14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– I desire to announce that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will be absent from the House to-day attending to official business in connexion with the centenary celebrations in South Australia.
Mr.CURTIN. - Has the Treasurer a statement to make concerning the decision of the Commonwealth Bank to increase interest rates? What steps does the Government intend to take to avert the depressing effects upon employment and recovery generally which are involved in that decision?
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to the statement made in Melbourne a week ago by the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, that all the efforts of that board were directed towards prevention of the rise of interest rates in Australia. I believe that the. House and the country are very well aware of those efforts and of their unfortunate failure. Last night and this morning there has been a concurrent raising of deposit rates by both the Commonwealth Bank and those trading banks which had not previously raised their rates I also direct the attention of the honorable member to the statement of the governor of the Commonwealth Bank that that institution does not propose to raise, in the near future, its rates on advances.
– In view of the statement of the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and the desire of that hoard not to increase interest rates, will the Treasurer now endorse the view that the action already taken by the private banks in this matter, constitutes a definite declaration that the control of monetary policy in Australia no longer rests with the central banking authority but rather is in the hands of the vested interests which control the private banking institutions? Further, how can the declaration that interest rates on advances will not be increased, be sustained, in the light of the fact that the Commonwealth Bank is unable to prevent the upward movement of interest rates on deposits?
– Order ! The question introduces matter that must lead to debate, and I suggest that the Treasurer be guided by this fact in the answer that he makes to it.
– Before you ventured to intervene, Mr. Speaker, I was about to suggest to the honorable member that an attempt to reply to questions which open up a rather wide field would not prove very satisfactory, either to him or to me. My answer tohis first proposition is “No”, and to the second, that a reply cannot be given in a few words.
– In view of the definite statement made by leading members of the Government from time to time that low interest rates have been a decisive factor in assisting Australia’s economic recovery, has the Government considered legislative action to prevent the banks from increasing their rates on advances?
– The reply is in the negative.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked the following question : -
Seeing that the British Government recognizes that an ex -soldier may Buffer from blindness even after fifteen years, in consequence of gas attacks, will the Minister for
Repatriation instruct the medical officers acting on ‘behalf of the Repatriation Department to go very carefully into all requests for assistance by returned soldiers whose health has been affected by gas attacks, before any application is rejected?
The Repatriation Commission has furnished the following information: -
The case which the honorable member has in mind apparently relates to a newspaper report of certain rare cases of eye trouble discovered in England recently, which are thought to hare been due to the delayed action of givs. The medical advisers of the Repatriation Commission are fully alive to such possibilities, and during the last few years cases of corneal ulceration have been accepted and pensioned by it as being due to the delayed action of mustard gas - the only type oi war gas which cuu cause the condition. These corneal ulcers result in changes’ of definite characteristic appearance, which enable the eye specialist to be at once certain of the predisposing cause. The honorable member may rest assured that the medical advisers of the commission are aware of the condition.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Dental Chairs, electrically or oil-pump controlled, with provision for raising, lowering, revolving and tilting into the post- anaesthetic position.
Electrical Hair Dryers of the pedestal type.
Fly Papers, chemical and sticky.
Heat Resisting Glassware for cooking purposes.
Plates, Sheets, Pipes, Tubes, Rods, Angles, Bars, . Strips, and Tec, of any metal (excepting Gold, Silver, Zinc, or Tin Pipes or Tubes), plated, polished or decorated, but not including plain tinned.
Roofing Slates, n.e.i.
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether the Government has received from the Government of Great Britain the promised memorandum on the subject of the nationality of married women? If so, is the honorable member in a position to disclose the attitude of the Government of Great Britain towards that problem? Is it intended to resume, before the . close of this session, the debate on the Nationality Bill 1934?
– The Government is in receipt of a communication from the Government of Great Britain, setting out its views in connexion with the nationality of married women. I hope that it will be possible to proceed with the consideration of the Nationality Bill 1934 when the House resumes its sittings after the Easter adjournment, and to make available to honorable members the advice tendered by the Government of Great Britain in the memorandum referred . to.
– Can the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties state whether there is any probability of an early review of the trade treaty with Canada?
– The Government is of the opinion’ that a review of that treaty is desirable, and has invited the Government of Canada to send a delegation to Australia for that purpose. I believe that that request will be complied with, and that the delegation will be in Australia at no distant date.
– Is there any foundation for the published report that negotiation are proceeding at the present time with Squadron-Leader Stoddart, who is now at Cootamundra, regarding the establishment of the first aerial ambulance and medical services?
– This officer has discussed that matter on several occasions, but I am not aware that it has been carried to a point at which it may be regarded as a practicable proposal. It has not yet been considered by the Government. Whether the establishment of such a service under the aegis of a State government has been considered I am unable to say.
– I ask the ActingLeader of the House whether the world sugar conference has been abandoned ? If the cabled reports to that effect are correct, what good purpose can he served by the trip abroad of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) ?
Mr.ARCHDALEPARKHILL. -I understand that the conference has not been abandoned. In any case, many representations in London on this subject are necessary for the protection of Australia’s interests. In addition, the Minister will make representations upon numerous other . matters. He will negotiate with respect to butter and other primary products, including meat and fruit. It is essential that these representations should be made by a responsible Minister, who is fully conversant with all the facts, since the result will be of the utmost importance to this country.
– Could not the High Commissioner do all that is necessary?
Mr.ARCHDALEPARKHILL. - Not so well.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to an article published in the Aeroplane of the 19th February last, in which comment was made on the difficulty experienced in obtaining military aeroplanes for Australia owing to the expansion of Great Britain’s defence programme? One passage in the article was as follows : -
Actually it should make things easier, because, as the newest types come through, the Royal Air Force could afford to present dozens of old but still serviceable types to the Royal Australian Air Force.
Has the Minister contemplated the possibility of acquiring such machines from the Royal Air Force, or will he give the matter consideration ?
– I saw the article to which the honorable member has referred. It dealt with a number of matters, and some of the statements did not appear to me to be sufficiently authoritative to warrant much heed being paid to them. Nevertheless, I shall consider what the honorable member has said, and ascertain if the suggestion is of importance.
Mr.R. GREEN.- Is it the policy of the Civil Aviation Department to force the air services in New Guinea to merge into one company?
Mr.ARCHDALEPARKHILL. - It is not the policy of the depart ment to force the companies operating in New Guinea into a merger. Suggestions were made from New Guinea itself that, in view of the importance of aviation there, certain steps were necessary to organize the existing services. The proposal was made that some kind of merger should take place, but the Government is not committed to any policy on the matter. As the local people are being consulted, and as suggestions are being made with regard to licensing, which may be adopted instead of a merger, the whole matter is under consideration, and the views of local operators and others in the territory will receive the fullest attention before definite action is taken.
– In to-day’s press the statement is made that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to consider sympathetically a longe-range plan of technical education, and is calling a conference of State Ministers of Education for that purpose. Will the Government, at that conference, recommend State Ministers also to consider the raising of the school-leaving age, as has been done recently in Great Britain, and, if they consider that to be a practical proposal, to consider devoting the additional period of time to such technical education as may enable the schools to turn out, not only youths trained for white-collar jobs with small prospects of clerical employment, but also youths with some degree of technical training?
Mr.ARCHDALEPARKHILL.- I am unaware of the steps being taken in this matter, but I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Prime Minister.
Formal Motionfor Adjournment
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ theexecution fixed for to-morrow of Ludwig Schmidt in the Territory of New Guinea “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I submit that the contemplated execution to-morrow of Ludwig Schmidt, who was convicted of wilful murder by the Supreme Court of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea and sentenced to death, is a matter of great importance to the people of Australia. I shall discuss the subject, first, from the point of view of a large section of the community which is altogether opposed to capital punishment upon ethical grounds, and, later, I shall deal with another aspect of the subject. It has been recognized within modern times that the main purpose of punishment is the prevention of crime, and, therefore, the fundamental purpose of capital punishment is that it shall act as a deterrent to capital offences. It has been proved beyond doubt, however, that capital punishment has been of no value whatever as a deterrent, and for that reason alone, if for no other, no Parliament or court has the right to take away a life which only the Greater can give. If we, the members of this Parliament, are sincere in our profession of Christianity, and are true to the oath which we take, we cannot support in any way the taking of human life. As to the execution which is fixed for to-morrow, every member of this Parliament is in the position of a judge to decide whether or not Ludwig Schmidt shall suffer the death penalty. There are 74 members of this House, and we have the power to prevent effect from being given to the sentence. In this Parliament to-day every honorable member who does not vote to prevent the death penalty from being carried out will be just as guilty of the death of the accused as will the hangman himself. Let us have no illusions on that point. Instead of dealing with this matter as an abstract problem, let us face the fact that, for the first time in the history of federation, a white man is to be executed in one of the dependencies under the control of this Commonwealth. Let us consider carefully before we place this first blot upon our fair escutcheon. I trust that no honorable member, who may later take part in this debate, will enter into the merits or demerits of this particular case, or attempt to determine the defendant’s guilt. This Parliament does not sit in a judicial atmosphere. We are not called upon to consider evidence according to the rules of law. We are in no position to judge dispassionately in respect of the weight of the evidence, or the guilt or innocence of the condemned man; but we are in a position to declare whether we believe that in any circumstances the judiciary or Parliament itself should be permitted to authorize the taking of human life. No murder is more premeditated, more coldblooded, than judicial murder, which fixes a. certain hour of a certain day when a man shall be called upon to suffer the death penalty all the resources of the law are exerted to prevent a condemned man from taking his own life in order that he may live until the prescribed moment appointed for his execution. When condemned men have attempted to commit suicide they have been given medical attention to keep them alive so that the law itself can cold-bloodedly exact its penalty. We have no authority to take human life in any circumstances. Right through the ages history has proved that the death penalty, instead of being a deterrent to crime, has, in many cases, induced people to commit other and more serious crimes, thinking that they might thereby avoid the discovery of their previous crimes. In the early days in England, almost all crimes were punishable by the death penalty. In 1930, a report was presented by a select committee of the House of Commons appointed to inquire into capital punishment. The report outlined the history of the subject, pointing out that, during the reign of Henry VIII., 72,000 criminals were executed for theft and robbery alone - an average of, roughly, 2,000 a year. In subsequent years the number of persons executed rapidly diminished. During the ten years 1920 to 1929, the average annual number of persons executed in England and Wales was under fourteen. That is an exemplification of the modem tendency to avoid the imposition of the death penalty. But this downward trend was by no means continuous. On page 5 of the report of that select committee, the following statement appeared: -
During the reigns of the four Georges, 1714 to 1830,156 new offences were made punishable by death, until, in 1819, it was authoritatively stated before the select committee of the House of Commons that 220 offences were then capital …. Our legislation then proceeded in the spirit of Draco himself, the Archon of Athens, whose laws, published in621 B.C., were said to be “written, not in ink, but in blood,” and who declared that “the smallest crime deserved death, and he could find no other punishment for the greatest.”
Charles Wesley wrote in 1776 -
A fortnight ago, I preacheda condemned sermon to about twenty criminals; and every one of them.I had good grounds to believe, died penitent. Twenty more must die next week.
Mackenzie, the historian, says -
If a man injured Westminster Bridge, he was hanged . . . ifhecut down young trees; if he shot rabbits; if he stole property valued at 5s.; if he stole anything at all from a bleach field; if he wrote threatening letters to extort money . . . he was immediately hanged.
Sir SamuelRom illy asserted that there was no country in the world “ where so many and so large a variety of actions were punishable by loss of life,” and Sir Robert Peel, in his speech in Parliament in 1830, declared -
It is impossible to conceal from ourselves that capital punishments are more frequent, and the criminal law more severe, on the whole, in this country than in any country in the world.
The report went on to point out the methods by which the death penalty was evaded by juries. An examination of the criminal law shows that the capital penalty was imposed in the early days for the theft of 5s. The result was that juries frequently found the defendant guilty of the theft of 4s.10d. in order to avoid the necessity for imposing capital punishment. In a case in which an accused person was charged with having stolen £5 from a dwelling - a case in which the theft of 40s. was a capital offence - the jury found that the amount was 39s. Those were the ways in which juries deliberately perjured themselves in order to avoid the imposition of the “death sentence. The whole tendency of modern law has been to dispose of the extreme penalty. The select committee made certain conditional recommendations, which, although of great importance, do not affect this debate. For instance, it recommended that no person under 21 years of age should be sentenced to death, and that there might be a larger exercise of the Royal prerogative. The definite recommendations were as follows : -
That a bill be introduced andpassed into law during the present session, providing for the abolition of the death penalty for an experimental period of five years incasestried by civil courts in times of peace.
In war time, when the fate of the nation is at stake, the position is quite different -
That, meantime and forthwith, a resolution be passed by the House of Commons declaring that the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, in tendering advice as to the exercise of theRoyal prerogative of mercy, should recommend in each case that the death sentence should be commuted.
In regard to the penalty that should be substituted for the sentence of death in the cases referred to, we recommend that it be the penalty now attached to reprieved murderers, interpreted and administered in the same way as at present.
That is what we contend. We have the strongest possible evidence to support our case.
I desire to touch briefly upon another aspect of the subject. I have already dealt with the arguments against capital punishment, and I now wish torefer to certain points associated with the trial of Ludwig Schmidt. Unfortunately this man was not tried before a jury. Section8 of the Commonwealth Constitution specifically provides that in such cases the trial must be before a jury, but as the High Court has held that the laws of the Commonwealth do not apply to the Mandated Territory trial by jury was unnecessary. This man was tried by a judge who must take full responsibility in the matter. Two accomplices were tried at the same time as Schmidt; one was sentenced to imprisonment for seven years, and another to imprisonment for ten years, but in the case of Schmidt the death penalty was imposed. Moreover, Schmidt was the only one of the accused who could not speak English and, therefore, could not understand properly the nature of the trial. I give the Government credit for appointing counsel to assist him, and also for arranging for the services of an interpreter. Unfortunately, this man’s life depended upon the ability and integrity of the interpreter, and being human he may or may not have interpreted the evidence correctly. Schmidt, who could not understand the evidence given against him, had to fight his case with the assistance of an interpreter. Trial by jury is a fundamental principle of British law, and 1 understand that the only portion of the British Empire in which trial by jury in criminal cases is not observed - not only in murder cases, but also in comparatively unimportant criminal cases - is the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. As I stated earlier, we should not attempt to deal, with the evidence in this case, but Parliament should give a lead. The old Mosaic law of an. eye for an eye and a tooth, for a. tooth should not prevail in a civilized community. The only way in which to teach the natives to respect human life is not to take human life. It is not yet too late to act. I believe that inquiries are still proceeding, but time is passing rapidly. I understand that the Government does not know -whether the execution to-morrow is to take place at 6 a.m. or at 6 p.m., but it is almost certain that it will be at daybreak. Moreover, the Government does not know the age o’f the man. He may be over 21 years of age, but I think that there is even doubt as to his age.
– He is an old man.
– My information is that he is a young man. My last point is that in such cases there is supposed to he the right of appeal to the High Court of Australia. No depositions were token in court. In a case which occurred some years ago, when an appeal to the High Court was sought, the judge was asked to produce his notes, but refused to do so. Although the condemned man is supposed to have the right to appeal to the High Court, in reality that right is worthless. He has had the assistance of counsel provided by the Government, hut there is no reason to assume that definite arrangements were made for counsel to suggest an appeal to the High Court. Counsel mayhave advised the Government that there were insufficient grounds to justify an appeal to the High Court, and the> Government may have considered it unnecessary to retain the service of thecounsel in connexion with an appeal. The right, of appeal in the Mandated Territory is theoretical only. I ask. honorable members to consider this matter seriously, and to realize that,, owing to the forms of the House theonly course to be followed is that which I am pursuing. No direct vote on thesubject can be recorded. In these circumstances, I urge upon those honorablemembers who have an open mind to consider the matter quite dispassionately,, and to support the motion I have moved, which, if carried, would be regarded asan instruction to the Government that the execution shall not he proceeded with to-morrow. A postponement would afford more time for the Government to investigate the matter.
– The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) has moved the adjournment of the House in connexion with a person named Ludwig Schmidt, a resident of theMandated Territory of New Guinea, whowas found guilty of murder, and whoseexecution has been fixed for to-morrow. The motion does not deal with the subject of capital punishment generally, but solely with the case of the person named. As the Opposition has asked the House tohe the judge in. a serious matter of this. nature, it is essential that the House should be acquainted with the facts.. The honorable member for Griffith has omitted to state that capital punishment is still the law in practically all, if notall, of the States of the Commonwealth.
– It is not in Queensland.
– In certain cases the governments havedecided whether the death penalty shall or shall not be carried out. In New Guinea the power to reprieve has been placed deliberately in the hands of the Administrator. Moreover, the annual reports of Administrators of New Guinea, Papua, and other territoriesunder the control of the Common- wealth, are circulated amongst honorable members, and these record, each year a number of executions. It is true that this is the first occasion on which the execution of a white man has been contemplated; but the honorable member omitted to mention that natives have been executed in those territories. In 1929 there were two executions of natives; in 1930, four; in 1933, ten; in 1934, twelve; and in 1935, nine.
– No executions took place during the Labour regime after the instruction was given by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) that the death penalty in a certain case should not be carried out.
– Although some of these executions took place during the regime of the Scullin Government, the Administrator was requested to inform the Government of any further executions that were proposed ; after that, so far as I am aware, no other executions were carried out during the Labour Government’s term of office. But before that period, during part of 1929 and 1930, several natives were executed.
– No executions took place with the knowledge of my government.
– I do not gainsay that. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) spoke at length and sentimentally regarding the awful possibility of a white man being executed in New Guinea, but he made no reference to the execution of the natives of the territory.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Apparently the honorable member is content that one law should exist for the white man and another law for the native.
– That statement is not fair. The Minister for Defence has misinterpreted my remarks.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Those are the facts.
– The Minister for Defence is endeavouring to holster up a bad case.
– I am stating facts of which the House is not aware. This white man has been sentenced to death according to the existing law in New Guinea. That law also obtained when the Scullin Government was in office, but its operation was restricted to the extent that the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has stated. In 1932, however, the law reverted to its original basis with the consent of this Parliament.
Honorable Members. - No !
– The law was embodied in an ordinance in which this Parliament concurred, and it has remained in force ever since. As members of the Opposition have elected to ventilate this matter in Parliament I consider that the facts should be made known to the House. According to information that the Government has received, a party of prospectors in 1933 penetrated a certain part of New Guinea, a portion of which is wild territory and is not policed or under administrative control; therefore white men are asked to keep out of it. This party was composed of four men - Schmidt, Schultze, Groos and King. News takes a long while to travel in those parts, hut a story of what ‘might be termed the wholesale shooting of natives and the using of native women for certain purposes subsequently filtered through to the civilized districts. The report reached Sydney, and the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce), while on a visit recently to the territories, was also made cognizant of it. The department naturally despatched a police expedition to the scene, and three members of that prospecting party - Schmidt, Schultz and King - were taken into custody. The fourth man escaped, and is stated to have left the territory. Three separate charges of murder were brought against Schmidt. In each of the first and second cases he was alleged to have killed one native, and, in the third case, two natives. He was found guilty on each count and was sentenced to death. The report of the Chief Justice reveals that the crimes occurred on three separate occasions over a period of three months. The evidence shows that the native victims were defenceless, and that they were shot in the back by Schmidt while they were running away.
– Who was the judge?
- Mr. Justice Wanliss.
– Are the facts taken from the depositions or from the report of the judge who condemned the men?
– The facts are supplied by the Administrator. I assume that his statements are taken from the report of the judge, which is the course adopted in all cases of this kind, here and elsewhere. At every inquiry which takes place before the death sentence is carried out in Australia, the Executive Council is supplied, for its guidance, with the notes of the trial judge, and his opinion on the matter. This practice has been followed in New Guinea. Although the Administrator has power to decide matters of this kind, he did not, in this instance act solely on his own responsibility; he submitted the matter to the Executive Council, which unanimously concurred in his view that the sentence should be carried out. As was indicated by the honorable member for Griffith, the prisoner was supplied by the Crown with counsel. During the first two days of the trial he was without legal advice; then the Crown obtained the services of counsel for him, the evidence already taken was read over, and witnesses were recalled for re-examination. To all intents and purposes, therefore, from the commencement of the case the accused man had the services of an experienced practitioner in the law courts of the territory. The fees of counsel were paid by the Government. It was also stated that he could not speak English, and an interpreter was provided for him. I cannot understand why that should be necessary because, according to a report published in the Pacific Islands Monthly, of the 19 th March, the prisoner was horn in Vienna, his father being a Bavarian and his mother an Austrian; he spent five years in the United States, five years in Australia, and five years prospecting in New Guinea. Therefore, I am somewhat at a loss to understand how it was that, after having spent fifteen years in English-speaking communities, he was unable to speak English. It, is perhaps well to place before honorable members an independent view of this matter. Here is an extract from a report published in the Pacific Islands Monthly -
The murders were committed in 1934, while Schmidt, Hellinuth, Sehultze, John J. A. King and Groos were on a prospecting trip on one of the tributaries of the Sepik River. They seem to have behaved like wild beasts - especially in their treatment of the natives. They fired at the natives without provocation; and they seized and raped the native women. Stories of these outrages trickled through to Sydney. The New Guinea Administration must be commended for the thoroughness with which it dealt with the matter.
– Whose comment is that?
– It is an independent, and quite unbiased comment.
-How are we to know that?
– If the honorable member can demonstrate that it is biased, I am prepared to listen to him. I merely read the report as an indication of outside opinion on this matter. While the law is as I have stated, there is a right of appeal from the Supreme Court of New Guinea to the High Court of Australia. It is not clear whether the prisoner considered this, or whether he declined to take advantage of the provision. It is needless to say that the Government has no desire to do anything but what is right and proper in a terrible matter of this kind, and every aspect of the case has been considered. The man is an absolute stranger to every member of the Government. There is a duty upon us to do justice to the community, as well as to the prisoner. In order that he should have every chance, the Government has sent a radio message to the Administrator of New Guinea asking whether the Administrator was aware that the prisoner had the right of appeal to the High Court, and whether this knowledge was in the possession of the prisoner and his counsel. The Government is now awaiting a reply to that message. I can add very little to what I have already said regarding the crime itself. I invite honorable members to keep in mind that there is no doubt whatever that an abominable crime was committed by this man against the natives in New Guinea.
– Is there any evidence that the prospectors were attacked by the natives ?
– No, but there is definite evidence that they were approached by the natives in a friendly way, and with only domestic tools in their hands. If they had been hostile they would have been carrying spears, or bows and arrows. They had only stone axes with them of the kind used for ordinary peaceful domestic purposes. The only thing advanced by the defence as a justification for the killing was that the prisoner seemed to think that two of the natives had been following him about. He took one of them by the wrist, turned him round, and said, “You go “; then, as the man went, the prisoner shot him in the back. The evidence is thathe did the same kind of thing to others. No attack was made to justify this deliberate andbrutal murder.
Mr.Forde.- DidSchmidt plead guilty or not guilty?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.From the fact that the trial went on, and lasted a considerable time, I assume that he pleaded not guilty. Three charges were preferred against the prisoner, and on each he was found guilty, and sentenced to death. This territory is not entirely under British rule. It is governed by Australia under a mandate from the League of Nations, and the mandate was given primarily for the protection and government of the natives. Obviously, it would be most unfair for the Government to permit the execution of natives convicted of capital offences - and I have mentioned the numbers that have been executed from time to time - and to commute the death sentence only when a. white man is involved. No step has been taken by an administration, either United Australia party or Labour, to put an end to executions among the blacks.
– No ! No !
– I have no desire to say anything that is not true, but it is a fact that this is the first occasion upon which this matter has been raised in Parliament, although Parliament approved of the ordinances under which natives have, from time to time, been executed. The honorable member for Griffith made no reference to the abolition of capital punishment in so far as it applies to the natives. [Leave to continue given.] The Government recognizes the enormity of the offence this man has committed, and it is fully aware of the heavy responsibility which rests upon the Government in agreeing to his execution. Ibeg honorable members to believe that no member of the Cabinet regards this responsibility lightly. Whatever action is taken will be the result of the fullest possible consideration that the Government is able to give to the matter.
.- Had it not been for the extension of time granted him, the Acting Leader of the Government (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) would not have informed the House that the Government had actually agreed that the execution should proceed.
– I did not say that. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) wishes to misrepresent me. I said that further consideration would be given to the matter on receipt of the answer to the radio message.
– I certainly would be the very last inadvertently or otherwise to mis-state what the Acting Leader of the Government said, but he did use the words that the Government had agreed to the execution.
– I am quite sure that I did not use those words.
– This is an extraordinary situation. I must be suffering from some aberration.
– The Leader of the Opposition may have misheard my statement.
– The position, as I see it, is that although the ordinance agreed to by this Parliament clothes the Administrator of the Mandated Territory with authority to confirm, or otherwise, death sentences passed by a judge after hearing the case, this Government, and also this Parliament, must also accept definite responsibility for what the Administrator may do. If the Administrator confirms the decision of the judge, it must be for reasons of which the Government has cognizance, and which it considers substantial and adequate to justify the taking of life in the circumstances which exist in New Guinea.
Honorable members should very carefully hear in. mind, as the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) has said, that there was no jury to determine the guilt or innocence of this accused person. The decision rested entirely with one mau. - the judge. That fact places on the Parliament an even wider responsibility than would be placed upon a State Parliament in respect of any death sentence passed by a State court where capital punishment is already the law and where the prerogative to commute the sentence is exercised on the advice of the Executive Council, for under the law of the States an accused person is judged guilty or innocent by a jury of twelve which, it should be remembered, must be unanimous. Thus the element of doubt as to the guilt or innocence of a person convicted under a State law of a capital offence is far less than in respect of a person convicted on the judgment of one man, however competent or well trained he might be.
– Is not the Labour party opposed to capital punishment whether on the decision of judge or jil ry ?
– I am dealing with a particular case at the moment. In this case one man was both judge and jury, and found the accused guilty. The Executive Council of New Guinea may have been called into consultation on this case, but the Executive Council of the Commonwealth Government, under the authority of which the ordinance was gazetted, and which is responsible to the people of Australia, has apparently not been consulted, because, even at this late hour, the Government is seeking information in regard to certain features of the trial. This information may have a very important bearing upon the responsibility, not only of the Executive Council of the Mandated Territory, but also of the Executive of the Commonwealth. We desire to know whether this accused person has fully exercised all his rights under the law of the territory, or has inadvertently, or through ignorance, failed to do so. This is a tremendously important factor - so important that the decision as to whether this death sentence shall be carried out at dawn to-morrow, ought to be affected by it. Moreover, the infor- mahon ought to be secured in such a. manner as to leave no possible doubt as to its accuracy.
– That is being done.
– In the circumstances,, it cannot possibly be done. Counsel who advised this German may not be within miles of the prison when this radio communication is received. Possibly the message will be in code, and mistakesmay be made in decoding it. We do not know what errors may occur in the transmission of the message, and the decoding of it. We do not even know whether the interpreter, who will be available thi3 afternoon in New Guinea to convey to and receive information from this convicted and condemned German, can speak English sufficiently well to make the true situation absolutely plain to him. In addition, we have to consider the state of mind of this man this afternoon. He may not be in a fit condition to do himself justice in respect of any answer that he may give. It may be that all the circumstances associated with this trial and the information that may ultimately come to hand will be of such a nature as to satisfy the House completely that everything has been done properly; but at present we have no adequate guarantees that the law relating to the trial of a person charged with a capital offence, the rights of the condemned person, and the obligations of governments has been fully observed. We do not know what extenuating circumstances, if any, there may have been in connexion with this crime, for apparently action to obtain the necessary information is being taken by the Government only on the day before the execution is to be carried out. Unquestionably, the Cabinet must find difficulty in satisfying itself on the matter, owing to the lack of data.
I do not know a great deal about the case, but it appears that some abominable crimes have been practised, and that three men were accused of them. I understand that two of the men involved turned King’s evidence against the third man.
Honorable Members. - No !
– At any rate, the other accused gave evidence in the case. The other evidence submitted in respect of the third man was, I understand, given by natives, only some of whom could speak pidgin English. Some of these natives were partly civilized, but others may not have been. In any event, we can appreciate the liability to error in making one man a scapegoat in respect of offences committed ;by three men in company. Is it not conceivable that the natives may have mistaken Schmidt for one of the other men ? Is it not possible, in the circumstances, that to-morrow a man may be hanged who was the least involved of the three concerned, and that, in endorsing the sentence of death on the one man, we may actually allow two other mcn who may have taken a major part in the infamy to escape? I cannot, answer these questions at the moment, but I feel that neither the Parliament nor the Government should shelter itself behind (he technicalities of the law, and so attempt to justify the carrying out of this death sentence. It is true that ordinances respecting the Mandated Territory are gazetted and have to be submitted to Parliament in proper form, but it is extremely difficult for honorable members of the Parliament, having regard to the time and opportunity at their disposal, to consider the ordinances in detail. Many ordinances and regulations are gazetted and actually agreed to by the Parliament without that consideration which should be given to them, for ordinances and regulations are gazetted without explanation, and many of them are quite unintelligible to members of Parliament or the general public, without Some explanation. I fear that the Government did not give consideration to the case under notice until to-day, and that all the facts are not known to it. I entertain grave doubts as to whether this man may not ,be carrying the entire burden for an offence in which two others shared. He may be made the scapegoat in order to satisfy the law, and it is not right that one man should be victimized in this way. That is not justice.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The debate on this motion has wandered over a wide field, but, as my honorable colleague, the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Parkhill) has already pointed out, the issue is not whether, as a matter of policy, capital punishment should or should not be abolished. We may dismiss it, therefore, with thi3 passing comment : that, whatever may be said for or against capital punishment, although, as my honorable colleague has also pointed out, this is the first time that the question has been raised in this Parliament, very many natives have been executed in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea under the provisions of the ordinance from which the authority which the Administrator of New Guinea has exercised in this case is derived.
– Without the knowledge of honorable members!
– It may be that honorable members did not have the know-ledge of any particular execution before it took place, but they cannot say that they do not know that, under this ordinance, very many executions have taken place. But on these they have hitherto remained silent. Now, belatedly, they have raised the question of capital punishment, declaring that wre as a Government cannot rid ourselves of the full responsibility for what has been done or may be done by the Administrator. I deny that entirely. Our responsibility is no greater in this case than in the case of any other human being in New Guinea who has been sentenced to death. This Parliament has no jurisdiction in the matter. The Governor-General has power of pardon in cases of offences against the laws of the Commonwealth, but none in this matter, as after the full examination of the question, this Parliament transferred to the Administrator of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea the power to deal with all offences committed in the territory. The High Court’s decision in the case Rex v. Ber.nisconi clearly sets out that offences against the laws of New Guinea are not offences against the laws of the Commonwealth.
It has been stated that one reason why we should exercise very great care in examining this question is that the case was not. heard before a jury, but every native who has been executed in the territory has been sentenced in similar circumstances. Cases in the territory are not heard before a jury. Honorable members opposite must have known that before to-day. The Government, however, has approached this question, insofar as it has discussed it, with a full realization of its very grave responsibilities, but it cannot accept the responsibilities which do not properly belong to it.
– Why has the Government discussed it at all ?
– The Administrator, in the normal course of his duties, informed the Minister of the court’s decision and the steps proposed to be taken. The Government has considered the Administrator’s report, which sets out the facts relating to the offence and to the trial of the prisoner, and has been advised on the legal position. It is satisfied that there is no ‘reason why it should interfere with the course of justice. The Commonwealth’s responsibility is grave, indeed, but it is not as stated to-day by the honorable members who support this motion. Schmidt has committed a grave offence against the laws of the territory. He has been tried, convicted and sentenced under those laws. The prerogative of pardon is vested in the Administrator. He has not exercised it. There is another point which needs special emphasis. New Guinea and the islands nearby are held under mandate, and we are the guardians of the natives. It has been suggested, by implication at all events, that the natives may be shot by white men and that their killers should be allowed to go free.
Opposition Members. - Oh, no !
– That is a deliberate untruth.
– Order ! The honorable member for Griffith will withdraw that remark. The honorable member knows that he is not in order in declaring that another honorable member is not speaking the truth.
– I withdraw the remark.
– Schmidt’s trial and sentence were the results of a coldblooded, deliberate and cowardly murder.
– A cold-blooded, cowardly and premeditated murder will take place to-morrow.
– This man shot these natives in the back. Do honorable members seek to justify that?
It has been said that Schmidt was denied justice or a fair trial because he speaks no English, but what of the unfortunate natives who were shot? He told them to go : they went, yet he shot them in the back. Could they speak, English, or German, which presumably the accused speaks? No reason exists for interference by this Parliament. The Government has no jurisdiction. Schmidt has the right of appeal to the High Court of Australia, but he has not exercised that right, and the Administrator has informed the Government that he does not desire to appeal. It is clear, therefore, that his case has been tried on its merits. The sentence of death, so long as death is recognized under the law as the appropriate punishment for wilful murder, ought to be carried out. No other sentence than death Ca. satisfy the natives of New Guinea that they are getting a fair deal. If a native murders a white man and is’ hanged, it is just that similar punishment should be inflicted on the white mau who murders a native.
.- The points which mainly concern the Opposition are two: first, this is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that the Commonwealth Government has been called upon to confirm a death sentence on a white citizen - that, of itself, is most important - secondly that the Labour party throughout Australia is totally opposed to capital punishment. Those are the only two reasons which have prompted the Opposition to move this motion to-day.
The House has listened to the remarkable defence of the Government by two responsible Ministers. First, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) in a laboured speech set out to prove that the Commonwealth Parliament has no jurisdiction in this matter, whereas the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) admitted that Cabinet had already considered the subject, although it had not yet arrived at a decision in regard to it. If the Commonwealth Parliament has no jurisdiction in this matter, why has Cabinet met to decide this man’s fate? The Minister for Repatriation says that because the condemned man has not appealed against the sentence it is clear that he himself knows that he is guilty and expects to be hanged, but the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) has already shown that it is questionable whether or not he has a right of appeal to any Commonwealth court. It may not be the fact that Schmidt knows that he i3 guilty and deserves to be punished that prevents him from appealing; it is the absence from the regulations of a provision for an appeal to any court of competent jurisdiction in Australia.
A most important viewpoint which must not be overlooked in our consideration of this motion is that Schmidt, contrary to Australian conception of justice, was tried by a judge who sat without a jury. One man has decided his fate, and that on the uncorroborated and unreliable evidence of half civilized natives. In order to holster up the Government’s case the Minister for Defence read from a document, and had he not been questioned regarding it he would have made it appear that it was an official document.
– That is not so. I told the House from what document I was quoting.
– The Minister did not divulge the source of the quotation until he was challenged.
– I did so before I quoted from it.
– It appears that it was a quotation from a lurid journalistic write up, or from some sort of novelette or trade journal. The Minister might just as well have quoted from a story by Charles Garvice
It has been argued that because the Opposition is opposed to capital punishment in this case in which a white man is concerned, it must necessarily favour capital punishment when natives are guilty of similar offences. I emphatically deny that that is so. “While the Labour party was in power in the Commonwealth, no native or white man was executed in any territory under its control. That should be a sufficient rejoinder to the contention of the Minister for Repatriation that the Opposition is concerned in this case only because a white man’s life is at stake. We, on this side, do not condone the taking of human life, whether it be the life of a white man or of a black man; nor do we endorse the action of the National Government in a spirit of vengeance and in a calm and deliberate manner deciding that at a certain hour on an appointed day a human life shall be taken. It is none the less murder even if it is legalized. There are some who advocate the old Mosaic law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but in the absence of evidence to show which of three men was the actual murderer, what man, or body of men, subject to human frailties, has the right to say who shall take the eye and who shall take the tooth? Others believe in the reformative aspect of a period of detention with opportunities for repentance. If religious and spiritual factors are to _ be taken into account in our legislation and in our administration they certainly should be given consideration in instances of this kind. The Minister for Repatriation said that the public was demanding vengeance. I suggest that the public is not so greatly concerned with the vindication of justice as it is with the lurid details of executions provided by the press.
I entirely agree with the Minister for Defence that, the fate of a convicted murderer should not depend on the nature of the government which might be in power ; but surely that is a weak defence for the Minister to advance in support of the Government’s attitude. Under the present administration, Schmidt is likely to pay the extreme penalty provided by the law, but if a Labour government were in power he certainly would not be hanged.
– Irrespective of the crime he had committed ?
– It is clear that there are thus two penalties for the same class of crime. If the penalties imposed by the law are to act as a deterrent, the public should know that they will be enforced irrespective of the government in office.
It may be that there were extenuating circumstances associated with the alleged shooting of the natives by Schmidt. It is all very well for the Minister to say that the natives were shot in the back when they were running away. Possibly that is so ; but it may be that their plan of attack was discovered, and while retreating they had in their minds other ways of dealing with the white men, who had therefore good reason to fear further attacks. We do not know the extent of Schmidt’s culpability. All we know is that it is alleged that three white men were implicated in a certain crime; but whether Schmidt, or one, or both, of his accomplices, actually committed the murder, has not been made clear. The Labour party in Australia is not alone in its opposition to capital punishment. Switzerland abolished capital punishment in 1874; Roumania in 1864; Portugal in 1867; Norway in 1905; Italy in 188S; Holland in 18S6; Finland in 1824; Belgium in 1863, and Queensland in 1922. In 1800 as many as 200 crimes were punishable by death in England. A person who stole anything of a value more than ls. was in danger of suffering the extreme penalty of the law. Probably no other country has seen as many executions as has Great Britain, yet 100 years ago the British Government concluded that the death penalty was not a deterrent to crime. There are now only four crimes punishable by death in that country, but even so, the fact that there may be extenuating circumstances associated with the crime, nearly always robs the gallows of its prey. It is a remarkable commentary on the state of mind of the Government that it should practically give its sanction to the killing of this man because it is alleged that he killed three natives, when only a few months ago it asked this House to carry a resolution of condolence at the death of one of the greatest mass murderers the world has known, Dr. Dolfuss, the late Austrian Chancellor who murdered hundreds of men because they were socialists.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I remind honorable members that under the terms of the “ C “ mandate, under which the Commonwealth Government administers the mandated territory of New Guinea, it is charged with the responsibility of preserving the welfare and care of the natives, and protecting them against exploitation, and worse, by whites. Here we have a relatively uncivilized country whose people still live largely under conditions of the stone age, in which white and black men are in actual contact. The punishment for wilful murder, both under the natives’ unwritten law and under the white man’s written law, is death. That penalty has been carried out in many instances. Last year nine natives, I think, were executed for the murder of whites or other natives, and in the preceding year, twelve natives were executed for murder.
– It is a shameful record !
– I wonder if honorable members recall the case of the young and promising son of the mayor of Geelong, who, as a district officer in New Guinea, was callously murdered by natives less than twelve months ago. Do honorable members opposite recollect that the lives of many district officers - and in many instances those of their wives - who are working on the edge of civilization, are under definite threat if justice is not done in this case? Much has been said of humanitarianism by honorable members opposite on behalf of Schmidt who has been proved guilty of the most callous series of murders possible - the murder of unarmed natives by shooting in the back as they were running away. Do honorable members put themselves in the position of district officers working under conditions as they exist in New Guinea where they are relatively defenceless and surrounded by thousands of natives who might quite well - and certainly will - take their toll of the lives of our white district officers, if the law does not take its course in this case? The records of executions of natives for murder and rape, and the like, have been set down month by month in black and white in the gazettes of the territories, together with the depositions of medical officers who saw these natives hanged. These records have been made available to every honorable member in this House, yet not one single honorable member opposite has raised a finger to protest against these executions of natives,
– We have never seen them.
– They have been placed on record.
– Where ?
– In the Library. The right of this man Schmidt to appeal is clearly laid down in the Judiciary Ordinance of New Guinea, section 24, clause 1, of which reads -
The Full Court of the High Count of Australia, consisting of at least two Judges, -may grant leave ‘to appeal to the High Court of Australia from any conviction, sentence, judgment, decree or order of the Supreme Court.
Thus, Schmidt has the right of appeal. As the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) has told honorable members, a radiogram was sent this morning by the Government to the Administrator of the Territory of New Guinea, to make sure that Schmidt and his counsel were aware that Schmidt had the right of appeal. The Administrator’s reply was as follows : -
I have a written statement from Schmidt’s counsel that both he and Schmidt discussed this question of appeal after Schmidt’s trial was completed and again to-day when Furter a local German national, was present. Schmidt does not desire to appeal. ( S Signed ed ) Mcnicoll,
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) suggested that the other two white men concerned in this trial were accomplices of Schmidt. In reply to that suggestion I direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that these two men were convicted on charges other than murder, one of grevious assault, and the other of abduction with intent. There was no suggestion, according to the records on the file, that either of these two men had anything to do with the murders. Schmidt was the man charged with the murders. He was convicted, and the official papers show that his crime was the most brutal and most callous murder of defenceless natives. My last appeal to honorable members is on behalf of white district officers in New
Guinea who shall live under constant threat if justice is not to be meted out in this instance.
– I feel that, in justice to the Government and the party which I- led some years ago, I should clear up the position in respect of statements made by the Acting Leader of the House, the honorable the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) to the effect that we were concerned only with reprieve for a white man and that, as a party or a Government, we took no steps to save the lives of natives who were under sentence of execution. I am surprised that the Minister, knowing the facts, should have made such a statement. The facts are that the first case of a proposed execution of a native which came to the knowledge of my Government happened some months after we took office. Details of it were radioed by Sir Hubert Murray, in which he stated that a native had been sentenced to death and that execution would take place in a few days. Immediately, I radioed to Sir Hubert Murray to hold his hand, and consulted the Cabinet, after which, I sent forward the view of my Government, that it was opposed to any execution. No execution took place. Subsequently, we sent out a general request to the administrators of both territories, that the Government required to be advised of any future proposed executions. We were so advised and in every case in which we received advice, no execution took place. There was no execution after this general request was sent out by my Government, and that request stood until my Government went out of office. Those are the facts.
– The right honorable member’s Government did not amend the ordinance.
– No, because any amendment could be disallowed in another place. But we did the most effective thing in our power. We took administrative action and we prevented every execution of which we were informed after the first proposed execution came to our notice. Therefore, it is not true to say that we took no steps to save the life of a native. No member of my party would agree that there should he one law for the native and another law for the white man. Every action taken by my Government in this respect was taken to save the lives of natives, and we took such action because of the principles and convictions we held both as a party, and as a Government, in opposition to capital punishment. lam not asking all honorable members to agree with the Labour party’s opposition to capital punishment. I believe - and in saying this I feel I echo the views of my party - that as no man has the power to create a human life he should not destroy it; the power to create life rests with the Almighty. We are opposed to capital punishment. I am not trying to ram this view down the throats of any honorable member, but I resent the suggestion that my Government took no steps to save the life of a black man who was under sentence of execution. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) very rightly referred to our obligations and responsibilities under the mandate under which we govern the Territory of New Guinea. I believe we shall carry out that mandate more effectively by the abolition of capital punishment. A deputation waited upon me from one of the territories to discuss the case of two natives who had been sentenced to death on murder charges, and, knowing that we were opposed to the imposition of the death penalty, the Administrator sent two officers to interview me, and to put forward the arguments in favour of execution. They pointed out that, under the native code, when one member of a tribe Was killed, the tribal law demanded the death of another member of the tribe, whether the murderer or not, in order to satisfy the tribal sense of justice, and to prevent further deaths. I countered that argument by pointing out that it rested with the Administration to set an example, not of a life for a life, but of punishment to prevent future trouble. I did not argue that a convicted person should be allowed to go scot-free, as the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) suggested this afternoon, but that he should be sentenced to imprisonment for life, and thus be prevented from repeating his offence. This, I believe, is the best way to teach respect, on the part of the natives, for human life. Those were the convictions upon which my Government acted. It has been said that we were negligent with respect to other cases, by failing to look up the reports. I confess that we did not know of numerous other executions - the news came as a shock to me - so whilst we may not have been as diligent as we might have been, at least we could not be charged with the guilt, of allowing natives to be executed with our authority, consent or knowledge.
.- The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), in moving the adjournment of the House this afternoon to discuss the proposed execution of Ludwig Schmidt, has .raised a matter of great public importance. The question of criminal punishment is one which all too rarely comes before the legislature for consideration. This afternoon the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes), speaking from his long experience, has told us that he has no recollection of the subject of capital punishment ever having been discussed in this Parliament before; so, if the honorable member for Griffith has done nothing else, he has provided this House with an opportunity to discuss this highly important and contentious public issue. I consider that it is quite impossible, futile and mischievous, for Parliament to investigate the evidence in this particular case. As we have not the facts before us, it is impossible for us to deal with the question on its merits, and, in the circumstances, we are utterly dependent, as we have been in the past, as regards the actual decision, upon the trial judge. Today, there has been no suggestion from honorable members opposite of questioning the decision of the judge, although there has been a move for a stay of the sentence which he ordered.
It is a matter for regret that the question of capital punishment, raised by the honorable member for Griffith, has been somewhat obscured as the debate has proceeded by a discussion of the facts of this particular case, and that the debate itself has developed somewhat along party lines. It shall be my endeavour to approach it from another angle, which may be somewhat legalistic, but which has, I consider, an important bearing as far as the community is concerned. It is a well known and accepted maxim in criminal law that certainty of punishment is far more important than severity of punishment. As regards criminal punishment, we are some generations behind the generally accepted thought in other countries on this matter. The honorable member for Griffith has quoted from the report of a British parliamentary select committee which inquired into this subject in 1930. I would remind the House that, as early as 1S66 a royal commission in Great Britain, recognizing that all murders did not come within the same category, recommended that there should be a grading of varying degrees or classes of murder, and within the ensuing fifteen or twenty years numerous bills for this purpose were introduced into the House of Commons, and sometimes in the House of Lords, but as a result of varying political fortunes they were not passed. Very little progress was made from 1SS2 until the appointment of the select committee of 1930.
The point I wish to make is that at the present time there is no certainty in the law as regards capital cases. There is a strong body of opinion that capital punishment should be abolished. This division of feeling is highly undesirable from the point of view of the general community. Difficulties arise under the jury system. Whenever a jury is summoned to try a murder charge, not infrequently there will be found among the jurors men who are supporters of the Labour party, and as one plank of the Labour programme is the abolition of capital punishment, it would he asking too much to expect these men to disregard all political and party bias when capital cases come before them. Any one having the slightest acquaintance with the actual working of the law knows that time after time juries are not only reluctant to convict a person on a capital charge, but sometimes decline to convict in cases where, on the facts, one would consider a conviction was certain to be registered. And this, I repeat, is an undesirable state of affairs from the point of the community generally. The Government should consider, unless the consequences to the contrary are so serious, the desirability of accepting a view which is so widely held by a large section of the community. On this point I refer the House to the following summary of its findings given out by the parliamentary committee of the British House of Commons : -
Our prolonged examination of the situation in foreign countries has increasingly confirmed us in the assurance that capital punishment may be abolished in this country without endangering life or property or impairing the security of society. Further, we have the repeated assurances of the Home Office itself that abolition of the death penalty will not bring with it any serious or insoluble problem of administration.
That was the considered finding of a very representative parliamentary committee, after a most exhaustive examination of the subject, and after taking evidence from the most prominent English legal authorities. The published report covers more than 680 pages. The House ha3 already had the actual recommendations of that body placed before it, so I do not propose to elaborate on its findings at any great length. Honorable members have also been informed of the countries in which capital punishment has been abolished, and I could refer to many others where it has been in abeyance for several years. No evidence has been brought forward, or I submit could be brought forward, which would show a greater incidence of homicide in those countries than in other countries where capital punishment has not been abolished. Honorable members will note that I am not directing my remarks to the present particular case in New Guinea.
– It it only right that I should direct attention to the fact that the motion is for the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the execution of Ludwig Schmidt fixed for to-morrow. The last remark of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) caused me to think that he has overlooked the precise terms of the motion. Whether or not capital punishment is justifiable or desirable is not the subject before the House, and any references to that question must be connected with the definite matter referred to in the terms of the motion.
– As other honorable members have dealt in general terms with tha motion, I considered I should also be in order in making some general observations. The Treasurer very properly pointed out that conditions in New Guinea are not necessarily comparable with conditions in Australia, and that where society is living under more lawless conditions different factors have to be taken into consideration. But the whole question of criminal punishment is ripe for reform. “We had an illustration in Sydney only a week ago of a judge pronouncing sentence of death on six youths, and then announcing that there was not the slightest chance of that sentence being carried out.
– The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the motion.
– There is much evidence - far more than I have time to place before the House to-day - that the present uncertainty is causing a sense of insecurity, and that the reluctance of juries to convict where sentence of capital punishment would follow is bringing the law into contempt. I urge that this matter bo taken up by the Attorney-General with a view to seeing whether we cannot bring our ideas more into line with twentieth century principles instead of acting on practices established centuries ago. If this is the first time that this subject has been discussed in the Commonwealth Parliament, such a discussion is overdue, and the Attorney-General, or his representative, would be doing a public service to take the matter up at this stage for a thorough examination.
.- The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), who moved this motion, divided his speech into two parts, one dealing with the ethical question of capital punishment, and the other with its application to this particular case. Many speakers from the Opposition side of the House made it clear that, in their opinion, the principle adopted by the Labour party, that capital punishment should in no circumstances be enforced, should apply in New Guinea equally as in Australia. I remind them, however, that whereas in Australia every one is supposed to know the general principles of the law in such matters, only a very small percentage of people in New Guinea know the white man’s law, or are, indeed, in any degree under the white man’s control. Of the area of the territory, 93,000 square miles, less than 25 per cent, is under control. We must remember that the whites are so greatly outnumbered iu New Guinea, there being roughly 100 natives to each white, that any action likely to upset the natives’ confidence in the impartial administration of the law might have the most serious repercussions. I do not propose to deal at any length with the sickly and maudlin sentimentality which induces some people to bestow all their sympathy upon a murderer under sentence of death, while bestowing none at all upon the murderer’s victims. For my part, I should much prefer to see that sympathy extended to the dependants of the victims than to the murderers. Therefore, I propose to discuss this matter in a manner as coldblooded as possible, in fact as cold-blooded as the manner in which this inhuman monster committed his crimes. We must remember that a great extent of the Sepik River country is not under control, and more particularly does this apply to the areas adjoining the river itself. Prospectors going to this country are required to obtain permission to do so, but I do not know whether Schmidt and his party obtained that permission or not. The natives in New Guinea have at all times treated the white man with a certain amount of respect, but it is well known that primitive people have long memories, and for generations, sometimes, will nurse the recollection of injury done to their tribe. If these natives, who incidentally pay head tax, learn that Schmidt is to escape the punishment prescribed by law for his crime they are likely to seek vengeance against those white men with whom they come in contact. They will not be content with taking one life, but may seek to kill every white man they encounter. The honorable member for Griffith said that the hanging of Schmidt would not act as a deterrent to others. At any rate, it will prevent Schmidt from committing any more murders, and it will also deter the natives from attempting reprisals against the whites who are in such a hopeless minority. If this man is hanged to-morrow, as I sincerely hope he will be, it will satisfy
The natives’ sense of justice, and will strengthen the authority of the Government. If his sentence is commuted to imprisonment, he will probably serve the sentence in Queensland or in New South Wales, and I, as a taxpayer in New South Wales, object strenuously to paying one penny towards his maintenance. The abolition of capital punishment may be justifiable in Australia - I express no opinion on that - but to let this man off in a stone-age country like New Guinea, where his execution is expected by all the natives, will be to strike a blow at Government authority, the effect of which it is difficult fully to realize.
.- The discussion of the abstract question of capital punishment is rather out of place at- this moment. We are considering the particular case of this German, Schmidt, who has been sentenced to death for the commission of three murders. The Labour party may be consistent in its advocacy of the principle that capital punishment should not be inflicted, but it should also endorse the principle that the law of the land must be upheld. The law, as it stands, embodies the provision of capital punishment, and it is the duty of any government, irrespective of its private opinion, to carry out the law. The abolition of capital punishment would he a doubtful step in a territory like New Guinea. Generally speaking, native people are much more likely to be deterred from crime by the prospect of punishment by death than by any other form of punishment. Most of them, indeed, rather enjoy a period of imprisonment, so that the abolition of capital punishment might create a dangerous situation for white residents. The only question with which we are now concerned is whether the prisoner in this case has received a fair trial according to the standard which we require under British law. He was not tried by a jury, it is true, but incidentally, had he been tried in a German or Austrian court, he would not have been tried by a jury either. Trial by jury is a system mainly confined to English-speaking countries. Of course, from one point of view, it might be said that this man, being in a territory under a mandate to a British community, should be given the benefit of trial by jury, but it must be. remembered that there are difficulties in the way of trial by jury in New Guinea. It is felt that such a system would be particularly prejudicial against natives charged with offences against white men. The only question is whether, since he was not tried by a jury, his case received the same consideration as it would have received had he been tried in Australia. I do not attach much importance to the suggestion that anappeal to the High Court should be permitted in this case. Such an appeal could only be for the purpose of determining whether the law had been correctly carried out, or whether there had been a misdirection in regard to it. In Australia, we provide for a review by the Executive, over and above appeals to the High ‘Court. We need to be assured that this review has occurred in the case of the accused, and, seeing that it has, nothing further can properly be done. We are told that the trial was conducted by a district judge, that the decision was reviewed by the Chief Judge of New Guinea, and that a further review of the case was made by the Executive Council of New Guinea. It would have been more satisfactory if the Commonwealth Cabinet had had before it the notes of the evidence given at the trial. We know that bush trials are very rough, and often begin with the decisions practically determined beforehand. Personally, I should have been much more satisfied if I had read the notes of the evidence, and, particularly, had known that proper notes were taken. I understand that the Government had not the notes before it.
– But notes were taken.
– What the Cabinet in Canberra had before it were the reports of the Chief Judge and of the Administrator upon the notes of evidence. All that has to be determined, then, is which executive council is the proper body to exercise a review of capital cases in the territory of New Guinea. Should the Commonwealth Cabinet exercise that review in all cases, or should it be carried out, except in exceptional circumstances, by the Executive Council of the territory of New Guinea? It seems to me that it would be too much to expect the Commonwealth Government to accept the duty of examining every case in which a person residing in a territory such as New Guinea i3 convicted of a capital offence. I should say that the League of Nations does not expect the Commonwealth to do that under its mandate. We provide the machinery required to give adequate protection to the inhabitants. There are a district judge and a chief judge; reviews of penalties are made by the Executive Council of New Guinea, and effect is given to its decisions by the Administrator, who is appointed by the Commonwealth authorities.
The Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) stated the position correctly when he said that the Government, although it would call for a report in every case in which capital punishment was imposed, would act only in exceptional cases. It would be too much to expect the Cabinet to make a minute examination in every instance. We might as well ask it to make investigations with regard to cases in which capital punishment is inflicted by the State authorities. In the case under review, it would be extremely dangerous if the Commonwealth Government, without special reasons, interfered in the case of a white man who has been convicted of a capital offence. Judging by the reports before us, there is no special reason why the law should not take its course. If the Administrator and the Chief Judge are to be trusted, and if the notes of the evidence are reliable, this is clearly a case of brutal murder, which, if it occurred in Australia, would bring the perpetrator to the gallows. In New Guinea, apart from the period when a Labour Government was in office recently, many natives have been sent to the gallows for murdering white men ; but this is the first occasion on which a white man has been charged with, and convicted of, a similar offence. If this accused man were treated differently from natives who have been convicted, doubt would be raised in the native mind as to the impartiality of British justice.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This matter has been brought under the notice of honorable members, so that the House may discuss, not the case of Schmidt, but the value of capital punishment. Schmidt has been sentenced to death for an offence committed in an uncivilized area, and upon evidence given by ten savages, according to the case presented by Ministers and their supporters. Capital punishment is advocated by honorable members opposite on the ground that the aborigines of New Guinea should be taught what is required under British law. A Minister has admitted that when a native kills a native of another tribe, it is necessary to hang him publicly in order to appease the members of that tribe. I ask the Minister if Schmidt is to be hanged publicly in the presence of natives of New Guinea, to show that that law is impartially observed. One of the strongest arguments in favour of the abolition of capita: punishment is that it may result in taking the life of an innocent person. A few years ago a brutal murder was committed in Victoria, and a lad at Wagga, who at one time had escaped from an asylum, was arrested and charged with the crime. Press reports and police statements were made with regard to this lad, and practically 90 per cent, of the people were convinced that the police had arrested the murderer of Mena Griffiths.
Motion (by Mr. Clark) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Question so resolved in thenegative.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules1936, No. 30.
Defence Act -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules1936, Nos. 32, 33, 34.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1935 -
No. 22 - Registration of Births, Deaths, andMarriages.
No. 23 -Marriage.
No. 24 -Laws Repeal and Adopting (No. 2).
No. 25 - Appropriation (No. 2) 1934-35.
No. 26 - Appropriation 1935-36.
No. 27 - Police Offences (No. 2).
No. 28 -Public Service.
No. 29 - Electric Light and Power.
No- 30 - Immigration.
No. 31 - Stamp Duties.
No. 32 - Customs Tariff.
No. 33 - Church of England (New Guinea) Property.
No. 34 - Superannuation (No. 2).
No. 35 -Judiciary.
No. 36 - Treasury.
No. 37 - Currency Coinage and Tokens (No. 2).
No. 38 - Legal Practitioners.
No. 39 -Natives’ Contracts Protection.
No. 40- Mining (No. 2).
No. 42 - Expulsion of Undesirables.
No. 43 - Land (No. 2).
No. 44 - Sea Carriage of Goods.
No. 45 - Cemeteries.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Canberra University College Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Transport Workers Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 35.
Customs Tariff Amendments Nos. 3 and 4
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 20th March (vide page 446) on motion by Mr. White (vide page 2044, volume 147)-
That the schedule to the Customs Tariffs 1933-
And on further motion by Mr. White (vide page 441) -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariffs 1933 …. be further amended as hereunder set out . . .
Division 2 - Tobacco and Manufactures Thereof
By omitting the whole of sub-item (a) and inserting in its stead the following subitem : - “(a) Tobacco, unmanufactured, entered to be locally manufactured into tobacco other than fine cut tobacco suitable for the manufacture of cigarettes - to be paid at the time of removal to the factory. -
Upon which Mr. Forde had moved by way of amendment -
That the item be postponed, “ as an indication to the Government that honorable members desire the duty to be increased by at least (id. per lb., in order to give additional protection to the Australian tobacco-growers “.
. No arguments have been advanced by previous speakers to convert me from the attitude which I adopted in 1932, when the Lyons Government reduced the duty on tobacco from 5s. 2d. to 3s. per lb. At that time I had some doubt as to the wisdom of such a drastic reduction, although I had no doubt as to which would be the more appropriate duty. I would have preferred a gradual reduction of the Scullin duty; hut as a result of the guarantees to the growers given by the Lyons Government and the assurance that there would be no interference with the Australian industry, the industry is now established on a much more solid basis than it was under the former duties. I congratulate the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) upon his attitude in, connexion with this item. The honorable member might very easily have pandered to his electors, but refused to do so. I congratulate also the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) for his stand. Other honorable members might well emulate their example. There have been marked alterations of the duties on tobacco, but none has been more drastic and caused more upset in the industry than the high duty imposed by the Scullin Government in 1931. At that time primary industries generally throughout Australia were suffering severely. Tet, as has been admitted during this discussion, the tobacco industry was then being conducted very profitably. Its soundness was evidenced by the fact that storekeepers were willing to advance considerable credit to the growers; obviously quite a lot of money could be made out of the cultivation of tobacco. The industry certainly provided a lot of employment, but at what cost! Because of the smaller quantity of tobacco imported into Australia, due to the expansion of an uneconomic industry, the loss of revenue was very great. With the increase of land values many farmers abandoned dairying for tobacco-growing ; encouraged by the high duties, hundreds of people rushed into the industry and endeavoured to grow tobacco on unsuitable land and produced leaf of such inferior quality that it was not acceptable to the manufacturers. Yet the increased production of tobacco which resulted from the impetus given by high duties is advanced as a reason for the proposal now before the committee to increase the duties. In 1929 there were 668 tobacco-growers in Australia; by 1931 the number had increased to 2,990, arid by 1932, when the full effect of the high duties had been felt, it had risen to 5,127. Tobacco-growing and curing is a special- ized industry, but these figures show that almost immediately after the high duty was announced, at least 4,000 persons were attracted to a form of production of which they had little or no knowledge. It is little wonder that such poor tobacco was grown and such large quantities were left on the growers’ hands. When the Lyons Government took office the duty was reduced from 5s. 2d. to 3s. per lb. As the crops had been sown under the high duty certain guarantees were given to the growers that they would receive a good price for their product; but so much poor quality tobacco was grown that an enormous quantity of leaf unsuitable for the production of high class tobacco, had to be bought. A large quantity of that tobacco is still on hand, and, at the present time, only the best Australian leaf brings a reasonably good price. I consider that the industry was placed on a better basis when the duty was reduced. The raising of the duty now, as some honorable members suggest, would only result in another upset in the industry. As a matter of fact, the Government has raised the duty from 3s. to 3s. 6d. per lb. since 1932, but any further increase will certainly cause further trouble in the industry. Let us consider the reasons put forward in favour of a higher duty. The honorable members for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and Hume (Mr. Collins) both stressed the case in which a company was buying tobacco and making the growers pay the excise. Honorable members know very well that the excise is a charge imposed on the manufactured goods. People are always attracted by the lure of high profits, and the growers who sold their leaf to the company in question are in the position of people taken down by confidence men ; like the buyers of “ gold bricks “, they were looking for something for nothing. Another argument advanced in favour of a high duty, is that it would encourage the Australian industry. I am second to none in my advocacy of such a policy, but to be worthy of encouragement an industry must be economic. One honorable member who advanced the plea that we should encourage the Australian tobacco industry is, upon other occasions, very much i« favour «f “educing customs duties imposed to enable us to import articles which, come into competition with established Australian industries. The factor of employment has also been introduced into this discussion, but increased employment in uneconomic industries is of no value to Australia. A very poor argument advanced in favour of a high duty is that, as we buy most of our unmanufactured tobacco from the United States of America, we should not continue to send sums of money to that country, which .buys little from us in return, if it were possible to obtain suitable tobacco from other countries, we should certainly trade with them in preference to importing the product of a country that will not trade with us; but we are unable to procure tobacco from other countries.
– We could obtain it from Rhodesia.
– Smokers would not have any more liking for Rhodesian tobacco than for the all-Australian product. We have to continue to import Virginian tobacco, to which our smokers have been accustomed for many years, and gradually encourage the taste for Australian leaf by mixing it with the imported leaf. It is very difficult to change the taste of smokers. There are various reasons why the duty should remain as at present. In the first place, the revenue must be protected; the Government does not deny that. The raising of the duty would discourage imports and result in a considerable diminution of the revenue. Secondly, we have to maintain the consumption of tobacco, if the Australian industry is to prosper. If locally-grown tobacco is substituted for imported leaf, smoking will decline, and the industry will not do so well as it would if we continued to import a certain amount of American tobacco and blended it with Australian leaf. The rights of the consumers must also be considered. If the duty were increased by 6d. per lb., growers would benefit probably to the amount of £107,000, but the additional cost to smokers would be about £425,000. I think there can be no doubt that a reduction of the duty would reduce the consumption of tobacco. Though we have been growing tobacco in Australia for 60 or 70 years, the industry has made very little progress, not because of the low duty on imported tobacco, but because the Australian leaf was grown and cured unscientifically, and was not fit for the average person to smoke. At present 60 to 70 blends of tobacco are sold on the Australian market; those consist of purely Australian leaf, purely imported leaf, and. in between, blends of the two in various proportions. Tobacco manufactured wholly from imported leaf, or containing a high percentage of imported leaf, finds the readiest sale; conversely, tobacco manufactured solely from Australian leaf, or containing it in large proportions, has the smallest sale. The use of a reasonable quantity of imported leaf should ensure a steady consumption of tobacco in Australia. If the importation of American leaf were reduced substantially the consumption of tobacco in Australia would diminish considerably. When the duty was reduced to 3s. per lb. it was confidently stated by some honorable members that only small quantities of Australian tobacco would be used, and that the quantity of imported leaf would increase enormously; but, notwithstanding the reduction, importations of American tobacco fell off considerably and the consumption of Australian leaf increased. The present duty of 3s. per lb. on imported leaf gives a protection of 220 per cent. The cost of American tobacco, exclusive of duty, is about ls. per lb., but that of Australian tobacco is considerably more. From what we have been told and from information gained from various sources, the conditions under which tobacco is grown in the United States of America and in Australia are comparable. Probably the cost of production in Australia is slightly higher, but coloured labour is not used extensively in the industry in America. If Australian growers cannot produce tobacco profitably with a protection of over 200 per cent., steps should be taken to place the industry on a sound economic basis by more extensive investigation than is made at present. I know that certain research work is being conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research but further inquiries should be made because tobacco is now being grown on areas in Australia where production is uneconomic. Most of the arguments adduced against the reduction of the duty in 1932 proved to be erroneous. The main contention was that there would be an enormous increase of the imports of American tobacco, but they have actually decreased. I am very surprised that some honorable members who advocate low duties when it suits their own interests should favour high duties when their own electorates are concerned.
The honorable member is not in order.
– I congratulate some honorable members upon the stand they have taken in connexion with this item, but I cannot congratulate others. The investigations prompted by the Government and the undoubted improvement in the marketing of Australian leaf since 1932 have been of great benefit to the industry. Some Australian leaf now compares very favorably with imported leaf; but the principal difficulty appears to be that the flavour of tobacco varies according to the district in which it is grown. As the industry develops the growing and curing of Australian leaf will improve and Australian smokers will use the Australian product in preference to imported tobaccoes. The high duties suggested by some honorable members will not induce Australian smokers to use the local product. When I smoked tobacco some years ago I realized that there was a marked difference in the flavours of certain tobaccoes. If producers persevere on the right lines it may not be long before every smoker in Australia will prefer the local leaf. World conditions demand reasonable duties not only on tobacco but also on other commodities, and if we wish to trade with other countries we shall have to continue to take their goods in exchange for our exports. We cannot expect to balance our trade with every country, but there must be a reasonable adjustment between countries wishing to trade with each other. By increasing the duties on items such as tobacco we would be interfering with a certain volume of trade. I congratulate the Government upon the stand it ha3 taken in connexion with this duty. For the reasons I have given I shall oppose the amendment.
.- I listened with interest to the compliments showered all around by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield), who first congratulated the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) and then the honorable member for Riverina (Mi1. Nock), because those honorable members listened to the request of the Government Whip that the Government should not be let down on this item. [ would, however, remind the honorable member that the Government has boasted frequently that the tariff is not a party matter, and that it is open to honorable members of the United Australia party and of the Country party to vote as they please.
– The honorable member will not be’ in order in proceeding on those lines.
– The honorable member also said that he could not support the amendment because he was assured that the Government could not afford to lose the amount of revenue involved. The honorable member did not convince us that there would be a loss of revenue if the duty were increased and the excise reduced. The adoption of the amendment might result in increased collections of duty. Further, I would remind the honorable member that a few years ago the Tariff Board considered that £6,500,000 was a reasonable amount of revenue to collect in tobacco duties.
– That report was submitted some years ago. The number of smokers has increased.
– The increase of population in that time has been small. The Tariff Board said that while the Australian tobacco industry was being established, £6,500,000 was a reasonable revenue to be obtained from tobacco. When that recommendation was made, the production totalled 12,000,000 lb., hut it is now less than one-half of that quantity. The Government claims to be guided by the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and the honorable member for Wannon supports its contention that the Tariff Board’s recommendations should be observed. Although the Tariff Board recom- mended that £6,500,000 was sufficient to collect from the industry, we find that the collections of excise and import duties have been as follows :- 1928-29, £6,000,000; 1929-30, £6.637,000; 1930-31, £6,138,000; 1931-32, £6^.484,000 ; 1932-33, £6,280,000 ; 1933- 34- since the Lyons Government has been in power - £7,483,000; and 1934- 35, £7,769,000, or, roughly, £1,200,000 more than the Tariff Board considered a reasonable impost upon the industry. The honorable member for Indi was very unfair in imputing motives to other honorable members. He said that those advocating an increase of protection were “ pulling the legs “ of the tobacco-growers.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the item.
– As the honorable member for Indi imputed motives to me who moved the amendment and to those who supported it, I submit that I am in order in replying.
– The honorable member will not be in order.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Indi are recorded in Hansard, and I should be permitted to reply on behalf of those, acting honestly in the interests of the tobacco-growers. It was unworthy of the honorable, member to attribute such motives to those who do not see eye to eye with him; apparently he judges thom by his own outlook. Probably the honorable member does not represent the tobacco-growers, but is a loyal advocate of the interests of the tobacco combine.
– I object to that remark, and ask that it be withdrawn. I have never advocated the claims of the tobacco combine.
– If my remarks are objected to, I shall withdraw them. I am basing my opinions on the speech of the honorable member for Indi, who has developed a great interest in the Government, and wishes it to win when the vote is taken.
– The honorable member will not be in order in criticizing the actions of other honorable members. He must discuss the item and the amendment before the Chair.
– I submit that I am doing that, and replying to criticism levelled against my amendment by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Riverina supported a proposal to assist wheat producers, knowing that he would participate in the grant, but he is opposing my amendment.
– Order ! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be given reasonable opportunity to discuss the item and the amendment, but in doing so he must not criticize the actions of other honorable members.
– The Deputy Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) was one of the most outspoken critics of the action of the Lyons Government in whittling away the protection given to the tobacco industry.
– My views, or those of honorable members, are not under consideration. The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item and the amendment. The remarks which he desires to make would have been admissible during the general debate on the tariff, but they are not in order at this juncture.
– Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that I would not be in order in quoting the opinion of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) in regard to the protection of the tobaccogrowing industry, as a reason why an increased duty should be imposed ?
– If the Minister’s remarks related to the specific item now before the committee the honorable member will be in order in quoting them, but he is not entitled to indulge in a general criticism of the attitude of honorable members.
– In moving my amendment as an instruction to the Government to increase the duty by 6d. per lb., I stated that it is necessary to give someadditional encouragement to the industry. The Deputy Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page), in condemning the abrupt reductions by the first Lyons Government of the duty on imported leaf, said -
It does seem strange that the tobacco industry has been sacrificed in favour of a luxury import from America.
I desire that this sacrifice shall cease.
– The Government has increased the duty.
– The Government reduced the duty from 5s. 2d. to 3s.-, but later increased it to 3s. 6d. The Opposition desires that an additional 6d. per lb. should he imposed. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield), in opposing the amendment, stated that in adjusting duties on imported goods, the Government must consider its trade relations with other countries; he added that if an increase of duty led to a restriction of imports, we might sacrifice a portion of our trade. I invite honorable members to study the facts in regard to manufactured tobacco leaf. The imported leaf comes from the United States of America - a country which has bought £15,S34,000 worth of goods from Australia in the last five years, as compared with the Commonwealth’s purchases from America amounting to £45,401,000. During that period, therefore, Australia has contracted an adverse trade balance with the United States of America of £30,000,000. In the face of those figures is there any need for honorable members to fear that the shutting out of a few hundred thousand pounds worth of American tobacco will influence that country to restrict its purchases from Australia? I hope that honorable members will approach my amendment in a non-party attitude. The tobacco industry, I contend, has been subjected to too violent alterations of protective duties; even some Ministers share that opinion. The reduction of duty from 5s. 2d. per lb. to 3s. per lb. in February, 1932, caused consternation in the industry, and the increase of excise from 2s. 4d. per lb. to 4s. 6d. per lb. involved an increase of the tax on home-grown leaf by 93 per cent. The additional protection given by the Scullin Government resulted in a substantial increase of production. For the two years 1929-31, the production was 3,200,000 lb., compared with 20,400,000 lb. in 1931-33. Some honorable members have maintained that that increased production was a very unhealthy development. Do they desire n retrogression of the industry? For years the growers had sought additional protection from unsympathetic governments, but without avail; simultaneously, represen tations were being made by the tobacco combine that Australia could not produce suitable leaf, and that the plant would derive from Australian soil a taint of eucalyptus. All manner of misleading statements were made in this connexion ; they were proved false first by the select committee appointed by this Parliament under the chairmanship of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and later by the Tariff Board.
– The Tariff Board recommended a duty of 3s.
– Why hide behind the Tariff Board? The Government to-day exacts £7,767,000 from the industry, whereas the Tariff Board reported that £6,550,000 would be an ample tax to impose upon it. The Minister accepts the recommendation of the Tariff Board when it suits him; in this case, he takes an additional £1,200,000 from the industry, and defends the charge as being a reasonable one. When he is chided with failing to protect adequately the industry, he says that the Tariff Board recommended 3s. per lb. When the Scullin Government was in office it arranged for the sale of the entire Australian tobacco crop at an average price of 3s. per lb. With the change of Government, duties were reduced from os. 2d. to 3s. per lb., and the then Minister for Customs entered into an arrangement with the tobacco combine to purchase the whole of the crop at an average price of 2s. 3d., or 9d. less than that obtained for ‘the growers by the Scullin Government. This sale was made possible because of the steep reduction of the protection; the growers had no alternative but to dispose of their leaf at that price. If they had declined to sell to .the combine, they would have been obliged to allow their tobacco to rot in the field. The sale of the tobacco at 2s. 3d. per lb. meant a loss to the growers, in comparison with the return of the previous year, of £300,000, which went into the coffers of the tobacco combine. I mention these facts because it has been stated that the policy of the Scullin Government was disastrous to the industry. As a matter of fact, without the increased protection which we gave, the industry would not have been in any better position than it had been in during the preceding 50 or 60 years. Compar- ing The years 1932-33 and 1933-34, I find that the number of tobacco-growers decreased from 5,527 to 3,565, a fallingoff of approximately 2,000. When the Scullin Government came into office only 668 men were engaged in the production of tobacco leaf. That Ministry was at its wits end to foster new primary and secondary industries in. order to provide employment and avert the disaster that was threatening to overtake Australia. Tobacco-growing was one of the new industries that the Scullin Government considered to be worthy of encouragement. At that time, Australia was spending approximately £3,000,000 per annum on tobacco of all kinds imported from the United States of America, which purchased from the Commonwealth goods only one-third of the value of those that the Commonwealth bought from it. Remarkable results attended the policy of the Labour Government. The industry quickly gained impetus, and in the tobacco-growing districts unemployment disappeared. Men who had previously been without occupations were absorbed in tobacco-growing, which is a “ small “ man’s industry. But since the Scullin Government was defeated, the area under tobacco has decreased from 26,272 acres to 16,304 acres, and production has declined from 9,700,000 lb. to 4,300,000 lb. The preference of 5s. per lb. given by the Scullin Government put the industry on its feet. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) is not so unsympathetic as was his predecessor; nevertheless, he blundered from one precipitate decision to another, without giving due consideration to the facts, much to the consternation of growers. He made several decisions that later he was obliged to reverse. That is why he is now hearing so much about the industry. He stated that all good bright leaf is assured of a remunerative market. That is so, because bright leaf is the best quality; but there remain inferior grades down . to dark leaf that growers have extreme difficulty in selling. The Minister quoted figures to prove that sales of recently-grown Australian tobacco have increased. In my opinion, those statistics are no indication of the position. A. good deal of that tobacco has probably been taken out of bond by the company and used for blending purposes. The following statistics show the quantities of Australian leaf used in the manufacture of tobacco :
– They are not bad figures.
– They should be infinitely better than they are in view of the fact that, the annual consumption of tobacco in Australia is 20,000,000 lb. and Australia produced 10,200,000 lb. in 1931-32. With its bountiful rainfall, suitable soils and favorable climate, Australia should produce the whole of the tobacco required for home consumption. South Africa, in order to establish tobacco-growing, imposed an embargo on imported leaf. The protection which the Scullin Government afforded to the industry was considered to be ample, but I believe that the time has arrived when this Government, if it will not impose effective duties, should ration imports, in order to ensure for our growers a market for the whole of their product. The production of tobacco during the years I have mentioned increased as follows: -
From these figures honorable members will realize that in the seven years only 16,000,000 lb. of Australian-grown tobacco has been consumed, whereas the production during that period amounted to 31,678,000 lb. I obtained the figures from the Department of Trade and Customs. The imports of tobacco in 1930-31 totalled 22,393,000 lb. ; in 1933-34 they dropped to11,633,000 lb.; but in 1934-35 they increased to 17,041,000 lb.
For the eight months ended February last, the amount of tobacco imported was 11,549,000 lb., whereas for the corresponding period of last year it was 10,2S0,000 lb. These figures demonstrate that the importation of manufactured leaf from the United States of America is steadily increasing.
– Actually the very reverse is the case.
– I obtained my figures regarding imports by telephone from the Commonwealth Statistician this afternoon. The Minister referred to the action of the Scullin Government in making this industry possible as “ a will-o’-the-wisp idea “. The Opposition is accustomed to hearing the Minister make extravagant statements; evidently he is without any logical argument with which to attack the work of that government. I remind him that the Labour Ministry’s policy made possible tobacco-growing on a large scale, and increased production from 1,500,000 lb. to 10,200,000 lb. The same “willo’thewisp “ ideas rectified the adverse trade-balance of the Commonwealth, and laid the foundation for a big development of the secondary industries. The Scullin Government, by making possible the establishment of the industry, also instigated the gift of £20,000 to the industry for research purposes. That action was perfectly justified. The amount devoted to research should be increased, because it is the duty of the Government to do everything that lies within its power to assist the growers to adopt improved methods of cultivation.
– The Scullin Government made no grant for research.
– There would have been no justification for any grant had the industry not been established and increased its production of tobacco leaf from 1,500,000 lb. to 10,200,000 lb. as the result of the protection given to it by the Scullin Government. Would any Government have been justified in the expenditure of £20,000 upon research in an industry which engaged the attention of only 600 growers? Certainly not. But as the number of growers increased to approximately 6,000, there was every justification for such a grant ; and there is justification for a larger grant at the present time. The Minister said that the Scullin tariff had re-acted very harshly on growers with little capital, and that its policy had encouraged land speculation. That statement not only is wide of the truth, but also is a wilful misrepresentation of the whole position.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order ! The honorable member has made use of an unparliamentary expression, which he must withdraw.
– In deference to you, sir, I withdraw it. What was the plight of the tobacco-growers before the Scullin Government came into office? They were struggling to establish the industry. The tobacco combine, however, got the ear of the Government, and the growers appealed in vain for protection. The dried fruit-growers had a similar experience; for years they appealed for marketing legislation. The dairy-farmers sought in vain for some organization that would enable them to handle the selling of their product and obtain a better return from the local market. Far from putting the tobacco-growers in a serious plight, the Scullin Government enabled them to make a decent living, of which they have been deprived since the advent to office of the present Government. The Minister considered that he was voicing the last word when he said, “I repeat that the duty proposed on tobacco is higher than that recommended by the Tariff Board.” Is the Tariff Board to be the final arbiter as to what protection is to be given to an industry? The Minister said that the duty of 6d. per lb. on imported leaf over and above what the Tariff Board had recommended was imposed for the purpose of collecting the revenue needed to pay a bounty to the wheat-growers, not for tlie purpose of giving additional protection to this industry. The truth of the matter, however, is that the incentive given to the Australian grower to increase his production is not sufficiently great to-day, and, if the Minister proposes to follow blindly the recommendations of the Tariff Board, the whole matter should be again referred to that body for further investigation and report. The Government should take full responsibility for its decisions, and not hide behind the Tariff Board, the members of which have not the right to reply to criticism on the floor of Parliament. I remind the Minister that before this “ awful “ policy which allegedly put the tobacco-growers on the rocks became operative, the importations of American leaf totalled 22,000,000 lb., while only 1,500,000 lb. was grown in Australia. That was the position of the industry when the Scullin Government came into office. The average price to the grower of1s. 6d. per lb. was doubled in the first season after adequate protection had been given to the industry. What has happened since? Two thousand persons who at one time were engaged in tobacco-growing have gone out of production. Is that the result of mere caprice or cantankerousness, or is the reason to be found in the withdrawal of the encouragement which led them into the industry? A number of manufacturers of tobacco who were competing with the combine ceased their operations, with the result that the combine became, as Sir Claude Reading said, the chief, if not the only big purchaser of Australian tobacco leaf. The Minister also said that the Labour party’s policy had encouraged land speculation. Did land speculation commence when the tobaccogrowing industry received encouragement? Is it peculiar to that industry?
– I admit that it is not.
– Is it not to be found in the dairying industry? Passing through Bacchus Marsh not long ago, I was informed that prices ranging up to £70 and £80 an acre had been paid for dairying lands in that locality. Can it, be contended that a success can be made of dairying operations on land for which such amounts are paid? Is the whole of the dairying industry to be condemned because of land speculation in certain districts? Is the sugar industry, the banana industry, or the wheat industry to be condemned for a similar reason? Where in Australia will be found more tangible evidence of land speculation than in wheat-growing districts, in which as much as £11 and £12 an acre is paid for land? At such a figure, the wheat-farmer has no chance to make a profit. Therefore, why blame the tobacco-growing industry ?
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.
.- I do not intend to follow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), who was speaking before the adjournment, into and beyond the period when the Scullin Government was in office, although I know that the year 1929 is 1 a.d. in his reckoning. We should really consider whether the protection at present afforded the tobacco-growers is sufficient. The protection on tobacco wholly manufactured in Australia is 4s. 2d. per lb., and on blended tobacco 3s. 6d. per lb. This, I think, affords adequate protection for the Australian industry. At one time the duty was 2s. per lb. That rate was increased by degrees until, in 1930, the Scullin Government jumped it to 5s. 2d. per lb. The result had some of the features of a gold rush. People entered the industry who were totally incompetent. Great expectations were followed by great disappointments. Although the action of the present Government in reducing the duty to 3s. per lb. was somewhat harsh, it nevertheless did good service to those who have been able to survive, and many tobacco-growers are now building up their industry on a safe and substantial basis. The present duty on imported tobacco is 3s. 6d. per lb., which, with an excise of 4s. 6d. per lb. makes a total of 8s. On tobacco wholly manufactured from Australian leaf, the excise is 3s.10d. per lb., which leaves a margin of 4s. 2d. per lb. in favour of the Australian product.
– There is the exchange protection as well.
– That is so. The difference in respect of blended tobacco is 3s. 6d. per lb. Taking into account the protect tive incidence of the exchange rate,it appears to me that the industry is at present adequately protected. The local growers have experienced two bad seasons in succession, owing chiefly to blue mould and other pests; but the prospects for the coming harvest are definitely better as regardsboth quality and quantity. The difficulties of our growers are due, mainly, not to their being unable to sell their product at a fair price, but to their being unable to produce the quality of tobacco which the Australian consumers desire. The growers themselves acknowledge that, on the whole, the tobacco combine, and manufacturers generally, have given d. em a fair deal. The arrangement made by Sir Henry Gullett, when Minister for Trade and Customs, which enabled the growers to obtain an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb. for their leaf, was most helpful, and, in fact, the best they kavu ever had. If the same price could be guaranteed for all the fair quality tobacco that is produced, the growers would be very happy. Price is not thu most difficult problem, however, for the growers are at present able to obtain about 4s. per lb. for their best qualify leaf, and all leaf of good quality can be marketed.
Reference has been made during this debate to the operations of a certain company of doubtful reputation, which took over quantities of leaf from various growers, manufactured it, and sold the product. It has been complained that the growers received very little return for this leaf. The trouble, of course, was that the tobacco was not palatable, and people would not buy it. The price realized was about 6s. per lb. net. Tobacco of good ordinary quality fetches 14s. per lb. It is obvious that tobacco which realized only 6s. per lb. was of very inferior quality. No useful purpose can be served, therefore, by drawing inferences from the sale of that class of tobacco. The manufacturers have every reason to encourage the consumption of Australian tobacco, for the more it can be put into common use, the greater (-.he profit they will derive. Iri consequence of the encouragement given by manufacturers to the Australian-grown leaf the consumption of locally manufactured tobacco has appreciably increased. In 1927-28 the proportion of imported stemmed tobacco used in Australia was 94.4 per cent, of the whole and that of Australian leaf 5.6 per cent. In 1933-34, which is the latest year for which figures are available, the proportion of imported leaf had diminished to 73.8 per cent, of the whole and that of Australian leaf had increased to 26.2 per cent. During that period manufacturers, having bought large quantities of Australian leaf which could not be used at the time, have built up their stores of tobacco for maturation and undoubtedly the amount of imported tobacco stored for maturation has declined in the same period. In 1927-28 the total quantity of tobacco in bond in Australia was 23,750,000 lb. In the latest year for which we have information available, the total amount in bond was 14,400,000 lb. The manufacturers have discovered that it does not pay them to use too much Australian leaf in blending their tobacco, for an increase in the proportion of Australian leaf in a particular brand of tobacco has always resulted in a falling off of the sale of it. This is not in the interests of either the growers or the manufacturers. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the duties should be increased by 6d. per lb. all round. This would undoubtedly be reflected in an increase of the price of tobacco to the consumers, and of the local production. Roth results would, in my opinion, tend to reduce consumption. At any rate we should not be justified in assuming that beneficial results would accrue to the growers.
The tobacco-growing industry is passing through a phase not unknown to a number of other Australian industries. Conditions were made so attractive in certain . industries. that production exceeded the demand for the particular article, with chaotic and disappointing results to those who had invested their capital in the undertaking. It is a very much better policy for us to determine what is a fair and reasonable degree of protection to give to the tobacco industry and provide for no more than that.
I wish to say a word in the interests of the tobacco-consumers in Australia of whom there are nearly as many millions as there are thousands of growers. We should pity the poor smoker who is obliged to pay nearly £8,000,000 annually to the revenue of this country. The tobacco-smokers form one of the largest classes of taxpayers and also one of the most peaceful and long-suffering, for th« reason that they are not regimented. Nevertheless we should give them as much consideration as we give to any other lange class of taxpayers. At present the tobacco-smokers of Australia are paying about 16s. per lb. retail for better classes of tobacco. Some of us can remember the time when the best tobacco was available in Australia for 8s. perlb. There is a limit to the price people will pay for any commodity. If the price of tobacco is made too high, people will not pay it, or they will buy smaller quantities. This would be an unhappy result for the growers. In my opinion the existing duty, plus the 8d. per lb. difference in excise, and the
Email concession in regard to tobacco supplies for aboriginals, is generous to the tobacco-growers and I consider any increase of the duty unjustified.
.- This subject has been discussed at great length and I shall not delay honorable members very long with what I have to say. I cannot support the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Forde) and I assure him, in case he is not aware of the fact, that the proposed redistribution of seats in Victoria does not excise - and I think that is an appropriate term to use in the circumstances - any tobacco-growers from my electorate. Protection is the settled policy of Australia, but there seems to be much difference of opinion as to what is meant by protection. To me protection implies something that allows for reasonable competi tion.
– That idea was lost long ago.
– Protection should not imply prohibition as some honorable members appear to think. The Minister for Trade and Customs has pointed out that the protection at present enjoyed by the tobacco industry is somewhere about 200 per cent.
– It is nearer 600 per cent.
Mr.White. - The figure stated by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) is the minimum.
– Yes. To this must be added the protection given by the exchange. That margin of protection should make reasonable competition fairly difficult if the Australian industry can supply the type of tobacco which the public requires. Lite the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) I cannot speak with any. personal experience regarding the public’s tobacco requirements, because I am a nonsmoker, but from observation, I am convinced that it is very hard to make people smoke what they do not like. They are prepared to pay a higher price for something that meets their taste.
One of the greatest necessities in the Australian industry is to increase the percentage of bright leaf tobacco. I understand that to-day 50 per cent. of the total tobacco crop consists of bright leaf; that is about twice as great as the percentage produced seven or eight years ago. The increase is a good one, hut it is not good enough, and if the industry is to succeed that proportion must be raised considerably. There may he some significance in the fact that to-day when the percentage of bright leaf is at its highest the consumption of Australian tobacco also is at its peak.
The boom that followed the abnormal duties placed on tobacco by the Scullin Government is known to all honorable members. Also we have known of land, well described in another Parliament as “ one snake to the acre “ country, selling at fantastic prices. Honorable members are aware of the disastrous repercussions which inevitably follow these unhealthy booms. It is to be hoped that another similar boom in the tobacco-growing industry will be avoided. The policy of this Government and its predecessor has stabilized the industry. It has been given a reasonable duty, certain excise concessions on tobacco wholly made from Australian leaf, and has been greatly assisted through grants to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for investigation to combat blue mould and other diseases which attack the leaf. Because I believe that the policy of the Government has been in the best interests of the industry, I cannot support the amendment.
– But for the conviction in my mind that the salvation of the tobacco industry does not depend upon an excessively high duty, I would not have intervened in this discussion. Whatever ails the tobacco industry, it is certainly not the duty level ; the industry always has enjoyed at least reasonable protection. If the wishes of the mover of this amendment were carried into effect they would not of a certainty do the least good to this extraordinary industry - extraordinary in that owing to seasonal and. soil conditions or diseases it is the most fickle in performance of any industry in this country. I emphasize that in 1932, with a duty of 3s. per lb., Australian growers enjoyed by far their most prosperous year; they sold upwards of 10,000,000 lb. at an average price of 2s. 3d. or slightly less. Since then the duty has been raised by 6d. per lb. and the excise has been reduced by the equivalent of 8d. per lb., despite which a smaller acreage is under cultivation and the crops are being disposed of at a lower average price. This contrariness is one of the greatest puzzles which has ever come before this committee. Last year, for example, the crop sold amounted to only 3,000,000 lb. and this year, when the duty is higher and the excise lower than in 1932, it is estimated, I believe, that the crop will be between 5,000,000 lb. and 6,000,000 lb. All these facts show very definitely that the problems of the industry cannot be solved by a mere vote on these duties. A deeper inquiry into the problems of tobacco-growing is needed. Prolonged debate as to whether the duty shall be 6d. more or Gd. less is a mere waste of the committee’s time. I do not reflect upon the growers, but the tobacco industry requires a deep investigation and some curative other than mere tariff changes.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has pointed out that 1932 was the most prosperous year ever enjoyed by the Australian tobaccogrower, and he related that fact to the reduction of duty to 3s. per lb. as the result of a change of government. The Lyons Government assumed office in January, 1932, and the prosperity enjoyed by the industry in that year was due not to the reduction of the duty, but to the fact that the crop sold in 1932 was grown in 1931, before the advent of the Lyons Government, and the change of duty. A deputation representative of the tobacco-growers of the Commonwealth waited on the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Henty, who was then Minister for Trade and Cus toms, and an agreement was reached that the whole of the crop would be sold et an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb.
– I arranged that price long afterwards.
– The honorable member promised it to the deputation. The honorable member knows that the 10,000,000 lb. of tobacco was grown while the Scullin duty was in operation. That was the reason for the prosperity of the industry in 1932. As a rule, the honorable member for Henty states the facts of the case, and stands by what he says. That is the reason why. some honorable members have a certain amount of regard for his views, despite their reactionary character. The 10,000,000 lb. of tobacco would not have been produced if the duty had not been 53. 2d. per lb. The Commonwealth Government issued a false prospectus to the people engaged in the industry, and robbed them of their life’s savings. That is the charge that we make against the Government. The plea that people went into production, knowing nothing about the industry, is no excuse. It was a new industry, of which few knew anything. Bureaux of investigation were set up throughout the country, an experimental farm was established in North Queensland, and sheaves and volumes of printed and roneoed matter were issued, telling the people that Queensland was suitable for tobacco cultivation. If it had not been for the action of the State Government in Queensland - it was not a Labour government, but a Nationalist government led by Mr. Moore - there would have been a land boom. The Moore Government made land available for tobaccogrowing at £12 an acre. The deposit was £1 an acre, and persons who took up land could convert into freehold within twelve years by the payment of £1 a year. That was not overcapitalization. Any one who paid big prices for land would have gone out of the industry. The Lyons Government took office in 1932, and in March of that year, without warning, the tobacco duties were reduced by 2s. 2d., and the excise was increased by 2s. 3d., removing the preference margin of 4s. 6d. from the Australian leaf. At that time the people were being heavily taxed for the relief of unemployment. The people in North Queensland who had entered tobacco production had invested £500,000 in the industry. The action of the Government in reducing the duties threw many of them back into the unemployment market. Had the men engaged in the industry been immigrants, there would have been a repetition of the protests which were made in London against the treatment of certain migrants who were repatriated from Victoria. There should be a complete investigation of the way in which the tobacco-growers were treated following the change of government in 1932. It would not he too much to ask that the Government should compensate the growers for the money they have lost. In 1934-35, the Commonwealth Government received from the tobacco industry in taxes £7,769,000.
Mr.White. - Of which the Australian growers paid only 10 per cent. The consumers are the ones who pay.
Mr.RIORDAN. - Consumers or producers., the fact remains that the tobacco industry has contributed that amount in revenue. I moved an amendment to a previous excise schedule to secure to the growers a more substantial measure of protection. The then Minister said that he could not accept the amendment, because the customs item had passed, and could not be adjusted to counterbalance the loss of revenue that would result from a reduction of the excise duty. On this occasion I want to give members of the Country party an opportunity to vote upon this issue, and I do not intend to allow myself to be side-tracked again. The tobacco industry is worth something to this country. If encouraged, it would provide a market for the labour of children who cannot otherwise find employment at the present time. As a result of a change of government the excise on tobacco was increased in March, 1932. If the growers were paid a subsidy of1s. per lb. for three years to enable them to get on their feet, it would be a good thing for the country. The honorable member for Wentwortn (Mr. E. J. Harrison) said that he saw a number of large cement bins at Marneha. Of course he did, be cause kilns of that type were erected under instructions from the Queensland Government on the recommendation of the man who was in charge of the experimental station. The treatment meted out to those engaged in the tobacco industry amounts to a tragedy. I do not know how the Victorian or New South Wales growers are treated by the manufacturers, but I do know that the growers of North Queensland are left to the mercy of one buyer. I have in mind a happening at Dimbulah, where five bales of tobacco which were rejected by the buyer, for poorness of quality, were afterwards taken 26 miles to Mareeba, and sold to the same buyer for1s. 6d. per lb. Cases like that create suspicion in the minds of the growers that they are not treated fairly. In regard to another case which I mentioned last week, the Minister at first said that the producer of the leaf did not pay the excise, hut later ho admitted that the producer did pay.
– I explained the position on Friday.
Mr.RIORDAN. - These things cause discontent. The Australian growers of tobacco would be greatly assisted by either a reduction of the excise on Australian leaf or a rebate on production. I hope that this item will be postponed until the committee has dealt with the excise duties.
– As the representative of a district in which a fairly considerable quantity of tobacco is grown, I feel intellect to participate in the discussion, and to indicate that I intend to support the Government on the issue now before the committee. I have devoted a considerable amount of time and study to the subject of tobacco since I entered this chamber, and my memory takes me back to the time when a previous government suddenly increased the duty on tobacco. That action, in my opinion, was largely responsible for the difficulties confronting the industry to-day. Coincident with that increase of duty, the industry enjoyed a favorable season - ‘the best that it has ever experienced. There was an entire absence of disease in the leaf grown that year, and the. result was a record, both as regards quality and quantity of leaf produced. I understand that, in South Australia at least, almost fabulous sums were received by growers for the tobacco produced from a few acres of land. In those days, numbers of people approached me about the purchase of land for growing tobacco, from which they said a return of from £160 to £200 an acre could be obtained. I told them that rather than engage in tobaccogrowing in the expectation of receiving such returns, they would do better to send 5s. to the promoters of the Golden Casket.
The cultivation of tobacco requires a great deal of skill, which is obtainable only by long experience on the part of the grower. Skill is required, not only in the planting of the seedlings, but also in the care of the plants afterwards. For some time after planting, tobacco plants may have to be watered as often as three or four times a day, and consequently, tobacco-growing must he confined to comparatively small areas unless the cultivator is prepared to pay considerable sums as wages to employees. Moreover, tobacco plants are most susceptible to disease. In two centres of my electorate millions of tobacco plants are grown yearly for cultivation, not in South Australia, but in Victoria and New South Wales. The dry climatic conditions in those two centres are said to be conducive to the production of plants less susceptible to blue-mould and other diseases than are plants raised elsewhere. Should the care given to the plants result in a good growth of leaf the grower has then to decide when to pick the leaf; and even then, his troubles have not ended, for he has to exercise considerable skill in the process of curing it. In my opinion, at least two years should expire after the crop has been reaped before the leaf is prepared in the factory for smoking. One of the most successful growers of tobacco in my electorate is a man who, not knowing a great deal about the industry, obtained the services of a native of an eastern Mediterranean country with a long experience of tobacco culture. He seems to have done better than others who have bought their experience dearly.
As I myself do not indulge in the pleasures associated with “ My Lady Nicotine “ I should like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to say how many of the supporters of his amendment smoke Australian tobacco. As I see it the motion affects three interests - the grower, the consumer, and the Government, the last mentioned in respect of its revenues. I am definitely a low tariffist, and am not prepared to ask the smokers of this country - most of whom are wageearners and producers - to pay more for their tobacco than they pay for it to-day. In my opinion, they are already contributing a sufficiently large amount to Commonwealth revenue with the duties at their present levels. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is really desirous of giving further protection to the Australian growers of tobacco, I suggest that he should endeavour to reduce the excise duty on 100 per cent. Australian leaf.
– Would the honorable member support a move in that direction ?
– I am not saying that I would support it; I merely offer the Opposition some free advice. I am not opposed to the development of the tobacco-growing industry in this country, for I believe that it would be a good thing if the whole of Australia’s tobacco requirements were grown here. But I submit that by tinkering with the tariff we shall not increase the production of tobacco in Australia by one ounce, but on the contrary, we shall cause again that state of uncertainty as to the future of the industry which, in the past, so adversely affected it. I am astonished that the Opposition, which already complains of the high cost of living, should advocate higher duties on tobacco when it knows that tobacco figures largely in the purchases of its supporters.
– The aim of the Opposition is to encourage the industry, thereby providing work for those who wish to buy tobacco.
– A good deal requires to be done by the State governments by way of research into this industry. I desire to see the tobacco- growing industry established on an economical and sensible basis; and therefore, I advocate that proposals for increased duties be carefully scrutinized, otherwise the industry may be injured rather than helped.
Although any vote given on this amendment cannot in any way affect the marketing of tobacco, I point out that my experience in South Australia reveals that there is much to be said against the present method of marketing, and that the complaints expressed by members of the Opposition in this respect are generally supported by the growers in South Australia. It seems that tobacco is worth a certain figure on the farm, but an entirely different figure if taken elsewhere and offered for sale, say, two or three weeks later. “ There is something wrong in the State of Denmark “ when we consider the operations of the buying monopoly which controls the purchase of tobacco. I suggest that if honorable members opposite would confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs with the object of arranging a better method of marketing whereby the growers would be enabled to exercise control over the sale of their product, they would confer on the growers benefits far greater than any which could result from an increase of 6d. or1s. per lb. in the import duty.
Question - That the item be postponed (Mr. Forde’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the item be postponed until after the discussion of excise duties.
I do this so that if an amendment is carried on the excise item providing for a preference duty on Australian leaf used in manufacture, which would involve some loss of revenue, the way would be left open for the Government to make good any such loss by increasing the import duty without bringing downa new schedule.
– The honorable member’s amendment is not in order. Excise duties are not before the committee.
Question - That the item be agreed to- - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item agreed to.
Division 3. - Sugar
Item 27 (Glucose)
.- This is an item concerning which, I have no doubt, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) will have something to say. It is also closely associated with the important great primary industry of maize-growing, the value of which will be realized from figures giving the quantity of raw material used in the manufacture of glucose for the Australian market. In 1933-34, the quantity of maize required for the manufacture of this product was 509,150 bushels, costing £138,138 ; the coal used by the manufacturers totalled 12,655 tons, at a cost of £22,246; the value of casks and packages required as containers was £33,332, and the value of the chemicals used was £3,409. Australian materials used represent 76.96 per cent. of the total cost of manufacture, and the wages paid in connexion with the cost of manufacture equal 9.83 per cent. Therefore, Australian materials and wages represent 87 per cent. of the manufactured cost of the product. The preferential duty in favour of Great Britain is not of any great assistance, as fully 80 per cent. of the glucose is manufactured in England by two large American concerns with American capital and machinery. Maize entering Great Britain is on the free list, therefore the industry is of little consequence to Great Britain. The two large American concerns manufacturing in Great Britain are Corn Products Company Limited, Manchester, and “Bush House,” Aldwych, London. At the present time English glucose is priced at 16s. 6d. per cwt., and it could be landed in Australia at approximately £36 per ton, as against the Australian present price of £32 12s. 6d. for 43 syrup.
If nothing further is done by the Government from a sense of loyalty to the Ottawa agreement, or any other arrangement which may be entered into with Great Britain, I believe that the Australian glucose industry can carry on. But it is very near the border-line, and if a further reduction of duty is made, or if the price of maize in England declines, the Australian industry will be in jeopardy.
About fifteen months ago the Australian manufacturers of glucose, having captured the local market, made a substantial reduction of price. They were able to do this owing to the reduced cost of maize, which at that time was costing 3s. 8d. per bushel; but if maize continues at the present price of 5s. 2d., or in accordance with present indications goes higher, the Australian manufacturers will be forced to increase the price of glucose to an extent which will enable glucose to be brought in from England. In view of the fact that maize used in England is, for the most part, obtained from countries employing cheap coloured labour, whilst Australian manufacturers use locally-grown maize, it is felt that there should be adequate protection for glucose. Maize-growers, of course, enjoy very substantial protection, and it is felt that the request that the manufacture of this important by-product should be safeguarded is not unreasonable. The industry is carried on in Victoria and New South “Wales by Maize Products Proprietary Limited, and uses between 500,000 and 600,000 bushels of maize, employs over 300 fully-paid hands, and pays in wages approximately £60,000 per annum.
It is not my intention to submit an amendment to the item; but I sound a note of warning that, if there is a reduction of the English price for maize, or if the Australian manufacturers have to pay a higher price for the locallygrown raw material, they will be forced to appeal to the Minister for further protection. In view of the fact that this industry gives considerable employment to Australian workmen, and that it provides a good market for Australian-grown maize, it should be adequately protected. The Atherton Tablelands in Queensland, produce large quantities of this raw material, and the growers there market their product through a pool, much of it being sent south to Maize Products Proprietary Limited, in Melbourne, where it is manufactured into glucose.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava- Minister for
Trade and Customs)[ 9.7]. - The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), who has just resumed his seat, must have convinced the committee that there was really no need for his comments, because the duty is as recommended by the board, which took full cognizance of the difference between English and Australian prices for maize.
– Did the board recommend the insertion of the intermediate tariff?
– No ; it was inserted by the Government for trade treaty bargaining purposes, if necessary. The general tariff is as recommended by the board, and the industry being an efficient one. the duties are adequate.
– What were the imports of maize during last year?
– Four centals. For the first six months imports of glucose amounted to 161 cwt., valued at £262, and for the corresponding period of the previous year 407 cwt., valued at £597. The Tariff Board states that the duties are based on London prices for maize, so honorable members may take it for granted that they are adequate.
Item agreed to.
Division 4. - Agricultural Products and Groceries.
Items38, 51, 91, and 94 agreed to.
Division 5, - Textiles, Felts, and Furs, and Manufactures thereof, and Attire.
By omitting the whole of sub-paragraph (b ) of paragraph ( 1 ) of sub-item ( a ) and inserting in its stead the following subparagraph : - “ (b) Cotton piecegoods and piece goods containing a mixture of fibres in which cotton predominates.
Undyed, whether bleached or unbleached, weighing more than (5 ounces per square yard but less than 18 ounces per square yard, of types which either as imported or when further processed are principally used for manufacture into men’s or boys’ overcoats (other than dustcoats) coats, vests, trousers, knickers (not being underwear) or overalls - per square yard: British, (id., and ad valorem, 30 per cent; intermediate,1s., and ad valorem 50 per cent.; general,1s., and ad valorem, 50 per cent.; or ad valorem - British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 65 per cent.; general,65 per cent.; whichever rate returns the higher duty.”
By adding to paragraph ( 1 ) of sub-item a a new sub-paragraph (c) as follows: - “ (c) Cotton piece goods, viz.: - Drills, dungarees and jeans, weighing (i ox. or less per square yard, or weighing 18 oz. or more per square yard ad. valorem, British, 5 per cent.: intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.”
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [9.9].- I move -
That sub-paragraphs (6) and (c) of paragraph (1) of sub-item (a) be postponed.
If this amendment is carried it will be an indication to the Government that, in the opinion of the committee, the subparagraphs should be amended, to read - “ Cotton piece goods and piece goods . . weighing more than 3 ounces per square yard.” . . . This item affects very materially the Australian cotton industry. In proposing the duties under this sub-paragraph, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has departed from the recommendation of the Tariff Board. He will, no doubt, claim that in doing so he is actually giving the manufacturers more than theboard recommended. This may be true to some extent, because the board made a recommendation for undyed cloth at lower rates of duty. “What is causing the greatest, trouble, however, is the raising of the weight limit from 3 oz. to 6 oz. The duties on the heavier weight materials arc satisfactory, but the manufacturers also ask that they be covered by these duties on cloths from 3 oz. up, instead of from 6 oz., as provided in the schedule.I hope that the Minister will reconsider the sub-item, and adopt the amendment which would be in conformity with the following recommendation of the Tariff Board: -
That sub-item 105 (a)(1) (b) of the Customs Tariffs 1933 be deleted, and two subitems worded as under inserted in its stead: -
Cotton piece goods, dyed in the piece or coloured woven, ordinarily used for the manufacture into men’s or boys’ overcoats, coats, vests, trousers, knickers, or overalls, and weighing more than 3 oz. per square yard (except piece goods enumerated in . sub-itern (aa) materials ordinarily used as linings or interlinings for the abovementioned apparel are excluded from this item.
Prior to the introduction of the new duties on drills, denims, dungarees, &c, the bulk of the importations of blue and khaki drills, denims, &c, for outer wear, excluding bleached drills, consisted of cloths which exceeded 6 oz. a square yard. When introducing the new tariff it was obviously the intention of the Government that Australian manufacturers should secure the business on cloths exceeding 6 oz. a square yard. In practice it. is found that this intention will not be realized owing to the fact that the higher cost of production under Australian conditions will force a very high percentage of the trade previously based on cloths over 6 oz. a square yard, on to overseas cloths which just come in under 6 oz. a square yard at the reduced rates of duty. This can he demonstrated by the following approximate figures of landed costs: -
A typical overseas blue drill weighing 5.80 oz. a square yard under the old duty landed at7½. - one weighing approximately6½ oz. a square yard landed at 8d. Under the new duty the 5.80 oz. a square yard cloth still lands at 7½d., whereas the 6½ oz. cloth will now land at 15½d. a yard approximately. An equivalent Australian cloth weighing 6½ to 6¾ oz. can be sold at 14½d.
It will be seen, therefore, that an overseas cloth just under 6 oz. a square yard will cost roughly 7d. a yard less than a 6½ oz. Australian manufactured drill, and owing to this disparity in price many buyers will be content to use the lightercloth and seriously curtail the outlet for Australian-produced qualities. This will naturally affect the use of Australian lint and the number of operativeswhich the new industry can employ. It is felt that if the present position isallowed to continue the results contemplated under the new tariff will not be secured, and the Government’s intention in regard to the output of lint and possibilities of employment will not be realized.
So far as bleached drills are concerned, it is pointed out that the bulk of importations are under 6 oz. a square yard. This has always been the caseowing to the fact that the bleaching process reduces the weight of the cloth, whereas, generally speaking, the process of dyeing - either blue or khaki - adds to the weight of the fabric. In the case of bleached drills, therefore, no possibility exists of Australian manufacturers securing even a reasonable share of the bleached drill trade as long as bleached drills up to 6 oz. a square yard may be imported under the lower tariff.
Special machinery has been imported to produce these bleached drills, and unless the tariff is reduced to 3 oz. a square yard very little scope for their use can be found. It is to be noted that in this case the output of Australian lint and the number of operatives we can employ will be seriously affected.
Another serious aspect of the position is that oversea manufacturers are now selling to Australia pure yarn cloths which are just 6 oz. but if finished and sized would be over 6 oz., thus avoiding the duties and depriving the Australian manufacturers of the market which the Government intended them to have. It is known that there are substantial orders going overseas for cloths of 6 oz. and under, which previously came in over 6 oz., and this market is definitely lost to the Australian manufacturer. The importations of these new substituted cloths has entirely disorganized the programme of certain Australian manufacturers who had laid down a very adequate plant to cater for this market. One firm’s sales for the last six months are about 20,000 yards, the production exceeding 250,000 yards, resulting from an increased capital of £200,000 and a powerful plant. It employs 929 operatives and it is imperative that something be done to maintain their employdent.
Manufacturers have been engaged in creating stocks to meet the demand which they confidently anticipated would result from the Tariff Board’s recommendation but which has failed to eventuate because of the reduction to 3 oz. It is believed that the Tariff Board intended that the protective duties should apply to those materials principally used for the manufacture of outerwear, and that 6 oz. a square yard was fixed as the line of demarcation between such goods and those used for shirtings. Any such line of demarcation was and is unnecessary, as shirts are not classified as outerwear, and, therefore, under the existing tariff any weight of drill may be imported at the old rate of duty, provided it is specifically imported for, and used in, the manufacture of shirts. However, what is at present under consideration is the weight find type of fabric which is imported for the manufacture of outerwear. Whilst it is correct to state that prior to the imposition of the new duties the bulk of drills, denims, &c, for outerwear were over 6 oz. a square yard, still a very considerable quantity of fabrics of under 6 oz. a square yard was also regularly imported. For example, under 6 oz. a square yard blue duck (a) has been regularly imported by one buyer to the extent of 100,000 yards per annum for several years. After careful inquiries it is estimated that prior to the imposition of the new duties 65 per cent of drill importations for outerwear were over 6 oz. a square yard and 35 per cent, under that weight. The position has now materially altered and has reached most serious proportions. Owing to the big disparity in price between the landed price of an overseas under 6-oz. drill and a 7-oz. Australian-made quality, a tre mendous impetus has been given to the trade in lighter weight fabrics for outerwear, with the result that it is now roughly estimated that from 65 to 70 per cent, of the total trade in blue and khaki drills is now under 6 oz., the remaining 25 or 30 per cent, being Australianmade qualities exceeding that weight. A large drill buyer in Melbourne has, since the new duties, purchased no less than 150,000 yards of under G-oz. fabrics for use in the manufacture of overalls. Another has placed two contracts for an under 6-oz. white drill totalling S0.000 yards, and information has been received of a third purchase of 200,000 yards. This must seriously interfere with the output of Australian factories, have an adverse effect upon employment, and militate against the development that would otherwise take place in the Australian cotton-growing industry.
In short, the effect of the new duties has been for buyers who, in other circumstances, would prefer and would buy the heavier weight materials to switch over to the lighter weight materials. That the lighter weight materials will not give the same service is undoubtedly true, but the price factor is of more importance, although, if the item were amended as desired and the Australian mills were enabled to obtain the share of the market to which they consider they are entitled, the extra cost to the public would only be a few pence for each garment, and offsetting this would be employment at good wages for a large number of Australians and the absorption of a further 5,000 bales per annum of Australiangrown lint by Australian spinners and weavers. That extra 5,000 bales of lint would represent considerable employment in the cotton-growing industry in Queensland.
It is obvious, that unless a reduction of weight to 3 oz. a square yard is granted the position will be such that Australian manufacturers cannot hope to secure the share of the trade which it was obviously intended should be given to them. It is admitted in the trade that 6 oz. a square yard, or slightly lighter fabrics, constitute the lowest type of material which can usefully be manufactured into overalls. Any cloth under 3 oz. a square yard would be unsuitable for that purpose. A reduction of the weight to 3 oz. would not affect any of the shirting trade, seeing that any weight of drill might still be imported under guarantee under the old duty.
At the public inquiry by the Tariff Board, the cost of production was considered, and it was shown that the local industry could not compete owing to the low rate of wages paid overseas, particularly in Japan, where the wages for females is only 7d. a day plus keep, as against 35s. 3d. a week, plus 15 per cent. for piecework in Australia. Further, it must be remembered that the price of Australian cotton to the spinning mills is much higher than world parity. Australian spinners and manufacturers of cloths realize the need for assistance to cotton-growers and do not complain of the protection given to them. They consider, however, that this factor should be taken into full consideration when the protection to the manufactured article is under consideration.
It is urged that the item be amended to read 3 oz., as since the introduction of the 6-oz. weight, one firm has been compelled to reduce its hands by approximately 100- from 1,015 to’ 929- and other manufacturers are similarly affected. It is estimated that approximately 5,000,000 yards of denims, drills and dungarees are used in Australia per annum for overalls, and there is adequate plant and machinery available in this country to meet the whole of Australia’s demands.
It is not only those who are engaged in the secondary side of the industry in the southern parts of Australia who are concerned in this matter. I have received several communications from farmers in my electorate. One communication from Old Cannindah reads -
That action he taken toy the Customs Department with reference to the evasion of duties.
That cloths under 0 oz. are entering Australia, in competition with local cloths, which is against the Tariff Board’s report.
Tt is most detrimental to the growers and spinners, as you well know, and the customs surely should he wide awake enough to find such things out. The cloths come in weighing 5 j oz.. just below (i ok., as you will see; also a light cotton canvas is brought in, and when dyed. 4c., by the importers, is sold as denim.
I could quote a number of others. I should like the Minister to take this matter into consideration. If he’ will give the assurance that he will have the item reconsidered, I shall not press my amendment. Doubtless, we shall be told that this is one of the matters which affect trade with Japan and other countries. The Government should exercise the greatest caution in entering into trade treaties with European or Eastern countries. It will get out of one difficulty only to get into another, without any commensurate gain to the producers of Australia, and will prejudice the development of interEmpire trade.
Recently the president of the Graziers Association expressed hopes for the early conclusion of a trade treaty with Japan, pointing out that Japan’s purchases of Australian wool were now double those of 1929. This is but a half-truth. The facts are that Japanese wool purchases in 1928-29 were 104.939,000 lb., valued at £8,693,000, and m 1934-35 they were 196,124,000 lb., an increase of 95,185,000 11)., valued at £8,41S,0Q0, a decrease of £279,159.
The vital question to be considered is how employment will he affected in the respective countries as a result of the proposed trade treaties. They must be damaging to both the primary and secondary branches of the cotton industry in Australia, and detrimental to quite a number of secondary industries in this country. If we carefully peruse the figures we shall find that nearly all of that which we ship to Japan, is manufacturers’ raw materials, tending enormously to increase the amount of available employment in Japanese factories, whereas that which Japan ships to us tends seriously to diminish factory employment in this country.
For the years 1930-31 to 1934-35 inclusive, our exports to Japan totalled £57,600,000, whilst our imports during the same period were valued at £16,600,000. Of our exports, wool comprised 74 per cent., valued at £42,700,000, wheat 20 per cent., valued at £11,600,000, metals 2 per cent., and tallow 2 per cent., making 98 per cent, in all. These exports were solely raw materials for a series of factories in industries which afford the maximum employment.
If We take our imports from Japan, we find that they embrace silk and art silk piece goods, £7,2S6,000, or 44 per cent.; cotton and linen piece good3, £2,343,000, or 14 per cent., and other manufactured goods approximately 30 per cent.; whilst the balance includes raw silk, spices, oils, hair, fibre, &c. Amongst it all we find there is but a limited quantity of materials for treatment by Australian manufacturers.
If we look around us we shall find evidence on all sides of the fact that Japanese competition is definitely hampering Australian manufacturers. Indeed, it threatens the secondary industries of practically all countries of the world. Unfortunately, there are in the community gentlemen like Mr. Abbott, president of the Graziers Association, who would throw down the whole tariff wall against imports from Japan, in the erroneous belief that that country will cense to buy our wool unless we allow its goods to be imported into Australia. The Japanese know quite well that, in the development of secondary industries, Australia has the definite objective of increasing employment. That we should ask what it applies - preference for local industries - is not an unfriendly gesture;
No country has protected its own industries to a greater extent than has Japan. With a depreciated yen, and a bounty on exports,’ Japan has captured markets throughout the world. This problem will have to be dealt with in a friendly spirit. Japan comes to Australia to buy our wool, not because it likes our climate, but because our fine merino wool cannot bc purchased anywhere else in the world. Yet how can our manufacturers stand up against labour conditions such as prevail in that country where the employees receive 7d. a day a.nd work 54 hours a week? Thousands of women live in compounds, and work under conditions which no Australian could be asked to endure. I understand that the Minister will contend that we cannot shut out imports from Japan, but Japanese manufacturers copy goods of overseas origin without regard to the rights of inventors or designers. The Australian originator of any worth-while idea, provided it is copiable - and invariably it is - knows full well that he may only hope to sell the article in the few months which elapse before it is possible to have a sample sent to Japan to be copied and quantities returned to Australia for sale. A Sydney business man recently made a trip to Japan loaded up with a supply of articles that he desired to have copied cheaply. With the low-wage conditions operating there, the depreciated yen. and more important still, the government’s subvention of exports by means of a form of credit manipulation, it is always possible to secure cheaper imitations from Japan than to make the goods in Australia or any other British country.
We must look to our manufacturers for the re-employment of the great bulk of the 250,000 unemployed in Australia to-day, and also the 30,000 boys and 10,500 girls who leave school annually and search in vain for work. We owe a responsibility to these young people, and we cannot hope to have them absorbed in industry unless we are prepared to protect our own manufacturers, who invest their capital in this country and observe arbitration awards and conditions of employment. The people of Australia are accepting protected industries, wages and conditions blindly, and are not heeding the fundamental principles on which they must rely for their bread and butter. It would be well for them to take a keen interest; in this matter, for, without protection the 500,000 persons engaged in various secondary industries to-day would be out of employment. Australia is the only country that is foolish enough to make its secondary industries vulnerable to imports of cheap-labour countries. All other countries are fortifying their industries against outside competition. Are our manufacturers always to be suspect, and overseas manufacturers sacrosanct? The Tariff Board was created to encourage Australian industries, yet it has been asked by the Lyons Government to adopt the role of an obstacle to protection. When the people endeavoured to nail the responsibility for’ tariff reductions, the Government said that it was carrying out the recommendations of the board, and the board declared that it was complying with the. directions expressed through the Ottawa agreement. We heard to-day an announcement by the Minister that that agreement is to be reviewed.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item.
– I was striking a note of warning with regard to imports from Japan. I hope that the Minister will not. pay heed to speeches such as those of the President, of the Graziers’ Association, because they are based on wrong premises.
.- This item covers the alterations which were made to the duties on cotton piece goods about eighteen months ago, and which brought about a boycott of Australian goods in the Lancashire district-
– Only the threat of a boycott.
– I know that it did not last long, but there was a temporary boycott. Much exasperation was occasioned in England by what was considered the failure of the Government to carry out either the spirit or the letter of the Ottawa agreement. This is one of the few instances in which the Government departed from the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and in which the action of the Government has resulted in much criticism. I feel obliged to support the proposal, because I know that to attempt to have the duties reduced would be useless. It is necessary to adopt them in order to counteract further claims put forward on behalf of manufacturers in Australia for even greater protection than that recommended by the board. It was surprising to hear from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that although the proposal means an increase by about 50 per cent. of the actual retail cost to the consumers of a very common class of goods such as dungarees, and although the increase is given for the purpose of assisting a large section of manufacturers, employment has diminished. It is difficult to know how that has come about. The anticipated result of these duties was a rise in the cost of the goods of about 50 per cent., and that increase has occurred. Overalls that were formerly sold retail at 14s. each are now procurable retail at 21s. The Government made the division, for which there seems to be good reason, in accordance with the weight in each square yard of cloth. For cloth weighing 6 oz. and upwards to the square yard it applied a very heavy duty, increasing the cost of a characteristic article in Australia from 7½d. to1s.1d. The first result, of course, was an increase of the retail price by 50 per cent. Another result, which was not foreseen by the Government, was that in consequence of the increased price it placed the better article beyond the capacity of the ordinary purchaser. These goods are used almost exclusively by working people, and it was found that these people either could not or would not submit, to such an increase, with the result that the sale of goods made of cloth weighing 6 oz. and over to the square yard, has fallen off greatly. In the past, the proportion of this class of clothing was from 75 to 80 per cent. of the total, and the percentage of clothing made from the lighter material was about 25 per cent.; but, owing to the alteration of the tariff, the position has been reversed. The reason is not that the public has any preference for the lighter material, which is, of course, less serviceable, but that the increased cost of the heavier material has forced people to use the cheaper article. It is to be regretted that the use of clothing of an inferior quality has been forced upon the purchasers as the result of the new duties. In addition, the manufacturers, having a reduced demand for cloth weighing 6 oz. and over to the square yard, are now seeking to prevent the use of the cheaper class of material. They are asking for an additional duty on cotton materials below 6 oz., so that the public will be obliged to switch back to the class of goods formerly purchased.
The protection of the cotton industry gives a fair example of the accumulative effect of the tariff in raising the cost of goods to the public. It had its genesis in the idea that people in the electorate of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), and in other parts of Queensland, could profitably grow cotton, and also in the fact that the honorable member, who was at that time Minister for Trade and Customs, laid himselfout to establish and foster the growing of cotton in North Queensland.
– The honorable member is not now discussing the item.
– I draw the attention of honorable members to the following statement, which appeared among the preliminary observations contained in the report of the Tariff Board on this subject : -
The board commences the question of determination of the duties on cotton tweeds “ and “denims” by accepting as a fact that it has been made clear that it is the policy of the present Government, andhas been the policy of past governments, to proceed with the development of the cotton-growing industry in Queensland.
The board also accepts as a necessary consequence that it will mean a considerably increased cost in respect of these goods to the consumer. In order that the price of cotton used in Australia should be on world parity, a bounty was provided for the growers for which the Australian public paid £87,000 in 1933. The result has not been very encouraging. We are still importing more cotton from abroad than we did during the previous year, and the increased importations of cotton piece goods have been entirely from India, China, Japan and Egypt. After the growers were provided with a bounty, the next step was to grant protection to the Australian weavers and manufacturers. That was attempted by -means of the imposition of duties, and at the time the hope was expressed that very soon the cotton-weaving industry would be satisfactorily established in Australia. The result, in this instance, has also been particularly disappointing from the point of view of the price charged to the general public. I propose to cite for the information of honorable members the experience of some of the largest manufacturers, who have patriotically endeavoured to manufacture cotton piece goods entirely from cloths of Australian manufacture. Their efforts have been uniformly unsatisfactory.
– Did these manufacturers give evidence before the Tariff Board?
– Then why do they complain ?
– The Tariff Board report is dated July, 1934. I am about to cite the experience of manufacturers during the last eighteen months, since the new duties were imposed. As the duties have been in operation for that length of time, the Australian manufacturers ought to have had their mills operating in reasonable order. The first manufacturer placed an order with an Australian weaver; but, on delivery, the material was found to be of such poor quality that he was doubtful about using it. However, he did so, with the result that about 25 per cent. of the garments he turned out were returned as not up to the required quality. The material looked all right; but, on washing, it was found to be full of size, and the dyes were not fast. He was forced tocease ordering from this firm. He then tried another firm, and, although he found the cloth more satisfactory, again the dyes were not fast. This was not to his satisfaction, although in the second case, as in the first, the charges he had to pay for the material were about equivalent to what, he would have had to pay under the increased duties for imported British material. These are statements of Australian manufacturers, who have endeavoured to use Australian cloth.
– Who are they?
– Another attempt was made to obtain suitable material from still another weaving mill in Sydney, from which a supply of navy and khaki cloths was procured. Although the quality and dyes of the materials were more satisfactory, garments made from them are now being returned as unsatisfactory
– What is the name of this manufacturer?
– I shall not disclose his name. The second case is that of one of the largest manufacturers of garments made from denims, drills, and dungarees in Australia. He states that in respect of denims the price he is called upon to pay on the local market is 2s. 2d. a yard, or approximately four times the free-on-board price of similar material from the United. Kingdom. As the local price is too high and the landed cost of the British material is also too high, his sales of garments made from denims have practically ceased. In regard to dungarees, no quotations were received from Australian manufacturers until recently, when a Melbourne clothing firm quoted ls. 5d. a yard against the British freeonboard cost of 7d. equal to landed cost prior to the imposition of the new duties of lOJd. a yard. That makes the use of Australian material prohibitive unless the Australian manufacturers demonstrate that they are willing and competent to supply the wants of the public.
– Will the honorable member supply the name of the manufacturer?
– This manufacturer is being offered Australian grey drill at lOifd. a yard for 2S-in. material. Similar cloth in Great Britain is priced at 4£d. a yard free-on-board, which, under the old duties could be landed at 6-Jd. a yard, and under the present duties slightly over the Australian price of 10d. a yard. In this instance that manufacturer gave up using Australian material.
– Is he a manufacturer or an importer?
– He is a manufacturer who endeavoured to use Australian material but is now obliged to purchase his requirements abroad.
– Then he is an importer.
– No, he is an importer of the material but a manufacturer of the goods. A third manufacturer is also a large wholesale distributor of textile goods. His report confirms what has already been stated. His firm has tried repeatedly to obtain Australian cloth of such a quality and yarn dye as will enable it to guarantee wear and dye fastness in the garments it manufactures. Its efforts have been unsuccessful and it has been obliged to discontinue them. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tells us that there has not been an increase ‘of Australian manufacture which would please him.. There can be no such increase unless the public buys the goods, and the people will not buy inferior Australian goods sold at a price for which they can obtain better quality imported goods. Our manufacturers should be required to provide satisfactory material, but they are always endeavouring through their representatives in Parliament to. secure a. complete prohibition of all imported lines.
– This is only a waste of time.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has a local interest in this matter, and because the cotton-growers of Queensland stir up their representatives in this chamber at election time, the public of Australia is called upon to pay an excessive price in an attempt to establish the Australian industry. These goods are used by the workers and it is pathetic to listen tomembers of the Labour party standing up for protection which imposes such a burden on the people they are supposed torepresent. However, the instigators of this claim for an increased duty are not the representatives of the Labour party, because they do not know the facts, but are firms such as Bradford Cotton Mills Limited of Sydney. This firm was originally chiefly instrumental in getting the existing duties imposed. The report of that company for 1935 showed that it paid a dividend of 14.15 per cent, on its total capital, yet it now asks this Parliament for the imposition of prohibitory duties on the lighter weights of cotton goods. The effect will be to reduce and not to increase materially the Australian purchases of these goods. Unless the weavers improve their technique and make their men do their job in a more tradesmanlike manner they cannot hope to compete against the imported cloth. The effect of their seeking this increase on the lower type of cotton goods will he that those goods will go out of use in Australia. It does not mean that there is likely to be a rapidly increased production of Australian cotton piece goods. That will not eventuate until the manufacturers turn out a suitable article. So long as they turn out material as at present, whether light or heavy weight types that the public will not have, manufacturers will be obliged to import raw materials from overseas and pay an extra price of something over 6d. a yard and charge to the general public an average increase of 50 per cent, in the cost of the garments they wear. Such companies should not be encouraged to pay dividends of 14 per cent, annually. Further, the workers engaged in manufacturing should not he permitted to learn the intricacies of the business at the expense of the Australian consumers. I do not suggest that the operatives engaged in this indus- try are not doing their best. Probably they are, but, unfortunately, they do not understand the work upon which they are engaged. The workers expect to be paid the rates received by competent men, but while learning their job they combine with their employers, who, in taking advantage of existing conditions, are earning dividends even higher than those earned by the company which I cited. I am not entirely satisfied with the Government’s proposal, which represents some moderation of previous proposals; but the members of the Opposition are making an effort to exploit the public for the benefit of certain manufacturers and those whom they employ.
. - Some years ago, the Federal Parliament decided to assist the cottongrowing industry in Australia by paying a bounty on the production of raw cotton, and also to encourage the manufacture of cotton piece goods in Australia. After encountering many obstacles due to tariff amendments, variation of the bounty, adverse seasons, and unfortunate economic conditions throughout the world, the industry is now making wonderful progress, and to-day it promises to be as successful as was anticipated when it was established by the Bruce-Page Government. At that time those engaged in cotton production were promised that if they could produce raw cotton of the right quality they would be assisted, and that is what is now being done. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) quoted extracts from a document, the author of which he declined to disclose, which may have been prepared for him by some ardent freetrader. The remarks of the honorable member concerning the cotton industry are similar to those which could be made by any person who does not believe that Australian manufacturers can produce cotton piece goods or in fact any other commodity. The honorable member claims that cotton piece goods manufactured in Australia by the Bradford mills from Australian cotton are practically valueless, and that some firms which have obtained goods from this firm have been compelled to return them. It would be interesting to know how a company which has had such unsatisfactory trans actions with Australian manufacturers could pay a dividend of 14 per cent. From the information supplied by the honorable member, it appears that the goods the company is producing are of such a highly satisfactory quality that they are purchased extensively by those requiring them. He cannot have it both ways. Experts who have visited Australia consider that Australian cotton is second to none in the world, and that there is a ready market for Australian cotton, not only in Japan, but also in other countries competing with Great Britain in the manufacture of cotton piece goods. Those whose policy it is to denounce Australian industries should at least admit the value of cotton production to the primary producers instead of decrying everything produced in Australia. Those engaged in the industry have overcome many of the difficulties with which they were confronted in the initial stages of production, and I understand that an almost record crop of raw cotton will be available this year. Efforts are being made to sell the whole of the crop to manufacturers who prefer to use Australian products, and the removal of an anomaly which, existed previously will assist the growers.
– Is Queensland producing sufficient cotton to supply the whole of Australia?
– Queensland is producing sufficient cotton to supply the class of cotton goods for which suitable machinery has been installed.
– The importation of cotton has increased.
– Certain special types of cotton are not produced in Australia.
– A special type of machinery is required to manufacture certain classes of cotton goods, which are not manufactured here, and the manufacture of cotton piece goods in Australia is confined largely to goods which can be made from Australian cotton. The honorable member for Perth said that unfortunate workers have to pay high prices for dungarees of an unsatisfactory quality, but I understand that the Australian workers consider that dungarees made in Australia from Australian cotton are superior to the imported article. The honorable member also stated that Australian industries should not be protected until the operatives are able to perform their duties in a workmanlike manner. The honorable member apparently does not mind what they do so long as they do not manufacture anything in Ausiralia ; so long as everything is purchased from abroad.
– So long as the factories do the job properly.
– They are doing so. The quality of the cotton piece goods made available for the inspection of honorable members would persuade any biassed mind against its will, that these Australian manufactures are unsurpassed by similar articles made in foreign mills. The initial effort of the industry has been so successful that Australian-grown cotton is now required abroad. Australia should keep its mills employed, extend the industry and grow more cotton. By such means it would assist in its economic development. The honorable gentleman stated that the representatives of Queensland looked to their interests. For the most part they look to the interests of industry from an Australian view-point. That is a reason why, on occasions such as this, the Queensland representatives, and others, will stand up for an industry-
– The committee is not considering what honorable members will do.
– The statements of the honorable member for Perth were an endeavour to prejudice the continuance and extension of this industry, the existence of which has been made possible only by the tariff which is now being considered by this committee. The honorable member is actuated by his general interest in a freetrade policy for Australia. I regret that he should have endeavoured to disturb the committee by the reading of certain statements, which, so far- as we are aware, be could have written himself. The honorable member evidently did not have the courage to divulge the name of the author.
– The honorable member is not in order in speaking upon those lines at the moment.
– Then 1 shall deal’ with the lines which the honorable member took. He read statements which were damaging to the cotton industry.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Perth were relevant to the item under discussion. I ask the honorable member to do likewise.
– I repeat, Mr. Chairman, that the statements of the honorable member were damaging to the Australian cotton industry. I hope that the committee will disregard his allegations, which were not supported by the name of the author. I do not believe they were written by any responsible person. The committee should support the increase of the duty in order to assist a further increase in the manufacture of cotton piece goods from Australian cotton in Australia, because what has been accomplished in the industry up to date is of such great credit to it that all Australians should be gratified to see its extension, not its abolition.
– I have followed this debate with a considerable degree of interest, because I recall that the Tariff Board, when dealing with this matter, stated that it had approached the consideration of these duties on the basis that the policy of the present Government in regard to the development of the cotton industry in Queensland had been similar to that of past governments. Representatives of Queensland have informed the committee how necessary it is to increase the duties on cotton piece goods, because they feel that such action would assist the cotton industry in their State. In my opinion they make that statement without a knowledge of the facts. If they only took the trouble to study the statistics relating to the importation of cotton yarns, they would find that a substantial increase has taken place in the cheaper class of yarn, which is used extensively in the production of dungaree, drills and denims, because the quality of the Australian cotton yarn is better, and the price is too high to warrant its use in the manufacture of cotton piece goods, the garments from which must be produced at a price within the means of the working class - a factor which seems to have been overlooked by honorable members of the Opposition, who, supposedly, have the interests of tlie working man at heart. The manufacturers must be able to supply goods commensurate with the ability of the working man to buy.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has moved an amendment with the object of giving the Government certain instructions, and if it is carried into effect the result will be again to increase the cost of overalls to the Australian working man. In fact the price will be made prohibitive. I have figures setting out a comparison between the prices of bib and brace overalls, generally worn by the builder’s labourer and others on the lowest wage, under the old and the present duties. The original duties permitted of a bib and brace overall being sold at 5s. 9d., but the present duties have increased it to 7s. 3d. The combination overall was 10s. 9d. under the old duties; now it is 33s. A similar gradual increase of cost has been shown on blue dungaree overalls and khaki drill trousers The average working man wears these garments extensively in the carrying out of his daily toil. I shall now compare the relative prices of navy drill, which is another form of cotton piece goods used widely by the man on the lowest rung of purchasing power in the community under the two scales of duty. The landed cost of navy drill under the old duties was 7.236d. a yard; under the nev.’, it is 13.062d. a yard. This higher rate is reflected in the price of the garment, which was increased from 5s. 6d. to Ss. 9d. To that extent the new duties have penalized the working men; yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition seeks to impose some greater penalty upon the class which he claims to represent in order to bolster up an industry in his own State. I contend that the honorable member has no just claims to substantiate his case. The obvious intention of the application of protection to an industry which supplies raw material for others must be based on a study of the industry - the Tariff Board has taken that factor into consideration, and has established it as one of the fundamental principles - but, in the case of the cotton-growing industry, there are other industries, such as the spinning and weaving, which use that raw material, to be considered, and cheek by jowl with them is the clothing manufacturing industry itself. It would be futile to attempt to support or develop the primary industry concerned if cohesion, collaboration or co-operation with the subsidiary industries cannot be obtained. The spinning trade has been compelled to use a higher and more expensive grade of yarn than is necessary, with the result that the weaver who purchases the yarn is immediately placed at a disadvantage. Some considerable time ago, before this duty was introduced, cotton tweeds were included in a similar schedule, and the duties were increased considerably. This had the effect of setting in motion an ever-increasing spiral of costs; for instance, to-day the weavers have added from 2d. to 4d. a yard to the cost of cotton tweeds, which puts up the price of a. pair of cotton tweed trousers by ls. The excuse offered is that the old stock of imported yarn has been used up, and that the weavers are forced to buy Australian yarn at an increased price, and, therefore, must charge more for their product in order to recoup themselves for the extra outlay. If honorable members will look at the balance-sheets of some of the weavers they will see that they are getting a return on their capital of as much as 14 per cent. They are taking full advantage of the duty, and raising their prices, because, they say, they must purchase Australian cotton. It is well known that the firm of Davies Coop has a very large stock of drills that they cannot get rid of, because the quality is so inferior to that, of imported goods. These drills are full of dressing, and the dyes are not stable. They are incapable of giving service that the consumer demands, being quite unfitted to stand up to hard wear. When tenders for the supply of overalls or drill uniforms are called by certain municipal councils and by governmental departments, English drills are always specified, because it is impossible’ to rely upon the quality of Australian drills, or of the dyes used in their preparation.
Before the imposition of these duties, most manufacturers turned out at least 80 per cent, of overall production of drill 6 oz. or over, whereas now, in order to bring the price of their product down to a competitive level, they are turning out garments made of material under 6 oz. in weight which are incapable of rendering the same service. The effect of the increased duties has been altogether harmful. I suggest that, if the Government is determined to persist in its attempts to develop the cotton industry in Australia, it should pay a bounty to the growers on the whole of the cotton crop produced rather than impose a duty which has the effect of forcing upon the consumers an inferior article at an increased price. We are just emerging from the depression, and many working men, who are now obtaining employment for the first time, perhaps, for years, are unable to pay the high price demanded for the clothing they require. The result is that they must either do their work in ordinary clothing, or buy inferior cotton drill clothing. I arn surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), -who professes to represent the working man in this Parliament, should advocate these higher duties. I cannot support the amendment.
– I think that honorable members should bear in mind the fact that the Government, when imposing these duties, was actuated by a desire to encourage the development of the cotton industry in Australia. We must realize that the great northern areas of the continent must be developed and populated, and cotton-growing offers a suitable occupation for the people. If we are to hold this country Ave must populate it; otherwise we may some day have to answer for our neglect at the bar of the League of Nations. I remind the representatives of Western Australia that their case is very much the same as that of the people of Queensland. In that State, too, as well as in the Northern Territory, there are enormous areas of sub-tropical country in which sub-tropical industries must be developed. The Government, in imposing duties to protect the whole industry, was actuated by a most laudable motive, and Parliament approved of its proposals. It tried to develop the cotton industry by means of a bounty, but that was not altogether satisfactory. It was recognized that there wa3 a large market for cotton goods in Australia, and the Government determined to secure that market for the Australian cotton industry. The Tariff Board conducted an exhaustive inquiry, and recommended the imposition of certain duties, which were duly imposed. Now that action has been called in question. Certain clothing manufacturers, who, where costs are increased, never hesitate to charge an extra ls. for the clothing they sell, have suddenly become solicitous regarding the price the working man pays, and on that ground are opposing the duties which will assist the growers of cotton. Some of these people are rigid protectionists in regard to their own manufacturing industries, but when it comes to the development of an important primary industry they aTe free traders. Before the Tariff Board was established, this Parliament used to be flooded with ex parte statements setting forth the views of one side and the other on tariff questions. Parliament realized the necessity to sift all evidence submitted to it in regard to tariff issues, and for that reason the Tariff Board was established Now it should not be necessary for honorable members to determine questions affecting the tariff on evidence suddenly sprung upon them in the course of a discussion in committee. All such evidence may now be submitted to the Tariff Board. Witnesses are obliged to give their testimony before the board and are subject to cross-examination. On the whole, the Tariff Board principle has worked admirably. We feel that we can generally accept the findings of the board almost without question because of the impartial and able manner in which its reports are prepared. It would be unthinkable for us to revert to the old method under which honorable members used, in debate, material handed to them in the lobbies of the House and respecting which they had. had very little, if any, opportunity for investigation. Under that system it was possible for honorable members, without mentioning any name or providing any substantial basis for their charges, to criticize adversely, and in a most damaging way, any of the primary and secondary industries of this country. Nowadays persons who wish their charges to be seriously considered by the Tariff Board must give their names and submit their case for decision.
I am glad that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) had the courage to mention the name of the party concerned in connexion with the matter that he discussed. The old method of springing anonymous witnesses upon honorable members without affording them an opportunity to make tests as to credibility has fortunately been superseded. It was remarkable to hear the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) say that the Australian material which he criticized was of such inferior quality that three manufacturers had asserted that they could not use it, and to hear the honorable member for Wentworth say, a few minutes afterwards, that the material was really of too high, a quality! The honorable member for Perth did not make it clear whether it was the process of manufacture or the raw material that he condemned, but in any case, in effect, he reflected, seriously on a great primary industry of the Commonwealth. Which of these two honorable members are we to believe - the one who said that the material was too inferior for use or the other who said that it was too good for use and that Queensland cotton was “ too pricey “ ? The real truth is that Queensland cotton has been tested thoroughly during the last 50 or 60 years.
– The complete process of manufacture does not depend solely on cotton.
– That is so; but Queensland cotton has been spoken of in the highest terms by manufacturing experts. The great range of climate in Queensland makes possible the production of cotton of almost every grade, but the Queensland cotton-growers have always endeavoured to market only the highest quality cotton.
At this stage I do not intend to discuss the merits or demerits of the particular case brought under notice. I wish to emphasize that both political parties which support this Government are pl edged to safeguard the interests of the industries of Australia. I trust that they will remember this and also bear in mind that the welfare of both our primary and secondary industries must be encouraged if we are to promote the best interests of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Within a few hours - some time to-morrow morning - the first execution of a white man under the authority of the Commonwealth Parliament is scheduled to take place. I wish to take this eleventh-hour opportunity to enter my emphatic protest against the taking of human life whether in compliance with a sentence of a court of law or otherwise. I understand that the Government has received certain information concerning the particular case to which I refer, and that the information was furnished by the judge who sentenced the man to death. Section 80 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides that-
The trial on indictment of any offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury.
Any trial other than by jury instituted within any portion of the Commonwealth, excluding its dependencies, would be unconstitutional ; but it was decided by the High Court in 1915 in the case Rex v. Bernasconi that the Commonwealth Constitution, in this regard, did not apply to dependencies. In other words the Commonwealth Parliament has very much greater constitutional power in respect of dependencies than it has in respect of Australia. This Parliament has ratified an ordinance which gives absolute power to the Administrator of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea to exercise the royal prerogative of mercy. The fundamental difference between criminal and civil actions is that there is, iti criminal cases, a royal prerogative of mercy. This is exercised, in respect of trials within Australia, by the appropriate Commonwealth or State Ministry of the Crown tendering advice to the Governor or Governor-General in Council. In respect of places outside the Commonwealth, such as Papua, New Guinea, Nauru, and other dependencies of the Commonwealth, the exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy is vested in an administrator. That is due to a flaw in the legislation passed by this Parliament. Easy as it may be to pass a law, it is easier to drive a hole in it. Legislators cannot be expected to realize the full implications of the legislation with which they deal. They cannot be aware of the many cases which may arise under it. It so happens that, by reason of legislation passed by this Parliament, the Administrator of New Guinea has the power of life or death over persons who are found guilty of certain crimes, and sentenced to death. That was not the intention of this Parliament when the law was passed. I have not the slightest doubt, nor has any other honorable member, that, when this Parliament vested powers in the Legislative Council and in the Administrator of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, it did not intend that the Administrator should have the power to decide whether a. sentence of death should be commuted or not. Irrespective of the legal position,, I am further convinced that, were the Government to do as the Scullin Government did, and instruct the Administrator that the death penalty should not be carried out, this man would not die within a few hours’ time. The Administrator is an official of the Com.monwealth Government, and, although them may be some legal difficulties about the situation, it is beyond doubt that Parliament has the power to pass an ordinance to deal with this matter. If an ordinance were prepared and ratified by this Parliament, authorizing the commutation of the death penalty, and instructing the Administrator not to carry out the sentence - and it could be done in five minutes - the Administrator would be guilty nf murder if he proceeded with the execution. I do not suggest that that would happen; but I am pointing out what would be the position if an ordinance were disobeyed. The particular matter with which I am now concerned is that some time to-morrow a white man named Ludwig .Schmidt, a German, is to die. Members on both sides of the House are concerned that the Government has so little information on the subject. Had not the matter been raised last Wednesday by question, and again last Friday. the Government would not have taken any action in the matter. Even then, it waited until to-day - less than 24 hours before the execution is timed to take place - to consider whether it would communicate with the Administrator of New Guinea regarding the commutation or otherwise of the death sentence.
I drive home the further point that, although we do not know the wording of the radio message sent to the Administrator by the Government, we are informed that a reply has been received from him stating that counsel for the condemned man, after consultation with him, has decided not to appeal against the sentence. That proves either that there is something wrong with the reply which we understand has been received, or, what is more likely, that the man Schmidt is in such a dazed state, a few hours before the time fixed for his execution, that he is unable to give a definite reply one way or the other. Had he replied asking for an opportunity to appeal, I have no doubt that the Government would have been willing to hold over his execution. I am convinced, that once the execution was held up, the execution would never take place whether the High Court upheld the appeal or not. If the report that Schmidt does not wish to appeal is correct, he has virtually signed his own death warrant; and no man would do that unless he was unable to come to a decision affecting his own welfare.
– Most likely he is mentally deranged.
– I believe he is. Neman would be in a fit state to decide any important matter a few hours before the time fixed for his execution. If we are to believe what we are told, the prisoner has thrown away the lifebelt offered to
Lim, and prefers to commit suicide. No man on God’s earth would do that if he was sane.
My final point is that I understand that the execution is to take place in public, in accordance with a custom centuries old, and long since abolished in Great Britain. The condemned man, unless reprieved, will bo executed in public, surrounded by a crowd of admiring natives who, in that way, will be taught to respect the white man’s law. Surely, if we are Christians, and bdi eve in the prayers which we offer daily in this chamber, and have regard to the oath which we take as members of Parliament, we do not stand for such things ! Whether the condemned man be white or black the principle is the same. Schmidt is to be executed at an hour unknown to the Government, surrounded by a crowd of excited natives, who, in that way, will be instructed in the white man’s law. Surely there could not be a more deliberate act of brutalizing the natives than that which the Government intends to carry out to-morrow morning.
– That is a shameful statement.
– The honorable member is tinder a delusion.
– I am not. This man will be hanged to-morrow unless prompt action is taken to commute his sentence. This Parliament can prevent that execution. The Government can prevent it. This is an eleventh-hour appeal. The sands of time are running out. There is now little time left before the hour fixed for the execution, and I earnestly appeal to the Government to reconsider the position and not allow the execution of this man to-morrow.
– I listened with great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) on this tragic subject, and I commend him for the zeal which he has shown in what appears to most of us to be a humane cause. We should be recreant to our duty as members of this Parliament, entrusted with the guardianship of the Mandated Territories, if we did not pay heed to what he has said from the depths of his heart. I also listened attentively to the debate this afternoon-
– 1 ask the honorable member not to refer to the debate earlier in the day.
– I wish to explain that this afternoon I voted for the closure motion, not because I desired to see the business of the House taken out of the hands of the Government, but because not having had an opportunity to speak on the adjournment motion, I wished to indicate that, because of the operation of the Standing Orders, after having heard the honorable member for Griffith, I was not satisfied. I consider that of all the statements on this unfortunate subject to-day, that made by the Minister for Defence-
– Order ! I have already asked the honorable member not to refer to the debate that took place earlier in the sitting. It is unusual, on a motion for the adjournment of the House, to have a discussion concerning a matter which was the subject of debate earlier in the day; but there is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent it. The Standing Orders do, however, forbid reference to a previous debate during the same session.
– Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, handicaps me, because in my view this discussion is a continuation of the debate this afternoon.
– No ; it has been raised on the motion to adjourn the House.
– Nevertheless, the House is discussing a specific subject that has been raised by the honorable member for Griffith, and it is one in which this Parliament and the people of Australia are vitally interested. If, however, we are to be prevented from discussing it, by petty pin-pricking methods, I register my protest, because I believe that we are not getting a fair deal.
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable gentleman to continue discussing the subject in those terms. His last remark was definitely a reflection upon the Chair.
– I have no desire to reflect upon the Chair. All I wish to do is to take part in the discussion on a subject that has been raised by the honorable member for Griffith, and I contend that it is impossible for any honorable member to do so without making some reference to the previous debate.
– If the honorable member cannot do as I request, I ask him to resume his seat.
– Very well, but I register my protest. This is grossly unfair.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I shall not withdraw it. If that is your ruling, it is a travesty of justice, and you can do what you like.
– Order ! Honorable members will realize that the Chair has to insist on the observance of the Standing Orders governing debate. I admit that it is somewhat difficult for honorable members to take part in this discussion without alluding to the earlier debate on the same subject, but the honorable member for Griffith definitely understood the position, and did not make reference to the discussion this afternoon. The honorable member for New England has been offensive to, and ha3 persistently refused to obey an order of the Chair. He must now withdraw the reflection which he has made upon the Chair.
– Very well, I shall withdraw it, Mr. Speaker. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Griffith, and I trust that, even at this late hour, the Government will pay some heed to the wishes of certain honorable members in this House. I am not blind to the responsibility of the Government in this matter, but I listened attentively to the whole of the debate to-day, and I was horrified to discover that we had been so negligent in our duty as a Parliament charged with the responsibility of controlling the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, as to vest certain people with the power of life and death over the native inhabitants, who are subjects of the King and the British Empire. I was not at all impressed by the arguments that on former occasions a number of natives convicted on murder charges had been hanged in the Mandated Territory, and that, therefore, when white men committed similar crimes, in order to even things up, they also should be hanged.
– Order ! In the discussion of this subject I may, perhaps, be justified in exercising more patience than would ordinarily be expected of the Chair; but again I ask the honorable member to state his views without referring to the previous debate. I shall give him one more chance.
– It seems that under ordinances ratified by this Parliament - in my opinion, wrongfully ratified - certain natives of New Guinea have been executed; but that does not justify the carrying out of the execution ordered for to-morrow on a white man of German nationality, who was convicted on trial without a jury. I gather that this condemned man does not understand the English language, and that other persons were involved in the crime for which, apparently, he will have to pay the supreme penalty. The facts elicited to-day clearly prove that there is a good case for the postponement of the execution. I do not, however, suggest that we should discuss the question of capital punishment; that touches national policy, and concerns the various States. Therefore, the Federal Parliament could not, alone, assume the responsibility for deciding it.
I contend, however, that in a case of this nature where, on the statement of a Minister, the crime was committed nearly two years ago; where certain other people were involved, one of whom escaped from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth ; where the person concerned is a German who cannot speak our language ; where there is no trial by jury, and where the Government has not had the full particulars placed before it, we are amply justified in asking the Government - and that is all we, as private members, can do - to exercise its prerogative to see, before a possible injustice may to done, that this execution is delayed. I am not asking that the sentence should not be carried out. Possibly when the full facts are placed before Parliament - and according to a Minister the full facts have not been placed before this House - we may alter our opinion. I am not suggesting that we should discriminate in favour of white men merely because they are white men, but on the evidence submitted to honorable members to-day, I contend that there is a clear case for a postponement, if not, a commutation, of this sentence. Whether or not the sentence should be commuted will depend upon the Government. I am not now dealing with the powers cf the Administrator - that matter will have to be dealt with later - but, in view of the fact that it has been revealed that we have been negligent so far as supervision of an ordinance is concerned through which too much power has been placed in the authorities controlling the mandated territories, we should hesitate to do something that may cause a thrill of horror, not only throughout Australia, but also throughout the world. If the Government has the will to do so it is not too late for it to deal with this matter-, and I suggest that the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Parkhill), who made a very fair statement of the position to-day, should call a meeting of the Cabinet to-night and communicate with the Administrator, indicating that it is the desire of this Parliament that the execution of this man, Ludwig Schmidt, should be postponed until further inquiries can be made by the Commonwealth Government.
Mr. BLAIN (Northern Territory) f 11.3 1 . - I intend to deal with this matter from an angle not yet touched upon by honorable members. I speak straight out for the white man in the tropics as against the black, but not because I believe in being cruel to thesnative people. This Parliament should insure that the status of the white mau living iri. territories which we govern under mandate should not be imperilled. Leading British medical authorities have stated that environment and heredity are important factors in criminal psychology. These leaders of thought emphasize tha: we must re-orientate our ideas with regard to crime. We should not sentence a man simply because he has committed a crime, nor should we make convictions on native evidence alone. For instance, I prefer to believe that this crime was committed under duress, such as fear. Those who have not had experience of life in such countries as New Guinea are probably unfamiliar with fear of this kind.
I do not believe in the hanging of a white man to impress the black man, or vice versa. My views on this aspect of the matter agree with those so ably expressed this afternoon by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I say straight out that I fear a wrong policy will be adopted if this execution is carried out to-morrow. Government by ordinance is a quaint and inept way of governing any isolated community. Some years ago a Lord Chief Justice of England was impelled to state publicly that the liberties of the people were being filched from them by ordinances implemented by regulations subject to bureaucratic interpretation. The Mandated Territory of New Guinea and the Northern Territory, in particular, suffer in this respect. I emphasize that point. Figures published in Census Bulletin, No. 6, dated the 30th June, 1933, show that there were only 2,043 whites in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, compared with a native population, including indentured labourers, of 456,924. As the number of natives could not have been accurately counted, we can reasonably say that the native population of New Guinea exceeds that number by some thousands, at least. According to the Official Year-Booh. No. 28, 1935, page S6S, the number of natives in the Sepik region, where this crime was committed, is 100’,190.
I shall now quote an extract from an article which was published in the Rabaul Times of the 14th February, to show that the opinion is held locally that the natives have got out of hand in that area, and that the status of the white man must not, be reduced in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, where the white man comes in contact with the black. I ask the Acting Leader of the House to take particular notice of this comment. The article, which is headed “ Action, Please,” and was written by Gordon Thomas, describes an interview with a former resident of Rabaul on the latter’s return to that town after an absence of a few years. It states -
A one-time resident of Rabaul passed through the town the other day on one of the overseas vessels. He paid me a visit, and we sat and chatted over times and conditions which are now changed. He spoke of the new buildings which had been erected; the scaled streets; the number of women residents; the general progress; the ships; motor-cars; electric light. “There are many improvements,” he said, “but underlying it all there is a pronounced feeling of dissatisfaction with labour conditions.” And he told me of some of the complaints poured into his ear during his short stay: Planters, miners, householders, all had their tale of woe, tinged with a tone of despair. It was the same old tale that has been told for years past: the lack of discipline among natives; the absence of respect from the servant to the master and the complicated legal formalities necessary before any attempt is made of an ameliorative nature. To my visitor the changed attitude of the servant to the master, of the black towards the white, was far more marked than to those of us who have lived here continuously during the change, and have, as a result, lost our keen powers of observation. . . .
All these little discourteousies and disrespectful mannerisms have gradually crept in rmc by one and they Iia ve been tolerated by the democratic white, until now the rising native generation knows nothingor next to nothing - of that respect which is due to the white from the black, and the situation now is that the white, who demands those qualities in his servants, is looked upon cither as a crank or a harsh task-master.
My visiting acquaintance is only one of a score from whom I have received similar complaints.
A concluding paragraph in the article reads as follows: -
We have no one except ourselves to thank for the present unsatisfactory situation. For years now natives - both in Rabaul and other centres, on plantations and in mining camps - have consistently introduced a change in their attitude towards official and unofficial authority and this change has been allowed to develop, possibly under the delusion that such development is a part of the mandatory terms under which Australia governs the territory for the ultimate purpose of allowing these people, at a later date, to “ stand on their own “. Such an interpretation of the League’s mandate is entirely an erroneous one, and the system of “ sparing the rod and spoiling the child “ can have only disastrous results for the native generations at present and to come ; and it is certain that the Permanent Mandates Commission has no desire to sacrifice the moral and social future of these natives on the altar of such a policy, nor is it desirous that white prestige should be the price paid for a territory filled with an indolent and arrogant people.
I urge honorable members to read the whole of that article. This Parliament dare not allow Ludwig Schmidt to be hanged to-morrow, thus lowering the prestige of the white man in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, because of some will o’ the wisp idea that there
Mr. Blain. J must be some reprisal to impress an inferior native race on account of a crime committed by one whom wc must presume to be a “ low white “.
.- Honorable members have not been told what the Government intends to do in regard to this matter. For the first time since the establishment of federation, unless the present intention is altered, a man is to be hanged hy the Commonwealth Government. The reply of Schmidt, through the Administrator, to the radio message sent by the Government, that he does not desire to appeal to the High Court of Australia, leads one to believe that he is incapable of arriving at a sane decision in tlie matter. We all have the keenest desire to continue to live as long as life will last. This man was certainly placed at a disadvantage in having to avail himself of the services of an interpreter during his trial. Admittedly, the Government placed legal assistance at his disposal. That practice is adopted by State governments in the case of prisoners who cannot afford to provide for their own defence. Schmidt was tried by a judge in a strange country, and being unable to speak our language, had to have the assistance of an interpreter. The evidence against him came from a district which no man may enter withoutfirst obtaining a licence, because the natives of that particular part are uncivilized. What methods were adopted to collect that evidence ? A strong point was made of the fact that one native was shot in the back. It is quite on the cards that he attacked the camp of these prospectors, was observed, and while running for shelter was shot at for the prospectors’ own protection. For many years I have followed occupations which have brought me into contact with the Australian aboriginal. I am not one of those who would stand for the ill-treatment of the Australian aboriginal or of the New Guinea native. We should afford both every protection. But what basis is there for the argument that the hanging of Schmidt will have a civilizing effect on the uncivilized portion of New Guinea? I contend that it will merely leave a stain upon the Commonwealth Parliament. It has been proved that hanging is not a deterrent of the crime of shooting blacks.
The percentage of capital crimes is no greater, if as great, in the State in which capital punishment has been abolished, than in the States in which it still operates. An opportunity is here presented to the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament to exercise their right to stay the hanging fixed for to-morrow morning. To-day an argument was advanced which surprised me very greatly, in justification of the continuance of this barbarous method of dealing with persons who commit murder. It was that during the last two years 21 New Guinea natives had been hanged.
– Order ! The honorable member is referring to a previous debate.
– I am not referring to what took place in this House.
– The honorable member distinctly said the argument had been used to-day.
– A deputation to-day gleaned the information that 21 blacks had been hanged in New Guinea, Those hangings have not put an end to the spearing of white men by the New Guinea native. I do notthink that the practice of hanging natives should continue. Our case is not affected by the fact that Ludwig Schmidt does not desire to save his neck. As the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) has said, it looks as though he is anxious to commit suicide. His disinclination to appeal against the sentence passed upon him does not prove that hanging is right. The principal point to be considered is, that this Parliament has not had the evidence in the case placed before it. If in one of the courts of Australia a man was charged with murder, and the only evidence tendered against him was that of ten aboriginals, no judge or jury would convict. I doubt whether the New Guinea native is of higher intelligence than the Australian native. Therefore, we should consider the matter very carefully before deciding that the sentence of death in this case shall be carried out. It is contended by some people that murder is justified under strong provocation, but the view taken by the Labour party is that it would bo better for a thousand guilty persons to escape punishment than for one innocent person to be hanged.
– That is a fundamental principle of British law.
– Quite so. It should be remembered that Ludwig Schmidt has not been tried by a jury of his own countrymen, and it behoves this Parliament not to give its consent to his execution to-morrow. The Administrator, General McNicoll, was a member of this Parliament, and no more humane man has ever sat in this House. But he has to administer the law as he finds it. About Christmas, 1934, a man was arrested in connexion with the murder of Mena Griffiths. The press commented on the case and the effect of certain evidence which the police held was made public. The police were satisfied, and I was certainly convinced, that they had the right man, but it was subsequently found that, at the time of the murder, the person who was arrested for the crime was at Wagga. The murder was committed in Victoria. He chanced to have attended a picnic held by the Salvation Army, and, an Army captain happened to recognize him, although he had been identified as the person seen in the company of the victim near Melbourne. This man had been an inmate of a mental institution, and the real murderer has since confessed to the crime. I do not think that any member of the Cabinet would ever regret the action if the death penalty were commuted to life imprisonment, which would be a greater punishment than hanging. If the radio message received to-day that the convicted man does not wish to give himself a fighting chance is the statement of one who is prepared to go to the gallows in preference to being imprisoned for life, 1 urge the Government to stay its hand on behalf of this Parliament, seeing that the Commonwealth Cabinet has not been responsible for the hanging of one white man since the establishment of federation.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- There are two things in particular, in connexion with the present debate, and perhaps many other things, which I regard with abhorrence and disgust. One is the gross ill-treatment of the native races, or any members of them, by white men, and the other is what is known as the principle of capital punishment. I do not expect the Minister representing the Prime Minister (Mr. Parkhill) although I believe he is a humane man, and must be seriously concerned by his responsibility in this matter, to accept my view as to the moral propriety of applying the principle of capital punishment in any circumstances. He may hold that it is an old-established process it connexion with the administration of the law in British and some other communities. In other countries, I am glad to say, it is becoming progressively less used, British communities being amongst the last to retain the old barbaric practice of strangling the victims of the law. I do not ask the Minister to settle the matter offhand by consideration of the personal question which revolves around this convicted man and his fate; yet I think that a very strong case has been made out, and is patent to everybody, that at least the execution of the sentence should be postponed. The attitude taken up by the Government appears to be that the matter is not within the competence of this Government or this Parliament, because this Parliament has deliberately remitted it to another responsible body, the Administrator and the Executive Council of New Guinea; this Parliament has deliberately divested itself of its responsibilities and the responsibilities of government. But I submit very confidently, that that is an unconvincing and unsound lino of argument, and for two main reasons.
In the first place the Commonwealth Government, in the last resort, is the responsible body charged with the duty of governing and administering the affairs of this territory, and has the last word. This night I think I can safely say, as a lawyer, if not as a layman, that we can put it beyond the Administrator to carry out the execution of this condemned man. We have the power within ourselves. Under the imperfect system of government that applies to this and other territories ordinances are passed by the local body and, in a perfunctory way, without their being brought under our knowledge or without discussion being invited upon them, they are assumed to pass under the review of this House. In practice a’e know that the Government^ does not afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss them, nor does it call special attention to them. Because of the predominant position of the Federal Government and the Federal Parliament, v ben I was a member of the Scullin Government, as my late leader in that government pointed out this afternoon, we took immediate steps to inform the responsible authorities in these territories that, as a government representative of this Parliament, which, in the last resort, has the authority and speaks to the League of Nations as the final responsible authority, we would not consent to or approve of capital punishment being carried out in any territory. We invited the local authorities to inform us in cases similar to this. As the result of that action no further executions took place during the regime of that government. We, therefore, established a very sound precedent for interference, if honorable members would like to call it so, though I much prefer intervention; but this Government too has made a precedent for itself. It has this day intervened in this matter, and has caused an urgent despatch to be sent to Rabaul for the purpose of obtaining information on a single and comparatively unimportant point. On what principle has the Government so intervened, except it be upon the principle that, unless it is satisfied as a government that full justice has been done, this execution will not be allowed to proceed? I now ask the Minister, having taken that responsibility, and recognizing, as he admittedly does, by implication, that there is responsibility on the Government to see that full justice is done: does he say that he is fully apprised of all the facts in connexion with this murder, the trial, the adjudication and the sentence?
– The Government is not even in possession of the depositions.
– -I understand I am entirely correct in saying that the Government has not even seen the depositions. As a matter of fact it does not know whether depositions have been taken; it does not know the man’s age or the time at which he is to be executed, other than it is to take place some time to-morrow. I make these submissions to the Government not as a merely captious argument in a political sense - I feel too strongly about the case for that - but in the hope that it will recognize the point that it has already intervened in one aspect of the case, and that it is by no means fully informed, is indeed, very slightly informed, as to the full circumstances. It is said that the condemned man does not want to appeal. How can the Minister know how that matter has been submitted to him? The condemned man is a foreigner and speaks English very imperfectly. How can the Minister possibly know that the reason the condemned man does not want to appeal is because he feels that an appeal would be utterly futile, and he would have no chance of saving his life?
Consider for a moment how entirely different the position is in the case of the condemnation of a man in any one of the States. All of the facts are canvassed from end to end. In the first place a report appears in the press concerning the outrage, and in the preliminary trial before a magistrate, or a coroner, the case is made public. It is then taken before a trial judge, at which evidence is given by witnesses, who are crossexamined; submissions are made by learned counsel, usually leadingcousel taken from a wide choice of barristers available for the purpose, in the presence of a jury of twelve men. Then, when this is done, the judge passes sentence sometimes, as somebody pointed out here to-day, with the full knowledge that it will not be carried out. The matter then comes up for the consideration of the Executive Council. The Executive Council - I submit that the Government is in the position of an executive council. In such cases an executive council has all the material before it, including every line of evidence, and every word which emerges from the crossexamination. Every word of the addresses of counsel is taken down by expert shorthand writers and checked over by the parties interested, who correct even the slightest error. After submission, every argumeut goes before His Majesty’s Executive Council before a final decision is reached, realizing, of course, that if anything emerges in extenuation, the prerogative of the Executive should be exercised in favour of the accused.
That has not been done in this instance. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) says that the Executive does not stand in the same position as a State Government, but I have already pointed out that the position is practically the same.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
. -All honorable members must have been impressed by the speeches delivered on this subject. It is surprising to me that so few Ministers should be present to hear what has been said, particularly as the subject is of sufficient importance to warrant the presence of every Minister. I rise to make one point, which I do not think was raised during discussion on the subject to-day.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) is absent, and as the matter is of a serious nature the Cabinet should have the assistance of every member, more particularly because the decision eventually reached may have such far-reaching effects.
– It is not yet too late.
– Cabinet should meet at the earliest possible moment and postpone further consideration of the matter until the Prime Minister returns. I appeal to the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Parkhill) to adopt that course.
– I desire to add to the appeals already made to the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Parkhill) to ask Cabinet to reconsider the decision which has apparently been reached. From what I have heard, both inside and outside of the House, it appears that one of the main reasons why the Government and the Administrator of New Guinea wish to proceed with the execution is because it is believed that it will enhance the power of the Administrator in disciplining the natives, and that unless this man is hanged the lives of other white men in the territory may be endangered. Less than two years ago Constable McColl, a popular member of the mounted police force in the Northern Territory, was deliberately speared to death by a native named
Tukiar, the leader of a fighting tribe in that territory. There was not the slightest doubt concerning his guilt. Every one knew that he killed Constable McColl. The accused was brought to Darwin, tried before Judge Wells, and after’ a long and searching trial found guilty, but he was allowed to go free. At the time it was thought that the best way to impress the natives of Arnheim Land was to give Tukiar his freedom. He was enticed by a missionary to come into Darwin. He volunteered to do so, but because of the statements made to him by the missionaries, the judge would not allow him to be executed. He was kept in Darwin “for some weeks and then allowed to return to his tribe and to impress upon other natives that the white man was anxious to give him another chance. There is a distinct difference between the action of Judge Wells and the decision of the Administrator of New Guinea. With other honorable members, I believe that the life of a black man is as sacred as that of a white. This case has attracted attention because, I believe, it is the first instance in which the Commonwealth Government has been asked to intervene to save the life of a white man found guilty of murder in New Guinea. So far as I can gather, three men were associated with the crime.
– It was a series of crimes.
– If that is so, possibly the administration has been lax. It is quite a common occurrence for white officials in the territories under the control of the Commonwealth to be guilty of loose methods in handling natives. This is not the first time that white men have been associated with the maltreatment of male and female natives, but it is not always necessary, according to judges, to impose capital punishment on the white men or even upon the natives. I, with every other white man in Darwin, attended the funeral of Constable McColl. I also saw Tukiar in the cell with other natives. I heard part of the court proceedings. Afterwards the man was allowed to go back to his own people to show them that the white man kept his word. He had been decoyed to Darwin on board a missionary vessel under some bond that he would be allowed to go back again. Also, the judge thought there might be some extenuating circumstances to account for what he had done.
I do not think that it is necessary to hang this man in New Guinea, or, indeed, any other man, in order to protect the white residents there from the natives. Surely it is not necessary to try to pacify the natives by making a scapegoat of some one, though, indeed, this man would not be a scapegoat, he being undoubtedly guilty. I remember how quickly the Scullin Government took action when it heard that some one was in danger of being hanged. The authorities were asked to stay their hand until the desires of the Government were made known, and the Administrator acted upon the Government’s request. I have known Administrator McNicoll for many years, having first become acquainted with him when he was a schoolmaster. I know that he would be the happiest man in the world if Cabinet allowed him to refrain from taking this man’s life. He has no savage traits, although he was a gallant soldier. If the Government would request him now to delay action until the matter could be more fully considered, he would he happier than any member of the Government will be tonight.
– The law of the land in New Guinea is being vindicated in the sentence passed by the judge on this prisoner, and concurred in by the Administrator. I suggest to those honorable members who have spoken so sincerely against the principle of capital punishment that they do not attempt further to associate their argument with this particular ease, but that, upon some suitable occasion, they move a definite motion that in no future case shall capital punishment be inflicted, or, in straightout terms, that capital punishment be abolished so far as the Commonwealth Government has power to do so. No one has said anything in favour of this man now under sentence of death, any more than one could attempt to defend the action of a man in Victoria who was recently condemned to die. I can understand and appreciate the argument of honorable members who believe in the abolition of capital punishment ; but I do not think that they should make their adherence to that principle an excuse for trying to save the life of this miserable wretch in New Guinea, who well deserves to die - and I say without hesitation that I hope he dies to-morrow. As has been pointed out, the really fatal objection to the arguments of honorable members of the Opposition is that this Parliament has no power to interfere in the matter.
– It interfered on a previous occasion.
– It did not. A request was made by the Prime Minister to the Administrator that certain action he taken, and favorable consideration was given to that request. This Parliament, however, has no jurisdiction whatever in the present case, and all the arguments of honorable members are quite futile insofar as any effect they may have on the course of the case.
– If the Government has no power, why did it send a radio message to-day to General McNicoll?
– Because this Parliament is responsible for the mandate we hold over New Guinea, and there is no reason why the Government should not desire to know the facts of the case even if it cannot interfere. Discretionary power in matters of this kind is vested in the Administrator of New Guinea, not in this Parliamnt. The law operating in New Guinea is based on the criminal code ofQueensland, which still contains the death penalty, and nothing can be done regarding the abolition of capital punishment in New Guinea until the criminal code there is altered. The death sentence will not be removed from our statutebook by means of a catch vote on such a motion as this. If honorable members consider that this penalty is an anachronism, they should move, in a proper way, to have it expunged from the law. Parliament approved of the ordinance that has been brought into operation in this case, and should not now be indulging in a futile discussion of this description. Speaking personally, I sincerely hope that this monster will be hanged to-morrow.
– Every honorable member must commend the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) for the tenacity with which he has fought for the relaxation of the barbaric criminal code which we still have in force in Australia and in our mandated territories. I do not agree with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) that neither Parliament nor the Government has any control over this case, nor that Parliament has deliberately adopted a. policy of which he spoke. To take his second argument first, it seems to me to be calamitous that our mandated territory should be governed by ordinances which are not brought directly under the notice of honorable members of Parliament. Our territories should be governed by acts of Parliament which have passed through their various stages and been subjected to the whole attention of honorable members. It is wrong that territories should be governed by ordinances which honorable members hardly ever seeand of which the public know nothing. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the Administrator of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea would probably be very glad to be relieved of the responsibility of making a decision in this case; but, even if he would not be glad, he could be relieved of the responsi bility by the mere alteration of an ordinance. An executive act - an exercise by the Governor-General of his prerogative of mercy - would take away from the Administrator the power to determine such a matter as this. This whole subject involves a principle which should be very carefully examined by the Government. It has been said at various times that this man’s blood is something which we owe to the natives of New Guinea, and that if he is not executed the natives will feel that their kinsmen who have died through the carrying out of the death sentence, have been wrongly slaughtered. It appears to me, however, that if this execration is carried out, it will perpetuate capital punishment in New Guinea. There might have been a possibility of repealing this law in New Guinea so long as it had been applied only to natives; but now that a white man - the first white man - is to be executed, the manes of the executed natives will have been appeased, and capital punishment will be accepted as a matter of course.
I am opposed to capital punishment, as is every other honorable member on this side of the House, not because it is a plank of our platform, but also on principle. I am opposed to it because I believe in the fallibility of human justice, and human beings should not put it out of their power to correct an error. Capital punishment takes from human beings the power to correct an error of judgment. I am also opposed to capital punishment because I believe it barbarizes the community that inflicts it. Capital punishment in New Guinea, in Papua and in other countries where uncivilized communities live, is worse than in civilized communities.We are accustomed to this practice. The Christian ethic, in the course of 1900 years or so, has become encrusted with many inconsistencies. We do not realize our inconsistencies, but uncivilized peoples see things differently. On the one hand we invite the natives to submit themselves to the influences of civilization and of the Christian ethic, and on the other hand we offer them the spectacle of a professedly Christian community resorting to methods which the Christian ethic refuses to accept.
I hope that the Government will give further consideration to this case. As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) very wisely and forcibly said, a decision of such importance should not be made in the absence of the Prime Minister. The case should be considered by the full Executive and every Minister of the Crown available in the country should give his attention to it. If this execution is carried out, the system of capital punishment in New Guinea, Papua and other Commonwealth territories will be perpetuated. I am, as I have said, opposed to capital punishment and I believe that a number of honorable members opposite are, in their hearts, also opposed to it. I hope that the subject will be considered, not merely on the circumstances of the Schmidt case, but on the wider basis of whether it is a wise policy to inflict capital punishment in Commonwealth territory, particularly among uncivilized communities.
– This subject touches us all very deeply. Those who are endeavouring to save the life of this man are really discussing the general principle whether capital punishment should or should not be inflicted. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and the honorable member for Melbourne1 Ports (Mr. Holloway) frankly said that this was the case. But is there not a danger that in considering this case on humane grounds, we may drag in a good deal of false sentiment?
– No. Why?
– I ask honorable members : Is there no crime, however hideous, horrible and diabolical in respect of which, if it were committed against their own kith and kin, they would not feel justified in taking a life? A person who would not do so, in some circumstances, would not be worthy of manhood. I believe that if they were put to it they would say “ Yes, we would shoot a man for the crime “ - such a crime, for example, as that for which a man stands condemned at this moment in Victoria. A man who would do innocent children to death deserves that swift justice should overtake him. It is only British justice that a man who has been haled before a court on a capital charge, and, after a fair trial, condemned to death, whether by judge or jury, should suffer capital punishment. That justice is also what the natives understand. If a man is convicted and condemned to death under the law of the land for some atrocious crime, are we not acting in the interests of the injured person by punishing him? Rather than wax sentimental about a destroyer of innocent children we should have regard to those who have suffered injury at his hands. It is not an easy thing for any man, or body of men, to take the life of a fellow being, however guilty; but judges and juries have their responsibilities.
– In this case there was no jury.
– But the Opposition is opposed to capital punishment in any case, jury or no jury. It is a terrible thing to see a man hanged.
– The members of Cabinet should attend the execution.
– Apparently some honorable members have not seen a great deal of human suffering. As I have said, it is a terrible thing that a man should be condemned to die, but it is the law of the land.
– The Government could alter the law.
– No individual or section of the people has a monopoly of sympathy. That a man’s life should be taken as punishment for crimes he has committed against humanity fills us all with horror.
– If the Minister was there, would he hang the condemned man ?
– Would the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) hang a man who committed a crime against one of his children?
– The honorable member would keep as a guest of the State, living in comparative comfort, a manwho injured his own child?
– Order ! I ask honorable members to avoid personal references.
– Capital punishment acts as a deterrent to some minds.
– The records do not show that.
– When flogging for sexual offences was abolished crimes of that nature increased. Later when flogging was renewed, such offences became fewer. It is most regrettable that this subject should be fully debated in this National Parliament, as it has already been settled in a court of law by a judge, and the Administrator has concurred in the sentence. These gentlemen are human beings; but they have responsibilities, even as we have. We should not shirk our own responsibility.
– I should not have intervened in this discussion were I not one of the Ministers concerned with this case, who feels very keenly what has been said by honorable members opposite. Even at the risk of some repetition, I feel impelled to clear up one or two points. The story is a simple one. In the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, a number of particularly foul murders and cases of rape occurred. They were particularly foul because they were committed by individuals belonging to an allegedly superior race against a coloured and inferior race, and against the most defenceless members of that race. Then came the case of this man Ludwig Schmidt, against whom a charge of murder was laid. He stands condemned, not as the result of one trial for one murder, but following three trials for three separate murders.
– There were others also.
– In this instance there is no risk of a miscarriage of justice, because he has thrice been tried by a judge above reproach and thrice been found guilty and condemned to death. Subsequently, his case came before the Administrator of the Mandated Territory for review. I place great trust in those who occupy positions such as that of Administrator of New Guinea, but in the case of the present Administrator that trust is the stronger because 1 know him as a distinguished Australian, of particularly tender feelings and great sensitiveness. General McNicoll lived among us here for three years, and I cannot conceive of any man who would regard with greater abhorrence the need to confirm a death sentence on any man, particularly a white man among coloured peoples. The matter did not end when it came before the Administrator, because he carried it further, to the Executive Council of New Guinea, although he was not bound to do so. It is true that the Executive Council was not a formal jury, but it was a thousand times more competent to decide this matter than is any so-called jury of this House. In the judge, the Administrator, and the members of the Executive Council of New Guinea we have a body of men to whom the confirmation of the sentence of death on a white man in a country peopled by a coloured race was odious on every count.
Even, to us, thousands of miles from the scene, it is particularly horrible and undesirable that a white man should be hanged in a country peopled by semicivilized natives. If it is abhorrent to us, how much more abhorrent must it be to the nien on the spot? Yet so convinced were they of the guilt of this man, and so appalled were they at the nature of the crimes committed by him, that with complete unanimity they decided that he should die.
We have heard during this discussion of the absence of a jury at the trial. Honorable members opposite have based their case against this execution on two grounds. First, they fear a miscarriage of justice, because the case was heard without a jury, but when the Scullin Government had the power to bring trial by jury into law in New Guinea it did not do so.
– It did not have that power.
– The Scullin Government had full power to do so. There is a still more significant omission on the part of those who now attack the Government so bitterly.
– The Minister himself is the first speaker to introduce bitterness into this discussion.
– His is the first political speech that we have heard on this subject.
– I am bitter only because of the attitude of honorable members opposite. The Scullin Government, which was in power in 1930, could have abolished capital punishment in the territories under its control. It had the power to do that, but it did not do it; it Jet capital punishment stand. Certainly it stipulated that before an execution was carried out the case should bc submitted to the Cabinet. But the Seullin Government actually had it in its power to abolish capital punishment, yet allowed capital punishment in the mandated territories to stand. How can honorable members opposite adopt their present attitude in the face of those two omissions - first their failure to prescribe trial by jury in the mandated territories, and. secondly, their failure to abolish capital punishment? They did neither *>f these things. I am charged by inter jection with having introduced party politics into this matter.
– The honorable member has done so.
– If I have spoken with emotion it is because 1 listened thi3 afternoon to the abusive charges made by honorable members opposite that this Government has been negligent in this matter. I listened this afternoon to speech after speech by honorable members opposite, all of which were filled to overflowing with sympathy fu this murderer. I have not heard a single word of sympathy expressed by them for the natives who were murdered. In some strange way, all this sympathy has been poured out over this murderer who has» been three times convicted for crimes most foul, and yet not one word have I heard honorable members opposite express in sympathy with those who lost their lives in the most brutal fashion at the hands of this man Schmidt.
Mr. FORDE (Capricornia) [12.23 a.m. J. - I am amazed that a responsible Minister should drag party politics into this debate, which, up to the present, has been conducted on a very high plane, not only by members of the Opposition, but also by a number of honorable members who ordinarily support the Government, but apparently feel that in this matter they are not tied to any party considerations. The Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) was very unfair when ho said that the Scullin Government, in 1930, had the power to prescribe trial by jury in the mandated territories, when he knows full well that there was a majority against the Scullin Government in another place, and that ordinances that were issued by it were disallowed within 24 hours. Further, he is aware that thu Minister administering the Territories, whom we approached in a deputation before the House met to-day, would have taken prompt, action to disallow, in another place, any alteration of this ordinance by the Scullin Government, with the result that the position would have been rendered very much worse, because the disallowance of such an ordinance would have been taken by the administrators of the mandated territories as an instruction that they were to carry out capital punishment. The Scullin Government took the only course open to it; it instructed the administrators that capital punishment should not he carried out unless, and until, the Australian Government hadbeen consulted. Consequently, no man, either black or white, was hanged in any of the territories under the control of the Commonwealth while the Scullin Government was in office. What would this Government have done to-day if the reply had come from the Administrator of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea that counsel, or Schmidt himself, desired to appeal to the High Court or had not yet considered the possibility of appealing to the High Court? That aspect of the matter was raised by the deputation which waited on the Minister to-day, and the Minister indicated that if such a reply had come through the matter could be postponed. If that be so, why could not this execution be postponed to-night by a radio to the Administrator until the return to Canberra of the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister is the head of this Government; it was on his appeal to the people of Australia at the last federal elections that this Government was returned to office. Surely we have a right to ask that no action be taken until he returns to Canberra. The statement that honorable members on this side of the chamber condone any offence committed by Schmidt is a cowardly assertion.
– It is an insult.
– It is an insult to our intelligence and to the intelligence of the electors, and we hurl it back in the teeth of those who made it. We do not attempt to condone any offence committed by Schmidt, or by any of the natives who were hanged in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea last year. We are dealing with the principle of capital punishment involved in this matter. Surely the fact that this man, Schmidt, will be the first white man to be hanged in one of the territories under the control of the Commonwealth, and that this will be the first instance in which the imprimatur of the Commonwealth will have been given to the hanging of any white man, should be considered. We must recognize also that this man is a foreigner and that, with three others, he was prospecting in wild territory at the time the crime was committed. Does any honorable member know the circumstances under which this crime was committed? The deputation which waited on the Minister this afternoon was told that no depositions dealing with the case were in the possession of the Commonwealth Government. Even Schmidt’s age was not known. Not a thing was known about him until this morning, when the Government received a few radiograms from the Administrator. Now we are told that when a native is hanged in the territory the execution takes place in view of all the natives of the village concerned. Is this man to be hanged in the presence of all the natives inRabaul?
– Evidently the Minister knows something about the matter. I ask what message was sent back to the Administrator after the reply was received by radiogram from him this afternoon? Will the Acting Leader of the House say whether any reply was sent to the Administrator this afternoon after the radiogram was received from him, and if so, what was the nature of that reply? Was the Administrator told that the Government approves of his going on with the execution, or that the Prime Minister is absent in Adelaide, and will not return to Canberra for a few days? Leaving aside all party feeling which has been engendered in this debate by the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties, I appeal to the Acting Leader of the Government to radio the Administrator to stay his hand until the Government has given further consideration to this matter, and until the Prime Minister returns to Canberra. A great principle is at stake. I hope that the Acting Leader of the House will not be precipitate and allow this execution to he carried out.
– As one who has had some experience in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, I listened carefully to the debate on this matter, both this afternoon and this evening. Honorable members appear to be discussing the matter of capital punishment rather than the offence involved, and, notwithstanding any assertion to the contrary, party feeling has been introduced into this debate. I wish to correct the impression created by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that any ordinance made by the Government of which he was a member could have been vetoed in another place. Ordinances for the government of the Mandated Territory are not prepared by the Commonwealth Government, aud certainly they would not have been prepared by the Scullin Labour Government. They are promulgated by the Executive Council of New Guinea, and may be vetoed, not by the Commonwealth Parliament, but the GovernorGeneral.
– The Governor-General has not the right to veto this sentence.
– No. The Scullin Government, had it wished, could have intimated to the Executive Council in New Guinea that it desired an ordinance to abolish capital punishment. It could have instructed the Government nominees on the council to tate this action, so the excuse of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) and other honorable members opposite, that the existence in the Senate during the regime of the Scullin Government of a majority in Opposition to Labour is not sustained.
– Such ordinances, if made, would have been disallowed in the Senate.
– That is not so. This Parliament has not the power to disallow ordinances made by the Executive Council of New Guinea. The honorable gentleman was AttorneyGeneral in the Scullin administration and should know that New Guinea and Papua are responsible for their own ordinances.
– They are subject to the approval of the Minister in charge of territories.
– No; they are subject to veto by the GovernorGeneral.
– Every one knows that the Governor-General acts on the advice of the Ministry, so the ordinances would be subject to veto by either House of this Parliament.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong. The Scullin Government could have informed the Executive Council in the Mandated Territory that it desired the abolition of capital punishment, and ordinances would probably have been promulgated to give effect to that policy. Such action was not taken. The Scullin Government had exactly the same power as is vested in this Government - no more and no less.
As regards the crime for which the man has been condemned to death, I am glad to know that honorable members on both sides have expressed their abhorrence, and that none condones it. I remind the House also that the Commonwealth is responsible to the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations for its administration of the territory, and every member of this Parliament must accept his share of that responsibility. “We should not have one law for the white man and another law for the black. From my personal observations, I realize that we cannot afford to allow the good name of Australia to be besmirched by so administering the law as to give the world the impression that we have one law for the white race and one for the black. Our officers in New Guinea have been endeavouring, by peaceful penetration and other methods, to induce the natives to conform to our social system and abandon cannibalism, tribal murders, and other crimes, and it is gratifying to know that they have been highly successful. The natives are entitled to all the protection which we can give them. We should insist on the strict observance by whites of the laws relating to the territory. Whilst I was Minister for the territories, I had occasion to deal with a most atrocious crime, and was guided by the trial judge in the administration of the law. The crime for which this man has been convicted is, I think, infinitely worse. The simple question which we have to determine is : Is the law relating to capital punishment right or wrong? Honorable members opposite take the view that capital punishment should be abolished. Their opinion is shared by a considerable section of the people. I agree with the view generally held that it is a survival of the stone age, and ought to be abolished. But surely this is a subject which may more fittingly be discussed in connexion with Commonwealth policy. If capital punishment is abolished in Australia, it must naturally follow that it will be abolished in the territories under our control. The thought that this convicted man is about to receive his punishment is abhorrent to all honorable members; but we should not entirely overlook the feeling of the natives of New Guinea, who look to the Commonwealth for protection. Notwithstanding the sentiments expressed by the Scullin Government, six black men were hanged in 1930.
– If they were, the Administrator took that action without consulting the Commonwealth Government. When it was consulted, the definite instruction was issued that no person was to be hanged, and that instruction was observed.
– I am not suggesting that the Scullin Government had these matters brought to its notice before the sentence of death was carried out; but it knew that certain men were to be hanged, or if it did not, it was unaware of ordinary administrative acts.. While I was the Minister who administered the affairs of these territories I saw on the files the minute of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that there should be no further hangings without the Government being first advised of the intention. But that does not get away from the fact that had the Scullin Government so desired, it could have instructed the Legislative Council of Papua to amend the ordinance. The Minister representing the Minister in charge of territories (Senator Pearce) admitted the other day that owing to the serious position which had developed the Government had advised the Legislative Council of New Guinea that it should amend the shipping law of the territory. Similarly, the Scullin Government could have instructed its official nominees on the Legislative Council of Papua to pass any ordinance it desired to have promulgated. There is no gainsaying the fact that if the Scullin Government, the present Government, or any other government, desired to alter the law of the Common wealth, of New Guinea, or of Papua, full power exists enabling it to do so.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. He is misleading the House, and that should not be done in a case of this sort.
– I am not cast in the same mould as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I have never yet set out deliberately to mislead. I am acquainted with the laws of these territories because I had to administer them. I know what powers are vested in the Minister who administers them. We would never have reached this position if the honorable member had done his duty while Attorney-General in the Scullin Government. He knows full well that he and his Government had full power to amend the laws of Papua and New Guinea had they so desired.
– So has the present Government.
– This Government has the same power as the Scullin Government had to amend those laws; I am not denying that. If it be the desire of this House that any law of New Guinea or Papua should be altered, it is the duty of the Government to instruct the Administrator to alter it.
– The honorable member is perfectly ridiculous.
– I am not as ridiculous as the honorable member for Batman.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– It is regrettable that so much heat should be engendered in what, after all, is a fight for a man’s life. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Sir Charles Marr) has given the Opposition every credit for not having condoned the offence with which Schmidt was charged. We may question whether this man has had a fair and proper trial; we may question the nature of the evidence adduced ; we may doubt the wisdom of enforcing capital punishment in order to impress the natives; but we do not, in any shape or form, condone the offences of rape and murder which have been committed in the mandated territory. Such crimes are not new ; they were committed there before Schmidt was born. We do say, however, that the argument advanced, particularly by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), was perhaps the most fallacious that could be put forward in a parliament which seeks to administer the affairs of a territory which is inhabited principally by uncivilized blacks. What is the strength of the honorable member’s argument? He said that the natives have the inherent belief that murder must be avenged by murder. We do not question that. It is the law of the jungle, the law of an uncivilized race. We send missionaries to civilize these people, and teach them Christian ways. We appoint administrators, and set up councils, to guide them along the paths of self-government, although we do not give them the powers of selfgovernment. All our efforts are supposed to be directed towards civilizing the blacks and inducing them to discard the law of the jungle. Yet the honorable member for Richmond has argued to-night that because uncivilized natives believe that a murder can be avenged only by another murder, their instincts are to be satisfied by the legalized murder of a white man in the early hours of this morning. Not in the heat of temper or passion, but clamly and deliberately, a hired assassin is to strangle a white man to death in order that the law of the jungle - a life for a life - shall be perpetuated by white men in order to maintain the prestige of a white man’s government in the eyes of uncivilized blacks. We have been told that this House is responsible for the ordinances under which these territories are governed. How many members are acquainted with the manifold ordinances that are promulgated? Every act passed gives the Executive the power to promulgate regulations and ordinances. I question whether Ministers themselves have a knowledge of one half of the ordinances which are on the files in their departments. Because among the many thousands that have been promulgated there is one which denies to a white man in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea the British right of trial by jury, he can be condemned and hanged on the decision of a single judge. More- over, he can be hanged, as this mau is to be, on the uncorroborated evidence of uncivilized blacks. Because at some remote time an ordinance was tabled in this House of which probably no honorable member had cognizance, we are told that everything must proceed as arranged, and that any move for the alteration of the practice must be delayed until some future date. Honorable gentlemen who have spoken on behalf of the Government have shown distinctly that they are in favour of capital punishment. I have never listened to a Minister speak with such enthusiasm and relish for his task as was shown by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), but I do not know how he will sleep well now that the job is done. We are asked to believe that if the Scullin Government had abolished capital punishment, Schmidt would not have been hanged to-day; but I have no doubt that if the Scullin Government had taken that action the present Ministry would have immediately re-introduced capital punishment in New Guinea, because it evidently believes in hanging. The honorable member for Parkes, who has had considerable experience of the administration of the territories, says that the natives do not know the meaning of murder. It is true that they do not appreciate the value of human life, and that we might just as well hang a mad dog as a native of New Guinea for a capital offence. Yet Schmidt was convicted on the uncorroborated evidence of uncivilized blackfellows. There were three accomplices, and I understand that not one of them turned King’s evidence. Therefore the Administration had to rely entirely on the evidence of the natives. What else is there to show that the convicted man was responsible for the crime ? The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, in order to bolster up the case of the Government, told a story of the rapes and murders that have taken place in New Guinea of recent years, and mentioned that Schmidt had been charged with three murders; but what is there to show that the police and the Administration have not made him the scapegoat for the other murders? It is all very well to talk about the character of the Administrator. I realize that he is a humane man, but, no doubt, he had to endorse the verdict of the judge, and I doubt whether the Executive Council of New Guinea had power to upset it. The ultimate decision rested with the Cabinet in Canberra, and it is apparent, as a result of the cablegram which the Government sent asking questions of the accused or his counsel, that the Government had only the slightest smattering of what happened in regard to this case.
– Whether he desired to appeal or not was the only matter about which we had any doubt.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) now says, in effect, that the Government had all the information it required except the little bit which it obtained by radio, yet the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Parkhill) remarked, in justification of the sentence-
– The honorable member may not refer to a debate that has taken place earlier.
– Something was said at the deputation-
– That deputation was supposed to be confidential, a request in that direction having been made by honorable members opposite.
– As we are now pleading for a man’s life, the confidence sought in that direction should go by the board. Perhaps the honorable member and I have different views as to the value of human life. At the deputation this morning to which I have referred, the Minister had no official report, either from the Administrator or the judge, but relied upon an extract from a novelette or a trade journal. Yet the Minister for the Interior has declared that all the Government did not know about the case was whether or not the accused desired to appeal. I suggest that that journal was the Government’s sole source of information.
The Opposition is not fighting for this man’s life for the purpose of condoning the crime. Its main object is the aboli tion of capital punishment. We are not satisfied that a prisoner who has not received a trial by jury has been properly tried, and we contend that no person should be convicted on the evidence of uncivilized natives, uncorroborated by any reliable testimony. Nor are we satisfied that this man has not been made a scapegoat for the numerous murders which have been committed in New Guinea in recent years. We say that sufficient doubt surrounds the whole of the circumstances that, lest an irreparable mistake should be made, the execution should be postponed until a proper and full inquiry has been conducted. To those honorable members who have tried to salve their consciences by saying that, at some future date, the Opposition can move for the abolition of capital punishment, let me suggest that this procedure will be useless, if it be ultimately shown that this man was wrongfully hanged, and that we set a bad example to the native population in accepting their standard by declaring that one murder can only be wiped out by the committal of another. I contend that the execution of this man, whether guilty or not, will have an infinitely worse effect on the native mind than anything else that could be done.
.- Honorable members opposite know full well that the Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction in this matter.
– Why, then, did the Cabinet consider it?
– The honorable member, being a lawyer, should not have to ask me such questions. The case of this man has been made the basis for a general discussion on the question of capital punishment. That is the only reason why the matter has been brought before Parliament.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I regard as grossly offensive to me personally the statement that an ulterior motive was responsible for the raising of this matter.
– I understand the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) to have said that this matter had been brought forward so that the Opposition could present its views on capital punishment.
– And for that reason only !
– I do not regard that statement as offensive. Honorable members will realize that if that remark is offensive a great many more offensive remarks have been made concerning members on the ministerial side of the chamber.
– The remarks of honorable members opposite, particularly those of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), are only so much eye-wash. Honorable members opposite have said that if the Administrator allows the execution to take place it will be a lesson to the natives that the law of the jungle is countenanced by the white man. Capital punishment has been exacted in Australia in order to restrain fiendish men from taking advantage of weak and innocent people and perpetrating crimes of violence. Hanging is too good for such people. Too often we hear of little children being murdered and women outraged. I never contemplate the hanging of a condemned prisoner without a revulsion of feeling and the wish that some other form of punishment could prove more effective. I have never been able to convince myself that certain crimes can be met only by the imposition of capital punishment. If it were only a matter of dealing with native jungle law, I could quite understand some of the speeches of honorable members to-day; but I remind them that capital punishment was in existence long before New Guinea was ever thought of by the white races. Honorable members opposite have been trifling with this matter, and have made many statements which they know are false.
– Is such a statement permissible, Mr. Speaker?
– Order ! The honorable member for Barton is not in order in saying that honorable members made statements which they knew to be false.
– I withdraw the remark. “When honorable members opposite brought this matter before the House they endeavoured to convey the impression that they were actuated solely by sympathy with the condemned man, and that their only consideration wasthe saving of his life. But while they have expressed their horror at the proposed execution, 95 per cent. of their arguments have constituted an attack upon the Government on the question of capital punishment generally. They know that the party to which they belong stands for jungle law in politics and in industry, to the detriment of innocent men who are brought to the verge of starvation as a result of it. Some of the arguments advanced during this debate are different from what one would expect in a legislature such as this. My reply to honorable members who say that if I take no steps to interfere with the Administrator in the discharge of his duties, I am guilty of the murder of the condemned man, is that they are equally guilty of encouraging men of this type to murder innocent natives. The one contention is surely as logical as the other. Honorable members opposite say that they want to save the skin of a man who shot natives in the back; they espouse the cause of such a man, but have no sympathy for his innocent victims. We all regret the necessity for capital punishment, but I cannot find it in my conscience to allow a convicted murderer to be given his freedom. My sympathy goes out to the members of the Cabinets in the various States of Australia who are called upon to determine whether sentence of death shall be enforced upon a criminal convicted of a capital offence. But if I were convinced that capital punishment was necessary in order to protect innocent persons against the actions of fiendish men, I should not hesitate to refuse to grant a reprieve. Honorable members opposite have said that Brigadier-General McNicoll would be glad to receive a message instructing him to postpone this execution. I can quite believe that Brigadier-General McNicoll has manfully performed his duty, painful though it was for him to do so, and I feel sure he would be glad to receive such a message. On the 22nd February last I presented a petition to the Administrator of New Guinea on behalf of a man who had received a sentence of four years’ imprisonment for stealing gold. Six months ago a similar petition was presented by an honorable member opposite on behalf of the same man. Both petitions were refused. I was asked by a relative of the prisoner if I would take the matter further.
I approached the Attorney-General’s Department and asked what action could be taken to reduce his sentence. I was informed that the Administrator was the only person who had any jurisdiction in such matters. Honorable members opposite are endeavouring to prove that the Government has power to intervene; but, from the information which I have just given, it will be seen that, even in a comparatively trivial case, Cabinet could not assist .the man whose case I have cited. I do not think that the present Administrator wishes to shirk his duty, and is not anxious to be relieved of the responsibility of doing what is expected of him.
– Who suggested that he should ?
– According to the argument of honorable members opposite, this man is being executed to satisfy the law of the jungle, or to appease the wrath of the natives. Capital punishment has been in operation in Australia for many years, and honorable members opposite, who are opposed to such a policy, have delayed the House, not in the interests of the accused person, but to enable them to express their views on a plank on the platform of the Labour party. Because I believe that the Government has not the power to intervene in these matters, and that the Administrator should be allowed to carry out the important work with which he is entrusted, I hope that the Government will not be influenced by the appeal of honorable members opposite.
.This subject has been dealt with from various angles during yesterday and to-day. The arguments advanced by the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) have been difficult to follow. In the first place he said that the Government has no power to intervene in the administration of New Guinea because the affairs of that territory are controlled by ordinances, and later he said that it had. I direct the attention of honorable members to the New Guinea Act of 1920-26, section 13 of which reads -
Except as provided in this or any act, the acts of the Parliament of the Commonwealth shall not be in force, in the territory unless expressed to extend thereto, or unless applied to the territory by ordinance made by the Governor-General under this act.
Section 14 provides -
Until the Parliament makes other provision for the government of the territory, the Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in the territory.
If either House of the Parliament passes a resolution, of which notice has been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after any such ordinance has been laid before the House, disallowing the ordinance, the ordinance shall thereupon cease to have effect.
Although the honorable member for Parkes endeavoured to make it appear that Parliament has not the power to intervene, it will be seen that the power rests with the Parliament.
– That is not the act in operation to-day.
– That law was in force when the Scullin Government was in office.
– There is nothing in the New Guinea Act which takes from the Governor-General the prerogative to exercise mercy in cases of this kind, aud as the Governor-General acts on the advice of his Ministers, the Cabinet could, if it so desired, make a recommendation which might result in this man’s life being saved.
– The Governor-General has no voice in the administration of New Guinea.
– Then why have Iiia responsible Ministers considered this matter in Cabinet? I am making my speech in my own way. The fact is that Ministers have not taken sufficient interest in this matter to realize the responsibility and power of the Parliament in this case, which is the first of its kind to come before the Commonwealth Parliament since the inception of federation. The members of the Opposition are concerned not with the merits or demerits of the case, but with the imposition of capital punishment in a territory directly under the control of the Commonwealth. It has been said that if this man’s life is spared the prestige of the white residents in New Guinea will suffer. Is this man to be executed because uncivilized natives demand a life for a life ? Should we perpetuate the laws of the black man in a country which we are trying to civilize? I appeal to the Government to postpone its decision until ithas had sufficient time to see if justice cannot be done in some otherway. I believe that the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Parkhill) is actuated by humane instincts, and would, if other Ministers were agreeable, be willing to delaya definite decision. Owing to the method adopted in tabling sheafs of ordinances and regulations, particularly after a lengthy recess, it is impossible’ for honorable members to be conversant with their details. If ordinances were tabled in a more satisfactory manner, we might be able to keep in touch with the amendments made from time to time, and in that way would have a closer knowledge of the laws under which these territories are administered. I trust that even at this hour the Government will heedthe earnest representations of honorable members on this side of the chamber to delay the execution of Schmidt so that the whole of the circumstances surrounding this tragic affair may he fully investigated.
Motion (by Mr. McCall) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr.Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 12
Original question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.30 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What financial or other liability in respect of the construction or maintenance of the Singapore Naval Base has been assumed by the Commonwealth Government?
– While supporting the scheme for a naval base at Singapore, the Commonwealth Government has assumed no liability in connexion with its construction or maintenance, in view of the Government’s contribution to the naval defence of the Empire by the expenditure of substantial sums for the construction of warships.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of assistance, including bounties, has been granted to primary and secondary industries, respectively, for the years 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1935?
– Assistance granted to primary and secondary industries by way of cash payments by the Commonwealth during the financial years ended 30th June, 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1935, was as follows : -
l. - On the 20th March, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Forde) addressed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the following question, upon notice -
Is it a fact that one, Cecil Law, is coming to Australia as a radio announcer for the Broadcasting Commission; ifso, can the Minister say why the Commission considers it necessary to importan announcer, or does it believe Australians are not good enough for the position?
I have since made inquiries in the matter, and the answer to the honorable member’s question is in the negative.
Broadcasting Station at Lawrence.
– On the 18th March, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked, without notice, a question pertaining to the opening of the new regional wireless broadcasting station at Lawrence, New South Wales. Inquiries which I have since made elicit the information that it is expected that test transmissions will be conducted from broadcasting station 2NR - Lawrence - towards the end of April. The opening date cannot be determined until test transmissions have been made.
Monetary and Banking Systems.
l. - On the 20th March, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) asked the Prime Minister whether arrangements could be made for copies of evidence given before the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems to be placed in the Library for theuse of honorable members. I desire to inform the honorable member that the Government has approved of the printing of such evidence as, in the opinion of the commission, is likely to be of permanent public value. Copies will be supplied ata nominal figure to all who wish to obtain them. The commission has been asked to arrange for the evidence tobe made available, as printed, for the information of members of the Legislature. Proofs are now being corrected, and it is hoped that it will be possible at an early date to place the revised copies in the Library.
y. - On the18th March, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The following replies have been furnished by the Minister for Health and Repatriation : -
– On the 20th March, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following question, without notice : -
In view of the dismissal of a large number of the employees of the Commonwealth clothing factory in Victoria by reason of the completion of this year’s work, will the Minister for Defence expedite the manufacture of the new uniform’s so that those who have been dismissed may be re-employed, and the services of others who are still engaged may be retained?
I am now in a position to informthe honorable member as follows : -
To cope with extraordinary requirements arising out of the decision to reclothe the military forces, a considerable number of new employees was taken on in the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory in 1933. The reclothing of the military forces was accelerated in 1934 in preparation for the royal visit in connexion with the Victorian Centenary Celebrations. The reclothing is now completed and nothing more is in prospect except the annual turnover. Already, in anticipation of requirements, a considerable amount of reserve stock has been accumulated, and the factory can no longer continue toretain employees on the scale of the past two years. In June, 1932, the number of employees was 240, a total greater than had existed for years previously. In June, 1935, the number had reached 482, a total considerably in excess of normal requirements, and consequently reductions are now in process. The reductions are being put into effect as slowly as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 March 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19360324_reps_14_149/>.