14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Stales Tax Assessment Bill (No.1 ) 1 935.
Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 9) 1935.
Sales Tax Bill (No. 9) 1935.
Wheat Growers Relief Bill 1935.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -
Fort Augusta to Red Hill Railway Bill 1935.
Soldier Settlement Loans (Financial Agreement) Bill 1935.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1933-34.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives.
– byleave - I wish to announce to the House that I have to-day received advice from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that, as the result of discussions with the British Government, an agreement has been arrived at whereby 56,000 cwt. of chilled beef will be admitted to the United Kingdom during the current quarter instead of the 30,000 cwt. originally suggested by the British Government. This total was arrived at after careful investigation and inquiry by departmental officers as to the quantity available for expert. It represents an amount which will permit of the shipment of the whole of the chilled beef available in Australia.
– I desire to intimate to honorable members that the Government does not propose to answer any questions without notice, because it wishes to have certain business sent to the Senate.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year 1933-34.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator,&c. - No. 4 of 1935 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this billis to make it clear that the jurisdiction conferred on the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory by the Seat of Government Supreme Court Act 1933, will be exercisable in relation to the Territory of Jervis Bay.
Section 11 of the principal act provides that the Supreme Court shall, in all matters arising under any law of the territory, and generally, in relation to the territory, have certain specified original and appellate jurisdiction. The expression “ the territory “ is defined by the act to mean the Territory for the Seat of Government. The latter expression, however, does not, in itself, include the Territory of Jervis Bay, and it is doubtful whether the provisions of any other act are effective to give to the expression a constructionwhich would include the Territory of Jervis Bay.
The jurisdiction given to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory by the principal act was in substitution for the jurisdiction given tothe High Court by sections 30b and 34a of the Judiciary Act 1903-1927. The latter jurisdiction, in its turn, was in substitution for that conferred on the High Court by section 8 of the Seat of Government
Acceptance Act 1909. The jurisdiction given by the last-mentioned act was also, by virtue of section 4 (3) of the Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act 1915, exercisable in relation to the Territory of Jervis Bay.
Neither in sections 30b and 34a of the Judiciary Act, nor in the Seat of Government Supreme Court Act, is there any express provision making those enactments applicable to the Territory of Jervis Bay. It may be that section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1932 operates to make the Seat of Government Supreme Court Act apply to the Territory of Jervis Bay. There is, however, considerable doubt as to whether this is so, and for that reason it is clearly necessary to extend the jurisdiction of the court in express terras. That is all that the bill purports to do.
.- Having examined the bill, it seems to me to be a necessary measure, and one of some urgency. I, therefore, support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 10th April (vide page 1230).
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Schedules, preamble title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Mr. HUGHES (North Sydney- Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [2.42]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under the Patents Act, power is conferred on the High Court or the Supreme Court of the State in which the Patent Officeis situated to hear appeals and to deal with various matters arising under the act. Under section 30 of the act, however, theSupreme Court only may rectify any entry in the Register of Patents. That is the only case in which the framers of the Patents Act drew any distinction between the powers of the High Court and those of the Supreme Court. Section 4 of the act defines the “ Supreme Court “ as the Supreme Court of the State in which the Patent Office is situated, or a judge thereof. As the Patents Office is no longer situated in a State, but is now in the Territory for the Seat of Government, the definition of “the Supreme Court “ requires amendment. It is proposed that the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory shall have jurisdiction in the various matters arising under the act. Previously, applications could be made to the Supreme Court of the State of Victoria, or the High Court, but now it is proposed that applications may be made to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory at Canberra, or the High Court. As the High Court visits the various capita] cities periodically, applicants may approach the High Court in any capital city. Clause 3 of the bill confers on the High Court power to rectify any entry in the Register of Patents. This amendment will bring section 30 into harmony with the rest of the act. The amendments are merely formal and have been necessitated by the removal of the Patents Office to Canberra.
.- The introduction of this bill is consequential upon certain changes resulting from the transfer of the Patents Office to the seat of Government at Canberra, and I recommend it to the House.
.- As this measure has reference to the taking of legal proceedings under the principal act I direct the attention of the Government to a weakness in this regard which I think should be rectified. I understand that after a patent has been granted the patentee, in the event of his patent rights being infringed or his patent copied, may obtain a declaration from the Commissioner of Patents to that effect; but, unfortunately, he is unable, without taking legal action, to obtain any redress against those who commit the offence. In the case of a poor man this is a great hardship. A gentleman named Baxter, interested in the boot manufacturing business at Goulburn, patented several of his inventions but his patents were subsequently infringed both in Australia and overseas. Although he obtained a declaration from the Commissioner of Patents to this effect he was unable to obtain any redress except by incurring the expense of protracted legal proceedings through the Supreme Court and probably through the Privy Council ; and he had not sufficient money to do so. Comparatively poor people cannot possibly face expense of that kind. I ask the Government to consider whether provision cannot be made in the principal act to protect patentees in the case of the infringement of their rights. With the law as it is, patentees who are without substantial means are frequently robbed of their rights by moneyed people, and I think an amendment of the act should be introduced to protect them from such an injustice.
– I understand that the amendments of the principal act provided for in this bill are consequent upon the transfer of the central administration of the Patents Department from Melbourne to Canberra, and that it is now proposed that patentees, in certain circumstances, shall be permitted to invoke the aid of the High Court in place of that of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Would it not be possible to allow the Supreme Court of Victoria, and also the Supreme Courts of the other States, for that matter, to deal with these matters in so far as they affect the residents within those States, and so avoid placing upon those who seek the aid of the court the expense of coming to Canberra? I understand that, although the High Court visits the capital cities of the various States from time to time, litigation before it is more expensive than litigation before the lower courts. It would straighten out the difficulties arising in matters of this kind. Rather than restrict the scope of litigants is it not possible to give them the opportunity to test their rights in all the States?
. -in reply - I appreciate the points raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and the honorable member for Warriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). Whatever disabilities patentees may at present suffer will not be affected prejudicially by this measure. It is admitted that the bill does not go to the root of the subject. The honorable member for Werriwa is quite aware of that, as he suggested that at some future date a bill should be introduced to remove some of the disabilities under which patentees and prospective patentees labour. But the honorable member was in error in supposing that in any circumstances the Commissioner informs a patentee that his patent has been infringed. The Commissioner does not do that.
– Then I have been misinformed.
– Infringements are determined by the court, and not by the Commissioner. Honorable members will appreciate the fact that this measure has been introduced for a specific purpose, and is one of judicial administration only. It has arisen solely in consequence of the transfer of the Patent Office from Melbourne to Canberra. I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member under the notice of my colleague the Acting Attorney-General.
The honorable member for West Sydney made certain observations concerning the Supreme Court of Victoria. That court could be approached in the past only because the Patent Office was situated in Victoria. It is more convenient for proceedings to be taken where the register is. The Patent Office having been transferred to Canberra, Parliament can hardly empower the Supreme Court in one State to take proceedings without empowering all supreme courts in Australia to do so. I shall bring under the notice of the Acting Attorney-General the points raised concerning the Patents Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The section proposed to be inserted in the Copyright Act 1912-1933 by clause 2 of the bill provides a remedy in case of groundless threats of legal proceedings by persons claiming to be owners of copyright. In 1909, it was found necessary to insert section 91a in the Patents Act dealing with groundless threats by owners of patents, and in 1919 a similar section, section 100a, was inserted in the Trade Marks Act as regards groundless threats by registered proprietors of trade marks. The Royal ‘Commission on Performing Right recommended that a section on the lines of 91a of the Patents Act be inserted in the Copyright. Act. The matter which gives rise to the present amendment is, however, not the recommendation of the royal commission, but a case which was brought under notice after the last federal, elections. Briefly the facts of the caac are these. At the last election, several, candidates stood for a certain seat, including two candidates, whom I shall designate A and B, respectively. Each of these candidates maintained that he, and he alone, represented a particular party. “ A “ printed “ How to Vote “ cards showing how electors favoring that party should vote. “ B “ issued “ How to Vote “ cards for supporters of the same party, but showing a different order of preference. Prior to polling day “ A “ made application to the Registrar of Copyrights for the registration of copyright in his “ How to Vote “ card. He duly received an acknowledgment of his application. On polling day, persons acting on behalf of “A”, accompanied by a police officer, went to the distributors of “ B’s “ “ How to Vote “ cards and told them that “ A “ was the owner of the copyright in the “ How to Vote “ card for that particular party, and, if they did not cease distributing “ B’s “ cards, action would be taken against them under the copyright law. The threat of proceedings had the desired effect - “ B’s “ agents retired from the field. Representations were then made to the Government to institute proceedings against “A” for making groundless threats of legal proceedings, but no action was possible, as the copyright law, unlike the patent and trade marks law, provided no remedy to the injured party in such cases. The present bill has been introduced to provide a remedy in such cases.
In moving the second reading of the bill in the Senate, my colleague said -
I have not given the names of the candidates or the party in whose interests they were standing. 1 may say, however, that neither candidate was successful in his candidature.
The bill is to provide a remedy for infringements of the Copyright Act, and gives to the holder of a copyright, similar rights to those enjoyed by a patentee under the Patents Act and the owner of a trade mark under the Trade Marks Act.
.- I endorse what has been said by the Minister (Mr. Hughes), though I view the matter from a different angle. I have had a good deal to do with copyright, and have received threatening letters from persons who claim to hold the copyright of various publications, but who, when inquiries were made, were found to have no rights whatever. If it is proposed to hold a concert in a town hall anywhere these people make similar claims. The organizers are told that they must not hold their concert without first submitting a programme to the claimants, so that they may see whether or not there is anything on the programme over which they hold copyright. Organizations with which I am connected have challenged these claimants again and again, and we have found that, out of every 100 claims they make, they actually possess rights in regard to not more than five. Every B-class broadcasting station is being robbed to-day by the same interests. When this bill is passed the public will enjoy some measure of protection, because the onus will be on the claimant to prove his claim.
– I doubt whether the bill will provide all the relief it is supposed to, but it is nevertheless desirable that people should be protected against the threats of persons who claim to possess copyrights, but who do not, in fact, possess them. If a person possesses actual copyrights - and I do not think that mere registration of copyright gives it - he will be able to take proceedings against anybody who, he alleges, infringes them. However, he will be forbidden to threaten proceedings unless, at the earliest opportunity, he actually takes them. If he offends against this provision, the person injured by the threat will be able to obtain legal redress by injunction, or, possibly, damages. In the case referred to by the Minister (Mr. Hughes) it is difficult to see how the injured person could have obtained damages, I regard the bill as a step in the right direction, and I commend the Government for having brought it down.
– I do not think that the bill will be of as much use as it should be, unless it will prevent organizations such as the Performing Right Association from harassing the organizers of concerts, &c, in country districts. I have frequently received letters from persons who have received threats from the Performing Right Association in respect of the performance of music which they have bought and. paid for themselves. I cannot see what rights the association can possess in such cases.
Question resolved in the affirmative. ‘
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - “by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 5 p.m. this day.
Debate resumed from the 8th April (vide page 930), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the paper be printed.
– I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : “ an address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, praying His Excellency to refer the inquiry bade to His.
Commissioners with the request that the profits made by the major oil companies be disclosed, in their report, and that definite recommendations for action by His Excellency’s Ministers and the Parliament be provided.”
Few members of this House, or of the public generally, can feel satisfied with the report of the Royal Commission on Petrol and Oil, which was tabled in this. House recently. I have to confess that,, owing to the size of both the majority and minority reports, I have not been able to study them fully; but, from an. examination of the summaries, it is evident not only that the commission cost the public a great deal of money without having achieved anything worth while, but also that the reports are, in some important respects, open to grave distrust and suspicion. The commission has cost the taxpayers £12,049.
– That is apart from legal fees.
– That is so. We may take it that the total cost of the commission is not less than £14,000. The chairman collected £2,300 in fees, and one of the members, Mr. Hancock, received £2,700. Generally speaking, the recommendations of the commission are meagre and inconclusive, and do not reveal the iniquities which surround the operations of those engaged in the petrol and oil industry in Australia. On one .phase of the report, at least, suspicion rests, namely, that in regard to the evidence given in camera concerning the profits of the major oil companies. On page 24, the chairman, Mr. Lamb, declares in his summary that his two colleagues, Messrs. Gunn and Hancock, prevented him from disclosing that evidence, and he remarks that the value of the report must be, to that extent, impaired. On the 25th February, 1935, his colleagues signed the following direction : -
We direct that, in terms of section 6d (3) of the Royal Commissions Act, the evidence given in private before the commission shall not be published except insofar as the same is published in our report.
Incidentally, we have to thank the former Attorney-General, Mr. Latham, for having had that section inserted in the act, despite our strong protests at the time. On this point, Mr. Lamb comments - lt was obvious that it was not the intention of the legislature that all the individual accounts of the companies should be concealed, otherwise the legislature would have said so.
That statement calls for serious thought on the part of honorable members, and indicates that legislation of this character provided an opportunity - in this case, grasped by Messrs. Gunn and Hancock - to avoid disclosing the exact profits of these companies. They contended that the Attorney-General of the day then declared that in no case should any of the profits be disclosed ; but Mr. Lamb claimed that if the legislature had been of the opinion that no disclosure of profits should be made, it would have definitely said so. When the commission was appointed, the oil-and-petrol question was prominently in the minds of the public, and great interest was being shown in it by the primary producers because of the large quantity, of oil and petrol used by them on .the farms. This ouse was unanimous as to the necessity for an inquiry, and considered that the terms of reference should be so drawn up that when the report was furnished the public would be informed precisely as to the part this combine was playing in the direction of maintaining the high price of petrol and oil. Mr. Lamb further stated -
With regard to profits, it seems to me that the profits are either reasonable or unreasonable. If they are reasonable, there could not be any prejudice to the company as the result of their publication. If they are unreasonable, I cannot see that it would be unfair to publish them.
That is a plain way of putting the view that would be expressed by the average person who is interested in this combine. If its profits are reasonable, why should we not be put in possession of that information ? Most people realize and accept the view that these companies do not trade for philanthropic purposes - that they expect a reasonable return on their outlay. But if their profits are unreasonable, the public is entitled to know all about them. In the following sentence, Mr. Lamb virtually sounds .the death-knell of inquiries by royal commissions, and admits the failure of Parliament to grapple with combines. On page 24 of his summary, he Bays -
I do not think that satisfactory information can be furnished on the matters on which we have to make inquiry and report, without disclosing the extent of the total trade, the capital employed and the profits made by these companies which dominate the trade. If these matters be not stated in the report, the value of the report must, in my opinion, be to that extent impaired.
Once again vested interests have been able to dominate the affairs of this country. In effect, these interests nullify the power which the Parliament is alleged to possess. It is represented to the people that their welfare arid interests are safeguarded by the legislation passed from time to time; but this report discloses that the oil interests can exploit the community, and the Parliament is impotent. The instruments set up by the Parliament have apparently been tampered with, and what amounts to’ a “ white-washing “ report of some 200 pages of 150,000 words, costing thousands of pounds, is so much waste paper. Only one recommendation of any note has been made. This is by Mr. Lamb, who, on page 22 of his summary, suggests that all companies acting simply as marketing organizations for overseas companies should be taxed on a percentage of their total receipts. Obviously, Mr. Lamb made that recommendation because he was unable to probe to the bottom, and obtain the correct profits of these companies. The profits remain hidden, cloaked by the interlocking of the Australian organization with overseas groups.
The reports have camouflaged what this Parliament desired to be brought to the surface. Mention is made here and there of combines. A document known as the “White products policy” is commented upon, and it is stated that at least three companies adhere to it. It is also mentioned that a combine of the companies was formed to devise suitable or expedient action by all. But no measures have been brought before the Parliament for the purpose of bringing these combines to heel. It is a waste of money to add to the already extravagant cost of the commission the expense of having the report printed, in view of its utter failure to submit practical recommendations on which the Parliament could act. Evidently, in the future, Parliament must undertake these inquiries itself; it cannot shirk that duty much longer.
I notice that, following the publication of the commission’s report, the general manager of the Shell Company stated that he refused to accept the statement of Mr. Lamb with reference to the “ White products policy “. He declared that these organizations did not adopt the practice alleged by Mr. Lamb. Only a week ago, I brought under the notice of honorable members the case of a garage proprietor in the Liverpool district, in which the Shell and Vacuum Oil Companies had definitely refused to supply petrol and oil to him. He had installed a pump to enable him to supply the petrol distributed by another company. It was not a case in which the proprietor was setting up in business for the first time, for he had been carrying on operations in that locality for a lengthy period. He merely vacated premises in a back street, and established a bigger garage and repairing plant in a more prominent position. He had been handling the products of the Shell and Vacuum Oil Companies for a number of years. He added other pumps for the purpose of retailing Purr-pull and other brands of petrol, and although he was prepared to pay cash for his supplies, and had installed extra pumps at his own cost, the combine withdrew the ordinary supplies which he had been purchasing for years, and refused to sell him any of its products. In the face of this the manager of the company in Melbourne, in discussing Mr. Lamb’s report, regarding white as against black products, has had the brazen effrontery to declare in the press that he refuses to accept the declaration of the Commissioner, and that he and his company are willing to allow all who are prepared to pay for its products to handle them effectively just as they would handle those of any other company.
Parliament had given specific instructions to the commissioners in the terms of reference, which were that they should inquire into -
Despite these clear terms, the chairman, Mr. Lamb, was forced to report -
It is greatly to be regretted that the commissioners could not arrive at unanimous conclusions. They failed to agree on some vital and material points.
Mr. Lamb also reported
There have been combines by the two groups for the purpose of regulating and increasing prices. I am of opinion that there was a combine between the companies mentioned for the following purposes: -
Mr.Nock. - That is true.
– Undoubtedly it is. Yet no definite lead was given by the commission from which action could be taken, and particularly was this so in the case of the majority report. I appeal to the House to consider quite dispassionately the reports that have been made. Despite the terms of reference the majority report gives no lead to the Parliament. Australia has spent at least ?12,000 on this commission only to be informed by these gentlemen that it must continue to be exploited. I think that, regardless of the districts from which we come, we shall all agree that the people whom we represent are being exploited by the major oil companies, and I should like to see a combined effort on the part of the whole Parliament to use every means in its power to grapple with these companies. We should deal with this oil trust in such a way as to afford an object lesson to others who also may be exploiting the public. We have not had an opportunity to get at the others; but once we set out to formulate a definite plan of action we shall find a way to deal with all of them. Not only must the people of Australia be exploited- according to the majority report - but any effort by individuals to break the grip of the combine has been ruthlessly broken down. Mr. Lamb reported-
I have no doubt that the lowering of prices waa done designedly to put a stop to competition from companies which were selling sundry petrols “… Prices were dropped to very low levels to dispose of competition and afterwards prices were raised.
We are all well aware of these facts. “When the smaller companies with little capital and restricted means of distribution sought to compete with the combine the major companies proceeded to cut prices. Distribution of petrol supplies m Australia, with its magnificent distances, is & big problem. The companies in the combine, having worked their way in and perfected a system of distribution, lowered prices to such an extent as to break down competition, realizing that, even if they were out of pocket by doing so, any loss would soon be made good once they had run their competitors off the market. Having cut them out, they immediately, as the chairman of the commission points out, lifted prices.
– That is going on all over the world.
– And because of that we view the situation more seriously than we might otherwise be inclined to do. We are not talking merely of something that has been communicated to us. We have had personal experience of these operations, and if wo allow these companies to get away with these practices refusing to exercise the powers which we undoubtedly possess, they will continue to dip their hands into the public pockets and to loot the people at their own sweet will.
I have brought before this House glaring cases of restraint of trade and absolute victimization. Those cases should not be allowed to continue, yet tho commissioners, in effect, have given their blessing to this despicable business by a recommendation by Mr. Lamb, which means nothing at all, and by silence on the part of his two colleagues. In one instance, at least, the commission amply justifies the statements
I have made in this House on countless occasions of the international ramifications of high finance. Reporting on the profits of the major oil companies, Mr. Lamb said -
The real profits made in the business in Australia are the profits made by the overseas company.
That should dispose for all time of the jeers of honorable members opposite and their disbelief of the statement that finance, by its interlockings, can wield power beyond the control of this Parliament.
In various sections of the reports, admissions are made that the commissioners have failed to grapple with the matter, and have not reported fully in the terms of reference laid down. It is for that reason that I have moved the amendment to the motion that the report be printed.
We should, as a Parliament, say that we do not approve of the report, that we are of the opinion that it does not disclose. as we expected it would do, the ramifications of these companies. The commissioners have not confined themselves within the terms of reference, and we should say that we are not going to allow money to be frittered away on the printing of a useless report. There should be no opposition to my amendment. I hope that the House will unanimously agree to it. I do not suppose that honorable members would be prepared at this moment to consider the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee; but failing that, we should at once send back the report to the men whom we appointed as commissioners to inquire into the whole matters, and remind them of their responsibilities. Parliament should declare in no uncertain way its hostility to the report. The press generally has expressed its views of the majority report in langauge almost similar to that which I have used to-day, and we may be sure that the action which I propose would commend itself to the people generally. I am confident that the public would be behind us in any effort we might make to run this combine to earth. By united action to this end we may secure some satisfaction.
.- The report of the Petrol Commission, which forms the basis of the amendment moved by the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is, as he has rightly said, a voluminous document, the careful study of which would entail more time than has been available to the Government in recent weeks. The Government has taken what action has been necessary and possible within the limited time at its disposal, and has referred to the appropriate authorities those sections of the report which contain criticisms and adverse views; those dealing with taxation matters have been referred to the Commonwealth .Commissioner of Taxation, those dealing with possible restraint of trade have been referred to the Attorney-General’s Department, while numerous other matters. particularly that of country differential in the price of petrol and oils, have been referred to the State governments. Honorable members may rest assured that the whole report will be adequately considered by the Government within the next few months. My principal reason for speaking on this matter is to reply to the statements made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) with regard to evidence taken in camera. I assure the honorable member that it was within the power of the royal commission to take evidence in whatever manner it pleased, either in private or public; but once having accepted in camera certain evidence, such as that relating to total cost figures and accounts, it had no option but to regard it as confidential if the majority of the commission so decided, and to exclude from its report any figures based on that evidence. I am not, on behalf of the Government, either defending or attacking the oil companies or the royal commission. The royal commission may have had very good reasons for hearing certain evidence in private, but under a section of the Royal Commissions Act it is not permitted to disclose evidence taken in camera. I hold no brief for the oil companies, but I say this, at least, in their defence: Mr. Ewing, the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation, as every one knows, has certain difficulties in determining rates of tax to be imposed on oil companies in order that they may bear their just share of taxation. The oil companies were asked if they would be agreeable to the whole of the evidence taken in camera being made available to him - that is, all the figures relating to costs, profits, and accounts. All the companies agreed to this request, and the commissioner is now taking steps to obtain all of that evidence, and when it is obtained he will be in possession of a. great deal more information in regard to the operation of these companies than he has had in the past. Upon that information he will no doubt base his decision as to whether or not to apply a section of the act which enables him to put an arbitrary percentage on the total turnover as a basis for his assessment of tax.
For the reasons which I have given it is not possible for the Government to reply in detail to the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney. When the report has been fully considered and the Government has received reports from the Attorney-General, the Commissioner of Taxation, and the State governments, it will then be able to decide whether or not it is necessary in the public interest to go further in this matter, and whether it is necessary to appoint another royal commission or extend the life of the present one.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn. “
I ask honorable members to agree to the adjournment of the House at this stage in order to permit a new noticepaper to be printed in accordance with the state of the business before the House. When the House meets again at 5 o’clock Ministers will be prepared to answer questions for a quarter of an hour, after which honorable members will be asked to proceed with notices on motion on the notice-paper.
.- On behalf of the Opposition I desire to register an emphatic protest against the methods adopted by the Government in the conduct of the business of this Parliament during the past week, in the hope that in future more courteous consideration will be extended to honorable members on this side of the House. While the Opposition does not comprise the majority of members of this House, it represents a greater number of the people of Australia. The results of the last election disclose that the combined votes ofl candidates representing the United Australia party and the United Country party totalled 1,766,000 as against a total of 1,779,000 votes polled by opposing parties. This clearly shows, as I have said, that honorable members on this side of the House actually represent a greater number of Australian people than do members sitting behind the Government, lt is true, however, that, in this House the United Australia party and the United Country party combined have a majority of members. Any government that callously disregards the rights of the Opposition deserves everything that results from its discourtesy. A litle tact, good judgment and consideration for the views of the Opposition result in facilitating the passage of the business of Parliament. Within the last two days a Supply Bill, covering the expenditure of over £6,000,000, was bludgeoned through this House through the agency of the gag. Despite the fact that there was no organized obstruction by honorable members on this side of the House, the gag was ruthlessly applied and discussion was stifled. In endeavouring to speak to that bill honorable members were merely using their rights; when their rights were denied them they made use of the forms of the House to register their protest.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! Whilst the honorable member would be in order in objecting to the way in which a measure actually before the House was being dealt with, he is not in order in condemning Parliament for its action on an earlier occasion.
– Seven months have elapsed since the election, and now, after only 38 sitting days, the Government proposes that Parliament shall go into recess for about five months. There is no necessity to force honorable members to sit up all night in order to rush legislation through this House. Yesterday after I, the Acting Leader of the Opposition, had been speaking for less than ten minutes on a bill to validate certain duties of . customs, the “ gag “ was applied. It is true that, later, I had another opportunity to speak, but on that oCcasIon also I was “ gagged “. Surely the Acting Leader of the Opposition is entitled to greater courtesy! Like other honorable members, I had suggestions and amendments to place before the committee, but discussion was stifled by the application of the “gag”. The Government has only itself to blame for the humiliation to which it was subjected in that the business of the House was taken out of its hands. On behalf of the Opposition, I emphatically protest against the callous disregard to its rights, and 1 warn the Government that if it. again attempts to conduct the business of the House along similar lines, it will find the opposition much stronger.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government, for consideration during the recess, the desirability of appointing a representative of Western Australia to the Broadcasting Commission when appointments to that body are made about June next. The Perth Chamber of Commerce and other representative bodies in that State urge that that be done. The present five members of the commission are drawn from the eastern and more populous States. In my opinion, the outlying States are entitled to representation on this body. The emoluments of members of the commission are not high : but I am confident that a satisfactory nominee could be found in Western Australia. Commissioners resident in Melbourne and Sydney cannot be expected to have personal knowledge of the conditions which. exist in the far-flung parts of Australia, and, therefore, I urge the appointment of a representative of Western Australia. I submit this recommendation now so that it may be considered before the time arrives to make the appointments.
– I take, this opportunity to acquaint the House with the reason why leave to do certain things was refused by members of this party. We refused leave as a protest against the proposed long recess. Australia is passing through the most critical period of its history and we believe that at such a time Parliament should not remain in recess for a lengthy period. Surely the Government does not believe that the members of the Cabinet have a monopoly of the brains of this Parliament. In any case, the views of the electors cannot be adequately represented if Parliament is in recess. Their representatives should be given the opportunity to assist in modelling the future policy of this country. It is not right that such important matters as trade treaties and agreements, which will vitally ‘affect the welfare of the people of this country, should be entered into without Parliament having been consulted.
– The honorable member will not be in order in anticipating discussion on a motion already on the notice-paper.
– I was endeavouring to show why Ave, on this side, did not agree to the proposal made by the Acting Leader of the House. In the immediate future, decisions in regard to matters of vital importance to the people of Australia will have to be made. Such subjects as the marketing of wheat, the export of meat, trade treaties and agreements as well as tariff schedules, will have to be dealt with.
– At the next sitting the honorable member will have an opportunity to refer to some of those matters.
– I hope that from what I have said honorable members generally will understand the reasons which actuated the members of this party in refusing leave to the Acting Prime Minister to introduce certain measures to-day.
– As the Acting Prime Minister has indicated the need to allow time for the printing of papers in preparation for the next sitting, and as there will be further opportunities, both at question time and on the motion for the adjournment of the
House at that sitting, to discuss the various matters which honorable members wish to bring forward, I move -
That the question be now put.
Motion agreed to.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.50 p.m.
The following answer to a question was circulated : -
en asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
House of Representatives.
Thursday, 11 April 1935 (Second Sitting.)
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 5 p.m.
E - (Cowper Acting Prime Minister [5-2] - in reply. - It is impossible for me to say exactly at the moment when Parliament will be called together again. I assure honorable members, however, that, if any matter of urgent moment should demand its attention, the sittings will be resumed immediately. In ordinary circumstances. Parliament will most certainly meet again some time in August if not at an earlier date. The matter will be decided by the progress made in the negotiations that are now proceeding overseas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
E. - On the 8th instant the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) asked me, without notice, whether I had seen a certain circular relating to the policy of the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the sugar industry. I have read this document, and find that its criticisms of the Government’s sugar policy are couched in most intemperate and extravagant language. This is not surprising in connexion with a protected industry, when it is known that the circulars are tha joint production of the Henry George League and of Mr. Gates, who signs himself secretary of the Sugar Consumers’ Association, and who for years was secretary of the Town and Country Union, another freetrade organization. These organizations are circularizing every municipality in Victoria, and stating that the people are being robbed. This criticism has not impressed the Shepparton Council, the chairman of which, who is the secretary of the Shepparton canneries, has stated that the circular is an insult to the council’s intelligence. A similar view has been expressed by the Northcote Council.
The statements contain so many exaggerations and mis-statements of fact that they defeat themselves as a criticism.
The principal fallacy is the statement that the people of Victoria are being robbed of ?2,000,000 per annum, which is equivalent to ?S,000;000 per annum for the Commonwealth. At the recent annual conference of the Australian Institute of Political Science, Professor Giblin, who admittedly is an authority on the subject, stated that the cost to the Commonwealth was ?5,100,000 per annum, and even this amount is based on a theoretical world’s parity price, which is the lowest in history, operates in only two overseas countries, and could not apply to Australia, because it is calculated on the cheapest coloured labour rates, and has caused a collapse in the industry in Java itself.
The last committee of inquiry in 1931, which included representatives of the industry, the Housewives Association, manufacturers and fruit-growers, unanimously supported the extension of the embargo system for a further five years. That system operates for the protection of this industry, which is not subsidized.
It is noted that the circular of the Sugar Consumers’ Association practically confines its references to the recent debate in this House, by quoting speeches delivered by members of the Labour party- of New South Wales.
The point of order is quite understandable. Perhaps honorable members may consider that, in view of rulings that I have given, I should have prevented the Minister from proceeding. I had it in mind to direct his attention to previousinstructions governing the asking of questions and the nature of the reply that is permissible. Argument may not be introduced into questions, and when a Minister desires to make a lengthy statement in reply to a question, he should obtain leave of the House to do so.
R. - There can be noreply. The Minister has already indicated very fully the nature of his. statement. I suggest that, if he wishes to continue, he should ask for leave to do so.
– I ask for leave to continue my statement. [Leave granted.] I repeat that this circular practically confines its references to the recent debate in this House to quotations from speeches delivered by members of the Labour Party of New South Wales to indicate their alleged opposition to the sugar industry in general, whereas their objective was to criticize the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, who are not principals in the proposed agreement, and about whom I merely say that their charge for refining raw sugar, by arrangement with the Queensland Government, not the Commonwealth Government, amounts to onetwelfth of a penny per lb.
E. - The company has said that, if the refining were done free of charge, that would not make a difference of more than one-twelfth of a penny per lb. in the price of sugar. Obviously, such an amount could not be passed on.
In conclusion, I would point out that all that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) did, before leaving for the United Kingdom, was to declare the intention of the Government of the Commonwealth to enter into another sugar agreement with the Queensland Government. That agreement will be submitted to Parliament in due course for its approval or otherwise. This fact has been repeatedly made clear. Those who are opposed to the Government’s sugar policy will have an ample opportunity in the next period of the session to state their case.
I intend to take other action shortly to refute the specific charges contained in these circulars.
– Yesterday the Minister for Defence made a pronouncement concerning the reconstruction of the Council of Defence. Will the honorable gentleman now state the reason for the exclusion from that body of Sir
Harry Chauvel and Sir Brudenell White, two of the most distinguished leaders of the Australian Imperial Forces? Is the report correct that Sir Brudenell White first learned of his exclusion from a press paragraph?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL. - Since I have been Minister for Defence the only member of the Council of Defence, apart from the ministerial members, has been Sir Brudenell White. I understand that the members of the first Council of Defence were nominated by the Minister for Defence, but were not referred to by name. In any case, there has been no meeting of the council since 1929. Sir Harry Chauvel, as head of one of the arms of the service, was previously a member of it. He left the council when he retired from the forces. Another member was the late Sir John Monash. These are the facts as shown by the records which I have with me.
When the Council of Defence was reconstructed a few days ago, the proposal was that it should consist of the members whom I have indicated, but that any distinguished officers by whom the council thought valuable advice and assistance could be given could be co-opted at any time. I have already written to Sir Brudenell White, inviting him to act on the council in an advisory capacity in accordance with the new constitution. I also thanked him warmly on behalf of the Government for his past services. Unfortunately, the statement handed out to the evening press was published before Sir Brudenell could get my letter. Had I kept the statement back for the morning newspapers, he would have received, simultaneously with the pres3 announcement, the letter conveying the sentiments of the Government, expressing its great thanks to him, and asking him to act in an advisory capacity on the council whenever his services were required. Nobody has greater admiration than I have for Sir Brudenell White, and the other leaders of the Australian Imperial Forces. I have already consulted him and Sir Harry Chauvel on matters affecting the Defence Department since I have been in office, and I propose to continue that policy. Ministers will be exceedingly glad to avail themselves of their advice on every possible occasion. All that we have done is to widen the field from which advice may be obtained. I repeat that the Government appreciates to the fullest extent the assistance that it has had from these distinguished leaders, and proposes to seek their advice whenever possible.
L. - When I said that Sir Brudenell White was the only member of the Council of Defence, apart from the ministerial and official members, I meant to include the heads of the services who have been members from the beginning. Under all reconstructions they have remained members, and they are still on the council.
D. - Can the Minister for the Interior furnish any information to the House regarding the recent dismissal of three cleaners and a watchman? Two of the cleaners were employed in the Census Department and the other in the Patents Department. One has since been reinstated. Will the Minister state the cause of the dismissal, and say whether the same leniency will be extended to the other three men ?
Mr. PATERSON. - If the honorable member writes to me on the subject I shall look into the matter.
Y. - Does the Minister for the Interior intend to reconsider plans for the vocational training of the unemployed youth of Canberra, or does he propose to let the matter drop?
Mr. PATERSON.- A good deal of time and consideration has been given to this question recently, and I hope that a decision will be reached in the near future.
K. - I direct the attention of the Acting Treasurer to the following statement in the agreement entered into between the Government and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited: -
The refining company shall sell its product at such prices as are fair and reasonable.
Who determines what prices are fair and reasonable, and how are they kept under control?
Mr. CASEY. - I think that the honorable member is under a misapprehension. The Acting Treasurer is not the responsible authority to whom he should address his question. I suggest that he submit it to the Acting Prime Minister, but as notice will almost certainly be asked for, I recommend him to make his inquiry by letter.
N.- In a report recently submitted to the Government by Mr. B. Wallach, who attended, as the delegate for Australia, the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property held in London last year, Mr. Wallach suggested that the Government should consult the British and other dominion governments with a view to safeguarding Australia’s interests in connexion with Australian wine nomenclature, in any treaties entered into between Great Britain and foreign countries. Has the Acting Prime Minister read the report, and does he intend to take action regarding it ? I may mention thatFrance has made it quite clear that it intends, by means of trade agreements, to prevent certain wine names from being used by other countries.
Dr. EARLE PAGE.- The Government has already taken precautions to ensure, to the greatest possible extent, that no infringement of the rights of Australian wine producers will occur under any new treaties. It isgratifying to know that in the fight maintained last year for the maintenance of the present names of various wines, the British Government gave the Commonwealth Government every support.
N. - Is it a fact that blind pensioners may trade in only tea and newspapers, or are they also permitted to sell cigarettes and matches, without losing their right to the pension? I should also like to know whether they are to have regard to a written communication issued by Sir Walter MassyGreene in 1933, to the effect that the only articles they might sell were newspapers and tea, that the sale of other articles, such as cigarettes and tobacco, was ‘forbidden, and that it was not intended to alter the practice?
Mr. CASEY. - I know of no instruction of that kind issued by my predecessor at the Treasury, but I discussed this matter last week with the Treasury official who deals with it. The reply I gave recently to a question asked in this chamber was to the effect that no particular occupations were banned in respect of blind pensioners or blind applicants for the pension, except that pensions were not usually given to Mind applicants who solicited alms and depended on that practice for a living. I also explained that there were certain occupations which could be carried on in such a way as to amount virtually to soliciting alms, and that this also constituted a bar to the receipt of the pension. Any article whatever, even matches and tea, could be sold in such a way that it would amount, in effect, to the soliciting of alms. I can assure the honorable member that the position is exactly as I have stated it, but if he has received a communication to a contrary effect, I shall be glad to consider it.
Mr. GANDER- Will the Acting Treasurer issue instructions to his department that any blind person who sells cigarettes, tobacco or matches shall receive a pension ?
Mr. CASEY.- I think the reply to the honorable member is contained in that which I gave a few moments ago to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). If the honorable member knows of any case which, in his opinion, does not come within the category indicated, I shall be glad if he will let me have the facts.
N. - Is the Postal Department prepared to issue to the Long- . reach Shire Council a return of the business, transactions at the Longreach Post Office?
Mr. HUNTER. - I’ shall make inquiry, and see what can he done in the matter.
Y.- Have tenders been called for the leasing of the Hotel Canberra? If so, with what result, and, if not, does the Minister for the Interior intend to take action along these lines in the near future?
Mr. PATERSON.- It has taken some considerable time to prepare specifications for tenders for leasing the Hotel Canberra and the cafes for the reason that a complete inventory has to he made of every piece of furniture and other chattels, and this involves much detail. I am not quite certain that tenders have yet been invited, but, if not, the advertisement will appear very shortly.
T.- Has the Acting Leader of the Government yet had an opportunity to consider my request that officers of the Department of External Affairs should present to this House periodical statements on the international position, on the lines of the statement made a day or two ago in another place?
Dr. EARLE PAGE.- I have discussed this matter with the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce), and I understand that arrangements have been made for that course to be followed in. the future.
Y. - I have prepared a number of questions dealing with the Matson steamship line and the proposed. visit of the Minister for Trade and Customs to New Zealand, where the negotiations will he taken up. I have put them in the form in which they would appear on the notice-paper, and I ask the Minister if I submit them to him whether he will supply me with replies in the order set out?
Dr. EARLE PAGE.- If the honorable member will give me the list of questions I shall be pleased to have them fully investigated and -to forward him a reply.
E. - Certain conditions approved by the War Service Homes Department as the result of recommendations made by a committee of inquiry will cease at the end of June next. I ask the Acting Minister whether arrangements for a further inquiry have been made, and, if not, what course is to be followed after the date named?
Mr. HUNTER.- .The conditions that were approved as a result of the inquiry will prevail until further amendments are made. Special arrangements will probably be made when the Minister (Mr. Thorby) returns from England.
Mr. MULCAHY.- In view of the answer given by the Acting Minister to a question that I put last week, that the Minister (Mr. Thorby) was making inquiries overseas regarding the treatment of soldiers, I desire to ask whether it is the intention of the Government to suspend all evictions from war service homes until the Minister returns?
Mr. HUNTER.- The intention is that no eviction shall take place until I have seen the report relating to the case. Honorable members may rest assured that the department will place all the facts before me before any eviction is made. *
N. - I have received a good deal of correspondence from tobaccogrowers in the Dimbula and Mareeba districts in regard to last year’s crop. Seeing that this year’s crop will not amount to more than 2,000,0001b., will the Minister for Trade and Customs endeavour to arrange for the representatives of the tobacco companies to visit those districts with a view to purchasing last year’s crop as well as the usable tobacco from this year’s crop ?
Mr. WHITE. - As the honorable member knows, there is always difficulty in selling the darker grades whereas the lighter grades sell well. If the honorable member will furnish me with particulars of the districts in which usable tobaccoes are available, I shall ask the companies to investigate them.
E.- If the honorable member will give me details as to where this tobacco may be seen I shall be pleased to do what he suggests.
N.- Has the Acting Prime Minister seen a report published in the Melbourne Star to the effect that the State Government of Victoria is considering the insertion of a clause in its rural adjustment legislation to compel compositions to be made? As this is contrary to the spirit of the Commonwealth act, will the right honorable gentleman keep in close touch with what is going on in Victoria and, if necessary, make representations to the State Government to ensure that the spirit of the act, passed by this Parliament, is not disregarded ?
Dr. EARLE PAGE.- The conditions on which the Commonwealth is making the money available to the States are set out in full in section 7 of the act which we passed a few days ago. So long as the Victorian Government fulfils those conditions, we shall not interfere.
N. - I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether it is true that the department is recasting the Broadcasting Commission, and if so, what lines are to be followed?
Mr. HUNTER. - The matter has not yet been considered.
S. - In connexion with the last schedule of duties tabled I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is proposed to consider the position of any industry which, by reason of excessive imports coming in under that schedule is placed at a disadvantage.
Mr. WHITE. - I gave an assurance to the House when the schedule was submitted that if it could be shown that unemployment was created by it I would refer the matter to the Tariff Board. In every instance the Tariff Board reported that the rates recommended were sufficient to protect economic Australian industries.
E.- Has the Acting Prime Minister given any consideration to the agreements entered into between the British and French Governments with the Soviet Government, and can the right honorable gentleman make a statement as to the terms of those agreements and their probable effect upon Great Britain and Australia?
Dr. EARLE PAGE.- I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce).
N. - Will tobaccogrowers be included amongst those to be assisted under the Loan (Farmers Debt Adjustment) Act?
Dr. EARLE PAGE.- Yes. All the farmers covered by the definition clause in that act will be included.
I ask honorable members to refrain from asking further questions in order that general business may be proceeded with.
E - It would be a graceful act on. the part of the Government, and from the expressions of approval that have greeted my suggestion, I am sure that it would have the endorsement of all honorable members.
e. - Does the honorable member think that a royal commission might take two years to make the investigation, spend in the vicinity of £15,000, and merely whitewash the banking institutions ?
– If the personnel were what it should be, I do not think that that would be the result. The whole of life is evolutionary, and the financial system should progress along evolutionary lines. But the radical thought that has been so prominent in political circles during the last few years has acted as a deterrent to evolution with respect to this particular matter. The increasing strength of this radical thought has placed vested interests so much upon the defensive that they have been utterly stagnant in relation to any endeavour to improve this system, with the result that no progress has been made. I should say that radical proposals have engendered such a defensive habit of mind that there is no hope of evolution through political channels. Initiative has been curbed and does not provide a lead, and influence is exercised only in order to put restraint upon those who would exhibit enterprise. The inert power of resistance of nervous or selfish vested interests, and the mediums of propaganda which they control, have prevented a mandate from being received by those who have sufficient enterprise to act. We should explore every avenue of the system.
I suggest that we should investigate the question whether our national bank is acting on sufficiently competitive lines. I direct attention to the first Commonwealth Bank Act, passed in 1911, which sets out the purposes to be served by the nation’s bank. The intention of the Parliament that founded that institution was that it should carry on the general business of banking; and no later Parliament has expressed a contrary intention. The policy of the Bank Board, however, either with or without the concurrence of the Government, has been to refrain from full and normal competition with the trading banks. Of course, since its establishment the Commonwealth Bank has become a central bank for Australia. Most central banking authorities have thought it desirable that central banks should refrain from entering into active competition with the trading banks which they serve. But that has not always been the case. The Bank of Italy, which is the central bank of that country, trades on a fully competitive basis with the other trading banks which it serves.
The daily overdraft rates of the Commonwealth Bank, by comparison with those of the trading banks, show that lower interest rates are provided by the bank established by the nation. If that bank were trading in full competition, we should not see that considerable discrepancy in the overdraft rates; the full competition of the Commonwealth Bank would result in lower interest rates all round, by bringing the trading banks into line with the bank of the nation. This Parliament should not set up a bank for the nation which gives certain of our citizens a better service than they are able to secure elsewhere, and restricts that service to a limited number. If the nation is to establish a bank which is to confer certain advantages, they should be offered to all who are entitled to them; they should not be restricted to a fortunate few. The present practice must impair the efficiency of the trading banks by taking from them the pick of the > business. If the Commonwealth Bank traded in a fully competitive manner, we should see no such discrepancy as is observed to-day in the overdraft interest rates that prevail. There should be a comprehensive inquiry into this aspect of the matter, and a recommendation as to whether the Commonwealth Bank should trade in full competition, or refrain from engaging at all in the business of private banking, so that the people may know just where they stand. To-day too many suspect that it deliberately refrains from trading in full competition because of the influence of vested interests. Personally I do not believe that, but only an inquiry by an independent tribunal would clear up that point in the minds of a large section of the public. It might be found to be entirely desirable that the nation’s bank should refrain altogether from trading in competition with private banks.
Regarding the second portion of my motion, I suggest that it may be desirable for the Commonwealth Bank Board to confer with the Treasurer when determining the exchange rate of Australian currency. Professor Brigden in his work on Purchasing Power and the Pound Australian, has said this -
The rates of exchange broke away from the control of the banks in January, 1931, and are now compensating the exporters for the unduly low rate in 1930, pegged m the interests chiefly of governments.
Notwithstanding this statement that the trading banks themselves pegged the exchange rate in the interests of governments, we are told that this matter of exchange should not in any respect be regarded as coming within the province of government policy. I believe that the close relationship which the exchange rate has with the prices of our export commodities when sold in Australia, and its influence upon the whole of our economic life, are such that it should bc regarded as coming within the province of government policy. I do not -suggest that it should become a matter for the determination of Parliament. But the Government of the day should through the Treasurer be formally consulted by the Commonwealth Bank Board when it is determining the policy to be followed in fixing the weekly exchange rate of this nation’s currency in relation to sterling. It has been found imprudent to allow the exchange rate to fluctuate from day to day, because of the effects that these variations have on the business of both private persons and governments. Governments necessarily require, for budgetary purposes, to be able to estimate what the effect of the exchange is going to be upon their commitments. Exchange in our country, like that of every other country, is now managed to a certain extent, and I suggest that the Government of the day, through the Treasurer, should formally confer with the Commonwealth Bank when the policy to be observed in managing our exchange rate is under consideration.
I regret that my time is now almost expired, and that the House is about to adjourn. From what I have said and would have said, if time had permitted, I deduce that the legislature should, after ample inquiry, and when fully informed, decide the banking and currency functions which should be controlled by the nation through its proper authority, and those which might properly be left to private institutions conducting their operations for profit. There is urgent necessity for a comprehensive inquiry by a royal commission to report upon the merits and shortcomings of our existing system. The report should also cover the banking functions which should be performed and controlled by the nation’s bank, and should state whether the Government should participate in the determination of the Bank Board’s exchange policy. We need the report of some authority free from political influence as to what functions ought properly to he left to the control of the private banking institutions. The commission should also report upon the- advisability of the Commonwealth Bank either entering into fuller competition with the trading banks or refraining entirely from competition.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) pro posed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
.- I shall not reiterate the arguments that have been used in favour of an early resumption of the sittings of Parliament because of the very difficult times through “which Australia will pass during the next five or six months, and the many problems that will require our attention, but I should like the Acting Prime Minister to indicate, if he can, the probable duration of the recess.
– On a point of order, I ask whether honorable members will have an opportunity to reply to this statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– We should be given an opportunity to reply to him.
– They said that their profit was one-twelfth of a penny per lb.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to -
That the following paper, laid on the table of the House at the previous sitting, be printed: -
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year 1933-34.
– In the Dimbula district a large quantity of light tobacco is available.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
RETIREMENT OF Mr. J. H. McCAWLEY.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I take this opportunity to inform honorable members that before the House resumes, Mr. J. H. McCawley, attendant and reader on the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, who is well known to all of us, will have entered on furlough prior to retirement. Mr. McCawley, after haying served in the State Treasury of New South Wales, and thereafter in the Government Printing Office and the State Parliament House, was transferred to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Reporting Staff at the inauguration of federation. On the date of his retirement, he will have served the State and Commonwealth for no less than 50 years. This, I think, is almost a record. I am sure that honorable members, who have always found him a courteous and obliging officer, will join with me in wishing Mr. McCawley continued good health and a long and happy period of leisure.
– I echo the sentiments expressed by you, Mr. Speaker, towards Mr. McCawley, and I think I do so on behalf of all honorable members. Since my advent to Parliament I have always found Mr. McCawley a courteous and obliging officer, and, like every other member of the Hansard staff who has to work long hours under difficult conditions, he has done wonders. I associate myself with your good wishes, Mr. Speaker, and trust that Mr. McCawley may enjoy good health and a happy retirement.
.- Mr. McCawley’s figure has been a very familiar one in the precincts of this House for many years. I have been brought into close touch with Mr. McCawley since I was elected in 1922, and have found him always obliging and courteous. Now that he is due to retire, the members of the Opposition join with Mr. Speaker and the Acting Prime Minister in wishing him many years of good health and prosperity in his retirement. I urge the Government and you, Sir, to give favorable consideration to a proposal that provision should be made for the continuation of the payment of his salary for four months which, I understand, will enable him to complete 50 years of active service.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Sir, I desire to associate myself and the members of my party with the kindly references made by you, the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page), and the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to the retirement of Mr. McCawley. He has merited all the good words said of him. I do not think any honorable member has a better friend than Mr. McCawley among the officers of the House. His assistance has much lightened the task of honorable members generally. I support the suggestion made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, and trust that it will be favorably considered. While I wish Mr. McCawley good health and happiness, and hope that he may live long to enjoy his retirement, I trust that, as the years roll by, we may have . the pleasure of renewing our acquaintance with him on many occasions.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from1 the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
.- I move-
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that constitutional alterations he provided to permit of the organization of primary producers on an Australian basis, with complete sectional control of internal and external marketing of each primary product, such control to be exercised exclusively by the organized producers of such commodity enabling them to speak with one voice and authority in regard to any arrangement which may be deemed by them to be necessary to conserve their interests.
Among all sections of our pastoralists, our dairymen, our agriculturists and our fruit-growers to-day, the great necessity for some alteration of their conditions in order that they may secure a greater return for their labours is recognized. Unfortunately, in the past, governments, both State and Commonwealth, have found it impossible to deal with their requirements because of constitutional difficulties. The proposal which I have placed before this House in this motion would, if adopted, be of great value to the primary producers of this country, and would afford them a greater measure of assistance than could be proposed in any stabilization legislation or relief bill providing millions of pounds for assistance to primary producers. To-day, more than ever before, all nations depend on the success of their primary producers, but successful primary production depends upon the provision of suitable markets. The newspapers of the world contain accounts of the tariff walls which all countries are erecting against outside competition. Embargoes on imports are imposed and trade treaties with other nations arranged in an attempt to expand their trade. Recent happenings in the Old Country emphasize the importance of its primary industries, and the part they play in the welfare of the community. The primary producers of Australia are unable to secure the advantages which their fellow producers in other countries enjoy, largely because of the limitations imposed on this Parliament by the Constitution. The division of power between the States and the Commonwealth prevents the primary producers from organizing to expand their oversea trade. Under the Constitution, as drawn, the States are free to market their products anywhere within Australia whilst the Commonwealth has control of the export trade. No authority is given sufficient power to enable it to organize the marketing of primary products in a general way. The efforts of this Parliament, and of the producers themselves, to obtain that power, have been frustrated by the Constitution. I do not ask for a wholesale amendment of the Constitution, or even that the whole of section 51 be altered. I ask only that section 51 and section 92 be amended sufficiently to enable our primary industries to be organized on an Australian basis. I wish not to injure the Constitution, but rather to widen its scope. Unfortunately, its framers took the constitution of the United States of America, which is the narrowest in the world, as a basis. Canada and other countries are not hampered by the restrictions which the Australian Constitution imposes on the primary producers of this country. Britain is free to grant assistance to its industries, and to negotiate with other powers, as well as with the dominions, in the interests of its own primary producers. Australia is not in that happy position, because of the powers vested in the States. I urge that the primary producers of this country be put on a level with the producers of other countries. I do not underestimate the strength of the forces against the primary producers. Vested interests will oppose any alteration of the Constitution which would interfere with their privileges; but the producers of Australia should be sufficiently powerful to force the State parliaments to pass measures similar to that which, I trust, will be introduced into this Parliament if this motion is agreed to.
The Constitution provides for its amendment. Those who seek to amend it, as I am doing to-day, are not its enemies, but its best friends, for, until it is altered, dissatisfaction must continue. The producers of this country believed that, under federation, they would have a free hand to market their products; but, instead, the Constitution has given rise to chaotic conditions. In the early days of the federation there was no need to alter the Constitution; but conditions have changed so greatly during the 35 years that have passed since this Parliament began its work that an amendment is urgently necessary. Matters which 3f> years ago were properly the concern of the States are now the concern of the Commonwealth.
Of all the primary producers in Australia the dairymen have been most successful in bringing about uniformity of control. That is due largely to the adoption of a co-operative system of working. The producers ‘ of dairy pro ducts have Commonwealth-wide control to some extent; but that control is not equal to what it would be if they were working under a constitution which gave to them the power sought by this motion. T ask that the primary producers in each industry be given control of their own products. Can better evidence of chaotic conditions be found than those which exist in the wheat-growing industry? Year after year Parliament is asked to vote millions of pounds to keep the wheatgrowers on their farms. Yet their position is -now no better than it was. All that is desired could be obtained by the introduction of a simple bill empowering the primary producers in each industry to deal with their own products. By an alteration of the Constitution in the way that I have suggested the wheat-growers of this country would be able to bring about a home price for wheat, erect silos, and market their products as they liked. There is urgent need to bring each primary industry under one Commonwealthwide control, and to gather data relating to its value and the possibilities of its development. An agricultural bureau controlled by direct representatives of the primary producers would be of great value to our principal exporting industries. The Commonwealth Council of Agriculture, to which the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) has often referred recently, will be of no real value to the producers, because it will be under the control of the political leaders of the Commonwealth and the States, and not the producers. The producers must be allowed to control their own destiny if the Commonwealth is to make the progress of which it is capable in agriculture. A slight alteration of section 51 of the Constitution to give the Commonwealth power over interstate, intra-state and overseas trade would be of immense value to the whole nation, as well as to the producing interests. Constitutional power of this kind is possessed by the Parliaments of other countries of the world, and it is essential to the welfare of our community that this Parliament shall possess it. Under existing conditions the producers have no control over their products, except in their own State. The present division of power over trade and commerce has developed a completely unsatisfactory state of affairs. The authorities which possess certain power over trade are not able to exercise it effectively, and the authority which could exercise it effectively, this Parliament, does not possess it. The primary producers of the various States have endeavoured to organize their industries, but have not been able to achieve the success desired because of the limitation of the power of this Parliament. The primary producers of Queensland built up a strong State organization and stabilized marketing within the State, but, unfortunately, the producers of other States were able to rob them of the fruits of their work and frustrate all their efforts to improve the position of their industries.
I am supported in these proposals for the amendment of the Constitution by the Graziers Association of Queensland, the Council of Agriculture of Queensland, and many other organizations. The Federated Wheat-growers of Australia recently resolved to request that steps be taken to establish an Australian marketing control board; but effective action along that line cannot be taken by the Commonwealth until the Constitution is amended. We know very well that the Australian pork producers, fat lamb oroducers, banana-growers, and citrusgrowers, have all, at various times, expressed a desire for an Australia-wide marketing organization, and so have the maize-growers of Queensland. At Murwillumbah recently, the banana-growers came to the conclusion that only an Australiawide organization could ensure effective work being done. For the last seven or eight years the Country party has had a plank on its platform relating to the extension of the constitutional power of this Parliament, and it is time that steps were taken to give effect to it. The Prime Minister did me the courtesy to bring under the notice of the constitutional conference some time ago the very matter that I am now discussing, but, unfortunately, no agreement was reached. State boards of control can exercise considerable power over marketing in their own State, but are helpless to deal with interstate trade. *
The primary producers of Australia voted in favour of federation because they believed that the power over trade proposed to be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament would allow the nation-wide marketing of products to be developed; but the framers of the Constitution must have realized that the power to be given to the Commonwealth Parliament was strictly limited. I want the House to signify that it agrees with the constitution alteration proposed in my motion. It is only a small alteration, although it would have a wide application. It deals only with a concession to the primary producers who, as generally recognized, have been hit harder than any other section of the community by the economic adversity of recent years. To-day we are granting to the primary producers millions of pounds in the form of grants to assist the wheat industry and under a scheme of debt adjustment. There would be no necessity for the Government to extend such assistance if my motion were agreed to, because the primary producers would then be enabled to finance their own industry. The adjustments which would be made possible under my proposal would enable them to secure greater returns for their produce. This, in turn, would greatly benefit not only the community generally, but also the finances of our governments. I suggest that this House should give its sanction to the passage of legislation for a constitution alteration that would make possible the formation of an Australia-wide organization, which it was originally expected the primary producers would have under the unity proposals put forward when federation was brought about. To-day this Parliament has not the power to permit the formation of such an organization. It can extend its influence overseas but must permit the interests of the primary producers of this country to be subordinated to the demands of mercantile and financial interests which always have their own ends to serve. I ask that the primary producers be given complete control externally and internally over their industries to enable them to bring about price adjustments and marketing arrangements, generally, throughout the whole of Australia. This proposal would. enable the producers to exercise exclusive control over their respective industries. I claim that a greater benefit could not be conferred upon primary producers, as a whole, than by giving them such control. Undoubtedly the producers arc best able to look after their own interests. Thus we should give them a direct voice in the making of any arrangements which affect their interests such as the organization generally of their industry, finance, the establishment of pools, the erection of silos, matters affecting exports, the chartering of ships for the conveyance of produce overseas, and the opening up of new markets. We should also allow them to arrange trade treaties with other countries for the marketing of their respective commodities, because no government can do this work as effectively as the producers themselves. I have very great pleasure in submitting this motion to the House and hope it will be carried.
– I second the motion.
.- The time at my disposal will not permit me to deal with this matter as fully as I would wish. It is a very important matter. The House would require a whole week, probably, to debate properly the motions standing on the noticepaper in the names of private members, and it is regrettable that these matters have to be dealt with in the last half-hour of the session. The second motion on the notice-paper, which stands in the name of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen), deals with the very important matter of banking and monetary reform. Two or three days, at least, would be required to enable honorable members to debate it fully.
The motion now before the House is one that certainly can be supported by members of the Labour party. It proposes an alteration of the Constitution to permit of the organization of primary producers on an Australia-wide basis. In Queensland a Labour government has put into operation a policy along these lines. It has organized primary industries on a State-wide basis, producers being given representation through district councils and commodity boards on a State council of agriculture. Such a scheme to be really effective should be Australian-wide. The Federal Labour party’s policy in this respect reads -
The promotion and extension of the agricultural and rural industries by the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture to co-operate with similar bodies with a view to organizing all those engaged in primary production into a unified body so that they may be able to more effectively place their views before governments and to generally co-operate and assist in giving effect to the following policy: -
The encouragement of a co-operation among primary producers in order to bring consumers and producers into direct communication.
The provision of a more up-to-date method of marketing products both locally and overseas.
The provision of a system of research work for the betterment of rural production.
The wheat-growers who, for some years, have been in a serious position have asked successive governments to establish a compulsory wheat pool to work in cooperation with State wheat pools, but on numerous occasions their requests have been rejected. I appeal to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), who represents a primary producing constituency, and who is a member of the Country party, to endeavour to induce the Cabinet to introduce legislation to provide for a compulsory Commonwealth wheat pool as soon as Parliament re-assembles. What has proved beneficial to the butter industry would also be beneficial to the wheatproducers, fruit-growers, and others. As I understand the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) is to be given an opportunity, before Parliament adjourns, to move another important motion dealing with the Australian banking and monetary systems, I do not propose to speak further on this subject. The proposal embodied in the motion of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) if adopted has the wholehearted support of the Australian Labour party, and it is one which would be of inestimable benefit to the Australia primary producers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Paterson) adjourned.
.- When the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Bill 1935 was before the House, the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), speaking on the third reading of the bill, said that I, after having spoken, supported the closure on the second reading, and in doing so had assisted to prevent other honorable members from speaking. I desire to state that the closurewas applied after consultation with the whips, so that the bill could be taken into committee. I had the next call on the second reading, but arranged to speak during the committee stage. The Leader of the Opposition, who, I consider, is invariably fair in debate, was, I think, under a misapprehension.
.- I move -
That this House is of the opinion that it is desirable to appoint a royal commission to take evidence in public and report upon the operation of the Australian banking and monetary systems, with particular reference asto
Whether the Commonwealth Bank is operating in its ordinary trading activities upon as fully competitive a basis as is compatable with sound financial practice; and
Whether it would be desirable to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act to direct that the Commonwealth Bank Board, when determining the exchange rate of Australian currency with respect to sterling, should confer with the Treasurer and give consideration to the need for maintaining Australia’s essential export industries.
I do not advocate the institution of an inquiry that might be used as the basis of an attack on the banking institutions, nor do I wish to loose a tirade against the monetary and banking systems that obtain to-day. There is, however, a doubt in the minds of an overwhelming majority of the electors of this country as to whether our banking and monetary systems have kept pace with our social evolution and industrial progress. It is necessary that an inquiry should be conducted by the very best brains available, by people who are uninfluenced by any pre-conceived desire to nationalize everything, but yet are free from any undue reluctance to interfere with institutions which have demonstrated their ability to influence government policy, and to direct the whole course of our economic life. There is not one of us who is not aghast at a condition of affairs, in which production, increased beyond the dreams of our forefathers, exists side by side with dire want, many of our people, even the very people who are producing in such abundance, are ill-fed and ill-clad. Faced with this progressive efficiency of production, ourfirst thought turns to a reduction of working hours. But as that would have such an adverse effect on the costs of production of our exporting industries we are forced to dismiss it as an immediate solution of our problems. It is wrong that maximum efficiency of production should coincide with minimum purchasing power of our people. Any economic system which prevents us from achieving the greatest measure of industrial progress is detrimental to our social welfare. Many trained thinkers claim that our banking system, as it exists to-day, is either wholly or partly responsible for our present condition. Some believe that the system is fundamentally wrong, while others maintain that it has merely lagged behind our industrial progress. If it is wrong, the sooner we establish the right system, or improve the existing one, the better for us all. If, however, it is proved that the existing banking and financial system is not in any respect responsible for the prevailing wide-spread want and unemployment, that fact should be established, so that we may relieve our banking institutions from the suspicion under which they now rest in the minds of so many people. We want to achieve the very best system possible, and as any banking system must depend for its efficiency on that intangible quantity, public confidence, the sooner the doubts of the people are set at rest the better. This problem cannot be solved by a decision of politicians ; it must be investigated by trained experts in whom every one has confidence, and then we must accept their recommendations. We should not have been justified in our request for the appointment of a royal commis- sion to investigate this matter had not such a large proportion of the electors indicated a desire for some radical change in our financial and banking system, or at least for an inquiry into that system. Something like 1,800,000 electors at the last federal elections voted for candidates who sponsored a radical alteration of the existing system, while another 500,000 who supported the United Country party voted in favour of its policy for a comprehensive inquiry into it. That is the first reason which I give in support of this request for a royal commission. Secondly, I refer to the many expressions of doubt that have been voiced by persons whom we regard as financial and economic experts, as to whether the system is all that it should be. Those persons include Sir Basil Blackett, a director of the Bank of England and an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer of India, and Sir Reginald McKenna, chairman of the Midland Bank, the greatest private banking institution in the British Empire. In addition, men in the commercial field, like Mr. Henry Ford, and statesmen of the eminence of Franklin Roosevelt entertain grave doubts regarding the efficiency of the existing system. This is sufficient of itself to justify the request for a complete investigation and overhaul of the system. For a generation, trained thinkers of the calibre of Professor Irving Fisher, of the Tale University, in the United States of America, have striven to impress upon the world the increasing inadequacy of the system. Surely, in the face of this weight of authoritative dissatisfaction, this National Parliament should decide to authorize a thorough investigation!
– I second the motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
House adjourned at 6.30 p.m. until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 April 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19350411_reps_14_146/>.