13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented : -
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act - First Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended 30th June,1933.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until Monday next, at 2.30 p.m.
– Can the Minister for the Interior state what transport arrangements are being made to meet the position caused by the earlier meeting of the House nextweek ?
– On account of the short notice, it has not been possible to make special arrangements. Honorable members will need to leave Sydney and Melbourne on Sunday.
– Will there be a through train on Monday- morning?
– Just the ordinary train ; there will be no special.
– A press report states that the technical experts representing Imperial Chemical Industries will shortly arrive in Australia to investigate the practicability of establishing works for the extraction of oil from coal.
Is the Prime Minister in a position to state whether these gentlemen will also investigate the practicability of establishing at Newnes a hydrogen a tion plant for the treatment of Newnes shale?
– The matter will receive consideration.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral explain why the city of Newcastle is not to share in the reduction of telephone charges, and why these reductions are to be confined to capital cities?
– I made a comparatively full statement on this matter, which is reported in Hansard, during the debate on the estimates of the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, but did not deal specifically with Newcastle. I shall look into that aspect of the matter, and advise the honorable member later.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that the reductions of telephonic charges apply only to the city and not to the country districts of the Commonwealth?
– I have previously explained that there has been an increase of rentals in the metropolitan area, but not in the country districts, and that whereas the average rental paid in the city is something in excess of £5 annually, in 95 per cent. of the country districts it is about £3 5s. Other concessions were made to the country which were of equal if not greater value.
– During the last sitting of the House you, Mr. Speaker, refused to accept from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) a motion that the Minister for Commerce “be not further heard”,ontheground that it was deliberate obstruction of the business of the House. Will you, sir, in future have regard to the deliberate obstruction that is practised by Ministers, who require urgent questions that are asked by honorable members of the party to which I belong to be placed on the notice-paper, and to the attempts of the Government Whip to persuade Go vernment supporters to leave the chamber when we are raising matters affecting our constituents on the motion for the adjournment of the House, so that the House may be automatically adjourned because of the absence of a quorum ?
– On a point of order, I submit that it is not competent for an honorable member to raise an alleged point of order upon a set of hypothetical circumstances, and that a point of order may be taken only in relation to a position that actually exists in the course of debate.
– On the point of order that has been raised, I ask whether it is competent for the Attorney-General to interfere with and to direct the manner in which you, sir, shall exercise the powers that you possess to safeguard the interests of honorable members of this House?
– On the point of order raised by the Attorney-General, I take it that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) merely placed his interpretation upon what had occurred, and to that extent was in order. The honorable member must realize, however, that it is not within the discretion of the Chair to interfere in matters such as those that he has raised. Ministers have the right to control the business of the House, and the Speaker cannot interfere with the exercise of it, unless what is done is in conflict with the Standing Orders or the acknowledged -practice of Parliament.
– In view of your statement, Mr. Speaker, that your discretionary powers permit you to intervene only when the Opposition are using obstructive tactics, am I to understand that you have no power to protect the minority in this House against obstructive tactics by the Government which result in honorable members being prevented from ventilating the grievances of their constituents?
– On a point of order, I submit that an honorable member may not cross-examine the Speaker upon the meaning of the Standing Orders, and that the Speaker is bound and entitled to express an opinion upon their meaning only upon a point of order duly raised, after which a ruling is duly given, from which it is competent for the House to express dissent in the manner provided for by the Standing Orders.
– On a point of order, I submit, sir, that the Standing Orders give you the sole right to determine mattersof procedure. Early this morning, when giving a ruling upon a point that had been raised by two honorable members on this side of the House, you stated that the Standing Orders made no provision for the circumstances that had then arisen, and that it was necessary to refer to other authorities which are used for the guidance of the Speaker. It was also stated that it was necessary for you to exercise discretionary powers apart altogether from the Standing Orders. We feel that we have the right to examine those discretionary powers, to see to what extent they may be exercised.
– The Standing Orders provide for that.
– They do not.
– I hope that the matter will not be carried beyond this stage. On a previous occasion I made a very full statement, which I consider should be satisfactory to honorable members generally. When the AttorneyGeneral rose to a point of order, I was about to say that I refuse to be cross examined on my rulings. The Standing Orders provide ample protection for any honorable member who is dissatisfied with the ruling of the Chair. In such a case he may move immediately a motion of dissent. That has not been done. I therefore regard the incident as closed.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, inquire into and advise the House as to the cost of the printing of the division lists in the Votes and Proceedings ?
– I shall have inquiries made, and advise the honorable member of the result.
– In view of the disastrous results of last season’s exports of fresh fruits, is it the intention of the Minister for Commerce to evolve a scheme designed to bring into existence a measure of control’ by growers for the regulation and distribution of exports?
Has the Minister approached New Zealand to obtain its co-operation in this matter ?
– The function of the Government is, not to evolve such a scheme as that to which the honorable member has referred, but to co-operate with the industry towards that end. Such action is being taken. The Australian Apple and Pear Export Council has a definite scheme for the regulation of exports of apples and pears, with the object of preventing a repetition of last year’s disastrous results. An endeavour is also being made to secure the co-operation and collaboration of the Government of New Zealand, so that the two Dominions may act in concert.
– In view of the rumours which are current and of statements made in the public press, concerning a possible increase of the number of members in this House, I ask the Prime Minister, whether in giving effect to any such proposals, care will be exercised to prevent any encroachment either on the Constitution or on the finances of the Commonwealth ?
– I can assure the honorable member that the Government will exercise every care along the lines indicated’ by him.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether in view of the detestation that is universally expressed towards the destroyers of the good food that God, through nature, has sent to His people, he will, if the present laws are inadequate to punish such individuals, consider during the recess, the advisableness of introducing legislation for the punishment of everybody who wilfully destroys food?
– It is not within the constitutional powers of this Parliament to enact laws on the subject mentioned by the honorable member. That is exclusively a matter for the State Parliaments, if they deem the occasion appropriate for action.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce, whether there is any official confirmation of the report published in the Sydney Morning Herald, yesterday, that the International Wheat Committee which met recently, has not received any request from the Russia Soviet Union for an increase in the export of wheat from that country, beyond the 37,000,000 bushels which was tentatively allowed it at the time of the original agreement?
– Although we have a fairly lengthy report of the business transacted by the committee on the 27th and 28th November, that report is silent upon the matters to which the honorable member has referred. Steps will be taken, however, to ascertain precisely what took place in that connexion.
– I ask the Prime
Minister whether in view of the wellknown fact that at least a few of the big industrial and merchant interests are not passing on to the consumers the reductions of price represented by remissions of taxation in accordance with the budget statement, he will consider the appointment of a special departmental committee to keep the whole position under running observation and to report to the Government from time to time? If departmental officers are not available, will he consider the appointment of recently retired public servants to such a committee ?
– The departments concerned are very carefully watching the position, and are in contact and communication with those sections of industry which are not immediately or satisfactorily passing on to the consumer the benefits mentioned. We are keeping in very close touch with the question, and there is, therefore, no need for the appointment of a committee such as the honorable member suggests.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he has any information in regard to providing better accommodation for invalid and old-age pensioners at the North Melbourne Town Hall?
– I have previously explained that the inquiries instituted are not yet complete. They are still in progress, and I can assure the honorable member that the matter has not been lost sight of. I will, however, institute further inquiries with a view to getting an immediate reply.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether, in view of the unsatisfactory position of the products of Australian primary producers on the markets of Great Britain, he has endeavoured to obtain more favorable treatment for them with the object of implementing the Ottawa Agreement, to the mutual advantage of both parties ?
– I can assure the honorable member that the Government is continually seeking, by all methods within its control, to increase the benefits to Australian producers.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, in view of the recent favorable reports concerning the disclosure of well-defined geological structures in Queensland, the Mandated Territories and Western Australia in particular, he will make available the services of the Commonwealth Geologist, Dr. Woolnough, and Mr. Hossfall for the pur,pose of encouraging the companies operating on these structures, and other companies which are interested in petroleum oil?
– It is the policy of the Government to give whatever assistance is possible in the direction suggested, and the cases mentioned by the honorable member will receive consideration.
-I ask the Treasurer whether he will get in touch with the directors of the Commonwealth Bank with a view to seeing if it is not possible to use local stone in the building about to be erected for that bank in Adelaide.
– I am unaware of the reasons why the stone for the building mentioned is to be obtained from another State. The Minister for the Interior has already made statements in regard to the matter. The position is that the Commonwealth merely acts as the agent for th<a Commonwealth Bank, which alone is charged with the duty of arranging such matters. We have merely to give effect to its arrangements.
, - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure which is designed to establish a Supreme Court in the Territory for the Seat of Government. Its introduction represents a further step in the creation of a distinct judicial system for that Territory. While the Territory formed part of New South Wales, jurisdiction over it was exercisable by the Supreme Court of that State. That jurisdiction was originally vested in the High Court by the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909. In 1929, however, a change was made, and since then, though the High Court has continued to hold jurisdiction in relation to the Territory, it has exercised that jurisdiction, not under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act, but under section 30b of the Judiciary Act 1903-1927. In addition, the High Court is vested with such jurisdiction in relation to the Territory, both civil and criminal, as has from time to time been conferred upon it by ordinances made by the Governor-General. Further, under section 34a of the Judiciary Act, the High Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from all judgments whatsoever of any Court of the Territory, in accordance with the terms of those ordinances. The first step towards establishing separate courts for the Territory was taken in 1930, when a Court of Petty Sessions was set up under the Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance. That court has practically taken the place of the District Court of New South Wales, and of the Court of Petty Sessions which previously had jurisdiction within the Territory. Accordingly, provision has already been made for the exercise of the inferior jurisdictions in the. Territory by special federal means. The jurisdiction vested in the High Court in relation to the Territory is sufficient to enable the residents of the Territory to obtain a judicial determination of such disputes as ordinarily arise . between them, or are likely to arise. It is, however, considered to be inappropriate that the High Court, which is the highest appellate tribunal in the Commonwealth, should discharge in the Territory similar functions to those which the Supreme Courts discharge in. the States. Matters of local territorial importance correspond with matters which are largely dealt’ with by the Supreme Courts of the States, and there are certain difficulties in the way of the High Court exercising this jurisdiction in Canberra. As honorable members are aware, the jurisdiction of the High Court is such as is provided for in the Constitution; and although it has accepted, and rightly accepted, the jurisdiction con’ferred upon it in relation to the Territory, obviously it was not contemplated that it should act, to any considerable extent, in relation to the Territory in the same manner as the Supreme Courts act in relation to the States. Further, there is an objection to the existing system in that, under the present law, the facilities available do not enable the public to pursue and enforce expeditiously their claims and ‘rights. There is difficulty in obtaining justices of the High Court from time to time to sit in the Territory, and the jurisdiction is not in line with the other work which a justice of the High Court normally does. For some time it has been generally recognized that it would be desirable to have a court for the Territory with the same status as the Supreme Court of a State, because such a court would he more readily accessible than the High Court. With this object in view, this measure proposes to establish a Supreme Court of the Territory which will be known as the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.
Honorable members will observe that it is not proposed to title the court, “ the Supreme Court of the Federal Capital Territory and that the phrase “(Australian Capital Territory” is used for the first time. That has been done because it is necessary that every court should have a seal, and it is important that that seal should be readily recognizable and identifiable in foreign countries. A seal which described the court as the Court of the Federal Capital Territory would give no indication of the locale of the count, and, accordingly, it is proposed to use the phrase “Australian Capital Territory “. A minor difficulty arose out of an endeavour to use the description “ The Supreme Court of the Federal Capital Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia “ - and that perhaps would be the most .strictly accurate designation - but in that case it would be. almost impossible to have a seal of .a reasonable size and legible form. It is thought desirable to bring in the word “Australia” in order that the nature and character of the court may be perfectly plain.
Fortunately it has been possible to make arrangements which will enable this change of judicial system in the Territory to be made with practically no expense. It has been provided that the court will he constituted by a judge of the Bankruptcy Court, or of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and the judge who is appointed a judge of the Supreme Court will not receive any additional remuneration for carrying out the duties of the new office. Arrangements have already been made, subject to the passing of this bill, under which His Honour Judge Lukin will perform the duties of the judge of this court without any additional remuneration. The Government is indebted to His Honour for the willingness with which he has. agreed to accept this additional duty. The court will- sit at Canberra, but it will be empowered to sit at any place in the Commonwealth if specified by the Governor-General under clause 9. Chamber business also may be dealt with at any place in the Commonwealth.
– And application made in Sydney or Melbourne?
– That is so. As the result of that arrangement there will be ready access to the court. It is hoped that the judge will be able to attend at Canberra fairly frequently, because the Federal Judge in Bankruptcy at present divides his time practically equally between Melbourne and Sydney, and it will be possible for him to deviate in his journeys between those cities to deal with any business which may require attention at Canberra. The jurisdiction of the court will be practically the same as that now exercisable by the High Court. In the first place it will have the same original jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, as immediately before the 1st January, 1911, which is the date of the inauguration of the legal system in the Territory, the Supreme Court of New South Wales had in relation to that State. Further, the court will have such jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, and whether original or otherwise, as is from time to time vested in the Supreme Court by ordinances made by the GovernorGeneral. Under that head, for example, there will be probate jurisdiction and jurisdiction in ecclesiastical causes, matrimonial jurisdiction and the like. The court will also have jurisdiction, with, such exemptions and subject to such conditions as are provided by ordinance, to hear and determine appeals from all judgments, convictions, orders and sentences of inferior courts having jurisdiction in the territory. Those provisions are contained in clause 11 of the bill. The result will, therefore, be that the residents of the territory will have in substance the same judicial machinery available to them as have the residents of the State3, and it will be provided at very little additional expense to the public revenue.
– Will the status of the judge of the Supreme Court be equal to that of a judge of a State Supreme Court?
– That is difficult to say. It is provided in clause 6 that the court shall be a superior court of record and shall consist of one judge. It will be a superior court of record, but in a difFerent sort of hierarchy from the supreme courts of the States. As a rule, as honorable members know, judges of a supreme court are justices. In the bill the term “judge” is used, but that is a matter for the Parliament to decide. It can, if it thinks fit, utilize the title “justice”, but the term “judge” was adopted for the reason that it is proposed to take advantage of the availability of the services of the judge of the Bankruptcy Court who is also a judge of the Arbitration Court, and it would be rather “difficult for one person to be a “ justice “ 3n one capacity and a “judge” in another.
– The court will have the same status as the Supreme Court of New South Wales?
– Yes. Under existing circumstances the jurisdiction vested in the High Court is exercisable by a single justice, who, in pursuance of the Judiciary Act, has power to refer any matter or question to the Full Court. The Supreme Court will be constituted only by a single judge, and it is accordingly necessary to provide for some such reference as can at present be made. In a State the public have the right of having matters tried by a judge of the Supreme Court with an appeal to the Full Court of the High Court. There is no full court for the Territory, and it is not proposed to establish one, but it is proposed that the judge shall be entitled to state .any case or reserve any question for the consideration of the Full Court of the High Court or may direct any case or question to be argued before that court. In civil cases, normally, trials will be heard by the court without a jury. The court will have power in accordance with the practice which is in operation in all the States to order trials by a jury where that is thought to be fit and proper. The administration of law and equity by the court is to be concurrent. The rules of court are to be the rules of the. High Court or of the Supreme Court of New South Wales as far as applicable, but there is power to make special rules for the court itself. These rules of court will govern the practice and procedure of the court subject to what I have said as to the applicability at the present time of the rules of the High Court and of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
– Will such rules be made by ordinance?
– Clause 27 provides that the procedure and practice will be governed by rules of court as I have mentioned, and clause 28 provides that the judge may make rules of court with respect to matters of practice and procedure, in particular with respect to the matters mentioned in sub-clause 2; and the rules of court must” be forwarded to the Attorney-General, who may disallow any of them. That is the ordinary procedure in the States.- Provision is made in part IV. of the act for the appointment of a registrar, a sheriff and such other officers as are necessary. This will not involve any increase of staff. The duties to be . carried out in relation to these offices will be performed by officers of the Attorney-General’s Department or the Crown Law Department.
The High Court is to have jurisdic-diction to hear “ and _ determine appeals from judgments of the Supreme Court in civil matters. This jurisdiction is set out in clause 51 of the bill, and is practically the same as the jurisdiction of the High Court in relation to appeals from a single justice of that court. There is an appeal in matters involving any sum or matter at issue of the value of £300, or involving directly or indirectly any claim, demand, or question to, or respecting, any property or any civil right amounting to that value, or affecting the status of any persons under the laws relating to aliens, marriage, divorce, bankruptcy, or insolvency, or being a matter with respect to which the High Court thinks fit to give special leave to appeal. As I have said, that is the same jurisdiction as the High Court has in relation to appeals from a single justice, and the provisions of the bill are framed upon that basis.
In criminal matters an appeal will lie to the High Court. In the cases set out in clause 52 of . the bill there may be an appeal against a conviction on any ground of appeal which involves a question of law alone; or with the leave of the Supreme Court or judge, on any ground of appeal which involves a question of fact alone, or a question of mixed law and fact; or with the leave of the Full Court of the
High Court, on any ground of appeal mentioned in the last preceding paragraph, or any other ground which appears to the Full Court of the High Court to be a sufficient ground of appeal, or with the leave of the Full Court of the High Court against the sentence passed on his conviction unless the sentence is one fixed by law. All forms of jurisdiction are either included in this bill or arc conferable by ordinance. It is proposed to confer by ordinance all the jurisdiction that is not referred to in the bill, and I refer especially to jurisdiction in probate and in matrimonial causes. That jurisdiction will be conferred by ordinance in the same way as ‘it is at present rather inconveniently conferred upon the High Court. I have, however, abstained from providing that the court shall exercise admiralty jurisdiction, because of the unlikelihood of admiralty matters arising in Canberra. Honorable members who are familiar with the methods of establishing supreme courts in a State will be aware, when they read the bill, that it closely follows these methods. Various matters are dealt with to which I have not referred in this second-reading speech, as they are entirely matters for the committee stages of the bill. It is sufficient for me to summarize the position by saying that this court will have the same jurisdiction in relation to the Territory as a supreme court has in relation to a State.
This is a non-political bill, and merely represents an endeavour to provide in what I am glad to think is a ready and inexpensive method a needed improvement on the judicial machinery of the Territory. It is proposed that, when the bill is passed, it shall become law on the 1st January, 1934, or on such earlier date as may be fixed by proclamation. Upon the measure becoming law, any case or matter or proceeding pending in the High Court, in the exercise of its present territorial jurisdiction, is to be continued in the new supreme court as if it had been originated in that court, and provision has been made whereby the change from one court to another will not be attended by any inconvenience to litigants.
.- The people of the Australian Capital
Territory will like the new name that has been conferred upon the Federal Capital Territory by the bill, for I do not think that the words “ Federal Capital Territory “ are sufficiently descriptive. It is certain that, outside of Australia, very few would be able to determine whether “Federal Capital Territory” related to the United States of America, Australia, or a number of federated States somewhere or other. The term is a wise arid happy choice, and I should like to see its use extended.
The measure will not only effect a clarification, but also an enlargement, of the jurisdiction in the Australian Capital Territory. From time to time justices of the High Court have visited Canberra to perform work which is really outside their province. It appears to me to be quite wrong, when the High Court is in session elsewhere, to take one of its justices away from his duties to attend to matters in this Territory which are really beyond his province. It is always possible that an appeal might arise from the case, and, therefore, it is inadvisable to continue such a system. I welcome the clarification and enlargement of the powers and jurisdiction in this Territory, which will give an opportunity to those who, through desire or necessity, have to resort to litigation, to run through the gamut of courts of petty session, the Supreme Court, and thence to the High Court or Privy Council. I am pleased that no additional expense is to be incurred by the creation of a supreme court in the Australian Capital Territory, and believe a judge of the Bankruptcy Court or the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, will be acceptable, and everything that can be desired. Apart from his transport to and from Canberra, no other expense should be involved, as Canberra is fortunate in having any quantity of sheriffs and registrars in the Attorney-General’s Department.
I hope that as time passes, and the importance of Canberra is increasingly recognized the High Court itself will be situated here. This is the capital of the Commonwealth of Australia, which is potentially a great nation, and it is both desirable and proper that, at some time in the not distant future, the High
Court should be established here. It could then, visit various States as needed. I welcome this legislation, and I am sure that the people of Canberra will do likewise.
– In his concluding remarks the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) declared that the bill was non-political, and that its clauses could not be regarded as contentious, thereby implying that there should be little need to discuss it at length.
To a certain extent the bill may be regarded as one which deals with matters of procedure’ in regard to the proposed court, but I am mindful of the fact that the innovation also has a political aspect. The Attorney-General has indicated who shall preside over the Supreme Court, consequently, I am entitled to discuss the competency’ of his jurisdiction, an opportunity which would, not be afforded to me in normal circumstances. It is said that by appointing a certain judge to preside over the court, the country will not be involved in any additional expense. To me that either indicates that this gentleman has little or nothing to do at present, or that he will have very little to do at Canberra. In times of distress, when so many in the community are suffering, it would appear that this person is one of the most favoured in the community, for already he receives a substantial remuneration in his capacity as judge of another court, in addition to which he draws a pension from the Queensland Government. That represents an appreciable bur. den on the taxpayers of Australia, which I contend could be obviated. Without going into details, I point out that it is apparent that when a new government department is established it is necessary to expend money if it is to function properly, and this Supreme Court will be no exception to the rule. In the circumstances,- I question the advisability of establishing it.
I offer no compliments to the gentleman who is to preside over the court, as I do not consider that he is deserving of congratulation by this Parliament. This is the gentleman who has made himself notorious in circles among which it is my privilege to move, and also among people whom I have the privilege to represent. As a result of his actions, many persons have suffered privation, and will never regain the position which they formerly occupied in the industrial world. It is indeed a sad chapter in Australian history. I can clearly visualize many close personal friends and their families who have suffered intensely as a result of the political action brought about through the instrumentality of this man. Consequently, rather than express compliments on his behalf they have nothing but harsh terms to apply to him, and I join with them in the expression of those opinions.
– What is the point that the honorable member is seeking to make ?
– When my speech is read the point will be obvious. My remarks may not be of much concern to the honorable member or to the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr), who is sneering at them, but they are of grave concern to those whom I represent, and who are foremost in my mind.
– The honorable member is merely talking to the press.
– I have intimated that I am speaking on behalf of those I represent and I shall take whatever opportunity I deem fit to do so. I resent the insulting attitude and sneering remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). I am responding to the statement of the Attorney-General that thanks are due to this man. I hold the contrary opinion, and I hope that what I have said will reach his ears. Clause 14 of the bill provides that the judge of the court shall have power to direct whether certain cases are to be tried before a jury or a judge alone. It is our boast that, under the system of trial by jury, every person who appears before, a court is assured of justice without any danger of such influences as I have referred to being brought to bear. According to this bill, however, the judge is to be given power to deny a litigant the right to have his cause pleaded before a jury, and that is a serious matter for those who may appear before the particular judge who is to preside over this court.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is using this opportunity to make offensive references to a gentleman who is at the present time a judicial officer under the Commonwealth. His observations have exceeded ali the limits of parliamentary propriety.
– I have listened carefully to the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and, though he has made certain veiled references, he has not, up to the present, said anything with which I can find fault. I am sure that the honorable member will realize his responsibilities to this House, and will not transgress the Standing Orders.
– I do realize my responsibilities, and shall endeavour to discharge my duty as I see it, without the assistance or direction of the AttorneyGeneral. Another important point is the qualifications required of those who may be called to serve on a jury. I have- observed that, by first stipulating certain qualifications, it is possible to have a jury empanelled whose political opinions are well known beforehand. When that is done for the trial of a case involving political issues, the interests of those who look to the court for justice may be seriously prejudiced. I am thinking particularly of the property qualification, which is sometimes required in New South Wales, of those who are to serve as jurymen, and if it is proposed to introduce the principle in the Federal Capital Territory, I must oppose the bill. It may be said that, in many respects, the courts possess greater powers than does the Parliament, because, although we make the laws, the courts interpret them. It is proposed in this bill to invest the presiding judge with wide discretionary powers, which ho may exercise in the interpretation of legislation passed by Parliament, and if this power is exercised contrary to what litigants may regard as their proper interests, they may be put to the expense of having to appeal to the High Court.
– A jury has power to find on matters of fact only.
– But the judge may give directions on the law as it applies to the facts, and his directions will, no doubt, depend upon what his opinion of the law happens to be.
– Can the honorable member suggest any better way of determining what Parliament meant when it made the law in question?
– If there is no better way, it is of the greatest importance then for us to consider who is appointed to preside over the court. The human factor, with all its political prejudices, is introduced, and it is idle for us to pretend that this factor does not influence judges in giving their rulings. It is important, therefore, that Parliament should do whatever is possible to see that the course of justice is not influenced by the private opinions or prejudices of members of the judiciary. These matters are of the greatest importance to the poorer sections of the community who have not the means to appeal against what they regard as an unjust decision of the court. It is commonly accepted that a civil litigant, or an accused person, possessing ample means has more chance of obtaining a legal decision satisfactory to him than has the person with no means. He is able to fight his case from court to court, whereas the poor person must accept the first decision, whatever it may be. I am anxious, therefore, that the lower court should be so constituted as to enable all persons, whether rich or poor, to secure justice. [Quorum formed.] Clause 9 of the bill states that the court may sit at Canberra, and in such other places in the Commonwealth as are from time to time specified by the GovernorGeneral by notice in the Gazette. I understood from the speech of the AttorneyGeneral, that this was to be a court for die Federal Capital Territory, and, if that is so, why should it be necessary to provide for sittings to be held in other parts of the Commonwealth? So far as I have been able to gather, the Attorney-General did not explain the reason for this. As the usual practice of adjourning the debate has not been followed in this case, it has not been possible to make ourselves fully conversant with the points that have’ been raised, and we have to rely upon our recollection of the not very explanatory remarks of the Attorney-General.
– The honorable member should not overlook the fact that the hill has been circulated among honorable members since about the 6th October.
– That may be true. But honorable members who are associated with me cannot study these measures to the extent that they wish, on account of the refusal of the Government - in which the Attorney-General played a leading part -to give them a little assistance.We hope to be in a position one day to repay that injustice in full. Every man has his day, and honorable members opposite will not always have control of the situation.
So far as one can gather, the bill makes no provision for the granting of legal aid to personswho are in what may be regarded as necessitous circumstances. I do not suppose thatthere is a town or city in Australia where there are not persons who, having fallen foul of the law, have not the means to obtain legal assistance in their defence. If the courts were freed from many restrictions in regard to procedure, those persons would have no difficulty in presenting their case without legal assistance. In existing circumstances, it frequently happens that a trial is prejudiced because of ignorance of the requirements of court procedure. I have seen accused persons endeavour to conduct their own cases,, and because of faulty presentation, due to ignorance of the details of procedure, have decisions: recorded against them. Provision should; be made that will ensure the fair trial of cases that will come before the Supreme Court that isto be established in the Federal Capital Territory. There is in New South Wales a. legal aid department, to which application may be made for legal assistance. The. matter is so, important that such assistance should be available, in every jurisdiction.
– I shall be able to point out where that is provided for, and the extent to which provision is made.
– Why did the representative of the Government in another place refuse to accept an amendment which was aimed at its inclusion in this measure?
– Becauseit was quite unnecessary.
– Certain Ministers were inclined to be sarcastic at my expense when. I raised these questions. I am therefore pleased that the AttorneyGeneral has admitted the necessity for this provision, and will explain where it is made.
– I have not admitted anything, but have merely stated that I shall give the information, which has been sought.
– That interjection shows that apparently when the AttorneyGeneral speaks, he says nothing. If the points that I have raised are adequately covered, there is no need for me to discuss the measure further.
– I should not have taken part in this debate had not the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) named the gentleman who is to act as Judge of the. Supreme Court of the Territory. I object tothe appointment of that individual. Although the Attorney-General has said that this measure is non-contentious and nonpolitical, we cannot overlook the fact that this particular judge so incensed the late Government by what were considered inhuman acts against the workers, that it removed him from the bench of the Arbitration Court, and placed him in the position that he now occupies.
– Order !
– As I have not mentioned any particular judge by name, I consider that I am in order. Certain award’s made by this judge were considered unjust, and were responsible for acts of violence that were witnessed in Sydney and suburbs.
– Order ! In making such remarks, the honorable gentleman is exceeding his rights.
– Men’s passions were inflamed at that period.
– The honorable gentleman must control his.
– I am controlling my passions. I am as cool as the proverbial cucumber. I claim that the: manappointed to such a high and responsible position should at least show that he is prepared to hand’ out justice evenly.
– Order ! Unless the honorable gentleman discussesthebill, and not some perso a who is not named in it, I shall have to ask him to resumebis seat.
– I have not named anybody ; but the Attorney-General has done so. Clause 14 of the bill provides that, unless, the judge otherwise orders, the trialin every suit in the Supreme Court shall be by the court without a jury. Can we expect justice in those circumstances? Under clause 8, the Governor-General may appoint a judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy or of the Commonwealth. Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to be the judge of the Supreme Court. What may we expect if a judge sitting in chambers refers a case into open court, and it is heard without a jury by a certain judge? Such a system is unfair and unjust. Trials should be by jury in every case.
Sub-clause 3 of clause 8 provides that the salary at present received by the judge of the Bankruptcy Court or the Arbitration Court shall be paid to him as judge of the Supreme Court. I understand that the present remuneration of the Bankruptcy and Arbitration Court judges is £2,500 a year. The judge in bankruptcy, as we know, was appointed to the Arbitration Court by the BrucePage Government, after his retirement from the Supreme Court of Queensland, from which State he is in receipt of a pension of £1,000 a year. The bill should provide that when any person appointed to a judicial position is in receipt of a pension from another government, consideration should be given to that circumstance, when fixing bis emoluments. We know perfectly well, that the judge of whom I am speaking absolutely refused to accept any reduction of salary in accordance with the Premiers plan. But in his capacity as a judge of the Federal Arbitration Court, he increased the hours of labour from 44 to 48 weekly, and reduced the wages of the timberworkers. Despite what the AttorneyGeneral has said to the contrary, I submit that the Arbitration Court is distinctly a political body, and that the judge in question was removed from that court to the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Court, because his decisions were antagonizing the workers. It is quite apparent that the Bankruptcy Court does not provide sufficient work to fully occupyhis time, consequently other work must befound for him. As a result the taxpayers of Australia are to be subjected to a considerable expenditure by the establishment of a Supreme Court in the Federal Territory. There is practically no crime in the Federal Capital, and it would speak volumes for the law-abiding: character of its citizens if they continued without a Supreme Court.
Apart from the expenditure that will be involved in the appointment of a judge’s associate, the bill provides for the appointment of other officers. A good many understrappers, such as clerks, cleaner’s, &c, will be required, and the salaries of- these officials will absorb a considerable amount of money. We have been told that the time has arrived when we should exercise the most rigid -economy. I submit that no economy will result from the establishment of a Supreme Court in the Federal Capital. [Quorum formed.] The bill does not pTovide that any litigant may appear before the court in person to conduct his own case if he so desires.
– If the honorable member will read clause 40, he will find that express provision is made for that.
– Clause 40 provides that the parties to any cause or matter may appear before the court in person if they so desire. Does that mean that a man who cannot afford to brief counsel, may conduct his own case?
– I have no objection to that. But I know of one judge who, sitting in chambers, refused to allow one of the parties to a cause to appear in court to conduct his own case. If a person wishes to appear in person, he must first approach a judge in chambers. I should like to know whether such a judge may refuse to grant him the necessary permission?
– In chambers it is not at any time necessary for either a barrister or a solicitor to appear. But under clause 40 a litigant will -be able to appear in person either in chambers or in court.
– I do not wish to mention any names, but the case to which I ^ refer was that of a man from Whitebridge, who upon the death of his wife, resisted the granting of probate to her sons by a previous marriage. He pointed out that the estate of which his wife was possessed, had been entirely built up with his own earnings. But inasmuch as she had children by a former marriage, he was disinherited. He appeared before the Supreme Court of New South Wales and subsequently applied to Mr. Justic° McTiernan in chambers for the right to - appear in person before the High Court to conduct his appeal against a decision of the probate judge. Mr. Justice McTiernan refused his application. He then requested the Attorney-General to allow him to conduct hi3 own case before the High Court, and was informed that he must employ an attorney. That course was quite impossible, because he was possessed of no means. This man had worked all his life, -but had been foolish enough to place the whole of his estate in the hands of hia second wife, only to find, upon her decease, that she had failed to leave him a single penny. Thus a very grave injustice was inflicted upon him. I wrote to the Attorney-General about this case, but failed to obtain any satisfaction. The bill contains no provision to compel a judge in chambers to allow a litigant to appear before the High Court to conduct his own case.
– I do not pretend to be a Daniel, but I do know how injustice is frequently inflicted upon litigants who cannot afford to pay counsel to represent them. It has become almost a legend that one who goes to law without being possessed of means is very unfortunately placed. Everybody knows that the litigant who is possessed of the most money always has the best chance of securing a verdict in his favour. Justice is governed by points of law. I have nothing whatever to say against the Supreme Court of any State, although I have sometimes had occasion to criticize certain judges severely. Upon the present occasion I merely wish to make a somewhat lengthy quotation from a wonderful book, entitled A - Sovereign People, a study of Swiss democracy by Henry Demarest Lloyd, which is edited by John A. Hobson. This quotation, which I embodied in a speech that I delivered in this House seven years ago, reads -
The employers and employed in each group of trades elect their representatives, fifteen for each side, to form a conseil. The numbers choose by ballot a committee consisting of president, vice-president, secretary, and vice-secretary, the presidency and The other offices being held alternately by an employer and a workman, with the further proviso that, when the president or the secretary is an employer, the vice-officer must be a workman, and vice versa.
The work of the conseil is divided as follows. First comes the conciliation board, consisting of an employer and a .workman, who preside by turns. This board has summary powers of decision in cases involving sums not exceeding twenty francs. In case of disagreement between the members, or where sufficient evidence for a summary judgment is lacking, the case is referred to the second board, the tribunal.
The Tribunal de Prud’hommes consists of a president, three employers, and three workmen, hears evidence and, where necessary, summons experts and gives final decisions in cases not involving more than 500 francs.
Cases involving larger sums are carried to the third court, a chamber of appeal, which consists of a president, five employers, five workers, and a secretary (without a vote).
Finally, certain cases where competence of jurisdiction is disputed are referred for decision to a mixed court composed of two judges of the court of justice (nominated by this court) and three prud’hommes chosen from among themselves by the chamber of appeal.
In the final court of appeal there are two judges and three laymen selected from the court of conciliation, so that- the voting power of the laymen is still greater than that of the judges with whom they sit. A further passage from this book reads -
Ten courts of arbitration deal with disputes iu these groups of trades -
Earth and Building Works.
Foodstuffs and liquors.
Paper-making and polygraphic industry.
Retail trade and other callings (banks, insurance, employments connected with literature, art and science).
I quote that to show the widespread influence of the Court of Wise Men in Switzerland. Thousands of pounds are expended every year in the hearing of cases before the arbitration tribunals of Australia. For instance the hearing of the tramway arbitration case, which affected the tramway systems throughout Australia, cost the association £20,000. Gold medals were presented to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and myself, by the Tramway and Omnibus Association, on account of the assistance that we gave to that association during the hearing. In Switzerland justice i3 meted out at little cost to the parties in dispute. Out of 6,341 cases before the industrial court of Switzerland, 4,245 were settled by conciliation and 1,885 by arbitration, 11 cases being unsettled. In some cantons the procedure is entirely or virtually gratuitous, the cost being borne by the public. In other, cantons a single court fee, varying from 1 franc (lOd. par value) to 20 or 30 francs is imposed. I am anxious that my fellow men should be able to obtain justice in the courts of Australia at the lowest possible cost. Justice is frequently set aside by points of* law, and those who are wealthy have a great advantage in our courts. I suggest that only one lawyer, or barrister, should appear in a case of dispute, and that the appellant and defendant should have the choice of counsel provided by the Commonwealth of Australia. I should like to see the nationalization of our system of law so that any citizen could put his case before a court in the same way as a case is argued before the courts of conciliation of Switzerland, no third party being allowed to interfere. Cases are heard before the pacificator, who confers with the parties, perhaps across a table. If he were deciding the case of say, Brown versus Maloney, he would say to Mr. Brown : “ I advise you to accept Mr. Maloney’s offer. “ Mr. Brown might prefer to take the case to a higher court, in which a lawyer can appear for either the plaintiff or the defendant, but no further evidence is permitted to be called. The duty of the pacificator is to, try to make peace between citizen and citizen. I hope that the younger members of this chamber will make’ a careful study of the book, A Sovereign People, so that they may be able to carry on the good work which is now beyond my efforts. Mr. Bruce, -the present High Commis sioner, and also the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), when overseas, failed to procure for me at my request certain books on industrial arbitration. The members of the Swiss consulate were generous in that regard and I take this opportunity to express my grateful appreciation of their action.
– Several points have been raised by honorable members during this debate. The personnel of the jury will be determined under a jury ordinance which at present exists and has already been the subject of discussion in this Parliament. The question was raised as to why it was necessary to provide for sittings in places other than Canberra, but that is being done entirely for the convenience of litigants, so as to bring about expedition in the hearing of cases and to save expense. It is unlikely that there will be many formal sittings of the court per annum, and it would be very , expensive if, on every application, the court had to attend at Canberra. There is some misapprehension which is not unnatural with respect to legal aid, because the fact that there is*1 any provision for legal aid is not directly discernible; but in section 69 of the Judiciary Act there is a provision for legal aid in criminal cases under federal law. So far as civil cases are concerned, the bill provides that the rules of the High Court shall apply until other rules are made. Under the rules of the High Court, order 4, there is a provision which enables persons who can prove that they have less than £25 worth of property, to obtain legal assistance; and a barrister or solicitor is directed to assist, and the barrister or solicitor so directed shall not be at liberty to refuse his assistance unless the court or justice decides that he has some good reason for refusing. - When an order is made in favour of a person under these rules no court fees are payable. There are provisions for legal aid in the act although it is somewhat difficult to trace them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Definitions).
– Attention has been drawn by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) to the fact that there is a reference to ordinances in the bill, for example, in clause 11 which describes the jurisdiction of the court; and as it is desirable to determine precisely the meaning of the word “ ordinance,” I move -
That after the definition of “ matter “ the following definition be inserted: - “ Ordinance “ means an ordinance made by the GovernorGeneral in pursuance of the Seat of Government Administration Act 1910-1933.
It simply makes quite certain that the ordinances referred to are those passed under the power of existing legislation.
– I should like to know what sort of ordinances will be necessary? Will one bc required in connexion with the matter of legal aid ? If so, my colleagues and I feel that things should not be left in the position suggested by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham). I should also like to know whether an ordinance will be necessary in connexion with the appointment of juries. I am concerned on this score, because of recent happenings in New South Wales; because, even though this court will operate outside ray electorate, I want to be assured that it is unlikely that an unjust system such as that which has recently operated in New South Wales will prevail here.
– The amendment that I have moved does not affect the matters raised by the honorable member, but simply concerns the definition of a word that appears elsewhere in the act. That definition is desirable, irrespective of what may be one’s view-point on other subjects. Clause 11 provides that the court shall have certain jurisdiction, and that other jurisdiction shall be provided by ordinance. I stated in my secondreading speech, perhaps rather briefly, that there already exists an ordinance authority conferring jurisdiction on the High Court in connexion with probate and matrimonial causes. These are the matters for which it is necessary to have ordinances for the government of the Federal Territory.
The question about a jury depends upon the terms of the measure. The bill provides that civil cases shall be tried by a judge without a jury, unless otherwise ordered. Criminal cases, of course, will be tried by a judge with a jury.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Principal seat of court and sittings).
– I understand that this court is to deal with the affairs of the Federal Capital Territory. There should therefore be no need for the provision that the court may sit at other places in the Commonwealth. Surely the mean9. already exists to try cases elsewhere? I do not understand the purpose of the clause, and I should like the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) to explain it.
– In civil cases of any magnitude quite a number of applications may be required before trial is reached. It mustbe remembered that the judge of this court will preside over the Bankruptcy Court which will sit in Sydney and Melbourne, the work of this court being fitted in between the sittings of that other court. There will he only a limited number of” formal sittings of the Supreme Court at Canberra, probably from two to four a year, and provision exists to avoid delay in the case of criminal trials, as they have to be dealt with promptly. In a civil case of any magnitude, there are many proceedings, some of which may involve application to a judge in chambers, and if the parties had to wait for the judge to come to Canberra many months might pass, and the hearing would be delayed. I assure honorable members that this arrangement will make matters more convenient and expeditious.
– My colleagues and I recall a recent experience in. New South Wales where the venue of a court was shifted from Newcastle to Singleton for. political purposes, and we wish to avoid a repetition inconnexion with this court.
– Only recently a man who was to be tried in Canberra asked to be tried in Sydney because the witnesses were available there, and it was difficult and expensive to bring them to Canberra. . Everything depends upon the circumstances of the case. Criminal cases which have originated in the Territory have been tried both in Canberra and Sydney, but, of course, the jury is always drawn from the locality where the trial is held. There is no general virtue or advantage in having the jury drawn from one place or another. Sometimes it is thought that one locality favours the accused and another the Crown, and vice versa. An accused might prefer Sydney, believing that a local jury would know too much about him, but it is quite impossible to say in advance which venue will suit either side. This is a wise provision in the interests of all concerned. The object will be to have the court at Canberra as a general rule, and an order for a trial anywhere else will be .made only in special circumstances. It will be seen that the clause provides that -
The Supreme Court may sit at Canberra, and a-t such other places in the Commonwealth us arn from time to time specified by the Governor-General by notice itv the Gazette.
Thus the Government has to take the responsibility of specifying a place as a place where the court may sit before the court can order that a matter shall be tried anywhere other than in Canberra.
.- I believe with my Leader (Mr. Beasley), that there is no necessity to establish a Supreme Court at Canberra, as the necessary machinery already exists to try cases here. I recall that criminal cases have already been tried here, ‘by Mr. Justice McTiernan. Nor do I believe that the establishment of this court will not involve additional expenditure. I also believe that as the court will be able, at the direction of the Government, to move to any other place in the Commonwealth, that may be done to suit political purposes. In what is known as the Mayfield Eviction Case, after two juries had declined to convict the accused, the venue of the court was changed to Singleton, away from the industrial area.
– That was not done avowedly for the purpose, but in order to obtain a fair trial.
– It was done because the State Government feared that no jury in Newcastle could be found to con vict those men The inference to be drawn from the interjection of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) is that the people of Newcastle could not be trusted to give an unbiased verdict. I resent that, and I know that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) will also do so. Many juries have been selected from Newcastle which have - performed their duty conscientiously and well. Merely for political purposes, and in a desperate attempt to obtain a conviction, the venue of this court was moved to Singleton. Perhaps as things unfold themselves we shall find that this bill is really implementing machinery which will be used to give effect to amendments concerning conciliation and arbitration and for deportation purposes.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has implied that the venue of the trial in what is known as the Mayfield1 Eviction Case, was moved to Singleton because no jury from the Newcastle district would deal justly with the matter.
– I did not say that, and the honorable member should not try to put into my mouth words selected by him.
– I did not interject when the honorable gentleman was speaking. My inference from the remark of the Attorney-General is that the only jury which will deal justly with a ‘ matter is one which will convict. Honorable members opposite laughed when the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that no jury in Newcastle would convict these men. The reason was that the men were innocent of the charge that was made against them. I did not intend to participate in the debate until the Attorney-General made his unfair implication, which casts a slur upon the people of Newcastle. I am against any provision which enables the Government to shift the venue of trial from one place . to another merely to secure a conviction.
– If the honorable member had even an elementary knowledge of the facts he would not speak in that way.
– The authorities may keep on changing the venue of a trial until they are able to have it brought before a jury whose political bias is such that it is sure to convict.
– Some honorable members make inaccurate statements solely for the purpose of having them recorded in Hansard, and they appear to recognize no limits in this respect. Often their statements are so absurd that they are not contradicted from this side of the House.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to an interjection by the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr). I ask that it be withdrawn, and that an apology be tendered.
– I did not hear the words complained of, but if they were used by the Minister for Health, I ask him to withdraw them, and to apologize.
– I comply with your request.
– I did not hear the Minister make a satisfactory withdrawal and apology.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister has complied with my direction to withdraw his remark and apologize for having used it.
– When, at the request of an offended party, a direction is given by the Chair to another honorable member to withdraw a statement, and apologize for having made it, the withdrawal and apology should be made in tones audible to the person offended. The apology was due, not to the Chairman, but to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and it should have been made in such a way that he could hearit.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.In my opinion, the apology was sufficient.
Sitting suspended from 12.51 to 2.15 p.m.
– I ask, Mr. Nairn, whether an honorable member should not withdraw and apologize in an audible tone, so that the honorable member aggrieved may hear it - whether it is sufficient for an honorable member to say, “ I comply with the request of the Chair,” or whether the Standing Orders require him to say, “ I withdraw and apologize “ ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.In my opinion, the Minister made a sufficient withdrawal and apology.
– On a point of order, I should like the Chair for the future guidance of honorable members to determine whether an honorable member who has been required to withdraw and apologize may simply say, “ I agree with the Chairman,” or whether he must use the words, “I withdraw and apologize “ ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I do not know that any ruling that I may give would determine the point. Not satisfied with the first withdrawal of the Minister for Health, I called upon him to make a complete withdrawal and apology, and he said, “ I comply with the direction of the Chair,” or words to that effect. I accepted that” as a sufficient withdrawal and apology.
– I submit that it is not a question of your acceptance.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have determined the point of order.
– Then I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
I wish first to establish consistency in the rulings of the Chair, so that honorable members may know where they stand, and then to have determined the question whether an aggrieved member must be satisfied with tho withdrawal and apology, so that we may know whether in future it will be necessary to use the words, “I withdraw and apologize.” If the ruling of the Chair is upheld, an honorable member who is called upon to withdraw and apologize may simply say, “ I comply with the requost of the Chair.” If that principle is established, it should apply not only to Ministers, but also to private members.
– The question raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) should receive the serious consideration of the committee. Honorable members on this side of the chamber who have offended against the Chair have been distinctly told that it is necessary for them to rise in their places and use the words, “ I withdraw and apologize.” The Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) did not rise in his place, but merely said that he would obey the ruling of the Chair. If the Chair maintains the ruling it has given, that the form of withdrawal and apology adopted by the Minister is sufficient, other honorable members will adopt that form in future. The Standing Orders do not cover every point that is likely to arise, and, as the Speaker said last night, those that are not so covered are governed by the rules laid down in May’s Parliamentary Practice. “We appear to be establishing so many precedents, however, that, instead of our looking to the House of Commons for guidance, it may look to us in the near future. As I believe that the ruling of the Chair is entirely wrong, I have much pleasure in seconding the motion of dissent that has been moved by the honorable member for “West Sydney.
– There seems to be some doubt as to the sufficiency of my withdrawal. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) was most provocative this morning, and the insults that he cast on Government members impelled me to interject as I did. “When you, sir, asked me to withdraw and apologize, I said “ In deference to the Chair, I comply with its request.” If that is not regarded as sufficient, I now say that I withdraw and apologize.
– The Minister for Health having taken this action, I ask leave to withdraw my motion of dissent.
Mo tion - by leave - wi thd rawn .
Bill brought up by Mr. Stewart, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for the regulation of the transfer of butter and cheese from one State to another, and is on similar lines to the Dried Fruits Act, which was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1928. Its main object is to ensure to all producers of butter and cheese a fair share, and not more, of the advantages and disadvantages of selling within Australia and overseas.
Five years ago, Australia exported 45,000 tons of butter overseas. During the year ended the 30th June last, this total was more than doubled, having reached the high figure of nearly 101,000 tons, of which no less than 93,700 tons were sent to the United Kingdom. ‘ The value to Australia of the export trade in that year was £9,270,000. Some of thi3 welcome increase was, of course, due to the expansion of the areas devoted to dairying. During recent years States like Queensland have largely increased their dairying settlements. Not a little of the increased production, however, is due to improvement in farm technique, pasture improvement, fodder conservation, improvement in the type of cattle raised, and the exclusion of unprofitable animals following the wider use of the system of herd-testing. In these activities, the Federal and State governments have assisted, and are assisting generously.
As I have already indicated, Great Britain is the principal purchaser of Australia’s dairy products. Indeed, apart from a valuable market for some 6,000 tons in the East, the United Kingdom represents practically the only outlet for our exportable surplus, and year by year we have been sending greatly increased quantities to that market. Unfortunately, however, Australia is not the only country which has been developing and increasing its butter production. As I have shown, Australia’s exportable surplus has increased during the past five years by 56,000 tons per annum, while our sister dominion, New Zealand, has increased her export during the same period by 40,000 tons. As in our case, the only worth-while outlet for New Zealand’s surplus is the United Kingdom: This means that from these two sources alone Great Britain receives nearly 100,000 tons of butter per annum in excess of the figures of five years ago. At the same time increasing quantities of Danish butter were being placed on the British market, mainly because of the restrictions imposed on imports by other continental countries, and iri these circumstances a fall of prices in the United Kingdom was inevitable in order to bring about the necessary increased consumption to absorb the greatly increased imports. This explains why the London price for Australian butter several months ago fell as low as 64s. per cwt. To-day the price is in the region of 72s. per cwt., which, when the difference in exchange between English and Australian currency of 25 per cent, and the Paterson plan bounty of 3d. per lb. are added, gives the Australian producer a gross return of ls. Id. per lb., from which, of course, all transport and other charges must be deducted. It is recognized that, apart from maintaining our product at the highest possible standard of quality, we can, unfortunately, do nothing to influence the overseas price of butter, as this is governed by factors entirely outside our control. While the Australian butter producers must, therefore, accept world prices for their exportable surplus, they have claimed, and not without justification, that the selling price of butter in Australia should not be based on the greatly depressed overseas price.
For some years past there has been in operation a voluntary scheme known as the Paterson plan, and designed to assist in ensuring a more remunerative price for butter sold in Australia. Under this plan a levy is paid on all butter manufactured, and from the fund thus created a bounty is paid on all butter exported. The bounty is of course limited to those contributing to the plan.
The existence of a bounty on exported butter brings about an automatic increase of the local price, and the dairying industry has profited considerably from this enhanced price. When the Paterson scheme commenced, the export of butter amounted to only one-third of the total Australian production, and the levy of 1-Jd. per lb. which was then operating was more than sufficient to pay a bounty of from 3d. to 4d. per lb. on the export proportion. The extraordinary growth of our export trade to over 50 per cent, of the total production meant that an increase of funds was necessary to pay the same bounty on the greatly increased export proportion. Consequently it became necessary either to reduce the rate of bounty or to increase the rate of levy. As a matter of fact both were done, and for the last four years the levy has been paid at the rate of lid. per lb., while at one stage during that period the rate of bounty was as low as 2½d. per lb., but it is now 3d. per lb.
In view of the voluntary nature of the Paterson plan, the dairying industry has found difficulty in sustaining it. During the past few months there has been an increasing tendency on the part of factories to break away from the scheme, and the industry claims that another section of the butter-producing industry - I refer to the people who make butter on farms - are not making any contribution towards the stabilization of the industry. These persons, together with the factories which have broken away from the plan, are reaping the full advantages and benefits of the improved conditions made possible by means of the Paterson plan. In consequence of these circumstances, and because of the large amount of butter being exported, the scheme is rapidly losing its effectiveness.
The question of introducing State and Federal measures on the lines of the existing dried fruits legislation was first discussed at a conference of Ministers for Agriculture held in May last, and in the following month the matter was further discussed at a conference of Premiers at which the Commonwealth Government agreed that it would fully consider any proposal for the introduction of Commonwealth enabling legislation in the event of the adoption by the States of marketing measures in respect of butter.
The States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which, in the “aggregate, produce approximately 90 per cent, and 80 per cent, of the total output of butter and cheese, respectively, in Australia, have enacted, or are in the process of enacting, legislation under which a board will be established in each of those States to regulate the intra-state marketing of butter and cheese.
One of the principal provisions in each of the State measures is that which empowers the respective State Ministers in conjunction with the proposed boards’ to determine the quantities of butter and cheese which may be sold on the home market. The States, however, are not empowered to regulate the interstate transfer of goods without which it would not be possible to ensure that the balance of butter and cheese over and above that, determined for home consumption shall be exported overseas. To meet this position, it is essential that there should be Commonwealth legislation which will prohibit interstate trade in butter and’ cheese except under licence, which licence- will only be granted subject to the condition that the licensee shall comply with export quotas fixed by the Minister for Commerce. These export quotas will be determined on the recommendation of prescribed authorities appointed by the Commonwealth. In those States where boards are established under State legislation it is proposed to appoint those boards to act as prescribed authorities.
The system of export quotas prevents price cutting on the Australian market, and ensures that the producer will take his fair share of the less remunerative export markets. That is to say, the burden of. export is equally shared.
I have already indicated that the provisions of the bill which is now before the House are similar to those of the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Act, which has been in operation since 1928, and I now propose to outline briefly for the information of honorable members the events which led up to the introduction of this legislation. Prior to 1928, a board was set up under State legislation in each of the four dried vine fruit producing States- Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia - mainly with the object of fixing export quotas to prevent a minority of packers from placing all their fruit on the local market, and leaving the export market to those packers who were prepared to export rather than glut the Australian market. Little or no difficulty arose in connexion with this export quota arrangement until one of the boards, acting under its statutory powers, compulsorily acquired a quantity of dried fruit from a packer who was endeavouring to sell fruit in another State, which, in the opinion of the board, should have been exported. Litigation followed, and it was subsequently held by the High Court that a board set up under State law had no power to interfere in any way with interstate trade, because the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution provided that interstate trade must be absolutely free. The States, thereupon, appealed to the Commonwealth Government which brought down legislation in 1928 to supplement the State law to enable the boards again to become operative. Regulations made under that legislation provide that the prescribed authorities - State dried fruits boards - shall issue “ Owners “ licences in respect of the owners who deliver fruit to a carrier for carriage into another State, and “ Carriers “ licences in respect of the carriers. The principal conditions which owners are required to observe under “ Owners “ licences are -
The only condition which carriers are required to observe under “ Carriers “ licences is that they shall not accept delivery of any dried vine fruits from the owner for interstate carriage unless the owner is the holder of an “Owners” licence.
This dried fruits legislation has operated very successfully in conjunction with the State legislation for over five years, and there is no reasonable doubt that the dried fruits industry has been carried on during that period with a greater measure of stability than has attended most other primary industries. The export of dried vine fruits is efficiently regulated by a Commonwealth Board established under the Dried Fruits Export Control Act, and prices within Australia are fixed by a voluntary organization known as the Australian Dried Fruits Association, which represents about 95 per cent. of those engaged in this industry.
The Government has given a great deal of careful consideration to the proposal to apply a similar system of control to the dairying industry in relation to interstate trade which will not necessarily involve any increase of price to the Australian consumer over and above the additional cost at present brought about by the operation of the Paterson plan. The Government believes it is necessary in the interests of the industry that those engaged in it should be protected by legislation against the possibility of glut-tod home markets and consequent adverse realizations.
It will be noted that the provisions of the bill are not to be brought into operation until a date to be fixed by proclamation. In this connexion, the Government has decided that the proclamation will not be issued until appropriate steps have been taken to protect the consumers against any unreasonable increase of the local price above London parity. A clause to this end has already been inserted in the bill, which is now before the Victorian Parliament. The issue of the proclamation, will also be dependent upon a poll of producers of butter and cheese being taken by each such State to decide whether a majority of such producers desire the enactment of the State legislation. It will be realized by honorable members that, notwithstanding the assurances given to the Government by representatives of the industry to the effect that a majority of the producers are favorably disposed towards marketing legislation of this nature, it is desirable that the producers should be given the light to decide this matter for themselves.
There appears to be some doubt at the moment whether the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania intend to introduce legislation for the regulation of interstate trade in butter and cheese. The Government, however, is prepared to give effect to the Commonwealth legislation provided the poll taken by the States which pass intra-state legislation indicates that, in those States where an affirmative vote is cast the aggregate production of butter and cheese is not less than 60 per cent. of the total Australian output.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenuebe made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for financial assistance to the States in the provision of relief to wheat-growers and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted. .
That Mr. Lyons and Mr. Stewart do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is scarcely necessary for me to tell honorable members that the position of the wheat industry has given more concern to the members of my Government than, probably, any other single problem during the present year. Wheat is in many ways the most difficult and the most complicated of all the world’s unsolved economic problems. The industry suffers both from increased production and from dwindling demand. Great areas of Canada, the United States of America, the Argentine and Australia depend for their prosperity on the yield and price of their wheat crops, and wheat is one of the staple products of European agriculture. Again, the prosperity of the wheat-farmer concerns in varying degrees of importance many other important industries and activities, the makers of agricultural machinery, the fertilizer manufacturers, the railways, shipping companies and so on. Indeed, so widespread are the effects of the prosperity or otherwise of the wheat industry, that it is commonly said that advancing wheat spells general prosperity and cheap wheat general depression.
Nowhere have I seen the impasse in the wheat industry better summarized than in an article by Professor S. H. Wadham, of theUniversity of Melbourne, a noted authority on the subject, which was published in the Melbourne Argus of 1st November, 1933. From that article I quote the following: -
Many paradoxes are recorded in the pages of history, but probably none has ever been more farcical yet more tragic than the present position ofthe world’s wheat industry. Some countries, by paying bounties to their farmers on the wheat they have grown, are fostering production at a price level which is definitely unprofitable. Others, working on the opposite plan, by keeping foreign wheat from crossing their boundaries by high tariffs, are raising the price of foodstuffs to their people. Meetings to try. and end the tragi-farce have terminated fruitlessly or in such weak forms of agreement as to be almost useless. An absurd position, yet when it is analysed from the stand-point of any individual country, it seems quite logical and practically unavoidable, as long as present-day political systems and national fears and jealousies persist. It illustrates the im practicability of applying economic principles when the forces of national polities aro in the field. Yet, if there is to be real progress for mankind, if men and women arc to obtain more and more useful things in return for their work, those principles will have to be understood and followed. The silly tragedy of the world’s mentality in 1033 is nowhere better exemplified than by the wheat impasse.
Two problems of outstanding importance lave faced the Government in this matter. First, it was compelled to reach a decision with regard to the international agreement recently entered into by wheat-producing and wheatpurchasing countries, the specific objective of which was the raising of world wheat prices. I remind honorable members that the Commonwealth Government was not a willing participant in the early stages of the negotiations. “When Mr. Bruce stated at the World Monetary and Economic Conference that’ restriction of production was a policy of despair, he’ echoed views that were widely held in this country. I need not recall to honorable members the circumstances which caused, not only the Commonwealth Government, but also almost all the State Governments, and most of the accredited representatives of the wheat-growers, to give assent to the proposals embodied in the agreement.
The second problem has arisen from the fact that, at current world prices, the wheat industry in Australia is being carried on at a loss, and that, generally, growers are not receiving an adequate return for their labours. This is the problem with which, in the Wheatgrowers Belief Bill, we are immediately concerned. The principal reasons for the seriously depressed prices of wheat over the past few years are as follows: -
First, there has been continued expansion of production in the principal exporting countries, with assistance from governments which has enabled producers to remain in production, who, owing to reduced returns, would have otherwise gone out of wheat-farming. Figures of Australian production illustrate this point -
Secondly, there has been a growing policy in Europe of imposing high duties and import quotas with high internal prices, thus bringing about increased production at home and reduction of imports. For example, in 192S-29, with an import duty of 2s. 6d. per cwt., Germany produced 123,000,000 bushels and imported 78,000,000. In 1931-32, by which time the duty hud been increased to 12s’. 6d. per cwt., production was 184,000,000 bushels and imports were 23,000,000. The price of wheat in Germany in recent years has been as high as 14s. 6d. a bushel, English currency.
Thirdly, as a result of the factors already mentioned, huge stocks have accumulated in North America. On the 1st August last, these stocks amounted to 440,000,000 bushels in excess of the normal carry-over. So serious has the world position of the wheat industry become that proposals, to which I have already referred, were made and ultimately adopted under which exports from the exporting countries were to be restricted to agreed limitations. The details of this agreement have already been explained to the House, and need not be again traversed in connexion with the present bill. As one of the principal exporting countries, Australia has suffered severely by the serious fall of wheat prices, and for the past two seasons the Commonwealth Government has found it necessary to come to the assistance of the industry. In 1931-32, the assistance took the form of a bounty on all wheat sold from the crop of that year. The rate of bounty was 44d. a bushel, and the total expenditure was £3,414,000. In 1932-33 a special grant of £2,000,000 was made to wheat-growers through the State Governments. This assistance was generally allocated by the ‘States to individual growers on the proportion of acreage sown to wheat, though certain sums were set aside to assist growers who were in necessitous circumstances.
New South “Wales also utilized a portion of the sum provided to offset charges on freight. “When the budget for 1933-34was being framed no provision was made for special assistance to wheat-growers, for two reasons: first, because of the general relief afforded to industry under the tax remission proposals embodied in the budget; secondly, because of the anticipation of a rise in world prices following upon the international agreement. It is probably too soon for the effects of reduced taxation to be felt in the costs of primary products ; the beneficial effects will no doubt be realized later. The average export price of Australian wheat in Australian currency in recent years has been -
While the international agreement was being negotiated, and during the speculative operations which took place in the United States of America at the same time, therewas a rise of prices. In May last the price was 2s.11¾., and it rose steadily until in September it reached 3s. 5d. Since September the price has declined, and at present it is about 2s. 7d. a bushel f.o.b. Australian ports. Advices received from the High Commissioner’s Office in London suggest that immediate price prospects are difficult to forecast. Keen competition for the relatively small import market available, principally on the part of Russia and Danubia, has caused the recent weakness. Recent comment in informed circles suggests the probability of the market firming; but the prospects must, it is feared, be classed as uncertain. The hopes of higher prices, which it was thought would follow the international agreement, have not, therefore, been realized so far. This does not mean, however, that the agreement has been fruitless. Prices would almost certainly have declined still more had not the heavy surpluses in the United States of America and Canada been kept off the market.
Costs of production of wheat in Australia are difficult to arrive at. This is due to the varying conditions arising our. of locality and to the different yields per acre. Various authorities have made estimates on the subject, but the Government does not feel justified in basing action on the figures available. The Government is, however, satisfied that, at current world prices, the industry is being carried on at a loss, and that generally growers are not receiving an adequate return for their labours. That being so, consideration has been given to the question of granting further financial help, and the bill before the House embodies the Government’s proposals.
In the necessarily full consideration which is given to a subject of this character by the Government, very serious problems arise. First, there is the question as to whether a grant is justified at all; and, if so, its extent and the method of distribution. Secondly, there is the very important question of the raising of the necessary funds.
In exploring such a question, it will be realized that the Government must consider the country as a whole, because, in the last analysis, . financial assistance made available by governments to one section of the community must be borne by some or all of the others. The Government has fully realized the need for some help to the wheat industry. Australia is more than ever dependent upon its export industries; and in this respect wheat production, and the welfare of the industry, are of the highest national importance. After the fullest investigation and inquiry, it was decided that, on the basis of present prices, the expenditure of a sum of £3,000,000 was justified, and that the wheat-growers of Australia should be assisted to this extent.
The financing of £3,000,0.00 in present circumstances is no easy task, and the Government has given much consideration to this phase of the matter. Broadly speaking, there are three sources of finance possible -
I propose to deal first with the possibility of borrowing the money.When assistance of approximately £3,500,000 was provided for the wheat bounty in 1931, the finance was arranged by borrowing the full amount. There was no special condition about repayment, but the present Government has made provision on the basis of repayment in fifteen years, on which basis there will be an annual charge of about £300,000’ in interest and sinking fund for that period.
In normal circumstances, loan fund moneys should be used only for works of a reproductive character. A departure from this principle is justified only on the grounds of serious financial emergency or special circumstances of a nonrecurring character. The financing of the wheat bounty in 1931 from loan moneys was a measure of emergency, but the financing of bounties of this nature from loan funds as a matter of practice is not sound policy. The Government, therefore, is not prepared, even if it were practicable to do so, to finance the whole of the assistance this year by borrowing.
As to the second method, the budget for this year contemplates a deficit of $1,176,000. For th.e firs* four months, the transactions show an excess of receipts of £3,500,000, but this figure is no indication of the trend of the year’s finance. Concessions announced in the budget will cost £6,052,000, almost the whole of which will be reflected in the remaining months of the year. Moreover, expenditure in the first four months was below, the average for the year, as is invariably the case.
It is too early yet to make any definite forecast as to whether there will be an improvement in the budget position. Some improvement is hoped for, but it is quite out of the question to look for an improvement of a magnitude which would enable us to provide the whole of the finance required for assistance to wheatgrowers.
Thirdly, I set out the position with regard to the proposals for an increased price for home consumption. Many representations on behalf of wheatgrowers have been made, both in this chamber and outside, to provide for assistance by some scheme which involves an increase of the home consumption price, either by a pool or some similar arrangement, or by a sales tax on flour.
In discussions which have taken place on the subject of the form wheat assist ance should take, the creation of a compulsory Australian pool has found support. It is not desired to traverse the whole of the objections to such an organization, but it is .desired to emphasize one outstanding fact - that its operation must necessarily have the effect of increasing the price of bread to the Australian consumer. One of the avowed reasons for the compulsory wheat pool is that it would enable an “ Australian “ price to be fixed, that is, a price for wheat consumed in Australia, which would not be influenced by prices ruling abroad. The price of wheat in Australia, and, of course, flour, would thus be artificially raised above world parity.
It is admitted by all that present world prices are unsatisfactory, and this, of course, is the cause of our present difficulties. It follows, therefore, that the first act of a pool administration would be to raise the price of wheat consumed in Australia to an extent that would give an adequate return to the grower over all his wheat, whether consumed locally or exported. As the quantity of wheat exported this year will be more than double that consumed in Australia, it will be seen that a substantial increase of the price of the proportion consumed in Australia would be necessary to give a reasonable all-round return on the total production. As production increased, this position would become accentuated.
The present price of Australian wheat ia about 2s. 2d. a bushel at country station sidings. If, for example, it were decided that an increase to 3s. a bushel for the total marketable crop was required, it would be necessary to raise local prices to about 5s. a bushel. This would add approximately £6 15s. a ton to the price of flour consumed locally, and would in turn increase the price of bread by more than Id. for a 2-lb. loaf. These figures are approximate, and are conservative, but they clearly illustrate the point that the introduction of a compulsory pool on the lines advocated, and the fixation of a local price independent of world parity, would have the same effect in raising the price of bread as would the imposition of a flour tax.
It is clear, therefore, that, if the whole of the assistance were provided by increasing the home consumption price, the full subsidy would be passed on. in the form of an increased price for bread. It is inevitable that some of the assistance should be provided in this manner, but the Government is not prepared to find the whole amount by an increase of the home consumption price. After fully considering theposition, the Government proposes that approximately half the money necessary to assist the industry should be found by a flour tax, the remaining halfto be provided from other special taxation, and from thebudgets of 1933-34 and 1934-35.
It is proposed to impose the following specialtaxation: -
The total amount to be provided byspecial taxation this financial year is, therefore, £.1,950,000, and the balance of £1,050,000” is to be provided from the budgets of 1933-34 and 1934-35. To enable payments to be made to wheatgrowers as early as possible, it will be necessary to obtain temporary accommodation until revenue moneys become available. The authority- of the Loan Council has, therefore, been obtained to permit of the money being raised by treasury-bills, subject to repayment from revenue of £1,950,000, or thereabouts, not later than the 30th June, 1934, and the balance of £1,050,000 to be repaid from revenue not later than the 30th June, 1935. The Commonwealth Bank has agreed to provide finance on these conditions.
The estimated amount of flour consumed in Australia is 650,000 tons a year, and, on this basis, the tax of £4 5s. per ton is estimated to realize about £1,600,000 up to the 30th June next. The tax will cease to operate on that date. If revenue improves sufficiently during the next seven months the flour tax will be removed before the 30th June next.
The Government is being criticized for proposing to impose taxation, which will be mainly felt by those on the basic wage. I point out that many of those who have indulged in this criticism have themselves advocated in this House a fair return to the wheat-grower, even if it involved increasing the local price of wheat. If the scheme for assisting the wheat-grower were financed wholly by flour tax, the full cost would be passed on in the form of an increased price of bread. The Government’s proposal involves passing on to the consumer only half of the cost, the other half being found from special taxation and the budget.
There are many precedents since the beginning of the depression for the imposition of a flour tax. In New South Wales, a former government introduced flour acquisition legislation in 1931 which placed an impost of £2 15s. a ton on flour, though this was later reduced to £1 10s. a ton. The United Kingdom has a form of flour tax to provide a fund for the payment of a guaranteed price of 5s.7½d. a bushel to British wheat-growers. Other importing countries, for example, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Greece, Holland and Switzerland, all have adopted schemes for raising the internal prices of wheat and flour. The plans of the United States of America for the rehabilitation of the wheat industry include a processing tax, the proceeds of which are devoted to payments to growers as an inducement. to reduce their acreage. Exporting countries also have special forms of assistance, which have resulted in an increase of the price of locally-consumed wheat, and the subsidizing of exports.
Australian wheat prices are based on world parity, and the Australian consumer benefits by falls of prices abroad. As prices are inadequate on the basis of costs of production, the Australian consumer has been benefiting at the expense of the wheat-growers by the abnormal conditions which have existed.
As I have already stated, the Government proposes to pass on to the consumer only half of the cost of the assistance that is to be provided, so that the consumerwill still be better off than when prices are normal.
Before leaving the question of the influence of the flour tax upon the price of bread, it is interesting to note prices ruling in other countries. The average price of the 2-lb. loaf in Australia, other than New South Wales, is3¾d. In the United Kingdom, the price at present is 4¾d., with provision for an adjustment by id. for every 32s. rise or fall in the price of flour. The New Zealand price is 5d. per 2-lb. loaf, and in Canada,the price is approximately 6d. per 2-lb. loaf. These rates are expressed in Australian currency. While purchasing power varies somewhat in the different countries, it is clear that Australian consumers, even with the further small addition to bread prices which the flour tax will bring about, will be able to purchase their bread for less than will the people of other countries:
It will be necessary to bring down a tax bill to give effect to these proposals, and further information will be furnished to the House when that measure is introduced. As Tasmania produces very little wheat, it has been decided to make a special rebate to that State to offset the flour tax. Payment will be at the rate of £7,500 a month, which is based on the estimated consumption of flour at the rate of the proposed tax of £4 5s. per ton. Payments will be made at this rate to the Government of Tasmania for the period for which the flour tax operates, and the bill contains a clause to this effect.
The amount of £3,000,000 will be distributed to the States as follows: -
This allocation will be made on the basis of acreage sown in wheat. As was provided last year, the States are required to apply the sum made available to them in the following manner: -
Apart from these conditions, an important departure has been made this year from the principles under which payments were made to growers in former years. As a condition of the grant, the State Governments are required to confine financial assistance to those growers who did not receive taxable income during the financial year ended June, 1933. The Government felt that it would be anomalous to make payments out of public funds to persons who were really not in financial difficulties. It is known that many who received government assistance in the past did not need it. Either they were growing wheat under more favorable conditions than most, or they had incomes from other sources. The object of the Government is to assist those who are really in , need of assistance, and it considers that a man who is in a position to pay federal income tax has not a just claim for financial help from public funds.
It is realized, however, that since June, 1933, many people have suffered reverses, and’ it is likely that some, though they are subject to tax in respect of their earnings during 1932-33, may not be similarly circumstanced in respect of the current year. The Government, therefore, proposes to meet those growers by permitting them to claim on the grounds that, though they received income to a taxable amount in 1932-33, it is unlikely they will receive taxable income in 1933- 34, and that there are circumstances which entitle them to receive assistance.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Scullin) adjourned.
. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of thisbill is to validate, first, an agreement between the representatives of various countries who attended the Economic Conference in London - which agreement is appended as thefirst scheduleto the bill - and, secondly, an agreement between theCommonwealth Government andthesilver producersof Australia, whichagreement forms the second schedule tothe bill. The first agreement represents one of the very few mice produced by the mountain of the “World Economic Conference. Many countries hold large stocks of silver, and others produce a considerable quantity of that metal. The countries affected by the agreement are Australia, United States of America,, Canada, Mexico, Peru, India, China, and (Spain. Therepresentatives of those countries arrived at a decision for the orderly marketing ofsilver in order to prevent the possibility of afurther catastrophic fall of prices. Both agreements were arrived atvoluntarily, and there is nothing contentious in the measure.
The need of some such arrangement arose from the fact that enormous stocks of silver were held by India, which desired to work in with the other silverholding and producing countries in the orderly disposal of silver on a prearrangedbasis so as not to disturb the market. The bill deals with an aggregation of 175,000,000 oz. of silver held by the Government of India.
-Can the Assistant Minister explain why the terms of the agreement areto he departed from in respect of silver used to settle debts owed to the United States of America ?
– As the honorable member will remember, the United States of America agreed to accept in silver a certain proportion of the war debt. This was an advantageous arrangement for Great Britain, because it effected a saving of something like 50 per cent. on its war debt payments. Great Britain purchases the silver from India, in which there are enormous stocks of it. Provision is made for not more than 50,000,000 oz. a year to be sold by India. The main agreement sets out that the Governments which were parties to the conference shall refrain from new legislative measures which would involve further debasement of their silver coinage below a certain fineness. That has no application to Australia, because its silver coinage is 92.8 per cent. fine, anddebasement of it has not been practised in the past and is not contemplated in the future. There is further provision that silver coinage shall be substituted for low-value paper currency. That, too, does not affect Australia, because the Australian 10s. note is not regarded as a low-value paper note, but refers to countries that issue notes foran amount as low as1sor2s.
Mr.Rosevear. - It has a real significance inconnexion with the whole question.
– It would place an obligation an Australia if we had a small paper currency.; but wehave not.If all the parties to the main agreement have not ratified it by the 1st April next, it will lapse, and there will cease to be any obligation on Australia. The governments concerned may take wh’atever steps are necessary to prevent the flight of silver currency - that is to say, the export of coined silver.New Zealand has placedan embargo on the import and export of coined silver. As Australian silver currency is not legal tender outside of Australia and its territories, this provision hasno significance with respect tous.
– Is the silver currency of anycountry legal tender outside that country?
– British silver is legal tender in New Zealand and in certain other dominions and colonies. Some other countries have made provision for the acceptance of their silver as legal tender by their colonies. When the Government of India has disposed of 175,000,000 fine oz. the main agreement will lapse. Australia may use, for the purposes of additional silver currency, if it so requires, the little silver it holds off the market. It is unlikely that advantage will be taken of that provision, because only such silver currency as is needed is issued, and we have rather more than we need. If any one party to the main agreement does not ratify it by the 1st April, and thus absolves itself from the obligation to hold certain silver off the market, the other countries who are parties to it may, if they so desire, take up that quota, by accepting the obligation to keep off the market an additional amount pro rata to that required of the country that has withdrawn from the agreement. If that should happen, it will be open to Australia to introduce fresh legislation containing an agreement with its silver producers fixing a figure different from that which is fixed by this “bill.
The second agreement has been voluntarily entered into by the principal silver producers of Australia and the Government of the Commonwealth. It provides that there shall be placed in cold storage each year for the next four years, an amount of 652,355 oz. of standard fine silver, the arrangement to begin to operate on the 1st January next. The Commonwealth has dealt with the Broken Hill Associated Smelters and the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company of Port Kembla, through whose hands pass the silver produced by practically the whole of the silver producers of any consequence in Australia. Their interests and their directorate are linked, and they have a Common chairman, with, whom the Commonwealth Government has come to the agreement. The com.pany referred to in the agreement is the Broken Hill Associated Smelters. That company, by arrangement with the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company, has accepted the obligations imposed by the agreement. As honorable members may know, probably 90 per cent, of the silver production of Australia comes from Broken Hill. The agreement imposes no onerous obligation upon the Commonwealth. An amount of 650,000 oz. is to be set aside by the company each year, and stored in its strong room at Port Pirie. The agreement is largely a machinery one, for taking delivery of the silver and seeing that it is properly sampled and weighed, &c. There are provisions in it for inspection by Commonwealth representatives and the like. Insurance is undertaken entirely by the company. The Commonwealth Government has no obligation, financial or otherwise, except to see that the provisions of the agreement are observed, and to ensure that faith is kept with the other countries which are parties to the main agreement.
– Has the Commonwealth any responsibility in connexion with lack of integrity on the part of the staff of the company?
– I shall investigate that point. I assure the right honorable gentleman, however, that the provisions of the agreements , have been closely scrutinized by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and others concerned, to see that the Commonwealth undertakes no financial or other obligation, and that it merely plays its part in the carrying out of the main agreement.
– Is the Commonwealth covered against fluctuations of price?
– As the Commonwealth does not own the silver, it is not concerned in the question of price.
– Then the position of the Commonwealth Government is merely that of a policeman, in looking after the international agreement ?
– That is so. I do not think that honorable members will find anything contentious in the bill. I commend it to them.
.- The bill provides for the prevention and mitigation of fluctuations of the price of silver. If it can achieve that object, and ensure the stability of silver, it will have a very beneficial effect on the Australian section of those who entered into the agreement. One is tempted to Spread oneself on the question of bi-metallism and the increasing use of silver as a monetary factor. But I do not propose to deal with that aspect of the matter to-day, although I may say in passing, that in my opinion silver must inevitably play a greater part than it has played in the trade and commerce of the world, including the settlement of debts and the carrying out of other obligations. In this respect it will displace, to some extent, the more precious metal, gold. The main agreement provides for the use of silver in the payment of debts, and the interest upon debts, by the British Government to the Government of the United States of America. The necessity for the use of some metal to relieve the strain on our gold reserves and resources, is shown by the ever-increasing scarcity of gold. Considerable hardship and want have been caused in the world by slavish adherence to a metal as a monetary factor. During the last two years, because of the scarcity of gold, and the increasing price of it, there has been greater production of silver. That will continue only so long as the price of gold remains at a high level. For the moment, however, we are concerned not with that aspect so much as with the definite attempt to mitigate and prevent violent fluctuations, and the reduction of the price below the cost of production.
An extraordinary feature of the second agreement is, that Australian producers are to store 652,935 fine oz. each year for four years, although the production amounted to only 756,941 fine oz. in 1928, 937,437 fine oz. in 1929, and 834,936 fine oz. in 1930. During those four years 2,511,740 fine oz. will be placed in cold storage. If, during that period, the price of silver is increased to a figure more in keeping with past values, the producing companies will be handsomely remunerated. A rise of even -Jd. or Id. per oz. would represent a very big sum. There is one phase of the agreement which will be welcomed by, not only honorable members, but also the people of Australia.
– This Parliament is becoming a great price-fixing machine.
– The object of this bill is not so much to fix prices as it is to stabilize and to prevent violent fluctuations of prices.
– The effect of this legislation will be to sabotage production.
– The withdrawal from circulation of silver will not adversely affect the foodstuffs of the people, so it is not likely to sabotage production. It is refreshing to know that the carrying out of this agreement will not involve the Commonwealth du any additional expense except that a customs officer may be required to make periodical inspections and to make assays of the silver taken out of circulation. I am reminded of a piece of fiction illustrating the fallacy of hoarding gold, on which some people seem to think that the whole of civilization depends. The writer envisaged the nations forming a central reserve for gold, but- as they were not willing to trust one another a central committee was established. That inter national committee selected a neutral territory which was made the repository for the gold reserves. It was situated in a volcanic region, and when the committee made its annual ‘inspection it found that the whole of the gold had disappeared together with the’ international army that had been provided for its protection. One bright wit among the company then suggested that there was no reason why the committee should not sign certificates to the effect that the gold was there intact. That suggestion was adopted, and for a number of years the world proceeded on its way on certificates. For the moment we are not so much concerned about the fetish of gold or silver and the hoarding of it as we are about producing and handling it without any cost to the Commonwealth. This Government has entered into an agreement for the withholding and selling of silver, and for the reason that no cost or responsibility other than that of requiring this Parliament to ratify this agreement is involved, I offer no objection to the bill.
.- I am not quite satisfied as to the effect of this agreement, particularly in view of the fact that during the last twelve months, a considerable quantity of silver has been hoarded, not only in this country, but also in other parts of the world. The Minister has indicated that the idea is to place in storage a large quantity of silver in various places. That means that silver will be taken off the market for a certain period, with the object probably of stabilizing the value of Australia’s metal, not only in this country but also throughout the world. That probably would have a beneficial effect upon the silver mining industry, and might give relief in other directions by stabilizing values to some extent; but what effect wall it have on those interests which have been hoarding silver, not only in bullion, but in coin, particularly since gold has become a scarce commodity among the nations? I suggest that a large quantity of the silver in question should be coined thus enabling the Government to make a considerable profit, at the same time putting into circulation a considerable amount of currency which would be backed by actual values, and it would not be a fiduciary issue at all. Not only would the Govern- ment derive large profits from the coinage of the silver, but the financial position would also be eased considerably. The silver could be identified, and would not interfere with the existing currency. The number of notes in circulation, particularly 10s. notes, could be considerably reduced by the issue of 5s. pieces. The Commonwealth Bank could identify and account for every penny of silver issued in that way.
– There is more profit in printing 10s. notes.
– The issue of notes in any quantity becomes a process of inflation, because it has no actual value behind it. There is a certain value in silver coinage which does not exist in connexion with paper currency. In addition, a metal currency has a different effect upon the minds of the people, as is proved by the fact that many of them are hoarding silver. I also suggest that the Government should give serious consideration to the issue of farthings. Some honorable members are inclined to ridicule such an idea, but the fact is that the purchasing power of one farthing to-day is almost as great as that of a halfpenny two and a half years ago. Very often a reduction of wholesale prices to the extent of 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. cannot be reflected in the retail prices, because of the fact that it represents a reduction of less than a halfpenny, and, therefore, cannot be passed on to the purchasing community. The issue of farthings would greatly assist the passing on of various reductions, particularly in items such as bread, meat, milk, and other commodities which are daily purchased for cash in small quantities, more especially by people with small incomes. I urge the Government to consider the advisability of coining 5s. pieces and farthings, thus increasing the amount of silver and copper coins in circulation.
.- I thank the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) for his remarks. This Government is losing a great opportunity to gain considerable revenue by not increasing its silver coinage. Silver is cheaper to-day than it has been at any period in the history of the world. Every ounce of silver that is now purchased at, say, ls., is worth 5s. 6d. in currency, representing a profit of 450 per cent. of real and tangible money. I do not hold that gold is the best form of currency, although many people consider that it is. At any rate, it will not be denied that silveT is the next best form of currency. Paper money compared with silver has no value at all. For instance, after the war I sent £1 to Germany, and received in exchange 25,000,000 notes. To ascertain the real value of silver against notes, one need only put ‘a match to them. The official Y ear-Book, volume 25 of 1932, shows that the total value of silver produced from the Broken Hill Mines up to the . end of 1932 was £148,700,473. The dividends and bonuses paid by the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited to the end of 1930 amounted to £33,975,627, which stamps that concern as one of the greatest silver mines in the world. Australia may be classed as one of the world’s greatest silver-producing countries; and, withsilver at ls. 4d. an ounce, if my scheme were adopted, there would be a profit to the country of 312.5 per cent. immediately it was minted into coin. Our silver coins stand pre-eminent among those minted by other countries for 925 parts out of every thousand are pure silver, whereas the English coin minted since 1921 contains only 500 parts of silver in each thousand. The value of the English silver coin was reduced after Great Britain had been flooded with fiduciary notes to the value of £300,000,000, and the people had become timid. Consequently, the wise people of the Mother Country decided to provide the more stable and very profitable silver coin. Strangely enough an Australian 2s. piece is worth only about ls. in London. If the Government would mint £1,000,000 worth of silver at ls. 4d. an ounce that would provide £4,125,000, or, if the silver content of our coins were reduced to the English standard, the profit would be £7,631,250.
– What is the other alloy?
– There are various alloys. I have an English silver coin minted in 1920 clearly showing the tinge of copper alloy. However, that is a mere bagatelle. How much better it would be in the cause of honesty and truthfulness if the Government were to issue additional silver coins to supersede notes, which profess to be payable in gold, but not one of which has been paid in gold? Admittedly, Australia is doing better to-day by making its notes legal tender. If the Government minted additional coins, wages could be paid in silver, and I have yet to learn of any workingman or woman who would refuse to take his or her wages in silver.
I am a bimetallism I believe that when the millionaires - perhaps there were seven in the United States of America and six in Europe - combined with the big national banks of Great Britain, the United States of America and France, and forced the standard of gold upon humanity, they sentenced every ‘ third man, woman and little child to want, misery and privation. I impress upon the Government that it is its duty to lower its silver currency to at least the same value as English silver currency, for what is satisfactory to England should be acceptable to us. It is notable that the silver franc, wherever the flag of France is flown, is of equal value, but British coins vary in value throughout the world, in Great Britain itself, in Canada, India, Australia and in New Zealand. It would be a splendid gesture and would aid towards establishing the peace of the world if all the money that is minted were made of an equal value so far as its metal content is concerned. The opportunity is slipping by and the Government should hesitate no longer. I recall that, at the beginning of that last terrible war, a federal general election was about to take place. Mr. “W. L. Baillieu, who, unfortunately, is now ill and who I hope will recuperate as a result of the trip he is taking, said that if the banks would finance the companies, including the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, it would carry on at full swing. As the result of a letter that I wrote to the Age, Mr. Baillieu saw me, and after several interviews authorized me, on behalf of the silver-producing companies, to make available to Mr. Fisher, who became Prime Minister as a result of that general election, the whole of the silver, lead, and zinc output of the mines at the English selling price which existed prior to ,the war, ,less 30 per cent. Had Andrew Fisher been wise enough to accept that offer, Australia would have made a profit of over £300,000,000, which, as Mr. Baillieu has since pointed out, might have saved this country from the present economic depression. The Government should follow the suggestion of the honorable member for Calare, and mint additional silver coinage, so restoring confidence among the people. I have endeavoured to press this matter on many occasions, for I think that it is to the advantage of the National Government of Australia to use to greater profit this wonderful metal. England has reduced the silver content of its coins until it is now lower than it has ever been at any time since the reign of Edward the Confessor, with the exception of the 37th year of the reign of Henry VIII., of inglorious memory. Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, all credit to them, promptly raised the silver contents to 925 parts out of every 1,000 parts.
In the East, silver passes from merchant to merchant in the form of ingots, the value of which is stamped upon them, and it is customary to determine the value of a sovereign by the morning’s quotation for silver. Incidentally, at one time a £5 Bank of England note brought a higher value in India than five golden sovereigns. It is all a matter of exchange. How glad we should be if the dream of that historian of the past materialized, and the world had coins of one metal with the same silver content. The need of different languages to effect the interchange of goods would then scarcely be needed. It would be a fine thing for the shipping companies if a uniform system of currency were introduced. It has always seemed to me that a person travelling, say, to England would be well advised to take his money in silver, and thus avoid the payment of exchange. I do not think that there is any law in the Commonwealth, as there is in New Zealand, to prevent persons from taking silver out of the country. I have addressed numerous meetings advocating the introduction of silver coinage, which would be legal tender up to any amount, and never once have I failed to have my proposals endorsed by those present. So long as I remain a member of this House, and while silver is at its present low price, I shall continue to advocate this proposal, because I believe that its adoption would benefit the country.
I have no desire to accuse Ministers of discourtesy, but some of the answers which have been given to my questions on this subject have been very far astray. For instance, I have been told that it would be impracticable to give effect to my proposal, because people would object to carrying large quantities of silver about with them. If that is so, let the Government do what was done in the United States of America, where the Government collected vast quantities of silver by means of which financial stability was maintained. I regret the disappearance of the five shilling piece. It was ona of the most artistic coins ever issued by the British Mint. I have in mind, particularly that splendidly modelled horse that pranced on one side of the coin. However, if people object to carrying so much silver about with them, why not issue five-shilling notes? The Commonwealth Statistician states that the private wealth of Australia, including land, improvements, live-stock, . coin, bullion, &c, amounts to £3,351,463,000, and his calculations are supported by those of private accountants and actuaries. If to this is added the wealth represented by unsold land, together with the metals contained therein, and the value of rivers, harbours, &c, the total wealth of the cpuntry amounts to £5,250,000,000. Against that vast aggregation of wealth it would surely be safe for us to issue notes. I am astonished that some of our governments have not done this in the past, instead of borrowing overseas, and fastening upon the country the curse of interest. If honorable members look up their Bible, they will learn what will be the final end of the interest-mongers. Of all the financial experts, Major Douglas is the only one who has ever advocated making use of the accumulated wealth of the nation.We are born in a community, and live and die in it, without ever obtaining the benefit of the community wealth which we and our forefathers have created. Let us make use of our silver, to issue a currency which, I am convinced, no worker in this country would hesitate to accept. [Quorum formed.]
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
.- Is it made clear in the bill that no responsibility will rest on the Commonwealth in the event of the employees of the company, with which the silver is lodged, failing to keep their trust?
– The point is covered in paragraph 11 of the schedule. The Commonwealth is to keep the keys of the strong-room in which the silver is stored, so that we could not expect the company to accept responsibility for the integrity of its employees. In any case, it is reasonable to assume that the company would insure itself against losses arising out of breaches of trust by its employees. Paragraph 12 of the schedule states -
It is clear, therefore, that the Commonwealth will have no liability.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure which should commend itself to honorable members. It is designed tomeet a difficulty which has arisen because of a case in which the High Court has interpreted sections 67 and 68 of the Patents Act. The effect of this interpretation has been to make it impossible to’ grant a patent on certain applications in cases where the original applicant has died. Section 67 of the act provides that a patent shall be sealed as soon as may be, and not after the expiration of sixteen months from the date of the application, or such further date, as is prescribed - that is, by regulation - or, as the High Court or Supreme Court allows. It is evident, therefore, that there is full power to grant extensions when it is thought proper. It is generally imposed as a condition that no action for infringement shall be brought during the period of the extended time beyond that set out in the statute, so that the interests of other parties will not be unfairly prejudiced. Section 67 of the act lays down the procedure in the event of the death of the applicant, and states that if a person making an application dies before- the expiration of the period of sixteen months, the patent may be granted to his legal representative, and may be sealed at any time within twelve months after the death of the applicant. Let us see how these provisions work out. In one case an applicant, AB, applies for a patent, but finds that an extension of time is necessary. First of all he has the full sixteen months allowed him, after which the time may be extended under the regulations. If that is not sufficient, he may then apply to the High Court or Supreme Court for a further extension. The other applicant, XY is, at the beginning, in the same position as AB, but he dies one month after making the application. As he died before the expiration of sixteen months, the patent may be granted to his legal representative, but may be sealed only within twelve months after the death of the applicant, which, in the case I have cited, would be thirteen months only after the making of the application.
– And there is no provision for appeal by the applicant’s legal representative ?
– Not after the expiration of thirteen months from the making of the application. Obviously, there is no ground in reason for this distinction. Accordingly, it is proposed by clause 4 of the bill to amend- section 68 of the act, by omitting certain words and inserting certain other words, the effect of which will be to deal with the case that I have mentioned.
The bill also deals with another matter. At present, the patents law of the Commonwealth does not extend to Norfolk Island. It is desirable that it should do so, in order to provide for inventors in the island who wish to apply there for patents. Further, Australia is a party to certain international conventions that affect patents, and it is desirable that those conventions shall be extended to Norfolk Island.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Report adopted, and bill - by leave- - read a third time.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides the machinery for collecting the tax on imported and Australianmade flour, and on the flour contents of imported goods manufactured from flour, such as biscuits, macaroni. &c.
The tax will be imposed by the several separate taxing acts which later will be submitted to Parliament. It will operate from the 1st December, 1933, to the 30th June, 1934, unless the Governor-General, by proclamation, terminates it at ~ an earlier date.
So far as Australian flour is concerned, the tax may be described : first, as a tax on all sales made by millers on and after the 1st December, 1933, and on all deliveries made by millers on and after that date in fulfilment of earlier contracts, as well as upon flour used by millers in the manufacture of other goods for sale ; and, secondly, as a tax upon all stocks of flour in excess of 1,000 lb., which, at the 1st December, 1933, are in the possession of any person other than a miller. . Flour in transit to any person on that date will be treated as part of his stocks at that date. When the tax on the stocks on hand has been accounted for, the only taxpayers will be the millers.
Flour is defined as including sharps, self-raising flour, and meal made from wheat, but not bran, pollard, or cornflour.
The bill will enable the tax to be passed on to the consumer, but a miller who passes it on must show it as a separate item on his invoice or other account. Penalties are provided for any attempt to pass on amounts in excess of the tax actually payable. A person who uses flour for the manufacture of goods for sale by him may add the tax to the sale price of his goods.
In regard to stocks of flour on hand at the 1st December, 1933, the tax will be charged on the weight, less 1,000 lb., held by each separate owner, including private consumers. It is expected that, in actual practice, very few private consumers will be found to be taxable. In view of the policy of taxing stocks on hand at the 1st December next, the bill will provide for a refund of the tax paid on stocks, less 1,000 lb., that are on hand at the 30th June, 1934. This rebate will be made only to those holders of stock who have disclosed correctly their stocks on hand at the 1st December, 1933. In practice, the tax will apply to all flour used between the 30th November, 1933, and the 30th June, 1934.
Flour exported for sale, or sold for export, will be exempt, and a rebate will be allowed of tax paid on flour used in the manufacture of goods which are exported, provided that the Commissioner of Taxation is satisfied as to the quantum of flour contents of the exported goods, and that tax was paid on the flour contents of those goods.
It is proposed to refund to public charitable institutions the tax paid on Hour supplied to those institutions, and on the flour contents of such goods as bread, biscuits, cake, &c, supplied to them, if the Commissioner is satisfied that the prices charged for the goods include amounts in respect of the tax so paid. “ Public charitable institution “ will mean a public hospital, a public benevolent institution, or a religious organization.
Persons other than millers who held stocks of flour on the 1st December, 1933, will be required to declare the quantities held. Severe penalties for failure to do so, or for false statements, are provided. The Commissioner of Taxation is arranging to follow up declarations in order to test their accuracy, and will riot hesitate to prosecute defaulters or evaders.
Holders of stocks who will be taxable on stocks on hand will be required to pay the tax as follows: -
Where the tax does not exceed £5, it must be paid with the submission of the declaration of stocks on hand at the 1st December, 1933.
Where the tax exceeds £5, the tax may be paid by equal monthly instalments of £5, except where the unpaid balance of the tax is less than £5, when the instalment will be that unpaid balance. Where 20 per cent, df the tax exceeds £5, the payment may be by equal monthly instalments of 20 per cent, of the tax.
Instalments will be payable on the 21st day of each month, the first being payable by the 21st December, 1933.
Millers will be required to lodge monthly returns by the 21st day of the month following that in which the taxable sale or delivery is made, and tax will be payable with the lodging of the return.
A rebate of tax is provided for in respect of debts which, to the satisfaction of the Commissioner, are proved to be bad. Provision for the refund of tax overpaid is made in cases in which the tax has not been passed on to a purchaser, or, if passed on, has been refunded to the purchaser concerned.
Whilst it is not anticipated that the services of the Income Tax Board of Review will be necessary to settle disputes between taxpayers and the Commissioner, the bill provides for such a means of settlement.
The bill contains secrecy provisions similar” to those of the Sales Tax Acts. As far as possible, the machinery employed for the collection of the ordinary sales tax has been adopted for the purposes of the flour tax, by reference to the Sales Tax Acts. Wherever necessary in this connexion, alterations of wording have been shown in the bill. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
FLOUR TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 3) 1933.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– The three resolutions that I am about to introduce relate to the imposition of the flour tax. The first deals with flour sold, delivered, or used by the manufacturer thereof; the second relates to tax on flour held in stock on the 1st December, 1933,by any person other than the manufacturer thereof, to the extent that it exceeds 1,000 lb.; and the third refers to flour and specified goods in the manufacture of which flour is used, imported into Australia on or after the commencement of the acts. The impost in the first case is, in fact, an excise duty payable by the manufacturer of flour. In the second case it is a tax payable by persons, not being manufacturers of flour, holding stocks of flour. In the third case, the impost is in fact a customs duty payable by the importer of goods. Because of constitutional limitations, it is not possible to introduce one bill for the purpose of imposing the flour tax in all these circumstances. It is necessary to enact a separate act to impose the tax upon the goods specified under each of the three headings referred to, and in order to authorize the introduction of bills for this purpose, I move -
1 ) That flour tax be imposed at the rate of four pounds five shillings per ton upon each pound of flour manufactured in Australia by any person and -
Provided that if, in pursuance of any act. incorporated with the act passed to give effect to this resolution, a date is fixed as thelast day upon which flour manufactured inAustralia by any person and, after the date so fixed, sold or delivered by him, or used by him in the manufacture of goods for sale, shall be subject to tax under the firstmentioned act, any reference herein to the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-four shall be deemed to be a reference to the day next succeeding the date so fixed.
Provided that if in pursuance of any act incorporated with the act passed to give effect to this resolution a date is fixed as the last day upon which that flour and those goods shall be subject to tax under the firstmentioned act any reference herein to the firBt day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-four, shall be deemed to be a reference to the day next succeeding the date so fixed.
Cold water pastes;
Progress reported. [Quorum formed.]
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the acceptance of Ashmore and Cartier Islands as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth and for their government. There are four of these small uninhabitated islands situated between Timor and Western Australia, and they are about 200 miles from the north-west coast of Western Australia. The islands contain deposits of low-grade guano, and bechedemer, trochus shell and tortoise shell are to be found on the reefs. From time to time, complaints have been made of illegal fishing in the waters adjacent to these islands, and representations have been made by the Government of “Western Australia that they should be brought under Commonwealth control, while any actual administration would be performed by that government.
– How is the fishing illegal?
– These are British islands, and are subject to the laws of the Empire applying to British islands, but there is no practical means of exercising any control of them. In’ July, 1924, the Government of Western Aus-_ tralia informed the Commonwealth Government that for the purpose of dealing] with illicit fishing, it considered that the islands might be brought under the jurisdiction of the fishing laws of that State ; and as the result of representations made by the Commonwealth to the Goment of the United Kingdom, the Dominions Office informed the Commonwealth that the British Government would lie prepared to transfer these islands- to the Commonwealth. It was considered that the Colonial Boundaries Act of 1895 which used to be utilized in these matters, was not available for the purpose of extending the limits of the State of Western Australia’, and there is no doubt that that is the case, because section 8 of the Constitution Act, clause 8, provides -
After the passing of this act the Colonial Boundaries Act 1895 shall not apply to any colony which becomes a State of the Commonwealth; but the Commonwealth shall be taken to be a self-governing colony for the purpose of that act.
It was, therefore, not possible to apply the provisions of the Colonial Boundaries Act to Western Australia, in order to extend its boundaries to include these islands as part of the territories of that State. The Colonial Boundaries Act no longer applies in relation to the boundaries of Australia. Instead we have the provisions relating to the creation of new States, and the alteration of the boundaries of new States, the meaning of which we fully understand.
I have explained that the Colonial Boundaries Act was not applicable for the purpose of establishing any degree of control from Australia over these islands, but section 122 of the Constitution provides -
The Parliament may make laws for the government … of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth. . . .
Therefore, this Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory placed by the King under the authority of the Commonwealth. It will be of inter” est to honorable members to know, not only that the Commonwealth may make laws with respect to any territory placed by the King under its authority, but also that the section continues -
And may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms- which it thinks fit.
It will, therefore, be possible for this Parliament to allow the representation of these uninhabited islands in this Parliament to such extent as it thinks proper, but it is not proposed to take any steps to enable any party in this House to receive an unexpected accession of strength from that quarter. On the 23rd July, 1931, action was taken by His Majesty the King, under section 122 of the Constitution, and by an Order in Council, these islands were placed under the authority of the Commonwealth. This order, according to its terms, is not to operate until after legislation shall have been passed by the Commonwealth Government providing for the acceptance of the islands and their government. This measure, when passed, will bring that Order in Council into operation.
The Commonwealth, while being willing to accede to the wish of Western Australia that control should be exercised over these islands, does not consider that it would be desirable to pretend to have anything to do with them from Canberra. The Government of Western Australia has asked that provision be made for the government of the islands, and is prepared to undertake full responsibility for their administration and control, and accordingly the bill makes provision for fixing a date for the coming into operation of the Order iri Council. That date is to be fixed by Proclamation by the GovernorGeneral. Clause 6 of the bill provides that these islands are accepted by the Commonwealth as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth under the name of the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands. When the bill is passed these islands will become a territory of the Commonwealth.
– What is the extent of the islands?
– There are four islands altogether, and I understand that they are a little above sea level. They are uninhabited, but are visited by fishermen. The adjacent waters are valuable from time to time for trochus shell and bechedemer fishing. There is also a certain quantity of guano on the islands.
– Will this action involve the Commonwealth in any additional expenditure ?
– No, but we acquire a new territory. The Government of Western Australia is prepared to accept the administration of the territory in accordance with the provisions of the bill. Clause 6 states -
Subject to this act the laws in force in the territory at the commencement of this act shall continue in force, but may be altered or repealed by ordinance made in pursuance of this act.
Clause 7 states -
The acts of the parliament (except this act) shall not be in force in the territory unless expressed to extend thereto. while clause 8 is as follows: -
Subject to this act, the Government of the State of Western Australia, acting upon with the advice of the Executive Council of that State, may make Ordinances having the force of law in and in relation to the territory.
Every such ordinance shall -
be notified in the Gazette of the State of Western Australia. [Quorum formed.]
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 30th November (vide page 5299),, on niotion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Report adopted, and bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th November (vide page 5310), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Beasley had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that the financial assistance shall be for the sole purpose of relief of unemployment.”
.- I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Labour party in this chamber (Mr. Beasley). I find on analysing the amounts that have been expended for the purpose of making grants from the Commonwealth revenue to these mendicant State Governments, that they are increasing from year to year. This Parliament apparently has accepted the yearly appeal of these States as a permanent affair, for it has appointed a royal commission to make certain inquiries regarding State disabilities in order to determine the amount by which each State shall benefit annually. The figures disclose that the Governments concerned, although ostensibly carrying out their undertakings under the Premiers plan, which was designed to bring about a balancing of budgets, have failed to achieve that result. Originally these grants were made for . the alleged purpose of compensating States for disabilities suffered as a result of federation, but to-day the Government is prepared to grant financial relief to States to enable them to balance their budgets! Honorable members who support the measure have claimed that the several States concerned have honoured their obligations under the Premiers plan. If that is so, the increased vote that is now requested to relieve the States demonstrates conclusively that the Premiers plan has failed. When making these grants we must ask ourselves whether we are dealing justly with the citizens of other States. Honorable members have declared that those who live in the States that are to receive these grants contribute their quota of taxation, but I point out that the amount paid by these States is much less than - that paid by the larger States. As a matter of fact, it will be found that the- States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania receive more by way of grants and other benefits than they contribute in the form of taxation to the Commonwealth revenue. It would be wise if those who’ continually talk about the desirability of breaking up the federation took a more consistent attitude and refrained from making these continual demands for increased grants.
Honorable members on this side are justified in asking how long this sort of thing is to continue. In 1929-30, £910,000 was paid for the purpose, while this year £2,130,000 is to be paid. South Australia, which in 1929-30 received £360,000, is now to be paid £1,150,000; Western Australia jumps from £300.000 to £600,000, and Tasmania from £250,000 to £380,000. There is no saying what amount the Commonwealth Government will have to provide next’ year to assist these State Governments to meet their current obligations.
If it is right for the Government to finance State Governments, it is equally right for it to have an examination made into their activities to ensure that they are carrying out their functions properly. We do not know exactly who is to receive this money or for what purpose it is to be used. Honorable members of this party are of the opinion that the whole trouble in the various States is that they and this Government have pursued a policy that has been detrimental to the interests of the people of Australia. By controlling the judiciary, they have been able to enforce various reductions of wages, which have reduced the spending power of the community, and this, in turn is reflected in lower returns to business and a reduced government revenue. Consequently, instead of finding themselves out of the wood as the result of the Premiers plan, these States now need more assistance than ever from the Commonwealth Government.
It is but natural to expect that portion at least of this money should be expended on the section which is in the greatest need of assistance, the unemployed, which accounts for the amendment that has been moved by the leader of the party of which I am a member. [Quorum formed.] My colleagues and I are not prepared to accept the claim by supporters of the Government that the unemployed position has improved, and to-day the members of our party find that the position of this unfortunate section of the community is more desperate than ever before. [Quorum formed.’] The information supplied by the Statistician’s Department, although the best available, is not always reliable; not that the department has any desire to mislead honorable members, but because it has not before it the data which would enable it to reach an accurate conclusion. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that the percentage of unemployment in Australia at; the present time was 25.6, he should have made it clear that the figure applied only to those trade unions, representing 56.5 of the whole, which furnished returns. He should have. told honorable members that the Statistician’s Department was not in a position to say what was the percentage of unemployment among the whole adult population of Australia. Honorable members, who use their powers of observation, know that the unemployment position has grown much worse since the accession of this Government to office. In the portion of my electorate which is largely industrial, the condition of the people is worse now than ever, and if that be true of parts of New South Wales, it is probably also true of other States. If we are to allocate Commonwealth revenue to various State Governments, we should at least insist that it be spent upon the relief of unemployment. The first duty of any government is to its people, but some of the State Governments to which these grants are to be made, may, when they receive the money, follow the example of the Commonwealth Government, and use it to remit taxation upon wealthy sections of the community. I am not prepared to support the granting of money which is to be applied in that. way.
– Should not the people of South Australia be trusted to use the money in a proper way?
– The people of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania will have no say in how the money is to be spent. Although it is claimed that the people govern themselves through their elected representatives, they have, unfortunately, no control over their representative during the period between elections. Governments are able to do things contrary to the wishes of the electors,, who have no opportunity to express their disapproval.
What are the disabilities of these States concerning which we have heard so much ? Some -honorable members refer frequently to the disabilities suffered by their States as a result of. federation, but I have never heard them mention any of. the advantages which their States derive: through their membership of the Commonwealth. For instance, if each State had to provide its own defence force, the burden on the more sparsely populated States would be extremely heavy. Tasmania, under federation, enjoys an open market in New South Wales for its potatoes, and large sums of public money are used to subsidize shipping services between the mainland and Tasmania. This helps Tasmania’s tourist trade, which is of great importance to that State. The financial position of Tasmania would have been much worse than it is were it not for the taxation which the Government draws from a certain consultation in which most of the tickets are bought by residents of New South Wales. If the federation were dissolved, the Government of New South Wales might decide to enforce a prohibition of the sale of Tattersalls tickets in that State, or might impose restrictions upon the importation of potatoes from. Tasmania.
The amendment moved by my leader (Mr. Beasley) should receive the support of every member of this chamber. If these grants are spent in providing the unemployed with food, clothing and shelter, all sections of the community will benefit. When money is put into circulation in that way, a demand is created for goods for which at present there is no sale, and trade and commerce is stimulated.
A commission was set up by this Parliament to inquire into, and report upon, the disabilities of the States .under federation ; but, before any report is presented, the Government brings down this measure, which provides, not only for the continuance of the payment of grants at the old rate, but also for increasing those grants. The Government has admitted that the increases are not regarded as compensation for State disabilities, but are merely to enable State Governments to balance their budgets. As a matter of fact, the State disabilities of which we hear -so much should be decreasing, rather than increasing. We have been told by representatives of Western Australia that, because of the intense competition from the eastern States, secondary industries cannot be established in Western Australia ; but if we examine the statistics, we find that there has been a considerable increase both in the number of secondary industries, and in the number of factories in operation. It is evident that some honorable members have, knowingly or otherwise, misrepresented the position in an endeavour to induce this Parliament to vote to the States they represent increased sums of money, when that money is needed largely because of governmental mismanagement. The finding of the money for these grants has imposed hardship on the States of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, from which the greater part of the Commonwealth revenue is derived. I hope that Parliament will insist that the grant which it is proposed to make under this bill will be earmarked for the assistance of the most deserving section of the community - the unemployed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 30th November (vide page 5294), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I regret that, due to the manner in which these measures are being rushed through the House, the leader of my party (Mr. Beasley), who had obtained the adjournment on this measure, is not present. In my opinion, the amount of the appropriation is not sufficient. It should be increased, so that relief might be given to deserving persons for whomthe Government has refused to do anything. Applications for pensions have recently been rejected by the department; although the applicants were fully entitled to receive assistance. I have endeavoured to induce the Minister in charge of the department (Mr. Casey) to take up these cases, but have received no satisfaction. In one case a seaman was refused an invalid pension on the ground that his disability was not incurred while he was a resident of this country. The man was employed on an Australian steamer working on Australian articles. At the time he fell ill, the steamer was travelling between Sydney and Papua, and, though he was an Australian citizen who had lived in Australia for years, the department refused to entertain his application.
– I think the honorable member is under a misapprehension. This bill does not deal with the rates of pensions, but provides for the appropriation of a lump sum out of which pensions are paid.
– I am suggesting, not an alteration of the rates, but a more liberal interpretation of the existing legislation, whereby relief may be granted in certain directions. The Government may be induced to increase the appropriation to make that possible.
Another similar case is that of an Australian-born theatrical employee who was under engagement to Fullers’ on a six weeks’ circuit of New Zealand. While in that dominion he became ill, and returned to Australia as an invalid. Although inany case he would have been absent from this country for only a matter of weeks, and is now unable to earn his livelihood, the department has decreed that his disability was contracted outside of Australia.
There are other directions in which the Government could so liberalize the interpretation of the act as to make it possible for a number of unfortunate people to receive some slight measure of relief. I suggest that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) should investigate the rejection of these claims of people whose disabilities were contracted while temporarily absent from Australia, and issue instructions to the department to grant pensions in such cases.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the modifications made by theHouse of Representatives in requests for amendments Nos. 4, 16, and 28.
Bill returned from the Senate as amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the Senate.
Congratulations to Minister for Trade andCustoms - Douglas Credit System - Commonwealth Bank, Adelaide - Sales Tax . on Cornflour and Starch - War Pensions Claims: Cases of Messrs. I. Suzor, Treloar, T. A. Davis, Victor Hugo, and J. T. Hill - Delay of Business.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I take the opportunity presented by the return of the Customs Tariff from the Senate to offer the congratulations of the Government, and of myself personally, to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), upon the completion of an immense and a very important work. I believe that, not since 1922, has a complete tariff been passed by both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. I compliment the Minister upon the ability which he has displayed in piloting the measure through this House. He took over the portfolio of Minister for Trade and Customs when his predecessor was compelled to relinquish it on account of ill-health, and had very little time in which to prepare for the meeting of Parliament. He has displayed, not only ability, but also a great deal of determination, patience and perseverance.
– And forbearance.
– As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) says, he has also exhibited the quality of forbearance. Although the honorable gentleman has not long been a member of the Government, the tariff schedule, which now becomes an act of Parliament, will be regarded as a monument to the splendid work that he performed in relation to it. On behalf of his colleagues in the Cabinet, and of honorable members generally, I place on record appreciation of his services, and our thanks for what he has done. I, of course, associate with him the Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy), who throughout has given the Minister valuable assistance. It is most gratifying and pleasing to us, and must be to the honorable gentleman himself, to find that his efforts have met with such signal success.
.- I tender to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) the congratulations* of the Opposition upon his having piloted’ the tariff through this House, and secured its acceptance by another place. I wish, however, to make it quite clear that I do not agree with his decisions in connexion with a large number of items. That, of course, is natural, because much of what has been done is opposed to the policy of the party which sits on this side of the House ; and, as I have stated in the course of debate, many of the tariff reductions that have been made will, in my opinion, tend to whittle away the protectionist policy of Australia, and do a great deal of damage to Australian secondary industries. I realize, however, that the honorable gentleman has had to give effect to the fiscal policy of his party, and I am fair enough to say that he has done so in a capable and courteous manner. Although at times feeling ran somewhat high, all parties were able to meet on friendly terms outside this chamber, and to give to the other side the credit of conscientiously holding different views on such an important subject as protection. The honorable gentleman assumed control of the department when his predecessor was stricken down by illness, and the task which he had to undertake was both onerous and responsible. Having had charge of that department, I know how heavy is the responsibility of the position, and what long hours have to be worked. Both the Minister and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy) have most capably discharged their duties, according to the requirements of the policy which their party wishes to see adopted.
.- I associate myself and the other members of the Country party with the congratulations that have been offered to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.. White). Although we do not at all times agree with the policy of the Government, we nevertheless recognize that the honorable gentleman has just concluded a very arduous task, which required not only ability, but also a great deal of patience, forbearance, and physical endurance.
– I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) for the wonderfully fine tribute they have paid to the work that I have gladly done in connexion with the customs tariff. I say “gladly” because, although the work has been strenuous and difficult, it was done in the service of one’s country. That is the only way in which I regard it. Although the tariff may not suit all - it is not possible to make one that would - it is the hope of the Government, and certainly my sincere and earnest wish, that it will be for the good of Australia, and, incidentally, the Empire, of which Australia is a part. In having thanked me, the Prime Minister has also thanked the Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy). My thanks also are due to the Assistant Minister who made my task much easier than it might have been, and to the loyal members of the Public Service, who worked night and day to complete the tariff that the Parliament has now passed. Their work, unlike that of Ministers, is not done before the public gaze.
– I desire to bring before the Government, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in particular, a matter concerning which we have had some correspondence. I refer to the scheme which is known as the Douglas Credit Proposals. I have been ‘approached by a large number of people to move the Government to cause an inquiry to be made into the merits of these proposals. I express no opinion myself, but it is certain that many loyal and reputable citizens of Australia firmly believe that the scheme provides a panacea for the troubles that we are experiencing. On the other hand, many believe it to be merely a specious and illusive doctrine. I consider that the best interests of the Australian people will be served by a thorough and an impartial inquiry which would reveal the merits of the scheme or. disclose its defects. It is undeniable that very many persons believe that the present monetary system is one of the major factors in the world depression. Whether that be so or not, it is certain that we have been compelled to recognize the limitations imposed upon this Government and this country by the present monetary system. The advocates of the Douglas credit scheme claim that the adoption of their proposals would remove all the difficulties that now confront us. Without in any way associating myself with these views, but as the mouthpiece of those who seek the assistance of the Government, I ask thai early and sincere consideration be given to the request that I have put forward.
.- I wish to join in the expressions of appreciation of the valuable work performed by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in piloting the tariff through this chamber. It was an exceedingly difficult task, because although many honorable members contend that they are protectionists, there are many rifts in the lute, and we frequently discover that some of them are freetraders in disguise.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has referred to the Douglas social credit system. I am reminded of the huge expenditure that this country was put to when the Big Pour, one member of. whom is now the Governor of Tasmania, came to Australia. Let me give only one item of expenditure. The ladies of the party saw fit to enjoy a salt water bath at Brisbane, and the highly-paid official accompanying them paid £3 of Commonwealth money as a tip to the bath-keeper. Of course, this Government was -not to blame for that expenditure. A large sum was expended in connexion with the visit of Sir Otto Niemeyer to Australia. He was an English gentleman in every sense of the word. When he was here I pointed out to him the fact that Great Britain was paying only 3 per cent, for ten years, and thereafter Z per cent, on loans from the United States of America, while at the same time the Mother Country was charging Australia an interest rate of 5 per cent, and 1 per cent, sinking fund. During that period the United States of America, to its credit, was paying on its liberty bonds an interest rate of from 4$ to 5 per cent, to enable it to make concessions to Great Britain. Later, that terrible man from Canada, who has been the greatest curse to Australia, came here to institute the sales tax. I support the proposal of the right honorable member for North Sydney to have an inquiry made into the Douglas social credit system. No movement, not even that of Henry George, has made such a rapid advance in Australia in so short a time as that of Major Douglas. I have known of three meetings being held in Sydney on one night to discuss his system, and it therefore cannot be discarded as improbable or impossible. I have given some study to it, and I recognize that Major Douglas is to-day perhaps the greatest financial expert in the world. He was the only man to point to the accumulated wealth of Australia. I hope that the Government will not refuse to incur the small expense necessary to institute an inquiry into the Douglas social credit system.
– I support the request of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that the Government should _ institute an inquiry into the Douglas credit system. Like the right honorable member I do not intend to express an opinion on that system. I am merely carrying out the request of the Gawler branch of the Douglas organization that I should support any proposal of the right honorable member- for North Sydney to institute an inquiry into the Douglas social credit system. If an inquiry is held. Major Douglas should be invited to place his opinions before it. I notice in the GawlerBunyip that the district council of Gawler has recently carried a resolution on similar lines to the proposal of the right honorable member for North Sydney, and no doubt it will be sent to me in due course.
I wish to refer to the Government’s treatment of South Australian industries. New premises are being erected for the Commonwealth Bank at Adelaide,’ and some of the stone is being imported from New South’ Wales. As I have previously discussed this subject, there is no need for me to refer to it at length, but there is a strong feeling in South Australia that its industries are one by one being pushed - aside by the Commonwealth Government. I appeal to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) to give further consideration to this matter.
On account of the new sales tax on flour a double sales tax will be imposed on flour used in the manufacture of cornflour and starch, and as a result the cornflour industry of South Australia may be forced out of existence. I do not think that it is the Government’s intention to levy two sales taxes on any commodity. As South Australia has few industries I urge the Government not to crucify the cornflour industry of that State and to exempt from the sales tax on flour all flour used in the manufacture of cornflour and starch.
– I am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Marr) is not present, because I wish to bring under his notice several cases of returned soldiers which I was prevented from ventilating the other night. One case is that of a returned soldier named John Suzor, who enlisted at the age of seventeen years. He was admitted to the Suez Military Hospital, suffering from influenza. Eventually his complaint was diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, an incurable complaint. He. was discharged from the Caulfield Military Hospital and granted a 50 per cent. war pension. His pension rate has since varied considerably. At one time it was £1 10s. a fortnight, and later it was increased to £4 4s. Then itwas increased to £8, and subsequently an additional £4 a fortnight was granted on account of attendants’ fees, or £12 a fortnight in all. The department reviewed this case, and decided that Suzor was not suffering from a disability caused by war service. This man has been an inmate and out-patient of many hospitals, and at each of them he has been said to be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The last communcation received from the Repatriation Commission was to the effect that this returned soldier was entitled to a small pension. The letter which is signed by J. E. Barrett, Deputy Commissioner, reads -
I have to advise that the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal has accepted your condition of chronic rhematism as having been aggravated by war service to the extent of 5 per cent. This rate of pension will not be increased, nor medical sustenance paid during any period you undergo treatment.
Out-patient treatment only will be provided for your condition, when considered necessary, if you report at, or communicate direct with, the Prince of Wales’ Repatriation General Hospital, Randwick.
I should like to know on what basis the Commission calculated the aggravation of this complaint by war service at 5 per cent.
Another case is that of a returned soldier named Treloar, and the latest communication that I have received from the Minister for Repatriation respecting this case reads -
I And that Mr. Treloar was discharged from the Forces on 16th August, 1918, and was granted a pension at 25 per cent. rate on account of nervousness. The pension was cancelled in March, 1919, as medical evidence showed that any incapacity attributable to war service had disappeared. In May, 1931, the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal considered an appeal for acceptance of bronchitis and mental trouble as due to war service. The Tribunal disallowed the appeal as regards bronchitis, but accepted mental disorder as aggravated by service. In view of this decision war pension at the rate of 5 per cent. (4s. per fortnight) was made available as from 25th June, 1930, in respect of the aggravation.
The ex-soldier subsequently appealed against the rate of his pension to the War Service Assessment Appeal Tribunal, but that body in the light of all the available evidence, was unable to uphold the appeal and confirmed the assessment.
A further case is that of Mr. T. A. Davis, who is suffering from defective vision. The last information supplied to me discloses the fact that he served 2 years , 278 days during the. Great War, and was discharged on the 18th of March, 1920, suffering from bronchitis, D.A.H., and defective vision. In 1922, he was in receipt of ?2 2s. a week which, in 1923, was increased to ?4 a week. That payment was continued until 1931, when his pension was reduced to 14s. a week. Because of this income, his State food relief was discontinued.
It is difficult to understand what determines the action of the commission when it varies or cancels pensions which have been paid for a considerable period. It should at least work upon a set formula, as it is unlikely, so many years after the war, that any additional evidence could be made available to justify a discontinuance of the pension.
Another case, which I have previously mentioned in this chamber, is that of Victor Hugo. I have had an opportunity to go through this man’s file both bv myself, and in company with the Minister’s private secretary. Hugo was on active service from the 2nd June, 1916, to the 6th August, 1916. He was admitted to the field ambulance suffering from melancholic dementia. He was later admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital. He subsequently became an inmate of the Fourth Australian General Hospital at Randwick, and was also an inmate of Broughton Hall. The finding of the discharging board was that his disability was due to neurasthenia, and in February, 1917, he was given a 50 per cent, pension. That was increased on the 1st February, 1918, to 100 per cent., although the departmental file does not disclose why. Later, his pension was reduced to 75 per cent., then restored to 100 per cent., and, on the 12th November, 1925, he was granted a special rate of pension. On the 9th of August, 1931, fourteen years after he first received his pension, his case was reviewed by the commission, which cancelled the pension. In justification of its action, the commission tried, in a cruel manner, to create the impression that his condition was due to his own misdemeanour, and attributed it to excessive alcoholism. However, a careful search of this man’s overseas history fails to substantiate that statement. Captain R. D. Heggarton, of the Australian Tunnelling Company stated; -
I consider the above is insane, and not fit to be at large.
The opinion of Lieut.-Colonel Newland, of the First A.C.O.S. was-
In my opinion, this man is of unsound mind.
Army Form B 179 of the 30th August, 1916, has this entry -
Disability caused through active service and strain.
Dr. D. L. Howell, medical officer, Coila renebri, states -
Condition due to war service. Likelihood of further improvement nil. Condition not due to his default. Regarded as worst case of its kind in the district.
Dr. S. Appleyard, Dr. C. C. Mintie, Dr. Wilcox and Dr. K. Smith have also submitted reports. Police reports regarding this man’s character have even been sought and received by the department from different towns in which he has resided since his return from the war. The report of the;, police sergeant at Collarenebri reading, “ No convictions, highly respectable, associates temperate in habits and of good character”. The police report from Miranda declared that no trouble had been experienced with this man, while the report’ from Prospect states, “Have not come in contact with him “. Included in the file is a report from Dr. V. Benjafield who is caustic in his criticism of departmental methods. He stated that 20 doctors and one layman have testified against this man being addicted to alcoholism, and declares that every alienist of any standing will support the view that in such circumstances alcoholic indulgence is an effect and not a cause of mental disturbance. Since then the man has been further examined by Dr. H. J. Foley and Dr. W. S. Dawson, the eminent alienist, of Macquarie-street, Sydney, the latter stating -
Disabilities can be dated back to war service.
In view of all these facts, I ask that there should be some inquiry into the manner in which the commission, the department, and the assessment tribunal arrive at their findings.
I have another case, that of ex-Sergeant J. T. Hill, of the 7th Light Horse, who was previously receiving a war pension of ?1 ls. a fortnight. He appealed against the? assessment’ of the board, felt ill, and approached the Repatriation Commission with a view to receiving attention. While on active service this man met with an accident, but did not report it to the commanding officer at the time as he did not think it was serious, and, like many others have done under similar circumstances, carried on. After the war, the accident came against him, and he applied to have it recognized as a war disability as, owing to its effects, he was unable to continue in his employment. After he had applied for attention, a fortnight elapsed before he was permitted to see a doctor, and a week later he was X-rayed and a blood test taken. His condition was so bad that a special message had to be sent to the department, and eventually Dr. Binns arrived with an ambulance from Randwick, where he was admitted. He declares that he remained at Randwick some time, but did not receive the necessary treatment. On one occasion, he was taken into the operating theatre tb undergo an operation., but it was not performed. Later, he was transferred to the Sydney Hospital. “While he was in the military hospital, the man’s life was in danger, not because of any fault that could be attributed to the medical staff or attendants, but because it is the practice of the department to deny treatment in cases where its application may be looked upon as an admission of liability. Neither the doctors nor the staff were responsible. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will bring under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Marr) the various matters to which I have directed attention, and that arrangements will be made for a complete inquiry into the administration of that department.
.- With reference to the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) concerning the Douglas credit system, I advise honorable members to read the evidence given by Major Douglas before the Macmillan Commission which, in the course of its inquiry into the monetary system of Great Britain, heard considerable evidence upon the Douglas plan.
I was absent from the chamber while several honorable members, including an ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), congratulated the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) upon having piloted through this chamber the very extensive tariff schedule which has just been completed. As another exMinister of that department, I should not like the opportunity to pass without paying my tribute to the Minister for .the splendid work which he has done. I am aware that to him, and possibly to a number of other Ministers, the honorable member for Maribyrnong is, at times, a bit of a nuisance. This is all the more reason why I should bear testimony to the excellent work which the Minister for Trade and Customs has done. As honorable members know, and as the records of the House show, I have disagreed, sometimes regretfully, with many of the proposals brought down by the Minister; but as one who had experience of many tariff discussions in this Parliament, I congratulate the honorable gentleman upon having passed one of the most extensive and, shall I say, intricate tariffs that have ever been placed before this chamber. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, I had occasion to visit Great Britain on public business, and was absent for about six months. Upon my return other duties were thrust upon me, and for a time I was Acting Prime Minister. Consequently, I did not have an opportunity to attend so closely to the administrative details of the department as I should have liked; but, from my knowledge of distinguished predecessors -in that portfolio, I can say with every confidence that the present Minister’s ability and administration bear favorable comparison with the many honorable gentlemen who preceded him.
– I thank the honorable member for his kindly references to me.
– I join with the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) in protesting against the importation of stone from the eastern States in connexion with the erection of the new Commonwealth Bank building in Adelaide. It is unnecessary to do that, because there is an ample supply of good stone in South Australia for that class of work. Large deposits of granite and marble are readily available. In fact, within the last twelve months South Australian freestone has been recommended for use in Victoria, and- one con- tractor, who secured the tender for the erection of a building costing £200,000, offered to reduce his price by £10,000 if he were allowed to use South Australian freestone. I am not advocating the sending of freestone from South Australia to Melbourne, but I do contend that it should be used for the Commonwealth Bank building in Adelaide. I hope that those responsible for that building will arrange for the use of local stone.
The honorable member for Angas also referred to the manufacture, in Adelaide, of cornflour from wheaten flour. This industry, which has been in existence for some years, requires a considerable quantity of wheaten flour to meet the demand for its product. I think I am right in saying that Adelaide is the only city in which cornflour is manufactured from wheaten flour. Therefore, I hope that the Treasurer will see his way clear to exempt wheaten-flour from the sales tax, when it is used for that purpose. Otherwise, as the honorable member for Angas has pointed out, it will be subject to two taxes, and thus manufacturers of cornflour in South Australia will be unfairly penalized. When the industry was started, the immediate result was a reduction of the price of cornflour and starch, so it has served a useful purpose. Lately, we have been speaking about the disabilities of the various States. As I do not wish to see another disability imposed on one of the weaker States in the Commonwealth, I hope that the Treasurer will give serious consideration to the suggestion that wheaten-flour, used for the manufacture of cornflour, is exempted from the sales tax.
– On behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who has not an opportunity to speak again to this motion, I thank the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) for the generous tribute which he has paid to my colleague for his excellent work in passing through this chamber the very comprehensive and intricate tariff which has just been completed. His kindly references are the more welcome, because the honorable member for Maribyrnong for some time administered the customs portfolio, and knows something of the work which the Minister is called upon to do.
With regard to the question raised by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), I cannot undertake, on behalf of the Government, to promise an inquiry into the Douglas credit system. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, Major Douglas appeared before the Macmillan Commission in England, and gave evidence at length concerning the credit system which bears his name. Later, an inquiry was held in Canada, and also by the Labour party in Great Britain. I think I am right in saying that more inquiries have been held into principles and details of the Douglas credit system than into any other financial system. I am afraid that it would be very difficult to get the right personnel for an inquiry in Australia.
– The New South Wales Government Statistician also reported on the system.
– That is so. The Commonwealth Government’s economic adviser also dealt with the matter as a departmental officer, and his finding was in keeping with those of other experts or commissions that have investigated the system. It would, I repeat, be difficult to get in Australia men who are really qualified to make an inquiry - men who have not already passed judgment upon it. I, perhaps more than any other man in Australia, have been deluged from time to time with literature dealing with well-thought-out schemes to relieve the present depression and improve the general situation in Australia.- I give the advocates of the Douglas system full credit for their motives. They see the necessity for improving the conditions of the people, and in a genuine way put forward their proposals. Many able persons have promulgated other schemes with the same object in view. Is it suggested . that, whenever these schemes are put for- ward, the Government should set up a royal commission? The thing cannot be done. There has been more investigation into the Douglas system than into any system which has been submitted for the relief of the conditions under which the world is suffering to-day. I cannot pledge the Government to any such investigation, because it would not be satisfactory either to the advocates of the Douglas system or to its opponents.
I come now to the matter raised by the honorable members for Angas (Mr. Gabb) and Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), in regard to the imposition of a double tax upon flour used in the manufacture of cornflour. In view of the representations they have made to-day, the matter will receive further consideration. That is ail I can say at the present juncture.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) expressed the hope that I would bring certain matters before the Repatriation Department. There was no need for him to occupy so much time in ventilating those matters in Parliament. He might have brought them under the notice of the department itself. They are all matters with which this Parliament has nothing to do. If the honorable member were very much concerned about themhe would take them to the department to which they belong, where his representations would receive immediate attention and consideration. Even to-day he merely asked that they should be submitted to the department concerned. I say to him, “ Take them yourself, and have them dealt with, but do not waste the time of Parliament upon them.”
May I add that the time occupied this afternoon by him was only in keeping with other things that have happened during the week. In common with other members of the Government, I have displayed very great patience during the past week, but I say advisedly, that we are not prepared to allow the work which 70 honorable members of Parliament are prepared to do to be interrupted and blocked by five others. We have exhibited ali the patience possible, but the limit of our endurance has been reached. When business begins next week, the Government will take a stand, if necessary, to ensure that five honorable members shall not dominate the conduct of our parliamentary business. I want that clearly understood, so that those honorable members may know that the business of the people must be proceeded with, whatever may be their own particular grievances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 6.10 p.m.
n asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.The Government has already announced its intention to have a sloop built. Information cannot yet be given as to where the vessel will be built.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Bounty is not payable unless the wine -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Mr.Marr. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Lyons. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
r asked the Assistant. Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr.Francis. - Yes. The Naval Board states that the commanding officer has not reported any insubordination on the destroyers, and, therefore, no inquiry is considered to be necessary.
Mr.Price asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
As at 10th November, 1933.
London - 3¾d. per 2-lb. loaf - Australian equivalent,4¾d
Wellington’ (New Zealand), 5d. per 2-lb. loaf (some stores cutting to4½d.).
Toronto (Canada) - 10 cents per1½-1b. loaf; equal to 6d. per 2-lb. loaf (Australian ) .
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the total amount of new loan money raised in Australia by the Loan Council since the 30th June, 1829, for all purposes, including that raised for State Governments?
Mr.Lyons. - The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
Petrol and Kerosene.
Mr.White. - Information is being obtained in reply to questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) in regard to the importation and production of petrol and kerosene.
Interest on Loans.
s. - Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) in regard to interest on loans raised in the United States of America.
y asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
– It is not considered that either of the courses suggested by the honorable member is necessary or desirable.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether a decision has been arrived at with regard to the request of the Warwick Chamber of Commerce with reference to the establishment of a broadcasting station in that district?
– A decision has not yet been arrived at to establish a broadcasting station in the WarwickToowoomba district. The programme which is now being carried out is as much as the department can undertake at the present time, but in any further extension ofthe broadcasting construction programme, the district in question is included for consideration.
s. - Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible to questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman)in regard to the interest rate on mortgagee.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 December 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331201_reps_13_143/>.