13th Parliament · 1st Session
The House of Representatives on the 24th May, 1932, adjourned until a day and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, and notified by him to each honorable member. The House met pursuant to such notification.
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chairat 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Since this House adjourned in May, honorable members have read with regret of the death of Sir John Quick, a prominent figure in the public life of Australia for over 30 years. When the sad news was received, I communicated with Lady Quick, expressing the Government’s sympathy, and intimating that a State funeral would be accorded by the Commonwealth. The late Sir John Quick was a member of the first Commonwealth Parliament, representing Bendigo in this chamber from 1901 to 1913. He held the portfolio of PostmasterGeneral in the third Deakin Ministry, which was in office from June, 1909, to April, 1910. In addition to his parliamentary service in the federal sphere, he represented Sandhurst in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria from 1880 to 1889. SirJohn Quick will be remembered, also, for his work as a member of the Australian Federal Convention towards the close of the last century. Bringing a sound legal knowledge to the consideration of the problems of the convention, he later became’ recognized as an authority on matters involving the interpretation of the Commonwealth Constitution. The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, by Quick andGarran, and The Judicial Power of the Commonwealth, by Quick and Groom, are standard works which will long bear testimony to his learning. During recent years he was a Deputy President of the Federal Arbitration Court. His marked capacity and ability we’re reflected in his judicial work, and the alert mentality and vigor displayed by him would have done credit to a much younger man. It was not my privilege to be personally associated with Sir John Quick, but I know of his work, the reputation enjoyed by him for integrity in public affairs, and his high personal worth. I ask honorable members to join with me in conveying to Lady Quick the sympathy of this House in her sadloss. I move - by leave -
That this House expresses its regret at the death of the Honorable Sir John Quick, LL.D., a former Member for Bendigo in the House of Representatives and Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his notable public service, and tenders its deep sympathy to. his widow in her bereavement.
.- I second the motion. Having been privileged to know personally the late Sir John Quick, I was able to appreciate his many fine qualities which have been extolled by the Prime Minister. He was a man of outstanding ability and unchallengeable integrity, and he rendered great service to Australia. His was a full and useful life, and his work will live long after him. I join with the Prime Minister in conveying the sympathy of this Parliament to the widow and family of the deceased gentleman.
– On behalf of the party I have the honour to lead, I wish to pay my tribute to the memory of one of the founders of federation, who not merely participated in the drafting of the Commonwealth Constitution and many of the earliest laws passed by this Parliament, but had the satisfaction of seeing the Constitution emerge successfully from the crucial test of the GreatWar and its aftermath. His name and that of Sir Robert Garran will be indelibly associated with the interpretation of the Constitution. Australia was fortunate indeed to have available the knowledge and judgment of two men who had been intimately associated with the actual preparation of the Constitution, and were able to expound it authoritatively; their monumental annotation has been of great assistance to many constitutional students. Sir John Quick has left behind a fine record of public service. During the 52 years he was in the public life of Australia never the slightest slur was cast on his character. The Country party desires to be associated with the expression of sympathy with the bereaved widow and her family.
– As one who was intimately associated with the late Sir John Quick during a great portion of his career, I desire to add my testimony to his exceptional gifts and the remarkable service he rendered to the Commonwealth. When I first entered this Parliament, he -was recognized as an exponent of the terms and principles of the Federal Constitution, and was earnestly* engaged in bringing into play those forces which would develop a truly national ideal. He had a broad vision, a strong sense of justice, and a desire that fair treatment should be extended to every portion of the Commonwealth in order that a truly national sentiment might be fostered. Deeply interested in the development of Australian industries, he was one of the first to emphasize in this Parliament, in 1901, the absolute necessity for the application. of science to primary and secondary production. Although he belonged to a political party, he never allowed party feeling to interfere with his sense of justice and the application of national principles. Always the national ideal was uppermost in his mind. He was eminently just, and his administration was characterized by the highest integrity. For that reason, he was highly esteemed by the members of all parties in this Parliament. The architect of his own career, he rose by his own merits to a high position in the esteem of the Australian people. His career should be an inspiration to others in this land of opportunity, where any man may, by his own endeavours, rise to the highest positions of public trust. He was a man of extraordinary industry, and every subject, in which he became interested was investigated by him with the greatest thoroughness and strict impartiality. That is noticeable in all the products of his pen; and his published works show that the conscientious discharge of the highest political and judicial responsibilities was not incompatible with literary activities which commanded the admiration of his fellow citizens. His works are his best monument, and will long; stand as a reliable exposition of thethoughts, feelings and aspirations of tha people for whom he worked. The deceased gentleman has left behind him a. remarkable record of ability and service, and his sterling qualities of heartendeared him to all those who were privileged to be associated with him. ,
Question resolved in the affirmative,honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to Lady Quick the foregoing resolution, together with a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.
– It is with regret that I announce the deaths of two other former members of this chamber - the Hon. William Hartnoll, who passed away at Evandale, Tasmania, on the 13th July, and Mr. George Mason Burns, who died in Sydney on the loth August last.
Mr. Hartnoll was elected a member of the House of Representatives for Tasmania at a by-election on the 26th March, 1902, during the existence of the first Commonwealth Parliament’. He held his seat until the general election of 1903, when he unsuccessfully contested Bass. Mr. Burns was elected to this House in 1913 for the division then known as Illawarra, and retained his seat until the general elections of 1917. Prior to the election of these members to the Federal Parliament, both had been members of the Tasmanian House of Assembly - Mr. Hartnoll for eighteen years, and Mr. Burns for three years. Few of our present members were associated with these gentlemen in the parliamentary sphere, but it is fitting that we should honour the memory of those who have preceded us here, and shared the responsibility which devolves upon this legislature. Honorable members will, I am sure, join with me in recording appreciation of the public work of these deceased gentlemen, and iu expressing deep sympathy with those who are left to mourn their loss.
.- On behalf of the Opposition, I support the remarks of the Prime Minister relating to the former members of this House whom he has mentioned. I did not know Mr. Hartnoll, who was a member of the first Parliament, but I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Burns, a kindly and genial man, who played his part inpublic life honorably and well. From what I have heard of Mr. Hartnoll, those remarks apply also to him.
One by one, the members of earlier Parliaments are passing away, and it seems to be our sad lot, whenever we re-assemble, to have to express regret at their departure. But their relatives have this consolation - that their dear ones have left behind them names that are respected throughout the. community, and that as members of Parliament they served their country well.
– I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) in their remarks relating to the two former members of this House, who have been referred to. Mr. Hartnoll was not known to me, and, therefore, I cannot speak of him ; but with Mr. George Burns I was wellacquainted. That gentleman was actively associated, particularly during recent times, with the work of our party in New South Wales. He laboured hard to help those with whom he was connected, and his loss will be felt severely by them. With other honorable members, and on behalf of this party, I extend deep sympathy to the widows of both these gentlemen in the great loss they have sustained.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Cotton Industries Bounty Bill.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1932-33.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1932.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1932.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1930-31.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1930-31.
Loan (Unemployment Belief Works) Bill (No. 2).
Acts Interpretation Bill.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Bill.
Forestry Bureau Bill.
Insurance Bill (No. 2).
Solar Observatory Fund Bill.
– I have to inform the House that I have received from Mrs. Clasby, the mother of the late Mr. J. J. Clasby, a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy, and from Miss Newlands, on behalf of her mother, Lady Newlands, a similar letter.
– I ask leave to make a statement regarding the Ottawa Conference.
– Will the Prime Minister inform honorable members what procedure will follow his statement, and when we shall be able to discuss it?
– The Prime Minister may give the information in the course of his remarks. The Standing Orders do not allow any debate. I ask the honorable member whether he has any objection to the Prime Minister making a statement? As there is no objection the Prime Minister may proceed.
– I am making this statement with the object of placing before the House as full information as the Government is able to place before it at the present time. At a later stage, complete detailed proposals will be submitted to Parliament, and an opportunity will then be given for the discussion of every detail and every aspect of those proposals.
– The Prime Minister would not allow the House to discuss this subject prior to the departure of the delegation from Australia, although he promised to do so.
– I promise that every opportunity will be given to honorable . members to discuss this subject. No other course can be followed, and at a later stage, that opportunity will present itself.
I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the Ottawa Imperial Economic Conference successfully arranged a series of agreements between the British. Dominions, the Crown Colonies and the United Kingdom, which definitely assure a substantial measure of Imperial economic co-operation in the future.
The basis of the agreements is so wide and so well conceived that upon them the Empire can be developed as an economic unit,’ while at the same time no part of it need sacrifice legitimate aspirations for the maintenance and the development, within its own borders, of all local industries for which there are sound economic prospects.
A foundation has been laid upon which, with further goodwill and cooperation between Empire countries, there can be built the strongest economic unit that history has ever known.
The record of earlier conferences proves how immense have been the difficulties. Although the Empire sentiment of previous meetings was genuine enough, it had never been possible to unravel the tangle of all the conflicting trade policies and ‘rewind the threads so as to strengthen them all into a cord that would bind the whole Empire closer together. But common adversity has taught all countries to appreciate the problems of their neighbours, and especially of their kinsmen. It has helped the members of the British Commonwealth to reach this great common understanding, based upon the principle of mutual help to each other’s trade and, therefore, so full of promise and of hope.
The infinite variety of Empire products to be considered has in itself proved an obstacle in the past. On this occasion, the difficulty which it presented was greatly reduced by preliminary investigations in the countries concerned.
In no other dominion was this carried out with a thoroughness equal to that in Australia. A committee, consisting of Messrs. F. L. McDougall, A. E. Gough, W. Devereux, and Sir James Cooper, assisting the High Commissioner for Australia in Britain, carried out investigations in London and conducted preliminary discussions, under direction of the Australian Government, with British Ministers and departments. In Australia, a Cabinet sub-committee worked with officers of the Development branch and of the departments pf Trade and Customs and Commerce. Advice and assistance from the leaders of Australian industries were sought, and willingly made available. Preliminary discussions also took place with the representative of the British Government and with the Senior British Trade Commissioner in Australia. After this preparation, much detail could he dealt with at .the conference with the minimum of delay.
Even so, the responsibility that was carried by our delegates, and the work which the whole delegation was called upon to perform, can only be described as immense. In numbers, Australia had almost the smallest of the delegations. Unlike the delegates attending previous conferences, they had not the staff of Australia House available to call upon, on short notice, to give any necessary assistance. But what they lacked in numbers was made good by ability and zeal. Australia has every reason to be grateful to the leaders of the delegation for the consummate skill and devotion with which they maintained Australia’s case, and also to the staff of the delegation for the keenness, loyalty and efficiency with which the leaders were supported.
Honorable members are aware that until this year only wine, sugar and dried fruits of all Australian products enjoyed any useful fiscal preference in the British market. Valuable as this preference had proved to the industries concerned, it represented help to only a relatively insignificant proportion of Australia’s exports.
After more than three generations, the British free trade policy was changed this year, and the Import Duties Act imposed duties of 10 per cent, upon all imported goods including foodstuffs other than wheat and meat, hut excepting all the principal raw materials. Empire -goods were exempted from these duties until the 15th of November next, but failing an agreement to the contrary before that date, the duties would automatically have been imposed upon them also.
By Article 1 of the new agreement, the British Government undertakes that continuance of free entry will be allowed to all Australia goods now enjoying it under the British .Import Duties Act. This applies to 53 items of production. The only reservations are in respect of eggs, poultry, butter, and cheese. These products are to receive an even more favorable margin of preference. The British Government, however, reserves the right after three years, if it considers it necessary in the interests of the United Kingdom producers, to review the question of their free entry, but, at the- same time, undertakes to maintain the full margin of preference over foreign supplies. This continuance of free entry under the Import Duties Act secures the benefit for all Australian exports concerned, and every Australian product for which assistance was asked has obtained at least this assistance.
By Articles 2 and 3, the British Government undertakes to give certain specified goods definite margins of preference over similar foreign goods. Among these are some of the most important of Australian exports. The actual list, with the rates, has been published in the press.
Article 4 guarantees the maintenance, unless Australia’s consent is obtained to an alteration, of at least the 10 per cent, duty upon foreign goods of a class that would compete with the more important Australian products which are assured of free entry under Article 1 of the agreement.
Article 5 contains a provision that the preferences accorded to wheat, copper, lead, and zinc are conditional upon these commodities being offered for sale in the United Kingdom at prices not exceeding the world price. This secures to Empire producers the advantage of an assured market for a large proportion of their output of these goods, and, even without the power of raising prices, is a benefit which their representatives indicated was much valued. In any case, the large proportion of the Empire supply which must unavoidably be sold outside the Empire would inevitably set the price for the whole output, and prevent any higher price being charged in the sheltered British market; but the shelter remains valuable.
The meat agreement is covered by Article 6. This will probably prove the most far-reaching and valuable of all the
Ottawa achievements, and reflects the greatest credit on the leaders of the Australian delegation, who persevered with the negotiations until at last unanimity was reached. The agreement definitely aims to raise the Empire prices of all meats to a level that will be payable to efficient producers in both the United Kingdom and the dominions. To accomplish this, the British Government undertakes to restrict the import of all classes of foreign meat, whether chilled beef, frozen beef, mutton, lamb, or pig products. If such a price level is attained, the benefit to producers will far exceed any advantage they could have derived from a preferential duty. Unfortunately a glut has already accumulated in stores in England, and until it has been overcome, prices can scarcely improve.” The dominions have agreed to co-operate– in the clearing of this glut by regulating their exports of meat to the United Kingdom during the calendar year 1933. This is the only period of the five-year currency of the agreement during which the dominions are to be subject to any restriction, unless it is imposed later with their consent. On the other hand, the restriction upon foreign meat is to continue during the whole period of the agreement. The fact that the restriction is to include chilled beef as well as other meats makes it particularly effective, while the datum year ending 30th June, 1932, upon which restrictions and quotas are based, renders the agreement especially favorable to Australia and New Zealand. The actual plan of meat restriction, like the schedules which concern our own tariff, will not be announced until it is actually instituted.
There is provision to safeguard the British market from undue shortage of supply if, because of drought or other unforeseen causes, Empire production falls short of expectations. If the meat plan is successful it may well become the model -for further agreements between friendly countries upon a world basis for an organization of supply and distribution designed to secure a stable market to the producers and an assured supply to the consumers, with the minimum of restriction and interference. Such an organization may be successful in reducing the extremes of booms and slumps, with all the excessive dislocations and misery they inflict upon innocent people.
These first six articles provide for the concessions to Australian exports. Apart from the meat agreement, they may be briefly summarized as conferring upon the dairy group substantial assistance to butter and cheese, of which the present export is considerable, and a substantial margin of preference which offers the prospect of enlarged trade in tinned milk and dried milk. In the fruit group, apples, pears, canned fruits and sultanas and raisins have all received substantial further preferences, and the present volume of their export is considerable. The existing preference on currants is confirmed, while oranges, grape fruit, fresh grapes and canned apples all receive a substantial further margin of preference, which provides them with opportunities for expansion. Eggs have an increased preference; so also has honey. The existing preference is doubled upon the lighter strengths of wine. Besides aiding the export of this type of wine, the greater preference will make less profitable the practice of blending several gallons of lighter foreign wine with one gallon of heavy wine, by which the previous preferences were to some extent defeated. In addition, 53 other items, including leather, flour, barley, tallow and tinned meat are secured in the continuance of the benefit under the Import Duties Act, while the special preference that was previously enjoyed by sugar remains.
Articles 8 to 14 inclusive define the past preferences to Britain - of which the agreement secures the continuance - and new concessions which Australia now undertakes to make. It has been agreed with the British Government to treat the schedules attached to these articles as confidential until they are presented to Parliament after the return to Australia of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett). Article 8 deals, in broad principle, with the margins of preference which will be maintained, or extended, with the object of diverting to Britain foreign trade in articles which the Mother Country can supply. Existing margins of preference are to be maintained, and those which fall short of an agreed formula contained in one of the schedules are to be increased to the margin which is provided. Another schedule provides for certain reservations made in the interests of Australian production and Australian trade with countries which have been good customers.
In Article 9, the Australian Government undertakes that protection by tariff shall be afforded only to those industries which can reasonably be assured of sound opportunities for success.
In Article 10, the Australian Government further undertakes that, during the currency of the agreement, protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such a principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
In Article 11, the Australian Government undertakes that, as soon as practicable, a review shall be made by the Australian Tariff Board of the existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in Article 10, and that, after receipt of the board’s report and recommendation, the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin wherever necessary, in such a manner as to give effect to these principles.
Article 12 provides that no new protective duties shall be imposed, and no existing duty be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the tariff tribunal.
Article 13 secures to United Kingdom producers full rights of audience before the Tariff Board when it ha3 under consideration matters arising. out of articles 11 and 12.
In Article 14 the Australian Government undertakes, so far as goods of United Kingdom origin are concerned, to repeal, as soon as it is practicable, the prohibitions which have been imposed during the last two years, to remove the surcharges, and, when Australian finances will allow, to reduce, or remove, primage duty.
It will be noted that these undertakings practically coincide with the tariff policy which I announced, as leader of the United Australia party, in my policy speech delivered before the last Federal election. It is particularly gratifying to find that the policy then announced should have so completely met the needs of the time that it has become the basis of the great inter-Empire agreement reached at Ottawa, and that it is incorporated not only in the Australian agreement but also in the agreements between Britain and other dominions. Provision is made in Articles 7 and 14 for the extension of certain of the preferences on both sides so as to include the Crown Colonies in the agreement. The schedules of items appended to these articles are also confidential until action can be taken in Australia and in the various colonies concerned. The final Article, number 16, provides that the agreement shall remain in force for five years, and shall continue thereafter, subject to termination upon six months’ notice.
It is not. possible at present to estimate what will be the benefit to British trade in Australia as the result of these undertakings. In any case, the Australian market is limited by our purchasing power, and that can be substantially increased only by improved prices for our exports. Britain is helping us to help her trade by granting concessions to Australia that improve the market for our exports. Either by the concession of a duty which merely extends shelter for dominion products, as in the case of metals and wheat, or by definite act directed to raising the price of Empire products, such as meat, the agreement will make possible a greater volume of two-way trade, to which Australia’s concessions will contribute materially. It is hoped that from this agreement, a new prosperity will develop, to the benefit of those industries which produce for the home market as’ well as those that produce for export.
Some idea can be formed of how extensive the helpful influence of the Ottawa agreement may become from an analysis of the overseas trade statistics for the year 1930-31, which are the most recent available. In .that year the total value of exports of Australian merchandise was £87,103,241, of which total £39,317,759 was exported to the United Kingdom.
At that time goods to the value of £3,840,751 received some useful preference in the British market. Had the preference now agreed to been then in force the total of the value of goods receiving assistance would have been about £26,000,000, or more than 65 per cent, of Australia’s exports to the Mother country. But the value of preferences is not limited to that aspect, as no estimate is made a3 to the effect a better market might have had in increasing production.
As in many cases, export parity to the United Kingdom fixes the value of the total crop, including that part which is exported to other countries or is consumed in Australia, any increase in the price obtained for the proportion exported to Britain would be reflected in a better return to the producer for his whole output. Any such improvement would tend to correct the wide disparity in prices of primary and manufactured products which has destroyed the rural purchasing power until it has become the chief cause of unemployment. No one would suggest that the Ottawa agreement* alone can, in a short time, bring about results to wipe out this disparity or cure the depression, but they are a definite and practical step on the upward track. They lead us forward by the road to better trade, which is the way to general recovery. I should add, for the information of honorable members, that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), is leaving San Francisco to-day by the steamer Monowai, and will arrive in Sydney on the 24th September.
– This is the first we have heard of him.
– As soon as Mr. Gullett returns to Australia, complete details of the Ottawa agreements will be placed before the House, and these will be discussed at the earliest practicable opportunity. When Mr. Gullett returns, it will be necessary to have printed the details of the proposals which are to be submitted, and some time must elapse after his arrival in Sydney before this can be completed.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) stated, by way of interjection, that he had heard nothing until now of the activities of Mr. Gullett. Evidently the honorable member has not kept his eyes open, or he would have observed in the newspapers that Mr. Gullett took steps to leave for Australia by the first vessel available after the conclusion of the conference.
.- by leave - Not only members of this House but the people generally, were awaiting with considerable anxiety and interest a statement from the head of the Government as to what really happened at Ottawa. We have read in the press - and most ,of us have followed the reports very closely - the resolutions which were arrived at from time to time, but it was difficult to discern how much of what we read was official, and how much was conjecture. Therefore, we were very largely in the dark. We have been awaiting the meeting of Parliament to learn what happened at Ottawa, to learn what we have gained, and what we have given away. I must confess that, after listening to the Prime Minister’s statement, I am still somewhat in the dark. There is probably a very good reason why, at present, we cannot have all the details of what occurred. I am not complaining with any great emphasis that we have not been placed in possession of these details, or that we have notbeen furnished with copies of the schedules. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated that the schedules were to be confidential until after Mr. Gullett’s return. If the schedules imposed any increased duties, there would be a good and sufficient reason why they should remain confidential until they were tabled. I am not inclined to think, however, that there will be any increase in duties, so that any change which takes place in the tariff will be most probably in a downward direction. There is no reason, therefore, why the schedules should be kept secret. When increased duties are imposed it is necessary to maintain secrecy lest importers, by heavy withdrawals from bond, should defeat the revenue, but that does not apply when duties are to be reduced.
The Prime Minister eulogized the work of the Australian delegation at Ottawa, and, so far as I have been able to judge, I believe that the delegation, both Ministers and staff, represented Australia capably and made out a strong case for preference. I followed the activities of the delegation with great interest, because I have had some experience of such work. I read the case which it presented /for Australia, and it was evident that this country has such an overwhelming case for preference from Great Britain, that it would have been impossible for any man of normal intelligence not to make out a good case. In reading through the statements and tables presented by the Australian delegation, I recognized many good friends of my own. Every Prime Minister who has attended an imperial conference since 1907 has presented the same case, based on much the same figures, prepared by capable public officers. There is no doubt that Australia’s case is overwhelming. Without going into what has been gained for Australia - and something has been gained for some of the primary industries - I venture to prophesy that our gains will fall far short of what Australia has been giving to Great Britain during the last 25 years. We have been giving without receiving during all those years, because Great Britain would not depart from her freetrade policy. This was the first imperial economic conference at which Great Britain appeared as a country pledged to tariff reform.- The Australian delegation on this occasion had an. opportunity which did not present itself either to the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) when he attended conferences as Prime Minister, or to myself when I attended one in that capacity. Of course, we cannot discuss the conference in detail at this time, but in my opinion, we might have received twice over all that has been granted in the way of preference to our primary products without giving away any of our rights under Australia’s protective policy, and still have left Great Britain our debtor, because of preferences we had given her in the past.
Those engaged in industries which have received preference, such as dairying, fruit-growing, &c, are to be congratulated on the benefits obtained. We are thankful for whatever mercies have come our way. I am anxious, however, regarding the price which this country may be called on to pay for the concessions received. A formula, I believe, has been agreed upon - but so far its nature is shrouded in mystery - by which tariff changes are to be effected, and it is to govern the operations of the Tariff Board. I approach this matter as an Australian, and regard the delegates who attended the conference as Australian, not Government, representatives. Whatever benefits they bring back are for the whole of Australia; whatever they have given away has been given away by Australia’. I hope that my anxiety will be removed when Mr. Gullett comes back, but I cannot help feeling concerned that an agreement should have been entered into which will limit the freedom of this Parliament to legislate on tariff matters. Had our hands been so tied in 1930, we should never have been able to rectify the adverse trade balance which then existed. Some honorable members opposite may laugh, but theirs is the foolish laughter of simple minds which know nothing whatever about the subject. All thinking people to-day are aware of what Australia has done to rectify its trade balance, and stave off financial disaster. In his last speech, delivered in New York the day before yesterday, the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) lauded the achievement of Australia in balancing its trade, although he was not generous enough to add that it was ‘ done as a result of drastic action taken by the previous Government. Anybody in Australia or outside it who has given thought to this matter knows that had that action not been taken, our trade would not have been balanced, and the nation would have defaulted with respect to its financial obligations. The present trade agreement between Canada and Australia operates to their mutual advantage, and similar agreements could be entered into between other sections of the British Commonwealth of Nations; but any agreement that ties the hands of a parliament with respect to its power to legislate on tariff matters is fraught with danger.
The agreement made between the Commonwealth and the British Governments, from the cursory study which I have so far been able to make of it - I may modify my views on further examination of the matter - appears to me to have a most extraordinary feature. An agreement has been signed on behalf of this country with the British Government, and probably with other governments,, providing that there shall be no increase whatever in any existing duties, and’ that no new duties shall be imposed against Great Britain, no matter what may be the need of Australia to protect its industries, unless recommended by the Tariff Board. “Who is the government of this country ? “ I ask. I do not propose to criticize our Tariff Board. It consists of able and honest men, who, according to their lights, serve their country well. They have their own views, but there is only one authority which should finally determine tariff matters, and that is this Parliament. Had the Government with which I was associated waited for the Tariff Board to bring down recommendations to rectify Australia’s trade balance, it would have been waiting still.
I have indicated the big issues which should be considered in connexion with the tariff. I am fearful of what has been given away under a formula which has been spoken of, but of which we know nothing. At the present time we are hampered in dealing with the tariff in this Parliament under the present Government, and I am afraid that under the Ottawa agreement we may be hampered in parliaments that will be led by future governments. We must see that the hands of future parliaments and governments are not tied.
Whatever congratulations and expressions of mutual admiration may he indulged in with respect to what has been accomplished at Ottawa, there must, I think, be a feeling of profound disappointment that the really important problem that confronts the British Commonwealth of Nations, and in fact, the whole world, was not effectively dealt with. A report was presented upon the matter, and resolutions were passed; I refer to the subject of monetary reform and of raising the world’s price levels in such a manner as to readjust the position between debtor and creditor nations.
– Agreement was reached “ on that subject.
– A resolution was passed, and there the matter was left.
– But an international conference will be held within a year.
– The matter was left where it stands, on the ground that at a forthcoming international conference the subject will be considered. I will concede that the solution of this problem eventually depends on the international consideration of it, and I agree that the Ottawa Conference could not have dealt with the matter so fully as could a world conference, but I doubt whether a satisfactory agreement will be reached at a world conference. Without waiting for an international conference there is wide scope within the British Commonwealth of Nations for the making of agreements on the subjects of monetary reform and price levels, and thus a lead could be given to an international conference.
– How could that be done?
– I refer honorable members to the proposals submitted by my Government, which are finding endorsement throughout the world to-day! I remind honorable members also of the more recent speeches of the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who led the Australian delegation at Ottawa, and who has made -statements since the Ottawa Conference which are vastly different from those made by him at the last election.
Honorable members interjecting,
– When an honorable member is granted leave to mn.ke a statement he is entitled to be heard in silence.
– There are some broad subjects on which honorable members are entitled to express their views. The Prime Minister, himself, introduced something more than a mere recital of facts. He made a general comment, of which I make no complaint; but he also claimed, with some show of virtue, that the Ottawa Conference had adopted the principles laid down in his policy speech at the last election.
– The right honorable member is now trying to outbid him.
– I am endeavouring -to show that that policy speech was just as vague and general, with regard to the tariff, as was his statement to-day, and that the House is still anxious to know what the Government intends to do in this matter. I take this opportunity of once again issuing a word of warning that this Parliament must not tamper with the tariff, and give away its right to insist on an effective protective tariff, even to the extent of prohibitions, if necessary, to safeguard the industries of Australia. The greatest achievement we were looking for from the Ottawa Conference was an agreement within the British Commonwealth of Nations for a change in our monetary system, and for a definite step forward to raise price levels, so that the relations between debtor and creditor nations, and between individual debtors and creditors, might be better adjusted.
.- by leave - I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement that Australia will gain considerably from the decisions of the Ottawa Conference and I shall await with interest the details of the tariff schedule that will later be presented. I have not, as had the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), had the privilege of seeing beforehand the statement presented by the Prime Minister, but anything that will secure the development of the economic resources of the Empire and of Australia will have my full support. In addition to the extension of markets for Australian products, there is need for an increase in our population and an increase in the purchasing power of our people. I trust that the increased trade that will come, as the result of the agreements made at Ottawa, will tend to stimulate an increase in our population and in our purchasing power. Failing that, the wheels of our secondary industries will cease to revolve, for we must look to the development of our natural resources in order to attract to these shores the population that we need.
I hope that the Commonwealth Government will realize the necessity for making effective the preferences arranged with Great Britain by reducing the Australian tariff. I have not the fear expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that damage would be done to Australian industries by reducing some of the present duties. I regard it a wise policy to declare that no duties shall be increased above the rates recommended by the Tariff Board. Indeed, I would like to see even some of the duties recommended by that body substantially reduced. The Ottawa Conference pre- sented a rare opportunity for Australia to gain material advantages in return for placing its own industries on a sound basis, and I trust that we shall be able to congratulate our delegates upon not having neglected the chances that were undoubtedly offered to them. Despite what has been said by .the Leader of the Opposition, I believe that the people of Great Britain are prepared to go much further in the direction of reciprocal trade, and to give greater advantages to the dominions. I hope that we have not failed to take advantage of the opportunities presented at Ottawa by refusing to make those reciprocal concessions which would stimulate our industries, enable them to absorb more people, and build up the prosperity of our country. I trust that the achievements at the conference will prove, not the end, but merely the beginning of these negotiations, and that the exchange of concessions will be found to be so satisfactory to all parts of the Empire that there will be an everincreasing demand for a lowering of trade barriers, and a narrower delimitation of those industries in each that must have complete protection. The expansion of trade within the Empire will, I hope, be followed by the lowering of trade barriers between Australia and every other country.
.- by leave - During the second period of this session the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to afford the House an opportunity to discuss the proposals which the Australian delegates would submit to the Ottawa Conference. The right honorable gentleman definitely assured the House that such an opportunity would be given before the delegates left Australia. That promise was not honoured, but I expected that the Leader of the Government would at least explain to-day the policy which his Ministers enunciated at the conference. He told us that, both in Australia and at Australia House, London, great trouble was taken in preparing the case for the Commonwealth. It is obvious, therefore, that definite proposals were submitted by the Australian delegation, and if this Parliament is really governing Australia, it should have been told long ago what those proposals were. We have not been told yet ; whether we shall be told later remains to be seen. The feature of the conference which impressed me most was the length to which publicity was carried to prop it up. The progress reports in the daily press were sickening. One day the public was told that the conference was hastening slowly; on the next day, that a decision had almost been reached; and so on. These statements revealed clearly to the Australian public long ago that no tangible benefit to the Commonwealth would come out of these deliberations. The “ shrieks of silence “ with which the Prime Minister’s statement was received to-day is further indication of the opinion held by honorable members and the public generally regarding the achievements at Ottawa. Despite all the talk in this House and throughout the country by members of the Ministerial and Country parties, the fact is undeniable that Russia overshadowed the conference. The British Government dare not agree to prevent the dumping into Great Britain of the products which the Soviet Republic can supply. The political cant and hypocrisy of certain sections in regard to this matter has been fully exposed. Returned soldiers and others may suffer all the disabilities of life on the land- and the uncertainties of wheat-growing, but the price they shall receive for their products must be determined by British politicians who are prepared to huy Russian wheat, though tons of Australian grain be rotting at the railway sidings. The reason for this is apparent; there is a possibility of the Soviet Government letting a large contract for the supply of textile machinery, and the British Government and manufacturers are careful to do nothing that would prejudice their prospects in that market. I repeat that Russia overshadowed the deliberations at Ottawa, and Australia meekly followed in the rear. I do not join in the congratulations extended by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to the leaders of the Australian delegation. It is not the province of any Labour representative to bestow blessings on mon who did not speak for Australia, but who showed a decidedly imperial outlook. Even the non-Labour press declared that
Mr. Bruce showed his hand far too early at the conference.
– Order ! The honorable member must refer to a member by the name of his constituency.
– I should have spoken of the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce). The tactics of the Australian delegates were neither discreet nor businesslike. The Canadian delegates displayed greater capacity for negotiation, and did not disclose their hand until they knew what the British delegates were prepared to offer. The result was that Canada emerged from that conference with greater benefits than were gained by Australia. However, I do not share the concern of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the effect of the Ottawa decisions upon our industries. I am confident that before long the people will determine that this Parliament shall rule according to the will of the people, and that its hands shall not be tied by any agreement made at Ottawa or any policy enunciated bythe present Government. The political circumstances of to-day will change, and whatever may be done now in pursuance of the decisions of the conference, will be undone with equal determination later in the interests of our people.
– I lay on the table the report presented by me to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) upon the agreement reached at the conference held in June and July last at Lausanne on the subject of reparations, and move -
That the paper be printed.
It is impossible to explain the significance of the agreement reached at Lausanne without reviewing briefly the history of this much-vexed subject. The story of reparations dates from early in the Great War. On each side were those who threatened or promised that the conquered peoples would be compelled to pay all the costs of the war in addition, to heavy penalties. The Central Powers declared that the Allies would be required to pay to the last penny, while the representatives of the Allies said that Germany and the powers associated with her must be compelled tomake full reparation for the disaster which they had brought upon the world. As the war progressed, the intentions of the belligerents in this regard became more clearly defined, and in December, 1916, a declaration wasmade on behalf of the Allies that the Central Powers would be required to pay compensation and “ equitable indemnities” for the harm suffered by other countries during the war. A German note dated the 11th January, 1917, declared that Germany and herallies had been compelled totake up arms to defend their freedom and national existence; similar declarations were made on behalf of the Allies. By 1917, however, the conviction had grown that it would be impossible for either side to pay to the other all war costs and damages, and a demand was made in many countries that the terms of settlement should not include annexations or penal indemnities. It was generally stated, however, that reparation should be made for injuries done. Early in 1918, Mr. Lloyd George, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, stated, in effect, what President Wilson almost immediately adopted as a general definition of war aims. Mr.Lloyd Georgealso addedthat compensation should be paid by the Central Powers for injuries done in violation of international law. On the18th January, 1918, President Wilson made a speech in which he set out the fourteen points which afterwards became famous. In the course of that utterance, he declared that compensation must be paid by Germany, particularly in relation to specified countries. This statement provided that Roumania, Serbia and Montenegro, which were then occupied by the Central Powers, should be evacuated, and that the occupied territory should be restored; that Belgium should be evacuated and restored; and that all French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored. It will he observed that various terms are used in these fourteen points - “restored”, “freed”, “evacuated”, and the like. Towards theend of 1918, Germany asked President Wilson to initiate negotiations for peace with the Allies, and stated in a note on the 5th October, 1918, that Germany accepted the programme set forth by the President of the United States of America in his message to Congress of the 8th January - the fourteen points to which I have referred. Various communications passed between the parties, and ultimately the Allies accepted the proposals made on behalf of Germany for an armistice on the basis of the fourteen points, subject to certain qualifications, and it is one of these qualifications which is all-important in connexion with this subject. It is from these words that the problem of reparations, as it has actually presented itself in recent years, has developed -
Further, in the conditions of peace laid down in his address to Congress of the 8th January, 1918, the President declared that the invaded territories must be restored as well as evacuated and freed, and the allied governments feel that no doubt ought to bc allowed to exist as to what this provision implies. By it they understand that compensation will be made by Germany for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and their property by ibc aggression of Germany by land, by sea, and from the air.
Those are the most important words in connexion with this general subject - that “ compensation will be made by Germany for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and their property by the aggression of Germany by land, by sea, and from the air.” That declaration was accepted by Germany, and in the Armistice agreement of the 11th November, 1918, it consented generally to make reparation for damage done. That phrase will be found in clause 19 of the agreement.
Upon that basis the Peace Conference met. At that conference the leader of Prance, Monsieur Clemenceau, and the leader of Great Britain, Mr. Lloyd George, met to discuss and settle the terms of peace, after elections at which large majorities of their own people had declared in favour of Germany being compelled to pay all costs of the war. There is no doubt that political considerations had a great deal to do with the subsequent developments and history of the subject. The contention was raised at an early stage that the phrase “ damage to the civilian population and their property caused by Germany’s aggression “, was really wide enough to cover all costs of the war, because in the long run the civilian population would have to pay all war costs. Personally, I always took the view that that was not a fair interpretation of the words, and that, particularly when viewed in the light of the discussions -which had taken place for so long concerning claims for all war costs)1 they marked a distinction between damage inflicted upon the property of civilians, on the one hand, and damage inflicted upon armies, navies, and air forces and their materiel on the other hand. Certainly the words included the physical destruction of private property. They included, therefore, damage caused by the ravaging of the towns and countryside of France, Belgium, .Serbia, Roumania, and Montenegro. .The words also included the sinking of merchant ships and consequent loss to private persons, and the aerial bombardment of civilian areas. The contention that all costs of the war should be included was ultimately rejected by the Commission of Reparations at the Peace Conference, but a great controversy arose with respect to pensions to soldiers and their dependants, and allowances to the wives and other dependants of soldiers. The argument was that the payment of pensions was a liability resting upon the civil population as a result of the war, and that therefore it fell within the terms of the proArmistice agreement to which I have referred. It was also urged that when a soldier who had been injured returned to his civilian vocation he became a civilian, and was therefore a civilian who had suffered damage by Germany’s aggression, and that accordingly the capitalized value of any pension payable to him was fairly recoverable under the terms of the pre-Armistice agreement. Ultimately this contention was accepted. Personally I have always regarded it as a very doubtful contention indeed. However, it was accepted, and certain categories of damage were ultimately set forth in the treaty of peace, and honorable members who desire to refer to them will find them in the first annex to Part VIII of the Peace Treaty which -is printed on page 218 of the third volume of the History of the Peace Conference, published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs. The amount of reparations to be paid by Germany “was not specified in the treaty. It was left indefinite, largely on account, not only of real difficulties in the way of ascertaining the actual sum, but also of the political considerations to which I have referred - the demands of the great masses of the people on the side of the Allies for payment of the full costs of the war. When at Paris during the Peace Conference, I was quite accustomed to hearing it said that the Allies intended to obtain the full cost of the war from Germany, and . the sum stated generally was £24,000,000,000.
– It was also declared that’ the Kaiser was to be hanged.
– I regarded both enterprises as impossible of achievement. After the Peace Conference, many other conferences were held at San Remo, Hythe, Brussels, Spa, and elsewhere. At the conference at Spa in July, 1920, it was agreed that reparation moneys should be divided in the following proportions : - France, 52 per cent. ; Great Britain and the dominions, 22 per cent.; ‘Italy, 10 per cent. ; Belgium, S per cent., and the other allied powers, S per cent. The Supreme Council of the Allies, which met to consider the problem of fixing the amount for reparations, fixed it at £11,600,000,000, to be paid in annuities over a period of 42 years. The Peace Treaty itself remitted the determination of this question to the Reparations Commission set up under the Treaty of Peace. On the 17th April, 1921, that commission fixed the amount at £6,600,000.000 to be paid in annuities of £100,000,000, plus 26 per cent, of the value of German exports. It is, I think, interesting to observe the gradual reduction made from £24,000,000,000 to £11,600,000,000, and to £6,600,000,000. My object in stating these figures is to bring pointedly before the minds of honorable members the real result obtained at the recent conference at Lausanne. While I am dealing with these figures it may be of interest to state the amount that Australia has received under the heading of reparations. From 1919 to 1931 Australia received the sum of £5,571,000 to which must he added £3,900,000 as the proceeds . of the liquidation of German interests. The annual payment, which under the last arrangement would be made to Australia on account of reparations, would be £830,000.
– That is under the Young .plan?
– Yes. The payments made annually by Australia on account of our war debt to the United Kingdom would be, if they were still in force, £5,548,000. In the year 1922 it was found that the reparation problem was full of difficulties, and that many obstacles were in the way of the performance of the agreement entered into by Germany. The payments made by that nation up to January, 1923, were, according to the accounts of the Reparations Commission, 8,000,000,000 gold marks on account of reparations, strictly socalled. Other payments were made under other headings. The Germans claimed to have paid in one way or another over 45,000,000,000 gold marks. Probably a just .estimate’ of all the payments made by Germany in one way or another would be something like 20,000,000,000 marks.
– What does the honorable member mean by -one way and another ?
– That term includes a large amount of material, railway engines, agricultural machinery, horses cows, coal, ships, and naval, military, and air materials which were handed over.
– What is the value of the gold mark?
– These amounts are taken on a valuation of the mark at twenty to the pound sterling. At the beginning of 1923 the value of the mark had greatly declined, and that is one of the causes of difficulty in evaluating the payments made by Germany. That country values the payments on one basis and the Allies value them on another. Germany sold paper marks in order to get foreign balance - to make possible payments abroad. Ultimately a moratorium had to be declared from August to December, 1922. At the beginning of 1923 Germany stated that she was simply unable to pay. The occupation of theRuhr by France followed, and the mark still further dropped. In fear of a further fall of the mark most people with money in Germany sold their money and changed it into foreign currency, and the mark then fell to millions to the pound. It is interesting to read in recent works that foreigners bought up properties in Germany for the “ price of a sandwich “, as one authority put it. I have read on very good authority that in Berlin to-day, some 9 per cent. of the houses are now actually owned by foreigners, who bought them for practically nothing in their own currency.
The position of Germany was so obviously acute that it was necessary that some further steps should be taken. Accordingly a committee, known as the Dawes Committee, was set up, and it sat from January to April, 1924. This committee fully recognized the difficulty of Germany, not only in providing for payments, but also in transferring the payments to the creditor nations. Whatever amount of money Germany might provide in her own marks within her own borders, the problem still remained how to make effective payments in foreign countries. It was by this time fully recognized that such payments could be made only from Germany’s export surplus; but the German export surplus would have had to be greatly increased to make such payments possible. It was found that while governments were willing to receive moneys from abroad, local industries were very disturbed by the irruption of German goods into the markets over which they at that time held command. Dr. Schacht, one of the world authorities on the German side of reparations, and an ex-President of the Reichsbank, put the position very clearly in his recent book entitled The End of Reparations when he said -
The more heavily the burden of reparations bears upon Germany, the more will Germany be compelled to force her exports to the utmost and to limit her imports wherever that is possible. Whether such a forced increase in foreign trade will be welcome to the rest of the world is a question which others must answer. Germany cannot cut milliards of tribute money out of her own body; if the
Allied Powers want reparations they will have to make it possible for Germany to earn these reparations by her exports.
Those words state very plainly indeed one of the fundamental difficulties of the whole reparations problem.
The Dawes plan operated for a time, but later became impossible of continuance. Another body was then set up with Mr. Owen D. Young of the United States of America as chairman. This produced, as recently as June, 1929, what is known as the Young plan, which was accepted in January, 1930, by the creditor countries, and by Germany, the debtor country. It provided that Germany should pay to the creditor nations £100,000,000 for 37 years and £85,700,000 for 22 years. Payments were thus to be continued for a period of 59 years.
The object of many interested authorities in France - it is not unfair to say this - was avowedly to keep Germany in a permanent condition of economic inferiority. There was a. very strong feeling among a large number of French people that if the industries of Germany were relieved from the burden of reparations payments they would seriously threaten the welfare of French industries, and on this account many people frankly believed in placing an impossible reparations burden upon Germany.
– Particularly in view of Germany’s compulsory relief from armaments expenditure.
– That was certainly an element in the matter. It was felt that as Germany was spending practically nothing on armaments, she should be able easily to meet her reparations obligations. The general attitude of Great Britain, on the other hand, was that it was both unwise and unjust to attempt to reduce any great nation to a condition of permanent inferiority and that the objective should be the restoration of German prosperity, which would help to restore world prosperity. British leaders felt that this end would not be served by keeping one nation in a constant condition of depression and distress.
For a time Germany was able to carry on under the Young plan, largely by means of foreign loans or credits obtained from abroad. From 1924 until 1930 inclusive, Germany imported a net amount of £900,000,000 of foreign capital, still taking the mark at 20 to the £1 ; and she also. during that period, raised longterm loans to the extent of £450,000,000. The details in regard to these transactions may be found in an article which appears in the March, 1932, issue of The Bound Table.
– “Who provided that money ?
– The United States of America very largely. I can furnish the honorable member with the full details if he desires them. Great Britain, Prance and some other countries also provided some of the money. Included in the £450,000,000 worth of long-term loans were trade credits as well as government credits. It was obviously impossible that the system of meeting reparations payments out of foreign loans could continue indefinitely.
– “What interest was Germany paying Great Britain on the money raised there?
– I cannot give the honorable member that information offhand, but I can furnish him with it later. It is interesting to note, however, that the interest which Germany had to pay at a very recent date on her recent foreign loans, amounted to £40,000,000 a year. That alone emphasizes the impossibility of the situation into which the whole problem had drifted. Very great efforts were made to sell German goods throughout the world in order to obtain foreign credits, and there is little doubt that these efforts to increase the export trade of Germany were a material element in bringing about the era of low prices from which the world is suffering to-day. This is not by any means the only element in that situation, but it is a real factor.
– The forcing of reparations at the beginning started that.
– I agree with the honorable member. The effect of the reparation payments, economically, has been very well stated in an article which appeared in The Bound Table of March of this year, from which I quote the following, paragraphs, because they put the case as well as it has been put anywhere -
If one were to ask any practical business man what single measure would do most to restore the confidence of lenders and to reverse the motion of the economic escalator, he would certainly answer : A settlement of the reparations and war debts question - though opinions would naturally vary as to what would constitute a just settlement. Assuming that he is right, it is as well to compare some of the magnitudes involved in order to convince ourselves of our folly in allowing this problem to drag on, apparently no nearer to solution than it was six months ago. The capital sum represented by the Young plan annuities has been estimated at £2,100 million gold, which is roughly one-half of the nominal value of British capital invested abroad and likewise about one-half of our normal national income per year; the fact that in the course of the present crisis the industrial output of Germany lias declined by about one-third, that of the United States by one-quarter, and our own by perhaps, one-fifth, is sufficient proof that the current loss of wealth in the world in a single year, through the continuance of the crisis, far exceeds the total amount payable in reparations over a period of nearly 00 years. The payments to the United States suspended in the Hoover moratorium year amount to £54 million, but the prospective deficit in the federal budget for 1931-32 (before allowing for emergency taxation or economies), amounts to £436 million, notwithstanding the fact that there is no direct federal appropriation for unemployment relief. Great Britain’s average annual receipts from reparations in the first 37 years of the Young plan amount to £17i million; whereas £114 million was paid in 1931. in unemployment insurance benefits. The direct and proportionate connexion between these several items may be open to question, but at any rate it is beyond doubt that, whatever the financial effect of such a policy on national budgets, the sweep of the sponge on the reparations and war debts slate would, as the first move towards economic recovery, be financially advantageous to all concerned.
That statement expresses the British view in a general way.
The position became worse in June, 1931, and President Hoover proposed a moratorium, the adoption of which postponed for a period all reparations payments. Fortunately for Australia, allied with that postponement was an agreement by the British Government to postpone our payments in respect of our war debt. The Hoover moratorium was about to expire when the conference of representatives of the creditor nations and of Germany met at Lausanne. The United States of America was not represented at the conference. The United States of_America receives war debt payments from the Allies, some of whom in turn receive war debt payments as between themselves and all of whom receive reparations payments from Ger- many. The United States of America lias always denied that any connexion exists between reparations and war debts. On the other hand, the European nations which are indebted to the United States of America in respect of war debts, contend that they should be bound to pay America only to the extent to which they receive reparations payments from Germany. That view has, however, at no time been accepted in the United States of America.
The difficulties facing the Lausanne conference were tremendous. I have said enough to demonstrate the problems inherent in the question itself; but in addition to these there were difficulties created by reason of the fact that new governments had come into office in France and Germany - M. Harriot’s Government in France, and Herr von Papen’s administration in Germany. Those national leaders might very well have made speeches which would have rendered it impossible for the conference to arrive at any result. If the representative of France had made a speech emphasizing the French view that reparations constituted a sacred obligation; if the representative of the people of Germany had contended in public at the Lausanne Conference for the view which finds acceptance among his people, that reparations so far from being a sacred obligation constituted a moral iniquity, it is fairly certain that the conference would have broken up without any results being achieved. Such a disaster was avoided by careful preparation of the ground before any public discussion took place. I was much interested on this visit to Europe, when I had the honour of representing Australia at this and other conferences to observe the change in the technique of international conferences. There is not any longer unanimous enthusiasm for the public discussion of all problems in the first instance in the parliamentary manner. Instead, there is growing a very general view that it is necessary to have some private conversations before entering into a public debate. That change has been criticized, particularly by those who have not devoted any attention to the circumstances surrounding it. There is, however, a fundamental dis tinction between what is now being done and what used to be done; after private conversations have taken place and difficulties smoothed out or removed - some of which would be impossible of removal in public debates - the result is brought before a conference for public acceptance or rejection. The agreement made is there in all its terms for acceptance or for criticism. In the case of the Disarmament Conference - on which I shall report later - there were weeks of public speeches and discussion, with no result. Then private conversations took place among the leaders, and results began to appear.
There were no weeks of discussion in public at Lausanne. The preliminary proceedings lasted for two days, during which time the public speeches were made. Then the conference proper adjourned, and those who had the responsibility of action met face to face those with whom they had to agree if anything was to be accomplished. The result was that at Lausanne there were no demands in public for something which the other side could not possibly concede, which must have led to an immediate split, and also there was a general avoidance of the meaningless platitudes which have become characteristic of so many public debates. The speeches which opened the conference were very striking indeed. Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, who was appointed president, said -
The whole world looks to us as it has never looked to any international conference, to find an agreement which will help to relieve the existing distress. There are between 20,000,000 and 25,000,000 people workless, a»d the situation daily grows worse. Standards of living and comfort are being steadily lowered by economic forces which the most liberalhanded and liberal-minded governments cannot control. In this failure there is no France, no Italy, no Germany, no America, and no Britain apart from the rest of the nations; there is nothing smaller than the world there is nothing less than a system crumbling under our feet. None can stay out of the work of restoration and reconstruction, because none can stay out of the miseries that are gathering round us. Wisdom and commonsense demand an immediate return to better ways and to pay the temporary price that such a return will enact. I believe it can be done if we, with clearness of vision and steadiness of nerve do it. The essence of the task is speed:, despair is the fortress which must be carried by storm. It cannot be conquered by a long siege.
He was followed by the representatives of France, Germany, and other countries. They spoke not of past history, not of the resentments and the hatreds of the ages, but of present day problems. I have deemed it advisable to include in my report the notes of the speech which I made, in order that honorable members may see exactly what I »said on behalf of Australia. I supported the view that the wise course to take was to deal with the reparations problem by getting rid of reparations, and, 30 far as possible, of associated war debts. At the end of the first day at Lausanne, a declaration was made prolonging the moratorium for the period of the conference, and, after two days’ sitting, the conference adjourned for the purpose of working in private committees. The result was an agreement which I propose shortly to outline.
It was agreed that annual reparation payments should be abolished, and it was declared that the powers at the conference hoped that they would help to create a new order by the actual agreement made, and by the spirit in which it was made. The actual agreement was -
The German Government shall deliver to the Bank for International Settlements, German Government o per cent, redeemable bonds, to the amount of three milliard reischsmarks gold of the present standard of weight and fineness.
That equals a sum of £150,000,000, .and I ask honorable members to compare that amount, as a final settlement, with the figures to which I have earlier referred. The agreement further provides that these bonds are to be held by the Bank for International Settlements as trustees, and are not to be negotiated for three years. They are to be negotiated by the bank at a price of not less than 90 per cent, of their face value. The German Government is to have the right to redeem the bonds at’ par. The proceeds of the bonds when issued are to be placed to a special account. Originally, it was announced that these moneys should be used for European reconstruction. I could see no reason why Australia should be excluded from the benefit of a reconstruction effort, and said so. The actual terms of the agreement now are that the proceeds of the bonds shall be placed to a special account, the allocation of which shall be settled by a further agreement in due course between the Governments, other than Germany, signatory to the present agreement.
There are also provisions for the prolongation of the moratorium, and there are resolutions relating to Central and Eastern Europe, and to a world economic and financial conference, which is to be held as soon as possible. The Assembly of the League of Nations will meet towards the end of September. The Disarmament Conference is now in adjourn* ment, and the date of its resumption is at present uncertain. It is also difficult to say exactly when the world economic and financial conference will meet.
– The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by have - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the AttorneyGeneral continuing his speech and the debate being continued after termination of the time allowed by Standing Order 119.
– The matters which are to be considered at the world financial and economic conference are, first, financial problems, under which heading come monetary and credit policy, exchange difficulties, the level of prices, and the movement of capital. Under the head of economic questions, come important conditions of production and trade interchanges, with particular attention to tariff policy and prohibition and restrictions of importation and exportation; quotas and other barriers of trade, and revival of producers’ agreements. The necessity for restoring currencies to a healthy basis, and thereby making it possible to abolish measures of exchange control, and remove transport difficulties, was particularly emphasized. The conference also declared itself impressed with the vital need of facilitating the revival of international trade. Tentative arrangements were made for a preliminary examination of these problems by a committee of experts. The Governments of Germany, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan are each appointing one financial and one economic -expert, and the League of Nations is invited to appoint three financial and three economic experts.
Another agreement of an informal nature reached at Lausanne is represented in a proces-verbal which has been signed on behalf of Belgium, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. It provides that ratification of the Lausanne agreement shall not be effected on behalf of the initiating governments until a satisfactory settlement is reached between them and their own creditors. Therefore, satisfactory as it is, the agreement made at Lausanne remains to be ratified, and the ratification depends upon what happens in relation to the war debts owed by the creditor powers.
– What will be the position if the German Government refuses to ratify the agreement?
– I shall deal with that later. The understanding to which I have referred about the condition of ratification evidently relates to the position of the creditors with respect to the United States of America. Up to the present, as I have indicated, the United States of America has always contended that reparations and war debts are entirely separate problems - that war debts have not anything to do with reparations, and vice versa. But any treaty which is made by the United States of America must be approved by the Committee of the Senate on Foreign Relations, and the chairman of that committee is a very powerful personage in the politics of that nation, particularly in relation to international affairs. Any declaration made by him may be regarded as having a very real importance in relation to future probabilities. Senator Borah, who is at present the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has made a statement to the effect that the United States of America - and this was immediately after the Lausanne Conference - should go to the world economic conference prepared to discuss, not only reduction or cancellation of war debts, out the review of the Versailles Treaty, and the general settlement of postwar problems.
– He has twisted on his previous policy.
– He has thought and learned. His statement, as reported in the London Times, continues -
The war debts were just debts, in which generous reductions had already been made. “ There can be no reason, therefore, for urging reduction or cancellation of debts other than that it would be in the interest of the people of the United States of America to do so. Upon that theory, and that alone, it seems to me, is the subject open for discussion.”
The essential question was whether reduction or cancellation of the war debts would bring to the people of the United States of America an equal or greater benefit than the amount which they might collect from the debts, and whether such a ‘course would open foreign markets, cause- the price level to rise, put an end to unemployment, and “thaw” the frozen credits of banks. “ I entertain the belief,” Mr. Borah said, “ that cancellation of debts, in connexion with and ap part of a programme including the settlement of other war problems, would* have the effects above indicated. But I am equally clear that the cancellation of these debts with nothing more than the present reparation adjustment would not ha.ve the effect above indicated. To put an end to this depression is no less a task that that of ending the war, and, in my judgment, it can only be accomplished with the same breadth and thoroughness as those which ended the war.” Lausanne, lie added, was a “ bright spot “ in the sombre world picture, and the “ most important step taken since the war, looking toward the restoration of confidence in business and political affairs “.
That does not represent the present opinion of the Government of the United States of America, so far as it has been declared. That Government requires that war debts, reparations, and certain aspects of tariff control shall be excluded from the world economic conference, and it remains to be seen whether the Government of the United States of America will abandon that attitude.
One of the difficulties which has been very apparent at all recent international conferences is that which arises from political instability, or the uncertain position of some of the participating governments. In the United States of America, for instance, a presidential election is in progress at the present time, and, apart altogether from the possible fear of antagonizing electors which may operate on the minds of those who submit themselves to the suffrages of the people, there is the very important element of the absence of authority when a government is uncertain of its tenure, an absence of authority which renders it unable to bind its own people. This political instability is one of the most serious obstacles to international agreement in the world. When I went to Geneva for the first time recently, the Prime Minister of France “was M. Tardieu. Within a fewweeks he had been replaced by M. Herriot the leader of a different party, with a different attitude towards matters o£ international policy. When I visited Geneva the first time I discussed matters with Dr. Bruning, the Chancellor of Germany. A few weeks later I was discussing similar matters with Herr Von Papen. The position in Germany is very difficult at the present time from a governmental point of view. I refer to the difficulty of getting some one to speak with authority on behalf of the people, and that difficulty will persist until there i3 a greater degree of political stability in Germany. As regards the United States of America,” it may persist until the election of a new president has been accomplished. If, owing to any misfortune, the agreement is not ratified, it will be necessary to reconsider the question at’ a further conference.
In spite of these difficulties, I submit that a very real step forward is marked by the Lausanne Conference. I ask honorable members to consider the position as it has obtained during all the years since the war. When we remember the enormous sums of money claimed in the past; when we think of the national feeling existent in France and other countries; when we consider the financial dependence of some other countries, such as Yugoslavia, on reparation payments; when we recall the accumulated force of national feeling and national animosity and national hatred associated with these matters; when we remember that only twelve months ago it would have been impossible even to contemplate the making of such an agreement as was arrived at recently, it will be realized that the Lausanne Conference marks a definite change in international relations, a change which is all for the better. If what has already been achieved is pursued with good will and good heart, the conference should confer lasting benefits on the world as a whole.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Appointment ov Royal Commission.
– by have - In making an announcement on. behalf of the Government relating to performing rights, I propose to take the opportunity of outlining the general position in order that the precise points to be referred for inquiry may be clearly understood. Copyright law in all civilized countries protects the rights of the author of an original work. The law in Australia is contained in the Copyright Act 1912, -and reference to that act will show, in the body of the act, and in the important schedule annexed to it, that copyright is upon an imperial and international basis of reciprocity; that Australian authors, composers, and artists obtain rights in relation to their works in other countries because we confer similar rights in Australia upon authors, composers, and artists belonging to other countries. It is necessary to consider, when we are thinking of changing our law here, what the possible effect of that alteration may be upon the reciprocity that is extended to our people in other countries.
The composer of music is, of course, an “ author “ within copyright law. A man who is a composer need not compose unless he likes, and if he composes a piece of music, he is under no obligation to publish it. If he publishes it, he can do so upon his own terms. He has the sole right of publishing or authorizing the publication of his work, just as any honorable member of this Parliament who may write something would have the sole right of publishing what he has written. The composer has the sole right to perform his work in public, or to authorize its public performance. That right has always been valuable in the case of major musical works such as operas and oratorios. The right to receive royalty fees, known as a performing right, has been instrumental in providing the principal portion of the composer’s income in respect of such work. If it were not for the royalties received for theatrical performances and the like, the composers of operas would receive little or no return at all. In the case of smaller works such, as separate songs, dances and the like, before the advent of the gramophone and wireless, composers generally relied rather on the “ sale of sheet music than on fees for the right to perform such work. Some composers elected to abandon the performing right, and those of us who have been singers are familiar with the words printed on, many songs stating that the song may be sung in public without fee -or licence.
The gramophone and wireless, however, have changed the whole outlook from the composer’s point of view, and also from the point of view of those who either perform or enjoy the performance of music.
The gramophone produced two results which were of great importance to composers. In the first place, the gramophone provided a new method of reproducing music, either the singing of the human voice, or the playing of an instrument such as the piano or violin, or a number of instruments in an orchestra. Gramophone records, presenting this new method of reproduction, soon had a larger sale than the printed sheet music. We can all play a gramophone, though some of us are unable to play anything else. There was an increasing sale of gramophone records and a reduction in the sale of sheet music.
Composers are able to transfer their rights to an assignee, and usually this assignee is a music publisher. Publishers have means of pushing and promoting sales which are not available to the individual artist. Composers found that they could sell gramophone rights as well as printing rights; that is to say, they could sell the right to record their work on a vulcanite disc, as well as the right to record it by printing on a sheet of paper. The composer is not bound to allow his work to be played on a gramophone, any more than any member of this House is bound to permit the dulcet tones of his speech to be. recorded on a gramophone record. But if a composer did allow his work to be recorded, he could fix his own terms. The law, however, has intervened in the case of gramophone records, and it is provided that if a composer authorizes anybody to make a gramophone record of his work, other persons may, upon giving certain notice, and obeying rules prescribed by law, buy from him the right to make records of his work. Honorable members will find that provision, in the schedule to the Copyright Act 1912.
A further result of the invention, and the extension of the use, of the gramophone has been not only a new method of publishing musical work, by recording it on vulcanite rather than on paper, but also a new method of performing such work in public as well as in private. There may be a gramophone performance in public either directly, or by means of wireless broadcasting. The composer or his assignee has the sole right to authorize this method of performing his work in public.
In order to show some of the inevitable complications of this subject, I would observe first, that in addition to the composer of a song, the singer of a song which is recorded on a gramophone can make his or her own terms as to the payment to be received for the performance of the song, or, more generally, from’ the sales of the record. I shall also say a word on the position of the assignee, as to which there has been some controversy, and, I think, some misunderstanding. The owner of any form of copyright may assign his rights to anybody he chooses upon such terms as he thinks proper. It is only fair to point out that unless the owner of the copyright had the right to assign his rights, his copyright, generally speaking, would be valueless. The value of such a right really consists in the power to dispose of it. If an assignee were not protected at least in some way, the owner of the -right would, in most cases, be deprived of any chance of reaping a reward for his work.. The composer of a song is not able himself to sing it all over the world. He may not be able to sing at all, and unless he is able to obtain something out of the performance of his work, or the sales of the records, or sheet music, or gramophone discs presenting his work, he will get no income from it whatever. Accordingly, the protection of the assignee is that which makes valuable the original right of thu composer, and without it the composer would be unable to sell his work.
I now come to the effect of wireless broadcasting, which has introduced a new element into the problem. In the first place, it has enormously extended the range of performance, and it has made it unnecessary for most listeners to buy sheet music or even gramophone records.
It has made it possible for many thousands to hear at the same time a performance by one or more artists, the item being rendered by means of one gramophone record. To-day a dozen gramophone records can serve a continent. It is stated that a great decrease has occurred in the sales of not only sheet music, but also gramophone records, as .the result of wireless broadcasting, and that there has been a corresponding decrease in the remuneration of composers. On the other hand - and I wish to put all aspects of this subject before the House - it is said that the playing of records by wireless actually increases the sales to an extent. Every listener to gramophone records, in particular, is acquainted with the practice of announcing the number of the record, and the place at which it can be purchased. I am not in a position to say what the facts are, as to the effect on sales; neither are other honorable members, and that is one reason why there should be an inquiry into the matter. It is contended that balancing up such increase in sales as is due to the wireless broadcasting of musical pieces against the decrease, there is a great net decrease in sales both of sheet and gramophone music. The composers have, naturally, sought to obtain payment for gramophone records played in publicwhether by means of wireless broadcasting or otherwise, and for all performances by broadcasting stations; and they have sought to enforce, in a more active manner, the rights which the law confers upon them in respect of performances in public, such as at concerts or public dances, or at hotels, halls, restaurants, and the like. In some cases, difficulties have arisen in determining whether a performance is given for profit or not. The law imposes an obligation to obtain a licence to perform in the case of a performance for profit in a public hall. Difficulties have arisen, in the case of what are said to be charitable performances, as to whether or not there is an element of profit in them. That is one of the problems that should be dealt with.
A single composer acting by himself is almost helpless in relation to the enforcement of any rights that he has. It is almost impossible for him to enforce his rights all over the world. Music is truly an international language; the same music is played throughout the world, and as an individual composer cannot enforce his right all over the world, practically in all countries composers have combined in what are termed performing right association’s, which have been constituted for the protection of the rights of musical composers in various countries. ,
– They embrace others besides composers.
– They consist of composers and their assignees, and these assignees are largely musical publishing houses without which, as I have suggested, the composers could not live. These associations are allied, and they act as agents for each other. They charge fees for the public performance of musical works, and the fees are collected for the purpose of being paid to the owners of the copyright, whether the original composers or the assignees. It is stated, for example, that the money collected in Australia from this source is, after the deduction of taxes and administrative expenses, distributed to composers all over the world. Without knowing anything definite on the point, I should say that a large proportion of the money collected would go to Germany and Italy, which are peculiarly homes of creative musical art, and to other European countries.
These various new developments have provoked a great deal of controversy. Those who make a business of providing entertainment have questioned the charges made upon them for various reasons. First, in the case of performances in public halls, the charges are new, and are resented very strongly in some instances. In the case of broadcasting stations, it is said that the charges are, at least in some instances, excessive and unreasonable. The question is also raised whether the Performing Right Association really owns or controls the performing rights in all the music for the performance of which it charges, and complaint is made that it is impossible for a proposing performer to discover what are the musical pieces on which the association levies its charges. It is doubted, too, whether the composers really receive the benefit of the money paid in fees for performing licences. That, I think, fairly puts one side of the case.
On the other hand, it is said by or on behalf of the composers and the Performing Right Association that they are entitled to charge a fee for the use of their property. It is claimed that to deny property in the result of creative art, while admitting it in material objects, would be almost to revert to barbarism, and that therefore there must be some recognition of the right of the artist and of the right of his assignees, because if there is no such recognition, there is, from a business point of view, no real recognition of the right of the artist. Attention is called to the imperial and international aspect of the matter, and we are warned that we should be very careful in interfering with or limiting the rights of owners of copyright in Australia. It is alleged that there has been such a falling off in sales of sheet music in the first place, and now of gramophone records, that composers are compelled in self-defence to charge fees for performances in halls and the like, which fees they were former lj’ in a position to waive. I suggest that that is a question of fact on which there should be inquiry. It is further claimed that the charges made are not excessive. It is said, for example, that some of the broadcasting stations are very profitable, and that they ought to pay a substantial sum for the use of music which makes it possible for them to carry on their enterprises. It is declared that smaller charges are made in the case of smaller and less profitable broadcasting stations. This is a subject of acute controversy. It is admitted that the various performing right associations do not own the rights in all the music in the world, but it is said that they do have rights in most of it. It is contended that at least they control the rights in all the popular modem music.
– What does “ modern “ mean ?
– Copyright lasts for 50 years, and I am referring particularlyto the popular music that is “ all the go “ for a short period.
– How is the performer to know whether the association has a right in a particular piece of music ?
– On that point the association says that at least a person proposing to perforin a piece of music in public knows whether or not he himself owns it. If he does not own it, he has no right to perform another man’s work unless he knows that it. is not copyright. In respect of ordinary property, if I took possession of or used something that was not mine, my statement that I did not know who wa3 the owner of it would not be accepted’ as a defence; my culpability would be proved by establishing before a court that I knew that the article was not mine. The question to be determined is whether there is property in intellectual and artistic products as in material things. I do not propose to argue the matter, beyond admitting that I have as much interest in defending the right of an artist in the product of his brain - the result of his creative skill - as in defending a man’s ownership of a cow, pig, or horse.
Further, it is said by the Performing Right Association that it publishes a list of publishers which makes it possible to discover in nearly all cases whether a particular piece of published music is within the repertory of works in respect of which the association claims copyright.
– That is not strictly correct.
– I am merely repeating what I have been told. It is alleged that nearly every piece of music which a person may buy or otherwise honestly obtain bears the publisher’s imprint, and, by reference to a two-sheet list, a person may discover whether that publisher’s name is amongst those whose rights the association claims to protect. In any case, the association will always answer any inquiries.
A suggestion has been made that all copyright should be registered. From a revenue point of view that would be an excellent plan ; the Performing Right Association claims to control at least 2,000;000 pieces of music, the registration fees on which would constitute a welcome windfall to the Treasury. I am afraid, however, that the adoption of this proposal would involve a heavy charge on composers all over the world, and a substantial increase in the fees charged for licences to perform music. Nevertheless, the advisability of registering copyrights in music should be examined very carefully. The Parliament of New Zealand passed in 1928 an act which provided that, from the broadcast listeners’ fees, 7£ per cent, should be deducted and placed to the credit of a trust fund for the purpose of remunerating composers and artists. Persons claiming performing rights had to apply to the Minister for payment. This legislation remained in operation for about two years, and altogether £6,000 was paid into the fund, and the whole amount was paid out to the Performing Right Association, there being no other claimants. The act was then allowed to lapse. In Canada, in 1931, legislation was enacted which provided that unregistered assignments of copyright should be void as against subsequent assignments made for value without notice, and that any association or company carrying on the business of acquiring copyrights of musical or dramatico-musical works, and licensing the performance of them, should first file with the Minister lists of all works in which copyright was claimed. Thereby it would be possible for any searcher to ascertain whether copyright was claimed in regard to any particular work. This law provided also that the association should not be entitled to sue for fees in respect of musical works unless they appeared on such registered list. A statement of the fees charged had to be filed in a public office, and if the Minister considered any fee excessive be might prescribe an amount which would be the only lawful fee recoverable. I have endeavoured to obtain from Canada reports of the operation of that measure, but the information I have received shows a division of opinion. Naturally, interests affected by this legislation have very divergent views.
The Performing Right Association states that it makes no profit whatever, and that all the moneys it receives, less administrative expenses and taxation - taxation being payable both in Great
Britain and Australia is very heavy - are paid to the composers or their assignees.
– Principally to musicpublishing houses.
– I have already said that if a composer is not able to sell his works to a music-publishing house he has nothing of value to sell. He would gain nothing by assigning his right to a private individual who was not able to push the sale of the music. The Performing Right Association claims further that the resistance of its claims in Australia has been so intense as to increase considerably the administrative cost, and necessitate the charging of higher fees than otherwise would be necessary.
I investigated this problem to some extent while I was in England. I met in London representatives’ of musicpublishing houses who told me that if the system introduced by the Performing Right Association were to break down completely, sales of gramophone records and sheet music would be the only source of revenue left to composers of works other than those on an opera or musical comedy scale, and the reward for musical composition would be so small that there would be a risk of no new music being written. One well known gentleman who is not a music publisher, but whose interest in music is that of a keen dilettante, told me privately that he feared that very soon little new music would be produced, because if the system of charging performing right fees were not placed on a basis which met with general acceptance, the consequences to the musical composers, and, incidentally, to musical taste, would be serious.
Much of this subject involves questions of fact; the remainder, matters of opinion. I have tried to place before the House the conflicting opinions and the controversies as to facts. The Government considers that a composer or his assignee is entitled to a reasonable reward for his creative effort. It is difficult to state what would be a reasonable reward in varying circumstances. Further, there is evidently some dispute as to whether the composer is actually receiving the fees paid by those who take out performing licences. The Government considers, therefore, that this is eminently a matter for inquiry by a capable and disinterested tribunal. Fortunately, the Honorable Langer Owen, C.B.E:, K.C., who until very recently was a Justice of the Supreme Court of New SouthWales, has agreed to undertake an inquiry as a royal commissioner. Mr. Justice Langer Owen has retired after a long and honorable career in his profession and on the Bench, and has generously placed his services at the disposal of the Government, stating that he does not expect any benefit or remuneration for himself. Therefore, no fees will be paid to the royal commissioner, although the expenses incidental to the inquiry will be met by the Commonwealth. I take this opportunity to express the Government’s appreciation of this generous offer. The terms of the commission are that the commissioner shall inquire into and report upon -
I think that honorable members will agree that this general reference will cover all questions which arise in relation to the subject. It is expected that the commission will commence its sittings in about three weeks’ time. I have to-day received a letter from the Performing Right Association asking that the inquiry be held over until December, so that a representative of the association in England can come to Australia for the purpose of giving evidence or of assisting in thework of the commission. The Government does not, as at present advised, proposeto accede to that request. This matter has been before the public for a number of years, and it is difficult to understand that there should be any real obstacle in the way of the Performing Right Associatipn putting its case fully, clearly, and indeed exhaustively, before the Royal Commission. The Government,therefore, expresses the hope that the various parties concerned will assist in every way to make the inquiry complete and effective in all its aspects.
Distribution of Moneys
– In view of the serious agitation existing in the public mind in South Australia concerning the delays occasioned in providing moneys for unemployed relief, andof the fact that the Premier of South Australia has asserted that the Commonwealth is responsible for the delay, and further, as the Leader of the Opposition in South Australia (Mr. Butler) and the Honorable G. Laffer have indicated their strong belief that the Premier of South Australia is resorting to a policy of vacillation, will the Prime Minister indicate whether he or the Premier of South Australia has been responsible for vacillation or delay in providing money for unemployment relief works?
– Whatever delay has taken place has been due to the necessity for the parties concerned being absolutely clear as to the conditions under which the grant is to be made and the work carried out. I am not prepared to admit that the Commonwealth has been responsible for any delay, nor am I prepared to place any responsibility for the delay on the Government of South Australia, which at all times has been anxious to proceed with the work. Certain portions of the programme were delayed because at one time it was considered that they did not come absolutely within the conditions under which assistance was to be given to the various States for unemployment relief, but once the misunderstandings were cleared away the programme was proceeded with. Only recently I, as Treasurer, was able to approve of an amount of £20,000 being used in assisting primary producers under the unemployment scheme. That matter was held up for some time because it was not clear whether the work came within the prescribed conditions. There is now nothing to prevent the works in question from being completed.
– In view of the report of the War Service Homes Committee, will the Minister state whether there has been any amelioration of the conditions of the agreement between the Savings
Banks of Victoria and South Australia, and the Commonwealth, regarding war service homes?
– Immediately Cabinet had considered the recommendations of the committee negotiations were commenced with aview to ascertaining whether the conditions relating to the committee’s recommendation No. 7 could be given effect. Those negotiations, which are still proceeding, involve legal technicalities. The Attorney-General has discussed this subject with the Victorian Savings Bank, and I am hopeful that at an early date a definite plan will be arrived at.
– In view of the public statement, which has been repeated to-day by the Prime Minister, that the decisions of the Ottawa Conference will necessitate an alteration of almost every item of the tariff, will the Government consider postponing the present tariff discussion until after the discussion of the decisions of the conference, a discussion which I urge the right honorable gentleman to bring about at the earliest possible moment?
– The right honorable gentleman mentioned this matter to me earlier in the day, to enable us to consider his suggestion. The decision of the Government is that the discussion of the tariff schedule now before the House must continue. Certainly a large number of items in that schedule will be affected by the decisions of the Ottawa Conference, and when we have the full details of those decisions before us we can reconsider those items. But we intend to proceed with the other items which are not affected by the decisions of the conference. At present they are before Parliament, and if deferred until after the discussion of the decisions of the conference they would have to be dealt with separately; whereas by dealing with them now, we shall be able, when the items affected by the decisions of the conference have been disposed of, to proceed immediately with a complete and definite plan of tariff revision.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to make a statement concerning the result of his endeavour to effect a reduction in the price of sugar ?
– The Government is continuing its effort to reduce the price of sugar. On Saturday next a conference will take place between the representatives of the sugar interests and the Government, and it is our intention at that conference to make a further effort to achieve our objective.
– Has the attention ofthe Postmaster-General been drawn to a new telephone instrument which has received great publicity recently in New Zealand and in Australia? Will he sympathetically consider the desirability, not only of making these telephones available to subscribers at a slightly increased rental, but also of manufacturing them in Australia?
– An arrangement has already been made with certain subscribers for the installation of these new telephones provided that they are prepared to meet the additional cost. As honorable members know, the considerable decline in the number of telephone subscribers has entailed the dismantling of a great number of instruments. In consequence, large stocks of instruments are now held by the department. At present, we are not placing any obstacle in the way of subscribers who wish to have these new instruments installed. The work of installation will be carried out by the departmental mechanics. Regarding the suggestion that the new telephones be manufactured in Australia, I am not in a position to say whether there are any rights or royalties involved, but I can promise the honorable member that the department will make inquiries, and, if possible, will arrange for the instruments to be manufactured in Australia.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral sympathetically consider the case of telephone users who are at present compelled to use obsolete and inefficient telephone receivers when efficient machines are available? Instead of insisting upon users paying £4 or £5 to install a modern instrument will the Government adopt the system followed by the Postmaster-General in England of allowing subscribers to pay a nominal amount of 8s. or 9s. to cover capital and interest on the new receiver?
– As I previously intimated, the matter presents difficulties. The department has in stock thousands of the old type receivers, which many people would be pleased to use. The Government has been as reasonable as possible, in view of the present state of its finances, by agreeing to allow those who so desire to install new type receivers at their own cost. I shall make further inquiries to see if that position can be improved.
Sydney Quarantine Grounds
– Will the Minister state whether instructions were issued to the Works Department that the men employed on relief work construction at the Quarantine Grounds, Sydney, were to be drawn exclusively from that locality: if sc. will he withdraw those instructions so that an. opportunity maybe given to ail unemployed men in the metropolitan area to obtain work on the quarantine grounds ?
-I understand that the work referred to is part of the programme of works arranged by the Unemployment Relief Committee. Those works were confined to districts, and one of the conditions attached to them was that the people in the district concerned should have first call for employment. That practice has been followed on all works undertaken in the different suburbs. I regard it as a fair practice, and I have no intention, at this moment, of altering it.
Construction of Trawlers
– Has the Assistant Minister for Customs yet placed before Cabinet the proposals made to him by a deputation representative of the municipal council of Balmain, the trawling industry, the employees of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and members on both sides of the House, urging the building at Cockatoo Island Dockyard of trawlers for governmental marine survey work; if so, what is the decision of Cabinet ?
– The whole of the matters referred to by the deputation have received the attention which I promised would be given to them, and this morning I dispatched my reply, which should now be in the possession of the honorable member forMartin (Mr. Holman) who introduced the deputation. The Government would have liked to arrive at a different decision, but the question of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard is receiving its serious consideration at the present moment. Various suggestions have been put forward, such as amalgamation and leasing. Some drastic step must shortly be taken in view of the fact that the dockyard, which is a governmental establishment, is losing about £60,000 a year.
– In connexion with the inquiry that is to take place into the subject of performing right, does the Government propose to take any special steps to ensure the protection of the interests of the Australian public?
– If the honorable member is inquiring whether the Government proposes to appoint anybody to assist the commission, let me say that it is proposed to appoint counsel for that purpose who has specialized in copyright law. He will be instructed to ensure that all aspects of the matter are placed before the commission, and not to argue for any particular solution of the problems which arise.
German Imports - Inspections
– The Minister for Commerce has had attributed to him a statement to the effect that Germany is according Australia most favoured nation treatment with regard to apples. In view of the importance of this subject to the apple exporters of Australia, will the honorable gentleman explain in detail what has been arranged ?
– An application was made to the German Government, through the High Commissioner for Australia, that Australia should be accorded mostfavoured nation treatment under the British-German Treaty of 1924, and this has been granted. All the goods imported into Germany from Australia, of which apples are a most important item, will now be admitted under the lowest tariff rate applicable to any foreign country. In the case of. apples, the reduction of duty is from 15 marks per 100 kilos to 7 marks per 100 kilos. This will place our exporters on a level with the exporters of other countries.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to a sub-leader in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, in which it is implied that Commonwealth officials have been very lax in regard to the inspection of apples? If not, does the Minister intend to do anything to review the present procedure?
– I have not yet had time to read to-day’s newspapers, and have not seen the sub-leader referred to by the honorable member. The inspection of apples is carried out, not by Commonwealth officials, but by State officials acting on behalf of the Commonwealth. If the honorable member will furnish me with a copy of the statements to which he has referred, I shall be pleased to ask the State Department to give the matter attention.
– Will the Minister for Commerce exhaustively investigate the possibilities of developing our trade with the East, and if he is convinced that the prospects are good, will he advocate the opening immediately of marketing bureaux and the appointing of trade commissioners in the East who understand intimately this particular market ?
– The Government has been giving close consideration to the possibility of increasing Australia’s trade with the East. The previous Government also gave attention to this subject. The report of Mr. Gepp on the matter is being reviewed at present. Whether our trade would benefit from the appointment of official trade representatives in eastern countries is also being inquired into, and opinions on the subject are being obtained from chambers of commerce and other bodies interested in this trade. I am pleased to inform the honorable member and the House that, although we have no trade representatives in the East, our trade there is increasing enormously, due tothe initiative and. energy of our private traders. This trade is being gained at the expense of some other countries which have a large number of official trade representatives in the East.
– Will the Minister for Commerce advise what steps have been taken with regard to the trade representation of Australia in the East?
– The matter is under consideration,but no decision has yet been re ached.
– In view of the assurance given by the Minister in charge of war service homes when introducing the amending war service homes legislation early this year, that return ed-soldier occupiers of war service homes who were suffering great hardship from unemployment would not be evicted, I direct the attention of the Government to the fact that, in the northern districts of New South Wales in particular, numbers of returned soldiers have been removed from their homes. Is it the intention of the Government to continue pursuing this inhuman policy?
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will realize on reflection that I cannot allow him to use the term “inhuman” in that connexion. It is quite out of order.
– Then I will ask the Minister whether, in view of the great hardship that is being inflicted upon the occupiers of certain war service homes, it is the intention of the Government to continue issuing notices to certain war service homes occupants that they must vacate their homes?
– No purchaser or borrower has been ejected from his home since this Government came into office.
– That is incorrect.
– I remind the honorable member that the policy of the Government is to do everything possible to keep returned soldiers in their homes. The Government has carried out both in spirit and in letter the war service homes legislation passed in 1918. The basis of repayments for these homes is being determined entirely by the ability of the ex-soldier occupants to pay. If an ex- soldier has no ability to pay, he is treated accordingly. If his income is less than sufficient to meet the full repayments, he is asked to make pro rata payments only. The Government is making every effort in the interests of the occupants of war service homes and the general taxpayer to see that, as far as possible, all obligations under the act are carried out, and purchasers are treated with the greatest possible leniency.
– If I can bring under the notice of the Minister concerned authenticated cases of returned soldiers having been dispossessed of their war service homes because of their distressed circumstances, will he take steps to have them reinstated in those homes?
– If the honorable member will bring any such cases under my notice I will give them the same personal consideration that I give to every other case that is presented to me.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform me whether the validity of the amended provisions of the Crimes Act and the Immigration Act, as they relate to communistic activities in Australia, has yet been tested, and whether the various State governments are cooperating with the Commonwealth Government in dealing with this matter ?
– The honorable member and the public generally will see very soon that the fullest opportunity will be provided for certain persons to test the validity of the amended provisions of the Crimes Act and the Immigration Act. The opportunity will, I hope, be given this week unless the persons concerned seek an adjournment of the hearing of the matter.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral advise what action the Government has taken to implement the recent amendment to the Crimes Act which deals with the publication and distribution of certain literature, and unlawful associations ?
– Certain action has been taken, but I do not propose to announce it in the House, and so give the advantage of preliminary warning to persons against whom proceedings are contemplated.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to the action of the Customs Department in imposing sales tax on a consignment of nitrates imported by the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Limited, for use at their works at North Geelong. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the Sales Tax Assessment Act provides that fertilizers and raw materials for use in the manufacture of fertilizers are exempt from sales tax. To-day I received from the manager of the phosphate company the following telegram : -
Customs demanding immediate payment sales tax on nitrates; paying under protest; sales tax department declines produce regulation, refers company to Canberra.
Will the Treasurer inform me who authorized the collection of this tax, under what act or regulation the claim has been made, and whether the Customs Department has any authority to make the demand ? If the tax has been improperly collected, will the right honorable gentleman see that the amount paid - approximately £156 - is refunded immediately, and that instructions are issued which will prevent a recurrence of this experience?
– I shall have the whole subject investigated immediately.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has favorably considered the appointment of a permanent committee to deal with the disabilities of South Australia and certain other States of the’ Commonwealth under federation ?
– The Government has found it necessary this financial year to increase the assistance given to some of the States, but it is of the opinion that some settled principles should be decided upon as the basis for future payments for the relief of certain States. The suggestion of the honorable member is at present under consideration.
– In view of the blow that has been struck at confidence in industry in Queensland by the action of the Government in endeavouring to repudiate an agreement made between the Commonwealth and. Queensland Governments in regard to the sugar industry, will the Prime Minister defer any further action on the part of the Commonwealth Government in regard to. sugar until a thorough investigation has been made into the industry by an impartial tribunal similar to that which recommended the agreement which was made by the previous Commonwealth Government and the previous Queensland Government ?
– The Commonwealth Government has no intention of deferring action in this matter any longer. A conference will take place on Saturday at which the various parties interested in the sugar industry will be present to state their case.
– Will the Acting Minister for Customs inform me whether any date was fixed in the agreement made with the tobacco companies that they would take 7,200,000 lb. of tobacco leaf this year from the Australian growers?
– To the best of my belief, no specific date was mentioned in the agreement, but definite reference was made to the 1982 crop and the “marketing of it.
– Will the Prime Minister make available to honorable members his reply to the letter of the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board early this year and particularly that portion of it which reads as follows : -
The present position in regard to exchange becomes one of more than a mere banking question, and indeed impinges upon national policy . . . upon which it will be necessary to have the views of the Government.
– I shall consider the request of the honorable member. There is no desire on the part, of the Government to withhold anything that comes from the Commonwealth Bank Board that should be made public. Publicity has already been given to a good deal of the correspondence, part of which the honorable member has, himself, quoted.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to statements that have appeared repeatedly in the press to the effect that the Government contemplates further reducing oldage,’ invalid and soldier pensions? Will the right honorable gentleman make a pronouncement contradicting the rumour, so that the minds of those concerned may be relieved?
– The House will be given the fullest information on the subject when the budget is presented to-morrow.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a speech by Mr. Darling, chairman of directors of the Broken Hill Iron and Steel Works Limited, wherein that gentleman quoted comparative prices showing that
Australian fencing wire, barbed wire, and wire netting are cheaper in Australia than are similar British products, even if the latter could be imported duty free? If the right honorable gentleman is satisfied with the accuracy of those comparisons, will he make the necessary recommendations to have the duties and embargoes on such articles withdrawn, in order that the restraint of trade and fixation of prices now complained of may be frustrated ?
– I shall look into the matter.
– Is it possible for the Government to make available to South Australian unemployed who are in distressed circumstances additional supplies of surplus defence stocks, such as clothing, boots and blankets?
– As soon as partworn surplus military clothing becomes available it is delivered to the State government concerned for distribution to those who are unemployed.
– Before the House adjourned for the last recess, I received a promise from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) that he would take action regarding serious allegations of restraint of trade in connexion with the sale of wire nails and barbed wire. It was alleged that unless the manufacturer refrained from selling his goods in New South Wales and Queensland, and raised his prices by £6 a ton, reprisals would follow. I understood that the matter was to be referred immediately to the Tariff Board. Will the Acting Minister advise what action has been taken?
– I cannot say offhand what steps have been taken by the Minister. Similar complaints have been made in regard to other items. I shall make investigations, and let the honorable member know the result to-morrow.
– In view of the unenviable position of our wheat-growers, will the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Hawker) advise whether he has given consideration to the numerous schemes that he eloquently advocated when a private member to relieve those in the industry? If so, which particular scheme does he intend to give legislative sanction ?
– I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to Question No. 1 appearing on to-day’s noticepaper.
Free Listeners’ Licences
– Has the PostmasterGeneral arrived at a decision regarding the request that free broadcast listeners’ licences should be issued to blind persons and invalid pensioners?
– Quite a number of requests have been advanced on behalf of other afflicted persons in the community besides those mentioned by the honorable member. I shall go thoroughly into the matter, but’ I am afraid that, in view of the financial circumstances of the Government, the desired concessions cannot be made. The Broadcasting Commission has been approached, and is opposed to the suggestion, but the matter is one of government policy, and will be decided by the Government.
– Will the Prime Minister advise the reasons which caused the Government to alter the conditions govern ing the distribution of moneys for unemployment relief, changing the advance from a grant to a loan at a certain rate of interest?
– The advance was not changed from a grant to a loan. It was decided, on the suggestion of the Commonwealth Bank, that local governing bodies should be permitted “ to borrow moneys direct front the Commonwealth Government Savings Bank, the State and Commonwealth Governments sharing equally any subsidy of interest on such loans. The alteration was sanctioned by act of Parliament, and the circumstances were explained to the House at the time.
– Is it the policy of the Government to evacuate unemployed from military camps ? Recently that was done at West Maitland, under instructions from the Defence Department, in order that a- body of men might be encamped in that locality for military training purposes ?
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Defence, and convey his reply to the honorable member as early as is practicable.
– Will the Prime Minister advise when the term of Sir Granville Ryrie, as High Commissioner, expires; when the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) will take over his and other duties in London ; and what will be the precise nature of those duties?
– The term of office of Sir Granville Ryrie, as High Commissioner, has expired, but that gentleman has a certain amount of leave due, which he will take out on his journey to Australia. The right honorable the Minister without portfolio (Mr. Bruce) is now about to proceed to London, and on arrival there will take over the duties formerly performed by the High Commissioner. The precise nature of the duties that he will perform will be fully explained to honorable members when the bill of which I gave notice to-day is introduced.
– In view of the many criticisms of the vote for civil aviation being expended on air mail subsidies, and the press reports that there is a possibility of the air force being placed under army administration, will the Government consider the appointment of a royal commission to investigate the whole matter of civil and service aviation in Australia?
– The Government has no intention of appointing a royal commission to investigate this question at present, since the whole matter is now under consideration by a departmental committee representative of the various departments concerned. When that committee’s report has been received the Government will consider what steps should be taken.
– When does the Prime Minister intend to table the report of the royal commission which he said would be appointed to inquire into the activities of the New Guard?
– I. pointed out a long time ago in this House that the activities of the New Guard in New South Wales could well be left to the control of the Government of that State.
– Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister gave this House a definite assurance that the Government would appoint a royal commission to inquire into the activities of the New Guard? Is it not also a fact that the only notification that the Government had abandoned the idea of appointing that royal commission appeared in the columns of the morning press? Will the honorable gentleman say whether the statement which appeared in the press recently was an official pronouncement of the Government’s attitude towards this matter?
– No undertaking was given that the Government would appoint a royal commission to inquire into the activities of the New Guard, but a promise was given that the matters which were raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.. Beasley) would be investigated. That would have meant the inclusion of the New Guard’s association with those matters.
– The right honorable gentleman’s promise went beyond that.
– At a later stage it was pointed out that the Commonwealth Government could not do more than inquire into the association of its own officers in the Defence Department with the matters complained of. An inquiry was undertaken, and at a later hour I propose to lay the report on the table of the House.
– Will the Prime Minister have inquiries made to ascertain whether the ex-Premier of New South Wales made any attempt to honour his promise to appoint Mr. Laidlaw as a royal commissioner to inquire into the assault on Mr. Jock Garden by members of the New Guard?
– I certainly shall make inquiries in the matter if Mr. Lang can be found.
– In view of the promise of the Prime Minister that he would set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the charges made in this House by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), as well as the statement of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), that the police force of New South Wales had entered into a conspiracy to assault Mr. Jock Garden, and in view of the fact–
– I remind the honorable member that questions are intended to elicit information, and should refer only to matters of public policy under the control of Ministers to the proceedings in Parliament, or to matters of administration. The question of the honorable member cannot be allowed.
– Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to clear the police force of New South Wales of the charge of having entered into a conspiracy ?
– The question is not one affecting Commonwealth administration, and cannot, therefore, be allowed.
– Does the report on the matters referred to by the honorable member for West Sydney contain the evidence of Detective-Sergeants Alford and Watkins, given at the Police Court, when certain members of the New Guard were sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for having assaulted Mr. Jock Garden ? * »
– I have here the report of the investigation into the alleged association of Defence Force officers with the New Guard. The Commonwealth Government has nothing to dowith the police court case, which was conducted by the Government of New South Wales.
– Can the Minister say whether the investigation by the Statistician’s Department as to the method of computing the cost of living figures has been finalized, and whether in future these calculations which so vitally affect the lives of a great number of the people of this country will be placed on a new basis?
– This matter has been given some consideration by the Government, but no decision has yet been arrived at.
– When does the Govern ment expect to arrive at a decision?
– I cannot say.
– Has the Prime Minister yet had time to inquire into the allegations of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in regard to the charge of favoritism in the allocation of moneys and the engagement of labour by the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) ? If not, does he not consider that an inquiry should be instituted forthwith in view of the fact that the motion which he supported was responsible for the defeat of the Scullin Government?
– The honorable member is aware that it was not because of the case made out by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that I, or any other honorable member now on this side of the House, supported the motion referred to. The then. Leader of the Government (Mr. Scullin) accepted the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney as one of want of confidence. When I spoke to that motion, I said that since we did not believe in the Government then in office, and could not support it, we would take the first opportunity of defeating it by supporting the motion.
– Did not the right honorable gentleman say that there would be an inquiry?
– I said that we would remove the Government, and honorable members in the “ corner “ helped us to remove the late Government from office. This Government sees no reason why both time and money should now be wasted on an investigation in view of the time which has elapsed since the allegations were made.
– Will the Prime Minister give effect to my suggestion that an inquiry be made to ascertain the nature of the arrangement entered into between the United Australia party and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) for an exchange of preferences?
– Evidently the honorable member has asked this question for the purposes of propaganda. The supporters of the United Australia party gave their preferences to the honorable member for Cook because they had sufficient intelligence to see that he was better than the other candidate.
– Will the Prime Minister consider bringing before the next Premiers Conference the desirability of having uniform State laws in connexion with mining for oil in Australia and the control of oil, if found?
– I shall give the matter consideration.
– Will the Prime Minister bring before the next Premiers Conference the question of conducting an industrial survey with a view to ascertaining the position in industry where modern methods of manufacture have so revolutionized industry as to displace men from their employment, and whether the position could best be met by lessening the hours of labour?
– Before I can give the honorable member any assurance that this matter will be brought before the next
Premiers Conference it will have to be considered by the Government. I promise, however, that the Government will consider it.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to state whether the thousands of telephones which, he has stated, the department has on hand are suitable for use as public telephones? If they could be used in that way, will he explain why applicants for public telephones have been informed by the department that -
A visit to the locality discloses that the area is thickly populated, and it is considered that if a public telephone were established it would undoubtedly earn the required revenue, but, owing to the prevailing financial stringency, it is regretted that funds are not available for the establishment of new public telephones ?
– I am hopeful that the budget will disclose that funds will be made available for the carrying out of works which at present cannot be put in band.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth and State Ministers - Conferences -
Melbourne, April, 1932 - Record of Proceedings.
Canberra,June-July, 1932, and Sydney, July, 1932 - Proceedings and decisions.
New Guard - Report, dated 7th June, 1932, by the Chief of the General Staff in regard to alleged relations between the Defence Department and the “ New Guard.”
International Labour Organization of the League of Nations -
Sixteenth Session, held at Geneva, April,1932 - Draft Conventions and Recommendations.
Fifteenth Session - Statement by the International Labour Office in reply to criticisms contained in reports of the Australian Employers’ Delegate and the Workers’ Delegate.
War Service Homes - Report by Committee appointed to inquire into the effect of industrial depression upon purchasers and borrowers under the War Service Homes Act, and to submit recommendations as to the steps necessary to enable them to remain in occupation of their homes.
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No.63.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 6 of1932 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia and the Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
No. 7 of 1932 - Australian Workers’ Union and Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 8 of 1932 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department and the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 13 of 1932- Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
No. 15 of 1932 - Common Rule re Sick Leave.
Audit Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 45.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, Nos. 55, 68.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, Nos. 57,66.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 50.
Cotton Industries Bounty Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 58.
Return for 1931-32.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, Nos. 48.67 , 77.
Dairy Produce Export Charges Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 84.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 82.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, Nos. 46, 47, 59, 80, 87.
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 51.
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted to 30th June, 1932.
Flax and Linseed Bounties Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 61.
Return for 1931-32.
Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1932, No. 71.
Insurance Acts - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 73.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court - Dated 17th August, 1932.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Moore Park, Sydney, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, Nos. 54, 62,65, 74, 78.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 70.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 7 - Immigration.
No. 8 - Laws Repeal and Adopting.
No. 9 - Public Health (No. 2).
No. 10- Mining (No. 2).
No. 11- Supply (No. 1) 1932-33.
No. 12 - Superannuation (No. 2).
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 11 - Real Property.
No. 12 - Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement).
No. 13 - Encouragement of Mining.
No. 14 - Mining.
No. 15 - Matrimonial Causes.
Stock Diseases Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Report for 1931-32.
Patents Act: - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 69.
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department of -
Interior - Bruce, A. D. E.
Treasury - Collins, H. G.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, Nos. 53,64, 72
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, Nos. 52, 75, 85.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 9) - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 79.
Science and Industry Endowment Act - Report by the Auditor-General on the Science and Industry Endowment Fund as at 30th June, 1932.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 15 - Liquor (No. 2).
No. 16 - Deserted Wives and Children.
No. 17 - Dentists Registration (No. 2).
No. 18- Police.
Companies Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance (No. 2)- Rules.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Federal Capital Territory for the year 1931-32.
Spirits Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No.60.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for 1931-32.
War Service Homes Act -
Amendment of an arrangement between the War Service Homes Commissioner and the Government of the State of Tasmania.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932. Nos. 56, 76.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for 1931-32.
Bounty: Sales Tax on Flour.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
Careful consideration is being given to the position of farmers, but at the present time it is too early in the season to form any reliable estimate of the probable yield of the harvest, nor of the price which will be obtainable for it, and, therefore, no decision can be made at this juncture.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
What is the percentage of choicest butter shipped from each State during each of the last two years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the total amount of accumulated leave due to officers of the Commonwealth Public Service as “time off” in lieu of award (a) for the whole of Australia, and (b) for each of the States?
– I am advised by the Public Service Board that it is in a position to make figures available in respect of the Postmaster-General’s Department only, and that they are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the weekly cost of maintaining a. gaol prisoner for the financial year 1931-32 was 24s. 6d., will the Government endeavour to increase the “ dole “ allowance and the unemployment relief work to at least an amount equal to that paid to keep a man in prison?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member is one primarily for the consideration of the State Governments. A suggestion contained in a question asked by the honorable member on the 9th October, 1931, that an increase be granted in sustenance allowances, was brought to the notice of the Premiers of the States on the 12th October last.
.- by leave- On the 24th May last, the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) stated that the Government would appoint a committee of members of this House to examine the provisions of the Bankruptcy Bill which had then been recently introduced. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) have been invited to nominate members to sit on the committee, and invitations have also been extended by the Government to other members who are specially interested in the subject. The committee will consist of the following: - The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker), and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). It is proposed that the committee, which will be an entirely informal body, shall meet in Canberra at times convenient to itself, and it will appoint its own chairman. No provision has been made for any expenditure in connexion with its sittings. I propose, as Attorney-General, to make available to the committee information in possession of the department, and in particular to arrange for the InspectorGeneral in Bankruptcy to attend meetings and furnish information; also for an officer of my department, who was associated with the drafting of the bill, to be available for the assistance of the committee.
thirteenth assembly : australian Delegation.
– by leave - I desire to announce that the members of the Australian Delegation to the Thirteenth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the League of Nations, which is to open at Geneva on the 26th September next, will be - Representatives : - The Right Honorable S. M. Bruce, P.C., C.H., M.C., M.P.; the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, P.C., K.C., M.P.; and Sir Donald Cameron, K.C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D. Substitute representatives : - James R. Collins, Esq., C.M.G., C.B.E. ; Frederick Alexander, Esq., M.A. ; Mrs. Ethel Osborne, M.Sc, M.B., B.S., D.P.H.
Order of the day for the second reading of the bill (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) discharged from the notice-paper.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 19th May, 1922 (vide page 1079, volume 134) on motion by Mr. Gullett -
That the schedule to the customs tariff be amended -
– Information as to the quantity of buttons imported is not available, because it is not recorded separately; but the Tariff Board in its report has recommended that the duties imposed by the last Government be considerably reduced. The proposed duties, however, are higher than those imposed in the 1921-28 tariff. The duties imposed by the Scullin Government were, per gross, British½d., intermediate¾d., and general1d., or 15 per cent., 20 per cent., and 25 per cent. ad valorem on buttons up to 20-line per gross, while on those exceeding 20-line per gross the duties per gross remained the same, but the ad valorem duties were 30 per cent., 40 per cent., and 50 per cent. The 1921-28 tariff was, ad valorem, British free, intermediate 5 per cent., and general 15 per cent. In regard to this item the Tariff Board made a very strong recommendation, much stronger, as a matter of fact, than it usually does. However, several honorable members approached me personally while the House was in recess, and representations were also made to other Ministers and to heads of departments, urging that the duly be not reduced. There was made out what, appeared to me to be a very fair case for reconsidering the board’s recommendation. I found, also, that Mr. Gullett had promised that this item should be referred back to the board. Consequently, I added a minute to the papers, and sent them back to the board, together with the information which had been supplied to me, and asked the board whether, if that information had been before it when it made its recommendation, it would have altered or modified its decisions. No written reply has yet been received from the board, although we know that it has considered the information, and visited the works where these buttons are made. A telephone communication has been received to the effect that the board has considered the matter, and sees no reason to alter the decision already given.
– Did the board hold a fresh inquiry in public ?
– No, it merely considered the minute I forwarded. I was induced to refer the matter back to the board by the fact that there has been a considerable increase in the employment afforded by the industry. When the board made its report in November, the number employed was 27, while at the present time 67 persons are employed. The report of the board was that, if we had the whole of this trade, the number employed would be 200. The Tariff Board, after exhaustively investigating the industry, recommended that the rates imposed by the Customs Tariff 1921-30 be not varied; but the Government has not accepted that recommendation. For revenue purposes it has proposed an ad valorem duty of British, 15 per cent., intermediate, 20 per cent., and general, 25 per cent.
– The Acting Minister does not claim that those rates are protective.
– No ; they are merely revenue-producing. According to the board’s latest report it is very doubtful whether the high rates imposed by our predecessors would have been protective in their incidence, because even under the revised duties the Australian manufacturer would have been able to compete only in respect of one line. For instance, the board quotes a type of button called Sazae, 18-line, the landed price of which, after paying a duty of £d. per gross, plus 25 per cent, ad valorem, was 12s. 4½d., whereas the comparable local button cost 21s. Again, in a type of button called Dobu, also 18-line, the imported landed price, duty paid, was 18s. 4£d. per gross, whereas the price of a comparable local button was 21s. The rates imposed by the previous Government were, therefore, not effective from the point of protecting the local industry, although they ranged from 179 per cent, to 607 per cent, on 18-line cards.
– Does the Minister suggest that a duty of 100 per cent, is not sufficiently high?
– I am simply- putting the facts before the committee. It is for honorable members to say whether a duty of 100 per cent, is- sufficiently high. The Government, however, says that it is too high from a protection point of view, and regards the duty on pearl buttons merely from a revenue-producing point of view. The facts relating to this industry were well set out in the previous report of the Tariff Board, but in response to appeals from various honorable members, the Government has gone to more than ordinary trouble to ask the board to look into these duties again. The board has now made its further report, and I do not think that I can add anything in support of the proposal which the Government has put forward for the approval of the committee.
.- We are indebted to the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) for the fair manner in which he has presented the ease to the committee. He has not taken up a hostile attitude towards an industry which, in my opinion, will become very important in Australia if given adequate protection. We are often reminded that we should not deal with the tariff in a party political spirit. I am sorry, however, that when the duties on pearl shell buttons were referred to the Tariff Board for further consideration, witnesses were not examined in public, and no opportunity afforded to cross-examine the opponents of the rates imposed by the previous Government, which the figures quoted by the Acting Minister show were not prohibitive; in fact, were only reasonable. I am well aware that there is a disinclination on the part of certain honorable gentlemen to depart from the recommendations of the Tariff Board. But some months ago the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) gave ample justification for such a departure in the case of galvanized iron, and this committee, after hearing the case for higher duties on almonds, in order to protect a South Australian industry, carried a resolution, the effect of which was to instruct the Government to restore the former duties or submit some compromise rates. The Minister, accordingly, brought down a schedule giving reasonable protection to the almond industry. Thus we have had instances of a departure by the Government from the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and I think that we are now dealing with a case for such a departure. The principle laid down by former Ministers, Mr. Massy Greene and Mr. Pratten, was that the Tariff Board should be looked upon as an advisory body, and not as one whose recommendations should willy-nilly be adopted. Surely the responsibilities of the representatives of the people should not be delegated to a body which is the creature of the Executive. The Tariff Board may collect evidence, investigate applications for increases of duty, and make recommendations as a guide to the Government, but should not be blindly followed.
I spent some time investigating the pearl shell buttons industry, and on the 3rd June, 1931, I introduced the following amendment to the tariff schedule: -
Item 106(f) (4) Trochus, Pearl, imitation pearl or other animal shell -
Up to 20 line per line per gross, ½d. British,¾d. intermediate,1d. general, and ad valorem, 15 per cent. British, 20 per cent. intermediate, 25 per cent. general;
Exceeding 20 line per line per gross, ½d. British,¾d. intermediate,1d. general, and ad valorem, 30 per cent. British, 40 per cent. intermediate, 50 per cent. general.
As a result of the protection then afforded, there was an immediate increase in the number of employees engaged in Sydney in the manufacture of pearl shell buttons. In three or four months, the total number of employees grew to 65, and if the duties then imposed had been allowed to continue there would have been a tremendous development in the manufacture of buttons in Australia from raw material obtained from Australian waters, and approximately 300 persons would have been engaged in the industry. Unfortunately, in February of this year, the Minister for Trade and Customs wiped out the fixed rates of duty, and imposed ad valorem rates of 15 per cent., 20 per cent., and 25 per cent. The step then taken jeopardized the existence of the industry, because the Japanese exchange depreciated by over 25 per cent., fully counterbalancing the ad valorem duties. This is not an industry with very limited capital behind it. As a matter of fact, it has behind it a huge organization to distribute its output; it has the services of one of the biggest and best known firms of Australia, which owns a fleet of steamers operating in different parts of Australia to get pearl shell for whichthe manufacture of these buttons provides a market. It is a company which is 100 per cent. Australian. All the capital has been subscribed in this country, and its employees are practically all Australian. It was using 2 tons of pearl shell each month in the manufacture of buttons, before the duties were reduced. “When that step was taken, at least 25 employees had to be put off or rationed because of the competition from buttons made abroad. In addition to the Queensland pearl shell, the Sydney factory is now using quantities of pearl shell from Shark Bay, also Queensland trochus shell. Already machinery worth £5,000 has been installed, and within a couple of months the first’ complete unit worth £25,000 will be at work if the company is encouraged. The buttons manufactured in Sydney have been classified as equal to the best in the world. The company has realized the need to supply, not only the better class trade, but also the demand forbuttons from trochus shell which can be marketed at a price which is 25 per cent, lower than that charged for pearl sholl buttons. It also proposes to make buttons from bones, composition, ivory, casein, and other suitable substances. Casein, as honorable members are aware, is a by-product of the great dairying industry. Honorable members should keep in mind the spectre of unemployment, and realize that this young industry could afford employment, to many of our people who are walking the streets to-day out of work. It is, at any rate, capable of employing close on 300 persons if given adequate protection. I understand that the company has intimated to the Acting Minister that it is prepared to allow pearl shell buttons to be imported free from Great Britain, and that it asks only for protection against colored labour countries, which employ child labour in the manufacture of buttons. Surely it is a reasonable request to be protected against cheap labour countries by a duty of free, British; up to line 40, -£d. per line per gross and 25 per cent, ad valorem, intermediate and general tariff. That would be half the protection deemed necessary when the factory was being . established. Buttons are turned out in Japan by child labour, and in backyard factories. In September, 1931, when the Tariff Board made its inquiry, the industry was in its struggling stages, and had not had sufficient time to be properly organized. The facts upon which the hoard based its conclusions had considerably altered before its report was made available.
Prices have been reduced by the company by amounts which represent reductions of from 25 per cent, to 50 per cent, on the prices which they were charging when the industry was first established, and by the installation of more modern machinery, further reductions can be made. The company submits that its employees, as the result of training, are becoming adept at their work, and with further experience it can produce a satisfactory article at prices considerably below those indicated when its case was under consideration by the Tariff Board. The company would welcome a further investigation by the board in public, so that it might have the witnesses examined on oath. Hole-and-corner inquiries are not satisfactory to the company, to the Government, or to the public. The increase in cost to the manufacturer of clothing in which Australian-made buttons are used is infinitesimal, amounting to not more than one half-penny on each garment. I regret that the Government has seen fit to alter the duties imposed, after careful investigation, by the previous Ministry; and if it cannot agree to their re-imposition, I hope that it will be prepared to compromise in the matter. I could submit an amendment, but I am willing to leave that to some other honorable member who may feel disposed to do so.
.- Those who have listened carefully to the remarks of the Minister concerning these duties must have been impressed by the case ‘presented by the company engaged in the manufacture of these goods. The Minister told us that the matter had been referred back to the Tariff Board, and that a verbal report had been presented favorable to the reduction of the duties. Circumstances have changed since the board made its inquiries some time ago, and I sincerely hope that this committee is not prepared to allow the board to determine tariff policy. If the Government adopts the board’s recommendations as a matter of course, I trust that its action will not be approved by members generally. I was impressed by the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). The Tariff Board is merely an advisory body, and this Parliament has the right to accept or reject its proposals. Judging by the tone of the Minister’s speech to-night, I should, say that he is not at all satisfied that the board has made a. full inquiry into the matter under consideration. “We have no written report from the board as to the reasons which actuated it in agreeing to the alteration in the button duties.
I do not intend to recapitulate the arguments advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in favour of the duties desired by the company engaged in this Australian industry, but it may be well to point out how different is the position of this industry from that of many others in this country. Its raw material is obtained in Australia, mainly from Thursday Island, Shark Bay, and
Darwin. At the present time the industry is experiencing difficult times. The sale of shell to the United States of America, for instance, has practically ceased, the only market for it being in Australia. British supplies of shell are obtained principally from countries other than Australia. As in most new industries, the operatives employed in this Australian button factory have had to be specially trained. “We cannot expect 100 per cent, efficiency at the outset. Although machinery is employed, a great deal of hand work is involved. The buttons have to be cut out of the shell by the operatives. It is not possible by machinery to grade the shell after the buttons have been made, nor can any machine be installed to split the grain in the shell. As the operatives become more efficient their output will considerably increase, and it naturally follows that a material decrease in the price of the article would be made possible. One of Australia’s large companies is behind this industry, and it has ready means of distributing its product.
The Scullin tariff was id. per line per gross, and 15 per cent, ad valorem in the British preferential column, while the general tariff was Id. per line per gross, and 25 per cent. The Government has cut out the flat rates of £d., f d., and Id., and has substituted the following ad valorem rates: - British preferential, 15 per cent. ; intermediate, 20 per cent. ; and general, 25 per cent. The proposal submitted by the company to the Government, and recently referred to the Tariff Board, was to allow the British article in free. We are hoping for great results from the Ottawa Conference, and the action by the company was a fine gesture. I point out that, under the previous tariff, the general rate was Id. per line per gross up to 20-line, and 25 per cent, ad valorem, while over 20-line the rate was Id. and 50 per cent, ad valorem. No such tariff as that was asked for by the company. The efficiency of its operatives having greatly increased, it does not consider the duty given by the previous Government to be now necessary. The object of the flat rates was to discourage the importation of a very inferior grade of shell, not at all comparable with the Australian shell used by this company. Under the tariff suggested by the company, however, low-grade shell would not be excluded. The local company has financial stability, and, seeing that it is using Australian material, that it is now in difficulties owing to the closing of the American market to Australian shell, and that it is willing to observe the spirit of the resolutions of the Ottawa Conference by agreeing to the free admission of the British product, we should show it all possible consideration. The arguments of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Perkins) were unconvincing, because he was no doubt impressed by the strong case submitted by the company. I understand that an honorable member proposes to submit an amendment to make the duties, British, free: intermediate, 20 per cent.; and general, 25. per cent., and -iki. per line per gross, which I intend to support.
– Various phases of this subject have been discussed by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Perkins) and other honorable members, but I particularly wish to direct the attention of the committee to the fact that members of the Country party are consistently advocating increased duties on the products of industries that are of no economic value to Australia. Although some previous speakers have said that trochus shell is not’ extensively fished in Australian waters, I remind them that approximately £64,800 worth is fished in Australian waters and shipped to Japan every year. Reprisals may be adopted by the Japanese authorities towards our primary producers, and any detrimental action which we may take in this connection may have an important bearing on the successful marketing of a portion of the Australian wool clip. There is no reason why we should give further protection to industries that are of no economic value to Australia. It is only reasonable to expect the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to defend his own child ; that is all one could expect a good father to do. The Assistant Minister for Customs admitted that the rates now imposed are not prohibitive, but had been provided merely for revenue purposes. I direct the attention of the committee to certain unanswerable facts. The sazae or cheaper quality button is used largely in the manufacture of working men’s shirts, and I am surprised to find that the representatives of the workers in this chamber are willing to assist in increasing the cost of these garments to the people whom they claim to represent; that is what would be entailed by increasing the duty by i-d. per line per gross. Under the rates brought down by the Scullin Government, the prices of what are known as coat shirts were increased from 3d. to 3$d. per garment, and an. ordinary pyjama coat by 4£d. Frequent reference has been made to a proposed reduction of -§d. per lb. in the price of sugar, and to the fact that the consumers are penalized to the extent of £1,000,000 annually, but under the old duties on these buttons the consumers were also being penalized to the extent of £100,000 per annum. The price of the sazae or cheaper grade of button in Japan is approximately lid. per gross, and the old duty was Id. per line per gross on 40-line buttons which, roughly, represents buttons of 1 inch in diameter, and also on. the 20-line button of inch in diameter, The Scullin Government imposed a prohibitive duty on 18-line buttons when the price in Japan was lid. per gross. When one takes into consideration an ad valorem duty of 25 per .cent., a primage duty, and the exchange rate existing then between Japan and Australia, the protection afforded was equivalent to 1,100 per cent. There is a’ difference between the buttons manufactured in Sydney and those imported from Japan. The latter are manufactured from the. trochus shell, obtained in Australian waters, and buttons from the former are manufactured from mother-of-pearl shell and are stamped out by mechanical process. The pearl buttons are cut out in suitable blanks by manual labour, or with the assistance of a small lathe operated by one man. Each blank is cut from shell fished in Australian waters. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. E. Green) referred to the necessity to extend preferential treatment to British manufacturers, by allowing importations to come into Australia free of duty, but the buttons manufactured from the trochus shell are imported from Japan, and are not manufactured in England, and consequently a preference such as he suggests would be of no benefit to British manufacturers. Moreover, apart from the prohibitive duties imposed by the Scullin Government, the Australian company endeavoured to obtain an added advantage. The size of the buttons is represented by the line, a 40-line button being approximately 1 inch in diameter, as measured by the British standard; but the Sydney firm was producing what purported to he 20-line buttons, but which, according to the British standard, were of only 19-iine. There was a similar difference in the other sizes. It is also important to compare the selling value of the imported article with the local production at the time the duty was imposed by the Scullin Government. At that time the selling value of the imported line based on 100 boxes of sazae buttons annually was approximately £20, as against £210 for the local production, making an additional cost of £190 to the’ buyer. Again the imported value of the trochus shell per annum is £128 per 100 boxes as against the selling value of the local product of £210. The Sydney firm has been manufacturing only one- grade of pearl buttons; but, quite recently, it has produced what is known as the Shark Bay button, which is yellow in colour and of a low grade. Australia has been using the trochus shell buttons for over twenty years, and has found them quite satisfactory. The difficulties which some honorable members suggest do not exist, and, until this firm started the production of buttons, there has been no trouble whatever. Those advocating unnecessarily high duties should realize that even if we take a very conservative figure of 350 per cent., as has been suggested, for every £1,000 worth of buttons imported into Australia, the increase in costs will be £3,500, which will be passed on to the consumer. The value of buttons imported each year is not great, and does not exceed £35,000. If an average manufacturer purchases approximately 500 boxes of pearl buttons per annum, purchasing 100 boxes of each of the five qualities per annum, he. would have to pay £766 for using the local product.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the manufacturer using imported buttons gives the purchasers of the garments he manufactures the benefit ?
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) knows anything about the subject he should realize that the cost of a garment is governed by the price of the raw materials and the cost of the labour used in its manufacture. The exportation of trochus shell is of great value to Australia, and particularly to Queensland. This product, to the value of £64,800 annually, is exported to Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and other foreign countries. In view of the necessity to encourage reciprocal trade, I trust that the committee will agree to the duties recommended by the Tariff Board.
.- Having had at least two years’ experience of the production of pearl and trochus shell, I am strongly in favour of the protection of the button-making industry. Through the Scullin Government’s policy of fixing quotas and making regulations to regulate the fishing for pearl shell, and its shipment to the various markets, particularly New York, the industry is worth to the Commonwealth approximately £300,000 a year. The shell fishing industry and the button industry are as inter-dependent as wheat-growing and flour-milling. The Australian pearl shell is the best in the world, but the industry has to face economic facts; the finance which was readily available a few years ago for the purchase of the whole output is now difficult to obtain. A large amount of capital is invested in the fishing industry, and it gives considerable employment to whites, apart from the coloured crews and divers. The manufacturing end of the industry is equally important. A valuable secondary industry for the utilization of the shell won in Australian waters can be developed. Every member of this House is wearing at least 25 to 30 buttons on his apparel. In the past Australia was dependent on other countries for supplies of buttons, but people have been encouraged to invest money in the installation of machinery and the organization of an industry that will utilize a valuable primary product. The industry, which has been nurtured by the protective policy of the Scullin Government, is worth while. I may be accused of being a rabid protectionist and ready to vote high duties for every industry. I admit the soft impeachment. I have never been able to understand the mania for buying in the cheapest market. Surely the depression has taught us that cheapness is of no value to a community. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. j. Harrison) is a half-boiled protectionist, and to-night he has made a freetrade speech in respect of a commodity used in the manufacturing industry in which he is interested. In respect of buttons he is a freetrader and complains of the unreasonable protection given to the button industry; yet he demands twice as much protection for the shirts on which those buttons are used.
– That is a key industry.
– The honorable member has the short-sighted and selfish outlook of many manufacturers, who, for their finished products, demand 100 per cent, protection, yet in respect of the materials used in their industry advocate freetrade. The honorable member for Wentworth enjoys duties of from 60 to 75 per cent, on the shirts and pyjamas he manufactures, and, but for this protection, his industry would have disappeared. He has asked the committee to have regard to the economic aspect of these duties. The protection on shirts and pyjamas is quite uneconomic. Men with a loincloth, living on a bowl of rice and some shreds of dried fish, can produce shirts equally as efficiently as the honorable member for Wentworth ; yet he is a rabid protectionist in respect of those garments, while clamouring for economic duties on buttons. He would complain to the heavens if the Government were to allow coolie-labour countries to flood the Australian market with cheap shirts and pyjamas. The honorable member has referred to the consumers. He has been able to earn a living only because consumers have sufficient purchasing power to provide a market for his shirts. If there were no employment for the workers they would not be able to purchase the products of his factory. Those products are bought to a large extent by persons engaged In those protected industries which the honorable member says are uneconomic. He stated that the protection given to the local button industry increases the price of a coat-shirt by 3-Jd. Such a garment has not more than four buttons-
– Sometimes seven, and sometimes eight.
– Even allowing for eight buttons the figure of 3-^d- is a gross misrepresentation. In regard to the honorable member’s plea for reciprocal trading with other nations, I remind him of the following statistics regarding Australia’s trade with Japan : -
It is impossible to ignore the fact that in three years our favorable trade balance with Japan dropped from £8,288,668 to £2,373,360.
Let us now consider our main export commodity - wool. In 1928, Japan bought from Australia 1,095,792 centals, for £10,316,846; whereas the 1930 purchase was only 835,000 centals, for £4,434,746. In short, the price in that particular case, so far as Australia was concerned, was short to the extent of 44 per cent. The position so far as Japan is concerned has never been better, but Australia’s favorable trade balance with that country has gradually been diminishing.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) puts up a case for pearl buttons, but would not dare to do so in connexion with shirts and pyjamas. He claims that we should have reciprocity with Japan; and doubtless with other countries also. I suggest that the honorable member might, at least, be consistent. Although I would not agree with the result of such consistency, if he is prepared to sacrifice the pearl button industry in Australia he ought to be prepared for action to be taken against. the manufactured article, upon which he has depended for so many years.
.- When high protectionists fall out, we are able to realize the extent to which manufacturers are able to exploit the public. I consider that this proposal of the Government affords a very fair and reasonable protection to the Australian manufacturer. Nominally, it amounts’ to 25 per cent.; but when we take into consideration the 10 per cent, that has to be added before the duty is imposed, as well as the duty on the containers, cost, freight, insurance, and primage, we find that actually the nominal 25 per cent, is increased to at least 40 per cent. Australian manufacturers and their employees should begin to realize that they must market their goods with a fair measure of protection. Honorable members opposite claim that one white man can do the work of two coloured men, and that our workmen are the ablest in the world. If that be the case, surely this industry should be able to carry on with a protection of 40 per cent. ! Manufacturers in other countries operate on a much lower protection than that. An industry cannot be built up to a healthy position unless those who are engaged in it realize that they must do their job. The Country party has threatened the Government with reprisals, because it will not reduce the duties. The members of that party are always ready to advocate high protection when a proposal for a reduction is brought forward. One member of it said that the employees in the pearl button-making industry had to be trained, and that, consequently, they should receive some assistance for a certain period. Why should the people of Australia be asked to pay for the training of employees? If any person engaged in this industry is not an expert in the process of button-making, he is not entitled to an expert’s wages. Australians should learn that they must be capable of earning before they can expect to receive, the wage of an expert. The Japanese position is worthy of consideration. Japan has become our second best customer. But for her purchases, particularly of wool during last’ year, Australia would be in a much worse position. Our expectation of an expansion of trade lies more in the direction of Japan than in that of any other country. Our trade with Japan represents millions of pounds, whereas only thousands of pounds are involved in connexion with this little industry. Is it not clear that, if we are to develop our trade with these people, we must be prepared to give them something in return? Small industries such as this ought gladly to afford Japan or any other big customer of Australia an opportunity of competing in _ the market for their product, so that Australia might derive a much greater advantage from the operations of her bigger industries. I consider that this is a fair margin of protection, and therefore support the proposal of the Government.
.- I am sorry that in this case the Government has not adopted the recommendation of the Tariff Board, especially in view of its protestations of intention to pursue that policy. The board has given the soundest reasons against the giving of a greater protection than that recommended. On page 6 of its report will be found the following summary of evidence given by W. Swinton, shirt and pyjama manufacturer, of 111 Campbellstreet, Sydney: -
Witness’s firm has ‘ an extremely large output, manufacturing approximately 10,200 garments weekly in the shirt and pyjama section, requiring the employment of 200 operatives, with a total weekly wage of £450.
The total cost of imported buttons used by the firm in 12 months is £967. Working on the basis of the price list of the Pearl Button Manufacturing Company Limited, of the 10th June, 1931, the cost of the same quantity of buttons of local manufacture would be £5,546. The use of locally-produced buttons would, therefore, impose on the firm an additional burden of £4,579.
That is the sort of thing which has been placing Australia in an insular positionIt is one of the things that the Big Four advised against. The five economists who voluntarily investigated the economic position for the Bruce-Page Government informed that Government that the protection of industries like this laid a 9 per cent, handicap upon the export industries of Australia. It may, therefore, be deduced >that the tariff as subsequently increased has had the effect of placing a 12 per cent, handicap on those industries. It is admitted by all parties in this chamber that the develop ment of our primary resources is- paramount. In a case such as this we could well .afford to consider .other countries, even Japan. According to the latest figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, a comparison of the position as it affects Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Japan discloses the fact that “the lastnamed is our second best customer. In the year to which the figures relate, she bought from us goods to the value of £12,571,000, while we bought from her goods to the value of only £4,282,000, a balance in our favour of £8,289,000. Would it not be good business to make Japan feel that we are friendly disposed towards her, and ready to enter into some reciprocal arrangement with her? I assure honorable members that had it not been for Japan’s purchases of our wheat last year, we should have greater stocks of wheat on our hands to-day. The stimulus given to our wool and wheat markets by the operations of Japanese buyers has been of immense value to this country. It was -suggested recently that because of the one-eyed character of Australia’s legislators, Japan had threatened to purchase from another country as much as possible of her wool requirements. It is not to be wondered at’ that there is talk of .reprisals, when these are such frequent references in this country ito the /employment of black labour. Their money has not’ been regarded as black ; it ‘has helped to maintain this White Australia.. Why should we, who profess to be a ‘nation, refuse to reciprocate with these countries? Japan is much further advanced than Australia .in the making of buttons. Let us, therefore, enable her to market her products in this country, and thus save the expense of uneconomically bolstering up the local industry. It would be in our interests to let Japan see that we regard this merely as a revenue item. In that way the Government would realize a greater amount of revenue. Action along these lines would, in the case of Great Britain, be an additional gesture to that which was made at Ottawa. Had our representatives at that conference not been fiscally hamstrung, greater advantages could have been obtained, to the mutual benefit of both Great Britain and Australia.
Burns, Philp and Company : Steamer Service - Employment of Naval ratings.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring forward two small matters to which I should like the Ministers concerned to give some attention. The first deals with the Burns, Philp and Company’s steamer service between Auckland, Norfolk Island and the New Hebrides. I have been informed by one of my constituents that in June, 1931, arrangements were made to alter the route of the vessel Morinda, trading between Australia, the New Hebrides and Norfolk Island. A steamer used to run between Auckland and the islands, but, according to the information that I have received, it became unprofitable for the New Zealand Government to carry on that service, and it was discontinued. Arrangements were then made by the Commonwealth Government, on the representations of the residents of Norfolk Island and the New Hebrides, for a Burns, Philp and Company’s vessel running between Australia and the islands to call at Auckland. The result has been that many persons engaged in primary production in Australia have been placed at a disadvantage because of the fact that trade which they previously had with the islands has gone to Auckland because of a Burns, Philp and Company’s vessel calling there. My constituent complains that Burns, Philp and Company is subsidized by the Commonwealth Government at the expense of the Australian taxpayer, and that it is the subsidy alone which enables that service to be carried on. It is also suggested by my informant that the members of the Country party might be interested in this subject. I should like the Minister controlling the islands to inform the House why Auckland has been made a port of call for a vessel of the Burns, Philp Line on this service.
The second matter to which I wish to refer is the utilization of naval ratings at Crib Point, Victoria, for the purpose of carrying out work which is usually done by civilians at award rates of pay. In this connexion, I have received the follow ing letter from the secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, New South Wales: -
I have been directed by the State Management Committee of the above unionto bring under your notice the following complaint in regard to a practice which has been introduced at the Naval Base (Crib Point), Victoria, that is of utilizing the naval ratings to do work (at service rates of pay) usually allotted to civilian or outside labour previously at award rates. The practice, I understand, in connexion with Commonwealth departments is that any work necessary up to the value of £5 this amount may be allotted from the ordinary funds at their disposal, and material requisitioned for each succeeding job to that amount. Then the labour is done by the ratings without increase of pay being made to conform to general awards covering the class of work. Government departments are supposed to expendon labour and material only for such work up to the sum of £5.
The Government has stated that its intention is to use every means in its power to provide work for those in need of it, and, therefore, I cannot understand its policy of utilizing naval ratings for carrying out work that should be given to the unemployed. I should like the Minister concerned to inquire whether the information that I have received is correct, and, if so, to arrange that the work in question be performed, not by naval ratings, as at present, but by those who are badly inneed of employment and previously performed this work.
– The matters to which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has referred will be brought under the notice of the Ministers concerned. He has referred to the itinerary of the Morinda, and to the fact that a subsidy is being paid to Burns, Philp and Company to enable its island steamship service to be carried on. He has also referred to the utilization of naval ratings for certain works. The - naval rating has always been known as a handy man, and it has been the practice of the Navy to utilize his services for many functions. The honorable member will recognize that that, in many instances, is part of the training of naval ratings, and also that the question of governmental expenditure is involved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 August 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320831_reps_13_135/>.