13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs aware that in 1931-32 the Colonial Sugar Refinery Rum Distilling Company of New South Wales imported 127,942 cwt. of molasses from Fiji, although Queensland was able to supply this quantity? Can the Minister inform me what amount of duty, if any, was paid on this imported molasses?
– I shall have inquiries made, and furnish the honorable member with a reply at an early date.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform me whether a person, not being a child or a parent, who undertakes the payment of a pension to a relative will be permitted to deduct the amount so paid from his income tax return ?
– The Income Tax Assessment Act provides for deductions in respect of the maintenance by a parent of such children only as may be below the age of sixteen years. So far as I remember, there is no provision in the act for the deduction of amounts spent in maintaining any other persons.
– In view of the immense possibilities of the shale oil industry of New South Wales and the urgent necessity for affording some permanent relief to the unemployed people of Lithgow, is the AttorneyGeneral yet able to make a statement regarding the representations I have made to the Government with the object of establishing this industry on a sound basis ?
– The Minister in charge of development has under consideration at present certain reports concerning Newnes, and also tentative proposals for its future development. Having regard to the position as between the Shale Oil Development Committee Limited and Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers, negotiations are being conducted entirely without prejudice to the Government. Suggestions have been made for the payment of subsidies by the State and Commonwealth Governments. It is hoped that the subject will receive the early consideration of the Government.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral in a position to make a statement about the proposed subsidizing of an air service between Australia and England? If not, will he give an assurance that the Government will not commit this country to any big liability in this respect without first submitting an outline of the scheme to this House for its consideration?
– This whole subject of civil aviation, which primarily is the concern of the Minister for Defence, is at present under consideration. The report of the Inter-Departmental Committee has been received, and will be given early attention by the Government. I have no doubt that a statement of policy will be made to this House before any important changes are made.
– In view of certain reports which have appeared in the press regarding disaffection among ratings in our navy, will the Assistant Minister for Defence consider making a rail pass available each year to the naval ratings, particularly to those who live in distant States, and will he also consider the advisableness of increasing the victualling allowance from1s. 5d. to 2s. a day?
– I regret that any honorable member should continue to make reference to disaffection in the navy after my definite denials of the allegations on so many occasions. Full consideration will be given to the request of the honorable member.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform me whetherit is the intention of the Government to appoint a permanent arbitrator to act between the Performing Right Association and the broadcasting companies?
– There is no present intention of doing so. The subject is at present receiving the attention of Mr. Justice Langer Owen, and when his report has been received, the Government will determine its policy.
– When does the Government expect to receive that report?
– At an early date.
– As the Government has decided not to make deductions from the pay of naval ratings, will it also consider not making such deductions from the pay of members of the permanent military and air forces?
– This subject was carefully examined from every angle, both while the Estimates were being prepared and while they were under the consideration of honorable members. I have nothing to add to what I have already said on the subject, or conveyed to honorable members by correspondence. The subject has been reviewed, and it is not proposed to make any alteration.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. B. Green) asked me whether I would consider the possibility of deporting Mr. “ Judge “ Swindell. Inquiries have been made, and there is no evidence that this person has been convicted in Australia of any offence. He arrived in this country six years ago. There is no provision in the existing law under which he could be deported.
The following papers were presented : -
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 118.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 124.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended-Statutory Rules 1932, No. 119.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides, first, for parliamentary approval of the new sugar agreement, and, secondly, for the prohibition of imports of sugar, subject to the consent in writing of the Minister for Trade and Customs in accordance with the terms of the new agreement. This prohibition is intended to replace the prohibition previously imposed by proclamation under the Customs Act. The new sugar agreement is the outcome of negotiations which the present Government initiated some months ago with the producers and refiners of raw sugar. The Government’s policy in entering upon these negotiations has been adversely criticized in some quarters. It has been said that our action amounts to the repudiation of a contract, and that the sugar industry has been intimidated. It is well, therefore, that the true position should be placed before honorable members.
It is important to remember that the whole of the negotiations for the review of the sugar agreement were on a purely voluntary basis. This was made clear by the Prime Minister in answering questions in this House on the 17th and 24th February, and in statements at other times and places. There was nothing of repudiation nor force majeure in the review of the agreement. The review of an agreement or of anything else is merely the reconsideration of it. Agreements of all kinds are frequently reviewed by the parties to them. If two parties make ‘an agreement on a subject, that agreement may be altered at any time by mutual consent, provided, of course, that it does not contain provisions prohibiting the making of such alterations. The sugar agreement contained no such provision. In the Prime Minister’s original announcement on this subject at the Loan Council, he stated that a conference would be held as early as convenient with all the sugar interests affected by the agreement for the purpose of bringing about a voluntary reduction in price. These interests have since been consulted at two conferences, the first of which was held in Brisbane last July, and the second in Canberra in September. At the Canberra conference the delegates of the two organizations of sugar producers unanimously agreed to recommend to their respective bodies that the ordinary wholesale price of refined sugar be reduced by the equivalent of £d. per lb. retail as from the 1st January, 1933, until the 31st August, 1936, subject to certain minor conditions, and provided that the Commonwealth Parliament passed an act approving of the new agreement. Following the subsequent decision of the sugar interests to accept a reduced price on terms approved by them, the Queensland Government took the usual course, and informed the Commonwealth Government that it would sign a new agreement giving effect to that, decision. This has now been done.
In presenting the case to the sugar producers, the Government simply stated certain principles and facta bearing on the matter, and appealed to the good sense and patriotism of the leaders of the industry. No attempt was made to force the delegates to accept a lower price or to review the old agreement. Certain dangers and difficulties were frankly explained, but the Prime Minister specifically declared at the Canberra conference that if the industry chose to adhere to the old agreement, despite the attendant risks, the Government would do all in its power to maintain that agreement.
The case for a lower domestic price was largely based on the principles of the Premiers plan, and the almost complete submission of other industries during the last two years to a lower Australian price level. It was contended that the sugar industry should agree to share in the practically universal sacrifice, and thus assist in the economic reconstruction of’ Australia.- That would avoid the unfairanomaly of sugar producers and workers retaining the benefit of the old price while the great majority of the people, who, in the final analysis, enable the sugar industry to exist, were being impoverished.
It should be remembered that the Premiers plan was evolved after the reports of the 1931 .Sugar Inquiry Committee and the signing of the last sugar agreement. Had that agreement been entered into subsequently to the adoption of the Premiers plan, it might have been claimed that? the Government of the day had taken into consideration the principles of the plan and, therefore, no review of the agreement was justified. The contrary was the case. When the last’ agreement was made, the Government of the day was attempting to maintain the old levels of wages, prices, and living standards. Consequently, its action in renewing the sugar agreement at prices calculated to cover the cost of production at wages then current, and as ascertained by the Sugar Inquiry Committee, was quite logical. The subsequent adoption of the Premiers plan completely altered the situation. Under that plan salaries, wages, bounties, interest on bonds, mortgages, overdrafts and deposits, and all adjustable government expenditure were reduced by from 20 per cent, to 22£ per cent. This became the dominant national policy. Yet sugar remained, practically alone, outside the arena of Australia’s great struggle for economic reconstruction.
These facts were put before the sugar delegates. It was also pointed out that substantial decreases had occurred in house rents and the price level of foods and groceries, and that since the old agreement was made, the sugar industry had benefited by a reduction in its .wages awards and an increase iri the weekly working hours from 44 to 48. The Commonwealth Government also brought to the notice of the delegates two serious menaces to the future welfare of the industry which affect the existence of the agreement itself. The first was the possibility of the High Court giving a judgment against the agreement; the second wa3 the great probability of the Commonwealth Parliament amending the Customs Act in such a way that ‘the sugar industry could no longer be protected by an agreement and an embargo against imports of foreign sugar.
With regard to the first menace, the High Court held, in the “Wool tops” case, that the Commonwealth could not bind itself effectively by an agreement without specific Parliamentary sanction thereto. Such sanction has, in fact, never previously been attached to any sugar agreement. A few months ago a private individual approached the High Court for a declaration that the agreement was ultra vires the Commonwealth Constitution. The Court decided that, as a private individual the appellant had no general right to obtain relief from the Court, as there was nothing to show that he really represented the whole body of consumers. However, the Court pointed out that the people should have, and, in fact did have, a remedy in a matter of this kind, as the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth or of any of the States could approach the Court on their behalf for relief, if he thought fit. The danger to the sugar industry of the possible adverse decision of the High Court concerning the sugar agreement is too obvious to require further explanation.
With regard to the possibility of adverse action by the Commonwealth Parliament, it is not generally understood that hitherto the embargo system of protecting the producers of sugar and other commodities has depended entirely upon sub-section g of section 52 of the Customs Act. This sub-section states that the Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the importation of any goods. Other sub-sections of section 52 deal entirely with noxious commodities such as opium, other drugs, seditious books, and things of an obscene or blasphemous nature. Sub-section g was originally intended by the Commonwealth Parliament merely to act as a drag-net clause to cover any noxious commodities which had not been specifically named in the other sub-sections.
Owing to the action of the Scullin Government in imposing import embargoes for commercial purposes on a wide range of commodities, the United Australia Party announced, during the last federal elections, that its policy included the enacting of provisions to restrict the power to do this kind of thing. The present Government has substantial majorities in both Houses, pledged to abolish the unrestricted power of the Minister for Customs to protect industries by the back-door method of import embargoes which are not subject to the will of Parliament. A vital constitutional and parliamentary principle is here involved, as the power of an individual Minister to impose embargoes at will upon the importation of goods is a challenge to the supremacy of Parliament.
Consequently, in pursuance of its mandate from the people, the Government introduced a bill some months ago to alter section 52 g of the Customs Act by substituting the word “ regulation “ for the word “ proclamation “. This amendment would have had the effect of allowing the Minister for Customs to prohibit the importation of goods only by regulation, in future. That meant that under a long-standing parliamentary power contained in the Acts Interpretation Act, either House of the Parliament, if it thought fit, could disallow such a regulation within thirty days after its issue or after the next sitting of the Parliament.
In order to honour the pledge that was given publicly during the last election, that the United Australia Party would regard the sugar agreement as binding, the Government included a proviso in the amending bill which would have excluded the sugar embargo and certain other proclamations from the operation of the new law. Unfortunately, this was not acceptable in another place, where an attempt was made to amend the bill to make it necessary for all existing embargo proclamations, whether import or export, to be re-enacted in the form of regulations, and so be subject to disallowance by either House of the Federal Parliament. The situation was so dangerous to the sugar interests that the only means of saving the industry and honouring the Government’s pledge was to withdraw the bill for the time being.
Had the proposed comprehensive amendment been adopted by Parliament, the sugar agreement and embargo would have been endangered, in which case the sugar industry might have had to rely solely upon the present customs duties. That, in turn, would have meant a reduction in the local price of sugar amounting to more than the -Jd. per lb. which has recently been agreed to by the industry.
All of these grave dangers and difficulties were put before the two sugar conferences, distinctly and fully, but not in any sense as threats by the Commonwealth Government. The delegates were told that they could continue under the old agreement if they so desired and were prepared to face the risks. In return for a reasonable concession in the Australian selling price of .sugar, the sugar industry delegates were offered substantial advantages as a quid pro quo. First of all, they were offered the exceptional security - which was not given in respect of any previous sugar agreement - of the new agreement being submitted, with the support of the Government, for tie approval of the Commonwealth Parliament in the form of a bill. Obviously, this was an enormous advantage, from the point of view of security, for an industry in which £30,000,000 has been invested, as it would remove the exceedingly dangerous menaces to an agreement such as the present of possible adverse decisions of the High Court, or action by the Federal Parliament under section 52 of the Customs Act.
The Commonwealth Government also offered to waive the unrestricted right given to it under the current sugar agreement to review the domestic price of sugar in August, 1934, for the last two years of that agreement. The position was, therefore, that on the one hand the sugar industry had only two years of fixed prices under the old agreement, associated with the risks of public opinion bringing about a large reduction for the
Sir. Guy. last two years of its term, and of the High Court and Parliament taking such action as might result in the early nullification of the whole agreement. On the other hand, the sugar industry had the chance of absolute legal protection by an act of parliament for four years until August, 1936, subject to a moderate price reduction. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the responsible leaders of the sugar industry decided that it was in the interests of the whole of the producers, and of the enormous amount of capital invested, to choose security under reasonable conditions, rather than insecurity and, possibly, chaos under the old agreement. It is a tribute to the fairmindedness and patriotism of the sugar producers of Queensland and New South Wales that they have given full consideration to the plight of Australian consumers generally by deciding to render a contribution to the spirit and purpose of the Premiers plan.
Under the new sugar agreement, all sugar prices will be reduced as from 5th January next. The reductions on best refined sugar will be -Jd. per lb. retail, and £4 ls. per ton to all manufacturers, except fruit processors. The new prices in capital cities will be 4d. per lb. retail and £32 10s. 9d. per ton to all manufacturers, except fruit processors. Fruit processors will receive a domestic rebate of £2 4s. per ton off the ordinary manufacturing price of £32 10s. 9d. per ton if they pay the growers for fresh fruit not less than such prices as the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee declares to be reasonable. In such case, the net cost of sugar to fruit processors for home consumption will be £30 6s. 9d. per ton, or virtually the same as at present. In addition, fruit processors will continue to receive the ordinary export sugar rebate, which reduces the cost of Australian sugar to the equivalent of the world’s parity price, plus £110,000 per annum for special assistance on manufactured fruit products exported from the Commonwealth. The total assistance to the fruit industry is to be £200,000 per annum as’ from 5th January, 1933. This is worth £6 per ton on the present consumption of sugar by that industry. All prices and concessions will continue in operation until 31st August, 1936, the date on which the old agreement would have expired.
The price reductions will be worth approximately. £1,000,000 per annum to domestic consumers, and about £300,000 per annum to manufacturers. A portion of the latter saving will doubtless be passed on to the domestic consumers in the form of cheaper commodities. In the aggregate, Australia’s sugar costs are, therefore, being reduced by £1,300,000 per annum, which may be regarded as tantamount to a similar reduction in taxation.
The fear of loss on stocks of sugar held when the new prices come into operation will tend to cause manufacturers and distributors to allow supplies to run out. This important matter has received the attention of the Commonwealth and Queensland authorities. The Premier of Queensland has advised that, in response to a request from the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Sugar Board has agreed to pay a rebate to manufacturers on the sugar contents of the stocks of their manufactured goods held at the close of business on the 4th January next. The rebate will be £4 ls. per ton on the sugar contents, and will be subject to the manufacturers reducing the selling prices of the goods by an equivalent amount.
With regard to new-price sugar required by manufacturers and wholesale merchants, special arrangements will be made by the Queensland Sugar Board for adequate supplies to be invoiced at the new price, and made available at all necessary points on the 5th January next. Similar arrangements in 1923, when the last price reduction took place, proved quite successful, and I have no doubt that they will meet requirements on this occasion.
The Queensland authorities recognize, however, that exceptional difficulties exist in Tasmania, where there are no refinery stocks, and only limited transport connexions with the bulk sources of supply at Melbourne and Sydney. The Queensland Sugar Board has already made special provision to ensure that adequate supplies of sugar shall be available in Hobart and Launceston on the 5th January, without loss to those concerned in its distribution.
I have already mentioned that the concessions to the fruit industry will amount to £200,000 per annum under the new agreement. Under the old agree ment, the amount so contributed by the sugar industry for the benefit of the fruit industry was £315,000 per annum. The reduction of £115,000 per annum was, in effect, recommended by the 1931 Sugar Inquiry Committee when it stipulated that, in the event of the ordinary price of sugar being reduced, the home consumption rebate of £6 5s. Id. a ton to fruit processors was to be reduced by the same amount. This principle was embodied in the current sugar agreement, and the reduction of £115,000 per annum merely represents the consequential automatic adjustment which the old agreement provided for as the minimum reduction to be made in this fund.
I might add that, under the old agreement, the Commonwealth Government had the unfettered right, as in the case of the price of sugar, to review and determine the total amount to be paid to the fruit industry as from the 1st September, 1934. Seeing that the return to the sugar producers is to be reduced twenty months before that date by over £1,000,000 per annum, the fruit industry has been well treated by the Government and the sugar industry, in not having to submit to a reduction of the special export concession of £110,000 per annum, which concession was expressly recommended and given as a temporary measure of assistance.
The fruit concessions have been administered with much success since September, 1931, by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. All the available fruit was processed last season at prices to the growers at least equal to the minimum prices prescribed by the committee. The same system will be continued under the new agreement. So far, it has benefited berry-grower3 in Tasmania, pineapplegrowers in Queensland, and stone fruit-growers in practically all States. It is expected that fruit-growers, and the fruit industry generally, will derive further advantages from the sugar concessions under the new agreement. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has just voted £30,000 from its funds for encouraging the production and disposal within Australia of jam and canned fruits made from the coming season’s fruit crops. This assistance will be additional to next year’s domestic sugar rebate of £2 4s. a ton, and should help to maintain reasonable prices for fresh fruit to the growers of stone and berry fruits, as well as assisting processors.
Except in regard to certain clauses of the old agreement relating to adjustments of Australian prices through the trust account, and according to fluctuations in the retail price index figure for food and groceries, the new agreement is similar to the old one. The Government agreed to exclude these two clauses from the new agreement for several reasons. Conditions had arisen whereby they would most probably not have been effective in bringing about a reduction in the price of sugar. Moreover, the purpose for which they were inserted in the last agreement, namely, to bring about a reduction of price before 31st August, 1934, has now been achieved by the assent of the sugar producers to reduce the price in January, 1933. The deletion of these clauses will enable the sugar industry to calculate with reasonable accuracy its Australian earnings for the next four years, and so be able, under the security and stability thereby created, to reorganize itself under the new level of prices, which will be a task of some magnitude.
The coming reduction of½d. per lb. in the present retail price of 4½d. per lb. is equivalent to only 11 per cent. Critics of the Government have demanded that the price should be reduced by the Premiers plan proportion of per cent., or1d. per lb. The Government, however, considered that the latter reduction would have been unreasonable, having in mind the fact that the Australian price of sugar was not allowed during and immediately after the war to rise anything like so high as the then world’s prices. Furthermore, the new retail price of 4d. per lb. in capital cities will be 33 per cent. less than the peak price of sugar in Australia of 6d. per lb. That percentage reduction is almost exactly the same as the percentage reduction of all foods and groceries below their peak level of the year 1920, and, therefore, the Government feels that the recent contribution by the sugar industry is fair and reasonable.
Debate (on motionbyMr.Forde) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short measure, the object of which is to ensure that certain rules relating to evidence shall apply in respect of prosecutions under section 79 of the Defence Act 1903-1927, for failing to deliver up, when lawfully required so to do, arms, accoutrements, or other naval or military articles belonging to the Commonwealth. In a recent case before the High Court, relating to a prosecution under this section, those rules of evidence were held to be inapplicable, and therefore it would not be safe to rely on them in future unless they receive the statutory recognition which the present measure proposes. Unless the rules apply, the activities of the Defence Department with regard to the care and custody of naval and military stores are likely to be seriously hampered.
Sub-section1a, which it is proposed to insert in section 79 of the. act, provides that if, in any prosecution under that section, for failure to deliver up, when lawfully required so to do, any arm3, accoutrements or other naval or military articles belonging to the Commonwealth or to any corps, it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that any such article was in the possession of the defendant at any time prior to the time at which he was required to deliver up the article, he shall be deemed, in the absence of proof by him of the lawful disposal of the article, to have continued in possession thereof up to the time when he was required to deliver up the article. In addition, inability to deliver up the article shall not be a defence unless the defendant proves to the satisfaction of the court that such inability did not arise from any negligence or wrongful act or omission on his part.
Honorable members may not know that for some time there has been an increasing loss, not of arms, but of articles of uniform, especially during the present period of depression.
– Perhaps they were taken by members of the New Guard.
– This loss has been intensified by the substitution of volun tary enlistment for compulsory military training, certain individuals having taken advantage of the voluntary system to obtain issues of uniform and, in some cases, of equipment - particularly those containing leather - and neither they nor the equipment issued to them has since been seen. In a number of corps, the losses from this cause have been fairly severe. When the department apprehends one of these delinquents, it is most desirable that it should be able to prosecute him successfully, if guilty, and that he should not be allowed to escape on a technicality. In the case to which I have referred, that was what happened. The Government wishes so to amend the law as to prevent this means of escape.
– I have perused this bill carefully and find that it contains nothing of a content.:..,s nature. Its intention is to tighten :ip section 79 of the act to finable the Defence Department to obtain convictions against persons for unlawfully retaining arms and equipment belonging to the department. We, on this side of the chamber, offer no opposition to the bill.
.- Every honorable member of the House should approve of this bill. It is true that the abolition of the system of universal military service and the substitution for it of the voluntary system provided evil doers with an opportunity to join the citizen forces and to get away with arms and equipment. I know from my own observation that this has happened frequently. One honorable member interjected a little while ago that equipment was probably stolen by the members of a certain organization. It does not matter to what organization offenders belong; if they steal government property they should be prosecuted. During the hearing of cases against those charged with stealing military equipment it has been established that men belonging to Communist organizations have deliberately joined units of the citizens defence force and then made off with the equipment issued to them. It was found that such persons made a point of trying to join machine gun sections.
– To what cases does the honorable member refer?
– I cannot give the names off-hand.
– Surely the honorable member does not think he can get away with a bald statement like that?
– I shall look the matter up and furnish the honorable member with the information he desires. I shall be surprised if any opposition is offered to the passage of this bill.
.- I desire to obtain some further information from the Minister as to the need for this measure. Is it a fact that a large quantity of military equipment has recently been stolen and, if so, what endeavours have been made by the Commonwealth authorities to trace the offenders? If this is a recent case, as is believed by the members of my party, it will probably be traced to that revolutionary organization’ in New South Wales known as the New Guard. . I wish to know why the Government failed to take the action some mouths ago that it is now taking. Might I suggest to the Minister that one of the reasons why many uniforms and equipment ave not being returned to the department is that unemployed persons sometimes take the uniforms to provide themselves with clothing. The Minister should give the House some particulars regarding the quantity of . goods and equipment stolen, and the efforts that have been made by the Commonwealth authorities to trace the guilty persons.
– I ask the Minister to outline to the House the facts of the case which was before the High Court, and is responsible for the introduction of this legislation.
The honorable gentleman, in his opening remarks, said that the Commonwealth was unable to substantiate a claim that it had made on a member of the military forces. The failure on the part of the Commonwealth to prove its case in that, instance may, for all we know, have been due not. to a defect of the law, but to inability to present a proper case. We are entitled to know the nature of the case, how it was presented, why the claim was lodged, the decision of the court, and the remarks of the presiding judge. We are also entitled to information as to what the Minister referred to .as the rules - no doubt lie referred to the regulations - governing the forces. If the regulations have been so drawn as to allow Commonwealth property to be unsafe to the extent suggested, it seems to have taken the Government a long time to decide upon making this amendment of the law. It is claimed that the Commonwealth has at its-disposal officers capable of safeguarding its interests, and if it can be shown that they have failed in their duty iii this matter, that must be a guide for us, not only in this case, but also probably in many others. I deprecate the fact that the Minister, and also the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) who supported him, cast a slur upon the voluntary system of defence. They never fail to seize an opportunity to decry that form of maintaining a defence force. It was most unjust and unfair on their part to use this case to deprecate that system.
– Under the voluntary system a man may enlist under an alias, but that was not possible under the compulsory system.
– The use of an alias is a subterfuge that is adopted in a much wider sphere than the military forces. In any case the interjection does not meet my point at all. The Minister could have introduced this amending bill without making any reference to voluntary training. We are passing through a period of economic pressure the like of which has never before been experienced by Australia. Many men in the defence forces are probably compelled during the winter months to use their military overcoats for eVery-day wear. I do not complain of that being done, nor does, I think, any other honorable member.
– Such men could get overcoats without stealing them.
– It would be unfair to say that men who use overcoats in that way have stolen them. If a man in possession of a military overcoat had no overcoat of his own, and wished to go out on a rainy day, he could not be expected to leave his military overcoat hanging on a peg in his home.
– Would not the honorable member repel a burglar who entered his home?
– If a burglar in needy circumstances entered my home, or that of the honorable member, and did not resort to violence, and when apprehended declared that he was in needy circumstances, I suppose that either of us would be glad of the opportunity to assist him. I do not claim to be more benevolent than any one else, but there is human sympathy felt by all of us when in touch with those who are in need. Honorable members opposite are not entitled to cast any reflections upon the voluntary system of defence. The circumstances which have caused this Government to introduce an amending bill to enable it to recover equipment and uniforms belonging to the department are due mainly to the present depression, and the Minister would have been wise, and fair, had he not given as a reason for this legislation the existence of the voluntary defence system.
The bill makes a drastic change in. legal procedure, in placing onus of proof on the individual. That seems to be the tendency since -the present Government has assumed office. Under the Crimes Act the Commonwealth need only name the person it charges, and can throw upon him the onus of proof.
– That is not so under this legislation. If it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that an article was in the possession of the defendant, he shall be deemed, unless he proves the contrary, to be in possession of the article.
– The bill reads that in the absence of proof by the defendant of the lawful disposal of the article, he shall be deemed to have continued in possession of it up to the time when he was required to deliver up the article.
– It has first to be proved to the satisfaction of the court that the defendant was in possession of the article at any time prior to the time at which lie was required to deliver it up.
– It seems to me that paragraph a of clause 2 to which the Attorney-General has referred by interjection is somewhat contradictory. It first appears to throw the responsibility of proof upon the defendant, and later upon the Commonwealth. The meaning of “ lawful disposal “ is not clear. If a person used a military overcoat for every- day wear to such an extent as to make it of no further value, would he be held to have unlawfully disposed of it?
– If he still had the overcoat in his possession, he would not have disposed of it.
– No matter in what condition the overcoat was, the individual would not be called upon to pay for it?
– That is a separate matter.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the amendment?
– The honorable member, in his ordinary business, does not arrive at hasty decisions on matters on which he is called upon to form an opinion. He waits until he has collected the fact3 before he expresses his opinion one way or the other. The members of the group to which I belong are asking for information from the Minister so as to enable us to give an intelligent decision in respect of this bill.
– The law already provides that it shall be an offence for a person to fail to deliver up, when lawfully required so to do, any arms, accoutrements or other naval or military articles belonging to the Commonwealth. Every honorable member must agree that that provision of the law is required, and is justifiable from every point of view. Recently a prosecution was instituted against a man who had been an officer, and had been issued with an overcoat. He was transferred to the unattached list. An inquiry was made concerning the great coat, and this officer replied that it was still in his possession, and in good condition. Subsequently application was made for its return. It was not returned, and the man was prosecuted. He was defended, and the prosecution failed because the Commonwealth was unable to prove that at the time when the application for the return of the great coat was made it was in his possession. The offence was “failing to deliver up the great coat when lawfully required so to do.” The matter went to the High Court, which held, unanimously, that there could be no failure to deliver up an article unless it were in the possession of the party when the request was made.
The Crown had not proved that the overcoat was in his possession at the time the request for its return was made. Very seldom is such proof possible. Generally, “all that is known is that an article has been issued to a member of the forces and perhaps that he has been in possession of it recently. Either because he has loft the forces or for some other reason the return of the article is demanded, but under the present -law, unless positive proof can be adduced by the Crown that the article was in the possession of the defendant at the time when the demand for it was made, no offence of failing to return it can be established. Clause 2 of the bill, therefore, provides that in connexion with any prosecution for failure to deliver up when lawfully required any article belonging to the Commonwealth or to any corps -
If it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that any such article was in the possession of the defendant prior to the time at which he was required to deliver up the article - that must be proved - he shall be deemed, in the absence of proof by him of the lawful disposal of the article, to have continued in possession of it up to the time when he was required to deliver it up.
– The amendment will make the lot of the dishonest man a little harder.
– It will, and that is its purpose. Articles of military clothing and equipment are drifting away, but because of the decision .pf the court it is almost futile to institute proceedings for their recovery. The references which have been made to the compulsory and voluntary systems are not relevant to the bill, although it is rather more difficult to trace members of the forces under the voluntary system than it was under the compulsory’ system. But in any circumstances this amendment would be required, and its simple meaning is that where it is proved that a man has had a naval or military article in his possession and has not returned it when required by an authorized person so to do, he must show to the satisfaction of the court what has become of it. If an overcoat, for instance, was stolen from him or fell from a train or was lost in any other way, that would be a reasonable defence.
Mr.Rosevear. -What would the Attorney-General consider lawful disposal of the article ?
– Prima facie, the lawful disposal of the Article would be its returnto the stores. Unlawful disposal of it would be giving it away or selling it.
-Or wearing.it out?
– Other sections relate to the wrongful use of military property. It cannot be held that a person is entitled to wear forordinary purposes clothing issued for military uses.
– What if he has no other?
-Surely even the honorable member would notcontend that a member of the forces should be entitled to wear his military clothing as ordinary apparel for work and other daily occasions. The amendment is necessary for the practical purpose of protecting the property of theCommonwealth in the interests of citizensgenerally.
– Whyhas reference to the Air Force been omitted?
– Naval and military articles include articles belonging to the Air Force.
-I desire information as to what quantities of military clothingare missing.
– It does not matter whetherany clothing is missing or not.
– The proposed amendment may apply to any person who is in possession of military equipment or clothing , and if officers of the Defence Department desire tobe nasty, they may compel unfortunate persons to return the military clothing issuedto themas a relief measureby the Scullin Government.
-Section 79 which the bill amends, relates only to naval or military articles belonging tothe Commonwealth or to any corps. Clothing issued tothe unemployed does not come within that category.
– According to my reading of the hill a person,, whether a member of the forces or not, could be prosecuted for being in possession of military clothing, and that may lead to an injustice being done to persons who have participated in the issue of clothingby charitable organizations.
Mr.Francis. - Thatisnot intended.; In any case, all suchclothing is dyed.
– TheHouse is entitled to a clearer explanation of the motive behindthe bill. Have large quantities of clothing been stolen or lost? The officers of the New Guard were supposed to know where and when they could lay hands on military equipment. Has that organization acquired such equipment? Or is some of the equipment lent by the Defence Department from the Liverpool camp to theRothbury loyalists missing? The Attorney-General (Mr.Latham) endeavoured to explain what is meant by lawful disposal, and he. said that evenI wouldnot be prepared to approve of a member of the force wearing his military clothing when he had no other. I say, unhesitatingly, that I would approve of his doing so. In my electorate are many persons who have no clothing other than that issued tothemby the Defence Department; indeed some men have been so long unemployed that they cannot get out of the military uniform,and others have joined the voluntary forces in order to get clothing. Would the AttorneyGeneral forcethem togo naked rather than wear clothing belonging to the DefenceDepartment ? The people in my electorate have suffered longer than any othersection; some of the mines have been closed since 1927.
– On a point of order I submit that the honorable member is merely making his usual speech on unemployment, Which is not relevant to the bill
– The honorable member for Huntermay notdiscuss unemployment on this bill.
– I submit thatthe military authorities should he compelled to make surplus clothing available to the unemployed. Iam not makinga speech on unemployment,but it is a pity that more time isnot devotedin this Parliament to that important subject. This billdoes not provide honorable members with sufficient information as to the equipment which is said to be missing. Doesthe Government intend to requirethe returnof clothing that has been issued to the unemployed ; or will those who have purchased military equipment at a low price -great-coats for instance were sold for 10s. each - be required to return it to the department? I was surprised to hear the AttorneyGeneral say that even though unemployed persons who had served in the military forces were now without adequate clothing, they had no right to wear military clothing. That was a callous statement. What is really behind this measure? The purpose of it certainly does not appear on the surface-. In discussing a bill of this kind, it should be quite in order to submit that more military clothing should be made available to the unemployed.
– Order ! This is merely an amending measure. The distribution of military clothing is a subject not mentioned in it, and cannot by any stretch of thd imagination be connected with it.
– I wish to discuss the desirableness of making military camps available for the shelter of the unemployed.
– The honorable member will not be in order in dealing with that subject.
-Thé Defence Department has evicted the unemployed who were sheltering in the Maitland camp.
– Order ! That subject may not be discussed under this bill.
– At any rate, the Government should give us more information than it has done regarding the alleged mysterious disappearance of equipment.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. E. HARRISON) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 3rd November (tide page 1895), on motion by Mr. Gullett -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Scullin had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be omitted and the following words be inserted in lieu thereof: - “the bill be withdrawn and negotiations opened for a. new agreement embodying concessions to Australian producers and preferences’ to Great Britain on specified items without endangering our protective policy or depriving Parliament of its power to’ give effect to the will of the people on general tariff policy.”
Mi-. FORDE (Capricornia) [11.50].-
I have been greatly impressed >.j some of the interesting speeches already delivered oh this measure. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), in the course of his eloquent criticism of the Ottawa agreement, moved the following amendment tq the motion for the second reading of the bill to ratify it:-
That all the words after “ That ‘” be omitted arid the following words be inserted in lieu thereof: - “the bill be withdrawn and negotiations opened for a new agreement embodying concessions to Australian producers and preferences to Great Britain on specified items without endangering our protective policy or depriving Parliament of its p’ower to give effect to the will of the people on general tariff policy.”
A majority of honorable members of the House would support that amendment if the subject were being dealt with on nonparty lines. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) delivered a fine speech last night, in the course of which he made ah impartial review of the agreement, and fearlessly pointed out its weaknesses. The honorable gentleman showed clearly that the statement df certain Government supporters that great benefits would accrue to the primary producers of Australia under the agreement, could not be substantiated. His speech caused me to form the opinion that if the representatives of the primary producers in this chamber were free to deal with this subject on its merits, they would admit that a great deal was being made out of very little. The ratification of this agreement will afford no substantial benefits to the primary producers of Australia and will grant them ho immediate relief from their present parlous circumstances. A great deal of propaganda has been engaged in by certain Government supporters, including the Australian’ delegates to Ottawa, with the object .of making the people believe that thi3 agreement is a panacea for the economic ills of Australia.
I appreciate the great difficulty which confronted the Australian delegation at Ottawa,- and the enormity of the task of bringing the representatives’ of the Mother Country and the various dominions to an amicable agreem’ent on the subject’ of Empire preferences’. Obviously, many thing’s advantageous to one country would be disadvantageous to another. No doubt the Australian delegation was well intentioned, and desired to help this country ; but it was completely outclassed in the negotiations that occurred.
Like other honorable members, I deeply regret .that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) is indisposed. I have no doubt that he worked extremely hard at Ottawa. As his immediate predecessor in the office of Minister for Trade and Customs, I realize that the position is nerve wracking in the extreme. If a Minister lifts duties he is immediately subjected to an avalanche of protest; and if he increases them he finds 20 or 30 deputations waiting on his doorstep the next morning.
It is- not only the representatives of the primary producers who have expressed their disappointment at the result of the Ottawa Conference. The Bank of New South Wales has just issued a monthly circular, that must be in the hands of honorable members, which contains the following opening paragraph : -
In the two months since the Ottawa Conference completed its deliberations, there lias been ample time for members of the British Commonwealth of Nations to reflect upon the decisions reached. Hailed at first as a. great economic charter for the Empire, the treaties now in process of ratification, have not brought the measure of agreement and cooperation among the self-governing nations of the Empire which was expected. Nor has there been a sound basis in the treaties for cooperative effort among the several sections of political and commercial life in each nation.
– Later I shall quote certain statements in the circular which refer in particular to wheat, wool, meat, butter, and other primary products, and show that our representatives did not gain any substantial benefits in respect of these commodities.
– Since when has the Bank of New South Wales become an authority on politics?
– The Government was very modest in its demands at Ottawa. It intimated some time before the conference that it would not make any farreaching requests. While the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) was in England earlier in this year he said that the Com monwealth Government did not intend to ask for any concessions at Ottawa in regard to wheat and meat. That statement, which was cabled to Australia, showed clearly that Australia was going to the conference with the intention of giving away a good deal but of asking for very little. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) as recently -as a couple of years ago was not at all enthusiastic about the possible outcome of a proposed inter-Empire trade policy. The honorable gentleman was formerly a journalist, and he still writes occasional articles for newspapers. One such article by him was published in the Melbourne Herald of the 12th March, 1930, in the course of which he said -
Although we Australian people perhaps dr> not hold politicians in a particularly high regard, we nevertheless show a most trusting disposition towards all new political schemes and promises, which are ostensibly framed for our welfare and salvation, lt is this fact, doubtless, which has greeted the phenomenal enthusiasm which has greeted Mr. Baldwin’s new project for reciprocal trade between Britain and the dominions.
We all recognize that unless Britain can continue to sell manufactured goods in vast quantities against an ever-increasing competition from foreign countries, a decline of the power and glory and population of the Mother Country is inevitable. Already wages in Britain are the highest in Europe.
But before we discuss further the British end of the scheme, let us take an honest, openeyed look at the Australian end of it. If wo are to get anywhere in the extension of preferences, there must be unquestionable evidence at both ends of the will and the capacity to reciprocate. So far, reciprocity at the British end has been weak, for reasons already stated. We in Australia have given Britain a great deal.
Referring to Lord Beaverbrook’s Empire crusade proposal, the honorable gentleman said -
The Beaverbrook proposal discloses on tine face of it such a depth of ignorance of Australian industrial aspirations and actual achievements that its birth and advertisement are almost beyond credence.
Summarizing the Ottawa agreement, I would say -
We arc told that wo have nothing to fear from the Ottawa agreement, but when we read the statements that have been made in the House of Commons by Mr, Baldwin, Mr. Neville Chamberlain and Sir John Simon we realize that harm must result to us from it. They express reliance upon articles 9 to 12 in helping English manufacturers to establish themselves on the Australian market on a competitive basis. They hope that British manufacturers will get a share of the meagre market afforded to our own manufacturers by our 6,500,000 population in woollens, textiles, apparel and boots, and other articles for the production of which plant, machinery and other equipment has been established in Australia.
Some members of the Government think that this agreement will bring about great prosperity. There are eminent Australians, unbiased by political considerations, who state in ho uncertain manner that the agreement must affect Australia adversely. I instance Mr. B. H. Molesworth, lecturer in economics at the Queensland University. Reviewing the Ottawa Conference in an address delivered to the Constitutional Club, Brisbane, on the 27th October last, that gentleman is reported to have said -
He had come to the conclusion that the conference hud achieved little, and that much’ of what it did achieve might be more harmful than helpful.
In Queensland there is a powerful newspaper, the equivalent in that northern State of the Melbourne Argus and the Sydney Morning Herald - the Brisbane Courier. It represents the views chiefly of nationalism. In a leading article, dated the 4th October la3t, commenting on the Ottawa agreement and its effect on the banana-growing industry, the Courier states -
Yesterday it was announced by Mr. Gullett in his speech on the Ottawa agreement, that the Federal Govern ment had decided to reduce the duty on Fiji bananas from 8s. 4d. per cental to 2s. 6d. per cental, and to allow the importation of 40,000 centals a year. The attacks on Queensland’s agricultural industries have become so frequent that one is forced to the conclusion that the Federal Government is absolutely ignorant of Queensland conditions. It does not realize that Queensland is the only State which is carrying on tropical agriculture to any great extent. That ignorance has led the Federal Government to believe that “ Queensland’s industries do not count “ and that whether that hurts the State or not does not matter so long as the south is appeased.
Professor Goddard of the Queensland University cannot be regarded as being prejudiced against the Federal Government. He takes no active part in politics.
Speaking at the City Hall, Brisbane, on the 13th October last, at a public meeting organized to express views regarding the damage done to the banana industry, which is a large employer of labour, and is worth £1,000,000 a year to Australia, Professor Goddard said -
Many growers have been fearing for some time past that there will be over-production, and, if their fears are realized, then the problem will become a most serious one, with the admission of Fiji bananas on terms that will enable that product, grown under nativelabour conditions, to compote with the Australian product on terms disadvantageous to the latter.
In introducing this bill the Minister for Trade and Customs said -
Hh is agreement ‘has been drawn in aid of the man on the land.
Professor Goddard docs not think so. I have here a circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales, an institution presided over by Mr. Davidson, a gentleman known in nationalist circles and among economists as a leading financier. Mr. Davidson has under him a staff of economists who carefully examine the problems of the nation aud evidently they burnt the midnight oil over the Ottawa agreement. In a monthly report on wool and wheat it is stated inter alia -
The net effect of the Ottawa arrangements on these goods will be to increase their costs of production in the long run, or to maintain higher costs than are justified without any counter-vailing advantage in higher prices.
Dealing with butter preferences the circular continues -
In the case of a commodity like butter, in which there lias been an enormous expansion of world production in recent years, it is probable that preferences, in the early stages, will give an Empire price higher than the world price. It must, however, be observed that exports of butter from foreign countries that would normally be sold in the United Kingdom, but are debarred because of the tariff on foreign supplies, will be offered for sale elsewhere. “This will force down the price in markets outside the Empire, and will tend in turn to lower the price within the Empire. To prevent the lower non-Empire prices from depressing Empire prices, it would be necessary progressively to raise the rate of duty on butter imported into Empire countries as prices fell in foreign countries. We can be sure that non-Empire producers will cut costs rather than be driven out of production. Meanwhile, the shelter of preference will tend to weaken the efficiency of some Empire producers. In the long run, butter producers will have gained far less than at first sight appears.
We read that Denmark is preparing to flood the London market with large supplies of butter, and that she is going to reduce her price for that commodity in order to get below that paid for Australian butter in London. Knowing the opinions of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) on international trade, I believe that, in his heart, he must subscribe to the views expressed in this circular. Regarding the meat issue it states -
Much more serious is the meat agreement under which the supplies of meat on the British market will be limited, so that the prices of frozen meat can be raised for Empire producers. At present, as with many other commodities, there is an excess of meat on the world markets.
We know from the press reports that there is sufficient frozen meat in England to-day to last for the next six or seven months. Continuing, the circular says -
In the favoured areas supply will increase, while in the areas outside, ways will be found of reducing costs of production, even if this means a fall in living standards. Meanwhile, grave injury is done to the countries on whom thu main burden’ of adjustment Wis. Their capacity to meet interest on their foreign debts and to buy goods from industrial countries, is greatly reduced. Hence, there is set up a vicious circle of deflation that will eventually destroy any advantage derived from higher prices received by favoured producers in the immediate future . . . Summing up the general effects upon prices and costs, we reach the .following conclusion: Insofar as prices of foodstuffs and raw materials within the Empire are increased, costs will be raised, initially in British industry, but ultimately in all industry in the Empire. Export production will be the first to experience these higher costs.
Dealing with wool this authoritative document declares -
In considering the effects on Australia and New Zealand, it should be noted that wool does not come within the scope of the agreements at all. This is by far the most important commodity to Australia, and it has been adversely affected by the world deflationary movement to a greater extent than any other commodity. Actually the Ottawa treaties, by increasing costs generally within the Empire, will be detrimental to our wool industry.
Referring to wheat it is pointed out -
For wheat it has been declared that the preference will give Australia an assured market, though it may not mean a higher price. This point of view ignores the fact that we have recently been sending only about one-third of our wheat to the United Kingdom. Italy, Japan, India and China are all large buyers of Australian wheat, and at the .present time Australian merchants are making strong efforts to increase their sales of wheat in the Far East. It will not be profitable to Australia to divert trade that is naturally developing with these countries where the markets arc capable of considerable expansion.
Those opinions are the result of careful investigation and reasoning, and they explode the fallacious arguments advanced by Government members that the Ottawa agreement will prove a panacea for the economic ills of Australia, bringing higher prices and prosperity, so enabling us to turn the much talked of corner.
In presenting its case in favor of the Ottawa agreement, the Government has attempted to convey the” impression that very valuable preferences have been granted to Australia, and that our concessions to the United Kingdom will not be detrimental to our industries. I can quite understand that, for the Government sent its representatives to the conference with a great fan-fare of trumpets, and has since been attempting by all kinds of propaganda to bolster up a bad case. The right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) was chief of the Australian delegation at Ottawa. Speaking at Adelaide prior to the defeat of the Bruce-Page Government he said -
Those who suggested reducing Government expenditure or increasing the tariff are talking arrant nonsense.
Could we expect anything but a lowering of our tariff wall from one who holds such views ? The Labour party came into office, and did all the things that the right honorable gentleman said were impossible of achievement. The Bruce-Page Government bequeathed to its successor the legacy of an adverse trade balance amounting to £72,000,000, and with a deficit of £10,000,000 and a further anticipated deficit of £20,000,000 for the year 1931-32, the Scullin Government did what the right honorable member for Flinders declared to be arrant nonsense, and by so doing placed Australia on an even keel. Imports were cut down to a minimum to enable us to meet our overseas commitments. If the Ottawa agreement had been in operation, it would have been impossible for the Scullin Government to arbitrarily increase duties against imports from all countries inclusive of the
United Kingdom, and Australia would have been unable to live within her income.
– The honorable member is evidently ignorant of the provisions of the agreement. It is specifically laid down, that Australia shall impose no new protective duty, nor increase any existing duty, against goods from the United Kingdom, in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Board. That article places the Tariff Board above this Parliament.
– What about the last paragraph of article 161
– To obtain relief it would be necessary first to break the agreement.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), in his speech lust night, was unfair when he quoted a table allegedly showing the new factories which had been opened during the regime of the Scullin Government, together with the additional employment provided. He mentioned half a dozen very small industries in Melbourne, each employing only eight or a dozen persons. The honorable member should have turned up the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Shops and Factories presented to the Victorian Parliament. That report shows that in 1931 no fewer than 222 factories were opened in Victoria, providing additional employment for 5,766 persons, and this, notwithstanding the depression. Recently, the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures sent a questionnaire to its members asking for information regarding the opening of new factories, and the provision of employment. So far only lol replies have been received, though others are coming in all the time. It has been revealed that 105 old established factories are providing employment for 2,938 more persons than in August of 1930. Since 1929, sixteen new factories have been established, employing 588 additional persons. 22 other new factories in April were employing 443 persons, making a total of 3,969 additional employees.
Unfortunately, there are in Australia 200,000 persons out of work, who, in previous years, were engaged on loan construction works. They must be absorbed in industry, but work cannot be found for them all in the primary industries. Although the acreage under crop in Australia has increased within recent years, and the quantity of produce is greater now than ever before, the number of persons employed in primary industries has fallen by 44,000, or 9 per cent., since 1911. Since that year the number of persons engaged in secondary industries has increased by 138,000. The decline in the number engaged in primary industries is largely due to the introduction of more scientific methods of farming, and the use of up-to-date machinery. It is evident that if we are to find work for the 200,000 persons formerly engaged on loan construction undertakings we must look largely to our secondary industries. By developing our primary and secondary industries we ought to be able, within a few years, to absorb all these workers, but we cannot do that by sharing the available employment with the workmen of Great Britain. Our market is already too small. We have secondary industries capable of providing for the needs of a population twice as great as ours. The Government which submits this agreement for our approval says, in effect, to the British manufacturers that they need not open branches in Australia to operate inside our tariff wall, but may continue manufacturing on the other side of the world, and we will hand over to them, part of the Australian market now supplied by Australian manufacturers. Some honorable members complain that we are unpatriotic If we urge the protection of Australian industry as against British industry, but I remind them thatthe slogan of the British Empire Marketing Board is preference first to the products of Great Britain, and, secondly, preference to the products of the dominions.
– The board says that Empire marketing should begin at home.
– Surely it cannot be wrong if we in Australia advocate the same policy. We should insist -first on preference for Australian products, and secondly, on preference for the products of Great Britain. I believe that we owe a great deal to the Mother Country, and after looking after our own industries, we should give preference to the products of Great Britain.
We know that there are influences at work in Australia hostile to Australian secondary industries. Some years ago, Senator Sir George Pearce, who is now a member of the Lyons Ministry, said that, if it came to a clear-cut issue between freetrade and protection, his vote would go in the direction of freetrade.
– When did he say that?
– The honorable senator speaks with two voices. When he is in Western Australia, he is an ardent freetrader, but when he is in Adelaide, ho attends the manufacturers’ dinner as the representative of a Government allegedly pledged to protection. It is customary before elections for the party supporting the present Government to enter into various agreements regarding the tariff. The late Mr. P. G. Stewart, in a speech delivered in the Commonwealth Parliament in March, 1926, said that an agreement had been made between the Nationalist and Country parties to reduce tariffs. Mr. Stewart resigned from the Government of the day because he did not think that the agreement was being carried out. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), in a speech delivered since the last election, said that an agreement had been entered into by the United Australia Party with his party, and certain pastoral interests, that there should be a whittling down of Australia’s policy of protection. He does not think that this process is proceeding fast enough. Before the last election, the United Australia Party made a compact with certain manufacturers that tariffs would not be interferred with. As. the result of that arrangement, certain manufacturers issued a statement on the eve of the election stating that they were willing to support the United Australia Party. The Prime Minister, speaking at a dinner given by the manufacturers in Sydney, said that the Government had reduced no protective duties. The Ottawa agreement, he said, might help British interests, but it would be of at least equal service 1o Australian secondary industries. We know, of course, that there have actually been reductions of duty on over 100 items and that, in consequence, many hundreds of persons have been put out of employment. The agreement provides for progressive reductions of the Australian tariff as the Tariff Board submits its recommendtaions, and the Commonwealth Parliament is bound not to increase duties beyond the recommendations of the board. lu article 9 of the agreement, the Government has undertaken that protection shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities of success.
– What is wrong with that?
– The honorable member asks what is wrong with it. Would H. V. McKay ever have been able to build up the enormous Sunshine Harvesting enterprise under those conditions, beginning as he did with a tiny blacksmith’s shop? Would Sir William McPherson Robertson, who began his confectionery manufacturing concern by making a few tins of sweets at a time, have been encouraged under that provision to develop his organization to its present size? The backyard industry of to-day is often the thriving industrial enterprise of to-morrow. The effect of article 9, taken in conjunction with article 10, will be to hamper those industries which have only recently begun, and to prevent any new industries from commencing operations.
– Thank God!
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is one of those who would buy the products of Japan, America, or the European countries while our own boys and girls are walking the streets looking for something to do. What will constitute an. assurance of sound opportunities for success will be arrived at after taking into consideration the. effect on the local market of British goods which have been allowed to enter Australia on a competitive basis with Australian-made goods. With the facilities that Great Britain has at its disposal in its secondary industries, and taking into consideration its opportunities for mass production, it will, in future, be impossible for any one to open new factories in Australia. When Senator Massy Greene, as Minister for Trade and Customs, was introducing the Tariff Board Bill some” years ago, he said that one of its duties would be- to ascertain openings for new industries. While he was Minister for Trade and Customs, aud later when that position was occupied by the late Mr. H. E. Pratten, an effort was made to achieve that ideal. Tha present Government, however, has not continued their work. Most of our industries began in a small way, and their progress and prosperity have been due to the protective policy followed in the past. Had the provisions of the Ottawa agreement been in operation years ago, few of our secondary industries would now be in existence. The British Government is aiming at the gradual extinction of many of our secondary industries, and the prevention of new undertakings, in order to benefit its own manufacturers and people. I do not blame that Government for having put up a good fight at Ottawa. The British representatives believe that they have broken down the Australian tariff wall; that they will get their products into Australia, even at the expense of Australian manufacturers.
Article 10 of the agreement stipulates that our tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give the producers of the United Kingdom full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative costs of economical and efficient production, &c. How is the ‘ Tariff Board to interpret that article? Evidently it will have to make exhaustive inquiries regarding the relative costs of production in Australia and Great Britain. The effect of the article will be to compel us to admit British goods on terms which will enable them to compete with our own manufactures. It is amazing that this provision should ever have been agreed to by so-called Australian delegates. Up to the present, our Australian manufacturers have competed on equal terms among themselves. The Australian manufacturers will now have to compete with the British manufacturers on an equal basis, which will mean that some of them will become bankrupt, others will have to carry out a wage-slashing policy, while others will have to dismiss half their employees. The local market is not big enough to allow, of the competition of British manufacturers. In this time of depression we should give additional safeguards to our industries rather than force them to compete on the local market with imported British goods. “We should encourage the British manufacturers to establish factories here, and thus give some additional employment to our people. I realize that some of our requirements cannot be manufactured here, and on those we should be prepared “to give Great Britain the fullest measure of preference. Mr. Baldwin realized the great benefit that this agreement would ^eventually be to the British manufacturers. The following is an extract from his speech in the House of Commons : -
It waa wonderful that they should have got Australia to undertake that tariffs should bc based on the principle that protective duties should not exceed what would give the United Kingdom an opportunity for fair competition. It is now up to the British business men to see the advantages made for them at Ottawa. (Cheers.)
The whole argument of the Government is that it will be guided by the recommendations of the Tariff Board. The Minister for Trade and Customs failed to point out to honorable members that this Parliament will not be free under this agreement to increase any duties on goods from the United Kingdom beyond those recommended by the Tariff Board. Under article 12, the Government has undertaken that no new protective duty shall be imposed and that no existing duty shall be increased on the goods of the United Kingdom to an amount in excess of the Tariff Board’s recommendation. Yet the Prime Minister in his policy speech stated that he did not believe it possible to remove tariff-making from the Parliament. He told the people that his Government- would continue the tariff policy which had been adopted by the people at the last federal election. Yet, under article 12 of the agreement, this Parliament is definitely tied to the recommendations of the Tariff Board as regards new duties and increases on goods from the United Kingdom. No self-respecting member who is free to vote as he thinks fit can support that. Under article 10 the board is definitely tied to certain conditions which must mean lower duties on British imports, and less employment in our Australian factories. Under article 11. the Government has undertaken that the Tariff Board shall, as soon as possible, review all existing protective duties with a view to allowing British goods to enter Australia and compete with our goods on equal terms. I ask the Minister whether that means that we shall have successive tariff schedules providing for lower duties on British goods?
– That must naturally follow.
– This agreement must bring in its train a lack of confidence among Australian manufacturers. Because they fear a succession of tariff schedules lowering duties, they are refraining from making additions to their factories which, if undertaken, would have given employment to many thousands of our people. This agreement must result in a loss of trade to Australian manufacturers, an increase in our imports with consequential adverse effects on our trade balance, the closing or partial closing of Australian factories, and a considerable loss of employment. It will impair the purchasing power of the people and bring about a shrinkage in the local market for our primary produce. [Leave to continue given.’] On the 17 th October, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) was reported in the Melbourne press to have made the following statement in regard to the Ottawa Conference : -
It was impossible to make any agreement without binding oneself to something. The Canadian Trade Agreement made by the Scullin Government included terms which prevented Parliament from raising specific duties at all against Canada. In the Ottawa agreement, the present Government does not propose to go nearly as far as that in restricting possible action by Parliament.
The ex-Minister for Markets, Mr. Parker Moloney, . took the Attorney-General to task. He pointed out the facts to the people, and the Attorney-General in his reply on the 22nd October, said -
His reference to the Canadian agreement as containing terms which prevented Parliament from raising specific duties against Canada did not fairly represent the facts. The Canadian agreement provided for maintaining for Canada in respect of certain goods, certain margins .of preference, but subject to the preservation of those margins, the duties might be altered. In this respect, therefore, the Canadian agreement did not go beyond the principle of Ottawa but was based upon asimilar principle.
There is no doubt that the AttorneyGeneral commented upon, the Canadian. trade treaty and the Ottawa agreement without having given careful consideration to them. His correction is also misleading. In the Canadian treaty the items are specified and are not in competition with Australian industries. It contains a provision to the effect that if, at any time, it is found that our industries are being prejudicially affected, three months’ notice can be given and the tariff raised. That is an important provision. The Canadian trade treaty, under its terms, can, after the first year, be ended on six months’ notice. That treaty did not tie the hands of Parliament for a period of five years as this agreement does. It also states -
Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to affect the right of either country to impose any special duty provided such duty shall not exceed that imposed on any other country.
The Canadian treaty is much more elastic than the Ottawa agreement. Article 14 of the Canadian and United Kingdom Trade Agreement Bill states -
His Majesty’s Government in Canada undertakes that no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods except after inquiry and receipt from the Tariff Board, and in accordance with the facts as found by that body.
That article was referred to by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) in his speech yesterday. It means that the Canadian Parliament will not increase the duty on goods against Britain until its Tariff Board has investigated and reported to Parliament. But there is this great difference. The Canadian Government is not bound by the decisions of the Tariff Board, and the Canadian Parliament is free to legislate as it chooses. Article 12 of this agreement, contained in the bill before the House, states that no new duties shall be imposed and no increase shall be made in existing duties on goods of the United Kingdom in excess of the Tariff Board’s report. This Parliament is, therefore, limited in its decisions according to the recommendations of the board. The Tariff Board was never intended to be used in that way. Ever since the Government has initiated its tariff policy it has hidden itself behind the board. It has endeavoured on the one hand to placate the manufacturing interests and on the other to satisfy the freetrade interests.
Senator Massy Greene when introducing the second reading of the Tariff Board Bill -in 1921, said -
After all, the application of the recommendations of the Tariff Board involves a great problem of economic policy regarding which there always has been and always will be great difference of opinion. It may be demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that the findings of the board arc unimpeachable, but there still remains the question of a high tariff, a low tariff, or no tariff. These are questions which in the long run can only be settled by the popular will as expressed through the chosen representatives of the people.
Those views are sound to-day. It was always intended that Parliament, and not a. board bound by certain procedure, should decide the fiscal policy of Australia. Senator Massy Greene went on to say -
The final judgment regarding a report made by the Tariff Board in any case of this sort will rest with Parliament. On the whole 1 believe that an independent board which is not under ministerial control will be found the best, the ultimate decision of course resting with the House.
Although, under this agreement, the ultimate decision may rest with the Parliament, it can approve of increases in duties on goods from the United Kingdom only to the extent of the recommendations of the board. Mr. Baldwin, referring to the Ottawa agreement, said -
It has introduced a principle of reasonable, not prohibitive, tariffs, and a start has been made to remove the dominions’ tariffs from politics by the establishment of Tariff Boards.
The Prime Minister, speaking in Sydney, said that there would be no reduction of the protective policy. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton), in view of the Ottawa agreement, was quite justified in resigning from the Cabinet. “We have heard a good deal about the meat industry, and the wonderful benefits that will accrue to it as the result of this agreement. For years Australia has been endeavouring to increase her export trade in meat. We have seen big meat contracts for the British navy and army given to the Argentine while the Australian industry has been languishing. We have been at a disadvantage through not being able to export meat in a chilled state, but it appears from recent reports that trial shipments of chilled beef to the United Kingdom have been successful. The advantage that Australia is to receive under the agreement will not be realized until 1934, and even then they may not be nearly so large as we expect. There is to be no immediate relief for our meat producers. The Argentine will still be able to supply the British market with chilled meat, because no diminishing quota is to operate on that class of meat. The quota reduction applies only to imports of frozen beef, mutton and lamb. “We have been told that the agreement means a preference of £1,000,000 a year to the Queensland sugar industry, but it means nothing of the sort ; it merely means a continuance of the British preference on dominion sugar that has been in operation for some time.
In 1926, Great Britain gave the Queensland sugar industry an effective preference of £3 12s. a ton on sugar of 96 polarization. That preference is to be continued, and it is stated to be worth this year £500,000 to the industry, and not £1,000,000. In conclusion, the Ottawa agreement is the greatest political ramp that has ever been perpetrated by any Australian delegation abroad, the British manufacturers having nothing to lose but everything to gain at the expense of Australian industries.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I confess to considerable disappointment at the attitude of the Opposition towards this epoch-making agreement. Generally, the speeches of its members have been of a petti-fogging and Little-Peddlington character. The historic gathering of the leading statesmen of the Empire at Ottawa was described by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) as “ the greatest ramp ever put over in politics “. I ask the Australian public to observe how that galaxy of Empire and dominion statesmen is viewed, by the Deputy Leader of the Labour party and those who support him. His expression indicates a stilted and stunted view, and generally the attitude of the Opposition shows a lack of leadership, which is in consonance with the degradation to which that party has fallen.
Honorable members of the Opposition
– I protest against the continuous interruption from the Opposition benches.
– Organized opposition!
– We will give back to the Minister what he gave us this morning. If he cannot conduct himself decently-
– Order ! I hope that honorable members will allow the Minister to proceed without interruption.
– We will treat him as he treated us.
– Your lecture, Mr. Speaker, would have been well-timed when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking before lunch.
– That is an insult to the Chair.
– The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition contain an implication to which I take exception, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, but I shall take another opportunity to make my protest against your inaction this morning, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition could not continue his speech for jeers and sneers.
– Hear, hear !
– I hope that no unnecessary heat will be engendered. I have endeavoured impartially to maintain order for the benefit of every speaker.
– You gave ministerial members plenty of freedom this morning.
– On several occasions I reprimanded members on the Government benches, and I do not think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was subject to any undue interruption.
– He did not get a chance.
– He did not make any complaint. But whatever happened this morning, the Chair will insist upon the maintenance of order for every honorable . member who is addressing it. If honorable members continue organized interruption they must take the consequences.
– The Minister who was in charge of the House this morning should have behaved himself.
– I may be permitted to make some remarks regarding the organized interruption to which I have been subjected. During the debate on this bill this morning I made only three interjections.
– The Minister was like a hoodlum all the morning.
– Order ! I hope honorable members will not force me to take drastic action. This continuous interruption cannot be allowed to continue, and if any honorable member persists in disregarding the authority of the Chair I shall be obliged to name him.
– On a point of order, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred to the PostmasterGeneral as a hoodlum. I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– It is true, anyhow.
– The PostmasterGeneral is well able to take care of himself.
– I believe that the agreement reached at the Ottawa Conference will be productive of the greatest benefit to all parts of the Empire.
– To overseas manufacturers.
– Order ! Honorable members of the Opposition have had a fair opportunity to consider my warning, and if they persist in their present attitude, I shall have to make an example of one of the more prominent of their number.
– The making of the Ottawa agreement was one of the greatest events in Empire history. Its effects cannot be properly estimated at this stage, but they will be far-reaching, and highly beneficial to the millions of people in the British Empire. I have always held that the Empire is the greatest influence in the world upon international stability and peace, and anything which binds more closely together its component nations, must operate in the interests of the Australian people.
Honorable Membebs. - Hear, hear !
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That great imperial statesman, Disraeli
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– It may be difficult to name several members of the Opposition who are persistently interjecting, but I warn them that I shall do so if they continue. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to try to restrain his colleagues.
– Is it not in order for us to say “hear, hear,” to the remarks of the Minister?
– The concerted and frequent interjection of “ hear, hear,” with the intention of interrupting the Minister is disorderly.
– I remind the House of a great speech by Disraeli many years ago, when he laid down those lines of imperial co-operation upon which the Empire is functioning to-day. He said that there should be an arrangement between the component parts of the Empire whereby the migration of people between the United Kingdom and the outlying dominions should be regulated, thatdefence should be based on the co-operation of all the nations in the commonwealth, and that tariffs also should be dealt with on a basis of mutual understanding and help. Upon those lines, migration has been already controlled. Temporarily, migration from the United Kingdom to Australia has been suspended, but prior to the present depression, the transfer of people from the United Kingdom to the dominions was in accordance with a definite plan and agreement by which our kinsmen of the old land were introduced to the greater opportunities of the new. Defence also has been given an Empire basis. Now we are seeking similarly to organize the tariffs and trade relations within the Empire. This has long been the dream of imperial statesmen, of men whose names are carved on the tablets of British and Australian history. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain advocated a system of imperial preference for many years, and his ideas were endorsed by that great Australian, Mr. Alfred Deakin. Those men, however, were ahead of their time, but although their views were not adopted in their life time, we are to-day debating a bill which is in accordance with the ideal for which they strove. At Ottawa, a Basis of co-operation was reached, upon which, although it may require some alteration in the future, a superstructure of mutually advantageous trading may be erected that will be of far-reaching benefit both to the Mother Country, and the various dominion members of the British Empire. The agreement has two main features: - first, it assures extended as well as certain markets for the produce of Australia. That is an advantage which this country has never previously enjoyed-
Honorable members of the Opposition interjecting,
– When next the members of the Opposition interrupt, I shall draw attention to one of them, and if he again offends, I shall name him.
– It is a pity you did not adopt the same attitude this morning.
– The honorable member for Capricornia.
– Time will not permit me to dwell in detail upon the specific advantages we shall gain from, the Ottawa agreement in respect of wheat, butter, eggs, and other primary products. It is sufficient to say that real and substantial benefits are assured to the Australian people. In return for these, we are asked to give nothing that is detrimental to legitimate secondary industries in this country. Surely we are not to take all and give nothing.
– It is all give, and no take.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– Great Britain having made considerable concessions to us, we must be expected to reciprocate. Australia is asked merely to reshape its tariff on fair and reasonable lines- not to maintain the present Himalayan walls, but to permit of importation on a competitive basis. Who can honestly complain of a provision of that kind? Surely our secondary industries are not to be built on a monopolistic foundation. Is that the only basis which honorable members opposite have to suggest for these industries? If so, it is not likely to be acceptable to other honorable members. Great Britain has merely asked that our secondary industries shall be put upon a competitive basis. We are therefore, giving away nothing in this regard. These industries should have been placed on that basis long ago. Irrespective of the Ottawa or any other conference, they should be competitively based now.
Australia is at the crossroads. The future success of this country will depend upon the roa’d that we take at this juncture. We have only a limited amount of money and limited resources at our disposal, and we cannot afford to misuse them. The question of supreme and paramount importance to Australia is, what industries can best be built up to the lasting advantage of the Commonwealth. I say unhesitatingly that we must give our primary producing industries first consideration. It is through them that new money will be brought into Australia, and upon them that progress, contentment, prosperity, and happiness will be built there. It is on the broad acres and in the fresh and stimulating air of the countryside of Australia that our youth must earn their livelihood. It is to the advantage of our secondary industries that our primary industries should be materially helped just now, .for if they are wisely assisted a valuable home market will be created, which will mean a larger purchasing power and greater success in the widest sense. In a choice between the primary and secondary producing industries of Australia, this Parliament can decide in only one way; at the same time I do not for one moment depreciate the value of our secondary industries. They, are necessary to support our primary industries, and have a legitimate place in this great Commonwealth. For this reason I am quite prepared’ to assist in the granting to them of reasonable assistance.
The Ottawa agreement affords very great advantages to Australia.
– What are they?
– I am unable, in the limited time at my disposal, to act as schoolmaster and give honorable members information on subjects which their own intelligence should cause them to obtain for themselves. If the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) will read the agreement he will find clearly stated in it in black and. white’ the advantages to which I have referred., Great Britain. has always been, fair,, reasonable;, and’ even generous, to the’ dominions.. Listening to this debate, a stranger might, gather that the Government was proposing, to enter into partnership with a. foreign- country and not with the Government of the United Kingdom which, in the past, has done so much for us in defence measures and in making possible our “White Australia policy. I do not know why honorable members opposite should seek to depreciate the advantages which Australia is obtaining from Great Britain under this agreement. They must know perfectly well that advantages- are being offered to us, and they should be fair enough to admit it. But the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), when he is not prowling about outside this chamber, is- continually mouthing a- series of mutterings
– Order! I ask the Postmaster-General not to use extravagant language.
– I have had to suffer a great deal of unreasonable interjection.
– I ask the honorable gentleman not to use provocative language.
Mb. ARCHDALE- PARKHILL.- The advantages which this agreement will confer upon Australia, are perfectly clear, and I- do not know why honorable members opposite are not willing to admit them.
– What a-tfe the advantages?
Mis. SPEAKER. - The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) is a> new member of the House,, and’ on that account I give him’ a second warning.
– I am seeking information.
– The honorable gentleman will have a full’ opportunity to make his speech at a later stage.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL During this debate the main objection to” the1 agreement has” been ba’sed on the provision’s- of ifr which relate to bananas. In this connexion the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) quoted from a report which appeared in the Brisbane Courier. I propose to read some extracts’ from an article which appeared’ in the- Brisbane Daily Mail. On account of the great deal of time that has been wasted in futile interjections while I have been speaking, I shall not be able to quote the whole of the article. In discussing the provisions of the agreement relating to meat, the article states -
The Ottawa agreement presents Queensland with the challenge of great opportunities. Banana and pineapple growers have cause for a sense of grievance, but in their own interests they will be well-advised not to allow these grievances to be taken charge of by Labour and turned into party propaganda.
I make it clear that this Government desires to do everything possible to assist the meat and every other industry. Another paragraph from the article reads as follows: -
Queensland’s dairying industry should not wait for a laggard government to point the way to largo expansion, which has opened up for it by the Ottawa agreement. Butter is to have the security of a 15s. per cwt. preference. There is still a foreign trade of round about 4.000,000 cwt. to be attacked with this- advantage in the British market. Great as has- been the expansion of Australian butter exports in the last’ year or two, supplies taken by Britain from, this country in 1931 were less than- a quarter of the total British imports. As regards cheese, New Zealand, even without the aid of preference, has secured more than half the British import trade, but a foreign- trade of between 300,000 awl 400,000 cwt. a year challenges Australia. Substantia] preferences for condensed milk and milk powders- invite this State, with its vast scope for dairying development, to engage in a trade which” hitherto has been mainly enjoyed by foreign, suppliers;.- Imports into the United Kingdom of unsweetened condensed milk from the United States of America alone amounted in. 1031 to nearly five times the total’ of supplies1 received’ from all Empire countries. In the same- year the United Kingdom took 19.783,000 great hundreds of eggs from foreign countries, only 6,137,000 great hundreds from the Empire’, and less than 100,000 great hundreds from Australia. The Ottawa agreement gives Australia preference ranging from ls. to ls. 9d. a great hundred on eggs, and its only important. Empire competitors are the Trish Free State, which at the present moment is denied preferential treatment by the De Valera Government, and South- Africa. Britain also wants between 500;000 and 600,000 cwt. of dead poultry every year, and hitherto she has had to depend upon foreign countries- for nearly, five-sixths of these supplies. With- tir preference of- 10- per cent., will Queensland consider this market worth her attention? The advantages of the moat agreement will he determined by the movement” df prices: in Britain under the quota arrangement, but- immediate preference i* available for canned meats, meat extracts and essences, and such by-products as leather and tallow.
The provisions of the agreement which are beneficial to the great State of Queensland are epitomized in what I have just read. Instead of moaning about the minor question of bananas, honorable mein hers opposite should be reasonable enough to adopt the view expressed in that article.
I have already pointed out that the agreement provides that our secondary industries shall be put upon a competitive basis. Surely no honorable member imagines that we could obtain great advantages for our primary producers without giving something in return. I can see no objection whatever to the request of the Government of the United Kingdom that our secondary industries shall be put upon a definitely competitive basis instead of the present monopolistic basis, which the Labour party evidently desires to retain. When the Labour party was a power in Australia, one of its strongest claims was that it stood against privilege and monopoly. I can remember the whole countryside ringing with the speeches of members of the Labour party against monopolies; but to-day the Labour party makes no claim to speak for people outside of the trade union movement, and it speaks for only a section of those within that movement. Instead of standing for great, broad, national principles, it is to-day the champion of vested interests in the capital cities of the Commonwealth. That party is marching hand in hand with monopoly and privilege, to the detriment of the toiling masses that it alleges that it represents. To-day it is divided into two parts neither of which, in all probability, will return to this House.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I have never previously risen to a point of order, but I cannot allow the Postmaster-General’s suggestion that I represent vested interests to pass without recording my protest, for it is offensive to me.
– The PostmasterGeneral has made use of an expression which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports regards as personally offensive. I am sure that the honorable gentleman will withdraw the remark.
– I did not refer to any specific honorable member. Surely I am entitled to refer to a party in those terms.
– The PostmasterGeneral may not argue the matter. Objection has been taken to the remark, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– On a point of order. Are we to understand that the honorable member has withdrawn his remarks? If so, he should be man enough to make his withdrawal audible.
– There is no point of order involved. The objection raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has been satisfactorily settled by the Postmaster-General withdrawing the offensive remark.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Even had the Ottawa Conference not taken place, our tariff would have been reduced. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) declared that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) had been indefinite in the remarks that he made at a dinner given under the auspices of the Chamber of Manufactures. The honorable member cannot claim that there was any ambiguity in the magnificent speech that was made in this chamber by the Prime Minister yesterday. Even he must now understand the reasons why the Government is in favour of this agreement.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) objected to article 9 of the agreement, which reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
It is not seriously claimed that any responsible government would waste time in imposing high duties to aid industries which are not reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success? Why, then, is exception taken to article 9? Even supposing that there was ground for complaint, it is necessary to consider the concluding words of article 10, which the honorable member for Capricornia took care not to mention. They read -
Provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
That is a generous gesture suggesting assistance to industries not fully established. That provision makes for the establishment of a sound protective policy in Australia.
The agreement proposes that, in certain respects, the Tariff Board shall be the arbiter of the rate of duty to bc imposed. The complaint has been made that there is no such condition in the Canadian agreement. But it must be remembered that the Canadian Tariff Board makes no recommendations regarding duties; it merely sets out the facts of the case. Is not Great Britain entitled to ask for some guarantee that our tariff, in normal periods, will not go to- the height that it reached under the direction of the Scullin Government? It was then increased to the highest tariff in the world. T suggest that the provision is a fair and reasonable one, and should be accepted without hesitation. For years the reports of the Tariff Board have been accepted without quibble. I venture the opinion that, in their hearts, honorable members opposite are still prepared to accept the recommendations of that body, and that the present opposition to these proposals is largely a form of political propaganda.
– What about the opinions expressed in the circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales?
– I am coming to that. The main opposition directed against this agreement is drawn from quotations contained in a circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales. What an amazing position, that that institution should have as its champions in this chamber, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and his group, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and those who support him. I have read that circular, and I consider it to be general and theoretical. But why is this private bank stepping into the arena of politics, disseminating adverse propaganda concerning the Ottawa agreement? Why, some little time ago, did the general manager of this important institution contemptuously refer to the Ottawa agreement as a politicians’ conference? Why, also, is this bank concurrently conducting a campaign designed to bring about an increase in exchange? The whole thing to me is inexplicable. Both in this House and on the public platforms of the country I and other honorable members on this side, have endeavoured to keep the banks free from political influence of any kind. While this * is so, the duty devolves on those institutions to keep out of the political arena. If they fail to do so, and indulge in propaganda of this kind, the private banks will be brought into the swirling eddies of the maelstrom of ‘ political controversy, out of which will emerge only one issue, the nationalization of banking, and the attitude taken up by the Bank of New South Wales will make it all the more difficult to fight that issue. Honorable members opposite are doing this great institution considerable disservice by using its propaganda in this way.
The Ottawa proposals have been debated by honorable members opposite as though the other party to the agreement were some foreign country, instead of Great Britain, the country to which the dominions owe so much. The pride and glory of Australian nationalism has been the White Australia policy. Where would that policy be if it were not for the support given to us by Great Britain. By the moral support, afforded us, the working men of the Old Country have made it possible for us to preserve our ideals, free from the attacks of coloured races. Yet, honorable, members opposite launch an attack against the self-same working men who have rendered this great service. This country pays an inconsiderable sum for its defence, and it would be wholly inadequate if it had not the support of Great Britain. Although they owe that indebtedness in a major matter, honorable members opposite quibble over these arrangements in a minor sphere which offer such far-reaching benefits to the people of Australia. They should be accepted by us in’ a prompt, and generous spirit. I- have no hesitation in pledging- my unswerving- support to the proposals which are enunciated in this agreement, believing that they’ will tend to knit closer- the bonds of Empire, and lay a sounder foundation for the development of our trade in the- years that are to come.
Ufa. 2E0WSE (Forrest) [3.0].- I support the Ottawa agreement, but regret that it confers only,one-tenth of the advantage it might have done on the British Empire, including Australia. It has not gone nearly far enough. Our experience during recent years has demonstrated beyond doubt that our primary industries are of paramount importance to the country, and that the development of secondary industries can be achieved at too great a cost. As a result of our fiscal policy, our secondary industries have developed at the expense of the great exporting industries. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) make a distinction yesterday between those primary industries whose products are consumed locally, and those which produce for export. The minor primary industries, which exploit the local market, are always ready, together with the secondary industries, to approach Parliament for protection. Caught as they are in our vicious fiscal circle, they may feel, entitled- to do so,- but the result df’ granting their requests is to place a still heavier burden on the backs- of t?he exporters.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill)-, in the speech he has just delivered, pointed out? that,- without our primary industries, no secondary industries could exist in this country. The Leader’ of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has, I think, also expressed s similar view.- If it is generally admitted that the prima-ry industries are of such paramount importance, it must be admitted that the concessions which we1 have granted to Great Britain have not gone far enough. Nothing has been done to reduce costs of production in Australia. The tariff wall against foreign” countries has been raised, but that against Great Britain- remain’s unaltered. It’ is true, as was f.id. the other’ day by” a merchant’ in Huddersfield, that a 7-ft. wall- has been reduced by one- foot, and a 5-ft. man is expected to be able to look over it.
However, I. support the agreement largely because of articles 9 and 10. I can see no dfficulty in the way of putting clause 9 into operation. The British Government will, no doubt, expect Australia to relinquish those industries which can continue to operate only behind the shelter of uneconomic tariffs. Our population is too small to justify their existence. Our delegates have promised the British Government, and the promise is incorporated in article 9 of the agreement, that we shall examine certain industries operating in this country to ascertain’ whether they are rendering a service or a disservice to the community. If they are not rendering useful service, what loss do we sustain if’ we hand over to British manufacturers the market they now supply?. By so doing, we shall benefit Great Britain, which will supply us with goods at half the price for which we can manufacture and sell them ‘in this country. In return, Britain will buy more of our primary produce, and both parties will benefit.. There must be this mutual exchange of goods if the country is to develop.
Under the terms of this agreement, the Tariff Board is to assume a new dignity. Its operations will be removed from the arena of political controversy, and that will be all to the good. In the past, the warnings issued by the board in its annual reports have not been heeded by Parliament. The last report of the board, is worthy of consideration, and I recommend it to the notice of’ the Leader of the Opposition and’ his deputy. Dealing with the subject of tariff’ reductions and employment, the board states -
In a number of reports during the year, thu board, after having been convinced that the reduced rates are still adequate to protect . efficient industries, has recommended reduction of duties. Sometimes, however, it has been obvious that a reduction’ or removal of duties would jeopardize- the particular industry concerned or- other allied, industries and would throw certain, operatives out of employment. Naturally, the board would recommend action which might have this effect only after very serious consideration. Tile board has constantly ha”d’ in min’d tha-t the prevailing very serious unemployment is bad for the financial, physical’ and moral’ condition of the community, and in all its deliberations has regarded it’ of vital importance that remunerative work should be found for the people. Nevertheless, the imposition of high rates of duty for the benefit of one industry, resulting in seriously higher costs to other secondary or to primary industries, may cause some additional’ employment in the one, but resultant unemployment in the others. The maximum employment of our people is largely dependent upon the successful expansion of our export industries. This expansion’, though largely affected by the world’s demand for our products, is also bound up with low costs of production. The establishment of new industries or the extension of existing industries which need the application of excessi ve rates of duty tend to add to costs and retard progress and employment. Aust tralia’s prosperity will depend not only on the keeping out of unnecessary imports, but to even a greater degree on the expansion of exports of the products of her great primary and her natural secondary industries.
That is the considered opinion of the Tariff Board. [Quorum formed.] Not only has the board warned this Parliament against its fiscal madness, but persons entirely uninfluenced by political considerations have told us that we have been attempting too much. They have said that no benefit will be derived by Australia trying to develop numerous industries the existence of which is not warranted by our population. They have advised Australia to call a halt. That is why, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said this morning that the effect of the Ottawa agreement would be to prevent new industries from beginning in Australia, I said, “ Thank God “. “We have too many industries here now. We have sought to make ourselves selfcontained, a condition that has never been attained by any country in the world, and never will. Let us develop those industries, primary and secondary, which are natural to the country. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), when in Opposition, made an excellent speech on this subject. He said that if we concentrated on certain natural industries, we should be able, not only to supply the local market, but to export our secondary products as well. Unless we adopt this policy, and allow other countries to make for us those things which wo cannot make economically ourselves, I can see no prospect of our ever getting out of our present difficulties.
I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition, and, perhaps, with the Leader of the Government as well, regarding the interpretation of article 9.
I heard the Leader of the Opposition on one occasion say that, at one time, he believed, with others, in protecting those industries that could produce goods in this- country on a commercial basis, but that- he was no longer prepared to include the word “ commercial His present policy, therefore, is to protect any and every industry to the point of prohibiting the importation of any article that can be made in Australia. He is prepared to do this, regardless of the burden it places- on the primary industries, although he himself has. admitted that those industries are indispensable to Australia. With his perfervid belief in the efficacy of protection, he is prepared to strangle the great primary industries.
I ask honorable members to picture to themselves the condition of the primary industries producing for export. Most of them are producing at a loss. That is bad for them, but only by their efforts are we able to establish any credit abroad. They alone enable our secondary industries to continue in operation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in his own inimitable fashion, said that the Ottawa agreement would prevent certain industries from expanding and providing employment for the people. He is always speaking of new industries providing employment for thousands of workers. He used to speak in that strain when he was Minister for Customs. One industry would employ an additional 500 men, and another 1,000 men. We know that, in actual fact, one man last his job every four minutes while he was in power. Since the abolition of embargoes, and the reduction of some duties, there has been a gradual improvement in the unemployment figures. Statistics prove that every increase in our tariff has been followed by an increase in unemployment. Honorable members, whether representing country or city electorates, must . pay some attention to these evident facts. Men qualified to advise Parliament, as were the five economists who recently expressed an opinion on the Australian tariff have told us that protection to secondary industries has handicapped our export primary industries to the extent of 9 per cent.; but neither the Bruce-Page Government, to which that advice was tendered, nor subsequent governments, have removed the handicap, though it must now represent more like 15 per cent. Have the prices of wool and wheat increased to an extent that offsets this handicap? To the contrary, prices have been reduced by over 50 per cent., and in some cases they are lower now than they have been since the sixteenth century. This fetish of high protection for secondary industries does not bring an extra shilling into Australia, but it extracts far too much from the primary producers in respect of the high prices that they have to pay for their requirements. The other day I was conversing with a man at Parkes, and he told me that at one time an axe handle could be obtained for ls., but that to-day the price is 5s. 6d. I would sooner have one of the old axe handles than a dozen Australian ones. Now that the purchasing power of the primary producer has been so reduced, one might expect that some attempt would be made to assist him. Instead of that, the tariff has been increased to such an extent as to raise the price of a spade or shovel from 4s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. Some time ago we were informed by the Minister for Trade and Customs that in Australia three factories and fifteen men were engaged in making shovels. That is not a sound industry, because it would cease to exist if the protection of 45 per cent., which it now enjoys, were withdrawn. In order to give the primary producers a cheaper shovel, it would pay the Government to superannuate every one of those fifteen hands by giving them £1,000 a year to sit down and wear out the seat of their pants. The Ottawa agreement will, to some extent, assist our export industries. Without the development of those industries there is no hope for our secondary industries. Embargoes have been placed on certain foreign goods to force the people to buy local goods, with the result that Australia has become a hotbed for combines and crooks whose sole object is to extract the last shilling from the people of Australia. This Government does not seem to be sincere in its references to the importance of our primary industries, because it is doing practically nothing to reduce the cost of production and to remove some of the burdens of the primary producers. Our wheat-growers are subject to world competition, and to-day 75 per cent, of them are bankrupt. It would give them considerable relief if a sales tax were imposed on flour, but the financial and political interests of Australia, which are concentrated in the cities, refuse to sanction such a tax. In France the wheatgrower receives 7s. 6d. a bushel for his wheat; in Germany, 8s. a bushel; and in Italy, 9s. 6d. a bushel. If the Prime Minister ascertained from those three countries the price of a 4-lb. loaf there, I venture to predict that it would be found to be less than it is in Australia although the price of wheat here is 3s. 4d. per bushel. In New Zealand last year the wheat-growers received 6s. a bushel, and the price of bread there was exactly the same as in this country. If the conditions surrounding the baking and milling of bread were investigated, it would be found that we should be getting bread at half the price that is charged for it to-day. There should be some equality of sacrifice among the various sections of the community. I regret that in arriving at this agreement at Ottawa, the Commonwealth was not magnanimous enough to give Great Britain the right to import into this country goods which are being uneconomically produced here. It is little more than a lifetime since Great Britain occupied this vast territory of ours. For the past 160 years the Motherland has defended and made this country safe for our occupation. We should therefore be prepared to give Great Britain a greater measure of reciprocity. This agreement only fiddles with the subject, although I admit that it is a step in the right direction. I hope that a literal interpretation will be placed on the wording of articles 9 and 10, because they are capable of other interpretations. For instance, the words “ assured of sound opportunities for success “ would be interpreted by some honorable members to apply to any sort of industry that might be established in Australia, notwithstanding the fact that it could not be a success without the assistance of excessive protection. To those honorable members every industry would be capable of success. The words “ prospects of success “ should be substituted for “ opportunities for success “.
Australia offers every opportunity for an industry to succeed. We have the highest tariff in the world and our climate is the best in the world. Our great disadvantage is the smallness of our population. At one time the Public Accounts Committee, of which I was a member, took evidence on the cost of ship-building in this country. We had as a witness the Chairman of the Broken Hill Steel Company. One of the members of the committee asked him why the company did not roll steel plates for ship-building and railway purposes. The witness replied that only recently his board had had that matter under consideration, but had come to the conclusion that it would cost £1,000,000 to establish a plant for rolling steel which, after six weeks’ operation, would supply the whole of Australia’s requirements. That is one instance in which the prospects of the success of an industry in Australia are not yet ripe. In view of our limited population and other disabilities, it behoves this Government to realize that it would pay us infinitely better to buy such requirements in the cheapest market in the world rather than bolster up Australian industries which are economically unsound. I accept the Ottawa agreement with the regret that it is not more farreaching to the mutual advantage to the Commonwealth of Nations.
.- It is a pity that the criticisms of the Ottawa agreement appear to be political rather than economic, and sectional rather than national. If we believe in the maintenance of the British Empire, if we recognize the great good already done in the march of civilization by the Empire, and the great world force that it has been, and still is, we must support this agreement. It is undoubtedly a step towards a satisfactory economic unity, because it encourages better trading conditions and mutual support within the Empire family. If that were not so, how certain foreign nations would gloat. We remember the predictions that were made before the conference met. Certain foreign nations said that the conference was foredoomed to failure and that its failure would presage the decline of the British Empire. We know how those foreign countries will hail the opposition of the members of the Labour party to this agreement, in the same way as during the war the enemy press gleefully reported the result of strikes in Australia which hampered us in our efforts to assist in the world war. Any honorable member who assists to destroy this agreement allies himself with those foreign nations. [Quorum formed]. This agreement must not be allowed to fail. To say that the British Empire is the greatest in the world is not to be guilty of mere jingoism. The Empire contains enormous resources of man-power and machinery, varied climates, and great natural wealth. Australia’s very existence is dependent upon the maintenance of Empire unity. For our defence, we rely largely upon the material support of the British navy, and the .moral support of the British people. Therefore, in any development to promote the well-being of the Empire, we must play our part, and I am convinced that Australia’s delegates at Ottawa acquitted themselves well indeed.
I have said that the criticisms of the agreement are mainly political rather than economic. The critics may be divided into two classes. One class consists of those who, like the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), are of opinion that the Australian duties upon British goods have not been reduced low enough, and that we should have made a more emphatic gesture of friendship to the Mother Country. The other class consists of those who declare that the agreement is so favorable to other parts of the Empire as to jeopardize Australian secondary industries. The former critics, particularly those who claim to speak for the primary producers, I would refer to the reports on the Australian tariff by economists and others who are agreed that Australia could not support its present population so well if it depended wholly on the primary industries. Our standard of living would have to be reduced, and our people would lose many of the comforts and amenities that they enjoy at the present time. That in itself is sufficient justification for the encouragement of secondary industries. The Ottawa agreement is a compromise. It is not perfect, and I do not think it would have been possible to reach a perfect agreement any more than it would be possible to achieve perfection in a budget or tariff. But it does assure to the Australian producer a definite preference of 2s. a quarter in respect of wheat, straight-out preferences on butter, fruit, wine, and ores, find a prohibitive duty of 2d. per lb. against foreign copper ore entering Great Britain. It is obvious that these advantages must promote a greater export trade from Australia to the United Kingdom. Therefore, the primary producers who criticize the terms of the agreement are taking only a sectional view of it. They must have a wider vision and realize that the agreement will benefit Australia, Great Britain, and the whole Empire. The United Kingdom has bought 40 per cent, of Australia’s wool, wheat, meat, butter, dried fruits, canned fruits, and base metals, whereas Australia’s purchases from the United Kingdom have represented 44 per cent, of her total imports. As Great Britain is buying only 40 per cent, of our exportable products, there is undoubtedly opportunity for developing that market. This agreement will enable that to bc done; it will stimulate trade, and assure to the primary producers those higher prices for which they have been asking.
The criticism by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) yesterday, was in his usual style. He endeavoured to mislead the House into, the belief that the protective policy of Australia dated from the advent of the Scullin Government, and that by a variation of the duties it imposed, our secondary industries would be destroyed. That is not so.’ Most of the duties against Great Britain will remain unaltered, but the margin of preferences to the products of the United Kingdom has been widened by increasing the duties on imports from foreign countries. Thus, much of the trade we now do with foreign countries, with many of which we have an adverse trade balance, will be transferred to Great Britain. The Mother Country will buy more of our raw materials, and we shall buy more of her manufactured goods, while at the same time giving adequate protection to our own secondary producers. There is an apprehension in manufacturing as well as political circles, that articles 10, 11 and 12 of the Ottawa agreement may jeopardize Australian secondary industries. Article 10 provides -
His Majesty’s Government in the Common-1 wealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this agreement, the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle, special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
That may be difficult to interpret, but the responsibility of interpretation will rest upon a skilled Tariff Board.
– Which includes a representative of the British manufacturers.
-One member of the board is a prominent Australian manuf facturer. The board’s decisions have at all times been impartial. It will now have a colossal task in revising the tariff schedules. The last Government imposed duties in a crude and haphazard fashion, without regard to economic consequences, and often without consulting the Tariff Board. The adjustment of the crudities and anomalies thus created will be a big task. During the election campaign the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) declared that the expert Tariff Board would guide the Government in regard to the imposition of duties. That body hears evidence from both the applicants for, and the opponents of, protective duties, and its findings are reached after consideration of all the relevant facts. If honorable members will peruse, not only the reports, but also transcripts of the evidence heard by the board, they will realise that every recommendation is preceded by a fair investigation of the industry concerned. I agree with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) that, in view of the enormous task beforeit, the membership of the board might be enlarged. Moreover, provision should be made, .if it is not already contained in the Tariff Board Act, for the punishment of any witness who gives false testimony before the board. This is alleged to havehappened on more than one occasion. Evidence is given on oath from both, parties to any application, and we should be assured that it is fair and accurate. An expert body accustomed to getting and! analysing evidence is better qualified to decide a tariff matter than is any House of Parliament; Have we not heard during the consideration of tariff schedules in this chamber, item after item discussed by honorable members, who were obsessedby fixed ideas - some wanting lower duties and others prohibition. They talked on general principles rather than On the merits of the individual items, and that is exceedingly dangerous. In connexion with each item, regard should be had to such considerations as availability and prices of raw material, the labour to be employed, and the wages abroad and in Australia in the industry concerned. A parliament has not the opportunity to go thoroughly into these details. Although criticism by politicians, newspapers, and manufacturers has been concentrated upon article 10, I am convinced that that article contains no menace to Australian secondary industries.
The Leader of the Opposition yesterday spoke in characteristic terms of the danger that threatens young industries that have developed lately, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) told us to-day that, because of the agreement, certain factories will not be enlarged, and employees are likely to be dismissed. The registrations at the Victorian Labour Bureau, and the increased building activities in that State, show that unemployment is not increasing, but that that psychological factor, confidence, is returning to those who have money to invest. They believe in moderation, not in the extreme ideas of freetraders or prohibitionists. Members of the Labour party flatter themselves when they claim to be protectionists; they are really prohibitionists masquerading as protectionists. If a motion were submitted in this chamber that every duty in the present tariff schedule should be increased by 50 per cent., I invite them to say whether they would support it. During the last Parliament, the Scullin Government introduced many tariff schedules, which operated for months before Parliment was given an opportunity to discuss them. That Government repeatedly ignored the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Had the board been consulted more fully we would have had a better protective policy than that of the last two unsettled years. Industries would have been steadily developed, unemployment would have been gradually reduced, and We would have avoided those violent fluctuations of trade that occurred during the Scullin regime. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
“Wheat Industry - “ The Five Year Plan “ Film- Performing Right Association - Unemployment Relief.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I ask the Government to reply without further delay to the deputation which waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) a fortnight ago, and requested that assistance of some kind should be granted to the wheat industry. Harvesting operations havenow been started in many places, and it is high time that the Government intimated whether it intends to grant the assistance that has been sought. It is not necessary for me to make any lengthy reference to the precarious state of this industry. No one can say what would happen if our wheat-growing industry were to collapse. I, therefore, trust that the announcement for which I ask will be made without delay.
– I have just received a telegram intimating that the film “ The Five Year Plan “ is to be exported. A few days ago a request was made in this House that honorable members should be given an opportunity to attend a private screening of this film. Although the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Guy) did not give a definite promise that this would be done, he left us with the impression that the request would probably be favorably considered. No suggestion was made at that time that the film would be exported hastily as, I understand, is now proposed. Before a film which has been allowed unrestricted public exhibition in other countries is sent from Australia in this way, substantial reasons should be given to justify such action. I understand that this picture deals with modern industrial and agricultural development, and so it should be possible for us to learn something valuable from it. Unless there are objections to the picture because of its immoral influence or its undesirable propaganda, we should not rob our people of its educational value. The Government should be slow to exclude from this country any literary, artistic or educational work, whether in film or print. The results of the experiments of peoples of other lands should be made available to our people. Even if we do not agree with the methods adopted in such experiments, we should seek all the useful information that we can get about them. If this film is being exported by order of the Attorney-General’s Department the reasons for such action should be published. This picture has been screened for considerable periods in the United States of America, and it has also had a long run in various provincial centres of Great Britain. Personally, I intend jealously to guard our educational privileges, and I shall strongly resist and resent the curtailment of any facilities of this kind. The people of Australia are not infants; they are able to stand on their own feet. I feel strongly on this subject. While I do not suggest that a definite promise was made that this particular film would be privately screened, I feel that we are entitled to know why the Government now proposes to export it in this hurried manner.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The Government should make an immediate announcement of its policy in regard to the granting of assistance to the wheat-growing industry. Like the honorable member for Swan, I think there is no need for me to stress the need for such assistance. Wheat is already being reaped in various parts of Australia, and the Government’s policy should be known at once.
I asked the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) earlier to-day whether the Government intended to appoint a permanent arbitrator to determine disputes relating to performing rights as between the Performing Right Association and the broadcasting companies. The honorable gentleman’s reply left the impression on my mind that the Government did intend to make such an appointment.
– I tell the honorable member definitely that there is no such intention, for the reason that the whole matter is reserved for further consideration. It may, or it may not, happen that such a decision will be given later.
– I hope that nothing will be done to build up another public department to deal with this business. That is what I fear may happen. If the Government ultimately decides to appoint such an arbitrator, I trust that, it will provide that all the expenses in connexion with the appointment will be borne by the Performing Right Association and the broadcasting companies.
I ask the Attorney-General definitely whether the House will sit on Tuesday next?
– If the honorable gentleman were familiar with the Standing Orders he would know that a special motion would need to be passed to provide that the House should meet at any other time than Tuesday.
.- I join with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in seeking information regarding the suggested exportation of the film “ The Five Year Plan “. I referred to this subject while the Estimates were under discussion. I am not concerned about the nature of the propaganda that the film might stimulate, but it would be wise for the Government of the day to remove any suggestion or suspicion that a political censorship of films is being exercised. In order to allay any such suspicion or to remove any grounds for suspicion if they exist - I do not say that they do - I suggested that the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs should furnish us with a synopsis of the story, or else make is possible for us to attend a private screening of it. It would be regrettable if the impression became widespread that a political censorship was being exercised. If such a charge can be brought forward it should be examined. The Assistant Minister did not definitely promise that a private screening would be arranged, but said that he would consider the possibility of arranging it. In these troublous times there should be no room for the suggestion that official power was being exercised to ban the expression of political opinions. Whether one agrees with certain political theories or not, nothing will cause them to gain strength more rapidly than the suggestion that they may not be publicly discussed. If sound reasons exist for the banning of this film they should be stated. If the Government would furnish honorable members with an epitome of the film, or make it possible for them to attend a private screening of it, a great deal would be done to remove any suspicion that may exist that it has been improperly banned, and there would be very little danger of resentment at the action of the Government. I do not know whether honorable members really sense the feeling that is growing throughout the community. The continued depression and prolonged unemployment, which has resulted in many men being out of work for two years or more, has undermined the morale of those concerned. What a field that leaves for the sowing of propaganda of a dangerous character! Nothing will facilitate tho dissemination of such propaganda more than the suggestion that those in high places suppress information. I do not know what this film contains. It has been said that it merely depicts the story of the industrial development of Russia, in a manner similar to that of the narratives that we may read in the journals contained in our Library.
– Who has sponsored the film?
– I do not know. All I know is that there has been much expression of public opinion concerning it3 suppression, and that not only from communistic sources.
– It is very largely from those sources. I have been hearing a good deal from “ tho Friends of the Soviet Union”, which is the new name for the Communist party.
– I have received letters from many people who are not Communists, declaring that the action of the Government is likely to swing public opinion in favour of communism by malling the members of that organization martyrs, persons fighting against unjust repression. Nothing is more dangerous than to drive underground those people who have opinions to express. I think that the Attorney-General will agree on that point.
– I do not believe, generally, in the suppression of opinion, but I do not regard this as a suppression of opinion.
– If that is so the public ought to know the facts.
.- It is true that “the Friends of the Soviet Union “ are protesting strongly against the banning of “ The Five Year Plan “. Only last week I received a petition from that organization bearing 10,000 signatures, although I do not think that all those who signed are members of the union.
– The honorable gentleman will admit that many protests have been raised by other organizations.
– Yes, by unions and other reputable bodies. There is nothing unusual in the course taken by the Government. The Scullin Government banned a certain book, about which there was a greater outcry than that now raised about the banning of “ The Five Year Plan “. The Scullin Government prohibited a certain book coming into Australia because its circulation here was considered undesirable in the public interest. Such action is the duty of a Government. When this matter was discussed last week during the debate on the Estimates, I stated that if it were practicable and thought desirable the film would be privately screened. While the screening of this picture at Parliament House might be possible, it would be most expensive, as the installation of a complicated talking apparatus would be necessary. The Government has carefully considered the exhibition of this film to honorable members or the preparation of a synopsis of the scenes contained in it. However, the regulations provide how such a film is to be dealt with, and they have been followed in this instance. The Minister in authority has taken the responsibility of prohibiting its exhibition, and the Government is not prepared to introduce an innovation by creating what would amount to a super-censorship in addition te that provided by the regulations, which say that no film shall be registered which depicts any matter, the exhibition of which is deemed to be inadvisable in the public interest. Customs, cinematograph films, regulation No. 10 reads -
Provided that the Minister may at any stage of the proceedings under these regulations direct thai the matter bc submitted to him for determination, in which case such action will bc taken as the Minister directs.
That regulation is being carried out in its entirety. The Minister actually witnessed the screening of the “Five Year Plan,” and came to the decision that its exhibition was undesirable in the public interest. The film has been banned, and ordered to be exported from the Commonwealth.
.- I direct the attention of the Government to what has already been brought before its notice this afternoon, the granting of assistance to our farmers. The Prime Minister promised to make a statement on the subject, but, while we have read a good deal in the press, we have had no official pronouncement. From the newspapers we gather that a certain quantity of superphosphates are to be supplied to necessitous farmers, and- that the Government will probably give some assistance in connexion with the cartage of wheat. The matter of granting assistance to wheat-farmers was discussed at the recent Premiers Conference, and the recommendation of the Premiers was that £2,250,000 should be set aside for the purpose. That is but a moderate amount compared with the £3,500,000 and the 43-d. a bushel bounty given by the Scullin Government. This Government must be entirely out of touch with the position. Unless assistance is promptly forthcoming, the position of our farmers is fraught with disaster, and many of them will be forced off the land. The Government is only toying with the position. This is the most important problem that faces the country, because the whole of our economic structure will collapse if the farmers are forced off the land.
.- Now that the Premiers Conference has decided to raise a loan I should like to know what the Government proposes to do to relieve unemployment. Does it intend to take definite action in that direction in the next month or so? The previous Government spent £2,500,000 in the relief of unemploy ment, and the Christmas before that Government was defeated it made £1,000,000 available for the same purpose. Notwithstanding what may be said to the contrary, the figures quoted by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) and other honorable members show that the number of unemployed is increasing. Even if there has been a slight decrease during recent weeks, the number of men actually out of work must still be large, and it is the responsibility of this Government to provide some form of relief, particularly over the approaching Christmas season. The position is not so difficult as it was when the last Government was in office, and I trust that some definite action will be taken almost immediately.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), that the Government should make an early declaration with respect to its action towards the wheat-growers. Various statements have appeared in the newspapers during the last week or two, and I can assure the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that the suggestion embodied in some of them that the Government should assist the wheat-growers by providing superphosphates is causing considerable apprehension. The farmers need cash to meet their commitments, and if it is made available they can obtain supplies of superphosphate with which to fertilize next season’s crop. The price of wheat is so low that they cannot meet their financial obligations. It has also been stated that the Government is trying to formulate some scheme to deprive farmers who are making a profit from receiving any assistance. I think I am safe in saying that not 2 per cent, of the farmers engaged in wheat production are making a profit with wheat at 2s. 4d. a bushel, and that percentage would represent those who have not to pay interest. We cannot expect even that section to continue to produce at a loss, and thereby provide exports to keep Australia from default. I trust that an early declaration will be made on the subject.
– Several honorable members have asked what are the
Government’s proposals for assisting those engaged in -wheat production. At the Premiers Conference five of the Premiers passed a resolution urging the Commonwealth Government to take certain action. Tasmania was not a party to that resolution, and the Premiers who passed it took upon themselves no responsibility in the matter. Nor was the Commonwealth Government a party to the resolution, which was simply an expression of opinion on the part of the Premiers of the mainland States. That resolution, however, has been published as if it were a decision of the Premiers Conference. The matter, of course, is under the active and immediate consideration of this Government, and I assure honorable members that the announcement of any action proposed to be taken will be made at a very early date.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) referred to the possibility of the appointment of an arbitrator to determine questions relating to performing rights. Evidently, in answering his question this morning, I did not make my meaning quite clear to him. Almost certainly there will be some recommendation by the royal commissioner who is at present inquiring into the matter, and that recommendation, whatever it may he, will be considered by the Government. But if the honorable member thinks that there is already an intention in the mind of the Government to take the action he fears, there is no foundation for his apprehension.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr.Riordan) spoke of unemployment relief. In regard to this matter I can only repeat what the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said as recently as yesterday. A programme of works and employment for winter relief has been agreed upon under which £20,730,000 is to be expended, £1,670,000 by the Commonwealth, and £19,060,000 by the States. During the first quarter of the financial year, that is, to the end of September, only £2,342,000 has been expended, leaving nearly £18,000,000 to be spent in the remaining nine months of the year. That would provide for an average quarterly expenditure of almost £6,000,000. The States have been engaged in preparing plans for the expenditure of loan money in order that value may be obtained for the money spent. Some of them, for example, intend to carry out sewerage schemes in country towns, and it is important that the engineering basis of the work should be sound and complete. Other works of a similar character are being undertaken. When the Commonwealth Ministers reminded the State Premiers that they had not spent in the first quarter a proportionate amount of the sum available, their reply was that they had no doubt that they would spend the whole of the balance in the remaining three quarters of the year. As the Prime Minister stated yesterday, the representatives of the Commonwealth at the conference doubted whether the States would really be able to spend the whole of the money during the year, but the States said that they could. Obviously, however, there must be greater acceleration in providing work if that is to he done. The Commonwealth is assuming liability for a proportion of the money, but it is, I suggest, immaterial, except from the political point of view, whether the money is spent by the Commonwealth or by the State authority. For practical reasons, I think that it is wise that the money should be spent by the States rather than by the Commonwealth, because the States are more closely in touch with the industrial position, and are also more closely concerned with the matters in relation to which work can be wisely done. The States have the necessary machinery for carrying out the work. Honorable members may rest assured that there will be increased provision for the relief of unemployment between now and Christmas time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is not available in the department.
s asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Amount per head imported into each State (based on estimated population at the 30th June, 1931) -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19321104_reps_13_136/>.