14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Treasurer aware that in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald, Professor D. B. Copland, discussing the rise of interest rates, declared -
The proximate cause of the present difficulty is the unfavorable balance of payments over the past eighteen months. This has involved a considerable drain upon the London funds of the Commonwealth Bank to its total cash reserves, and the cash reserves of the tradingbanks.
As that view conflictswith the assurances given to this Parliament by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the honorable gentleman himself,will he cause an investigation to be made to ascertain whether or not Professor Copland’s view is the correct one? Furthermore, in order to make it clear that the House is under no misunderstanding concerning the matter, will he invite the Commonwealth Bank Board to say whether or not the proximate cause of the recent change of interest rates is as alleged by Professor Copland? If that is not the case, will the Commonwealth Bank Board intimate to the Treasurer, for the information of honorable members, the cause which lias led to the change?
– The many questions raised by the Leader of the Opposition require a more extended reply than I expect that you, Mr. Speaker, would allow me to make. Professor Copland’s article discussed the whole of the present situation, not merely the recent rise of interest rates, and in the limited opportunity that I have had to look at the article, I find myself, generally, in agreement with the views expressed. I merely point out that that aspect of the matter has not been debated in this House. I see no reason for the further investigation suggested by the honorable member, as the situation is well known both to the Commonwealth Government and to the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– Is there any ground for the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), published in the newspapers to-day, that the control of monetary policy in Australia has been taken out of the hands of the Commonwealth Bank by one of the trading banks?
– I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), other Ministers, and I, amply demonstrated during the recent debate on this subject, that the principal cause, indeed the only cause, of the recent rise of interest rates, was the very much greater activity in industry due to the prevailing prosperity, and the consequent increased demand for money by industry, governments, and semigovernmental bodies. The rise of -J per cent, in twelve months, which the Loan Council had experienced in floating public loans, was a pointer indicating the possibility of a general rise of interest rates. This explanation, in conjunction with other statements made by the Prime Minister and myself in this chamber, makes it clear that the recent rise was inevitable. “Whether it occurred three months hence or three months ago is relatively immaterial, although the Government would have liked the low rates to be maintained for as long as possible. The stress of the demand for money falls unequally on the various financial institutions. The particular institution which first raised its rates may have had to meet greater demands than other institutions, and, consequently, may have felt that it was necessary to increase its rates at an earlier date. I think I can say with complete assurance that the general control exercised over monetary matters in Australia has not been taken out of the hands of the Commonwealth Bank, and is not in the hands of any other individual financial institution.
– Can the honorable gentleman inform the House as to whether or not it is a fact that the Commonwealth Bank contemplated the raising of its rates of interest before the Bank of New South Wales took that course ? Is it also a fact that it delayed the renewal of fixed deposits until it had decided what its rates should be, informing its depositors that they were bound to rise?
– As I have already assured the House, I have been in close touch with the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank, and also with the board, through the Secretary to the Treasury, who is a member of the board. I am quite certain that within recent times I would have had prior knowledge of any proposal to raise its rates. I have had no such intimation. I have good reason to believe that, until just recently, the Commonwealth Bank did not consider the raising of its interest rates.
– In view of the information contained in recent cable reports that the British Treasury has announced its adherence to a policy of low interest rates, and, according to market reports, has been able to maintain low rates on the London money market, can the Treasurer say why the Commonwealth Treasury cannot do the same in Australia ?
– The conditions existing in London and in Australia are totally different. The British Chancellor of the Exchequer has a weapon for the control of interest rates which we in Australia do not possess, in that he has the power of veto in connexion with trustee security loans being floated on the London market. By reason of that power of veto the London market is kept for British and dominion borrowing. Foreign borrowing, which was a feature of that market some years ago, has been, practically nonexistent for the last three or four years. By controlling the approach to the British money market for trustee security loans the Chancellor of the Exchequer can ensure that the demand shall be less than the supply of money, with the result that interest rates are kept low. In Australia, we have not, and, it seems to me, could not, have that power, by reason of the legitimate demands of the Loan Council, of semi-governmental institutions, and of industry for loan moneys. I suggest tha! the conditions existing in the London money market are not a true guide for us in Australia.
– If the Treasurer agrees, as I think he does, that a rise of interest rates, following a general rise of prices and values, is not harmful to the community, does he not also agree that a rise of interest rates without a general increase of values and prices is harmful to the community?
– I do not know that a simple and short reply to the honorable member’s question is possible. I can say, however, that a low cost of living and low interest rates are undoubtedly beneficial to the general community. That state of affairs, however, cannot be commanded. With increased activity generally, there is an increased demand for money, and, in such circumstances, it is impossible to prevent a slight rise of the cost of money. I remind the honorable gentleman that the rate of interest on fixed deposits for three months, even with the recent rise, is less than half what it was before the depression.
– Will the Treasurer endeavour to arrange with the Commonwealth Bank Board far the issue of an authentic report setting out the reasons for the increased interest rate on fixed deposits recently agreed to by the bank’?
– I do not think that there is any need to approach the Commonwealth Bank Board again in this connexion. In its general hanking department - its trading bank activities - thu Commonwealth Bank is in direct competition with the other trading banks, and, therefore, cannot, for any protracted period, maintain its interest rates on deposits below those of the ordinary trad ing banks. It is true that for the pas.t. fifteen months the rate of interest paid by the Commonwealth Bank on fixed, deposits for three and six months haNbeen one-half per cent, below the rates paid by the trading banks. The effect is seen in the shrinkage of such deposits from £4,000,000 to £1,200,000 in about twelve months. The Commonwealth Bank has been almost drained of fixed deposits for periods of three and six months by reason of its attempt to maintain interest rates below those of the trading banks.
– If the main function of a central bank is the control of the currency and banking policy of the community, I ask the Treasurer if it is the opinion of the Commonwealth Bank Board, or the opinion of the Treasurer himself, that the instruments of control now possessed by the Commonwealth Bank are sufficiently strong to enable it to control banking and currency policy in Australia?
– As I have no doubt that the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems will give attention to this matter, it would be wrong for me to express my personal opinion at this stage.
– It seems to be the general opinion of honorable members of this House that the Commonwealth Bank Board could, if it so desired, take action to prevent interest rates from rising. Will the Treasurer say whether or not this is so? Will he tell the House, what specific action, or actions, have been, taken by the Commonwealth Bank Board to achieve this end?
– Under present circumstances, and in view of the existing demand for credit, there is one weapon the Commonwealth Bank could use, namely, the weapon of inflationary injections of credit into the Australian economy. But, as I understand its policy, the Commonwealth Bank Board is, strongly opposed to such action, and in that attitude, it has the strong support of the Commonwealth Government.
– In view of the controversy which has arisen on this matter, and in view of the various statements concerning the placing of responsibility for the recent rise of interest rates, I ask the Treasurer whether he can assure the House that the Commonwealth Bank has all the powers which can he given to it by legislation to control the currency system of Australia, and, to act, if it considers that interest rates should be eased or hardened? Can the House take it that it is the considered opinion of the Commonwealth Bank Board, that it would not be in the interests of Australia to prevent the hardening of interest rates which is taking place at the present time?
– There are very many directions, some of which, I have no doubt, have occurred to honorable members, in which the powers of the Commonwealth Bank to direct and control Australia’s financial and monetary policy could be strengthened. Again, I point out that this matter undoubtedly will come within the purview of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems, whose recommendations the Government awaits with interest. These, no doubt, will be influenced to a proper extent by the evidence to be given at a later stage by the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
RubberThread and Elastics.
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Treasurer state whether to-day’s press report is correct that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) had announced in Adelaide the renewal for a further twelve months of the federal aid roads agreement? If so, can he indicate whether the renewal for that period has been made under conditions which allow of the possibility of a larger proportion of the very heavy tax upon transport levied by this Parliament being allocated in this financial year to the uses of transport, in which avenue it is sorely needed?
– The announcement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was the result of a Cabinet decision. The federal aid roads agreement will expire on the 31st December next, which, date is in the middle of a financial year. It had been previously arranged that representatives of the Commonwealth and the States should meet in conference to discuss this and other matters of Commonwealth and State financial relations in September next, when two State Premiers, who are now absent from Australia, will have returned. In their absence, and for other reasons, it would be difficult to meet representatives of the States in conference before the 30th June next. In order to meet the obvious difficulty of budgeting, and to place the matter on a definite basis, the Prime Minister announced the continuance of the agreement for a further six months from the 31st December, 1936, to the 30th June, 1937. Before the end of the financial year the Government will have an opportunity to meet the States and diac-uss the continuance of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement on either the existing or altered terms.
– Has the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties any confirmation of the report that Japan has imposed an export duty of Id. a yard on artificial textiles, and if so, will he inform the House of the reasons for its imposition by Japan?
– I have heard of the report referred to by the honorable gentleman, but only from newspaper representatives in Canberra. I have no official information in regard to it.
– Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Constitution gives to the Commonwealth Parliament the sole right to legislate in regard to banking? If so, does the Government intend to ask the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems to report as to the advisability of the Commonwealth taking over the control of all legislation in connexion with . this subject?
– Any reformation of the banking system of Australia, whether in respect of the Commonwealth Bank or of the trading banks, comes within the terms of reference to the royal commission referred to. I have no doubt that the commission is giving consideration to this important subject, andwill eventually report on it.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question relating to technical education. I have since learned that a recent conference of State Ministers of Education, held in Melbourne, decided to ask the Commonwealth Government to consider the advisability of making a substantial capital grant, and thereafter an annual contribution, towards the maintenance of technical education in Australia. The Ministers expressed a desire that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should give them an opportunity to present their case. Arrangements are accordingly being made, but no date for the interview has yet been fixed.
– Will the Treasurer take into serious consideration the advisability of abolishing the sales tax on school materials ?
– The sales tax has already been taken off school text books, wall maps, and charts of all types, as well as scientific instruments used by schools and, I think, a number of minor articles also. Moreover, State schools controlled by governments are not liable to pay sales tax on any of the supplies which they purchase for their own use.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in a position to supply an answer to a question which I asked last Friday, as to the possibility of the Postmaster-General’s Department making permanent a number of its present casual employees, so that room may be found for other casual employees who have passed the necessary examination ?
– A reply to the honorable members previous question has not yet reached me from the Postmaster-General’s Department. I shall make further inquiries to-day with a view to expediting an answer, which I shall give to the honorable member as soon as it comes to hand.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to make a statement in reference to the report in to-day’s newspapers that an agreement has been arrived at between the nations in regard to the limitation of naval armaments?
– At the Naval Conference the principal matter discussed was a proposal for the reduction of the naval strengths of Great Britain and the United States of America to that of Japan. This was not agreed to, and consequently very little progress was made. Some agreement has been arrived at on other details which, according to the newspapers, have been referred to the British Cabinet, but confirmatory information on this subject ia not yet to hand.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs if he can make a statement to the House regarding recent developments in the international situation, particularly with reference to the conference that has been sitting in London for the last few days ?
– I regret that I have no information of a definite character to place before the House at present.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs give to the House any information concerning the appeal made by the Committee of Thirteen for the initiation of peace negotiations in the ItaloAbyssinian dispute?
– I have no late information on that subject, but if any should be available I shall reply to the honorable member at a later stage.
– I ask the Minister for Defence if the unusually outspoken statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) at Adelaide yesterday in regard to Australian defence was intended to foreshadow a more definite statement by the Minister himself as to the remedies to be applied?
– The statement of the Prime Minister was made apparently in anticipation of proposals that willbepresented in connexion with the next budget, in pursuance of the Government’s policy to continue to strengthen Australia’s defences.
– I ask the
Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties, whether, when foreign trade treaties are likely to be concluded, he will first take the House into his confidence regarding the points of such treaties? Is any trade treaty likely to be negotiated, or completed, before the Easter adjournment?
– It would not be practicable, as I am sure the honorable gentleman will agree, to submit to this House points reached in the negotiation of a trade treaty with any foreign country while such negotiations are still proceeding. However, before any trade treaty, approved by the Government can become law, it must of course be submitted to this House. I do not think it is likely that any trade treaty will be submitted to this House before the Easter adjournment.
Formal Motion foradjournment.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Ma honey) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House fer the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The appointments of junior clerks to the Commonwealth Bank by a competitive system and not by the present, methods.”
Five honorable members having risen
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Five years ago I noticed impediments which, for some considerable time, had been placed in the way of the appointment of some working-class boys to the Commonwealth Bank. I am acting, this afternoon, in the interests of the youth of Australia. A fundamental principle of democracy is that people should be afforded equal opportunities in life, but, in my opinion, the procedure adopted by the Commonwealth Bank Board in appointing junior clerks favours the children of wealthy parents and bears harshly on the children of poor people. Five years ago I wrote to the late Sir Robert Gibson, the then chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, on this subject, in the following terms: -
May I respectfully suggest to you, as a shareholder of the Commonwealth Bank, that your board review the existing method under which junior clerks are appointed to the Commonwealth Bank service? I understand that at the present time, and for some time past, it has been the practice to register applicants for appointments as junior clerks, the intermediate, leaving, or Banker’s Institute certificates being regarded as qualifications. I also understand that there is no competition amongst applicants, there being no system for awarding points for those passing, and that personal appearance or deportment is . taken into consideration when appointments are made. If this ‘is so, do not you think that this is open to serious objection, and is likely to afford scope to selectors who may have unconscious bias, or have rather superior ideas as to what constitutes deportment or satisfactory personal appearance, and further, do you not think that this system would, if men were so inclined, afford scope for favoritism?
May I suggest that it would be more in keeping with Australian sentiment and better results would accrue to the bank if a. system of suitable competitive examinations were established for entrance, thus enabling the poor man’s son, who probably could not deport himself and arrange his personal appearance so satisfactorily as those coming from more comfor.ta’hlc homes, to be on an equal footing with others in regard to obtaining appointment. The competitive system, to my mind, is the most democratic system, and I am sure you will find that it has none of the objections and objectionable scope that surround a system similar to that which I understand is in operation at the present time.
The Public Service of Australia generally, including the railways, opens its ranks to all and sundry and appointment is only by merit and competitive examination, the boy obtaining the highest number of marks in a prescribed examination being given the appointment, and 1 inn sure you will agree Unit as this system has given satisfaction, and (riven excellent public servants to Australia, it would be worthy of u trial in your institution which von so ably preside over.
Trusting that you will give this mutter your due consideration, unci bring it before your bon rd.
After my election as a member of thi. Parliament, I made representations to Dr. Earle Page, and be said that the Government could not intervene in a mattei of this description. I understand, however, that he wrote to the board on the subject and obtained a reply that was not satisfactory. Subsequently I wrote to Sir Claude Reading, the present chairman of the board, and presented the case to him. My letter read as follows: -
During the last session of Parliament, I, being; actuated by a regard for the public interest, asked Dr. Earle Page, (the Federal Treasurer), if consideration could be given to the matter of having competitive examinations instituted for entrance of boys to junior clerkships on the staff of the Commonwealth Bank, this to replace the present apparently unfair selection system of the bank. Dr. Page informed me that he would confer with you, and quite recently I received from him with surprise not unmingled with regret, an intimation to the effect that the board was not favorable to the establishment of competitive examinations, and boys were only admitted “on their merits “ and provided they have attained the necessary educational standard, and possess the requisite personal qualifications likely to enable them to ma.ke efficient bank officers.
I feel deeply on this matter, and I respectfully suggest that the present system of selection, stripped of :its alleged merit recognition, is open to many objections. The competitive system, if I may say so. affords safeguards against many undesirable possibilities and realities surrounding the selection system, and although I know that your bank requires the possession of the intermediate university certificate on the part of boys seeking entrance to the bank, there surely is no objection to having a competitive examination having as its standard the equivalent of the intermediate examination or indeed the leaving, as with the Bank of New South Wales.- At present, I understand that a. boy having a leaving certificate docs not obtain preference over a boy with the intermediate certificate, so evidently one of the great essential* of the bank’s requirements as to the standard of education is ignored, as also is educational merit. In the Commonwealth Public and State Public Services generally, those men who have risen to eminence in the administrative sphere have been recruited from the ranks of those who have passed, competitive examinations as low down the rung as messengers, and as high as professional men. which is evidence of the satisfactory working of the competitive system, and further, in the Commonwealth and State services competitive examinations are in operation, and were instituted in view of the serious opportunities for personal favoritism.
With regard to the attention paid by the bank to personality qualifications, I am sure you will readily agree with me in the present economic stress, many excellent boys holding the intermediate and leaving certificates, and perhaps from a worker’s home and with no aplomb, may not be able to dress with the raiment of those whose parents are not suffering from effects of the economic conditions. Many excellent boys may not, moreover, have the “ personality “ called for by a selector who has an uneon.sc.ous bias against a plain lad and regards an excess of assurance or confidence as “personality”. This should not prevail in a democracy, nor in the bank of -the people, and the handicap referred to would be obviated by the competitive system.
Perhaps you may recall that I have had the honour and pleasure of meeting you, the occasion being at the dinner at Canberra in honour of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester. I then formed the impression that you are a generous and fair man, and I feel that I can, therefore, with every confidence, appeal to you to consider my representations on their merits. I feel too, that il you investigate the respective systems, you will ask your board to establish the just and fair competitive system.
May I, without presumption or leaving myself open to the implication of resorting to mean flattery, say that I feel you have attained your present position of eminence in the public and banking life of Australia through competition, industry and ability, and this alone, is n reason why you will remedy the present state of affairs.
In conclusion, from many years of experience and observation, I am convinced that competition is the only practical means of testing efficiency, and that competitive examinations are a good working criterion of intellectual attainments and that any one who comes well through a competitive test must have ability and industry, as well as personality, all so essential in embarking on a banking career.
Of course, I am aware that the present system was not established by you, having been in operation in the bank from its inception. I regard it as a legacy to you.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) Gerald W. Mahoney.
Federal Member for Denison.
P.S. Perhaps if the appointments to the Commonwealth Bank in Hobart ave analyzed in regard to the educational standards of appointees on a merit basis, and personal qualifications on the basis of the likelihood of the appointees making efficient bank officers, and the analysis is compared with a similar analysis of those applicants not selected, an interesting situation might be disclosed, that i3. that merit and personal qualifications have not been the criteria for appointments.
Sir Claude Reading’s reply was as follows :
I have to acknowledge your letter of the 21st instant, relative to the entrance qualifications of the Commonwealth Bank staff.
Before replying may I say, that I do recollect our meeting at Canberra during tlie Royal Visit and appreciate your reference to that meeting.
You submit arguments in favour of the competitive examination system for entrance to the hank’s staff which arc naturally interesting. I. quite realize the force of these arguments, and I can only say that I have always paid great attention to and examined closely the method .that has been evolved from post experience by the bank’s officers. In .this method competitive educational qualifications -play an important part. Applicants with a higher pass gain preference iri appointment other qualifications being equal. It is extremely difficult for a candidate to gain admittance unless he has attained the necessary examination standard, although an applicant who appeared otherwise above the average might be given a trial on probation even though he did not fully satisfy the normal examination requirements. I mention this because it provides an avenue nf entrance for those who would bc shut out by competitive examinations alone - although failure .to (reach the examination standard might lie attributable to hardship or nonadaptability to the examination system.
I would like to comment on your reference to the competitive examinations for entrance to the Public .Service; the services offer a far more diversified field for the absorption of boys of varying attributes than does the bank, and provides far more avenues where boys of differing temperaments and qualifications maybe placed. The bank’s requirements are definable within limits. A certain educational standard is necessary and a certain degree of personal attributes which would not include over assurance or over confidence as suggested by you.
I trust that the foregoing will satisfy von that Iiic bank’s reasons for its present method are neither arbitrary nor illogical, and can assure you that any appointment to the staff is regarded as a matter of great importance and must be made without fear or favour and solely with the objective of appointing those who are considered the best fitted to fill the position. Based on a long experience in matters of this sort I. do not hesitate to say that in my opinion if the applicant were to be selected on a. purely competitive educational basis this would not operate in the best interests of the bank.
The letters exchanged between myself and Sir Claude Reading represent part of my campaign for the institution of competitive examinations for appointments to the staff of the Commonwealth Bank. The success that has attended competitive examinations under the Commonwealth Public Service Act is conclusive proof that the competitive system is the best. The efficiency of the Commonwealth Public Sen-ice improved by 90 per cent, following the institution of competitive examinations. The improvement would be 100 per cent, if remaining anomalies were removed.
Deportment, apparently, is a guiding principle in the making of appointments to the staff of the Commonwealth Bank. It is a principle which prohibits the sons of the working class from being appointed to positions in the institution. Before a boy is admitted to the staff he is subjected to a means test. He is cross-examined regarding his parents and his birthplace. Information is sought as to whether the applicant or his parents are politically or industrially interested in the Labour movement. The clothes worn are closely scrutinized to see whether they are of a quality which befits a servant of the bank, and only if the scrutiny indicates that the applicant is the son of wealthy parents is his application likely to succeed. Educational attainments do not seem to enter into the matter. When there are two applications before the bank, one from a well-educated son of a poor person, and one from the less brilliant son of a wealthy man, the boy who has had the best of life gets the job and the other is thrown out into the cold world. As a matter of fact, many appointments to the bank’s staff are engineered at social clubs, where branch managers come into contact with wealthy people. A branch manager is approached by a father who is seeking to have his boy placed and told that the lad intends to apply for a junior clerkship. The circumstances are all in favour of that boy being appointed to a vacancy although his educational standard is much below that of a. rival applicant whose chances are prejudiced because his father and mother are members of the working class. This was exemplified recently in the little town in which I live. Two lads, one the son of a worker, who had to struggle to pay for his boy’s education, and the other the son of a well-endowed supporter of the Nationalist party, sought jobs with the Commonwealth Bank. The first lad came through his school examinations with flying colours, but he was passed aside and the boy, whose father was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nationalist Government, but who, at school, failed in his examinations and was considered a “ dud”, was appointed. The efficiency of the Commonwealth Bank will be impaired if such conditions are allowed to continue. Efficiency can be obtained only from the competitive examination system. If it be established, the sons of working men will generally obtain the positions as they are, by nature, better qualified. It is in the ranks of the industrial workers that the brains are to be found. The fact that the conservative Argus is opposed to my proposal satisfies me that I am right. The following is an extract from a sub-leader published on the 12th March last : -
There are several reasons why the House of Representatives should not encourage the ambition of Mr. Mahoney, a Tasmanian Labour member, to have the staff of the Commonwealth Bank chosen by competitive examination. It is no part of Parliament’s duty to dictate to the Commonwealth Bank Board how it shall select its servants. Apart from that aspect, it would he a mistake for the authorities of the bank to confine their choice of employees to those placed highest on an examination list. All the available posts would soon be monopolized by the class which makes a specialty of passing examinations for appointment to the Public Service. Other qualities besides the ability to satisfy examiners are essential - personality, character, and above all undivided allegiance to the service. Loyalty has not always been a characteristic of many who have gained admittance to public services because of the adherence of governments to the examination fetish.
Competitive examinations would mean the end of log-rolling as it would be impossible for any politician or any other person to bring influence to bear on the Commonwealth Bank in support of applications and there would be an end to job-fixing in clubs. Although I have never had the experience, I know that other honorable members have been approached with requests to influence the Appointment of certain lads to the Commonwealth Bank staff. I have no possible chance of having a boy placed with the bank because of the definite instructions given by the Bank Board to the persons charged with making staff appointments that no appointments shall be made from the ranks of the working class.
– The honorable member has noproof of that.
– I have all the proof I need. The Argus sub-leader itself is sufficient proof. I do not intend to mention names, however, because if I did so the boys concerned would be victimized. As a matter of fact, by putting up a fight for the youth of Australia, I am taking a grave risk of having my own son victimized. Ear from advocating a reduction of the standard of education required from appointees to the Commonwealth Bank staff, I should like the standard to be put on a par with that set for entry to the Victorian Public Service, as shown in the following -
PublicService Examination, 1935, to be Held in Conjunction with the University Examinations.
A candidate shall not be eligible for appointment unless he shall have obtained a pass in -
Four other Leaving subjects.
Subject to compliance with the conditions outlined above, the order of merit of candidates will be determined by the total marks obtained in handwriting and four (4) leaving subjects (pass or honours) selected from the following: -
Two Languages (other than English).
Mathematics I., II., III., IV. (one, two or three in numher, but not more, may be taken).
One Language (other than English).
Mathematics I., II., III., IV. (one or two in number, but not more, may be taken ) .
History, British (or any one other).
A candidate who obtains loss than the minimum number of maris required for a pass in Handwriting and in four School
Leaving subjects for which he has entered shall not be included in the number to be selected for appointment.
A candidate may not enter for both Honours and Pass in the same subject.
A candidate entering for both Honours and Pass in any of the undermentioned groups of subjects may select the subjects in which he desires to he examined as follows: -
Languages (other than English) - 1 Honours and 1 Pass.
Mathematics - Not more than 2 Honours and 1 Pass.
History - 1 Honours and 1 Pass.
Physics and Chemistry - 1 Honours and 1 Pass.
The examination is open to boys who, on the 1st December, 1935, arc under 19 years of age.
For the purposes of this examination, the marks gained in any subject will be the average of the marks awarded by the two examiners in that subject. [Leave to continue given.]
My plea for the competitive system to lie used for the making of appointments to the staff of the bank has the support of the whole of the Australian trade union movement and of the Australian Labour party; furthermore, last week I received the following telegram from the annual conference of the Australian Natives Association held at Castlemaine, Victoria, and attended by more than 300 delegates -
Australian Natives Association honorary conference Castlemaine last week representing forty thousand members all political opinions and consisting three hundred delegates unanimously resolved all appointments Commonwealth and States be by competitive examination.
I am also supported by the teachers of State schools, and of the various high schools and colleges in the vicinity of Hobart, who fully realize the advantages of a competitive system. Opposed to that view, however, is what we may describe as the university professor’s view, namely, that a bright boy who is able to pass his examination in, say, three years, cannot be nearly so well qualified as the dull youth who requires six years’ tuition by university professors to pass the same examination. No doubt we shall hear it said that the Commonwealth Parliament has no right to interfere in this matter, but, after all, the bank belongs to the Commonwealth, and in this institution, as in those directly under Commonwealth control, the competitive system of appointment should obtain. As a mem ber of the public I am a shareholder in the Commonwealth Bank, and I would not do anything which would be likely to injure that institution. I desire to protect its interests, and for that reason I am anxious to ensure that the staff shall be efficient. The best way to do that is to introduce the competitive system of appointment. I know that it has become a nightmare to rich parents that their sons, for whom everything has been made easy, are not able to hold their own in open competition with the sons of workingclass parents. Education has become a wonderful thing in the hands of workingclass people to-day. I use the expression “ working-class “ in its broadest sense, as including any one who really works. “We know in Victoria and elsewhere that the sons of workers have been discriminated against, because they do not belong to that class for which the more choice positions are customarily reserved. I maintain that there is no position in this country which should not be open to working-class people, provided they are qualified to hold them. If the deportment test had been applied to the Prime Minister, he would not be in this House to-day. I know quite well that if it had been applied to me, I should not be here. Of course, I should stand no chance in a deportment competition with the Treasurer, for instance. I have communicated with those organizations which interest themselves in the welfare of the youth of Australia, and they are unanimous in supporting the stand I am now taking. I hope that the House will agree to my motion.
– I do not wish to appear before the House in any false light, and I hasten to assure the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) that this tenuous attribute of deportment is not one of the things upon which I happen to pride myself. In fact, I am a little in doubt as to how the term “ deportment “ got into this discussion. It is a new term to me in the connexion in which the honorable member has used it.
– It is one of the qualities insisted upon by the bank authorities.
– I have had some correspondence with the Commonwealth Bank authorities on this matter in the past - some on behalf of the honorable member for Denison - .and I assure honorable members that the word “ deportment “ does not come into any of the communications I have received. The present position is that the salaried employees of the Commonwealth Bank number approximately 3,500 throughout the whole of Australia, while the number of employees of the Commonwealth Government, working under the Public Service Act, number 27,000. The total number of Commonwealth Government employees in all spheres is about double that number. Roughly, half of the Commonwealth public servants, who come under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, are chosen as the result of competitive examination, as the honorable member has said. The others are not, and the present system of enlisting youths for the Commonwealth Bank staff requires certain educational qualifications in applicants. The bank has no need to call for applicants, in that, in the ordinary course of events, quite a large number of youths are constantly applying for appointment. The educational standard laid down is an intermediate pass, including a pass in English and Mathematics I. Very few departures from that requirement are allowed. In only very exceptional circumstances are boys who have not reached that educational standard accepted.
– Why are there any exceptions?
– In certain exceptional cases, it becomes evident on a personal interview that a boy possesses very suitable qualities for the position, and he is engaged on probation, subject to the condition that he obtains the necessary educational qualification within a stipulated time. The authorities lay great stress on the fact that a personal interview with the applicant is indispensable, because the lad must have character and personality which, in the opinion of the interviewing officer, are of the kind necessary in one “who must pass his life in banking circles, and who is to have considerable contact with the general public. In the capital cities, the senior officer, a sub-manager, or the accountant, interviews the applicants and advises the branch manager of those whom he considers to be suitable candidates for the positions. The branch manager then interviews the lads who have been recommended to him, and submits to the Governor of the Bank for approval the names of those whom he can confidently recommend for appointment. In country towns, the lads are interviewed by local managers of the Commonwealth Bank, who send the applications, reports and their recommendations to the Governor of the Bank. The age of appointees is from sixteen to eighteen years, and the rate of remuneration at the commencement of service is about £70 per annum.
The honorable member for Denison has suggested that some favouritism is shown in the appointment of candidates; in particular, he ventured to mention political favoritism. I ask the House, apart from anything that I may say in connexion with this matter, to consider whether, under the conditions that I have outlined, political favoritism is possible. I know from my personal experience that I have recommended the applications of about half a dozen boys, the sons of persons whom I had every reason to believe were political supporters of mine, but not one of them was appointed to a position in the bank.
– Surely that justifies my contention that political influence is exerted; the Treasurer did recommend applicants.
– The honorable gentleman is turning on his own argument. He stated that only the sons of dependantsof members of the political party to which I belong had any chance of beingappointed. If political favouritism had been shown, surely the lads recommended by the Treasurer of the Commonwealth should have had a sporting chance of obtaining positions, it suggests to me that the allegation that senior officers of this great national institution allow political considerations to weigh with them when appointing a staff is an unfair reflection on the officials. At any rate, with all respect to the honorable member for Denison, I definitely reject hissuggestion that any political favouritism is shown by them. I believe that the lads are honestly chosen on their merits. The educational standard, in the vast majority of cases, is insisted on; but it is definitely coupled with the impression created by the lads in a personal interview, because the moral character and the personality of the candidates in this walk of life, are definitely considered to be of importance. No honorable member of this House would surely suggest that a competitive examination naturally and automatically fairly places some lads in a particular group of merit compared with others, when qualifying to enter upon a banking career. I do not. believe that the competitive examination system is by any means the best test in this connexion. In a communication from the Commonwealth Bank Board to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in reply to inquiry, the method of selection of lads for positions in the bank is described. It contains the following: -
In this method competitive educational qualifications play an important part. Applicants with a higher pass gain preference in appointment - other qualifications being equal. It is extremely difficult for a candidate to gain admittance unless he has attained the necessary examination standard, although an applicant who appeared otherwise above the average, might be given a trial on probation, even though he did not fully satisfy the normal examination requirements.
During that trial on probation the lad is expected to show that he possesses qualifications which are at least the equivalent of the educational standard required by the bank. The probationary period is for a relatively short time. The letter proceeds : -
I mention this because it provides an avenue of entrance for those who would be shutout by competitive examinations alone - although failure to reach the examination standard might be attributable to hardship or non-adaptibility to the examination system. The Public Service offers a far more diversified field for the absorption of boys of varying attributes than does the bank, and provides far more avenues where boys of differing temperaments and qualifications may be placed. Any appointment to the staff is regarded as a matter of great importance and must be made without fear or favour-
– Hear, hear! and solely with the objective of appointing those who are considered to be best fitted to fill the position. Based on a long experience in matters of this sort, I do not hesitate to say that, in my opinion, if the applicants were to be selected on a purely competitive educational basis this would not operate in the best interests of the bank.
I do not consider that it is necessary for me to make any further remarks upon this subject. I am firmly of the opinion that there is no class or political favoritism shown in the appointment of lads, such as has been suggested by the honorable member for Denison. I am perfectly convinced that the selection of candidates is carried out honestly. In the senior officers of the bank we have an honest, capable body of men who would not stoop to the practices that it has been suggested exist. The selection of the lads is made honestly and in a capable manner, and for that reason the bank is forming a staff of which the honorable member should be proud.
.- The Commonwealth Bank exists in pursuance of a statute passed by this Parliament; it is essentially an instrumentality of this Parliament. Those who are employed in the service of that bank are as much engaged in the Public Service of the Commonwealth as they would be if they were employed in the Taxation Department, the Postal Department, or any of the other instrumentalities which this Parliament, in its wisdom, has established in order to carry out what it considers to be the major requirements of the people of Australia. The history of appointment to the Public Service is a long one. Indeed, in many respects, it is one of exceeding interest. Many years ago in point of time, appointments to the Public Service of Australia were either made for political reasons or were, in many instances, capable of being suspected of having been made for political reasons. Undoubtedly, charges of nepotism were established in the early years of the existence of the Public Service. Parliaments, before the advent of federation, then decided that appointments to the service should be made entirely ona basis which would exclude any possibility of favoritism either by honorable members of Parliament, or by the head of a department, or even by the senior officers administering departments. The problem then faced was to decide whether the appointment of a candidate to the service should be determined exclusively on his merit. As is known, important changes were made, and appointments were effected by the Public Service Board.
The department itself, through its senior or other officers, would have little or no voice whatever as to whether one candidate had merits superior to those of another. In short, there arose for the Public Service of Australia a system of appointment by competitive examinations. Minimum standards are not set, but those who obtain the greatest percentage of passes in the subjects prescribed for the examination receive priority of call when vacancies occur. Whilst it is regrettable if political patronage has occurred in .the past with regard, to appointments to the Public Service, social or other patronage would be conceivably worse. After all, the public can correct abuses incidental to political patronage, but the more subtle and insidious evil of social patronage, because of the difficulty of dealing with it, remains almost incurable.
The Public Service is now not subjected to this disability of favoritism, either open or disguised. We have yet to be informed that appointments made to the Taxation Department, for instance, bear the taint of favoritism. The work of this department is exceedingly difficult, and is not without similarity to that of the Commonwealth Bank. When vacancies occur, appointments are made under the competitive examination system. The senior officers of that department are as competent in doing their work as are the senior officers of the Commonwealth Bank in discharging the duties which devolve upon them. The obligation of the senior and other officers of the department to have contact with the public is as real as in the case of the general officers of the Commonwealth Bank, anl the necessity for ‘the possession of personality as a dominating consideration in making appointments to the Bank, even if it were true, would be no greater than in the case of appointments to the Taxation Department. The officers of that department have direct contact with the public. They give advice regarding the nature of the law relating to taxation, and, indeed, in respect of a law which is very complicated and difficult to administer, as well as unstable, owing to the frequent alterations made by this Parliament of taxes and the incidence of taxation. The whole of the argument which the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board has used in justification of relying upon considerations other than the competitive examination system falls to the ground when applied to the Taxation Department. It is true that his letter states that the educational qualifications of applicants are taken into account, but the bank relies on the right to disregard educational qualifications if it is of the opinion that the proposed appointee suffers from what is called non-adaptability to the examination system. It also takes into account what it describes as personality. Thus the way is open to the bank to appoint an applicant on the ground that he has some qualification other than educational fitness, such as “ pep “ or “ it “, or has some attribute which, in the eyes of the senior officer, offsets his educational disqualifications. That is too dangerous a power to give to a senior officer of the Commonwealth Bank. Not only does it enable him to appoint a person who has not the necessary educational qualifications, but it also warrants him in rejecting the application of another person who has the required educational ability. Just as he is able to say that certain outstanding personal attributes compensate for lack of educational qualifications, so he may contend that lack of personality - that vague and obscure characteristic - would be a sufficient ground for disregarding the undoubted superiority of an applicant’s educational attainments. If appointments were made by the Public Service Board according to the standard set by the Commonwealth Bank, I should have less abjection to the method employed, but the Public Service Board, which has the responsibility of making appointments in all departments of the Service, has no voice in connexion with appointments to the Commonwealth Bank. In fact, appointments to the bank are made on the adjudication of a senior officer in a capital city or a branch manager in the country. The officer interviews a boy who probably submits his certificates and other evidence of bis educational qualifications, but not in comparison with those of other applicants at that time. I understand that boys who have had undoubted educational qualifications have failed to receive appointment because of deficiency in height.
Mr.Scullin.- A lad 5 feet 6 inchesin height was refused appointment.
– I submit that men who have risen to great eminence in the Public Service of Australia would have been disqualified for appointment if that condition had been applied to them. A distinguished right honorable gentleman, who sits on the ministerial bench, would probably have been refused, on account of his height, appointment to the service of the Commonwealth Bank, had he been an applicant for such a position, although he played a conspicuous part in the establishment of the institution. I submit that good grounds have been submitted for the application to the Commonwealth Bank of the system of appointments applicable to the Public Service. The bank is a national instrumentality. This Parliament established it, and appointments to its service should be made without fear or favour; there should be no suspicion that they are not in accordance with the merit of the applicants. The system developed in Australia as the result of long experience of the evils of patronage in appointments to the Public Service, and the safeguards devised for that service, should be insisted upon in the filling of positions in the Commonwealth Bank, which is also a part of the Public Service of Australia.
.- Appointments to the service of the Commonwealth Bank are much coveted. The keenest competition for these posts takes place among boys who have had the advantage of a good education, and almost every member of Parliament has been asked for his personal assistance in their behalf. I have received probably twenty requests for recommendations, but have never given any recommendation other than that the application should receive consideration, and in every case, before giving that recommendation, have insisted on a personal interview with the applicant. I am aware that the educational standard of an applicant for a position in theCommonwealth Bank is an important matter, but in practice, if a man were appointing a youth to a position in bis own business, he would notbe solely influenced by marks obtained in an examination; he would want to interview the lad to assure himself that the applicant squared up to one’s estimate of what was expected of him in all things. Nevertheless, I regard the present practice of the Commonwealth Bank as highly competitive. The element of education is certainly most important, but it is not the only factor to be considered. Consequently, the applicant has to deport himself before the examiner, in competition with other boys, who have gone through the same curriculum. In Perth, I have received complaints from people of my own political conviction that certain members of the Labour party had an undue pull at the Commonwealth Bank, and were successful in having their sons appointed to fill vacancies in that institution. This was the reverse of the complaint of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), but it has happened inWestern Australia, where a Labour Government is in power. I made it my business to go to the bank, and was afforded every facility for making a very thorough examination of the system adopted in the making of appointments. The boys first make application to the accountant, who makes a partial classification of applicants into three groups, having particular regard to their examination results. The names are then filed, and when an appointment is to be made, a selection is made from the names appearing in the first group and submitted to the superior officers. In all oases, not only the accountant himself, but also the superior officers of the bank personally interview the applicants. It seems to me that that is a complete and fair way of making a selection. I cannot imagine that the officers of the Commonwealth Bank are such highbrows that they would not give the son of a working man a chance. Nearly all of them have started as bank clerks, and I am sure that they would give every boy a fair chance to obtain an appointment according to his merits.
.- I support the motion. The reply of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), that politics do not come into this question, and that, in the matter of appointments to the Commonwealth Bank staff, the merit of the respective candidates is considered, merely confirms what the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has said should apply, but which does not occur in actual practice. To verify his statement that applicants are actually chosen in order of merit by competitive examination, the Treasurer read a letter from the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board setting out the policy observed in making appointments; namely, that qualification shall be by merit, at competitive examinations. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that political influence was being brought to bear by members of the Labour party in “Western Australia in order to secure preference in appointments. The Labour party is very rarely in office and in a position to bring political pressure .to bear upon the Commonwealth Bank Board. I appreciate the frankness displayed by the honorable member for Perth in saying that he has been approached by dozens of applicants for positions. I believe every honorable member has been approached at some time for a recommendation to some position or another. I have had that experience myself, but unlike the honorable member, of the dozens of prospective applicants who have approached me, I have made a recommendation on one occasion only. The boy whom I recommended failed to secure a post though his educational qualifications were very high. To other lads who approached me for a recommendation, I said that because of my failure to secure an appointment for a very highly qualified applicant, any recommendations I might make on their behalf might spoil their chances. The lad to whom I have referred lived outside my electorate, and asked for a recommendation. I recommended him and he was referred to the manager of the Commonwealth Bank at Newcastle, Mr. Pollock, for a test. He duly submitted to the test but was not appointed to the vacancy, although his educational qualifications were higher than those of the boy chosen by Mr. Pollock. According to the examination results published in the Newcastle Morning Herald the successful applicant passed with an A and five B’s, and the boy I recommended passed with an A and six B’s. I asked the unsuccessful applicant to forward me again for my information the statement setting out the Leaving Certificate passes he had secured. He did so, and forwarded me the following letter : -
Enclosed please find copies of passes per Newcastle Herald.
The successful applicant passed in English (B), Latin (B), French (B), Mathematics I. (B), Chemistry (B), History (A).
Myself - English (A), Mathematics I (B), Mathematics JJ. (B), History (B), Physics (B), Geography (B), Economics (B).
I passed in higher mathematics (mathematics II.) and an A in English, two supposedly essential subjects, and I may also state I took the commercial course, the successful applicant taking the general course (languages).
The bank manager told mo there were only a limited number of vacancies and consequently not .influence but ability was the factor in a successful application …. I hold no ill-feeling against the chap selected, in fact, he was a schoolmate of mine; but I can sympathetically understand the view you have taken in this matter, and fully appreciate the time and energy you have put into my case, and can only hope something may eventuate for a more impartial selection of appointees in the future.
Obviously he had a better pass than the successful applicant. Before I gave the recommendation I asked Mr. Armitage, the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, what qualifications were required, of an applicant for a position in the bank. I was informed that mathematics II. was considered absolutely essential. The applicant for whom I forwarded a recommendation had a pass in mathematics IT. I subsequently got into communication with Mr. Armitage and told him of the failure of this boy to secure an appointment, and what Mr. Pollock had said when I spoke to him about the appointment of the successful applicant. I said that although Mr. Pollock had reiterated the policy enunciated by Mr. Armitage that merit alone counted, an appointment had been made of an applicant who had secured an inferior pass, and that when I had asked Mr. Pollock why that had been done he had replied that something else besides merit counted. As a matter of fact when I spoke to Mr, Pollock I was informed that there was not anything wrong with the boy’s character. The applicant was asked to obtain references, and also if he knew any Rotarians. He said that he did, and eventually he obtained a reference from a Rotarian, a Mr. Mullan. He was then asked if he knew a Mr. Scott or some other personal friends of Mr. Pollock, and the applicant replied that, as lie was quite a youth, it was unlikely that he would know any of hi.? friends. His father, however, knew Mr. Scott, and approached him, but that gentleman said that he did not know the applicant. Tho lad was then informed that he must obtain a recommendation from some one who Mr. Pollock knew and who also knew the applicant. It was unreasonable to expect a lad, seventeen years of age, who was still at school, to be personally acquainted with such men. The applicant submitted several references from well-known citizens, copies of which I have here for any member to peruse, and he even gave the names of some honorable members who knew him. Notwithstanding the statement of the Treasurer that general suitability is the basis upon which the appointments are made, the case I have cited shows that appointments are not made on merit alone. When I brought this case under the notice of the Governor of the Bank, I received the following letter from Mr. Armitage : -
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 14th instant, and regret to hear that you feel so keenly in the matter of the non-appointment of-
– What was his name ?
– His name is Lloyd Roberts - I did not wish to disclose it - and I challenge any one to question his honesty, character or general suitability. His parents have taught in Sunday schools and bear excellent records, and he, too, is a Sunday school teacher. In a competitive examination at which 80 sat for a clerical position in the Railways Department of New South Wales he came top. He is also a qualified shorthand writer and typist, but his application was not favorably considered by the bank officials. The letter from Mr. Armitage continues -
As the matter has been finalized-
That is all the satisfaction I got -
I am sure that you will agree that no useful purpose can at this stage be served by discussing the details of the matter by correspondence. The bank feels that the final choice of applicants for appointments to the staff of the institution must remain in its own hands, as there are many qualifications which go to make a successful bank officer, which are apart altogether from the ability to pass examinations.
This applicant is physically and mentally fit, and his deportment should meet the exacting demands of those who have to make the final selection. I do not suggest interfering with the right of the bank to make its own appointments, but if its policy is “ appointment by merit at competitive examinations only,” then I hope that the bank will adhere to that policy. If it does, there will be no criticism from me. Many applicants residing in the coal-mining areas possess the necessary educational qualifications to justify appointment, but owing to the depression their parents have been unable to purchase the clothes which other applicants are able to buy, and in that way are at a disadvantage compared with those in more favorable circumstances.
.- I trust that honorable members will oppose the motion moved by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), because a comparison cannot reasonably be made between the staff of the Commonwealth Bank and that of the Commonwealth Public Service. If an investigation were conducted, it would be found that many members of the Commonwealth Public Service, who passed the necessary examination when first appointed, could not do so to-day. Generally speaking, it would seem that appointments should be made on a competitive basis, but general suitability as well as education are necessary in appointing youths who eventually will be expected to carry out highly specialized work. Some persons with high educational qualifications are quite incapable of using their ability to the advantage of their employers, and, in many instances, are unsuitable for executive positions. In making appointments to the Commonwealth Bank, the responsible officers do not ignore educational qualifications, but consider also the character and general suitability of the applicant. I, too, have supported the applications of many youths seeking employment in the Commonwealth Bank ; but before doing so 1 have interviewed the applicants and their parents, and have made inquiries concerning the general fitness of the applicants for such a position. Some applicants have said to me, “ My father is one of your constituents, and I should like a reference.”
– Have any of those, whose applications the honorable member has supported, been appointed to the bank?
– I do not think so. When I thought that the qualifications of applicants were sufficiently high, and that their general suitability was equal to the standard expected, I have gone to considerable trouble to assist them. Although they have been unsuccessful, I am not opposed to the policy adopted by the bank authorities. Some time ago, Parliament passed a measure in which provision was made that persons possessing certain qualifications could he appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service without passing the prescribed examination. Some time ago, I assisted a man who wa? anxious to obtain a position on the staff of the Commonwealth Bank. As the result of further inquiries, I discovered that this ‘ young man had, by industry and perseverance, passed further educational tests and had qualified for a higher position in the bank. Later, I was told that the bank authorities were pleased when they were able to make room for the more highly-qualified men who were coming forward. As honorable members will recall, a few years ago Parliament amended the Public Service Act to facilitate the admission to the Public Service of a limited number of men with university training. Some honorable members objected to that proposal on the ground that the intention was to admit to the Service a number of privileged “ silver tails “. Apparently they were unaware that our universities are available to the sons or daughters of the poorest people in the community provided they pass the necessary preliminary examinations. It is, therefore, only reasonable that a young man who has spent several years at a university but for some reason has failed in his final examinations, should, by reason of his higher educational attainments, have a career in the Public Service.
I have never suggested that the educational test should be the sole qualification for employment in the Commonwealth Bank or any other bank. A definite educational standard, plus character, should be the indispensable condition for appointment to positions in the bank. I hope it will never be the generally accepted view of honorable members that, because this Parliament established the Commonwealth Bank, admission to service in it should be by means of an educational test only. I admit that, whilst I should have liked to know that some of the lads whom I recommended had been successful, if I had to make such decisions I should satisfy myself that, apart from their educational qualifications, the applicants would be able to discharge all the duties required of them. It is, I suppose, natural for parents to look upon their boys and girls as the best in the community and for this reason, perhaps, feel a bit disappointed if they are not successful in applications foi1 employment; but I am convinced that the staff officer of the Commonwealth Bank, whom I know only in his official capacity, gives every applicant for appointment a fair hearing. I hope that Parliament will never take out of the hands of bank officers responsibility for appointments to positions in that institution. I say this because we expect the bank to be conducted on sound business Principles, which could not be observed if it were compelled to make appointments from applicants who had qualified by competitive examination. As I have endeavoured to explain, something more than this is required of an official of the Commonwealth Bank.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the Commonwealth Bank is a branch of the Public Service, and that, as regards appointments to its service, it should therefore be placed on the same footing as the Post Office, Taxation Department, Defence, and other federal departments. The bank, as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has said, is the creation of this Parliament, and although we have adopted the policy of nonpolitical control, and particularly nonparliamentary interference with bank administration, I cannot, for the life of me, see why it should be the close preserve of officers who, for the time being, are in the higher managerial positions. The honorable member for Barton has argued thatbank staff officers are the best qualified to select applicants for appointment. I point out that those officers are, in effect, servants of the Commonwealth, and, as such, should be subject to the discipline imposed on other branches of the Commonwealth Public Service. I do not think there would be any danger of the introduction of political interference if, as regard appointments to its staff, we placed the Commonwealth Bank on the same footing as other branches of the Commonwealth Public Service. On the contrary, there would probably be less danger of nepotism, because, in spite of what has been said about the impossibility of members securing positions for applicants recommended by them, it is possible, under existing conditions, for some members to use influence to secure the appointment of applicants in whom they are particularly interested.
– To whom is the honorable member referring?
-I am not referring to any honorable member in particular. All I am saying is that this is possible under existing conditions, and it would not he possible if the bank were on the same footing as other branches of the PublicService. I, like other honorable members, have had a good deal of experience of trying to obtain appointments to the staff of the Commonwealth Bank. Many requests to support applications have been addressed to me by parents or friends of applicants, and invariably I have had to point out to them that it is improper for honorable members to use any influence; that all that honorable members can do, when forwarding an application, is to express the hope that the merits of the candidate will receive favorable consideration. I have never received anything more than a courteous letter of acknowledgment, and I have no reason to believe that the bank has shown the least interest in any applicant recommended by me. I do not know if other members have had the same experience. Perhaps they have had more success. In my opinion, the situation as regards appointments to the bank is surrounded with mystery. How do persons secure employment in that institution? There are, I understand, staff managers in each State who are a law unto themselves. They have the sole right to make appointments, and, so far as I am aware, no particular educational qualification is required of applicants; ifa boy has passed the intermediate standard he is eligible for appointment. If applicants for appointment to the bank were required to pass the examination set for admission to the Public Service, the standard would probably be a good deal higher than it is at present, and every boy in Australia would have an equal chance to obtain employment in the bank. At present he has not that chance. Discrimination is practised as between country and city boys. The Commonwealth Bank has few country branches, its operations being mainly confined to the capital cities, in each of which it has a large staff. Very rarely does a country boy receive an appointment in the central office. Try as hard as one likes, one generally finds that the bank is not interested in the application of such a lad. I have dealt with cases of boys who have passed every examination open to them, but because they lived in the country, they had no chance of being appointed. I have also dealt with cases of boys who desired to obtain an appointment in the branch of the bank in the town in which they lived, yet, although a vacancy existed, a city boy was brought hundreds of miles while the local boy was passed over. That is not in conformity with the standard of public service established by the Commonwealth Parliament. I do not say that the bank deliberately penalizes the boy who lives in the country. It appears, however, that he is right on the “ outer “, and that the cityboy, who is close to head-quarters, has a much better chance to obtain a position. I say with a due sense of responsibility that it is Utterly impossible to get a country boy into the service of the bank by any legitimate process, such $s giving him a recommendation on his merits. No notice is taken of the representations of honorable members. I do not expect weight to be added to my representations because of the fact that I am a member of Parliament, but I do contend that due regard should be had to my preparedness to give a recommendation to a boy on his merits. I have not succeeded in obtaining an appointment for one boy in my electorate. Much dissatisfaction exists throughout country districts on account of the fewappointments given to boys who live in them. The dice is apparently loaded against them. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Bank has become a close preserve. I do not suggest, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) did, that nepotism is practised.
– I did not suggest it. What I said was that nepotism had been practised in the past in the Public Service.
– There may be cases of it, but I am not in a position to furnish proof, and therefore, shall not make the suggestion. I do say, however, that the whole matter is wrapped up h» such mystery as to leave the suspicion that all is not open and above board. It is quite possible for some important officer of the bank to secure the appointment of a particular person if he wishes to do so. The proposal of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) provides the only means by which the matter may be placed On a proper basis. The Commonwealth Bank should be on the same footing as every other branch of the Commonwealth Service. Even the general manager should be subject to the conditions that apply to heads of Commonwealth departments, who commence their service in the lowest grades. I strongly urge the Government to give serious consideration to the matter.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I support the remarks of honorable members who have spoken from this side of the chamber. For some time there has been considerable disquietude in regard to the appointment of juniors to the Commonwealth Bank. These appointments are shrouded in an atmosphere of mystery and distrust. Although the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is confident that all is well, I suggest that he make inquiries as to the number of applications that have been rejected during the last year or two, and the reasons for their rejection. If he does so, he will be astonished at the number of rejections of lads who are qualified in every sense, educationally as well as from the viewpoint of parentage and deportment. There is something in the contention that the system of Public Service examinations should be adopted in the Commonwealth Bank. I liken this institution to the Postal Department, which frequently recruits youths, who, upon acceptance of a position, expect to remain in the Service ‘for the remainder of their lives. Provided they are suitable, and pass the necessary examinations, they progress in the department until ultimately they fill the highest posts. It is all very well for the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) to say that service in the Commonwealth Bank differs from employment in the Public Service generally. I believe he has claimed that employment in the bank is specialized. I suggest that it is no more specialized than employment in the Postal Department or any other branch of the Public Service. Employees in banking institutions do not confine themselves to one particular subject. As a matter of fact there are many departments through which they must pass if they are to become efficient officers. I am not contending that the standard should be lowered. We must have a lad of a good type who is qualified educationally to fill the position. When vacancies occur in the Postal Department, a date is appointed for applicants to sit for examination, and, invariably, those who secure the highest passes are immediately appointed. Others who obtain passes are placed on a waiting list, and if a member of Parliament is approached by a parent, he can ascertain where the boy or girl stands on the list and can say whether there is- a reasonable chance of appointment at an early date. Under such a system, the parents and children at least know what the position is, and there is no question of favoritism. But if a lad who is tenth on the list is passed over by another who is 25th, one cannot wonder at his complaining. I am at a loss to know what basis is adopted by the Commonwealth Bank in the making of appointments. There seems to be no set standard. Different men have different ideas as to the type of boy who should be appointed. The present system is grossly unfair to applicants, and most unsatisfactory to honorable members. When an appointment is made to other branches of the Public Service, that is not the end of the story. Progress is achieved only by the passing of further examinations, which frequently involve the officer in fairly substantial expenditure Merit is always the deciding factor. To rise in the Service, one must be studious and energetic. I suppose that lads who, after appointment to the Commonwealth Bank, have been found to be unsuitable, are drafted out of the service. I see no reason why we should accept the present system without a definite protest. There is a widespread agitation to learn why some lads are not accepted, while others, whose educational qualifications are not so high, are appointed. A boy’s carriage should not be an important consideration. I am told that if it were a question of height, appearance, or general deportment, certain very highly placed officers in the Commonwealth Bank would not be appointed under the present system. Men who are probably not 5 ft. 2 in. in height are holding very important positions. They have not risen to these highly placed posts by reason of any particular “push”, they may have had. I suggest that it is due to their ability - to what they have above their chins - rather than to their general appearance. I have pleasure in associating myself with what has been said in relation to the dissatisfaction that exists in regard to appointments to the Commonwealth Bank.
.- The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has initiated a most interesting discussion on a subject which I think all will agree is one of public importance. The Commonwealth Bank is a political creation, and is assumed to operate entirely in the public interest, without fear or favour. It is true that when the bank was brought into existence, by a statute iu the passing of which I was privileged to take some part, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Andrew Fisher) said that the bank was to operate without political interference. That condition was a proper one, and insistence upon it was a manifestation of wisdom on the part of the Government, which was responsible for establishing the bank. From my point of view, it is unfortunately true that, in the management of the bank, there has been a departure from the original conception of its founders in some particulars, but that is a matter of changing Government policy. Nevertheless, the bank remains a public, instrumentality, designed to serve the public. There are not too many such instrumentalities, because, for the most part, we still proceed along the lines of private enterprise using “ catch-as-catch-can “ methods by which the public good is made subservient to the interests of individuals whose aim is the making of profits. We are not in a position to examine the motives of those who are privileged to make appointments to establishments conducted by private enterprise: in making their choice they may be actuated without challenge by any motive however ignoble; but in regard to this great banking institution, this Parliament surely is justified in expressing the hope that considerations of public interest only will prevail, and that fair play to every applicant for employment in it will be exercised when appointments are being made. Personally, I have no complaint to make on this score; I know of no case in which unfair discrimination against any one known to me appears to have been exercised ; but I am a little disquieted by the fact that the door appears to be opening for discrimination. The instances cited by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Denison, do suggest that what some nave feared is, to some extent at least, a reality. Like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), I do not thinkthat I have ever succeeded in exercising sufficient influence to secure for any one an appointment to the staff of the Commonwealth Bank. I go so far as to say that if ever I do secure for any of my friends an appointment to any public office, or to any position in the Commonwealth Bank, I shall consider tendering a dinner to honorable members to signalize so unexpected an event. In supporting the object, which the mover of the motion has in view, I should like to know what the manager of the bank means when he says that there are many qualifications for fitness for employment in the bank besides those disclosed by examination. Let us for a moment consider who are the applicants for positions in the bank. They arc young men without the disability of a past. They have shown by means of a searching examination that they have the requisite mental qualifications to fill the positions for which they apply. They have shown, also, by their submission of testimonials, which are rightly insisted upon, that they are of good character. Having produced evidence of mental capacity and uprightness of character, what is it that remains for the expert to find out by personal examination of the applicants? I t is evident that something still remains. What is that something? I confess that I cannot even imagine what it is. There have been sinister suggestions, though not from the bank, about undivided allegiance to the service. What does that mean when applied to a youth of fifteen or sixteen years of age? Does it mean that a lad may be told, “ You are a smart boy, as your examination record shows; you have produced evidence of excellent character; but we want someone who will exhibit undivided allegiance to the service,” and he is rejected accordingly? A suggestion to that effect coming from a leading newspaper makes one anxious as to what is implied by those terras. If it suggests an inquiry into the family history of each applicant, I submit that nothing of that kind should operate in the slightest degree in the selection of youths for appointment to the bank. The newspaper to which I have referred says that loyalty has not always been a characteristic of those skilled in passing examinations. Does that mean that,on the part of youths of good character and excellent scholastic achievements, there is evidence of a lack of loyalty? Surely it does not mean that the bank has discovered, by searching through the family history of an applicant, that his father was a labour agitator or that his cousin was more distinguished in the service for his union activities than for his loyalty to the service ? In any case, even after the bank has made its selection and appointed its officers, it still has control over them - a control vested in the bank by the Labour Government which established it. The bank may discharge any officer, despite his scholastic achievements and the excellent character which he possessed as a boy, if later, it discovers in him any quality incompatible with that loyal and intelligent discharge of his duties which, as a member of the staff of the bank, he should possess. And even if the bank does not go so far as to discharge an officer in such circumstances, it can quickly convince him that he has found employment in a field in which his preferment will not be rapid or certain.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Customs Tariff Amendments Nos. 3and 4
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 24th March (vide page 505), 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 5. - Textiles, Felts, and Furs, and Manufactures thereof, and Attire.
Item 105 -
By omitting the whole of sub-paragraph (b) of paragrgaph (1) of sub-item (a) and inserting in its stead the following subparagraph : - “ (b) Cotton piece goods and piece goods containing a mixture of fibres in which cotton predominates. . . .
1 ) Undyed, whether bleached or unbleached, weighing more than 6 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, 6d. 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, 40 per cent. ; intermediate, 65 per cent.; general, 65 per cent.; whichever rate returns the higher duty.”
By adding to paragrgaph (1) of sub-item
Upon which Mr. Forde had moved by way of amendment: -
That sub-paragraphs (b) and (c) of paragraph 1 of sub-item a be postponed as an indication that, in the opinion of the committee, the sub-paragraphs should be amended to read - “ Cotton piece goods and piece goods . . weighing more than 3 ounces per square yard.”
.- As I disagree with the grounds suggested for the amendment, I oppose it. On other grounds, however, I think that all honorable members agree with the policy of this Government, to encourage the cotton industry in Australia. To that end, it has granted a bounty to the producers of cotton of1d. per lb. above the rate recommended by the Tariff Board; it has imposed import duties of 3d. and 4½d. per lb. on cotton yarns generally and up to 9d. on particularly fine cotton yarns, and, in addition, it has realized the necessity for protecting the goods manufactured from these yarns. The question now before us now is how far shall that protection go? How far are added costs to the community for these requirements justified in order that this industry may be developed? We realize that this industry employs a large amount of labour, particularly in its growing stages, and that the spinning and weaving has been developed in Australia to a certain stage. In fact, the weaving industry at one time was over-capitalized; it was capable of producing much more than its saleable output, and the Tariff Board’s reference to that state of affairs was fully warranted. We must realize that if the output of our weaving mills can be increased overhead costs will automatically be decreased, and thus a greater opportunity will be given for efficient and more economic production of the requirements of the Australian people. At the moment, we are not dealing with the bounty on cotton, or the import duty on yarns, but with the import duty on manufactured materials. I point out that the duty proposed by the Government exceeds that recommended by the Tariff Board, but, so far, we have had no explanation of the reasons for the Government’s action in this respect.
We have had complaints from Lancashire that this Government is not carrying out its obligations under the Ottawa agreement. I understand that when the Tariff Board was considering these items it was instructed fo bear constantly in mind our obligations under that agreement. I presume that that has been done. Yet we find that, whereas the Tariff Board recommended as the British preferential rate a duty of 6d. a square yard, plus 15 per cent., or ad valorem 30 per cent., whichever rote returns the higher duty, the Government has proposed a duty of 6d. a square yard plus 22£ per cent., or ad valorem 33tf per cent, for denims, drills and dungarees. We have not only to consider the manufacturers and the producers of the cotton, but we have also to recognize that the duties on this specific item materially increase the cost of clothing to the workers and the lower paid sections of the community, because denims, drills, and dungarees are worn by thousands of these people. The Tariff Board, in its report, admitted that its recommendation could not be effected without tending to increase the cost of these materials, and, consequently, the cost of the clothes of the people.
– In a number of cases the duties recommended by the Tariff Board have been reduced.
– I am dealing specifically with this item of dungarees, drills and denims, on which the previous tariff was 5 per cent. British and 25 per cent, general. This item has now been included in the general section, and is subject to duties of 6d. a square yard, plus 22-1 per cent. The Tariff Board has not been unanimous in its recommendation on this item. One member of the board has pointed out that the adoption of the recommendation of the majority of the board will add approximately £80,000 to the cost of 1,500,000 yards of 54-in. width cloth, which is the yearly requirement for Australia. As this is in addition to the bounty on raw cotton, the total added cost to the community will be £97,000. We have to consider whether or not this increased burden is justified, particularly in view of the fact that it will have to be borne mainly by the working class section of the community.
Instead of 5 per cent. British and 25 per cent, general, the tariff now is 6d. a square yard, plus 22-^ per cent, and general 65 per cent. lt is futile for the Minister to tell me that that increase has not been made for the purpose of protecting the local manufacturer, because he could not compete under the lower duty, and the increase must raise the price of clothes made from these materials.
– Only half of these duties have been increased; the others have been reduced.
– I am referring at the moment particularly to dungarees, denims and drills. Duties on some other classes of cotton goods have been reduced, but the item under consideration has been further burdened. I admit that for a time the recommendation of the Tariff Board that these goods should be admitted under by-law was complied with, while our manufacturers were commencing to produce the goods, and merchants who could not get supplies from the local factories were allowed to import. I find no fault with that.
The main consideration here is whether or not the amount to be paid by the users of these goods is reasonable or unreasonable. As a general practice we have accepted the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but I regret that in this instance the duties recommended by it have been increased by the Government. Under these circumstances we desire to know how much extra employment will result from this increased burden. Such information has not been supplied by the Tariff Board except by the member who disagreed with the majority recommendation. If the added costs he mentioned are grouped and divided by the 6S0 employees in the industry we find that the users of these commodities are paying a subsidy of from £100 to- £150 to each extra employee placed in the industry. On these grounds I ask the Government to reconsider this item and to accept the duty recommended by the Tariff Board.
.- I was amazed at the remarks made last night by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) who saw fit to launch an unrestrained attack upon the Queensland cotton industry, the cotton manufacturers of Australia, and the workers engaged in our cotton mills. First of all, he adversely criticized the material made by the manufacturers, but he refused to give to honorable members the name of the firm on whose behalf he launched this attack. I have been impressed with many of the reports made by the Tariff Board to this Parliament. That board has done very good work in many cases in the past; those reports have been of incalculable assistance to honorable members in coming to decisions on tariff matters, and the more I reflect on the extreme observations made by the honorable member for Perth, the more I am convinced that there is no way of framing a tariff policy other than by basing it, to some extent at least, upon the board’s reports. The statements of the honorable member were extravagant and were not supported by any evidence. Above all, he was not prepared to give to this committee the name of the company on whose behalf he spoke. One would have been entitled to come to the conclusion that he himself did not believe in the case he put forward. The Tariff Board requires evidence to be submitted to it on oath and the witnesses appearing before it are examined and crossexamined, and are entitled to examine. No such evidence was given to us by the honorable member for Perth, who stated that people should not engage in any industry until they were thoroughly experienced in it. His contention reminded me of the argument that boys and girls should not be allowed near the water until they could swim. It is a long time since we have been treated to a tirade comparable to that voiced bv the honorable member last night. His speech recalled to my mind the attacks of the old free traders, who, I arn glad to say, are gradually becoming fewer. To-day such attacks are limited mainly to spokesmen for the Tariff
Reform League. I emphasize that cotton has been grown in Australia over a long period, and that production has been steadily increased. Some time ago the Commonwealth Government decided on a policy which was designed to encourage the production of raw cotton in Australia, and to protect the manufacturers who used it. In the first place, bounties were given to the producers of raw cotton, and tha cotton had to be sold overseas. That pro cedure could not, in any circumstances, establish a cotton manufacturing industry in Australia. The next step was to establish a manufacturing industry here, and that has now been done by the payment of a bounty on raw cotton on the condition that it is sold to the manufacturer at export parity. In pursuance of that policy the Tariff Board has examined the industry from time to time, and the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) represents a further attempt to develop the industry in accordance with the original recommendation of the Tariff Board. Australia has a very large area of land in various climates, and in Northern Australia, Western Australia and Queensland there are great areas of tropical and sub-tropical land. If crops are to be grown in those areas they must be of a suitable kind, and cotton is one of those that can be grown. At the present time thousands of farmers are engaged in the growing of cotton on hundreds of thousands of acres. If we listened to the advice of the honorable member for Perth the cotton industry would be destroyed, and thousands of growers would be ruined, while great tracts of country would go out of cultivation. From a defence point of view, the most vulnerable part of Australia lies within the tropics. If we do not take steps to develop the tropical areas, and if Parliament does not afford tropical and sub-tropical industries adequate protection, we shall need an even bigger defence vote than we have to-day. It is imperative that Australia, isolated as it is from the rest of the world, should, in the event of war, have a well-developed raw cotton industry of its own. The Minister for Trade and
Customs (Mr. White) has, from time to time, set forth the policy of the Government in regard to the cotton industry. The Government, we have been told, is desirous of establishing broadly the primary and secondary branches of the industry in Australia. The primary industry at the present time is producing the best cotton in the world. I know that the honorable member for Perth stated that Australian cotton was hopelessly inferior, but the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) said that its only fault was that it was too good. The only reliable criticism I have heard is to the effect that Australian cotton is extraordinarily good, and commands prices in the world’s market equal to those of the best cotton produced elsewhere. I should like the Minister to inform me whether any of this under 6 oz. material is at present being manufactured in Australia.
– Only for samples.
– Although I am a keen supporter of the industry, I think that manufacturers should discontinue the making of samples and then asking Parliament to provide protection for the industry. Such assistance, unless it be by way of bounty on manufacture, should be withheld until we have an assurance that several manufacturers are prepared to go ahead immediately with production on a commercial scale. I hope that the manufacturing side of this industry will expand. The production of raw cotton is increasing, and we should be able to absorb all that is grown. Before the depression cotton goods of all descriptions to the value of £12,000,000 were imported annually into Australia, and this represented one of the biggest fields left in Australia for the expansion of secondary production. However, if we take the step now proposed, before the industry is ready to avail itself of the protection afforded, we may injure both its primary and secondary branches. I hope that we shall receive an early and definite intimation that more and more of the 6 oz. drill, and material of lighter weight, is to be manufactured in Australia. I am prepared to keep an open mind on the amendment until a definite assurance is forthcoming that goods of that kind are being commercially produced in Australia.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) was attacked from all side3 because he made statements in this House without having made them previously before the Tariff Board. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), however, and those who think as he does, have been conspicuously silent regarding the outraging of the statutes through the manner in which duties have been imposed. It can be clearly demonstrated that practically half cif the present tariff items have been placed on the schedule illegally. The Tariff Board Act provides that no new, increased, or reduced duties shall be imposed without being first referred to the Tariff Board. We know that a great many of the duties now in force, some of them representing increases of as much as 300 per cent., were imposed by the Labour party, when in office, without any reference to the Tariff Board at all. Even now, when the board makes exhaustive inquiries, and forwards recommendations to Parliament, they are not complied with, though one might naturally expect the Minister to act upon them. Nevertheless, wei are compelled to support the Government in this matter, because the Labour party, if it had its way, would raise the duties still higher. [Quorum formed.] I fail to understand how Labour representatives will be able to face their constituents, and say that they are watching .J;lie interests of the general body of the workers, when they support a policy which, if given effect, must result in higher prices for the clothes the workers wear. One of the members of the board, discussing this item, put the position very clearly in the following words -
These cloth3, which hitherto have carried revenue duties of 5 per cent. (British Preferential Tariff) and 25 per cent. (General Tariff), are chiefly purchased by the working classes for use in garments which in the past have been both cheap and durable. The rates proposed, were Australian yarn used and with existing exchange, would represent aa ad valorem’ duty of approximately 73 per cent. (British Preferential Ta.riff) and 170 per cent. (General Tariff) for dyed cloth and even higher for cloths in the grey. The imposition of these duties, in my opinion, would add £80,000 to the cost of 1,500,000 yards of cloth of 54 inch width, which are now imported and would make this important cloth more than half as dear again to the garment manufacturer.
Yet in the face of that, the Labour party desires still higher duties, although the Bradford Mills, in Sydney, last year, made a profit of 14.5 per cent. I hope the Minister will not do anything which will result in still further increasing the cost of clothing used by the lower-paid workmen.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The cotton industry in all its phases has been examined most exhaustively. A comprehensive inquiry lasting some months was conducted by the Tariff Board into the three branches of the industry - the growing of the cotton, the spinning of it, and the weaving of it. The board made a useful attempt to bring the whole matter into the economic field. Previous governments had given bounties on seed cotton and yarn, but no attempt had been made to develop the industry in such a way as to use in Australia as much of the crop as possible. The board made certain recommendations regarding duties that enlarged the field of protection on certain piece goods, but which reduced the duty on certain yarns used iu the knitting industry. While it is admitted that piece goods are made in Australia under more expensive conditions than obtain abroad, the reduction of duty on yarn resulted in reducing the cost of manufactured goods to the consumer.
– Does the Minister not think that that action tended to penalize working men who use such manufactures?
– If a workman pays a little more for his dungarees he makes a saving on other garments that are not so visible. Cotton tweeds have been made in Australia for many years, and production has increased so greatly that about 90 per cent, of the total used is of Australian manufacture. The most fierce free trader could not attack the quality of Australian cotton tweeds. The range of the tariff on imported cotton goods was extended in order to encourage the greater use of Australian cotton in the making of dungarees, denims, and others of the coarser cloths for men’s outer wear. This was done on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which took the view that, whilst those articles were not at the time being made in Australia, mills not in operation would be encouraged to engage in their production. Naturally, there was delay in turning out piece goods of the type mentioned, and to fill in the gap large quantities were admitted under by-law. It is difficult to balance the growing, spinning, and weaving sections of the whole cotton industry. Honorable members must agree that the industry has benefited from the duties which have operated since 1934, and that the policy recommended by the. Tariff Board and followed by the Government has been useful to all sections of the industry. The labour in the spinning and weaving sections has increased, and satisfaction exists among the growers. There is no complaint from the Opposition with regard to denims and cotton tweeds, but regarding drills and dungarees it has been suggested that the Government should accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board in respect of the weight of the items covered in sub-item a 1 b, and make the weight limitation 3 oz. instead of 6 oz. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that this was recommended by the Tariff Board. I should like him to move an amendment that the recommendation of the board be accepted in its entirety, but he will not rise to that bait. The Tariff Board recommended a bounty of 3£d. per lb. on cotton lint. The Government, having gone into the costs with the department more recently than the Tariff Board’s investigations, decided that a bounty of 3-d. was inadequate to the needs of the cotton-growers in Queensland, and decided on the payment of a net bounty of 4¼d. per lb.
Far from being a superfluous industry, as some honorable members go so far as to claim, the firm establishment of an Australian cotton-growing industry was encouraged by the British ‘Government, so that the Empire would not be dependent on outside sources in time of emergency. Accordingly, comprehensive inquiries have been made into the industry for .the purpose of bringing it within an economic compass, so that it might function with success. How satisfactory the Government’s action has been is indicated by the report of the Queensland Cotton Board, which controls the production and sale of cotton in that State. The board states on page 24 of the report -
Of the total cotton produced last year, 13,615 bales were sold in Australia and 900 bales were shipped to Japan. No cotton from the 1935 crop was sent to Liverpool.
In previous years the raw cotton was exported, and, apart from the employment created on the plantations, little employment resulted in this country from its production. The bounty paid on the production of raw cotton was practically exported with the cotton. Most illuminating comparative figures relating to the cotton industry since the advent of the Cotton Board are shown on page 31 of the report: -
– It is not so well treated as I should like to see it.
– The honorable member is never satisfied. Never has an item of the tariff been discussed without his indicating that he would like to see an increase of the duties. The duties imposed on cotton give adequate protection to the Australian industry. The industry is successful, and is giving employment, and that is all that concerns the Government.
As to the recommendation ths.t the duty should apply to 3-oz. instead of 6-oz. cloth, the Tariff Board indicated that that recommendation was an endeavour to assist the Customs Department in its classifications. Any one acquainted, with importing knows that some of the greatest difficulties of classification arise within the category of textiles. The Tariff Board made its recommendation believing that it would be helpful to the department, and at the same time ::o the industry. Similar grounds were given for the recommendation that the bounty should be paid only on raw cotton to the extent of each year’s annual requirements of the Australian users of raw cotton, plus 20 per cent. After full investigations, which were verified a few weeks ago, it was found that the manufacture in Australia of the material covered by the amendment was not even contemplated. The controllers of one mill told me quite frankly that, although they could make the material, and had submitted samples, they were not doing so. Accordingly, the manufacture of this class of material could not be called economic production, and no one could claim that the duties should be extended to cover that field. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition complained that cheaper materials are being bought because of the importation of 4-oz. and 5-oz. materials. Would it be reasonable to shut out these light-weight garments when they are not being manufactured here? The same argument could be applied to a wider field. Oranges are in competition with lemons. Do the grower3 of oranges want an embargo to be placed on lemons? The reasons that guided the Government in not carrying out in full measure the board’s recommendations were explained to the board which, in a memorandum supplied to me, concurred in the Government’s action. That disposes of the main point brought up by the Deputy Leader of the Opposi.tion and it should also dispose of his amendment.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) claimed that the duties on cotton in some way or another contravene the Ottawa agreement.
– 1. expressed my doubt that the duty was in accord with the Ottawa agreement.
– I am glad that it was only a doubt. Such statements have been made so many times that people are beginning to believe them. I have read similar statements in the press; they were made in many places when certain grocers in Bolton suggested a boycott of Australian exports. That would have been most unfortunate. The boycott of British goods, suggested in Queensland, would have been equally unfortunate. Indeed, it would be most calamitous if any part of the Empire should boycott the goods of another part. There is nothing in the Ottawa agreement to prevent the Tariff Board from recommending an increased duty on British goods. That point is covered in article 10 of the agreement, which, reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall he based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give the United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production provided-
This is where the cotton industry is affected - that in the application of such principle special consideration may bc given to the case of industries not fully established.
The intention of the higher duties was to make cotton production in Australia possible and to give Australian manufacturers an opportunity to use it. I remind honorable members who may think that we have not fully implemented the Ottawa agreement that long before it was framed, Australia was giving preference to goods imported from Great Britain. Without it, much of our imports possibly would have been bought from foreign countries. In no direction can that be better demonstrated than in textiles. This country is Britain’s second biggest buyer of textiles. India leads. Australia’s purchases are greater than those of the United States of America. On nearly all the piece goods the British preferential duty is only 5 per cent..
Britain has maintained its position as a seller of textiles to Australia, even in this period of intensive Japanese competition. The only lines on which it ha» lost trade are rayon and cotton piece goods. The increased duties under the item under discussion cover only a small field and Australia still remains as great a buyer from Manchester as it was in the past.
In addition to placing protective duties on cotton denims, drills, &c, the Government has also extended to yarns for cotton tweeds, denims, drills, cordage and blankets the protective duties that previously applied only to hosiery and knitting yarns of cotton.
The sales of all protected yarns by spinners and the use in their own fabricating plants of yarns made by spinners from the 1st July, 1935, to the 29th February, 1936, are at the rate of 8,111,000 lb. per annum. As there is a wastage of about 10 per cent, in the manufacture of raw cotton into yarn, the quantity of raw cotton required for the production of the consumption of protected cotton yarns during 1935-36 will be approximately 9,000,000 lb., which is more than the maximum production in any one year of the Queensland cotton industry.
Imports of yarns during 1935-36 to the end of February were at the rate of 1,640,000 lb. per annum, so that spinners can be said to be supplying about 83 per cent, of the local demand. This percentage is interesting by reason of the fact that the Tariff Board in assessing the cost of protecting the cotton and allied industries assumed that spinners would secure about 81£ per cent, of the local market.
Again, my inquiries show that the consumption of cotton yarn represented by sales and spinners’ own usings, was 4,825,000 lb. in 1933-34- the year before the protective duties were extended to the new yarns and piece goods - whereas the 1935-36 consumption is at the rate of 8,111,000 lb., representing an increase of 68 per cent.
The figures I have just quoted show that the cotton-spinning and weaving industries, and likewise the cotton-growing industry, are reaping considerable advantage from the protective duties which this
Government has seen fit to impose. I remind the Opposition that not only has the Government given an extra bounty to the cotton industry, but it has also adopted the “ B “ rates of duty recommended by the Tariff Board, and these it intends to maintain.
.- I regret that the Government will not accept my amendment for it could do so with safety and without departing from its decision to accept Tariff Board recommendations. No doubt, a big loss of trade will be experienced by the Australian manufacturers in consequence of this departure from the more favorable duties recommended by the Tariff Board. A scare has been worked up in certain quarters that the Lancashire manufacturers will boycott Australian trade if the duties which I advocate be imposed. But Sir Ernest Thompson, the leader of the Lancashire delegation, says that this idea is wrong. He said that he had no objection to the proposal, hut he asked for support for a higher preference for England against the foreign exporter. That support would be given gladly by the local manufacturers for the benefit of the Empire generally. It is to be hoped that something will be done in that direction for the Australian manufacturers are prepared to do what Sir Ernest Thompson desires, as they have the interests of the Empire generally at heart.
– But that is only in regard to the foreign rates of duty.
– The opinion that I have just stated was conveyed to me by an Australian manufacturer.
Prior to the introduction of the new duties on drills, denims and dungarees, the bulk of the importations of blue and khaki drills and denims, for outer wear, excluding bleached drills, consisted of cloths which exceeded 6 oz. a square yard. When it introduced the new tariff the Government obviously intended that Australian manufacturers should secure the business in cloths exceeding 6 oz. a square yard, but it has been found in practice 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 come in just under 6 oz. a square yard. This can be 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 at 7Jd- - one weighing approximately li-J oz. a square yard landed at 8d. Under the new duty the 5.80 oz. a square yard cloth still lands at 7 id., whereas the (JJ oz. cloth will now land at 15½d. a yard approximately. An equivalent Australian cloth weighing 6J to 0$ oz. can be sold at 14Jd.
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 6£ oz. Australian manufactured drill, and owing to this disparity in price many buyers will be content to use the lighter cloth, and will seriously curtail the outlet for Australian produced qualities. This will naturally affect the consumption of Australian lint and the number of operatives which the new industry can employ. It is felt that if the present position is allowed to continue the results contemplated under the new tariff will not be secured, and the Government’s intention in regard to the consumption of lint and possibilities of employment will not be realized.
I remind the Minister that this demand for light-weight material is quite new, and it is growing because importers find that they can bring in desized material, under 6 oz. a yard, size it here, and so get an advantage.
– The Government is taking precautions against that sort of thing.
– I am pleased to have that assurance from the Minister, for I have been definitely informed that such evasions of the tariff are practised.
So far as bleached drills are concerned, it is pointed out that by far the bulk of importations are under 6 oz. a square yard. This has always been the case owing 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 reasonable’ possibility exists of Australian manufacturers securing even a reasonable share of the trade so 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 consumption of lint and the number of operatives we can employ will he seriously affected.
Evidence given at the last tariff inquiry and the report of the Tariff Board thereon established that it was definitely the intention of the board and the Government to give to the Australian manufacturers this market for denims, drills, dungarees, jeans, &c. Prior to the duties, the importations of drills over 6 oz. a square yard were approximately 80 per cent of the total quantity used. Now we find that the importers are getting pure yarn cloths which weigh just 6 oz., but if finished and sized would be over 6 oz. ; thus the duties are being evaded and the Australian manufacturers are being deprived of the market which the Government intended them to have. We know that substantial orders are going overseas for 6 oz. and under cloths in the blue, khaki and white drills which previously came in over 6 oz., and this market is definitely lost to the Australian manufacturer.
The alteration of the tariff under Item 105 a 1 from 6 oz. to 3 oz. without any alteration of the duty would give the manufacturers the market intended by both the Tariff Board report and the Government. The importations of these new substituted cloths has entirely disorganized the programme of the Davies Coop and Company Limited, which has laid down a very adequate plant to cater for this market. We find now that this firm’s sales for the last six months were about 20,000 yards; due to an increase of capital by £200,000 and a powerful plant, the production exceeded 250,000 yards, and there is no market. This organization now employs 929 operatives, and it is imperative that something be done by the Government to maintain their employment.
I have been advised that the Australian manufacturers can, if they are given a fair opportunity, produce the lighter weight cloths down to 3 oz. I understand that samples. of these lighter cloths have been supplied to the Minister. Our manufacturers could supply this market just as they have supplied the market for light-weight woollen cloths for ladies’ dress materials, down to 3 oz.
When the Scullin Government came into office the worsted manufacturers of Australia pointed out that their employees were on half-time, whereas if adequate protection were given to the industry they could supply woollen materials down to 3 oz. Eventually, they proved that they were able to do this, and they secured for themselves practically the whole of the Australian market.
What applies to the woollen industry applies equally to the cotton industry. I have seen samples of light-weight cotton goods manufactured in Australia. The manufacturing companies have the machinery and plant established here, and it is certain that unless they are given proper protection much of this machinery and plant will be rendered idle. The organization to which I have already referred is not insignificant, for it provides employment for 929 workers.
– And it has developed under the present tariff.
– It is true that it has grown steadily, but the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) would wipe it out.
– I have never said anything of the kind.
– The 1921-28 tariff duties proposed by the honorable member would have that effect. I ask the honorable member where he expects to get a home market for wheat if the 1921 -28 tariff is reverted to? It must be apparent to him that, under these circumstances, the working people of Australia would not be able to pay the desired homeconsumption price for wheat. Moreover, reversion to that tariff would disorganize industry in every respect.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) was unfair in some of his criticisms of the Australian tariff and our secondary industries generally. He referred to letters from certain manufacturers, and stated that garments made from locally-manufactured materials were unsatisfactory. I have received an interesting letter from the Sterling Clothing Company Proprietary
Limited, written a few days ago, which contains the following paragraphs: -
Since the application of the new duty this tendency of importing materials under6 oz. in weight has become more marked and there is not the slightest doubt that it will increase as time goes on, on account of the disparity in price. What will still further intensify it is that importers are now able to import much better quality fabrics of under6 oz. per square yard than they could hitherto afford to import, the importation of coarser, heavy materials being previously much more desirable, and still sell them in overalls at prices substantially lower than overalls made from Aust ralian-made materials.
In a word, consumers will be educated to understand that strength does not consist merely in weight but also very largely in quality of yarn and closeness of weave. As they can obtain these equally serviceable overalls at a much lower price, they will most certainly buy them, especially when the foolish prejudice in favour of weight for its own sake is removed.
This candid opinion is the fruit of our experience and is absolutely without prejudice whatever.
Our only desire is to have the position clarified. We consider the present arrangement topheavy, unlikely to benefit spinners and weavers as the better quality light-weight fabrics begin to assert themselves, and leaving us in a position of uncertainty as to what types of material on which we should now endeavour to build our overall trade for the future.
The honorable member for Perth took honorable members of the Opposition to task for supporting a policy of high protection for this industry, for he said that higher duties would mean higher costs to the consumers of Australia. I admit that in some instances costs are increased, to an extent, by an increase of duties, but we have to take into consideration the well-being of the people as a whole and look at this subject in proper perspective, not having in mind only our own electorates. We do not want what has been called “geographical protection “ or, to use another common phrase, “reasonable protection”. Honorable members on this side of the committee strongly advocate the granting of adequate protection to Australian industries because they realize that this will ensure the provision of employment for our people; that, in turn, will benefit our primary industries for it will have the effect ofbuilding up a good home market. We believe in a diversity of employment in such a country as Australia. The social advantages of a greater versatility and development, according to the aptitude of our population, cannot be overstated. We must find avenues of employment for the 90,000 young people of Australia who leave school every year and expect to be absorbed in the industries of the country. The policy of adequate protection for which we stand will have this effect. The honorable member for Perth, however, favours merely a revenue, and not a protective, tariff. Protection should be sufficient to prevent overseas competition with Australian industries. Our Australian manufacturers are entitled to the Australian market, and I believe that if they are given a fair measure of assistance they will be able to supply all local needs. Local competition may be trusted to take care of the position in Australia. A tariff which permits competition from overseas is not protective in the real sense, and it really has the effect of increasing the difficulties of the local manufacturers, for it adds to their overhead costs. From time to time overseas goods flood into the country with a consequent disorganization of the local industry.
The Minister was good enough to refer to the expansion that has occurred in the cotton-growing industry of Queensland. It is true that expansion and development have occurred, but we must remember that this industry received its first fillip in 1920 from a Queensland Labour government which guaranteed 5d. per lb. for local cotton. That measure of protection was continued for three or four years until the late Mr. Pratten became Minister for Trade and Customs. I do not dispute that a steady development has occurred in this industry, but I submit that greater progress should have been made in the last fifteen years than has actually occurred. The industry has, at times, received serious setbacks in consequence of the lack of sympathy shown by various Commonwealth Ministers. I admit that the late Mr. Pratten showed practical sympathy, but, at that time, the manufacture of cotton goods was not carried on to any great extent in Australia. While he assisted the primary industry, he did not extend to the secondary industries the same measure of aid, which was so essential to their development. It was not until the Scullin Government came into office that the secondary branches received adequate protection, and a progressive rate of protection was also applied to the further stages of manufacture, the Australian manufacturers having demonstrated that they could turn out the finished article in the form of cotton piece goods. Unfortunately, a change of government brought about a cessation of that sympathetic policy. “Various Ministers who have held the fortfolio of Trade and Customs have not been too favorable towards the cotton industry. It is gratifying, however, to note that the present. Minister has shown a greater measure of sympathy than his predecessors. He has seen fit to cite a paragraph from the annual report of the Queensland Cotton Board; I propose to cite another paragraph from the same report. Apparently the Minister found one to suit his purposes; I have discovered another one to buttress my contention. The paragraph reads : -
Unexpectedly, and without warning, the Commonwealth Government decided to suspend the operations of the duties and admit under Customs By-law 1,043,318 yards of cotton piece goods and* 1,822,107 lb. of cotton yarns. At the time this was regarded as a very severe blow to the industry, particularly as it completely upSet the operations of the newly initiated scheme inasmuch as it seemed almost certain to substantially increase the quantity of cotton which we would have to export, with the further added possibility of our producing cotton on which no ‘bounty would bc paid.
I do not desire unduly to prolong the debate. My amendment that the item be postponed, with a view to inserting in it “ 3 oz.” where “-6 oz.” now appears, if carried, would be of infinite assistance to the Australian manufacturers of cotton piece goods and would in turn open up an expanding market for Australian cotton-growers. I remind any honorable member who may regard this industry as being of no importance, that it provides annual seasonal employment for 4,000 men, apart from the number of growers engaged in it. For portion of the year, these men find seasonal occupation in the sugar-growing industry; they are then engaged in the cotton-growing industry, picking or ploughing, and doing work incidental to agriculture. At a time like the present, when so many men are with out work, surely it is of advantage to the Commonwealth to increase the number of avenues of employment.
– A market can now be found for all the cotton that is produced.
– But there is room for expansion. From time to time representations are made for the expenditure of huge sums of money to develop the Northern Territory ; but areas of Queensland have better rainfall and a more suitable climate for the production of cotton than has the Northern Territory.
– The remarks of the honorable member are not relevant to the item under consideration.
– But they deal with the cotton industry. The Tariff Board, referring to the alteration from 6 oz. to 3 oz. stated -
The main alteration in the wording of the item is the reduction of the limit of weight above which the piece goods are dutiable from “ 0 oz. per square yard “ to “ 3 oz. per square yard “. This alteration was made to prevent the evasion of duty by the importation of cheap piece goods slightly under the weight fixed in the item.
Honorable members will realize that the Tariff Board is a competent authority to express an opinion on this matter. To-day, manufacturers find that the protective incidence of the tariff is being evaded by the importation into Australia of cheap piece goods of the lighter weights, which Australian manufacturers could produce if given a reasonable opportunity to do so. Some samples of their work are at present in the possession of certain honorable members of this chamber. Just as the manufacturers of woollen goods were able to produce light weight ladies’ dress material, so the cotton-spinners of Australia will be able to produce lighter weights in cotton goods. But they must first be granted reasonable protection. I appeal to the Minister to accept my amendment. He certainly cannot oppose it on the ground that the Tariff Board is not favorable towards the suggested alteration. We know that the board has recommended it, and as we are told by the Minister that in the fixation of duties, the recommendations of the Tariff Board are invariably followed, the honorable gentleman has no valid reason for departing from that principle in this instance.
Question - That the sub-paragraphs be postponed (Mr. Forde’s amendment) - put.The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item a paragraph (1), subparagraphs (b) (c) (d) and paragraph (3) agreed to.
.- Referring to paragraph 2 of sub-item 105 aa, which deals with piece goods, knitted or lock-stitched, I notice that the rates of duty on “ piece goods (other) “ have been reduced from 2s. 6d. per lb. and 30 per cent. ad valorem, and 4s. per lb. and 50 per cent. ad valorem, to 2s. per lb. or 35 per cent. and 4s. per lb. or 55 per cent. These reductions were made as a result of recommendations by the Tariff Board in its report dated the 5th October, 1932, following a public inquiry held in June of that year. After the reductions had been made, there was a considerable increase of imports of cotton piece goods, knitted or lockstitched, in tubular form or otherwise. The value of the imports in the last five years was as follows: -
The Tariff Board, in its report, made the following statement, which bears convincing testimony to the efficiency of the industry : -
The Australian fabric-knitting industry can be rated as efficient, and as far as can be judged, is providing the public with knitted piece goods and garments at reasonable prices. Although the amount expended in direct labour taken as a percentage of the value of the total product is not large, the demand for the goods is such that manufacture provides a considerable amount of employment.
It is refreshing to hear this statement by the board, in view of the fact that its recommendations generally have been in the direction of reductions of duties, in accordance with the views of the present Government and the restrictions imposed by the Ottawa agreement. The amount of capital invested in this section of the knitting industry is considerably over £1,000,000, and the industry uses large quantities of Australian cotton, thus providing a market for the cotton-growing industry of Queensland. It also uses large quantities of Australian woollen yarn. A considerable section of the industry is situated in country centres such as Ballarat, Bendigo, and Maryborough, in Victoria, where no alternative employment is available for the new generation of workers. I urge the Minister to see that nothing further is done to injure the prospects of this industry.
– The paragraph to which the honorable member has referred deals only with material used in the manufacture of pot-mits.
Sub-item aa agreed to.
– I move -
That paragraph (1) of sub-item 105 (h) be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after 26th March, 1936 -
Waterproofed piece goods (including such piece goods containing silk or artificial silk) prepared with rubber, oil, celluloid or nitrocellulose,but not including surgical dressings, surgical oil silk, or piece goods covered by item 105 (h) (2) (a) - ad valorem, British, 25 per cent; intermediate, 55 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.
And in respect of paragraph (1) -
For each £1 by which the equivalent in Australian currency of £100 sterling is less than £125 at the date of exportation -
An additional duty of - ad valorem, British, .4 per cent.; intermediate, 4 per cent.; general, .4 per cent.”
At the present time, the letters “ n.e.i.” appear after the words “ waterproofed piece goods “ in paragraph 1 of sub-item 105h, with the result that paragraphs 1 and 2 of sub-item 105 d, which cover silk and artificial silk piece goods, are more specific than the former sub-item. Consequently, the legal position is that waterproofed silk piece goods and waterproofed artificial silk piece goods are dutiable at the lower rates under paragraphs 1 and 2 of sub-item 105 d, whereas the Tariff Board clearly intended that the rates on waterproofed piece goods, under paragraph 1 of sub-item 105 h, should apply irrespective of the composition of the material. This amendment involves only a minor alteration.
– It would facilitate the passage of the schedule if the Minister would give an indication to the Opposition beforehand as to the amendments he proposes to submit.
– I shall do so.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-item h, paragraph 1, as amended, agreed to.
Sub-item h, paragraph 2, and sub-item j paragraph 1, agreed to.
Sub-iteml, (imitation camel hair cloth).
.- Prior to the 29th March, 1935. imitation camel-hair cloth was admitted free British, and at the rate of 15 per cent. general, under item 327. On the 29th March last, this cloth was made dutiable under sub-item 105l at the rate of 15 per cent. British preferential, 35 per cent. intermediate, and 42½ per cent. general, following a recommendation by the Tariff Board in February, 1935, that the duties should be 15 per cent. British preferential and 35 per cent. general. A public inquiry on the matter took place in Melbourne and Sydney in November and December, 1934. On page 4 of its report the Tariff Board states -
The board is satisfied that all grades of camel-hair cloth (so-called) are being commercially manufactured in Australia, and recommends that this material shouldbe excluded from admission under by-law 67, item 327. The Australian manufacturer is at present competing to a limited extent against importations from overseas.
Australian manufacturers are now competing to a limited extent against overseas importations; but they are finding that competition keener than formerly. If the local manufacturers are to hold this market, in addition to the protection provided by the exchange, a certain amount of tariff protection will be necessary. Otherwise, the local manufacture of this material will not prove a commercial proposition. I hope that the Minister will get in touch with the establishments engaged in making this class of goods, and that, if it is found that they are losing the local market, early steps will be taken to give them adequate protection.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 105, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Items 106, 110 and 114 agreed to. [Quorum formed.]
Item 115 (Socks and stockings for human attire).
.- Prior to the 29th March, 1935, the duties on children’s socks, woollen or containing wool, were 12s. a dozen pairs, or 33¾ per cent. British preferential tariff and 25s. or 65 per cent. general tariff. They have now been reduced to 2s. 6d. or 30 per cent. British preferential tariff and 10s. 6d. or 50 per cent. general tariff. Children’s socks, other than wool, previously bore the same duties as woollen socks, but they have been reduced to 2s. a dozen pairs or 25 per cent. British preferential tariff and 12s. or 45 per cent. general tariff. Children’s three-quarter hose and three-quarter golf hose were dutiable at 12s. a dozen pairs or 33 per cent. British preferential tariff and 25s. or 65 per cent, general tariff, but were reduced on the 29th March, 1935, to 4s. or 30 per cent. British preferential tariff and 12s. or 50 per cent, general tariff, if containing wool. The duties in respect of those not containing wool were reduced to 3s. or 25 per cent. British preferential tariff and 13s. or 45 per cent, general tariff. The reduction of the duties on children’s socks in March, 1935, was not warranted and local manufacturers are now meeting with a considerable amount of competition from overseas, particularly in the better-class lines. There has been a large increase of imports since the duties were reduced, but owing to the fact that children’s hosiery is not shown separately in the statistical returns, it is not possible to give the exact figures. The Australian manufacturers of children’s hosiery have reached a very high standard of efficiency and produce a large variety of lines which, owing to keen internal competition, are offered to the public at low prices. As the output of the Australian factories increased, there was a decline of prices charged to consumers, despite the prophecies of certain honorable members who want low tariffs or freetrade. The Australian plant is capable of doubling its present production, but owing to keen internal competition, very little profit has been made in recent years by manufacturers of hosiery of this type. Over SO per cent, of the yarn used is of Australian manufacture. I ask the Minister to take special interest in this industry, and so that it may not be jeopardized to give prompt consideration to any request made for increased protection if it is found that the imports are increasing.
.- The Australian hosiery industry has nothing whatever to complain of; it is not only in a good financial position, but is also conducted very efficiently and with general satisfaction to the community. That the industry is undoubtedly in a much more fortunate position than many other industries in Australia, is evidenced by the earnings of the various Australian companies. For instance, the net profit made by Lustre Hosiery during the years 1933-34-35 varied between £25,000 and £31,000. During the same period, its reserves increased from £40,000 to £60,000, and preference and ordinary dividends of 7f per cent, were declared in 1934 and 1935. Another company, Beau Monde, Australia, Limited, in its annual report, stated that against keen competition, it had increased its sales both in quantity and total value during the year 1935. Although it had suffered losses through expenditure incurred in establishing a department called a silk throwing department, and in the installation of new machinery, it paid a dividend of 25 per cent, on all of its shares. Julius Kayser (Australia) Proprietary Limited and Australian Knitting Mills Limited have announced that a mutual agreement has been reached whereby the former, an American concern, takes over the entire holding of Australian Knitting Mills Limited and the Yarra Falls Spinning Mills. The Australian company is therefore now controlled by the American interests, and any profit made goes out of the country. Prestige Hosiery Limited is another manufacturing firm which, for three years, after allowing for the preference dividend of 8 per cent, showed net profits as follows -
These profits suggest that the manufacturers are probably in an unnecessarily favorable position, but having regard to the state of efficiency reached by this industry, perhaps we should not begrudge it its good fortune.
.- There is actually no need to discuss this matter, but since the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has thought fit to refer to it, I inform the committee that this is an industry on behalf of which the Labour Government placed prohibitive duties. These have now been replaced by reasonably protective duties, as the result of which the consumers and the industry are better off. Warnings about the extent of importations are quite unnecessary. I should like to know whether the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) concurs in the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in regard to this industry.
– The Minister need not be so solicitous.
Mr.WHITE.- I should like to know if the Leader of the Opposition would support the imposition of the prohibitive duties imposed prior to the Tariff Board’s report.
– The Minister will hear from me in due course, probably to his own discomfort.
– That will bring a little variety into our discussions. In 1933-34, thevalue of the output of this industry was£2,816000, which was £217,000 more than in the year 1930-31, whereas imports in 1933-34 were valued at less than £13,000, or £54,000 less than in the year 1930-31. In 1934-35 the value of imports was £21,000, still a very small figure. The present duties provide British manufacturers with a reasonable opportunity to compete in the Australian market, and will permit of importation at reasonable prices of lines not fully catered for by the local manufacturers, and will, at the same time, give reasonable protection to the Australian industry.
Sub-items a, b, c andd agreed to.
.- Prior to March, 1935, the duties on women’s and girls’ circular stockings were 15s. a dozen or 33¾ per cent. British preferential tariff, and 30s. or 65 per cent. general tariff, if containing wool. They were reduced to 7s. or 30 per cent. and 17s. or 50 per cent. respectively. Those not containing wool were reduced from 15s. or 33¾ per cent. British preferential tariff and 35s. or 65 per cent. general tariff to 5s. or 25 per cent., and 25s. or 45 per cent. respectively. Stockings, other than circular, were also correspondingly reduced. That the duties have now been cut to such an extent that the hosiery industry of Australia is threatened is proved by the increased importations that have taken place. In 1933-34, only 3,493 pairs of cotton stockings, 7,785 pairs of silk stockings and stockings, n.e.i., and 6,175 pairs of woollen stockings were imported. But in 1934-35, the figures jumped to 23,000, 30,000 and 12,000 respectively. It must be remembered that every pair of stockings imported into Australia deprives the Australian workers of a certain amount of employment. This is an Australian industry which could probably supply the whole of the Australian requirements. On full-fashioned hosiery machines in Australia, men only are employed, and are paid an average wage of £5 a week, which enables them to assume the responsibilities of married life. Their wives and families are potential consumers of the primary products of the men on the land. It is no exaggeration to say that women’s hosiery manufactured in Australia is the best in the world. Even the Tariff Board admits that. This hosiery, the quality of which is equal to that produced in any part of the world, is, owing to the additional internal competition, sold at ridiculously low prices. I remind those honorable members who say that, because there are too many factories engaged in. the production of hosiery, there is overproduction, that there is hardly any industry in Australia in which there is not excessive competition. For instance, one hears the complaint in almost every town in Australia that there are too many trades people to supply the needs of the population. As the total number of up-to-date hosiery machines installed in Australia is not in excess of Australia’s actual requirements, our manufacturers cannot afford to share the trade with overseas manufacturers as they are obliged to do under the Ottawa agreement. Every £1 worth of orders sent overseas means reduced employment for Australian workmen. It is obviously unsound, from an economic viewpoint, that any imports whatever should be permitted while machinery in Australia is lying idle. Competition is threatened from Japan, where plant installed for the manufacture of full-fashioned hosiery is being extended rapidly. Japanese hosiery is already a serious menace in the United States of America and in New Zealand. There are also a large number of American companies operating in Canada which can supply goods to Australia at British preferential tariff rates if any reduction of the existing duties is made. Judging by the actions of the Government, one never knows when duties are likely to be reduced, and it is quite possible that those under this item will be referred to the Tariff Board for further consideration. Moreover, under a revised Ottawa agreement, the Australian manufacturers may be placed at a disadvantage. Hosiery is definitely a fashion industry, and the danger of endofseason goods being dumped from overseas is always present. This industry is also seriously threatened by the proposed trade treaties with Eastern countries. We have been informed that the Government has under consideration a trade treaty with Japan, a country in which females are paid from 6d. to ls. and males from ls. 6d. to 3s. a day for a 54-hour week.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member must discuss the item.
– I am merely directing attention to the increasing competition from Japan, and showing how important it is that the Government should not take any action behind the back of Parliament in connexion with any treaty with Japan which may affect disastrously the Australian industry. The hosiery industry is not in a position to withstand any further onslaught on the protection now afforded. If there is any further reduction of the duties, a few thousand workers will lose their jobs.
– That is an exaggeration.
– I know that the Minister will say that there is no danger.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) makes that comment on every item.
– The Government may decide to single out this industry for further reductions, and I wish to place on record the fact that, unless adequate protection is afforded and the whole of the Australian market is reserved for Australian manufacturers, they will be faced with serious difficulties. . The Australian manufacturers are paying good wages, and they should be given preference.
.- According to the latest Tariff Board’s report, the duty on silk stockings, fullfashioned, has been reduced from £1 13s. to 9s. 6d. a dozen, and on children’s cotton socks from £1 0s. 7d. to 2s. 4d. a dozen. Duties of £1 13s. on full-fashioned silk stockings and of £1 0s. 7d. on children’s cotton socks are what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) regards as protective duties. It would appear that the members of the Opposition are satisfied so long as they can bolster up biff manufacturing concerns to the detriment of consumers. Those who supported a protectionist policy in the early days of federation, and who honestly believed in protection being afforded to Australian industries, would turn in their graves if they knew the duties which have been forced upon Australian consumers during recent years. The figures which I have quoted give honorable members some idea of the duties imposed by a Labour Government and what a Labour administration would do to-day if it only had the opportunity.
Item agreed to.
Items 117 and 119 agreed to.
Item 120 (Towels)
.- The present duties on towels and towelling are 30 per cent. British preferential, and 60 per cent, foreign. The importations under this item have increased substantially.
– ‘Only on types not manufactured in Australia.
– That is not so. Ninety per cent, of the present imports from England could be made here. For the year ended the 30th June, 1931, the importations were valued at £210,549. For the following years the figures were: 1931-32, £205,614; 1932-33, £247,360; 1933-34, £261,35S; 1934-35, £314,123. From these figures it will be seen that, since 1931-32, the importations from Great Britain have consistently and materially increased. As it is estimated that Australia’s requirements of towels are being supplied by Great Britain and Australia in the proportion of 2 to 1, the present tariff is highly competitive and enables British manufacturers to compete very successfully on the Australian market. According to the latest report of the Tariff Board, dated -the 22nd February, 1935, the cost of yarn to the Australian manufacturer is, as regards 60 per cent, of the yarn content of a towel, 40 per cent, higher than the cost to the manufacturer in the United Kingdom, and as regards 40 per cent, of the yarn content, is 114 per cent, higher than the cost to the British manufacturer. What does that mean in relation to the sale price of a towel? In the matter of Australian production, it can be accepted that the percentage of yarn cost to the sale value of the average towel is 55 per cent. According to the Tariff Board’s finding the Australian manufacturer is compelled to pay an additional 40.5 per cent, for the yarn he uses. The total effective protection which the Australian manufacturer enjoys, as shown by the Tariff Board’s report, is 45 per cent., made up of 30 per cent, ad valorem duty and 50 per cent, on account of exchange. The exchange advantage is reduced to 15 per cent, owing to the charge on imported raw material. The effective protection given to the Australian manufacturer is sufficient only to compensate him for the increased price which he has to pay for cotton yarn in accordance with the Government’s policy to foster and develop the cotton-growing and spinning industries in Australia. The figures I have quoted prove conclusively that the Australian towelling industry is established on a most efficient basis, and that the duties in the schedule are dangerously low. Moreover, the local industry is meeting with serious competition, particularly from Great Britain. The only point in the Tariff Board’s report calling for further explanation is the reference on page 6 to the impending reduction of duty on the proportion of yarn imported from overseas, estimated to be between 2$d. and 3£d. per lb. Whatever reduction of duty takes place will not be due to any action of the Australian manufacturers, who have purchased all their yarn from the Australian spinners. Instead of the yarn decreasing in price, it is actually increasing, and Australian manufacturers have not received any advantage whatever by a reduction of prices. In the Australian industry, which is controlled by five manufacturers, there are over 1,000 persons directly and indirectly employed in the production of towels and in the spinning of cotton yarn. To-day, the industry is using not less than 600,000 lb. per annum of Aus tralian-grown cotton, and is also providing considerable employment. Australian factories as equipped at present are working complete shifts, and without further additions to their plants can provide for 90 per cent, of Australia’s requirements. In these circumstances there is no justification for further substantial imports from Great Britain. During the last six months, with increased capital outlay, the industry has been developing steadily, is providing additional employment and meeting a higher wages bill; it has also been responsible for increasing the consumption of Australian cotton. The Government appears to lose sight of the fact that the manufacturer is paying exchange on 40 per cent, of the raw material imported from Great Britain which, in itself, is a very definite impost. I trust that the Government will reconsider the present rates of duty and, by affording ample protection to the industry, enable it to supply the whole of our requirements. The mill operating in Sydney is experiencing great difficulty. The mill at Yarraville, in Victoria, has, in addition to a towelling plant, a spinning mill where the yarns required in the making of towels are manufactured. The Victorian mill, which is a branch of an overseas manufacturer, is one of the most efficient in the world. I hope that the Minister will reconsider these rates of duty and give sufficient, protection, thus enabling the whole of the work to be done in Australia.
.- As stated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) this is an efficient industry. It was started in Australia mainly by British capital, employing skilled English operatives, and it is being conducted on the lines of the best Lancashire concerns. It uses a large proportion of Australiangrown cotton yarn, but is also a good customer of Britain, as approximately 60 per cent, of the yarn used is purchased from British spinners. All dye stuffs and bleaching materials also are obtained from the Mother Country. Thus, it will be seen that British manufacturers benefit to a large extent from the establishment of this Australian industry. Owing to the lower rates of duty that have been operating during the last few years the industry is in some danger, imports from Great Britain having increased by approximately 50 per cent. The manufacturers complain that they have not derived any advantage from the reduction of the price of the yarn, although the Tariff Board indicated that they would. There has been some comment regarding the higher cost of the Australian product to the users, but I consider that this is due to a lack of knowledge of the subject. The gibe about cheap and nasty goods might well be directed to many imported lowgrade commodities. “Whilst Australian towels may be a little higher in price, it is considered that they have at least double the wearing value, due to the superior quality of the Australian-grown cotton yarn that is used.
.- I move -
That the item be postponed.
I agree with the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) as to the value of this industry to Australia. I have in mind the position of the mill at Rosebery in the Waterloo district. I am informed that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) attended the opening of that mill and promised that it would enjoy adequate protection.
– I did not make that promise to anybody.
– My information is that the promise was given by the Minister to the general manager of the mill.
– I am afraid that the manager misunderstood me, or else the honorable member has misunderstood the manager.
– There is no reason why the manager should mislead me. I have his assurance that the industry was started on a definite promise that it would receive adequate protection, to which it is fully entitled in view of the fact that it gives employment to a large number of Australian workers, and is turning out a good article.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [8.36 1 . - We have heard a good deal in this debate of the so-called rights of a manufacturing section of the community to protection, but nothing about rights of the consumers or users of manufactured goods. Neither has there been mention of the down-trodden agriculturists for whom, we have been told lately, members of the Opposition are so anxious to do something. Time after time the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has risen in his place to ask for increased duties or for the postponement of an item with a view to having the rates increased. There is an advantage of not less than 15 per cent, ad valorem in favour of the Australian manufacturer, apart altogether from the further advantage due to the rate of exchange. If that is not effective protection to even one of our tiniest industries, I should like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to tell us what he considers is effective protection.
– Protection that ensures to Australian manufacturers the whole of the Australian market.
– ‘Some years ago, when the honorable member was in office as Minister for Trade and Customs, he flashed across the political firmament of Australia like a meteorite, leaving behind him a trail of sparks from the long list of high duties and embargoes which his government imposed. The honorable gentleman’s ideas on protection are altogether too extravagant and expensive. We should consider the interests of the consumers or users of goods manufactured in this country, and take heed also of the burdens which we place upon our people through the tariff.
– We did not hear anything about that when we were discussing bounties for primary producers.
– Bounties, like the honorable member’s presence in this chamber, are temporary. I admit that it may be a comfortable experience for representatives of industrial constituencies to visit metropolitan electorates and talk about protecting the great and growing industries of Australia, but the duty of this committee is to consider seriously the state of affairs brought about by 36 years of ever-increasing protection of our secondary industries.
.-There appears to be some misunderstanding about the item. The importation of towels is not increasing. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has spoken of the necessity for higher duties without regard to their effect upon the importation of commodities which are the raw materials of other sections of this Australian industry. For the first six months of this financial year, the value of importations was £163,000, compared with £368,000 for the previous year. More than one-half of the goods imported were of a kind not made locally. The industry is efficient and, as it uses a large portion of Australiangrown cotton, it is a useful secondary industry, but we cannot apply to it or any other industry those rule-of-thumb methods which were so popular with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and his party when they were in office. Nowadays the tariff is carefully surveyed by a board of experts, who make certain necessary dissections and classifications, and recommend what they consider are reasonable duties for the encouragement of Australian industries. As compared with 1933, there has been no alteration of the duty on imports from Britain of types made locally, but there has been an increase of the foreign rate on coloured towels and towelling. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) must have misunderstood the manager of the Commonwealth Towelling Company when he said that I had promised adequate protection to that industry. This Government believes in giving adequate protection to all Australian industries, but the duties must be reasonable, not prohibitive. I did inspect the Commonwealth Towelling Company’s factory, because I consider that the Minister for Trade and Customs should, whenever possible, obtain first-hand information about all Australian industries. The duties in this item are adequate for this industry to hold its own and expand its activities.
Question - That the item be postponed (Mr. Mulcahy’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Items 123, 126 and 130 agreed to.
Item 131 (Flags and banners).
.- I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to have investigated by the Tariff Board the rates of duty on tents and sails. The tent industry provides employment for a large number of Australian men and women. The manufacturers are able to produce local requirements of all classes of tents and flys, but are subject to competition from overseas countries, the manufacturers in which have the decided advantage that the raw material - canvas and duck - is manufactured on the spot and labour is much cheaper than in this country. This comes under Item 131(a) which is not in the present schedule.
– Had the honorable member made that known at the outset of his remarks, I should not have allowed him to proceed.
Item agreed to.
Division 6. - Metals and Machinery.
By omitting the explanatory note to the heading of Division6.
Motion (by Mr.White) agreed to -
That consideration of the explanatory note be postponed.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (d) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: - “ (d ) Plate and Sheet (plain) - ad valorem, British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 27½ per cent.; and per ton, intermediate, 70s.; general, 70s.
And in respect of sub-item (d) -
For each£1 by which the equivalent in Australian currency of £100 sterling is less than £125 at the date of exportation -
An additional duty of - ad valorem, British, 1 per cent.; intermediate, 1 per cent.; general, 1 per cent. provided that the British Preferential Tariff shall not exceed 48s. per ton, plus1s. per ton for each £1 by which the equivalent in Australian currency of £100 sterling is less than £125 at the date of exportation.”
.- I should like the Minister to make the preference under the intermediate tariff, compared with the general tariff, a little greater than that which appears in the schedule.
.- The item before the committee provides for a very substantial reduction of the duties which, hitherto, have prevailed. Ordinarily, honorable members on this side of the committee would be disposed to offer criticism based on the dangers involved in the reduction of duties in relation to what is an essential and a key industry in the Australian economic structure. This industry has become marked by the attainment of considerable monopoly power on the part of those who have had the advantage of national policy in its development. Not only has it benefited from fiscal policy, but it has also had the direct aid of substantial subventions from the Commonwealth Treasury. Over a long course of years it can be said to have been nursed carefully and faithfully by this Parliament, in the hope that it would be established for the benefit of the Australian people, and incidentally provide opportunities for workmen to enjoy reasonable standards of living. I regret to say that one of the reasons which can justifiably be advanced for the contemplated reduction of the duty is that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has grossly abused the protectionist advantages which this Parliament has given to it during a substantial number of years. The party which I lead wishes it to be known definitely and decisively that its support of protectionist principles is motived by the desire to serve the best interests of the nation, and in every important consideration the best interests of the mass of workers engaged in industry. We have regard for the rights of the consumers, the welfare of the workers, and the stability of the industry. We do not believe in the imposition of duties in order to permit a great monopoly to exploit the public on the one side, and oppress its workmen on the other. I regret to say that quite recently the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which has a number of subsidiary firms under its control and a number of other important corporations allied with it, has evidently taken the stand that it can wantonly disregard the basis upon which protection has been agreed to in this Parliament. For example, at the present time there is an industrial dispute at the Australian Iron and Steel Works, Port Kembla, an enterprise which is interlocked with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and is subject to its control. That dispute arose because the company, having substantial orders to fulfil, instead of offering work to the workless, decided to overwork systematically those who were on its wages sheet. Furthermore, when protests were made by the workmen against this excessive exploitation of their time, under conditions of grievous physical difficulty, which imposed undue strain and considerable hardship, and the determination was reached that even though overtime rates were paid the extended hours would not be worked, a policy of victimization was practised. The workmen’s delegate, whose only offence was that he was the messenger who conveyed to the management the decision of his mates, was incontinently sacked.
– The honorable member will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.
– I am explaining why honorable members who sit behind me are not opposing the reductions pro posed in the schedule. Ordinarily they would oppose them. Parliament must take cognizance of the use made by employers of the protection which is given to them. This item definitely brings before this Parliament consideration of the nature of the conditions enjoyed by workmen in the industry which is the subject of this protection. The present rates of duty give a margin of protection to the industry. I say to the employers, that unless they conform to reasonable standards of labour in the industry, which, even under this schedule, is substantially protected, honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber will not agree to protect them. We would withhold protection from this or any other industry in Australia that did not pay proper regard to what I believe this Parliament would consider a reasonable standard for the workmen engaged in. it. It is perfectly clear that if this industry were observing reasonable standards, we should not be supporting the reductions which the Government has proposed. Furthermore, I should not be threatening this industry and all other industries that unless they saw to it that the general conception of decency which we believe to be an essential counterpart of the Australian protectionist policy was recognized and observed by them - unless they conceded a reasonable standard of life to those whom they employed - this Parliament would not give to them the benefit of the protectionist policy which is the settled conviction of the Australian people, and in part is reflected in this schedule. Work in this industry is extremely grievous. Men have been compelled to work shifts of twelve hours duration, under conditions which are not only excessively irksome, but when the compulsion to work the twelve-hour shift has been repeated, have also become a positive menace to health.
– Hundreds of men are walking about seeking employment.
– On the 24th January last, the mill superintendent at Port Kembla informed the delegate for the workmen that the employees would have to work a twelve-hour shift that day. At 5 p.m., the usual knock-off time, the men held a meeting, and decided not to work overtime, and instructed their delegate to inform the mill superintendent to that effect. He did so, and was immediately sacked. The men then at work immediately stopped operations, and within a week 3,000 employees had ceased work in an effort to protect the right of the union to maintain the decision of the men, and to protect the union delegate, whose only offence was that he conveyed to the management the decision of the workmen. As a result of the tariff, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, in the year ended May, 1934, showed a profit of £427,000. The total production of steel has increased enormously during recent years; from 150,000 tons in 1931 it rose in 1933 to 298,000 tons, and in 1935 to 526,000 tons. There has been a steady increase of the quantity of steel produced. The fiscal policy of this country has conserved the Australian market almost entirely to the company that is the subject of this discussion. I believe that it is correct to say that internal competition in connexion with the supply of iron and steel products to the Australian public has now ceased, and that the whole of the output is subject to monopoly control of both the materials and the prices which the public is called upon to pay for them. Throughout the depression, this immense corporation, which boasts of a total capital of £10,000,000, maintained a dividend rate of 10 per cent. More recently, the rates has increased to 12^ per cent.
– Its actual capital is less than £2,000,000.
– The company started with a capital of £320,000. During the period between the end of the war and 1930, it issued bonus shares to the value of £1,500,000.
– I ask the honorable member not to proceed too far along those lines.
– I am aware that, in some respects, my remarks are not strictly relevant to the item under discussion; but it is true that the rate which is now prescribed in the schedule, although a reduction of the previous rate, gives to the company the protection of this Parliament. In those circumstances, we are entitled to ask to what extent the company is worthy of that protection.
I shall be astonished if you, sir, rule out of order any reference to the rates of pay and conditions of employment in this industry, even as I should be astonished if you disallowed a discussion of the rights of the users of its products. This item affects not only the company, but also the users of its products, the workmen it employs, and the shareholders. Therefore, any unfairness in the relations between those three component elements is relevant to a discussion as to whether this item gives adequate or inadequate protection, or provides for an excessive duty.
Last year this company decided to purchase two vessels in circumstances which were canvassed in this Parliament. I place on record that the Australian Labour party, with its proud record of support for Australian industries, and its undoubted fidelity to protective duties as an essential requirement for the preservation of those industries-
– Protection at any cost?
– So far from that protection being afforded at any cost, it is afforded now and for the future only on condition that the company thus aided conformsto what we believe to be the duty that it owes to the users of its product, to those whom it employs, and to the nation as a whole.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has clearly demonstrated that this is one of the great “ steal “ industries. I am pleased that we can now look to him and his party to support a reduction of the duties on iron and steel products generally. By doing so, they will show that their policy is one of serving the people. I well remember when the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited started operations in this country. Mr. Delprat then declared before a commission that it wanted no duties or bounties, or assistance of any kind whatsoever from governments; it would compete with the world, or go out of business. Owing to the enormous duties imposed on iron and steel products, the company has been able to develop, until now it is a marvellously wealthy corporation. Al though the capital actually invested in the company by its shareholders was about £1,700,000, the company now has property worth over £20,000,000. As it claims to possess the richest and largest iron deposit in the world, and its works are established right alongside the coalmines in the Newcastle district, there is no reason why it should not compete with similar concerns in other countries. In addition to those natural advantages the company enjoys the benefit of the exchange rate, which is now 25 per cent. The company has done wonderful work, but it has tarnished its reputation by establishing cartels whereby only those persons who are members of a certain association can obtain its products ; it will not sell to any person outside the association, and it is pleasing to note that the Leader of the Opposition denounces thismonopoly. This company manufactures products which are the raw materials of a number of other industries. Therefore, if, by imposing high duties, we increase the cost of those raw materials, we are making it harder for those subsidiary industries to carry on successfully. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, with its natural advantages and the added benefit provided by the exchange rate, ought to be able to compete with British manufacturers. As the duty fluctuates with any variation of the exchange rate, the company would be adequately protected by a 5 per cent. duty on goods imported from Great Britain. I, therefore, move -
That the item be amended by inserting the following in sub-item (d) : “And on and after 26th March, 1936.
.- The Opposition will vote for the duties set out in the schedule, and will not be caught by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The honorable member wishes to reduce the duties in order to give the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited an excuse for approaching the Arbitration Court, so that the wages of those employed by it may be whittled away, the working week lengthened, and the daily shift increased. The Labour party does not stand for the whittling away of the wages and conditions of the workers. Its policy still is the New Protection, which means effective protection of Australian industries, and measures to prevent profiteering and ensure reasonable conditions for the workers in industry. There is nothing new in the attitude adopted by this party towards this great key industry, which gives employment to thousands of workers, and supplies the raw materials for many Australian factories. There is no equivocation about the policy of the Labour party; it is clear and definite. Unfortunately, under the limitations imposed by the Commonwealth Constitution, it cannot go so far as it would like in the prevention of profiteering, and the setting up of conditions of employment conditional upon the granting of protection. Those difficulties might be overcome by an amendment of the Constitution. lt is true, unfortunately, that the protectionist policy has enabled monopolies to be set up. For some time there was competition between the Australian Iron and Steel Works at Port Kembla and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, both of which were granted protection under this item. Those companies have seen fit to amalgamate, and consequently all competition has been eliminated. The Opposition does not hold any brief for manufacturers as a class, but stands for preference to Australian manufacturers and workmen over those of other countries. If monopolies exist, it is better that they should exist in Australia where some measure of control can be exercised over them, than that Australians should be at the mercy of monopolies in other countries. The Opposition has been greatly impressed by the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), in which he pointed out that the protection afforded by this item has, in some instances, been abused. One company which enjoyed protection under it has subjected its employees to conditions which are not in keeping with the requirements of the present age. I was amazed to learn from the honorable member that an official of the union to which the mcn belonged cannot inform the management of decisions reached by the workers without being dismissed.
– The honorable member will not be in order in pursuing that line of argument.
– As one who has inspected the iron and steel works at Newcastle, and knows something of the conditions under which the men work there, I submit that, at a time when 250,000 workers are seeking jobs, it is not right that the employees of the steel mill at Port Kembla should be asked to work twelve hours a day in the 36-in. mill. When men work such long hours under trying conditions, it is not to be wondered at that so many accidents occur. In the circumstances the men were justified in asking for three-eight hour shifts a day. During 1934, the Illawarra district ambulance attended 21S major accidents at the Port Kembla Works, because the workmen could not maintain for long periods each day the vigilance necessary to safety. The necessity for shorter shifts in industry is obvious to all thinking people. It is amazing to learn that this industry, which, has been built up under the protection afforded to it by the support of the representatives of the workers in this Parliament, should tolerate such inhumane conditions in its works. Such conditions make it difficult for other employers to observe awards.
– The honorable member is not entitled at this stage to engage in a general debate such as was permitted on the first item of the schedule.
– I associate myself with the strong protest against the attitude adopted by the Australian Steel Works at Port Kembla towards its employees, particularly the union delegate who was dismissed recently. This Parliament, which has granted privileges to the company, should not tolerate such conditions.
– I do not think that the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) could be ruled out of order on the ground that it was irrelevant, because, in considering this item, we are entitled to ask whether protection should be granted to any industry in which fair and reasonable conditions of labour do not exist. That matter has been raised in this Parliament from time to time since the beginning of federation. When the Lyne tariff was brought down in 1907, the subject was debated very keenly indeed, and honorable members will remember that an attempt was made by legislation under the excise power to impose certain conditions upon persons receiving protective assistance from the Commonwealth. That legislation was prompted by the desire of the Parliament that where protection was granted to an industry provision should bc made for fair and reasonable conditions of employment throughout the Commonwealth. It was the opinion of the Parliament in an early session that the Constitution should be amended to give to the Commonwealth Parliament complete jurisdiction in the industrial sphere because it was held that industrial power should vest in the authority that exercised the tariff-making power. However, the excise legislation was held to be invalid. The policy of New Protection was considered early in the Parliament, and it was urged that fair and reasonable wages and working conditions should prevail throughout the Commonwealth. The question was how they should be determined. This contributed to the enactment of the Arbitration Act, the benefits of which could be obtained by unions and industrial organizations in disputes which were interstate in character, and came within the conciliation and arbitration powers. Thus, a means was provided in a certain area for fixing a standard of wages and working conditions. At the inception of federation, State industrial legislation was highly unsatisfactory; even in connexion with the sugar industry the Commonwealth had to make provision for fair and reasonable conditions; but to-day every State has machinery whereby such conditions can be determined. Consequently when we consider tariff schedules, we know that throughout the Commonwealth, as in the case of the steel industry for instance, there is established by legislation a judicial method of determining fair and reasonable wages and working conditions, either under Federal or State authority. In considering the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, we have to ask ourselves, whether there exists arbitral machinery by which the workers in. protected industries can be protected against exploitation. By interjection we have been told that this machinery will not operate in one State in connexion with the steel industry. Honorable members are not in a position to be officially informed by an impartial body of the causes and facts of any dispute that may exist in an industry in a State.
– The honorable member is only quibbling.
– I am not. We know that there is an arbitral tribunal, or industrial legislation, in every State. Because of the existence of Federal and State industrial legislation, reasonable conditions of employment can be obtained. This is the first occasion for many years on which this issue has been raised on a tariff schedule. Hitherto we have assumed that Australia has tribunals whose duty it is to determine industrial conditions and secure the object desired.
– The honorable, member will not be in order in continuing along those lines.
– The Leader of the Opposition was allowed to raise this matter. He informed the committee that the Opposition did not intend to take any action in relation to increasing the duties on this item because of certain disputes in the iron and steel industry. I submit that it is not reasonable to raise such a contention in connexion with a tariff schedule, because we can assume that in every State the workers have a fair chance of obtaining, through tribunals established for the purpose, reasonable conditions of labour in industry. So long as such legislation prevails, we can discuss this or any other tariff item purely on its merits, and apart from any extraneous consideration.
.- In supporting the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), I re-affirm my attitude and the attitude of the Labour party, which demands that protected industries shall provide reasonable wages and working conditions for their employees. In the circumstances that exist in the iron and steel industry I do not question the Government’s reduction of the duty on plated steel. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), consciously or unconsciously, misled the committee when he said that, because this industry is highly protected, adequate protection was automatically given to the workmen in the industry. That is not so. The industrial court refused to function in a current dispute. The judges declined to deal with the dispute on its merits. Because the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited pays about £100,000 every election into the party funds of honorable members opposite they defend this company.
– If the honorable member intends that reference to be applied personally to anybody on this side of the chamber. I take strong exception to it and ask that it be withdrawn. No company has subscribed to my election fund.
– The honorable member forWerriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) will withdraw that remark.
-Do you rule, Mr. Chairman, that I cannot say in a debate in this chamber that a certain company pays money into party funds? However, I shall withdraw my remark and say that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited subscribes to the Ministerial party funds. The duties on this item give protection to the iron and steel industry. The honorable member for Darling Downs declared that protection is also given to the workmen through the industrial arbitration tribunals. I ask the honorable member to remember that one of the greatest arbitration judges yet appointed in Australia, the late Mr. Justice Higgins, laid it down in the Harvester Judgment that, to survive, an industry must pay a progressive living wage.
– The honorable member will not be in order in continuing along those lines.
– I thought I would be in order to replying to the honorable member for Darling Downs.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs was not in order either.
-Because I feel that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is not worthy of the consideration of this national Parliament, I offer no objection to the Government’s reduction of this duty. There is no company in the world to-day which employs more brutal bosses or treats its employees in a more callous fashion. Its works are known all through the South Coast district as “ the slaughter house and butcher’s shop “. The company has no consideration for human life. If the Minister is in ignorance of its reputation, I suggest that he visit the South Coast and talk about it with his own supporters, who will bear out my statements. If I am not in order in placing before this committee the claims of thousands of men who are employed in an industry in my own constituency, the privileges of honorable members of this Parliament are small indeed.
– I remind the honorable member that this is not the time to ventilate such views.
– It seems to me that any time should be the right time in the national Parliament to deal with such a brutal company and protect the interests of the workers.
– Order !
– This duty gives protection to an industry that is not worthy of it. If, instead of considering this tariff schedule, this Parliament were to force the employers in this industry to give their workmen better conditions, it would do something of greater benefit to the nation. I shall always speak in defence of the masses against the activities of great monopolies and wealthy companies. Let there be the slightest chance of the workers being in the wrong in any dispute and the industrial courts will rush to the aid of the companies concerned, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) intervened in the recent waterfront trouble. Public opinion was on the side of the seamen in that dispute.
– I shall not again ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the item before the committee.
– I am dealing with the abuse of the protection afforded to the iron and steel industry. Surely I am in order in discussing the conditions under which a protected industry is carrying on. I am confining my remarks to conditions in the iron and steel industry; I am not discussing industrial conditions generally. I think that the committee is entitled to express its condemnation of a company which so misuses the benefits conferred upon it.
– There is another tribunal in the Commonwealth which deals with the aspect of the matter to which the honorable member has referred. There is no reference to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, or to any other company in the item before the committee, and the Chair can only permit discussion that relates specifically to the item.
– What other tribunal can deal with this matter?
– There is an Arbitration Court.
– You, Mr. Chairman, would be right in the attitude you have taken up if the Federal Arbitration Court were empowered to deal with this matter, but it is not. It is just because the Federal Arbitration Court is powerless, and because there is no other authority to protect the interests of the men, that I am constrained to take their part in this Parliament. At every opportunity I shall record my opposition to the brutal attempts of this company to force its unjust will upon the men it employs.
– Caesar, in the person of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), a little while ago had the Australian Iron and Steel Company before him for judgment, and, having castigated that institution, condemned it, if not to utter darkness, at least to a very dim twilight. Then, as soon as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) sought to impose a penalty upon the company for its misdeeds, we witnessed the spectacle of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) declaring that the company, like Cresar’s wife, was above suspicion. According to him, this monstrous organization, so roundly condemned by his leader, should not suffer any penalty by way of reduced duty.
– I should like the honorable member to connect his remarks with the item before the Chair.
– I cannot dissociate the protection which an industry receives under the tariff from the manner in which that industry is conducted. Therefore, I say that if the case against the iron and steel organization is as bad as it is made out by the Leader of the Opposition - and I have every reason to believe the honorable gentleman - the moral duty of members of the Opposition is to support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan until such time as the company is prepared to treat its employees properly. What has happened merely goes to show that the kind of protection adopted in regard to the iron and steel industry has produced that other great bugbear of the Labour party, namely, a monopoly. The very conditions which honorable members opposite say are necessary for the protection of the industry have resulted in the creation of a Frankenstein monster which is crushing the men engaged in the industry. I do not know what conditions are like in Newcastle or Port Kembla, but at Iron Knob, South Australia, where the iron ore is being mined, I have never heard any suggestion of a complaint about working conditions. If this monopoly is really oppressing its employees, obviously the proper course is for Parliament to take away some of the protection it enjoys, and confer greater benefits upon other deserving industries. The finished product of the iron, and steel industry is the raw material for certain other industries, including the motor bodybuilding industry in my State. If the duty on steel imported for the making of motor bodies and agricultural implements, &c., were reduced by 10 per cent. it would be of great assistance to the manufacturers of those commodities. If, would help them to meet foreign competition and the agricultural machinery industry would be enabled to increase its export trade. In South Australia, we are interested in the cost of transport, which is affected by the price of iron and steel used in the construction of rails and rolling stock. I am also interested in the cost of machinery used in woollen mills, of which iron and steel is again the raw material. The iron and steel monopoly should be taught that if it is to receive the benefit of protection from this Parliament, it must, in turn, pass on the benefit of good working conditions to its employees. If this amendment is agreed to, and if later the iron and steel dispute is peacefully settled so that the men receive what they are entitled to, I shall be prepared to consider a restoration of the benefits the company has been enjoying.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who suggests that the Labour party should support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has suddenly become aware of the fact that the workers art, entitled to some protection from this Parliament. He is endeavouring to use this occasion to prove that. his one desire is to assist the workers to obtain justice. The party to which he belongs is not consistent, however, in its solicitude for the workers, and those associated with the party in New South Wales are assisting the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in its attack upon the men’s working conditions. Members of the Labour party have repeatedly asked the Government to investigate the advantages of a 40-hour working week. Eventually the Government authorized the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) to inquire into the matter when he was abroad, and the honorable member has, since his return, reported favorably upon it. Had the 40-hour week been instituted at once and overtime eliminated, excepting where it was absolutely unavoidable, there would not now be any trouble between the Australian Iron and Steel Company and its employees.
– The honorable member must know that he is not in order. He is not seeking to connect his remarks with the item before the committee. He cannot continue unless he does so.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that this item involves consideration of the effects of the duties imposed, and the uses made of the protection afforded to those who enjoy its benefits. It would be quite proper to discuss how far this protection would make it possible for the steel industry to impose oppressive charges on the users of steel - that is to say - to exploit the community. It would be relevant to urge that regard must be had to the rights of consumers. Therefore, it is surely reasonable for honorable members to consider how far the protection, which this item affords the iron and steel industry, should be reduced or increased, having regard to the use which the company is making of the monopoly it now enjoys in the Australian market. I submit, therefore, that the honorable member is in order.
– Passing reference can be made to the conditions in an industry; but, when an honorable member, in speaking to an item, proceeds to make a speech that might be regarded as more appropriate to a general debate on the tariff, he is not in order. I do not object to any reasonable reference to the conditions of the industry, although the circumstances of any particular firm are not before the Chair. The only matter of which the Chair is aware is the item before it, and, although passing references to other matters may be made, the discussion must be limited to the item under consideration.
– It was because the Chair was not aware of the circumstances in the industry that I was discussing them. The item with which we are dealing has some bearing on the operations of the steel industry, and, if I can show that those controlling it are not justified in asking this Parliament to render them any further assistance, my remarks should be quite in order. The majority in this House, far from viewing this matter impartially and trying to hold the scales of justice evenly, make every effort to assist the sweaters in the industry to impose intolerable conditions on their workmen. In seeking to check discussion concerning the conditions in the iron and steel industry, the Chairman said that there was another tribunal to which the men engaged in it could appeal. The men approached that tribunal, but it refused to act. Even if it had acted, the men would have got from that court as much justice as they would be likely to get from this Government, and that would be very little. Supporters of the United Australia party are preponderant in this Parliament, and they also form the majority in the Parliament of New South Wales. What are the members of the United Australia party in the State legislature doing to rectify the wrongs at Port Kembla? Nothing at all. They have decided “ to stand aloof “ from it. They say that it has nothing to do with the Government, which, however, is starving women and children in order to force the men back to work.
– Order ! The honorable member is not even referring to the company now.
– Honorable members of this chamber take up an illogical position in claiming that this is a national Parliament, which represents all interests. The workers never get any consideration from anti-Labour governments.
– Order! “If the honorable member continues, I shall be forced to ask him to resume his seat.
– I want to understand your ruling, Mr. Chairman. If you rule that this Parliament is only competent to discuss the interests of sweaters, and not the interests of the workers, I would prefer to resume my seat. The workers will then know, without doubt, that this is a class Government.
– The honorable member for East Sydney will resume his seat.
– I do not support the reduction of duties proposed in the amendment. I very much regret that members of thu Opposition have for some reason deviated from their considered policy, to support a reduction of the protection given to one of Australia’s chief industries. Their attitude is not understandable in view of their previous actions. If this committee were to support the amendment, it might impose hardship on the industry, and cause a scaling down of the protection which it now enjoys. The Labour party previously has consistently advocated the protection of the iron and steel industry, and similar enterprises which depend on protection to be able to pay decent wages, and to observe reasonable conditions in employment. If we whittle away this protection, where shall we end? The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is in complete accord with the actions of the Opposition, but, naturally, he is not content with even the reduced duties contained in the schedule. He is therefore pressing for a reduction of the British preferential duty from 15 per cent, to 5 per cent.
– The honorable member for Swan was not in earnest.
– But the honorable member for East Sydney and his colleagues are in earnest. I feel that the industry is of such great importance to the country that the amendment cannot be agreed to by this committee. If it were carried, the wages paid to the workers in the industry would collapse, and the general progress of the production of iron and steel in Australia would be jeopardized. Expenditure of further capital would cease, and there would be no possibility of expansion when it was evident that there was agreement, on the part of the Opposition that this most important duty should be reduced. It has been claimed that the company is not worthy of the support accorded to it, but, in previous years, the Opposition has always sought an increased duty for this industry. Its change of policy is without apparent reason. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) stated that £100,000 is contributed by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to the ministerial party funds. I have not seen any of this money. Probably, the honorable gentlemen opposite are losing it. Probably that is why they are withdrawing their votes from the company. If honorable members are squealing because they are going to lose the money, it is certainly not being transferred to the Government side of the chamber. Why should this company give to a government, which has always supported the lowest protection which the industry has ever received? The honorable member for Werriwa has, in my opinion, let the cat out of the bag. I appear to be standing alone in this committee in advocating reasonable protection for our great iron and steel industry.
– What about protection for the workmen?
– The greater the margin of protection, the greater the opportunity for increased wages for the workers. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was not able to give one sound reason for his claim that the worker is not enjoying fair conditions. If his claim were based on fact I would not support the protection of the industry at all, but the honorable member merely abused great corporations and companies of which this country is proud. The reputations of the men and companies who have established the iron and steel industry in Australia are unsullied. No accusation has been made that they are not paying decent wages, or giving reasonable conditions to the workers. The Labour party by pursuing its present course will injure the families and the youngsters of the employees in the industry. Failure of the industry would cause hardship in thousands of homes. Tribunals, for the most part State instrumentalities, exist to deal with the wages and conditions in the iron and steel industry, but this Parliament, by ensuring to the industry an adequate measure of protection, makes it possible for those wages and conditions to be observed. If an industrial dispute is in progress within the industry, ours is not the responsibility to decide who is in the wrong. I claim, however, that the iron and steel industry has always given to the employees wages and conditions which are a credit to it.
– I deny that.
– The honorable member may deny or affirm it as he likes, but I shall not agree to taking from the industry the protection it now enjoys. The dispute, which is the excuse for the Opposition’s attitude, might be settled to-morrow.
– Only if the governments can starve the men back to work.
– The honorable member is biased.
– I know that the men are right.
– They may be, and when they are prepared to work they should have the protection which the tariff alone can give, and with out which the industry cannot succeed. I oppose the amendment, and regret that the Opposition has seen fit, because of a temporary dispute, to let down a great industry.
.- I shall not support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I favour the duties stated in the schedule which, I believe, will give fair and reasonable protection to the iron and steel plate industry. In discussing tariff issues in this chamber, we should consider the conditions prevailing in an industry and do our best to ensure fair and reasonable conditions for the workers. The debate on this item has centred to some extent on a dispute in New South Wales.
– (Mr. Riordan). - I ask the honorable member to discuss the item before the Chair.
– A little trouble has occurred in the iron and steel plate industry of New South Wales, but the National Parliament should deal with all industries on a national basis, and should not concern itself with the occurrences in one particular State. The Commonwealth Parliament has set up its Arbitration Court-
– Staffed by classconscious judges !
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I must ask the honorable member for Boothby to confine his remarks to the item before the chair.
– I merely wish to point out that all the States have their industrial courts and tribunals. I am not conversant with all the facts in connexion with the Port Kembla dispute, but at Iron Knob, South Australia, where raw material is procured for the steel works at Newcastle, I understand that the employees are satisfied with their conditions. The iron and steel industry is on the whole, most efficiently conducted, and I think that the tariff proposals of the Government in connexion with it are quite satisfactory. On the general question of tariffs, however, we ought to ensure to the best of our ability, that the workers in the industry receive the best possible wages and conditions.
.- The company referred to specifically is not the only organization financially affected by these duties. Even if it were, we ought to concern ourselves, not principally with the dispute that exists at the moment between it and its employees, but with the maintenance and continued progress of the industry itself. The men who are to-day out of work no doubt hope to return to their employment, and they expect the industry to be continued. That is a factor that we must bear in mind. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) promised us that if we voted for the reduced duties and he was not satisfied, when things became normal, that the new rates were sufficient, he would support the reinstatement of the existing rates. My answer to that is : “ In vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird “. No person who desired to ensure the continuance of an industry would vote for a reduction of duties upon such terms and conditions. It appears to me that this Parliament possesses sufficient power to regulate by its own act the conditions of employment in a protected industry, and, perhaps, even the price at which theproduct may be sold. At any rate, it certainly can control conditions of employment. It is quite clear that the principles laid down so long ago in Barger’s case and the Union Label case were destroyed by the later decision in the Engineer’s case. This Parliament has now power to legislate directly as to the conditions of employment or to set up an authority to determine upon principles prescribed by us fair and reasonable standards of employment. Such standards cannot be prescribed under the Commonwealth arbitration power but guiding principles may be laid down for a body created by Parliament under other powers. That is a step that we should take. We surely do not desire to imitate the famous Chinese in Charles Lamb’s apologue, who, whenever he wanted roast pork, burnt down his house. It is not necessary to destroy an industry in order to punish an employer whose conduct is objectionable. Ho-ti reached the stage of development at which he realized that he need not burn down his house every time he wanted roast pig. There is no need for us to destroy an industry in order to improve conditions. I believe that without any alteration of the constitution Parliament can secure fair terms and conditions to the employees of protected industries and to the consumers of the products of those industries. In other words, I believe that we can roast our pig without destroying our house.
– One aspect that must be considered when we seek to protect an industry is whether the employees engaged in it are being given a fair deal. Sufficient has been said on this subject by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and other honorable gentlemen on this side of the committee to show that the workers engaged on the blast furnaces in the steel industry are being called upon to work under utterly unreasonable conditions. Those who have rend the history of the strikes in the iron and steel industry of America know that the men were required to work under outrageous conditions, which ultimately led to disruption of industry and adversely affected the nation as a whole. To oblige men to work twelve hours before blast furnaces is absolutely wrong, and those circumstances has caused the dislocation in the industry. Men should not be called upon to work before blast furnaces for twelve hours.
– This is one-eyed chairmanship.
– I ask the honorable member for Boothby to withdraw that remark and apologize.
– I withdraw the remark and apologize.
– When we are considering the degree of protection to be afforded a particular industry, and especially one of the magnitude of the iron and steel industry of Australia, we should do our best to ensure that the people engaged in the industry are working under conditions which are not oppressive. Whenever the Labour party has supported the protection of an industry, it has been done in the belief that the workers engaged in it were being reasonably treated and that this would continue.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the amendment before the Chair.
– An amendment has been proposed which will have the effect of reducing the duties. I would prefer the duties to be increased to encourage other Australian competitors to engage in the industry, who would give fair and reasonable working conditions to the employees. That course, in my opinion, would be far preferable to that proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). If we increase the iron and steel duties, we will encourage other groups of people to invest their money in the industry, and do something to ensure that a maximum of8 hours only would be worked each shift before the blast furnaces. That would be in the interests of the whole community. But as one who has worked before furnaces over a period of years, I appreciate how those employees must suffer. I desire to support the dignified and forceful protest of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) against the treatment by the company of its employees; I consider that honorable members who support the Government should pay heed to it. The Labour party is not in a position to support the proposal of the honorable member for Swan to reduce the present duty. As a matter of fact, this committee should actually be considering a suggestion to increase the existing duty, but our acquiescence in the present proposal of the Government will, at all events, show the controllers of the industry that they have not been granted the right to treat their employees outrageously in what is tantamount to a monopoly.
.- Before the iron and steel industries were established in Australia, the statement was made that they would be able to carry on without the assistance of the tariff; that, with their efficient plant, they would be capable of competing with imported iron and steel on a freetrade basis. I am gratified that the Government has now determined to reduce the protection afforded by the tariff to 15 per cent., indeed I consider that under the conditions now prevailing in the industry, because of its efficiency and the mechanization that has taken place in its mining operations, the company; could probably carry on its operations even if the duty were reduced to 5 per cent. as suggested by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
– The Tariff Board is the best judge of that.
– The statement has been made that an increase of the tariff would increase the number of enterprises engaged in the manufacture of iron and steel, thus providing further competition. There were two companies in operation, but what has happened? They have combined to form a monopoly. The tariff is the only means by which the Government can protect other Australian industries which depend on this monopoly for their requirements. The galvanized iron industry, which relies upon the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the Australian Iron and Steel Company for the iron from which it manufactures its galvanized iron sheets, is tied up to this monopoly because it is unable to obtain its requirements from any other source. Australian Iron and Steel, which has established works on the south coast of New South Wales, is also manufacturing galvanized iron. Should it so desire it can fix whatever price it chooses on its iron in order to compete on an unfair basis with other manufacturers of galvanized iron sheets, Lysaght Limited, for example. The only way in which the Government could put a stop to this practice is by a reduction of the tariff to allow the galvanized iron industry, and other iron users, to import whatever iron and steel they require from abroad. Competition would thus be on a fair basis. I support the proposed reduction. [Quorum formed.]
.- I intend to support the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in regard to this item. I have no love for the iron and steel industry in Australia as carried on by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I have visited the company’s works and have seen the conditions under which the men toil, both at Newcastle and at Port Kembla, and all I can say is that the work before the furnaces is a wrecker of human life. In the suburbs of Sydney there are a number of small engineering works in existence which, prior to the advent of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, were in a position to import small quantities of iron in 5 or 10 ton lots. To-day, however, these small, struggling industries, which employ a considerable number of men, are unable to obtain lots smaller than 20 tons from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and, what is more serious, there is no guarantee of delivery. For that reason., I consider that the iron and steel item in this tariff schedule is not deserving of any great consideration by a national parliament. If it had not been for the fact that a further reduction of the tariff in this connexion might have prompted the company to apply to the court for a reduction of the wages of its employees, I would not have given it any consideration whatever. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who is a freetrader, does not appeal to me in the slightest; but I would feel disposed to vote for it if the Country party would support the Opposition in putting the Government out of office.
I hope that the item will be passed in its present form; but, in view of the fact that this industry 13 not giving a fair and adequate deal to its employees, particularly at a time like the present, when thousands of men capable of working in the industry are out of work, and that it asks its employees to work twelve hours a day, this Parliament should not give it any special consideration. In conclusion, I desire to enter my protest against the labour conditions now obtaining in this industry.
– I rise to support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), as a protest against the industrial conditions now prevailing in the iron and steel industry. I am placed in an awkward position, because I represent a district in which 10,000 men are engaged in this industry. Nevertheless, I could not give my support to a company which will not pass on the benefits it derives from the protectionist policy of Australia to its employees, and to the community generally. I definitely consider that this company, by its attitude in connexion with the construction of two ships last year, and in other directions which I propose to explain, has shown no consideration for the working man, who assisted it to place the industry on its present footing. Although, so far as Newcastle is concerned, this company has been responsible for the employment of thousands of men, it appears to be getting out of hand; governments seem to have no control over it; it seems to be able to do what it likes with the Arbitration Court, and it has reached a stage when it is concerned more with the reduction of wages and the lengthening of working hours than with the protection that the Government is able to afford it. At Port Kembla to-day an industrial dispute is in progress, because the com- pany desires the men to work a twelvehour shift. Having worked for five years with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, I have some knowledge of the conditions of the industry, and the amount of sweating that takes place.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member should address himself to the item.
– I desire to explain why I am voicing my protest on this occasion, and, in doing so, I think that I should be permitted to explain the conditions under which the work is carried on.
– The honorable gentleman must discuss the item which is being considered by the committee. If he desires to protest against certain working conditions, opportunities to enable him to do so will occur later.
– The honorable member for Swan desires to reduce the protection.
– I do not stand for that; nor am I willing to support an increase of the duties, because of the way in which certain employers are sweating their employees. Representatives of the mcn employed by Australian Iron and Steel Limited made an application to the Industrial Court in connexion with the dispute at Port Kembla.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that matter.
– I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. I do not intend to assist any industry that will not pass on the benefits of protection to its employees. The steel industry was established in Australia by reason of the tariff protection accorded to it, but these powerful companies now care nothing for governments. I do not believe that the present Ministry could control their actions.
– I should not have again addressed the committee on this matter bad it not been for the misleading statement made by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), who alleged that I had given no concrete example of the conditions prevailing in the industry, but had merely abused the employers. That is not a fact. The honorable member misrepresented me both this evening and on a former occasion. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and other honorable members advanced definite reasons for their attitude. If the honorable member for Wide Bay considers that twelve hours work in front of a blast furnace can be regarded as good conditions for the men employed in this industry, he has no right to be a member of this chamber, for he is a supporter of sweaters of the worst kind.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must discuss the item.
– I merely wish to contradict the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay, since they will appear in Hansard. Can the conditions in the industry be described as fair and reasonable when an employee is sacked merely because he conveys to the management a decision reached by his union? The honorable member stands as a sup porter of the worst kind of scabbing to be found in this country.
.- The item under consideration provides for a clarification of the duties on steel sheets and steel plates. Prior to the introduction of the duties, 80 per cent, of these goods were imported under by-law. The British preferential rate is now 15 per cent. Types of steel that are not made in Australia will still be admitted free. A statement of policy was made on this important item by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and I admit that it sounded plausible. He said that if certain labour conditions did not prevail in the iron and steel industry, the Opposition would not support certain duties; but it would be interesting to speculate how far the honorable gentleman and his supporters would go. If Parliament were not in session, how could that policy be applied? Would honorable gentlemen opposite support a strike? I am asking for further information on the subject. It seems to me that the powerful New South Wales Labour party, formerly known as the Lang party, has had a good deal to say in the caucus.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister would not be in order in continuing on those lines.
– It should not be forgotten that the Federal Labour party, when in power, imposed inordinately high duties - it could not have them too high - and that the prohibitive predilections of the Leader of the Opposition are not in line with those of either section of the Labour party. Coming from Western Australia, he would probably support a reduction of duties, yet he has made an attempt to introduce a new tariff philosophy that will suit his party as a whole.
– What does the Minister think of the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) ?
– I shall not support it. It is useless for the Opposition to declare that it will deal with an industry, merely because a strike has occurred in a particular section of it. I have no sympathy -with employers who are unfair in any way to their employees, and I hope that the trouble in a section of this industry will soon be remedied. To-night we have heard the rights and wrongs of the strike at Port Kembla, and the story was also told during the debate on the recent censure motion. Owing to the state of affairs existing in the iron and steel works. at Port Kembla, injury is inflicted upon employers and employees alike. When a strike occurred in the sheet steel works at Newcastle in 1934, I permitted the admission under by-law of large quantities of galvanized iron. The value of the goods so admitted amounts to date to over £250,000. Recently, on account of the trouble at Port Kembla, a further 5,000 tons of galvanized iron has been admitted free. This unfortunate trouble has, therefore, caused economic loss and unemployment. Honorable members generally are not sufficiently acquainted with the details of the dispute to be in a position to take sides in the matter. The proper tribunals for the adjustment of such matters are the State tribunals and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In 1933, the two largest iron and steel works employed 9,909 men ; in 1935, the number increased to 12,753. Indirect employment was given to a further 9,552 in 1933, and 12,132 in 1935, making a grand total of 19,461 in 1933, and 24,885 in 1935. Do honorable members suggest that, because of the unfortunate trouble in one section of it, this great industry is a menace to Australia?
– The trouble is that if the company can get. away with what it is trying to do at Port Kembla, it will apply it to the whole industry.
– The trouble might be righted to-morrow. The Opposition has said that it will support the Tariff Board’s recommendations, which arc the Government’s proposals, but the honorable member for Swan is anxious to test the sincerity and the statements made by the Opposition that they would show their disapprobation of the industrial trouble by not supporting the old rates of duties, and has moved for a still lower rate, which would not be protective. I appreciate the way in which the honorable member proposes to do so; it will at least show how far honorable members opposite are prepared to go with their new-found principles and their new philosophy.
.- I admire the audacity of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in saying that the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is testing the sincerity of the Opposition. Very often the honorable member for Swan has tested the sincerity of the Minister without success. It is often said that it is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous. That is the step that the honorable member for Swan wants the Opposition to take. He says that if a ridiculously small margin of protection were given to this industry, it would teach the employers a lesson if a lesson were required, and that it would open up the prospect of real opposition to a monopoly that has a grip over the whole industry in Australia. We know that the iron and steel industry in Australia started from very small beginnings, and has grown to an immense monopoly. I frankly admit that it has grown because of the protection afforded it by Australian governments by means of tariff barriers raised against outside competition. But the iron and steel industry was not given that support for the purpose of creating a monopoly. Protection was given to it in order that the industry might be successfully established in Australia. We claim, however, that that support which has been given has not been returned to the Australian people in the way it should have been. We know the grip -which the iron and steel trust has in Australia, but ridiculously low duties, such as are suggested by the honorable member for Swan, far from inviting competition in Australia, would positively exterminate any possibility of opposition that would threaten the present operations of this monopoly. If high protection was required to establish this monopoly, similarly high duties would be required to develop any opposition to that monopoly. The iron and steel trust has such a grip to-day, and has such ample supplies of raw material, and such extensive facilities for manufacture, that a corporation to bo in a position to offer effective competition would require an enormous capital as an initial investment - more capital than the available market would warrant. In my opinion, the proper way to encourage opposition to this monopoly is to set up a tariff barrier so high that it would encourage the growth of compeftition in Australia. Only on those lines could successful opposition be encouraged.
– Would not imports do it?
– Possibly, but there are international agreements and understandings which prevent these things from being done. Nobody knows better than the Minister that these international agreements do exist, although we may not be able to produce concrete evidence of their existence. Competition from outside would not, therefore, have the desired effect. f u discussing an item we are permitted to deal with the efficiency of an industry. Wo have heard arguments advanced that the iron and steel industry is efficient, that it has cut down labour costs to the lowest possible degree, and that it has installed machinery of the latest type. The standard of efficiency always referred to by Government supporters in discussions of tariff items is that which is aimed at the elimination of man-power by the introduction of machinery, and the ability of the industry to compete with cheap labour overseas - the sort of efficiency that the Labour party has striven against in setting up the tariff barriers which have made it possible for a monopoly such as this to become a menace, not only to the Australian users of its iron and steel, but also to the workers engaged in the industry. As long as we confine our remarks about efficiency in the iron and steel industry to the elimination, of surplus labour, we are all right - that aspect can be discussed in this committee - and as long as we point out that the profits of the monopoly are not inordinate, we are still in order; but immediately we discuss the wage standards and conditions of the workers in the industry, who, after all. produce the whole of the wealth in the industry, we are ruled out of order. The Opposition takes the view that there are three classes who arc entitled to some consideration in any industry. While the system under which we live at present exists, I suppose we must give consideration to those who invest their money in an industry - we are certainly quite in order in discussing that aspect - then, we must consider the public, in order to assure ourselves that it is not being unduly exploited by the protection afforded; and lastly, the workers engaged in the industry are due for consideration if it can be shown that they are not getting a fair deal and that the employers are not carrying out the intention of this Parliament in granting them protection. Because our policy has been to establish the industry, and, in doing so, to set a standard for the workers higher than that maintained in any other part of the world, we intend, on this occasion as a protest, to support the duties proposed by the Government. Those who are concerned with the position of the consumers and the manner in which they are exploited can speak for themselves. Those who desire to speak of efficiency in the industry from the point of view of how much human labour can be eliminated can deal with that phase of the industry, and others interested in the shareholders obtaining a sufficient return on their capital can worry that out for themselves. But the Labour party says that this monopoly has not given sufficient protection to the workers.
The honorable member has already had considerable latitude, and I cannot allow him to proceed on those lines.
– The fact that I am precluded from speaking on the workers’ conditions suits me, and I trust that the workers outside will take notice of the action which you have taken.
.- When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) made his maiden speech in this tariff debate, I was under the impression that he was about to inform the people of Western Australia how he reconciles the evils of a high tariff with their views.
And when he went on to say that there was a possibility of obtaining some protection for the public by preventing this huge monopoly from charging manufacturers whatever prices it desired for their raw material, I expected to have his support in my effort to relieve the small manufacturer from such a monopolistic grip. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Forde, who said that he would sooner a monopoly operate in Australia where it would be under some control than have to submit to the prices and conditions imposed by an overseas organization, should remember that there has never been any effort on the part of any government to control this monopoly. The Tariff Board has power to inquire into the action of any organization acting in restraint of trade, but apparently nothing has been done in that direction. From time to time, it has been shown that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has refused to supply other manufacturers with the material they require. Lysaght Limited and Rylands have been merciless to opposition traders and the Trade and Customs Department refuses to intervene. When unnecessarily high duties were provided to protect the iron and steel industry, other manufacturers said that if the price of their raw material was increased, they would need the assistance of higher duties for the commodities they produce, otherwise they would be unable to compete with overseas manufacturers. It was once thought that there would bo some competition between Broken Hill and Port Kembla, but now that they are operating as one huge monopoly, there is no such possibility, and the public must suffer. I thought that the members of the Labour party, in view of their Leader’s speech, and realizing the difficulties confronting small manufacturers, would support my amendment. Had that support been forthcoming, the Government would have realized that unnecessarily high duties should not be imposed to assist this great organization which is operating to the detriment of many Australian users of its output.
Item agreed to.
Ventilation of Postal Buildings in Brisbane - I talo- Abyssinian Dispute : Sanctions : Negotiations for Settlement - Norfolk Island Ordinance.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) that on the 24th January the secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, in Brisbane, communicated with the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs suggesting the installation of fans in two of the rooms in the General Post Office buildings in Brisbane, where during the summer months the heat is excessive. To that communication the following reply was received -
With reference to your letter of the 24th January, requesting the supply of two fans, one each for the Poste Restante and Stamp Sales sections at the Brisbane General Post Office, I have to advise that the necessary funds for the provision of two new fans and the associated installation work are not at present available. In the circumstances, it is regretted that the request cannot be acceded to.
The Postal Workers Journal, commenting on the departmental reply, pointed out that the installation would have cost the department not more than £5. If that estimate is correct, the officer responsible is not treating the employees fairly. I feel sure that the Acting-Leader of the House is fully informed of the position because I know that he has visited Brisbane and inspected the post-office buildings during the summer months. I, therefore, hope that he will bring this complaint under the notice of the Postmaster-General and that the very necessary improvements asked for will be effected without further loss of time.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the House what I consider to be misleading answers given to questions which I submitted to the Prime Minister (Mr.
Lyons) on the 18th March, on which date I asked -
The answers given to me were -
The replies given by the Prime Minister were in conflict with the following cabled news published in the Labor Daily of the 8th of February, 1936 : -
The astounding admission that the export of raw materials used in the manufacture of high explosives and poison gases could still be effected from Britain to Italy, was made by the chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited (Sir Harry McGowan) in the course of his evidence before the Royal Commission on Arms yesterday.
As the present sanctions do not cover raw materials of this nature, no attempt had been made to prevent such exports. The witness stated that his firm had not made any exports of manufactured poison gas to Italy.
That statement by the chairman of the Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, shows clearly that raw materials for the manufacture of poison gas are being exported from Great Britain to Italy. Therefore, the answers given to my question on the 18th of March were misleading, and I desire to have placed on record the fact that, notwithstanding the application of sanctions against Italy, a wholesale trade of materials necessary for the manufacture of poison gases and munitions is being carried on between Great Britain and Italy.
– In answer to a question from the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street), as to whether any statement could be made on the ItaloAbyssinian dispute, I promised that I would see if I could give some information later in the day. The position is as follows : -
The Committee of Eighteen met on the 22nd January and decided to appoint a Committee of Experts to conduct a tech nical examination of the conditions governing petroleum and its derivatives, with a view to submitting an early report to the Committee of Eighteen. This report, completed on the 12th February, stated that a universal sanction would take about three months to become fully effective, even if the United States of America permitted exports of oil to the normal level prior to 1935. If the sanctionist States-Members of the League alone applied the sanction, it would merely render the purchase of petroleum by Italy more difficult and more expensive.
The Committee of Eighteen, on considering the report on the 2nd March, decided that there ought to be a fresh effort at conciliation before further consideration of the oil sanction.
The Committee of Thirteen, consisting of all the Council Members, except the parties to the dispute, then addressed to both belligerents “ an urgent appeal for the immediate opening of negotiations within the framework of the League of Nations and in the spirit of the Covenant with a view to prompt cessation of hostilities and the definitive restoration of peace”.
The Emperor of Abyssinia immediately indicated his willingness to negotiate for peace, and, after some delay, Italy likewise accepted the invitation to negotiate.
The re-occupation byGermany of the demilitarized Rhineland caused a postponement of the meeting of the Committee of Thirteen called for the 10th March, to the 23rd March, when the Committee decided that its Chairman and the SecretaryGeneral of the League of Nations should get into touch with the parties and take steps calculated to enable the Committee to bring about a cessation of hostilities and the restoration of peace.
From reports that have been received it appears that during the last fortnight there has been little or no military activity on either Abyssinian front, and it is hoped an atmosphere is now being created favorable for an early settlement of the dispute.
.- In view of the long discussionwhich took place yesterday with regard to the promulgation of ordinances for Commonwealth territories, I should have thought that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) who is representing the Minister for External Affairs in this chamber would have been in a position before to-night to reply to a question whichI submitted last week relating to the Printers’ and Newspapers’ Ordinance promulgated last year for . Norfolk Island. There was at that time a newspaper known as the Norfolk Island ‘Times in publication on the island, and from a copy which was furnished to me I note that it was unsparing in its criticism of the administration. By some means or other, whether on the advice of the Administrator or at the instance of the Minister for External Affairs who visited Norfolk Island some months ago, an ordinance relating to printers of newspapers was promulgated to deal with this matter, and as one might expect, it has effectively stifled any further newspaper criticism. The ordinance is so worded as to make it impossible for any newspaper to carry on, particularly if it criticizes the administration of the island. To give some idea of its effectiveness, I need only read paragraph 2, which is as follows: -
In this ordinance unless the contrary intention appears “ defamatory matter “ means the matter of any imputation concerning . any person, or anymember of his family, whether living of dead, by which the reputation of that person is likely to he injured, or by which he is likely to be injured in his office-
This refers to the Administrator and certain members of his staff - profession or trade or by which other persons are likely to shun, avoid, ridicule or despise him, wheher the imputation is expressed either directly or by insinuation or irony.
Under that paragraph of the ordinance it would be practically impossible for the editor of any newspaper even to refer to the Administrator without being liable to the penalties prescribed. If a newspaper, which had consistently attacked an administrator, published in one of its issues the statement that he was the best Administrator the island had ever had, it could be brought within the scope of this ordinance, in that it had made an imputation in the form of irony. Even the Executive Council, the creation of this Government and the adviser of the Administrator, unanimously carried a resolution asking for the repeal of this particular ordinance. That raises the question as to who asked for its promulgation. Apparently, it was the Administrator, who was being adversely criticized by this newspaper, which has now ceased publication as the result of the ordinance. It was only a roneo production, for which 3d. was charged. Its circulation was limited, but apparently it wielded considerable influence among the people on the island, and therefore had to be suppressed. 1 believe that the whole of the information with which I have asked to be supplied is available in Canberra. A good deal of dissension has been caused on the island, and in view of what has been said recently in regard to the manner in which ordinances are promulgated, and the effect of them, the Minister should see that the information is supplied as early as possible. If he proposes to treat in a cavalier fashion the people of Norfolk Island and the Executive Council, which hasrecommended the repeal of this ordinance, the Government cannot have much concern for them, and must desire to prevent any further criticism of an administrator whom the majority of the people on the island think is not fit for his job.
.- I shall bring to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the matter raised by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) which, it seems to me, is entitled to receive immediate consideration.
I shall also place before the Prime Minister the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) concerning raw materials for high explosives. I venture to suggest that the condensed newspaper report from which he quoted possibly does not give so much information asa fuller statement on the subject would furnish. I therefore ask the honorable member to defer judgment until he has heard the Prime Minister further on the matter.
The Minister in charge of Territories regrets that the information sought by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has not yet been supplied. It will be furnished very shortly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4. Fisheries investigations which have been placed under the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are being developed along three main lines, namely: -
The whole of the fisheries investigations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are being, and will continue to be, conducted in close co-operation with the State departments concerned. Attention will be given later, when exploratory work has been carried out, to such questions as transport and marketing facilities.
d asked the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 March 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19360325_reps_14_149/>.