requested to confine his remarks to the motion.
-I have listened carefully to the honorable member for Hunter. The Chair will call him te order if he departs too far from the motion. I remind the House generally that the honorable member addressing the Chair is entitled to be heard in silence. Interjections are always disorderly, and sometimes provoke retorts which unnecessarily prolong debates. An honorable member is not justified in interjecting simply because the honorable member addressing the Chair makes a statement with which he disagrees. The Chair is anxious that the deliberations of this House shall be conducted with dignity. Honorable members who make repeated interjections of a provocative nature will not receive further warnings from the Chair.
– I was pointing out the possible consequences of this legislation. Surely honorable members must realize that people who are already suffering greatly are not in a frame of mind to bear additional hardships. The Government should give due consideration to my warning. I have said repeatedly that I do not desire to see a state of chaos and insurrection in New South Wales.
– I ask the honorable member not to digress along those lines. The motion before the chair is for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– I oppose the motion for the reasons that I have given. It appears to me that some of the interjections which honorable members opposite make when I am addressing the Chair are entirely unwarranted.
– Order ! The honorable member must not continue in that strain.
– This motion, and all other steps that are taken to pass this bill, will be opposed tooth and nail by the group of members who sit in this corner.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Marr) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Hoes . . . . 9
Majority . . 35
Question resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the members of the House.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, with respect to Taxation, Insurance, Banking, Foreign Corporations and Trading or Financial Corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth and other matters.
TheHouse divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Ayes . . . . . . 44
Noes . . 9
Majority . . 35
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. Lyons brought up the bill, . and moved -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 34
Question soresolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the bill for an act for the peace, order, and good government of the Common wealth, with respect to taxation, insurance, banking, foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, and other matters, an urgent bill.
Question - That the bill be considered an urgent bill - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 34
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
– I move -
That the time alloted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the second reading until 1 o’clock p.m. this day.
For the committee stage until 2 o’clock p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages until 2.15 o’clock p.m. this day.
I did not have an opportunity to refer to the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) in respect of the Government’s action in hastening the passage of this bill. The honorable gentleman said that he thought that there was no necessity for haste, and that no great harm could arise if time were given for a full discussion of the bill. I think, however, that he will recognize that it is not necessary that the legislation which has been passed by the Parliament of New South Wales should come into operation to do the damage; the damage is done at the moment it is actually passed. The responsibility falls upon the Commonwealth to give the people of New South Wales - many of whom have already been thrown into almost a state of panic, in fear of the future effect of that legislation - some assurance that will safeguard their interests against the action of the Government of New South Wales. Any delay on the part of the Commonwealth may be absolutely disastrous to the people of not only that State, but Australia generally. Therefore, the Government will push on with this legislation. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has said that he and those associated with him will use every means at their disposal to delay the passing of this bill; but let me tell him definitely that neither he norhis colleagues will be permitted to delay the passing of this measure one moment longer than the time which the Government is allotting for its consideration.
.- It would be regrettable if the members of this Parliament should become panicky. I realize that the feelings of some honorable members have been stirred in respect of the introduction of this legislation. I, myself, am very much concerned, but I suggest first of all that we listen to what any honorable member has to say. The Government is limiting the time of debate considerably, and if 40 voices are raised in competition in an effort to drown one voice, we shall not legislate as we should in these serious times. Evidently the Government does not desire to give credit to any point of view but its own.
– That is the old, old story.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has not during his lifetime been able to tell one new story.
– I could tell about the Ballarat Echo, and the honorable member’s attack upon the Prince of Wales. That is a new story.
– It is a very old and silly story. The Prime Minister’s statement is not convincing. I agree that the passing of recent legislation in New South Wales has created a feeling of unrest, but the Government could meet the immediate position by circulating this bill and giving us until to-morrow to. consider it. It is not a fair thing to ask us to proceed with it at a moments notice.I am sure that there is not an honorable member opposite who, ifhe sat in Opposition, would not protest against action of this kind, whether he was or was not a supporter of the Government at whom it was aimed. This is the most drastic blow that has ever been aimed at the right of a State to pass legislation, however bad it might be. I protest that there is no need for the haste that is being shown. Even if the matter stood over until Monday, what damage would be done? The circulation of the bill would show that certain steps were being taken. No move to enforce the act can be made for fourteen days. I doubt whether it will be in force in fourteen months. Yet, we are asked to agree with it without being given an opportunity to suggest amendments to or modifications of it.
.- In the absence of the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Country party, I have been asked to act as the mouth-piece of that party to-day. I assure the Government and the country that we are unanimously behind the Government in this matter. We realize the urgency of it, and recognize the grave danger that would be caused by delay in any shape or form. We have been advised through the press of certain action that has been taken by the Government of New South Wales, and of the critical position that, as a consequence, has developed in connexion with industry in that State, one of the results of which may be the removal of capital to other States. Danger threatens not only New South Wales, but the whole of Australia. Therefore, the Government has our fullest sympathy and support in the action that it proposes to take.
– I oppose the motion to limit the time to be devoted to this debate. This is a most important measure, and to spring it on us without allowing us any opportunity for foa consideration, is grossly unfair. The time that remains for the debate on the second reading is only a little over an hour and a half. The measure drastically curtails the right of every State government to exploit any field of taxation. The reason for that is obvious; it is, to prevent the New South Wales Government from raising sufficient revenue to pay the servants of tha’t State, and to carry on its essential services. The Common wealth Government clearly is usurping the authority of the State of New South Wales, and taking from it power that it possesses under the Constitution by vetoing its legislation. Responsible government no longer exists in that State, because its functions have been taken over, and are being controlled by the Commonwealth. That was never intended by the framers of the Constitution. The threat of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), that we who sit in this corner would not be given an opportunity to discuss the bill, was entirely unwarranted. It is clear that he intends to gag the measure through as speedily as possible.
.- I support the motion. This is probably the first occasion in my_ parliamentary life that I have not opposed such a proposal. I feel, however, that the position which confronts us must be met courageously, and that in dealing with desperate men, measures that some people might describe as desperate, must be taken. If the Government shows any signs of wilting, I shall oppose it. But, so long as it persists with measures that are designed to save -this country, it will receive from me all the assistance that I can give it.
.- I join with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), in protesting against this action of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has intimated that he was supplied with a copy of the bill at a quarter past ten this morning. The members of the group, of which I form a part, did not receive it until an hour later. At the commencement of this Parliament, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) promised that he would extend to us the same courtesies that were extended to the official opposition and to the Country party. He has failed to observe that undertaking. This is an important measure, and there are eight or ten members on this side of the House who desire to debate it.
– How does the honorable member know that ?
– Because for many years this has been a plank in the platform of the Labour party. I should like to hear the views of the honorable members for Barton (Mr. Lane), Lang (Mr, Dein), South Sydney **(Mr. Jennings **
Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll), and Macquarie (Mr. J. Lawson). I am positive that their electors would wish them to express their opinion, and on their behalf, as well as my own, I protest against the proposal to curtail the debate.
Question - That the motion (Mr. Lyons’) be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 33
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
– In moving
That the bill be now read a second time
I again stress the necessity for losing no time in having it enacted. The supporters of the Lang Government in this chamber, who have protested against the action of this Government in pushing on with what is a remedial measure that has been made necessary by the action of the Lang Government, have offered no protest that the damage that we seek to repair was caused by the imposition, by the Government of New South Wales, of what amounts to a tax of £7,000,000 upon the people of that State, nor against the passage of that legislation through both Houses of the State Parliament in a period of only 48 hours. They voice no protest against the haste displayed in the legislature of New South Wales, or against the damage which that legislation will inflict on the Australian community; but they are quick to protest against the action of this Government when it seeks to protect the public from the injury which threatens it. If honorable members will look at the preamble to the bill, they will see set forth there the need for haste. The preamble states -
Whereas, in view of the grave financial and economic emergency existing in Australia, it is necessary to protect the revenues and credit, and the financial and economic stability of the Commonwealth by temporary measures of an exceptional character:
The Government stands by every word of the preamble. It is necessary to give that assurance to the people of Australia because of the action taken in New South Wales. If ever there was need for haste it is now, because a very grave financial emergency has arisen. Difficult financial conditions have obtained for some time past, and the difficulty has been aggravated enormously by the behaviour of the Government of New South Wales during the last few weeks, and particularly during the last few hours. If something is not done by the Commonwealth Parliament, which is charged with the responsibility of protecting the interests of all the people of Australia, we shall be false to the trust placed in us by the electors not so many weeks ago. The economic stability of the Commonwealth, and of its finances and industries, is endangered by what has been done by Mr. Lang and his followers in the Parliament of New South Wales. This matter affects, not only established financial institutions in New South Wales, but, through them, the people as a whole, who have invested their savings.
It seems clear that the action of the Government of New SouthWales has not been dictated by a desire to collect revenue for the payment of interest, as has been stated, because we know from what has taken place recently that the one thing that Government is determined it will not do is to pay interest. The Government of New South Wales does not really believe that it will be able to collect this revenue, because it must know that it is impossible for the taxpayers to find the money demanded. The attempt to collect the money, however, will bring about the destruction of everything worth while in Australia - the destruction of our financial institutions, of our economic and political organizations, and even of the very social order that exists in Australia at the present time. That, I have no doubt, is the aim of the legislation passed through the New South Wales Parliament. Honorable members who support Mr. Lang see fit to smile, but they know in their hearts that that is his real object.
The legislation of the Government of New South Wales can best be described as a raid on the savings of the people. If the framers of the measure were honest, that is how they would have described it. The Government of New South Wales hopes to live partly on the savings-of the people which have been invested in various financial institutions. These savings represent the accumulated capital not only of the people of New South Wales, but also of those in all parts of Australia.
In order to understand the full meaning of the measure passed by the legislature of New South Wales, one must get it into perspective against the background of Australia’s constructive efforts during the past year, efforts which have been the result of remarkable cooperation among all classes and almost all parties, and which have won the admiration of the world, and bade fair to reestablish our credit overseas. The Commonwealth will not allow efforts so auspiciously begun to fail for lack of leadership. This Government has held aloft the torch handed to it by its predecessors, and will carry it forward to success. I appeal to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to withdraw his objection to the urgent treatment of this measure, and to realize that he began the work of rehabilitation in Australia which we are now carrying on. We want his co-operation to-day to complete that work. I trust he will realize that the legislation passed by the Parliament of New South Wales cuts clean across the work of rehabilitation which ho inaugurated.
The plan of rehabilitation to which the Government is working, with the aid of such national institutions as the Loan Council and the Commonwealth Bank,’ requires on the part of all a recognition of the loss of income that has resulted from the world’s smaller need of our products. In order to sell our products we have been forced by necessity to accept lower prices.
– Last year the world took more of our products than in any previous year. -. LYONS. - Perhaps I have expressed myself badly. What I mean is that, even though the world may have taken a greater quantity of our products, it has paid us less for them, and thus our national income is lower than it was. By accepting each his lessened share in the total value of our products, we can, however, put industry once more on a basis which will afford a fair living for each. In that way alone can we ensure the re-absorption of unemployed men and unemployed resources, and set our faces as a united nation towards the goal of an improved standard of living for all. That was and remains the object of the Premiers plan. Unhappily, after putting his name to that plan, the Premier of New South Wales has refused to carry it through to success.
– He “ scabbed “ on it.
– Yes. By continuing to incur extravagant expenditure, hia Go«vernment has checked recovery and multiplied destitution during seasons of record abundance in the richest area in Australia. In its foolish resistance to the will of the nation, his Government now seeks to make a raid upon the savings of the whole nation. By this means it would feed those it compels to be idle, or only half employed - on the nation’s accumulated resources, earmarked by the system of private finance under which we work, for the recovery and advancement of our prosperity.
– Who wrote the Prime Minister’s speech ?
– Evidently, the honorable member does not like to be reminded of the effects upon Australia of the attempts by the Government of New South Wales to destroy our social system. in order the better to understand what the measure passed by the New South Wales legislature would do, I ask honorable members to use their imaginations a little in an endeavour to visualize the institution of private savings and private industry which it attacks. This system has grown little by little as Australians have developed the industries of their country, both primary and secondary. Everything that has been achieved in the direction of developing our industries has been done out of the accumulated savings of the people, properly invested, whether in the land or in city industries. Mistakes have occurred, it is true, but notwithstanding these, an admirable system of saving and investment has been built up, the savings of the people being carefully controlled by the financial institutions in which they have been invested. This system has provided opportunities to the > young arid to the mature to develop the best that is in them ; to use to the utmost those qualities with which the Creator has endowed them. The system enables them to employ accumulated savings for the benefit of themselves, of their dependents, and of Australia as a whole.
– To what system does the honorable member refer?
– To the system of private savings and investment by which Australia’s industries, primary and secondary, have been built up. What makes the power to bequeath savings a system of great potency in providing the community with capital, is the appeal which it makes to men in the prime of their vigor, the force it lends them to achieve what might seem the impossible, in subduing the wilderness, or in creating a new service or industry. The private savings of the people have been invested in banks, insurance companies, trustee companies, “and. so on, and we should, not forget that the legislation of the New South Wales Parliament which threatens the stability of these institutions, threatens also the people’s savings invested in them.
The banks, insurance companies; building societies and trustee companies of Aus tralia are no more than the repositories of savings almost entirely made by the people of Australia. A few figures regarding them may serve to illustrate this. The trading banks in New South. Wales, other than the Commonwealth Bank, have, despite some flight of capital to other States, £97,500,000 of deposits. These are entrusted to them by 122,000 fixed depositors and 236,000 customers, whose current accounts are in credit. Qf course, there is a considerable overlapping of some of these groups, many a current account being in favour of a customer who also has a fixed deposit ; but it is safe to say .that these banks hold the accounts of 300,000 individuals. It must be recognized that, through the trading banks of New South Wales, this legislation will affect 300,000 persons.
– The average deposit would not be £50.
– It is, in fact, about £325 per individual. Therefore, the banks are the trustees for a multitude of small holders of capital. They are. also the administrators of the savings of a great body of shareholders whose funds are almost equally widely owned. The average shareholding is probably notgreater than the average holding of the depositor.
Turning to the employment by the banks of this fund, which is entrusted to them by so great a company of customers and contributors, we find a similar state of affairs. The advances by trading banks in New South Wales are greater than the deposits lodged - a fact which emphasizes the point I have already made, that this is an attack upon the savings of not only the people of New South Wales, but also the people in the other States. The advances made by the trading .banks in New South Wales total £98,000,000. That is a large sum, but it is distributed far and wide, in large and small .amounts, among 75,000 customers whose accounts are in debit or overdrawn. The average amount of . the advances by the banks is thus about £L300, and about 75 per cent, of the total advances are backed by mortgages of interests in land.
This shows clearly how close, is the association . between those’ who save, and those who make use of their savings, in providing advances for the development of the country, and particularly the development, of the land. I would emphasize this point - and honorable numbers from country districts will readily realize the fact - that a bank advance is not a fixed sum; it varies according to the needs of the individual, and according to the time of the year. Those who require bank advances need larger sums at certain periods than at others, particularly those who get their living from the land. Advances to farmers tend to increase between now and November, while they are putting in their crops and awaiting their harvest. Wheatfarmers will recognize that the legislation with which this bill deals will pie-, vent the trading banks from meeting the requirements of the people from now onwards.
– So it will take effect after all?
– If it is put into operation, it will damage these institutions, rob them of any confidence they may have in the New South Wales Government, and, therefore, cause them to avoid taking the risk of making further advances, in view of the possibility of this type of legislation becoming effective. Even the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander), if placed in a similar position to that in which the New South Wales trading banks now find themselves, would take no chances with the Government of New South Wales.
The life insurance societies and companies to which the small but regular savings of various sections of the community, including professional and salaried men and many wageearners, are entrusted, furnish a similar illustration of the benefits of voluntary collectivism. There are, in New South Wales, 900,000 policy-holders,’ and in Australia as a whole, 2,500,000 - more than a third of the population in either case. The amount for which their lives are assured is, in New South Wales, £346.000,000, and in Australia as a whole, £400,000,000. These amounts are built up by premiums collected year by year, and as the result of the investment of the funds of these institutions in mortgages on land and by way of loans to other organizations and bodies. The amount invested by life insurance corporations in land mortgages in Australia is £35,000,000, and it is a striking fact that, whereas only about one-third of the policy-holders are in New South Wales, four-sevenths of the money lent in connexion with mortgages of land has been advanced in New South Wales. That again shows that this latest legislation passed by the New South Wales Government will not be confined to New South Wales, but will be felt in every part of the Commonwealth. If put into operation, it would destroy the value of securities held in all the States.
– What does the Lang Government care?
– It is our responsibility to safeguard the interests of the people of Australia as a whole. The ramifications of these institutions extend, of course, to every part of the Commonwealth; they are not confined to New South Wales. To deplete the pooled fund which these institutions gather from the savings of the people in all quarters throughout Australia, is to attack the savings of the whole of the people of this country. The value of these securities would be affected in two ways: First of all, if legislation of the kind passed by the New South Wales Government is put into operation, it will be impossible for individuals to secure mortgage money. I further point out the difficulty that individuals would have in finding the money necessary to meet the impost demanded by the New South Wales Government. They have not the necessary money available to make such payments, and on every hand it would be necessary to realize upon securities in order tha’t cash might be available with which to pay the tax. In addition to the failure to obtain money upon mortgage securities of all kinds, robbery would be inflicted upon the people who hold those securities in various parts of the Commonwealth. Practically half those who have borrowed money from the life insurance corporations on land’ mortgages are residents of New South Wales. Out of a total of 12,000, nearly 6,000 reside in that State.
This State legislation amounts to confiscation of the funds of the life insurance societies, and of the other organizations that to-day collect the savings of the people and make use of them in the development of the country. The savings of the individual do not amount to much, but when the savings of all the people are brought together, by means of such institutions as life insurance societies, the funds obtained are sufficient to prove of valuable assistance in national development, and in the provision of employment for the people. This legislation, against which we are taking action, amounts, therefore, to the confiscation of the moneys of individuals throughout Australia - in every State’ as well as in New South Wales. The dishonest New South Wales Government, by its act, is inflicting confiscation and robbery upon the people generally.
– That is a strong remark.
– It is not too strong to describe the action taken by the Lang Government. That Government, which affects to be so much concerned about what it calls family endowment, is to-day, by this act, getting its hands on the family endowments of the people of Australia who, from year to year, have been paying their savings into various funds in order that they might provide endowments for their children.
So it is with trustee companies. The amount of money lent on mortgage in New South Wales by these institutions is £12,000,000. The number of beneficiaries interested in these mortgages - that is to say, the number who look to interest on them for part, or, perhaps, the whole of their means of living - is between 15,000 and 20,000. Thus, the average sum lent on mortgage from a trust estate by the trustee companies is about £700, yielding an income of from £40 to £50 per annum, and these are the people who are going to be attacked under the legislation of the New South Wales Parliament.
In the time at my disposal, and because of the special circumstances in which the bill is presented, I have not been able to show the whole effect upon all classes of the community of the New South Wales legislation; but I have said sufficient to show what may be expected, not only in New South Wales, but throughout Australia, and I have no hesitation in saying that the effect will be disastrous.
– What will be the effect on friendly societies?
– What I have said regarding other institutions applies to friendly societies; of necessity all these institutions must suffer. I have pointed out that the aim of the New South Wales Government is surely one of destruction. Whether it succeeds or fails in raising the amount of revenue hoped for, its legislation must result in destruction of the institutions to which I have referred, and destruction of the interests of the people both of New South Wales and of the Commonwealth. It may be that after all that is brought about, those responsible for it will be very sorry indeed when they see the result of their handiwork. We are here as the custodians of the rights of the people of Australia.
– A section of them.
– We have a mandate from the people of the Commonwealth, and, what is more important, from the people of New South Wales. If honorable members in the opposition corner have any doubt about’ that mandate, let them regard the number of New South Wales members on the benches on this side, and then look at the negligible handful who have been returned for New South Wales to support the Lang plan. We realize that the very stability of this nation, economic as well as financial, is in jeopardy as the result of the action of the Lang Government,, and that there is a demand on us to take federal action to thwart the aims of the present Government of New South Wales.- We must make the widest use of the powers that are conferred on this Parliament under the Constitution in order that that may be done.
All the States are involved in this plan of ‘ destruction, and they will assuredly suffer if it is carried out. Bui they are impotent. They are unable to protect themselves against the action of this man and his Government, so that the responsibility devolves upon the Commonwealth Parliament to protect the States, which cannot protect themselves. This Government takes up the task on behalf of the whole of the people of the nation, and it will use every atom of power that it possesses in the interests of those concerned. I regret that there are men to-day who were elected to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth, but who prefer to fight in an endeavour to enable that plan of destruction, to be carried out.
No one regrets more than I that steps like these have to be taken. However; I am in no way responsible for that necessity. It has been forced upon my Government and upon me. The Government of New South Wales has been in the wrong from the beginning. It has given pledges that it refuses to keep; it has failed to play its part and to co-operate with the other States of the Commonwealth in an effort to rehabilitate the industries of Australia; it has failed to keep its undertaking to pay that which it owes, and it has forced upon this Parliament the necessity of insisting that it shall take its part with the other States in restoring the credit of the nation. My Government has taken every step that it ought to take in order to rectify matters, awl it will continue to do so.
– The honorable gentleman and his . Government desire to crucify Lang.
– Lang, as an individual, matters nothing to me. It is only his actions and those of his Government that concern me. I have taken one step after another, and I shall continue to do so, recognizing that- there is a need to prevent this person bringing about the destruction of Australia’s credit and good name. Surely, the Premier of New’ South Wales must realize the damage that will be done by the course of action that he proposes. Will he not, even at this late hour, do something to enable the Commonwealth Government and this Parliament, to help him to get his State, and the whole Commonwealth, out of the difficulty in which he has involved them! The onus is on the person who took the first false step to take a step back in the direction of honesty and decent government in this country.
I shall not delay honorable members by dealing with the various provisions of the bill-. The proposal of the Government of New South Wales is to collect 10 per cent, of the value of mortgages, and to enforce a penalty of 10 per cent, per annum for any delay, with a final drastic provision -to seize the mortgage altogether. The legislation that my Government is submitting has the effect of declaring that of the Government of New
South Wales,-on this subject invalid. Its whole object is to prevent that legislation from becoming operative, and to prevent the Government of New South Wales from imposing anything in the nature of a capital levy: I hope that honorable members will recognize their duty to the Commonwealth as a whole, and that there will not be any division on the bill.
.- Like the Prime Minister, I should like this Parliament, if it were possible, to be unanimous in making certain declarations, many of them along the lines indicated by the Prime Minister this morning. But, in order to secure unity honorable members should be given an opportunity to understand the proposal before them.
This bill sets out to preserve the peace, order and . good government of Australia. With that object I entirely agree. The’ trouble to-day is that we have two governments engaged in a financial and political war. This last move on the part of the Government of New South Wales is a desperate gesture to gain some advantage in that war. I do not know whether or not it is merely a device to bring about negotiations with the enemy, but, undoubtedly, it is a desperate act. The Commonwealth Parliament set out on a desperate course and it was warned that that would lead to a desperate position. I do not want to traverse the ground along which we have travelled, but I repeat that the few million pounds that are at issue and which, at any rate, will eventually be recovered from New South Wales, are not worth the turmoil and trouble in which the country must be involved if this thing continues.
I have not seen the bill that was introduced and passed yesterday by the Government of New South Wales. I have to rely upon the meagre reports that appear in the press. Although the headings are big, the newspaper reports contain very little information. Honorable members should have an opportunity to see that bill and to consider the Commonwealth measure that is framed to deal with it. From what I have read in the press, I have not one word of commendation for the New South Wales bill. It is desperate, blundering inequitable legislation.
The question arises, how far can we, as a Commonwealth, step in, to counteract that measure ? How far can we intervene against the power of a State to formulate its own taxation? If we have these powers how shall we exercise them? It is necessary to have time, also, to consider those important problems. We have not been given that time.
The Prime Minister spoke of the persons who will be affected by the New South Wales legislation. It will affect bank depositors, thousands of whom are in a small way. All people who have hank deposits are not millionaires; many of the poorest people in the community lodge small deposits with banking institutions. The number concerned has been given by the Prime Minister. I do not know whether the New South Wales legislation proposes to tax the interest earned by deposits in banks, nor do I know whether the definition of “mortgage” in that measure covers a deposit in a bank. If it does, it would mean the taking of 10 per cent. of the whole of such deposits.
– It does not mean that.
– The honorable member must have seen the bill.
– I have not; I have only read the newspapers.
– I was unable to glean that from the newspapers.
– Does the right honorable gentleman refer to overdrafts?
– Any person who has a fixed deposit in a bank is equivalent to a money lender, for he receives a certain return from that deposit.
– The right honorable member is putting another suggestion into the head of Mr. Lang.
– Mr. Lang has plenty of advisers to do that. Whether or not the bill contemplates attacking deposits in banks in that direct way, it will undoubtedly attack them indirectly because, if the banks are embarrassed and financially crippled by this taking of 10 per cent. of all mortgages, that will react upon depositors. So that objection to the new legislation is not merely a defence of banking. It is a defence of hundreds of thousands of depositors. This remark applies with even greater force to the transactions of insurance companies, the great bulk of which are mutual provident societies in which the savings of the people are invested.
There are some people who have not grasped what this 10 per cent. tax means.
– They know what a 10 per cent. tax on wages means.
– They do, unfortunately; but while that is a very heavy imposition, it represents but 10 per cent. on income, while this is 10 per cent. on capital. The two things are vastly different. My Government introduced a bill providing for a super tax of 10 per cent. on incomes. That was severe enough, but it is negligible compared with a 10 per cent. levy on capital. Where a person has lent money on mortgage at 7 per cent., a tax of 10 per cent. on the mortgage is equal to 140 per cent. of the income derived from that mortgage. Where the interest rate is 5 per cent. the tax represents a 200 per cent. tax on the income. It is impossible to collect such a tax.
– Every move that Mr. Lang has made leads to an impossible position.
– In my opinion, this tax has not been imposed in the hope that New South Wales will he able to raise sufficient revenue to meet that State’s obligations. Judging from what I have heard of it, it is punitive legislation, which I cannot endorse. It is true that I do not know what exemptions or modifications may be provided in it, but I have no time for that class of legislation. It has been suggested that those who are unable to pay this tax - and no one will be able to pay it, because people do not generally keep large sums of money lying idle - will be forced to realize on their holdings. But they will not be able to do so. Even if times were normal, every one who would be forced to realize on his holdings to pay a capital tax like this would be rushing into the market; but there would be no buyers. How much more is that difficulty accentuated to-day when there are thousands of mortgages hardly worth the paper on which they are printed! Hundreds of thousands of second mortgages will never be realized, because of the depreciation of the capital value of the properties concerned. In addition, there are thousands of first mortgages on which the interest cannot be collected, and whose principal will not be repaid for many years.
We must face this and every other subject with an open and honest mind. I cannot see any equity in the legislation of the State; I have never been able to support any legislation providing for capital levies, because, ultimately, the money must come from the incomes of the people. In the long run it is a tax on incomes. I make one exception: I believe in a land tax, which, although, in a sense, a capital tax, is in a different category, since it is a tax on unearned increment. A capital levy of 10 per cent. is, as I have already said, a tax of from 140 per cent. to 200 per cent. in one year on the taxpayer’s income. Since we cannot take more than 100 per cent. of any one’s income, such a tax is not practicable. Nor is it just. I do not think that the Government of New South Wales can enforce its legislation. I regard it as only so much bluff.
– But it will cause chaos.
– I am not sure that it will do so, because the people will realize that it cannot be collected.
We, in this Parliament, have to consider how the position can be met, and how far we should go to meet it. We must decide, first, whether the Commonwealth ought to intervene. Then we must face the question whether the Commonwealth has a right to intervene, and in its consideration we must have regard to the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. Assuming that the Commonwealth is of the opinion that it ought to intervene, and that the Constitution empowers it to do so, which I very much doubt, the . next question is the way in which it should intervene. I have not had time to read the bill, I have merely glanced at it; but in that glance I noticed clause 3, the first sub-clause of which reads -
Notwithstanding anything in any law of a State or anything done under any such law -
In clause 6 it is provided that this legislation shall remain in force for two years.
– We must read that together with the preamble.
– That may be so. Nevertheless, there is provision for it to remain in operation for two years.
Mr.Francis. - Subject to proclamation.
– The act must be proclaimed in every State, because it will apply to every State. When this legislation has been passed, it will mean that for a period of two years no State may increase any taxation on any mortgage, or impose any such taxation where it has not already done so.
– There will be an amendment to deal with that.
– Then there is something to be said for allowing time for consideration of the bill. I have only glanced at it; yet in that glance I have found one defect which will require an amendment.
– The amendment has already been circulated.
– I have not yet had time to read the bill, let alone any amendments that may have been circulated. This legislation is a most serious interference with the rights of the States. Surely there is a better way !
– What -is that better way.
– I have not had time to consider what that better way may be. I am not a lawyer, let alone a constitutional lawyer. In order that that better way might be found, I suggested earlier that we should have until Saturday or Monday to consider this matter. If there is a better way, surely this legislation can be modified with a view to finding it. Clause 4 provides -
I appreciate the necessity for the Commonwealth protecting its own revenue; but I want time to consider whether we should hand over to a Commonwealth officer the right to say what legislation may be passed by the States during the next two years. These are thing3 which should be fully considered; and I maintain that that consideration has not yet been given to them. If this legislation is constitutional, then I say this bill means unification. If we take from the States the right to control their finances, we take horn them their greatest power. I do not object to unification. Indeed, I suggest that the time has arrived - and this legislation from day to day proves that it has arrived - when we should go straight for unification. I suggest that the people should be approached by a referendum to say whether they are prepared to give complete control of the country to the Commonwealth Parliament. If they agreed, we should then have no further enforcement acts, or other intrusions on the sovereign rights of the States. Let us go to our masters, the people, and ask straight-out for unification, making the Commonwealth supreme. Then, under the Constitution, we shall he able to do. without any provocation, what this bill purports to do. That appears to me to be the only solution. Although I have no sympathy with the latest legislation passed by the New South “Wales Government, I am not prepared, without time for further consideration, to support this measure. If it can be shown that in this bill the Commonwealth is acting within its constitutional rights in order to protect the people of the Commonwealth from unjust impositions. I am prepared to consider legislation to that end ; but I shall not vote blindly on a bill which I have not had time to read or study.
.- I am opposed to the bill, which I regard as unconstitutional. Yesterday there arrived in Canberra by aeroplane Sir Harrison Moore, an eminent constitutional authority, and Mr. Wilbur Ham, K.C., and as the result of their visit this legislation has been drafted. It takes away the rights of the States by depriving them of their avenues of taxation. When we reflect that the persons against whom the State legislation is directed are, for the most part, wealthy corporations, quite able to pay the taxes imposed on. them, we must come to the conclusion that there is no need for this legislation with which we are now dealing. Honorable members are aware that when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was in the ranks of the Labour party, he denounced this wealthy section as exploiters of the people. In order to maintain essential services, the Government of New South Wales found it necessary to impose this form of taxation because of the operation of the legislation recently passed by this Parliament attaching the revenue of that State for the purpose of paying overseas bondholders ; but now the Commonwealth Government says that the class of person affected by it must not be touched. And in order to ensure that the State legislation will have no effect, this bill is to operate from the same date that the State legislation was passed. Clause 3, sub-clause 2 provides -
A forfeiture, alienation of interest under a mortgage, or other penalty or sanction imposed by or under any law of a State for non-payment or late payment of any tax or impost charged upon any mortgage or imposed upon the principal amount secured by any mortgage shall not be valid or of any legal effect
Under this clause persons engaged in the business of insurance, the business of banking, the business of trustees and executors, and every trading and financial corporation, as well as foreign corporations, will be entitled to repudiate the State law. I draw special attention to the exemption of foreign corporations, particularly in view of all that has been said during recent months, about the Government of New South Wales repudiating its indebtedness to foreign bondholders, and the strenuous efforts which have been made to force the Government of New South Wales to pay the interest to them. This bill makes it impossible for the State to exploit this new field of taxation, and, in addition, it provides that the class of taxpayer best able to pay taxes shall be exempted. The Commonwealth Government’s treatment of those who can pay taxation is different from its lack of consideration for those who find it difficult to provide the necessaries of life. I remind honorable members that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), when speaking at the Sydney Town Hall, said that because the basic wage in New South Wales was higher than in the other States, it constituted an imposition on New South Wales industries. He mentioned the State of South Australia, where the basic wage is £3 3s. per week, and said that that should be the basic wage for Australia. The Prime Minister went on to say that the child endowment legislation in New South Wales, the suspension of which almost caused him to weep this morning, was inflicting a great hardship upon industry in that State, and that industries in the other States were not so handicapped. Clause 5 provides that the GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation, relieve persons or corporations from any obligation to pay the mortgage tax in a State. The form of sub-clause 1 suggests that we may get something further by way of legislation that is not contained in the bill. The provisions of this clause strain to the utmost the authority of the Commonwealth in its relations with the State of New South Wales. If it is declared to be constitutional it must apply to all States and it follows that if, within the period during which this new law operates, other State Governments desire to impose a capital levy upon people who are in a position to pay it, they will be prevented from doing so.
The Prime Minister had something to say this morning about the need for equality of sacrifice, if we are to rehabilitate the finances of this country. I entirely agree. Let us all join in this high purpose. Let us all make equal sacrifices for the welfare of this country. Let us all, if necessary, get down, to the wage level of the majority of the people in Australia to-day. I am ready to do that. Are honorable members supporting the Government of the same mind? Are they prepared to come down to the basic wage? Why should one section of the community live in the lap of luxury, and have all that is required for their comfort, while others are on the verge of starvation - without clothing,
Mr. James. without shelter, and without sufficient food to nourish them? This, unhappily, is the position of the great majority of those 400,000 persons who are without work in Australia, and of many others who have only part-time employment. Yet, when Mr. Lang, some time ago, put forward his proposal to limit incomes to £500, he was ridiculed by the very people who to-day are ridiculing him for having imposed a capital levy upon people who are able to pay and certainly do not lack the necessaries of life. In times like these any Government should be prepared to pass legislation imposing equality of sacrifice upon the people. Let me repeat that I am willing to come down to the basic wage and to try to do something to alleviate the lot of those who are not able to get sufficient of the necessaries of life to keep body and soul together. If all sections were of that mind, there would be evidence of sincerity in this House. At present there is not equality of sacrifice. The moment Mr. Lang attempts to impose a levy even on the fringe of the financial institutions that are exploiting the people of this country, there is an outcry and we are told that his policy is bringing discredit on the nation. The first obligation of any government is to see that all the people under its authority at least enjoy a reasonable standard of comfort. This is all that Mr. Lang is trying to ensure. Apparently the House is not prepared to go as far as that. And yet we parade as humanitarians - as followers of Christ! Christ condemned the institutions which the Government and its supporters are now seeking to protect. Did he not say, in effect, “ He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord.” Instead of observing His injunction to give to the poor, we are taking from the poor and giving to the wealthy.
The Government is pushing this legislation through with unnecessary haste. When the Prime Minister submitted his motion for the limitation of time, he allowed only one hour and a half for the second-reading stage of the bill, and himself took up 43 minutes of that time ; thus leaving the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and other members who wished to speak, only 47 minutes. Such tactics are grossly unfair. The Government is pandering to the rich at the expense of the poor. This is not Christianity, and certainly it is not humanitarian.
– As so little time remains for the second-reading stage of the bill, and as other honorable members wish to speak I, following the example of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. James) will not unduly delay the House in the discussion of this drastic and epoch-making measure. It is the most vital proposal that has been brought before this House for many years - perhaps -in the history of federation. It is the first attempt by a Commonwealth Government to express in legislative form the fact that we have now reached the stage of unification in finance. Unlike the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) I am not a unificationist, although I acknowledge that, in finance, there must be one supreme authority in .Australia. But until this Parliament crystallizes the position, either in the form of legislation which may be declared valid by the High Court, or by means of a referendum of the people to amend the Constitution, there is no other way out of this stupendous tangle created by the policy of default in New South Wales’.
I commend the Government for its courage in tackling the issue so promptly, but I am sorry that more time is not given to the House for the discussion of this far-reaching proposal. The Leader of the Opposition was right when he said that we should have been asked to sit tomorrow, because this bill is altogether too important to rush through at such short notice. The Government has made a mistake in attempting to secure its rapid passage by means of the guillotine because every member of the House, I take it, is prepared to remain here over the week-end to assist the Minister to get the hill through and make it as perfect as possible. However, the Government has decided otherwise so we must pass the measure and see what happens.
The Ministry has been criticized for not allowing the Government of New South Wales practically a fortnight in which to cause a panic throughout that State. I do not support that view. I believe the Government is wise in acting so promptly. We could not have waited over the week-end without giving some indication of the intentions of this Parliament. [Quorum formed.] Therefore I strongly commend the Government for its promptness in bringing the bill down practically overnight, and giving honorable members a chance to declare where they stand in this matter. There will be tremendous relief throughout Australia when it is known that this Government has moved so swiftly to protect the people by preventing the tremendous disaster which threatens them through the insane action of the New South Wales Government. Every one knows that the policy of that Government is to confiscate capital. This objective has been openly declared from practically every Labour platform in the State. It has also been advocated in this House by those honorable members supporting the State Labour party of New South Wales, and we can be quite sure that if the restraining hand of this Parliament was not laid upon the New South Wales Government, confiscation of wealth would be its policy to-day.
Members of that party in this House have frequently hinted that we are about to have a revolution in real earnest. I do not care to talk about revolution, but I am afraid that we have just about reached that . stage, because, in New South Wales, a minority of men led by perhaps the most reckless gang of political desperadoes that this country has even seen is encouraging the Government of that State to rob every man of his life’s savings, to smash industry, and practically to “bushrange” the community. This will mean revolution’ because the people with anything to lose will have to fight for it, and there will be sufficient of the British spirit in the community to resent such action. The present policy of the New South Wales Government is rapidly leading us to that desperate state of affairs when men, in the protection of their rights, will be forced to risk their lives. Accordingly I say that the Government is acting very wisely and doing the humane thing in trying to prevent New South Wales from reaching the stage which supporters of the State Australian Labour Party in this House apparently wish it to reach - a condition of civil war between its people. This bill may not be in time to prevent the situation from approaching that stage, but I think it will, and I am certain that it will be hailed with great relief from one end of Australia to the other as a definite challenge by the Commonwealth Government to a State government which is defying the Commonwealth, and is prepared to go to any length to destroy industry throughout Australia. “
It has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that the bill may be unconstitutional in certain respects. It will probably go to the High Court, and when that tribunal has delivered judgment we shall understand the situation perfectly. Any doubt as to the constitutionality of the course now being taken bv the Government does not justify us in refusing to pass the bill. In any event its validity would have to be determined by the High Court. If it is not unconstitutional I agree that it will revolutionize the whole position in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition has said that it is an invasion of the sovereign rights of the States. That is an extreme statement to make, but he has admitted that it is absolutely necessary that the policy of default by a State should be challenged and defeated by the Commonwealth. State interference with the financial solvency of Australia must be countered by the Commonwealth Parliament. This legislation may trench upon the sovereignty of the State, but even the destruction of that sovereignty, which will be inevitable if this crisis he prolonged, would be better for the people of Australia than the continuation of the Lang plan.
– Last week- the honorable member was clamouring for new States.
– I want new and better States that will not have power to destroy the whole fabric of Australian finance. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) was critical of this bill; but he could not suggest an alternative. He offered no constructive criticism. The Government is on sound ground in proceeding with this legislation. The people of Australia expect action of this kind, and if we failed to take it, profound disappointment and widespread panic would be caused. The Government of New South Wales is evidently determined to creat panic and to smash the existing social order, even to the extent of provoking revolution and bloodshed. This Parliament, with a more national outlook, is making every attempt within its constitutional powers to prevent such a disaster overtaking Australia. We have the sympathy of fully 90 per cent, of the Australian people in resisting the reckless wrecking policy of Mr. Lang. If this measure, unitary in principle and revolutionary in effect though it may be, succeeds in averting a crisis deliberately forced on Australia by the attack on vested interests, and through them on all sections of the people, including the suffering women and children, about whom the Lang supporters prate so much, ii will be more than justified. Every member who supports this measure will bt doing his duty as a good Australian.
– This measure has my unqualified and unequivocal support.
– On a point of order. Do the rules of the House permit two supporters of a measure to speak in succession when others are waiting to speak against it?
– The call is given to members of different parties in turn. The Chair is noi concerned with the opinions of honorable members.
– The bill juN passed by the New South Wales Parliament represents the most treacherous stab ever made at the industrial and primary producing sections of the people. I am amazed at the attitude of members of the official Opposition. In and out of Parliament they profess utter abhorence oi a man named Lang, and they hold up their hands in holy horror at the damage which he is doing in New South Wales, yet every proposal made by the Government to circumvent his destructive policy is strongly resisted by those honorable members. They offer no constructive suggestions, nor do they give to the Government any assistance; they simply show direct hostility to the Government’s attempts to safeguard the people of New South Wales, and, incidentally, all the people of Australia.
I propose to indicate briefly the effect which Mr. Lang’s lastest legislation will have on the primary producers in New South Wales. They carry on largely by the aid of the credit they are able to obtain from merchants, wool-buying firms, financial institutions, and storekeepers. Members of the Opposition speak frequently of the necessity for an extension of credits and the preservation of those already available. Mr. Lang’s legislation is the most destructive blow yet struck at the credit of the primary producers. The wheat-farmer and the wool-grower are paid practically only once a year, and as’ a result of extremely low prices, they have to live for many months of the year on the credit they are able to obtain. Mr. Lang is deliberately destroying this avenue of assistance. Inevitably, this will make it impossible for thousands of wool-growers to obtain finance for their shearing operations and for wheatgrowers to get assistance for the .sowing and harvesting of their crops. The ultimate result must be the paralysis of the primary-producing industries in New South Wales. That will be followed by famine and chaos in every section of the community. Therefore, I regard this bill as a timely and effective method of checkmating Mr. Lang. There can be no justification for delaying its’ passage when the danger to the people of New South Wales is so imminent and obvious. I might describe this bill as a deft thrust by a matador to thwart the blind fury of a mad bull. The members who oppose this measure can be animated by only one of three things - gross ignorance of the position in New South Wales to-day, sheer hypocrisy, or a deliberate desire to aid and abet the Lang Government in its policy of wrecking. Nothing would justify any relaxation of the inflexible determination of the Commonwealth Government to take every measure within its constitutional power to render futile the activities of the most destructive force that has ever manifested itself in Australian public life.
.- The agitation of Ministers demonstrates that in the struggle between the Commonwealth and State Governments, the latter is emerging triumphant. I am amused at the professions of consistency by Government supporters. The Prime Minister said that if honorable members did not proceed with this job of checkmating Mr. Lang they would be false to the trust reposed in them. This would not be the first occasion on which the Prime Minister has been false to the trust reposed in him and to principles to which he has subscribed. To-day he claims that pledges should be honoured in all circumstances and on all occasions. The New South Wales Government could not meet its interest obligations overseas. The Commonwealth Government and its supporters in and out of Parliament have declared that Mr. Lang is guilty of repudiation, and they are endeavouring to compel the State of New South Wales to meet its obligations. Now Mr. Lang retorts “Very well, if our overseas obligations must be met, let them be met by the people who have been clamouring for the honouring of them “. A plea has been mad.e for the primary producers. The Prime Minister said that the large loss of national income in recent years is due to the reduced demand for our primary products. As a matter of fact we are exporting a bigger volume of primary products than ever before, but we are getting less in return for them because of the manipulation by those financial interests, to the support of which the Commonwealth Government is rushing to-day.
– What about Russia?
– Russia did not ask that the repayment of its national debt should be suspended for two years.
– It repudiated the whole debt.
– What is the British Government doing to-day? According to a report in the Sunday Sun, Mr. Walter Runciman, President of the Board of Trade, speaking of the Ottawa conference from which honorable members expect so much, said that Australia could not expect to receive any alleviation of the price position through British consumers buying more Australian wheat. The British people, he said, could not refuse to buy Russian wheat, because if they did it would be placed on other markets and cause a further fall in world prices.
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the bill.
– I remind the honorable member for
East Sydney that he has only two minutes more in which to connect his remarks with the bill.
– Apparently the truths I am uttering are hurtful to the supporters of the Government. The desperate position of the Ministry is indicated by this panic legislation. The Prime Minister read his speech and did not know what it contained, notwithstanding that he sat up all last night to have the speech and the bill prepared. The Assistant Treasurer is the real Prime Minister ; he is the man who prepares this legislation and the Prime Minister’s speeches against the Lang Government. The Commonwealth Ministry may continue its vindictive and panicky attack upon the Labour Government in New South Wales, but its every move will be forestalled by Mr. Lang. The Government proposed to seize the deposits standing to the credit of the New South Wales Government in the banks, and then were surprised that Mr. Lang was alert and sensible enough to anticipate their action.
– Order ! The time allotted to the second-reading stage has expired.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 35
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definition).
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 - (1.) Notwithstanding anything in any law of a State or anything done under any such law -
. - I shall oppose this clause because I think it and the whole bill are inconsistent with the decision arrived at by the Premiers Conference when it was agreed that each State should be left to decide for itself how it would meet its obligations. I also object to it because it is an intrusion upon the rights of the States in regard to taxation. I am a unificationist, but would not bring about unification by this method. I believe in unification, and I hope that some day we shall achieve it by the votes of the people.
– I hope not.
– Even the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would accept unification if the people decided in favour of it. I do not desire to see the rights of the States encroached upon by anything in the nature of a dictatorship. Sightly or wrongly I have consistently objected to the excess taxation imposed upon the people in accordance with the Premiers plan. I protested in this chamber, although no honorable member opposite did so, when it was proposed to divert from our old-age and invalid pensioners between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 which they were entitled to receive. I also objected to a 10 per cent. cut in wages. At the last Premiers Conference the representatives of the Commonwealth Government suggested a further 10 per cent. cut in the basic wage.
– That is not so.
– At any rate, a committee of experts made a recommendation to that effect, which had the support of the Commonwealth Government. I also oppose this provision, because of the action taken by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with old-age pensions, and because of its compulsory conversion loan, which has had a serious effect upon widows and others of small means who have their money invested in Commonwealth bonds. No objection was raised by honorable members opposite when those poor people were affected. They are supporting this measure without even being aware of its contents - a measure which is protecting money lenders, and at the same time encroaching upon the rights of the States. No action was taken by this Government when certain other State governments imposed extraordinary taxation to meet their obligations.
Honorable members interjecting,
– As the time for discussion in committee is limited, I ask honorable members not to interrupt the honorable member. It is not only unfair to him, but will also prevent other honorable members from speaking.
– At the conference at which the Premiers plan was agreed upon, it was decided that each State government should be free to adopt its own method of meeting its obligations. The Premier of New South Wales agreed to meet his commitments; but reserved to his Government the right to do it in its own way - whether he was right or wrong is another matter - and, because he did not immediately reduce the basic wage and penalize those on the lower rungs of the ladder, as did other governments, the Commonwealth and other State governments have ever since been opposed to him. If the Government of New South Wales is able to pass a taxation measure through both branches of its legislature in order to raise money to meet its obligations, it is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to defeat its object by introducing a bill such as this. This is another attempt to deprive a State of the sovereign powers which it enjoys under its Constitution. I believe in unification, but I do not believe in having it brought about in this way. The Government of New South Wales has as much right to collect revenue from those who are able to pay as this Government has to deprive old-age pensioners of their rights.
– It is hardly fair for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) to impute motives to honorable members on this side of the chamber. I am supporting the bill because it is an effort on the part of the Commonwealth authorities to counteract the action taken by the Premier of New South Wales, whose Government has defaulted in its interest payments. His first act of repudiation had a most serious effect upon every State in the Commonwealth, and his most recent proposal, while affecting more particularly the interests of New South Wales, will also have a most serious effect upon the activities of certain institutions and persons in the other States. For instance, the functions of the Australian Mutual Provident Society; and similar societies, extend over the whole of the Commonwealth. If excessive taxation such as is proposed by the Government of New South Wales is imposed, the whole of the people of Australia will be affected. The Commonwealth Government, therefore, must legislate in the interests of the whole of the people: It is true, as stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), that this measure is far reaching, and there are doubts as to the extent of the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to enact it, but I feel that the Commonwealth is justified in calling to its aid every power it possesses under the Constitution, particularly under section 51, to counteract an action by any State which may disastrously affect other States. Obviously this bill is intended to apply to only one State, but it will apply to all other States. [Quorum; formed.] I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we have not had sufficient time to consider the bill now under consideration or study the. powers upon which it is framed. The bill has just been placed before us and we have not seen the actual bill passed by the State Parliament; but the effect of the State legislation as described in the press appears to be so serious and far-reaching that it is necessary for this Parliament to take the earliest possible action to counteract it. I presume that the Commonwealth Government has obtained the best con stitutional advice available, and, therefore, I have no hesitation in supporting it in the action it is taking.
.- When I referred to one possible effect of this clause during the second-reading debate the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that it would be amended. I have now been supplied with a typewritten copy of an amendment, which does not entirely remove the objection which I raised. The clause in its original form provided that no new taxation in respect of a mortgage could be imposed or increased in any State for a period of two years. As now proposed to be amended it will provide that no existing taxation in any State can be increased or new tax imposed on capital or mortgage within two years if that taxation is measured by the principal amount. The State Governments are pledged to balance their budgets; they must pay their way. For the next two years at least they will be searching for means to increase their revenue or reduce their expenditure. Some States have imposed heavier taxation than others, and those which are not now collecting heavy taxation may be compelled to increase their rates. I am not -familiar with the taxation measures of all the States, but under our Commonwealth Land Taxation Act the land is taxed as also is the mortgagee in possession Of the land. How far would this provision prevent any increase in the land taxation of any State should that also apply to the mortgagee in possession? I do not know how “ owner “ is defined in State taxation acts. Some may define it as including a mortgagee, and if they do not to-day they may in the future, It is equitable to do so. If a man has £5,000 worth of land, on which there is a mortgage of £2,500, the mortgagee is, in effect, pari owner of the land. If, in future, a State Government which does npt already do so desires to tax a mortgagee and make him pay his share of the interest, under this clause it will be debarred from doing so for the next two years. I have not hadtime to consider the proposed amendment fully, but it appears to me that it does not remove that objection, although the amendment confines the imposition to a tax upon capital account. This is farreaching legislation of a panicky nature.
It is taking away the power of every State to impose taxation for the next two years, and I am opposed to it.
.- As stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) this is panicky legislation, which has received scant consideration by the Government, and is introduced with a good deal of political spleen.
– Order !
– It has been introduced with a good deal of political colouring. I am honestly of the opinion that 90 per cent, of the legislation passed in an endeavour to counteract the policy of the New South “Wales Government is based upon party politics exclusively.
– The Government in which the honorable member Avas a Minister issued a writ against Mr. Lang.
– Order !
– It did, but its action was not based upon party politics. A political vendetta is being waged against Mr. Lang by the present Government. Regardless of consequences, it is persisting in its endeavour to discredit the State Government of New South Wales.
– The honorable member knows that that is not true.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay is distinctly out of order.
– The Commonwealth’s legislative activities have been subordinated to the carrying out of a political vendetta.
– The honorable member’s remarks are outside the scope of the clause.
– The clause deals with certain powers which it is proposed to confer upon this Government, so that it may curtail the activities of a State Government.
– The motive of the Government in bringing down this legislation may not be discussed on this clause.
– The Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, consists of 90 members who have been elected by the whole of the people of New South Wales. The members of the second chamber have been appointed by the representative of His Majesty the King. Those two chambers have agreed to certain legislation. . For the moment, I am not concerned with that. I am concerned only with the sovereign powers of a State, under which it may impose taxation. I contend that, notwithstanding the opinions of the legal luminaries who have been brought to Canberra to advise the Government, this Government is taking, under this legislation, powers which are unconstitutional. While I am modest in regard to most things, I feel that I am justified, in view of the number of legal opinions which have been rejected by the High Court, in doubting the constitutionality of this bill. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), has had long legal experience; and judging by his speech, I am not too sure that he is convinced of the constitutionality of this measure. I admit that he has stated that these great powers should be taken in such times as this. Of course, if the High Court is of the same opinion as the honorable member, I have no doubt that it will dismiss any appeal based on a claim that this legislation is ultra vires.
I am a unificationist. I have on many occasions advocated that the Commonwealth Parliament should possess complete powers. On no less than nine occasions, I have advocated on the public platforms of this country an alteration of the Constitution in regard to certain subjects; but I say that it was never contemplated that the High Court should alter the Constitution.
– I would remind the honorable member that he is not discussing the clause.
– There is great trepidation among the supporters of the Government with regard to the State legislation, which this bill is designed to counteract. I am not concerned about that legislation, because no law which the people do not approve can be carried into effect. I have not seen a copy of the State measure; but from what I hav, gleaned from the meagre press reports, it appears to me that effect cannot be given to it. In that respect, it is similar to much, of the legislation of the Bruce-Page Government, which was aimed at the workers of this country.
– I remind the honorable member that he is continually departing from the clause.
– I have no intention of doing that. I am at a loss to understand why this Government should take so much notice of legislation which apparently will be impossible of operation. At any rate, it is legislation which is the responsibility, not of this Parliament, but of the people of New South Wales, who have elected the present State Government; and, so far as I can gather, it is not unconstitutional. The New South Wales Government is seeking to impose taxation, and the Commonwealth Government has no right to interfere. This measure is much on the lines of legislation passed recently by this Parliament to deal with the position in New South Wales, and I do not intend to vote for it.
– I move -
That the words “ or based on or measured by the principal amount secured by any mortgage “ sub-clause 1, paragraph 6, be omitted.
This amendment and the other amendments to the bill which have been circulated do not alter its real sense. They do not affect its principle, but merely make the position clearer. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and, 1 think, some other honorable members who have spoken, overlook the fact that the action which this Government is taking to give effect to legislation passed by this Parliament to enable the Commonwealth to recover moneys from New South Wales, would inevitably have had to be taken by the Scullin Government had it remained in office, so long as the State Premier of New South Wales failed to meet his obligations. The last Government would have reached exactly the same point as this Government reached when the Premier of New South Wales sought further financial assistance, at the same time declaring that he was not prepared to pay the interest due by his State. I urge honorable members opposite to recognize that fact. This Government, in taking action under the law of the Com monwealth, is doing exactly what would have been done by our predecessors had they remained in office, and the Government of New South Wales had persisted in its attitude.
.- This legislation is vindictive.
– The honorable member’s remark is not in order.
– This measure is aimed at the State Labour Government of New South Wales, so as to prevent it from legislating within the boundaries of a State it has been constitutionally elected to govern, and elected with the largest following that any government has ever had in New South Wales. There is no disguising that fact; but, because Mr. Lang has endeavoured to give effect to the promises he made to the people to provide for their wants, an anti-Labour Government occupying the federal treasury bench, is determined, at all costs,to get rid of him. We know that the contention which he put forward in February, 1931, that the gold standard should be abolished, has since been proved to be well founded. When Mr. Lang made his first declaration in regard to the gold standard, he was condemned by practically the whole of the press.
– I ask the honorable member to confine hig remarks strictly to the clause.
– The action of this Government in attempting to prevent the State Labour Government from legislating according to the desires of the people of that State- is unwarranted. The supporters of the Government and the press generally strongly criticized Mr. Lang when he pointed out that a departure from the gold standard was desirable.
– The honorable member’s remarks have no relation to the clause.
– I have no desire to transgress the ruling of the Chair. The Prime Minister was at that time a member of the Commonwealth Government which criticized Mr. Lang. He changes his political opinions so frequently that it is difficult to keep pace with him. At first, this Government complained that the State Premier of Kew South Wales would not do what it wanted him to do. Wow, it is taking steps to prevent Mr. Lang from collecting revenue with which to meet the commitments of- that State, not because he is doing so, but because he is not doing it in a way which is pleasing to those who support the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Lang’s proposal is to tax that section of the community which does not live by the sweat of its brow. It was proposed in the report of the committee of experts, which was endorsed by the Prime Minister, that the basic wage for New South Wales should be £2 lis. 6d. a week.
– Order ! If the honorable member wishes to continue his speech, he must confine his remarks to the clause. I trust that I shall not have to warn him again.
– On account of the undue haste that has been displayed by the Government, it was very difficult for me in the limited time available to express my opinions on the bill at the second-reading stage.
– If the honorable member did not have what he regards as an adequate opportunity to speak to the second reading of the bill, that is not the responsibility of the Chair, and no latitude can be allowed to him on that account in committee.
– Probably the Chair will assist me, by pointing out in what way I am deviating from the clause.
– The honorable member was discussing what had happened at the Premiers Conference, and other matters that are quite irrelevant to the clause.
– With all due respect to you, sir, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) was allowed to proceed.
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to anything that was said by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, no’r to any action taken by the Chair.
– If I understand aright the phraseology of the clause, this Government proposes to endeavour to prevent the Labour Government of New South Wales from governing as the people of that State desire to be governed.
The intention is to take away, if possible, every right that is vested in that Government. Our friends opposite continually boast of their belief in democratic principles. They allege that certain doctrines which are preached outside need not be practised in this country, because the people can elect any government they like. In New South Wales, as the Prime Minister knows full well, an overwhelming majority of the people determined that the policy of a Labour government was in their best interests. The Government that occupies the treasury bench in this chamber has had its policy rejected by the people of Australia. For the first time in the political history of the Commonwealth, a decision that had been given by the people was altered before the successful party had met Parliament. That happened in the East’ Sydney electorate.
– Order ! The honorable member knows perfectly well that he is not discussing the clause. I hope that he will observe my ruling, and thus make it unnecessary for me to curtail his remarks.
– I am endeavouring to confine my remarks to the clause. If I am not very successful, that is not my fault. This Government is endeavouring to do what is. not in the interests of the Australian people. [Quorum formed.] I am pleased, that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) has drawn attention to the fact that government members are so interested in their own legislation that they absent themselves from the chamber. Only twelve of them were present when a quorum was sought. There is no disguising the fact that, judged by its activities since it assumed office, the one concern of this Government has been to effect the downfall of the Labour Government of New South Wales. We are urged to let the people determine the matter. What is wrong with the people of the Commonwealth determining it? The Prime Minister said that this legislation would have the support of every State in the Commonwealth. He knows full well that a motion moved in the Parliament of his own State, in opposition to this Government’s enforcement legislation, received the unanimous support «f the members of both Houses. The sole concern of honorable members opposite is to bring about the downfall of New South Wales, not because it is the only State that has not met its obligations, but because it will not meet those obligations in the way that they desire. Other States are being propped up by the Commonwealth.
– Order! If I again have occasion to instruct the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause, I shall be compelled to ask him to resume his seat. I have cautioned him many times, and he has deliberately disregarded the ruling of the Chair.
– If there has been any disregard of the ruling of the Chair it has not been deliberate. I have not had the long political experience of some of my political opponents opposite, and that may partially excuse me. I assure honorable members that I am neither heated nor disturbed in any way by this legislation. During the last few weeks, as honorable members know, I have been absent from my place in this chamber, for the reason that I have been endeavouring to ascertain the opinions of the people of New South Wales.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the honorable member’s remarks concerning his tour of New South Wales have any bearing on the clause.
– The point of order is well taken. I was about to intervene when the honorable gentleman rose. I shall give the honorable member one more chance to confine himself strictly to the clause.
– Probably, if the remarks of the Prime Minister-
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
.- I, like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), am a new member, and urge that as a reason for my inability to read the amendment into the clause. I should like you to do that for me, Mr. Chairman.
– The Chair has already read the amendment, and put the question.
– The clause is altogether too drastic, because it will enable the Commonwealth to usurp the whole of the powers of the State of New South Wales. That is not right. As Commonwealth laws apply throughout Australia, New South Wales will not be the only State affected by this legislation.
– See what happens in Victoria to-morrow.
– Order ! The honorable member must cease interjecting.
– I am not interested in what the people of Victoria do tomorrow. I do not know why the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) should wish me to go to that State. I know that he and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) wanted to go there to-night, but found that they could not on account of the position that has developed. We intend to oppose every clause in this bill. It is designed to usurp the rights of a sovereign State. We know, and so do honorable members opposite, that it has been introduced for the specific purpose of aiming another blow at Lang. They boasted that they would get Lang out in a fortnight if they were returned to power.
– Order !
– I am linking up my remarks, by showing that that is the purpose which the Government hopes to effect by this clause.
– Order! The honorable member is distinctly out of order. Any boast that the Government might have made has no relevancy to the clause.
– But the Prime Minister himself to-day-
– Order! The honorable member must discuss the clause.
– I protest against the clause. We on this side know that this legislation is designed specifically to bring about the downfall of the Labour Government in New South Wales, and to override the legislation of that State.
– What a pity!
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is not game to say that in his electorate. If there is one Minister or one Government supporter who is game to resign his seat, I also will resign mine, and fight him on this issue.
– In the limited time available, one cannot refer to many aspects of this legislation. I support the amendment, as well as the bill generally. An immediate effect of the Mortgage Act passed by the Government of New South Wales will be to cause such a rush to realize on securities and mortgages that the demand on the banks will bring about probably the greatest financial and economic crash that has ever been witnessed in this country. Industry and business will be so affected that unemployment will be intensified. The sources from which revenue has been drawn for the social legislation that has been passed in New South Wales during the last decade will become stagnant, and the funds necessary to carry on those services will cease to exist. If my vote helps to obviate the ruination of the State of New South Wales, I shall have no apologies to make.
.- I am rather at a loss to know how to vote on this clause, because no argument in support of it has been advanced by Government members. Those who have spoken to the clause have put forward the usual plea that it does not matter whether it is constitutional, or what it proposes to do, so long as it is aimed at the Labour Premier of New South Wales. It restricts the power of that State to levy the taxation necessary to carry on essential services. The Government of New South Wales has been criticized by honorable members opposite, and in the columns of the press, because it has failed to make provision for the people of that State. It is said that social services which have been enjoyed for many years have recently ceased to operate, because Lang cannot pay widows’ pensions, childhood endowment, and the like. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in his secondreading speech, said that the Government aimed at a gradual betterment in the standard of living. I do not know whether he referred to the standard of living enjoyed by members of Parliament, or by those whom they are supposed to represent, but the fact is that the general standard of living is not rising, but is steadily falling.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).Order! The time allotted for the committee stageof the bill has expired.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Lyons’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Circulated amendments -
Clause 3, sub-clause 1, paragraphb, after “ mortgage “ insert “ based on or measured by the principal amount secured by any mortgage, if the tax or impost is “.
Clause 3, sub-clause 2, before “ tax “ insert “ such “.
Clause 3, sub-clause 2, omit “charged upon any mortgage or imposed upon the principal amount secured by any mortgage “.
Question - That the remainder of the bill, and the amendments circulated by the Government be agreed to, and that the bill be reported with amendments - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with amendments.
Question - That the report be adopted - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 34
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The time allotted for the remaining stages of the bill having expired,
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 34
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– Yesterday the honor able member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
– In view of the short time that remains at our disposal to-day and the volume of business that has to be transacted, it is not the intention of the Government to answer questions without notice. Honorable members are free to place their questions on the notice-paper if they so desire, and they will be dealt with on Tuesday next.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– During the course of the proceedings of the House yesterday afternoon, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked for a ruling whether the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) was entitled to be counted when he rose in support of a motion for the adjournment of the House. At a later stage the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory also referred to the matter, and I undertook to give it further consideration.
On the 16th September, 1924, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked the then Speaker, the right honorable W. A. Watt, for a ruling whether the honorable member for the Northern Territory should be included in the number of honorable members present for the purpose of determining whether there was a quorum in a committee of the whole. In reply, Mr. Speaker Watt said that he would further consider the matter and give a ruling, if the House so desired. The only guidance that the Chair has on the subject is the Northern Territory Representation Act of 1922, sub-section 1 of section 5 of which sets out the disabilities of the member for the Northern Territory and reads -
The member representing the Northern Territory shall not be entitled to vote on any question arising in the House of Representatives.
Sub-section 2 sets out that -
The presence in the House of Representatives at any time of the member representing the Northern Territory and the fact that he is a member of the House shall not be taken into account in determining whether at that time a sufficient number of members is present to constitute a meeting of the House for the exercise of its powers.
It would appear from that sub-section that the honorable member for the Northern Territory cannot be counted as a member when a quorum is being taken. Sub-section 3 provides that the honorable member shall be incapable of being chosen to be Speaker or Chairman of Committees of the House of Representatives. Sub-section 4 reads -
The member representing the Northern Territory shall not be counted for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is an absolute majority in favour of any question in respect of which an absolute majority of either House or both Houses of the Parliament is required under section 57 or section 128 of the Constitution.
The first of the two sections referred to deals with any disagreement that might arise between the two Houses, and section 128 refers to the mode of altering the Constitution. It seems to me that if the representation of the honorable member for the Northern Territory is to be made effective he must have the right of moving a motion, and, if that is granted, the honorable member also has the right to rise in support of a motion for the adjournment of the House. When I spoke on this subject yesterday in reply to the honorable member for Richmond . (Mr. R.
Green), I said “ the honorable member for the Northern Territory is not entitled to vote in this House. He is entitled only to take part in debates “. Of course, honorable members will understand that that was not an attempt specifically to define the full privileges of that honorable member. Following the practice that has been adopted in this House, the honorable member for the Northern Territory is entitled to move a motion, and his action was quite in order yesterday afternoon when he rose to support the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley).
Debate resumed from the 11th May (vide page 606), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- 1 oppose this bill, because I consider that the time has arrived when Parliament should review comprehensively the regulationmaking powers of the Executive Government: At one time, everything intended to be done under an act could be read within it. No country in the world has gone in for government by regulation to the same extent as Australia has, and no government offended in that respect more than the Bruce-Page Ministry during whose regime Parliament sat for not more than 50 or 60 days annually, the Government carrying on in the recess largely by the issue of regulations. In many instances, powers that should have been exercised by Parliament were delegated to some authority under a” particular statute. I realize that every executive government has a tendency to reach out after such powers of legislation by regulation. It is a very easy system, and is much favoured by departmental heads. It enables an administration to make a regulation to meet a situation that was not foreseen when the legislation under which the regulation was made was before Parliament. [Quorum formed.] We should return to the system that was in operation before this abuse of government by regulation was introduced by the Bruce-Page Ministry. I shall be told that the Scullin Administration availed itself of the regulation-making power. I admit that it did avail itself of a means that it inherited, but did not create. I remind the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) that during the period of office of the Bruce-Page Ministry, Parliament was allowed to sit in 1926 on only 54 days; in 1927, on 59 days; in 1928, on 62 days; and in 1929, on 40 days. Between sessions, when members were scattered throughout Australia, the Government carried on by issuing regulations that very few of us saw. If we have a repetition of those short sessions, legislation by regulation will suit the present Government, which has a majority in both chambers.
– I rise to a point of Order. This bill does not give power to issue regulations. It merely applies the Acts Interpretation Act to regulations and limits the power of re-enacting regulations substantially the same as regulations earlier disallowed by Parliament.
– I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) will realize that his remarks are rather wide of the bill.
– The bill does not take away from the Executive any of its regulationmaking powers, although it seeks by a clumsy gesture to carry out some professed mandate of the present Government. During the election campaign, ministerial candidates made various promises to prevent the repeated reenactment of regulations under the Transport Workers Act after regulations of similar import had been disallowed. It is true that portion of the bill clarifies the law as interpreted by the High Court, but the power of the Executive to make regulations is not restricted. Parliament will still have the prerogative of disallowing a regulation, but it will be possible for the Government to re-enact it, leaving to some judicial tribunal the determination of whether the later regulation is substantially the same as that which had been previously disallowed. It will not be for this Parliament to say whether the new regulation is the same in substance, and if the judicial authority decided in the affirmative, the new regulation would be held to be void, and could not be promulgated again for another six months. Although the bill gives to the executive power to make regulations in respect of any matter covered by a bill, those who originated this system of legislation by regulation never intended that any regulation should go further than an ordinary by-law. It is true that the Scullin Government made regulations under the Transport Workers Act, hut it did that in order to clean up certain iniquities perpetrated by its predecessor through regulations under that statute. The Transport Workers Act merely provides that the Governor-General, may make regulations. Legislation in that form invites trouble. I understand that the laws under which ordinances for the territories are issued are not affected by this bill. The present system of merely proclaiming ordinances, and laying than on the table, is an unsatisfactory method of legislating for the territories, but I leave this aspect of the bill to be dealt with by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson).
– I oppose the bill on the broad ground that I am not in favour of government or legislation by regulation. That system is bad, because in practice it. enables the Executive to usurp the functions of the Parliament. Certainly this bill forbids the re-enactment within six months of a regulation substantially the same as one which has been disallowed. But a regulation might have been disallowed in the early part of a session, and a week after the session closed, it could be re-enacted and not dealt with again by the legislature for another six or seven months. That would destry control by this Parliament. We may agree with the principle upon which a bill is based, but not with some of the clauses by which effect is to be given to that principle. We might have a similar objection to the details of a regulation of whose general principles we approve. Parliament has a right to decide in what manner the principles of law shall operate. The system of rule by regulation operates in the Northern Territory. Sometimes ordinances are gazetted while Parliament L° in recess. I submit that the destinies of all parts of Australia should be controlled by this Parliament; we should not delegate our powers to the executive authority. The Government might propose, and Parliament approve, of Vestey Brothers being given control of 100,000 square miles in the Northern Territory. But Parliament should also know the terms and conditions governing the transaction. It is not sufficient for us to endorse a principle ; we should determine the manner in which the principle shall be applied. I am strongly opposed to the system of government by regulation on the ground that it usurps the DOWel of this Parliament. For that reason it cannot possibly be in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– This measure raises the very important principle of delegated legislation, which during the last three years has been the subject of a great deal of consideration by lawyers throughout the British Empire, including the Chief Justice of England, who, in his recently published book The New Despotism, has given a strong expression of his opinion. In that volume the learned judge referred to the growing tendency of parliaments to delegate extraordinary powers to the Executive and the bureaucracy, which, he observed, invaded the sphere of the judiciary, gave the Executive wide powers to legislate, and created an almost autocratic power in the administration of departments. He quoted a whole series of statutes and decisions of the English courts in support of this contention. It seems to me that our State Parliaments have been acting in this direction in recent years, particularly the Queensland Parliament, which has delegated extraordinarily important functions to outside bodies. In a recent number of the Australian Law Journal reference is made to a series of acts in which such powers have been delegated - and under which they have been exercised - in which the point insisted on is that the three functions of government, legislative, administrative and judicial, should be carefully distinguished and observed. So far, our Commonwealth legislation has not offended very greatly in the way of delegating powers to other bodies. It has confined itself to vesting in the Executive power to make regulations, generally speaking, for the purpose of giving effect to a particular statute, although in one or two instances it has entrenched on somewhat dangerous ground. This was so particularly in regard to the original transport workers. In that case however, it was promised that the regulations would subsequently be incorporated in an act of Parliament, and that was done. Parliament should keep control of the. general power of legislation. Of course it happens that when comprehensive measures, such as the Navigation Act, are passed, it is necessary to give the Executive a fairly wide power to make regulations to give effect to the act; but the general policy of the legislation should be contained within the four corners of it. The more important matters should be defined in the act, and the Executive should be given power to deal only with the details with which Parliament should not be burdened. Generally speaking, this Parliament has observed that principle.
The bill seems to me to be quite reasonable. Parliament has on many occasions given the Executive power to make regulations, but the words in such regulations must be interpreted according to the terms of the act under which they are made or the Acts Interpretation Acts. The last clause of the bill, however, raises a very important subject, for it purports to limit the power pf the Executive to make regulations. We know very well the origin of this provision. The clause provides that if a regulation is disallowed by either House of the Parliament no regulation “ being the same in substance “ as the regulation so disallowed shall be made within six months after the date of such disallowance. I take it that whether a regulation made under such circumstances is the same in substance as a regulation recently disallowed will be a matter for the High Court to determine. This provision must take our minds back to the early days in our history, when the Australian courts had to determine questions involving the applicability of the laws of England to the conditions then prevailing in Australia. I think the High Court could discharge this duty without any difficulty. Such questions should not arise frequently. Troubles of that kind will probably occur only when an effort is made to give effect in a regulation-to some particular policy. It is not proper to endeavour to give effect by regulation to a policy or principle other than that contained in the statute authorizing the regulation. It appears to me that the term during which a similar regulation may not be made, namely, six months, is rather long. We have to remember that possibly a whole regulation may be disallowed when actually only a small part of it is brought into question ; though, on the other hand, only the smaller issue may arise. Regulations may only be made under a law passed by both Houses of Parliament, and assented to by the Governor-General, and regulations so made may be disallowed by either House of the Parliament. It is therefore clearly within the power of either House to take this action of disallowance. If this bill is passed regulations made by the GovernorGeneral in Council, and disallowed by either House cannot, if they are the same in substance as the regulation disallowed, be re-enacted until six months have elapsed from the disallowance. The bill is a useful addition to our legislation, and I shall support it. [Quorum formed.]
– I do not propose at this stage to enter upon a discussion on the merits or demerits of the system of legislation under which regulations may be issued. That question hardly arises under this bill, which provides that, where an act confers upon any authority power to make rules, regulations or by-laws, the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act shall, with a certain exception, apply, and that any rules, regulations or by-laws so made shall be read and construed subject to the act under which they are made, and shall not exceed the .power conferred by that act to make regulations. A provision also appears in the bill to prevent the immediate re-enactment of regulations which have been disallowed by either House of the Parliament. I do not desire to deal with controversial subjects, but honorable members will remember the circumstances which led to the introduction of this provision. The Deputy . Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) made some reference to the use made by the Bruce-Page Government of the power to -make regulations; but he did not make out a strong case, andhe certainly did not direct attention to the contrast between the actions of my Government and those of the Scullin Government in that connexion.. He simply said, “ We did not invent the system ; we found it already in operation.” That was hardly a convincing explanation of the position. The provisions of this bill are so obviously desirable that it is not necessary for me to say any more about them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1. (Short title and citation).
– There are certain anomalies existing under regulations affecting the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has stated that either House of the Legislature has the right to reject any regulation that is promulgated. That is perfectly true so far as the States are concerned, for the reason that the States have representatives in both this chamber and the Senate. The position is different in respect of the Northern Territory. It may be that a Minister, after consulting his officials, is of the opinion that a regulation is desirable, and, although it is agreed to by this chamber, it may be thrown out by another chamber in which the people affected have no representation at all. I suggest that all regulations relating to the Northern Territory should come before this chamber so as to give the representative of the territory an opportunity to discuss their merits or demerits.
Clause agreed to.
After section two of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1930 the following section is inserted : - “ 2a. Where an act confers upon any authority power to make rules, regulations or by-laws, then, unless the contrary intention appears, this act, except section fifteen a, shall apply to any rules, regulations or by-laws so made as if the rules, regulations or by-laws were an Act.”.
– I move -
That the words “ rules, regulations or bylaws “ be omitted, with aview to insert in lieu thereof the words “ , grant or issue any instrument (including any rules, regulations or by-laws)”.
This, and subsequent amendments, with the exception of a proposed new clause, deal with one subject. In addition to rules, regulations, and by-laws there are such things as proclamations, appointments in writing, and other examples which I gave in my second-reading speech; to which it is equally desirable that the rules of construction, provided in the Acts Interpretation Act, should apply. Therefore, the word “instrument” is being inserted in the clause so as to cover those documents which are not included in the expression “ rules, regulations or by-laws “.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to-
That the words “ rules, regulations or bylaws so made as if the rules, regulations or by-laws “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ instrument so made, granted or issued as if it “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 (Construction of rules, regulations and by-laws).
– I move -
That the following be added: - “ 9b. Where any resolution is or has been passed by either House of the Parliament whether before or after the commencement of this section, in purported pursuance of any act, then, unless the contrary intention appears, the resolution shall be read and construed subject to the Constitution and to the act under which it purports to have been passed, to the intent that where the resolution would, but for this section, have been construed as being in excess of authority, it shall nevertheless be a valid resolution to the extent to which it is not in excess of authority.”.
This amendment relates -to the construction of resolutions. Section 15a of the Acts Interpretation Act, which was inserted in the act in 1930, contains a provision that protects from invalidity any part of legislation which is within the powers of this Parliament, although another part of that legislation may be found to exceed those powers. In other words, no measure becomes wholly bad merely because any part of it exceeds the power of the Commonwealth. The same principle has now been applied to instruments, rules and regulations in the sense that none of these things is wholly bad if it is found that part of any one of them exceeds the power given under the act for the issue or making of the instrument rule, or regulation. This clause applies the same principle to any resolution that may be passed by this Parliament.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
. - I move -
That the following new clause be added: -
Section nineteen a of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1930 is amended by inserting after the word “ Commonwealth “ (second occurring) the words “, or where there is no longera Minister or department of the designation specified in the act “.
This new clause is being inserted to overcome a difficulty which has arisen recently. As honorable members know, there is in some acts of Parliament a reference to the administration of the act being carried out by a specified Minister. That provision in its original form caused difficulty. From time to time, steps have been taken to overcome difficulties which arise when the Minister is specifically named in the act, but is not available to administer it. The last power taken was in 1930, when it was provided that a person nominated by the GovernorGeneral could act instead of the Minister so named. But, during the last few weeks, we have been faced with a new problem. A. department has been abolished, and the Minister administering it has naturally ceased to exist. Yet we have a reference to that Minister in certain acts of Parliament. This new clause is being inserted in the bill to overcome that difficulty.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Report - by leave - adopted, and bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) : [ Quorum formed.]
Amendment No. 1.
Senate’s verbal amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 2 -
Clause 13 -
A commissioner shall be deemed to have vacated his office -
ifhe resigns his office by writing under his hand addressed to the Governor-General and the resignation is accepted by the GovernorGeneral ; or
Senate’s amendment. - At the end of clause add - “ : or “ (f) if he, in any way, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons -
becomes concerned or interested in any contract or agreementmade by or on behalf of the commission; or
participates, or claims to participate, in the profit of any such contract or agreement or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom “.
– This amendment is similar toa provision which appears in other acts relating to the establishment of commissions of various kinds, the purpose being to prevent members of the commission receiving pecuniary benefit from contracts or agreements entered into by the commission, except, of course, as shareholders in a company. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment No. 3.
Clause 16 -
The commission shall undertake the provision and rendition of adequate and comprehensive programmes for broadcasting from the national broadcasting stations, and shall take all possible steps to exploit, in the interests of the community, the programme aspect of broadcasting.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave our clause 16, insert the following new clause: - “ 16. The commission shall provide and shall broadcast from the national broadcasting stations adequate and comprehensive programmes and shall take in the interests of the community all such measures as, in the opinion of the commission, are conducive to the full development of suitable broadcasting programmes.”
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong- PostmasterGeneral) [3.17]. - The effect of this and the succeeding amendments is to substitute one clause for clauses 16 and 17 in the bill as it left this House.
– Why is it proposed to omit, clause 17?
– The Senate appears to be a little concerned over theword “ exploitation though there is nothing in the dictionary meaning of the word to alarm it. The powers of the commission will be somewhat limited if this amendment is agreed to, but, in the circumstances, I am prepared to accept it. I anticipate that when the “commission gets into working order, we shall find that this is only the commencement of legislation to deal with broadcasting. If the commission finds its activities unduly restricted by its present charter, it will ask for further powers. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- I have no objection to the proposed amendment. The commission, as I understand it, is to be charged with the responsibility of providing programmes only, the technical side of broadcasting remaining in the hands of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The commission will be required to provide adequate and comprehensive programmes, but I contend that it is impossible for the commission to do this unless it has up-to-date equipment. The Government is aware that no such equipment exists in the State of Tasmania. The Minister, of course, realizes that the broadcasting equipment in that State is obsolete, and I know that he and other members of the Government are sympathetic towards Tasmania’s request for a better service. During the secondreading debate on this bill I suggested that the service to Tasmanian licenceholders might be improved if the local B class station were allowed, during the clay, to re-broadcast the programmes of the A class stations on the mainland.
– There is nothing to prevent that being done now. The B class stations could do it if they liked.
– They have made application for permission to do that, and permission has been refused.
Mr.Gibson. - I am surprised to hear that.
– Will the Minister, on behalf of the Government, state definitely that B class stations in Tasmania will be allowed to re-broadcast the programmes of A class stations on the mainland ? The licence-holders in Tasmania pay the same fees as those on the mainland, and are entitled to the same service.
– The Government has been paying special attention to the broadcasting needs of Tasmania, and I understand that the next construction work undertaken by the department will include two regional stations for Tasmania. We know the local difficulties which exist in Tasmania. As regards broadcasting, Tasmania occupies somewhat the same position in. relation to the Commonwealth as Wales does to Britain. Even with the most up-to-date broadcasting stations operating in England, listeners in Wales have the greatest difficulty in obtaining satisfactory reception. The trouble in Tasmania has, to a considerable extent, been due to the fact that the department took over a defective station, with the result that we were blamed for the poor reception obtained by listeners. The same thing occurred in Western Australia, but there the difficulty has been got over by the erection of a new, and up-to-date station.
– Has the department power to order that B class stations in Tasmania shall rebroadcast mainland A class programmes ?
– B class stations are controlled by the Postmaster-General’s Department under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. They are not covered by this bill at all.
– But could the department order the B class stations to relay programmes from the mainland?
– I shall look into the matter, and see what can be done. We shall try to meet the honorable member’s request as far as possible.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment No. 4.
Clause 17 -
Subject to this act, the commission may do such acts and things as it deems incidental or conducive to the proper exploitation of - those things which may be beneficial to broadcasting.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out the clause.
[3.26 J. - Honorable members will recall that this clause was amended in committee on the motion of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). The clause as originally framed, prohibited the commission from engaging in subsidiary industries, except with the consent of the Minister. That part of the clause was omitted, and the clause as it went to the Senate stated that the commission might do what it deemed conducive to the proper exploitation of those things which might be beneficial to broadcasting. Even in this chamber some fear was expressed lest this should be leaving the scope of the commission’s powers somewhat too wide, enabling it to embark upon the manufacture and sale of wireless sets. I do not think that it was intended by the framers of the original bill, who prepared it at the request of the Scullin Government, that such powers should belong to the commission. Considerable difficulty is being experienced to-day because a particular company operating in Australia is associated at once with the manufacture of wireless equipment, and with the maintenance of communications. We are trying to straighten this out. I move -
That the amendment bc agreed to.
– I regret that this clause is to be omitted. The Government stressed the fact, when the bill was before the House, that every care would be taken to appoint the right kind of commission, and I have no doubt that it will. Pains were also taken to ensure that the commission should be free from outside influences. It seems regrettable, therefore, that we should now remove from the commission the last vestige of private judgment. Practically every amendment made in this bill by the Senate has been in the direction of preventing the commission from entering into any business occupation which might furnish it with revenue. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) has just pointed out the difficulties of Tasmania. There are also other outlying places which have not had as much advantage from wireless facilities as those reaped by persons resident in central areas. How can this commission remedy that defect if it has not sufficient revenue? I am not hostile to the bill, but I want this commission to be of the greatest possible service to the people. I am of the opinion that it should have authority to exploit some sidelines of a dignified character to obtain additional revenue to improve its services. It will be many months before, the commission will be able to obtain enough revenue through the ordinary channels to extend those services. It is regrettable that the one clause that gave the commission the necessary authority is being deleted. I do not think that there is any danger of this Government appointing a commission that would be hostile to private enterprise ; therefore, it would have been quite safe to give it more extended powers.
– If the commission needs greater powers it can ask Parliament for them.
– We should trust the commission, and give it greater discretion in this matter. [Quorum formed.]
.- I am inclined to take the same view of this amendment as that expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). As I said when discussing the subject during the second-read ng debate, a commission such as we propose to create and entrust with such important duties should have the fullest possible powers, and should not be restricted in its activities. Its object is to provide the very best service, in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.
I am inclined to accede to the view that was expressed by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) that we are experimenting very largely in the creation of this commission. That body will very quickly discover if its activities are unduly restricted. I am quite sure that if it desires to have its powers extended it will make representations to the Minister, and if an amendment is introduced for that purpose, it will meet with the approval of honorable members. I believe that the general feeling of the committee is that the commission should be given all the power that is necessary to provide the very best possible service.
.- I hope that the Government will accept the Senate’s amendment. We are appointing a commission to look after broadcasting programmes. It has not been suggested by any speaker that the commission should have power to develop subsidiary industries. If at some future time Parliament should deem it wise to give the commission greater powers, that can be done. Why should we enable the commission to start all sorts of subsidiary businesses ?
– I do not think that that would have been done.
– Not while the present Government is in power, but there may be a change of administration. The Labour party does not hide the fact thai it believes that it is proper that the Government should conduct these affairs. It is my opinion that a government should not interfere with the industries of the people. We have had too much legislative interference, and we know the tragic results. The one object here is to give the commission control of broadcasting programmes. That will be adequately provided for in the bill as amended.
.- I sim surprised at the fears that have been expressed by honorable members opposite that this commission of experts, which will be selected by the Government, might engage in enterprises that would adversely affect private industries. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) thinks that by eliminating clause 17 from the bill we shall prevent future governments extending the powers of the commission. That is so obviously unsound as not to warrant further comment. Members of another place must have been actuated by a great suspicion when they eliminated this clause. Surely the Government must have confidence in the body that it will appoint. Why i not give these experts adequate power to make a success of broadcasting? I am surprised at the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) abandoning his amendment, at the first blast of opposition from another place. I know that the honorable member is particularly adroit at taking up a certain attitude and then deserting it, as he did in 1929.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. .Bell).Order !
– I was impressed by what the honorable member said when the measure was previously before the House, and I am surprised that he should acquiesce in the action of the Senate to wipe out this clause, which was so reluctantly accepted by the Minister.
.- I think that clause 16 is as important as any other clause in the bill. The fullest power should be given to the commission to run broadcasting as it thinks fit in the best interests of Australia.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is referring to clause 16 and clause 17 is before the committee.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment that is before the Chair.
– I am doing so, sir. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) urges that the Government should give wider powers to the commission to enable it to engage in manufacturing and other activities.
– I did not say that. I said that the Government should trust the commission by investing it with adequate powers.
– The Commonwealth Government holds 500,001 shares in the biggest radio manufacturing concern in Australia, an enterprise which is constructing practically the whole of the wireless sets sold in the Commonwealth, and is receiving a royalty of 3s. on every set, even if it be a crystal set sold for 10s. Surely it is not intended that power should be given to the commission to set up another organization to enter into competition with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In my opinion the amendment is sound. I am opposed to the system which enables Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to manufacture under a prohibition of imports that was introduced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member’s Government has not removed that prohibition.
– That is all the more reason why I should protest against the system and support the amendment.
– I am- pleased that clause 17 is to be deleted. I opposed it when the bill was previously before us. The powers of the commission are now very clearly defined. It is absurd that the- Government should have thought of permitting the commission to engage in trading, without bearing any taxation, which, would confer a great advantage on it as compared with private enterprise. We have had more than sufficient experience of government trading in the past. We have our railways; and even that excellent institution, the Postal Department, experiences the greatest difficulty in showing a profit. There is not the same urge to make a net profit as in private enterprise. ‘Seeing that 80 per cent, of the employment in the Commonwealth is in private enterprise, it is grossly unfair to foster the competition of government-owned businesses. The Electricity Commission of Victoria is a well-founded, gigantic undertaking, too big for private enterprise, which provides the bulk of the electric power for the State of Victoria, and as such was ably managed by the late Sir John Monash. As in this measure, however, there was a flaw in tlie State act, and recently the Electricity Commissioners decided to engage in trading in electric accessories. They have recently built a skyscraper in Market-street, Melbourne, and it is obvious that private enterprise will not be able to compete successfully with that government-subsidized business, and that taxpayers will thus be forced out of business.
– Under this bill the commission would not pay municipal rates.
– Exactly. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) arid I stressed that point when the bill was previously before the- committee. I also pointed out that if the commission manufactured equipment it should at least pay sales tax.
– Order. The honorable member must not stray so far from the amendment.
– I am rather disappointed that this Government has not done more to discountenance government trading. The Government was elected on a platform which supported private enterprise, and on the plea that the business of a government is to govern and not to trade. I should like- to see the activities of the Munition Works at Maribyrnong considerably curtailed. I know that certain government-owned activities have to be continued in order to preserve a nucleus staff, but that has been used as a pretext for an extension of government enterprises, and motor-truck bodies and other things have been turned out. I arn glad that the Senate supports the view of myself and other honorable members.
.- When this clause was previously before the commission the Government succeeded, with the assistance of the Opposition, in putting it through against a majority of its own supporters. It is contrary to the policy which members of the Government advocated on the hustings. Fortunately, there is a house of review, and the Senate has not only set the position right; it has gone further and emphasized more clearly than was originally the case, that the commission must not engage in private industry cif any description. I hope that this example will guide us in future in the carrying out of the policy which we advocated on the platform.
.- I am impelled to speak by the lecturette just delivered by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). I was responsible for the amendment which was subsequently carried with the assistance of the Opposition, and I deny that it involves any principle contrary to the policy of the party to which I belong. The broadcasting commission will be appointed for the specific purpose of providing the best service possible for the people. If the members of the commission, in their wisdom, came to the conclusion that it was necessary to. do anything, I care not what, to enable them to provide an improved service, they should be able to do it. I therefore advocated that no restriction of their powers should be imposed. The honorable member for Perth suggests that we were giving to the commission power to trade. The object of my amendment was to give to the commission, not power to trade, but merely power to do those things in the interests of the service which, in its judgment, are necessary. I take strong exception to the characteristic remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that, in acceding to the request of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton), that this amendment be accepted, I was abandoning the view I had expressed when the bill was before the committee earlier. I still hold the view that I expressed then regarding the powers which should be enjoyed by the commission. We do not know yet what its personnel will be; but, if it consists of men who have the respect and confidence of the people, and if it decides that an extension of its power is necessary in the interests of the broadcasting service, it will be able to make its request to Parliament, and even the honorable member for Perth might grant it.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment No. 5.
Verbal amendment to clause 18 agreed to.
Amendment No. 6.
The commission may collect and distribute in such manner as it thinks fit news and information relating to current events in any part of the world and may establish and subscribe to newsagencies.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out clause 23, insert the following new clause: - “ 23. The commission may collect in such manner as it thinks fit news and information relating to current events in any part of the world and may subscribe to news agencies.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The words “ and distribute “ were inserted in this committee againstmy judgment ; I regard them as entirely superfluous. The new clause proposedby the Senate will give adequate power to the commission. In any case, this is only initial legislation, and doubtless, within a very short period, the commission will be asking for such variations of its powers as experience has proved necessary.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment No. 7.
Senate’s amendment. - Insert the following new clause: - “ 52a. The commission shall have the power to determine to what extent and in what manner political speeches may be broadcast.”
. -I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
It will remove from the Ministry the responsibility of determining whether this or that political speech shall be broadcast. It is in accordance with the practice of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
.- The grant of this additional responsibility to the commission emphasizes the need for a wise selection of its members. A board composed of men who were politically biased might not be impartial in giving broadcasting facilities to political parties. I hope the Minister will ensure that an impartial body is appointed.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
– May I, on a matter of privilege, call attention to the position to which we have been reduced as a result of economy in connexion with the stationery made available to honorable members? Yesterday, I indited to a friend a letter on a strictly private matter and went so far as to seal it with wax which is most difficult to obtain in this building, and to subscribe it with those captions that are customary. As I handed it to a messenger I discovered to my astonishment that I could read the contents as plainly through the envelope as I could before I had so enclosed it. Whilst I am one of those earnest souls who have subscribed to this campaign of economy, I suggest that economy can be overdone. Perhaps I have been selected as the dog upon which this stationery is to be tried, but if that should prove to be the case, I hope that you will see that the period of my probation is not unduly lengthened. If this be the stationery handed out to all honorable members, I hope that you will exercise your authority to see that in future we are provided with paper which is at once writable and capable of concealing the things which should be concealed in a strictly private correspondence. It has not been my practice to inflict upon the House my private troubles, but as there appeared to be an interval I thought I might be permitted to do so on this occasion. I have no desire to say anything that may lead to a long and heated debate, but the melancholy and dejection apparent on the Prime Minister’s face while he was waiting for something to turn up led me to transgress the rule of a lifetime.
– As a matter of privilege it was within the right of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to make reference to the stationery supplied to honorable members. I have been a member of this House since 1917, and I have never previously heard a complaint about the quality of the stationery supplied. So far as I have been able to observe, the envelopes have been stiff and of a good quality, good enough to conceal the contents. I shall be glad to investigate the honorable member’s complaint if he provides me with a sample of the inferior stationery which has been supplied to him.
– To-day, Mr. Speaker-
– Does the honorable member desire to make a personal explanation ?
– Yes. This afternoon you gave a ruling regarding my action in supporting a motion for the adjournment of the House. This is one of the few privileges which I possess. I felt perfectly secure in having you to determine this matter. But the incident has only served to stress the anomalous posiin this chamber of the honorable member who represents the Northern Territory.
– I regret that I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed along these lines. He may only make a personal explanation if he has been misrepresented. If he desires to make an extended reference to his position he may do so on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
Sitting suspended from4.5 to4.7 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- As the Australian Broadcasting Commission Bill has passed both Houses, I should like to know if the Postmaster-General can indicate when the personnel of the commission will be announced.
– Also where will the head office be located?
– I hope to be able to announce the personnel of the commission one day next week, and to intimate also that it will begin its duties as early as possible. The location of the head office, I should say, will be determined by the commission. That body will, I assume, be to some extent a roving commission, and without anticipating what it may do, I hope it will deem it advisable to appoint advisory committees in each State.
– Can the Minister say if action will be taken to provide wireless licences free of charge to blind persons, as requested by a deputation recently?
– That matter is under consideration. I do not know that it will be possible to go to the length of granting free licences to all blind persons, but the request will he dealt with sympathetically, and I hope to be able to advise the honorable member at an early date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 May 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320513_reps_13_134/>.