14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs have inquiries made, and advise me as to whether the following paragraph which appeared in last Friday’s Sydney Daily Telegraph is based on fact?
SHIP’S PETS KILLED.
Officers and seamen of the freighter, King Neptune, refusing to destroy their pets, Customs officers went aboard and killed seven canaries. This was done because Captain R. Evans declined to enter into a bond of £350 that the birds would not get loose in Australia. They werebought in Portuguese East Africa two months ago, and the owners were greatly indignant over their destruction?
– Ihave heard nothing in relation to the destruction of these canaries, but if the honorable member will write to me on the matter, I shall have inquiries made into it.
Strengtheningof Effective Securities
– Last Friday the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs informed methat a sub-committee of Cabinet bad been dealing with proposals which the Government intended to place before the League of Nations, for the strengthening of effective securities under the Covenant of the League, but that a tentative decision only had been reached. “Will the Attorney-General now state whether thatstage has been passed, and, if the Australian delegate has received definite instructions, whether itis possible to communicate them to this House?
– I anticipate that I shall be in a position to make a full statement on the matter at a later hour this day.
Mr.CURTIN. - Will the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties state what negotiations have been conducted with the “Government of Japan since the trade diversion tariff schedules were tabled in this House? Will he indicate the Japanese proposals which the Commonwealth Government regards as unacceptable, and the suggested modifications, if any, of the tariff schedules which the Government of Japan has not accepted i
– In the opinion of the Government, it would not be advisable, or in the least helpful to the negotiations, to disclose at the present timesuch details as those for which the honorable gentleman has asked. Therefore, it cannot do so. May I add that the honorable gentleman appears to be-
– On a point of order,I suggest that, as the Minister appears to be about to argue the matter, he should obtain leave to make a statement upon it.
– The Minister must confine himself to the furnishing of an answer to the question.
– Replying further to the honorable gentleman, may I say that the objectives of the Government in the adoption of this policy appear to be misunderstood by my honorable friend. The Government aims, in the first place, at maintaining essential imports from the United Kingdom-
– I suggest that the Minister should ask for leave to make a statement.
SirHENRYGULLETT (HentyMinister directing negotiations for trade treaties) [3.8]. - by leave - I was saying that there appears to be some misapprehension in the mind of the honorable gentleman as to the objectives of the Government. In the first place, in connexion with essential imports into Australia, the aim is to maintain imports from the United Kingdom at a level which will enable the exports of primary produce from this country to the United Kingdom to be maintained at the present level, and even to be expanded. In the second place, the aim in connexion with foreign goods is to provide for a well-balanced share from all good-customer foreign countries, including Japan. I may say that, at the present time, the balance of trade enjoyed by Japan with Australia is incomparably better than that enjoyed by any other country which is a good customer for Australian wool. So much for the primary side. On the secondary side, the aim is to ensure that the standard of living of the 500,000 employees of the manufacturers of Australia shall be safeguarded against competition from very low-wage countries. There I leave the matter.
.- by leave - The Minister has not given a satisfactory answer to my question. He has said that it is undesirable in the public interest to disclose the various steps that have marked the negotiations between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of Japan in respect of the tariff schedules that have lain on the table of this House for four months. That may or may not be a justifiable defence. But instead of answering my question, the honorable gentleman proceeded to make an explanation additional to the many explanations which both he and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) have already made in justification of a policy which this House has not had an opportunity to discuss, let alone to decide. If the Government of Japan has submitted proposals to the Australian Government, this Parliament would like to know about them. If Parliament knew the nature of those proposals, it would be in a position to judge whether the Government was right or wrong in refusing to accept them. Moreover, if the Government would indicate what modifications, if any, of the tariff schedules which have been tabled it is prepared to make, Parliament would be in a position to know whether the Government of Japan was behaving reasonably towards Australia by rejecting them. “Whilst it may be true that too much public discussion is not desirable during delicate negotiations, I point out . that the whole of the public discussion which has taken place in Australia so far has been indulged in by the Prime Minister and his colleagues. They have called on every other section of the community to be silent, and then, when honorable gentlemen on this side of the House, including myself, have hearkened to their request, and remained silent, we have been rebuked for not having had anything to say on the subject.
SirHenry Gullett. - On whose side is the honorable gentleman now?
– the side of Australia; and being on that side, I refuse to look at this subject from the viewpoint of either the Government of Japan, or the representatives of Manchester. I regard it from the viewpoint of the larger interest of Australia’s present economic position and future outlook, both nationally and industrially. These negotiations have been in progress for four months, and it is time that the Government showed some readiness to carry out the promise made by the Prime Minister in this House to give Parliament an opportunity to judge the situation.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House give an assurance that there will be no weakening of the Government’s attitude towards a trade agreement with Japan, despite demands for an early settlement by Australia giving way?
– The attitude of the Australian Government on this subject has remained unchanged.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table Tariff
Board report and recommendation on -
Spectacle cases and spectacle cases inthe rough.
Ordered to be printed.
– Is there any foundation for the newspaper report that Cabinetis considering the provision of a ministerial residence in Canberra at a cost of about £6,000; and, if so, will the Minister for the Interior make a statement on the subject ?
– It is true that the Government is considering the provision of a further ministerial residence in Canberra, hut no decision has yetbeen reached. In the event of the work being proceeded with, the occupant of the residence would be required to pay a rental based on the cost of the building, plus the value of the land.
Privy Council Appeal
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make available to honorable members a list of those acts of Parliament, both Commonwealth and State, which I understand he placed before the Privy Council as a list of acts affected by the argument and the decision in the James case?
– I understand that a record of the argument in the James case has been placed upon the table of the Library. That record contains every reference to an act which I made in the course of my argument.
– Is it a fact that the position of Commonwealth Director of Works is being revived, and, if so, has any decision been arrived at in regard to an appointment to the position?
– The appointment will be made by the Public Service Board.
– In view of the vital importance of aviation to the future of Australia, will the Acting Leader of the House give an assurance that, before any contract is let for the Singapore to Sydney section of the air route, Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss the matter?
– The air mail contract is still under consideration. When a decision has been arrived at by the Government, it will be indicated to this House.
– With regard to the statement of the Prime Minister that as soon as a decision has been reached in connexion with the Singapore-Sydney portion of the air route Parliament will be advised, will the Acting Leader of the House give a definite assurance that before a decision is arrived at Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss the matter.
– The usual practice in connexion with matters of this sort will be adhered to.
The following papers were tabled -
War Service Homes Act - Report of the War Service Homes Commission for year 1935-36, together with Statements and Balance-sheet.
Ordered to be printed.
British War Cemeteries - Agreement between the Governments of the United Kingdom. Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa and of India and the Government of Iraq regarding British War Cemeteries, &c, in Iraq.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Treasurer’s Statement of combined accounts of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 30th June, 1936, together with certificate of the Auditor-General.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 130.
High Court Procedure Act and Judiciary Act - Rules of Court amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 129.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 131.
Petroleum Oil Search Act - Statement of expenditure during year 1935-36.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1936 -
No. 37 - Land Valuation (No. 2).
No. 39 - Insane Persona and Inebriates (Committal and Detention ) Agreement.
– Has the attention of the Assistant Minister for Commerce been drawn to a statement in yesterday’s Brisbane Courier in which Mr. Bulcock, the Minister for Agriculture in the Queensland Government, is reported to have said -
The State Government suggested that if Queensland Crown debts were to be compounded, the same should apply to Commonwealth debts, but the letter to the Premier of July 23, clearly indicated that the Commonwealth Government was not willing to do this. In other words, it was asking the State to do something which it was not prepared to do itself.
If so, will he indicate the nature of the debts which would be owing to the Commonwealth by farmers in Queensland?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement referred to by the honorable gentleman. There are practically no debts owing to the Commonwealth by settlers in Queensland or in any other State.
– On the 25th September the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), asked in my absence, when the consolidation of Commonwealth statutes will be available. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it is expected that the consolidation will be available about the end of the year. The recent decision of the Privy Council in the James case has necessitated a complete revision of the notes to cases in the consolidation dealing with interstate trade, thereby causing some delay.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs noticed a statement in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, in which Mr. Norman Lindsay suggests that officials without qualifications are allowed to censure and ban books which ought to be distributed in Australia? Will the Minister say what qualifications such officials have?
– It is rather astonishing to find that neither the honorable member himself, nor Mr. Norman Lindsay, knows that customs officials do not decide whether books shall be banned, or that a board was set up about three years ago to do this work. Its chairman is Sir Robert Garran, a distinguished citisen, who like all the other members, is qualified to decide whether a book comes within the meaning of the act as being blasphemous, indecent, or obscene.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the removal of Aldous Huxley’s book Eyeless inGaza from the Parliamentary Library means that the book has been banned under the Commonwealth censorship regulations? If so, will he state the reason why it has been banned ? If it has not been banned, will the honorable gentleman say whether any decision has been reached concerning it?
– Probably an honorable member has the book out of the Library at present. The book is not on the banned list. It has received unusual publicity in consequence of the questions chat have been asked concerning it. If the Book Censorship Board decides that it should be banned as an improper book, honorable members will bo informed of the decision.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs read a statement by Mr. Norman Lindsay to the effect that the Australian system of censorship is ridiculous and bad because it fails to discern between literature and so-called indecency? What comment has the honorable gentleman to offer on Mr. Lindsay’s observations that, if young Australians must be protected from so-called indecency, the censor should turn his attention to crude pornographic pulp-
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable gentleman has no right, either by arrangement or otherwise, to submit such a question-
– Order ! The honorable member for Batman may not suggest that a question is being asked by arrangement.
– He is wrong, anyhow.
– My point is that the honorable member for Watson is not entitled, under the privileges of the House, to ask a question inviting comment by a Minister upon any allegation or publication. His question must relate to a matter of fact within, or supposed to be within, the knowledge of the Minister.
– Ministers should not be asked to comment upon statements made by people outside of the Parliament.
– The question, and the reference to Mr. Lindsay’s statements, show that that gentleman is inconsistent, in that he criticizes certain action in regard to the prohibition of the importation of certain books, but suggests that a prohibition order should be issued against certain other books.
– I rise to order. I ask that the honorable member for Watson formulate his question in a proper way, and that it be answered in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– The honorable member could frame his question differently.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has read the statement by Mr. Norman Lindsay that the Australian system of censorship is ridiculous and bad, because it fails to discern between literature and so-called indecency, and also Mr. Lindsay’s observation that, if young Australians must be protected from so-called indecency, the censor should turn hia attention to crude pornographic pulp, with which the country is glutted? Will the honorable gentleman say whether any action is to be taken in regard to the matter ?
– The question refers to certain literature which is being excluded. Certain of Mr. Lindsay’s own books have been the subject of action under our censorship regulations. One of them was banned by a Labour administration, before the Censorship Board was set up, and another has been banned during the present Administration.
– I have received a communication from the Municipal Council of Wollongong asking me to inquire whether when the Government is submitting to the people, by referendum, certain proposals for the alteration of section 92 of the Constitution, it will also invite the people to express their view on the abolition of State parliaments. I put the question to the Acting Leader of the House at the request of the municipal council to which- 1 have referred.
– I shall bring the subject under the notice of the Cabinet.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether his attention has been drawn to a press report to the effect that the Government of New Zealand has decided to arrange for the annual medical examination of New Zealand citizens? As the Minister for Health has already indicated publicly that he favours the regular medical examination of persons over the age of 35 years, and as more than 80,000 persons in the Commonwealth received an invalid pension last year, I ask whether early consideration will be given to the advisability of conducting annual medical examinations of citizens of the Com monwealth with a view to the prevention of diseases which could be prevented if the symptoms were discovered sufficiently early ?
– I shall submit the honorable member’s question to tha Minister for Health, and I have no doubt that he will give due consideration to it and furnish the honorable gentleman with a reply at a later date.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in connexion with a report which appeared in the Melbourne Argus and the Hobart Mercury on Saturday last to the effect that in a speech that I made in this House I referred to the doors of the Launceston post office. The report suggested that a neglect of my customary caution might cause the doors to send me sprawling on the pavement, and that if any of my constituents saw me in such a position they might misunderstand the cause. I wish to say that I made no reference to the Launceston post office. I voiced no grievance except in respect of the negligence of the Government concerning the requirements of my own electorate. I have no desire to mention the grievances of other electorates. In the interests of the newspapers concerned, and also of myself. T ask that a prohibition order be issued against the reporter responsible for the comment to which I have objected.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House inform me whether the Commonwealth Government is engaged in any negotiations with the Imperial Government with a view to the resumption of migration from Great Britain to Australia ?
– That subject is at present being considered by a subcommittee representative of the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments. When the discussions have ended the results will be communicated to Parliament.
– If the resumption of migration is contemplated by the Government will the Acting Leader of the House give consideration to the claims of many migrants in this country who are unemployed and desire to return to Great Britain, where they could secure work, but are unable to pay the steamer fare ?
– I am not quite clear as to what consideration the honorable member desires should be given to this matter. If he will state exactly what he wishes to be done the Government will give consideration to his representations.
– Pay their fares back to England..
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform me whether he is taking any steps to bring up a bill to amend the Bankruptcy Act pursuant to the report of the committee which considered this subject some time ago?
– A bill to amend the Bankruptcy Act is now in course of preparation.
-Is the Minister for the Interior yet in a position to supply me with the information for which I asked last week respecting the hours of labour and the general working conditions of aborigines employed on the construction of a water conservation scheme for the military head-quarters at Darwin?
– I have made enquiries with reference to the question raised by the honorable member, and that also asked by one of his colleagues, and have found that the work is being carried out by the Defence Department at Darwin. I have accordingly submitted thequestions to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed that, during his temporary absence from Canberra, a motion was passed in this House recommending the establishment of an Australian domicil in matrimonial causes? If so, will he prepare and bring up a bill to carry out the resolution of the House?
– I have noticed the fact referred to by the honorable member. The problem, however, is one of great complexity on which no policy has as yet been formulated by the Government.
Purchase of Steamers
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs seen a press statement to the fact that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is purchasing two small steamers overseas? Will he consider the necessity for taking action by means of the tariff to prevent further purchases of this sort?
– It is an old story. The Opposition moved the adjournment of the House on this very matter about six months ago. Any importer of steamships will be charged the duties laid down in the tariff schedule.
– Will the Minister consider the necessity for imposing such tariff protection as is necessary to prevent the importation of ships?
– That matter was closely inquired into by the Tariff Board and certain duties were recommended by it and adopted. 1 think they are adequate.
– In view of the adverse comments which have appeared in the press respecting the condition of Mascot aerodrome, does the Government propose to incur expenditure in the near future to improve it?
– I believe that further expenditure is anticipated; but I shall give the honorable member a full reply later.
– In view of the efforts being made for the encouragement of voluntary training for home defence in Australia, will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence take immediate steps to bring the fortifications of Hobart up to a state of repair which would permit of night firing practice being carried out by the Hobart battery?
– That has already been provided for. If the honorable member will study the budget papers he will see that provision is being made for the improvement of coastal fortifications.
– Has the Treasurer received any message from the Government of Western Australia regarding the conditions pertaining in the agricultural area of that State?
– Yes, I have received a telegram addressed to me in my capacity as Chairman of the Loan Council. I am . now giving attention to the matter.
– In view of the representations made by the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Ogilvie, for an increased grant for afforestation to carry out works commenced in Tasmania as an avenue for the employment of youths, has any provision been made by the Government for this purpose?
– I know of no specific requests which have been made by the Premier of Tasmania. I remind the honorable member that Tasmania, in common with other states, is now in receipt of grants for forestry. The general subject of the relation of the Commonwealth and States to forestry has been under consideration for some time, but no specific proposals have been brought forward.
Dr. Roland Wilson’s Evidence - Cost of Inquiry
– Has the Treasurer een the evidence given by Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician, before the Monetary and Banking ^Commission, wherein he stated that the correspondence which passed between him and the Treasurer regarding the evidence which he was to tender to the commis»ion was only a joke? If he has seen that statement, I ask the honorable gentleman if it is the usual practice for high Government officials to joke over the evidence to be given before the commission; and if the correspondence was in the nature of a joke, will he inform the House just where the joke was.
– The evidence given by the Commonwealth Statistician before the Monetary and Banking Commission was entirely satisfactory. Dr. Wilson explained completely the facts leading up to the incident which the honorable member mentions, and I have nothing further to say, except that I agree entirely with his account of it.
– The Treasurer has not replied to the important part of my question. I ask him whether he looked upon the correspondence in question as a joke, whether he looked upon the evidence to be given before the commission, as a joke, or whether he looked upon the royal commission itself as a joke?
– There is another possibility which the honorable member has overlooked, of which I need not remind the House.
– I have left the Treasurer himself out purposely.
- Dr. Wilson presented the facts regarding the incident accurately. I have nothing further to add.
– Can the Acting Leader of the House indicate exactly how much longer the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems will continue to sit, and exactly what is the cost of its inquiries to date?
– The Prime Minister last week, I think, indicated clearly that the public sittings of the commission were concluded. The total cost to date can be worked out exactly only after calculations have been made. If the honorable member desires accurate information on that point, I suggest that he should place his question on the notice-paper.
– Will the Treasurer Bay if it has been the practice since the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking System commenced its sittings, for Commonwealth Government officials to submit their evidence to him for perusal and editing in the same way as the evidence of Dr. Wilson was submitted?
– There has been no edit- . ing by any Commonwealth Minister of evidence given by Commonwealth Public Servants in this or any other instance.
– Will the Treasurer state whether a copy of the evidence given by other Commonwealth departmental heads before the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking System was submitted to the Treasurer or the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Sheehan, before the evidence was given?
– I do not know whether the honorable member for East Sydney has a knowledge of the correspondence which passed between myself and the officers in my department,but I can only repeat that there has not been any editing of the evidence by any Commonwealth Minister in this or in any other instance. The Secretary to the Treasury and the Commonwealth Statistician are the only officers who have given evidence before the commission.
– Is the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties in a position to make a definite statement in respect of the proposed trade treaty with Belgium? Will honorable members be afforded an opportunity to express their views on the treaty before the Government comes to a definite decision?
– I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject at an early date. I have previously intimated that the House will have an opportunity to discuss the terms of the proposed treaty before it becomes effective.
– Has the Acting-
Leader of the House endeavoured to impress upon his colleagues in Cabinet the necessity for taking a referendum on the subdivision of the existing States into new States at the same time as a referendum is taken on section 92 of the Constitution ?
– -All Constitution questions are being considered.
Assent to the following bills reported:
Loan Appropriation Bill 1936.
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1936-37.
– I have received from Mr. A. C. Gould, son of the late Sir Albert Gould, a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee (‘Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That it is expedient that appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Apple and Pear Bounty Act 1936.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Thorby and Mr.Menzies do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution. .
Bill brought up by Mr. Thorby, ana read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now road a second time.
In 1933 the Government granted the sum of £125,000 to growers of apples and pears to compensate them for losses incurred on exports for that year. This amount was made available to the States in proportion to their share of the export trade, and payment to the growers actually took the form of a bounty on each case exported. The same amount and form of assistance was granted to apple and pear growers in respect of the 1934 season. Greatly improved prices, compared with those for 1933 and 1934, were obtained in the United Kingdom for 1935 exports. It was, therefore, considered that a reduction of the grant was justified. The Government accordingly granted a bounty of 4d. a case on apples and pears exported during 1935. It was anticipated that this bounty would absorb approximately £SO,000. Distribution of the bounty for 1935 was arranged through State authorities in accordance with section 11 of the Apple and Pear Bounty Act 1936. The amount of bounty payable in respect of each State is approximately as follows: -
In addition to the bounty paid to growers, £20,000 was made available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in conjunction with State Departments of Agriculture for research in connexion with the production of apples and pears and for the improvement of apple and pear orchard practices. The total amount pf assistance granted to growers of apples and pears in respect of the year 1935 amounts to £101,551.
The Government was requested by various organizations in the industry to continue assistance in respect of the present year. It .was claimed that growers could not make both ends meet, and were in a desperate position because of the disappointing returns from sales of fruit in the United Kingdom market.
The State Fruit Board of Tasmania estimates that orchardists in that State lost £194,000 on the season’s operations, and claims that growers in the mainland States suffered in like manner. Another disturbing factor in the distribution of the apple crop overseas is the inability, because of exchange difficulties, to place a fair proportion of the crop on the German market. If this quantity, which normally might be estimated at 1,000,000 eases, were placed on the British market in addition to the present supplies, prices would further recede. The industry claims to have attacked its problems from every aspect, but it still finds itself wilh a large quantity of prime fruit, and this is a disturbing factor in its marketing arrangements.
– What arc the obstacles on the German market?
– One difficulty arises from the exchange position, and another is that the German Government is not prepared to sanction importations of goods from countries in which Germany has no credit balance. To overcome the latter difficulty certain fruits were sent from Britain to Germany, via France, but, owing to the heavy costs involved in this transaction, it remained unprofitable to send fruit to Germany. I point out that, while apples intended for sale in Germany were bringing up to £1 sterling in France, owners were left with a margin of only 2s., or 3s., a case, out of which they had to meet various charges and discounts. An examination by the Department of Commerce discloses that the financial returns for the 1936 apple export season fell considerably below those for 1935. Prices opened well in April this season, but rapidly declined during the following months. It is difficult to calculate definitely the average drop in price a case for 1936 as compared with the average price a case in 1935, but 2s. is considered to be a reasonable estimate. The Deputy Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following figures, indicating the average f.o.b.” realizations of all overseas shipments of apples from Tasmania since 1931 : -
Undoubtedly, fruit-growers have suffered through the fall of overseas prices this year and, after fully considering the case presented by the representatives of the industry and carefully reviewing the position, the Government has decided to pay a bounty of 4£d. a bushel case to growers in respect of apples and pears exported from Australia during the year ending the 31st December, 1936. Exports of apples and pears from the Commonwealth this year total 5,508,621 cases, compared with 4,853,610 cases exported in 1935, or an increased export of 655,011 cares As the result of the increased export and the increase of £d. a case in the bounty, an expenditure of approximately £103,287 will be involved in respect of this year. The amounts allocated to the States will be, roughly, as follow : -
– What was the amount paid in the previous year?
– Eighty-one thousand pounds. The amount to be provided this year represents an increase of about 27 per cent., or an increase of½d. a case, but on the average exporters have a greater export this year. This bill, which provides for the payment of the bounty this year, is an amendment of the Apple and Pear Bounty Act, No. 4 of 1936, which gave legislative approval to the bounty for the year 1935. The principal amendment relates to the closing date of applications for the bounty. Provision is being made that the Minister may accept claims lodged after the due date, provided he is satisfied that the circumstances warrant such action. Our experience in the past in connexion with bills of a similar character which fixed a closing date for applications was that the applications of certain producers who, through unforeseen circumstances, neglected to lodge their applications within the time specified, could not be granted until further legislation had been passed to extend the date.
In order to ensure that the bounty will be paid to growers in every case section 6 will be amended to make it clear that the bounty will be paid to growers only on apples or pears exported by them and only if the claim is certified to be correct by the prescribed authority within each State.
– Agents cannot come in and collect this bounty?
– No ; the bill provides an additional safeguard to ensure that the bounty will be paid to the growers of apples and pears for export.
– That has not always been the case.
– Honorable members will realize that it is difficult to guarantee that in every instance the money will go to the person whom it was really intended to reach, but I assure honorable members that, in the past, every precaution has been taken by the Department of Commerce and the other Federal and State departments concerned to see that the money has been paid only to those entitled to receive it.
– Will this particular bounty he paid to growers who have sold to agents?
– It will be paid to the agents, but provision is being made to see that it is passed on by them to the growers. A similar difficulty has arisen in connexion with the payment of the orange bounty.
– That is the point with which I am concerned.
– It is difficult to trace the original ownership of fruit and to be able to decide whether all the fruit purchased by a certain exporter was exported or whether it was regraded, and the choicest fruit exported and the second grade sold on the local market. This measure seeks to overcome that difficulty.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 25th September, vide page 589) :
The schedule to the principal act is amended -
by inserting after the definition of “ agricultural “, the following definitions : - “ ‘ aids to manufacture ‘ means goods for use by a manufacturer of goods - and. without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes -
by omitting sub-item (48) of item 1 and inserting in its stead the following sub-item : - “48. Tractors (and rovers therefor) for use in agricultural industry or for use in the timber-getting industry in the hauling of log timber -Nos. 1 to 9.
Upon which. Mr. Archie Cameron had moved, by way of amendment -
That, after the word “timber”, sub-item (48), the words “or for use by local governing bodies “, be added.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Will the honorablemember for Barker agree to withdraw his amendment temporarily, so that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) may move one of a series of Governments amendments which have been circulated?
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– I move -
That after the word “ includes “, paragraph (a), the following words be inserted: - “ the following goods for use, by a manufacturer, as specified in paragraph(a), (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of this definition, namely”.
Several amendments are to be moved in respect of the definition of “ aids to manufacture”, these being largely for clarification purposes, and to ensure that the full purpose of the Government is given legal effect. The exemption in respect of aids to manufacture is designed for the benefit of manufacturers and, incidentally, of registered persons known as “ makers-up that is, persons who make up goods from other persons’ materials. The purpose of the Government is to exempt aids to manufacture, and also what might be described as “ aids to aids to manufacture”. In future, both these classes of goods will be free of sales tax to manufacturers, whether registered or unregistered, and whether the goods are imported, or purchased, or are made by the manufacturers themselves.
– Just what is meant by the term “ aids to aids to manufacture “ ?
– If a manufacturer has to use water for any process of manufacture, and, in order to purify the water, he uses chlorine gas, the chlorine so used is an aid to an aid to manufacture. Similarly, before he discharges that water, after use, into a creek or river, he may, by local regulation, be required to dechlorinate it, and the material used for this purpose would also be an aid to an aid to manufacture.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Archie Cameron) proposed -
That, after the word “ timber “, sub-item (48), the words “ or for use by local governing bodies “, be added.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is seeking to give further relief from sales tax to local governing bodies. In each of the last three years the Government has attempted progressively to lessen the burden of sales tax on local governing bodies. This hill contains a number of items which, though not designed specifically for that purpose, will have that effect. Local governing bodies will enjoy exemption in respect of goods on the general list of exemptions which applies to the whole community. They also enjoy complete exemption on all building materials, and road-making material and, under this bill, onpipes and piping of all descriptions whatsoever. They also enjoy free and unconditional exemption in respect of bitumen and bituminous emulsion. The Government has always been anxious to assist local governing bodies of all sorts, not only shires and municipalities,but all local governing bodies which perform services, not for profit, but for the benefit of the community in which they are situated, and which obtain revenue by rates, &c. Bodies of that type are numerous in Australia, but I believe that the honorable member for Barker desires his amendment to apply only to shires and municipalities.
– That is what I had in mind, but perhaps the Government desires to extend the exemption.
– The Government is of opinion that the term “local governing body “ should have a considerably wider application than the honorable member intends. In the mind of the Government, it includes local governing bodies of all kinds, whether they be harbour boards, county councils, district councils, or similar bodies, and of these there are in Australia no fewer than 2,000. To extend the exemption set forth in the honorable member’s amendment to all these local bodies would cost the Treasury about £100,000, but if the definition were restricted to the narrow application intended by the honorable member, the cost would be only about £4,000 or £5,000.
Again, the term “ tractor “ is not a satisfactory definition, unless it is taken to be the limited description of tractor which is now free for primary-producing purposes, and which is merely a mobile power unit. The Government has sought in this bill to bring before Parliament what it believes to be the most worthy list of items for exemption, and has devoted considerable time and money to its compilation. I can well believe that practically every honorable member could propose amendments to this bill in respect of items which have considerable merit, but I question whether they have as much merit as items already in this measure. The Government’s attempt throughout has consistently been to place proposals for exemption in order of merit before Parliament. It has studiously attempted to lift the burden of the sales tax from those least able to bear it, and for that reason has remitted more than £500,000 in respect of footwear, tea, coffee, and cocoa. All additional exemptions proposed are impossible for the reasons given generally in my secondreading speech and for reasons which I shall give in detail when the items are being discussed. The Government could not possibly contend with the fresh lists of exemptions which every honorable member could submit. I myself could bring forward a fairly large list of exemptions which have merit. The proposal made by the honorable member for Barker is admittedly laudable, but the Government is limited in its ability to do without revenue from sales tax. The decision to reduce the rate of the tax from 5 per cent, to 4 per cent, and the exemptions already provided for in this bill will result in a loss of revenue amounting to £3,000,000 a year ; but, as I mentioned in the budget speech, the Government will bear the loss for nine months of this year only. Next financial year the full burden of the sales tax remissions and exemptions will fall on the budget, and the Government is counting on a revival of trade in order to meet the additional burdens. The Government finds itself unable to accept further proposals for exemption as they would involve further loss of revenue. It has gone to considerable lengths to make remissions, not only of sales tax, but also of other taxes, and it regrets that it cannot go beyond what is now proposed. It will, however, further consider this matter in connexion with any future lists of exemptions. As a matter of fact, the Government has in mind for the future many exemptions from sales tax ; this is one of them. There is a wide range of foodstuffs still bearing taxes and it is the intention of the Government to free them from the tax burden at the earliest possible opportunity.
– What about mining materials?
– It would take a fine tooth comb to find any mining material not exempted from sales tax. I appeal to honorable members to assist in the passage of thi3 bill, and to realize that the Government has gone to the limit in this measure as in others for the remission of taxes. Although it is sympathetic with the aim of the honorable gentleman, it unfortunately is unable to see its way to accept his amendment.
– I do not often find myself in agreement with the motives of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), but in his amendment he has my full SUPPort because, as the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said, his attempt to exempt from sales tax burdens a large number of impecunious local-governing bodies in Australia is laudable. These bodies require tractors for road work, &c.
– What about the Sydney Harbour Trust?
– I shall later have an amendment to cover the Sydney Harbour Trust, and the Rockhampton Harbour Board, and local governing bodies generally. It is not often that the honorable member for Barker is modest in his requests, but as the Treasurer has pointed out, to grant it would involve a loss, of revenue of only £4,000 a year. The Commonwealth Government boasted that it had a surplus of £3,500,000 at the end of last financial year.
– That is all gone now.
– But £4,000 is a small amount when compared with the revenue of £81,000,000 a year, which this Government receives from all sources. I can understand reluctance on the part of the Treasurer to accept amendments involving large losses of revenue, but this amendment cannot he placed in that category. The Treasurer indicated that the Government was not able to receive suggestions for amendments to this bill. If it adopts that attitude, why waste the time of Parliament in discussing this matter? Too many decisions are made behind the back of Parliament by Cabinet, without honorable members being given an opportunity to present their views and to take full responsibility for the decisions made by Parliament. Surely the Treasurer will listen to the representations made by the honorable member for Barker. He listened to the representations made by the people interested in the timber industry with such sympathy that provision was made in this bill to exempt from sales tax tractors used in the hauling of log timber just as tractors used in primary industries are also to be exempted. That is a laudable decision, and to it I have no objection.
– The exemption of tractors used in the timber industry is a logical extension of the exemption of tractors used in primary industries.
– That is so, but it would be still further logical to extend the exemption to tractors purchased by local governing bodies. As a matter of fact, transport generally is of much greater importance than any sectional primary industry, whether it be timber-getting, potato-growing, or sugar cultivation, and I hope for that reason that the Treasurer will accept the amendment. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) and several other honorable members say that they have received telegrams from local governing bodies asking for relief from sales tax. At question time on the 24th instant the honorable member for Boothby said -
I have received a telegram from the Secretary of the Municipal and District Council’s Association of South Australia, which reads -
Disappointed no relief sales tax local government bodies ; is this final ?
The honorable member asked the Treasurer to explain the position, and if possible to give relief in the direction sought. I myself, received a number of telegrams on the same subject, and, in order to secure relief for the Rockhampton . Harbour Board, a far-reaching amendment is necessary. I have circulated an amendment, which I intend to move to exempt machinery implements and apparatus for use by municipal corporations, or other local governing bodies, or by public authorities. If carried, that amendment would give relief to the extent of £100,000 a year, but in the meantime I do not intend to add a load to the very modest request submitted by the honorable member for Barker, which, if conceded, would cost only £4,000. The Treasurer said that a deputation from the local governing bodies waited on him and asked for this relief. He put this question to the deputation : “ In the event of this relief being granted, byhow much will you reduce your rates ? “ It would not be possible for the councils to reduce their rates by twopence or threepence in the £1 when, over the whole of Australia, the relief would amount to only £4,000. The granting of the honorable member’s request, however, would enable the councils to keep men in employment for longer periods. At a time like this such a concession would be worth while.
– That is not peculiar to the honorable member’s suggestion; it may be said of every proposal to give relief from taxation.
Mr.FORDE. - The committee is already considering a specific proposal to give relief from taxation to the extent of £4,000, but my amendment to take it a step further will have the approval of local governing bodies throughout Australia. Many of these authorities in remote country areas have very meagre revenues and at times experience great difficulty in raising sufficient revenue to pay the salaries of their small staffs consisting usually of a clerk and a few permanent road men. Meanwhile, I hope that the amendment of the honorable member for Barker will be carried.
– I sympathize with the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in the dilemma in which he finds himself when requests are made for further exemptions from this very onerous sales tax which I regard as a vicious form of impost. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and shall support his amendment, although I believe - I Bay this subject to correction - that a more comprehensive amendment submitted at a later stage would be equally effective and would obviate the necessity for two further amendments which may be necessary to achieve his purpose. I do not altogether agree with the observations of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) who has suggested that harbour trusts, metropolitan water and sewerage boards and similar public bodies should be included. If the honorable member would limit his suggested amendment to municipal and shire councils it would be more acceptable to the committee. If the amendment now before the committee is not carried, I shall later move to exempt all machinery, implements and apparatus used by municipal corporations or other local governing bodies. The claim of such authorities for relief from this form of tax isprobably stronger than that which can be submitted on behalf of any section of the community. Metropolitan water and sewerage boards and harbour trust authorities have not quite the same claim because they have not suffered so severely from the financial stress which has handicapped municipal and shire councils during the last six or seven years, particularly those in rural areas.
– Metropolitan local governing bodies have been obliged to spend very large sums to relieve unemployment.
– The amendment does not propose to omit metropolitan municipal councils; but I feel that whilst they, too, have suffered during the depression, the burden has been much heavier upon rural municipalities and shire councils which have a relatively large mileage of roads to maintain and experience difficulty in collecting revenue from ratepapers without, in many cases, offering a service commensurate with the tax demand. On Friday the Treasurer intimated that the Government, under another measure passed recently, was contributing to the local governing bodies £100,000 a year, which was rather more than it collected from them in sales tax, with a view to relieving them in respect to the interest burden on their liabilities.
I hope that the honorable gentleman did not wish the committee to accept that as an argument against the remission of sales tax in respect of local governing bodies. The fact that assistance has been given to such authorities is, I think, conclusive evidence of their extreme financial need. If one required further evidence one has only to recall the large number of amalgamations of municipalities and shires which have been necessary in recent years, owing to the utter impossibility of them carrying on as separate entities. I hope that the Treasurer will realize that the amendment is not submitted in a hostile spirit. If such bodies as metropolitan water and sewerage boards and harbour trusts are excluded the demand upon the Treasury will not be nearly so heavy as the £100,000 which he suggested.
.- I have been asked to support the amendment and other requests for similar exemptions to give relief to municipalities as well as requests for a reduction of sales tax generally, and I have made my representations in theproper quarter as forceful as possible. ButI realize that responsibility for determining what exempt ions shall be made rests with the Treasurer. The amendment, submitted by the honorable member forBarker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to exempt tractors used by local governing bodies is worthy of careful and sympathetic consideration. If, however, we exempt tractors and take no action to exempt stone crushers, graders and many other types of machines that are used by local governing bodies, we shall createa very serious anomaly.
– Those items will be dealt with in a subsequent amendment.
– If we were to exempt from sales tax all of the machinery used by local governing bodies, it would seriously affect the finances of the Government, and for that reason I find myself unable to support such a proposal. I desire to make my position quite clear in this regard. The exemption of tractors from sales tax appeals to me, and I should like to be able to support such a proposal ; but at the same time I realize that the Government has made very many exemptions, and that it has in its judgment exempted those items which will be most beneficial to the community. Personally, I do not favor the imposition by one taxing authority of a tax upon another, but because the exemption from sales tax of tractors alone without the exemption of other items of machinery would create a serious anomaly, I cannot agree to it.
.- The time has arrived when the Government should exempt all municipal councils throughout the Commonwealth from the obligation to pay sale3 tax on their requirements. Why should the people who reside in metropolitan areas bo forced to carry the heaviest burden of taxation ? Already they pay exceedingly high municipal rates ; but- this Government, which has recorded a substantial surplus and which has hidden reserves imposes a tax upon unfortunate local governing bodies, and in the final analysis this amounts to another levy upon the ratepayers. In my opinion, it is quite wrong for the Government to tax the local governing bodies in the manner in which it is doing at the present time. I hope that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will consent to extend the scope of his amendment, because not many rollers or stone crushers are used in the course of a year. Prom the remarks which have been made by some honorable members it might be thought that the machinery under discussion is worn out every 24 hours. Materials which are most urgently required by local governing bodies are not exempted from sales tax. An important municipal council in the electorate of Denison, has requested me to make representations to the Treasurer with a view to having this hardship rectified, and I promised to accede to its wish. I shall therefore support any action which has that object in view.
– What materials purchased by local governing bodies are still subject to sales tax?
– Unfortunately, I have not a schedule showing that information, but I understand that there is a considerable number of articles which come within this category. I was not one of the favoured few honorable members who received from the Treasurer a book setting out the various exemptions, and I consider chat the proper course for him to adopt would have been to supply all honorable members with this information. It would not have been too much to expect. Honorable members must protect the ratepayers who have already suffered to a great extent from the increase of rates made by municipalities in order to tide them over the depression years. The local governing bodies have received no assistance in any shape or form from the Commonwealth or State Governments, and they have experienced considerable difficulty in balancing their budgets without levying extra rates from the already harassed ratepayers. I appeal to the Treasurer to take into consideration that aspect of the matter because there is no doubt that a certain section of the people who own property are paying high rates to municipal councils, and, in. some cases, are not receiving rentals from that property. The sales tax is an added burden to the carrying out of the work of the municipality and increases the cost of local government. The Treasurer is well aware of that fact. Sales tax in any shape or form increases the burden on municipalities to such an extent that sometimes they are compelled to revise their rates and place an additional charge upon the already heavily-taxed citizens, which is far beyond their capacity to pay. I am aware that the Treasurer is unable to accept all of the amendments which are submitted to him because honorable members’ demands might possibly be so extravagant as to require the exemption of practically every conceivable article and commodity from sales tax; I agree that the best solution of the difficulty would be to abolish it. If we are to be statesmen it is our duty to grant the necessary relief to those localgoverning bodies who look to us for this assistance. My only desire is to record my protest on behalf of the municipal council of Hobart and the smaller shire councils who have been compelled to amalgamate in order to save themselves from bankruptcy. By voting for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker we can afford them considerable relief.
.- In principle I consider that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie
Cameron) Las justification for his proposal if he could carry it out in fairness to all others who have similar claims. His proposal could be supported not because it is a concession to tractors or to shire councils, but ou the ground that a superior taxing body should not impose a tax upon an inferior body. That is a sound principle upon which we could act. But when private members bring forward special requests concerning the interests of every electorate we obtain no semblance of order if we attempt to formulate a schedule on those lines. In the electorate of Perth for example, then is a municipal council, a roads board, a fire brigade board and a health board, all of which are local -governing bodies which impose taxation upon the ratepayers, and each and every one of them has an equal claim for the exemption from sales tax of the materials which it uses for public purposes. When the Treasurer is in a position to say that he will apply this principle on a general basis I shall be a strong advocate of the adoption of that course. At various times I have made a request for the application of such a general principle. T hope that an attempt will not be made to discuss this matter piecemeal. If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) secures the acceptance of his amendment, even though the concession which it involves is only a slight one, the inducement will be offered to other members to bring forward requests which have been made to them. The acceptance of one request invariably engenders claims for equal consideration. I advise the Treasurer to stand firm in the matter. When he is able to grant exemption in the case of all local governing bodies, I shall support him.
.- I intend to support the amendment, which aims at the exemption from sales tax of tractors used by municipal bodies. Basically, the principle enunciated by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), in regard to a superior power taxing an inferior one, may be all right. At the moment, however, the lot of municipalities and shires is a hard one. They are finding it more difficult every year to do the work which devolves upon them, and the taxation field in which they may operate is decidedly limited. The works in relief of unemployment in which they have now to engage are causing their expenditure to increase constantly. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in opposing the amendment, took refuge in the process of reasoning which he generally adopts in regard to different items, namely, that the loss to the revenue would average about £20 per annum in the case of each municipality. But all municipalities do not purchase every year, a tractor or certain of their other requirements; consequently, the argument in regard to average loss is nonsense and in reality does not work out as the Treasurer has stated that it does. A municipality may spend a given, sum on a certain requirement this year, and nothing next year. Sales tax is a burden on municipalities in the year in which they have to launch out on the purchase of expensive machinery. The other day I heard the mayor of a municipality stress the difficulties experienced by it in providing implements and other equipment needed in connexion with relief works, the assistance given by the Government being sufficient only to defray the cost of wages. In whatever way we view the matter, the extensive relief works in New South Wales, and probably in other States also, definitely add to the cost of administering municipalities. Doubtless, the result is to improve the condition of the roads, aud in other respects is of advantage to the municipalities; but the point is, that some of these works would not be undertaken in ordinary circumstances, and because they are put in hand, necessary machinery, implements and tools of trade, have to be provided. A very small concession is being sought. It is not a matter of life or death to the finances of the Commonwealth, which the press that supports the Government party constantly boasts are in a prosperous condition.
– The honorable gentleman is getting rather wide of the question.
– I do not think that I am.
– Order !
– I am merely pointing out that the Government claims that its finances are sound, and that the alight loss occasioned by the granting of this concession would make no material difference to them. I therefore request the Treasurer to give further consideration to the matter.
– I very much regret that the Treasurer has been unable to accede to the request which is made by the amendment. This is. not the first occasion on which representations have been made for relief to be’ given to municipalities and other bodies in connexion with the sales tax. Similar representations were made last year, but the Treasurer then declined to heed them mainly on the ground that the- state of the finances did not permit him to do so. The honorable gentleman definitely promised however, that he would give very careful consideration to them in the future. [Quorum formed.] Many honorable members considered on that occasion that the revenue estimates were very conservatively based, and subsequent events have, proved that they were right. In my opinion the Government has again acted conservatively in its estimates of- revenue. I feel that the small concession involved in this amendment would not seriously affect the budgetary position. I definitely hold the view that the amendment does not go as far as the requirements of the case demand. Consequently, if at a later stage other amendments are moved covering a wider field, but excluding -harbour trusts and other bodies which are not so greatly in need of assistance ass are municipalities or shire councils, I shall support them. We press for- this exemption for the reason that, during the depression many municipalities refrained from purchasing new machinery and tractors. Because of the very real difficulties which confronted the local governing bodies during the depression years, they were forced to carry on with old machines, but the improved financial situation generally ha3 enabled some of them to purchase new machines, and others are contemplating similar action. If no exemption from sales tax be made this year, those councils which purchase new machines will have to pay the tax, whereas it is possible that those which delay their buying for twelve months will benefit from the reduction or abolition of the. tax. This subject was discussed at some length a year ago, and the committee is justified in asking that an exemption be made in the interests of local governing bodies. I remind the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), who said that he could not support the amendment because it would mean that exemptions would be dealt with piecemeal, that all the exemptions from sales tax which have been made have been done in that way. In regard to foodstuffs, for instance, the list of exemptions has been increased from time to time. Eventually all the requirements of local governing bodies will be exempt from this tax. In view of the more satisfactory financial position of the Commonwealth, local governing bodies should be given special consideration. I shall support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mt. Archie Cameron).
.- The amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is specific in that it applies only to tractors for use by local governing bodies, but although I favour the exemption from sales tax of all machinery used by such bodies I cannot support his somewhat invidious proposal. If it were carried, tlie committee would have to consider the exemption of other equally deserving items. The proposed amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and that foreshadowed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) would, if accepted, seriously dislocate Commonwealth finance, notwithstanding the contention of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) that the Treasurer’s estimate of revenue from this source is conservative. A loss of revenue amounting to £100,000 as the result of an exemption from the sales tax of. the requirements of local governing bodies would force the Government, to revise the list of proposed exemptions now before the committee. I am unable to suggest any article which should be removed from that list in order to exempt machinery required by local governing bodies. Last year the Treasurer told us that, although he could not agree to exempt such machinery, he would assist 1.0Gal governing bodies as far as possible.
The list of exemptions now before the committee is a fulfilment of that promise, and we have the Treasurer’s .assurance that the claims of local governing bodies will be given consideration when further exemptions are proposed. In my opinion, it is wrong to tax the requirements of local bodies, for it really means that the Grown is taxing itself. Nevertheless, I cannot support the amendment, although 1° hope that the Treasurer will be able to include these items in the next list of exemptions which he placed before Parliament.
.- In speaking to the second reading I urged the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give sympathetic consideration to the proposal that machinery for municipal bodies be exempt from the sales tax. In doing so, I spoke not only as a member of this chamber, but also, as one who is still an active municipal councillor, and realizes the burden that this tax places on municipalities. I do not suggest that it is an annually recurring burden on each municipality, because very few local governing bodies are continually buying new plant, but periodically the tax does place a burden on municipalities. I cannot agree with the Treasurer that the exemption of these articles might enable municipalities to reduce their rates.
– I do not think that I said that,
– No municipality would be able to reduce its rates merely because these articles were exempted from the sales tax ; but if the tax were removed, local governing bodies would be able to make more roads or, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) suggested, provide employment for additional men. If the amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) were agreed to, other exemptions would have to follow as a logical sequence ; and, therefore, whilst I may be willing to support his .amendment, even if it would deplete the revenue by £4,000 a year, I cannot vote for it because I cannot associate myself with other amendments which have been foreshadowed, and if agreed to, would reduce the revenue by, possibly £100,000. I am not prepared to interfere with the budget to that extent. Like the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street), I cannot think of any article included in the list of proposed exemptions which should be taxed in order to enable these articles to be exempt. 1 was delighted to see in this morning’s newspaper that the prices of tea and coffee are likely to be reduced as a result of exemptions under this bill. I accept the Treasurer’s assurance that the exemption sought by the honorable member for Barker will be given sympathetic consideration next year, .and although I am in .sympathy with the honorable gentleman’s aim, I cannot support iia amendment.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey ) challenged me to name any article used by local governing bodies which ib taxed under this legislation. Tools used :by relief workers-
– I spoke of materials.
– The Treasurer said that I could not name anything now taxable and I informed him that the picks and shovels used by unemployed relief workers are subject to sales tax. The municipal council of Hobart, which has carried out extensive relief works, is being taxed on the tools purchased for use by the unemployed.
– Which government first imposed the sales tax?
– I am concerned not with the first imposition of this tax, but with its removal. Road-making plant and motor wagons are subject to sales tax, as is also office equipment, such as typewriters, ink and pencils used by local governing bodies. 1 could give the Treasurer a long list of articles which are still subject to this tax. It is indeed hard that the tools required by unemployed workers should be subject to a tax. Such articles should be entirely exempt from the tax, in order to keep the overhead expenses of municipal councils as low as possible and give relief to ratepayers. Unlike the farmers, who come to the Government in every difficulty, the municipal councils have not approached the Commonwealth for assistance. I shall support any amendment to exempt from this tax the requirements of local governing bodies.
r.5 5). - I have much sympathy with the prOposal before the committee, but I realize that it is the responsibility of the Government to frame the budget of the country. If this amendment were carried, other requests for exemptions from the sales tax could scarcely be refused. I am not prepared to take the business out of the hands of the Government in that way, and, therefore, I shall not support the amendment. The Government has not overlooked the claims of the local governing bodies, and has promised to give careful consideration to the request that their requirements be entirely exempt from the sales tax. I am content to trust the Government in the matter.
I congratulate the Government on its budget, and particularly on the measure of relief being given from sales tax. I regret that the Treasurer is unable to accept this amendment. Had he been able to accept it I should have given it my wholehearted support, but, in the circumstances, I do not feel that I should be justified in voting against the Government on it.
.- I have taken considerable interest in this proposal and have, both orally and by letter, made representations to the Government similar to those made this afternoon by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that tractors required by local authorities and public bodies should be exempt from sales tax. I had hoped that the Government would see its way clear to include in the budget the exemption now requested. When the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was making his second-reading speech on this bill I asked, by interjection, whether it would be possible to include an exemption such as we are now considering, and I regret that it has not been possible; but I remind honorable members that this is only one item in two groups of items of similar consequence, and I feel that as things are we must, for this year, accept the decision of the Government.
Strong arguments could be advanced for the exemption of many other articles on which sales tax is still being collected. I mention, for example, biscuits, other foodstuffs, and clothing, on which .the tax is still being imposed as being desirable items for exemption. If .all clothing can not be exempted, the clothing of children and of workmen engaged in manual labour should be considered. It should be borne in mind, also, that photographers suffered severely during the recent depression. The photographic trade has not made the recovery that certain other businesses have made, with the result that to-day many photographers are in difficult circumstances, and are cutting prices and making profitable trading more difficult than ever. Scores of other items could be urged with equal force. I look forward to tlie time when the Government will be able to abandon the sales tax altogether, and hope that that day is not far distant. It is the policy of the Government to collect only sufficient money by taxation to enable it to meet the legitimate costs of Government, and we have seen in the last five years that every endeavour is being made to return to the people, in some form or another, the surpluses which have been accumulated. Honorable members who are strongly in favour of this amendment should remember that municipal councils, shire councils and other kindred bodies have already had substantial evidence of the sympathy of the Government, for the sales tax has been entirely removed from a great deal of the equipment that they use. I have in mind most road-making materials, all timber, and piping of every description. Moreover the reduction of the rate of sales tax represents a 20 per cent, remission. It should be borne in mind, too, that the Government is making available £100,000 each year for the next ten years, to assist in meeting interest and sinking fund payments on loans raised for certain public works constructed by local governing bodies, and this amount is being doubled by similar contributions from the State governments. The benefits of that arrangement will go principally to shire councils. As sales tax to the amount of £3,000,000 is being surrendered this year by the Government we have not much cause for complaint. Of the total remissions under this heading, £2,000,000 is accounted for by the reduction of the rate of tax by 1 per cent., £500,000 by the exemption of boots and shoes, and tea, coffee, and cocoa, and another £500,000 by the exemption of lubricating oils, &c, and goods used as aids to manufacture. Although I am particularly anxious for the exemption of the item referred to by the honorable member for Barker, I feel that I cannot at this stage support the amendment. I have every confidence, however, that when the next budget is being prepared, sympathetic consideration will be given to this request. I cannot imagine that a government which has had surpluses for five years, and which, in the same period, has made considerable annual reductions of taxes in which all sections of the community have participated, will, on probably the eve of a general election, find it impossible to grant the relief which the honorable member is now seeking.
– We were promised last year that sympathetic consideration would be given to this request.
– The Treasurer has assured us that the most sympathetic consideration has been given to it.Would the Deputy Leader of the Opposition prefer the sales tax to be continued on the boots and shoes, tea, coffee, and cocoa of the man on the basic wage, and on lubricating oils and aids to manufacture in order to secure the exemption now sought? This Government’s administration has resulted in a remarkable recovery of our manufacturing industries. To-day more people are employed in these industries than ever before in our history. A national record has been made. Is it not imperative that we should give a fillip to the substantial recovery that has already taken place in employment’ by granting to our manufacturing industries this further assistance of the removal of the irritating sales tax from aids to manufacture?
– The Treasurer Las told us that it would cost only £4,000 to grant this exemption.
– If this amendment were agreed to it would be necessary, in the interests of consistency, to agree to other similar exemptions involving the Treasury in a loss of revenue to the amount of £100,000. Seeing that our local governing authorities have been granted substantial relief, and under the budget proposals will be granted further assistance, we may, with every confidence, accept the assurance of the Treasurer that, as soon as possible, the relief now sought will be granted. [Quorum formed.]
.- I heartily support the amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), but I shall not, at this stage, reiterate the arguments he used, for I made similar representations in the course of my second-reading speech on this bill. I rise principally to direct attention to what I regard as a grave anomaly in these proposals. 1 feel sure that this is due to oversight. It is proposed to exempt tractors for certain uses in the agricultural and timber-getting industries, but no exemption is proposed for tractors used in the mining industry. This lends additional support to the statements I made a few days ago, to the effect that the mining industry generally has not been given the consideration to which it is entitled.
– I do not know that many tractors are used in the mining industry.
– Surely the Treasurer will not need me to remind him that in many important mines, such at those of the Lake View and Star Company, and theWiluna Mining Corporation, tractors are used underground to drag the waggons of ore from the face to the shaft.
– Are they not electric locomotives?
– I cannot believe that the Treasurer is serious in attempting to draw a distinction of that kind. Whether the vehicles are ordinary tractors of the diesel oil type, or electric tractors, or electric locomotives, is beside the point.
– The description “ tractor “ could not be applied to the vehicles which the honorable member has in mind.
– If that is the Treasurer’s opinion, I ask him to exempt electric locomotives used in mining operations. As tractors used for agricultural purposes and timber-getting are to be exempt, tractors used in mines also are entitled to similar treatment.
– Tractors or locomotives used for hauling products of a mine are already exempt.
– I am glad to have that information, but I still ask that more favorable’ consideration be given to the gold-mining industry generally, in so far as it is still affected by the sales tax.
I have to-day received a letter from the Mines and Metals Corporation - I understand that the Treasurer has also received a similar communication - in which attention is drawn to the unfavorable position in which the gold-mining industry remains- in relation to sales taxation. A request is made in that communication that workshop and machinery tools used for mining be exempted. The Treasurer is well aware that adequately equipped workshops are necessary on all big mines. This is particularly so in respect of mining fields far removed from largo centres of population where foundries and other engineering equipment is available in the ordinary way of business. The big mining companies engaged in pioneering new fields have to provide themselves with plant of this kind. It is vital to the success of the mining industry that costs be kept down. We know very well that if the price of gold should fall many mines at present operating on a satisfactory basis would be seriously affected. I therefore ask that workshop machinery, including forges, lathes, drills, and grinding and sharpening machines, be granted exemption in accordance with the request made by the Mines and Metals Corporation.
,- I am glad that the Government finds itself in a position this year to grant sales tax relief to the amount of £3,000,000 by reducing the rate by 20 per cent. While I appreciate the arguments advanced by the mover in- support of the amendment, and I support the view that one taxing Body should not tax another, I must say that I cannot see, from my own civic experience, that any substantial saving would be made by municipal councils if it were agreed to.
– Then the honorable member cannot have had much experience in country districts.
– I have had a long experience in municipal affairs, and I am of the opinion that, although some of the larger public bodies might benefit appreciably if the amendment were agreed to, ordinary municipal bodies would not find much relief from it. Our acceptance of this proposal would bring us face to face with some extraordinary anomalies. I consider that many other items are at least as much entitled to consideration as is the item specifically mentioned by the honorable member for Barker. For instance, biscuits, which are regarded as a staple item of food in the homes of many people in Australia, should be free from sales tax, as is pastry and certain other similar items. In view of these circumstances, if we accept this amendment we should be prepared to accept others. I can quite appreciate the fact that that would place the Treasurer in an embarrassing position. I support the proposal, but I suggest that this item and others should be seriously considered when the next list of exemptions is being drawn up.
– There is a good deal of merit in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who has stressed the justice of the claim of shire councils for the exemption of certain machinery from sales tax. Before preferential treatment is extended to the requirements of shire and municipal councils, there are, however, quite a number of items still subject to the tax to which consideration might be given. The honorable member for Barker should not have been content to stop at the requirements of public authorities. The question with which we have to concern ourselves is whether we should attempt, in this way, to take from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) the control of the finances of the country. After all, the Treasurer is responsible for1 protecting the revenue in order to ensure that the budget will be balanced. Australia is now just emerging from a period of depression, and the Government has introduced what is probably the best budget we have had for many years. A certain amount of conservatism must be shown by a government, and the Treasurer must play safe in determining whether exemptions which may affect th, revenue to a considerable extent should be granted. There are many other items, including foodstuffs and clothing, upon which sales tax is now imposed, which might well be included’ in any list of exemptions. Doubtless any relief given to the shire councils will be ultimately reflected in the rates, but the benefit will accrue to only the limited class of ratepayers and not to the general body of consumers, who, after all, are those whom the Treasurer is endeavouring to help. The necessity for granting relief in respect of the tax collected on foodstuffs and clothing should be given first consideration. Honorable members have stressed the fact that shire councils have been subjected to severe strains during the last few years. That has been due largely to the unfortunate conditions under which the primary producers have laboured ; but those conditions are greatly improved, owing to the rise of the prices of primary products. That change must, to a great extent, minimize the extraordinary stresses imposed on shire councils. ‘ Already the Government has granted remissions of sales tax amounting to £3,000,000, and it quite rightly asks, if tractors are exempted what item the honorable member for Barker would substitute in order to make good the loss of revenue. Because of the piecemeal incidence of the adjustments effected by the sales tax exemptions, honorable members cannot put their finger on any particular item and say, “ This should be given prior consideration to commodities which affect the consumers generally”. The Government has already made remissions of sales tax: to local governing bodies in respect of their requirements of bitumen and road-making materials, and by the general reduction of the rate by 1 per cent. below the rate operating last year, and it has recently made available a sum of £100,000 a year towards the interest and sinking fund charges on approved new developmental works. This Government has been most liberal in its treatment of local governing bodies. Although there is a certain amount of merit in the amendment, other items which affect more closely the community generally should be given prior consideration. I, therefore, propose to support the Government in opposing the amendment.
– I join with other honorable members in supporting the Government in this matter. Anybody who has considered the list of exemptionsgranted in respect of sales tax during the life of this Government must realize that the task confronting it has been to lift the load from those most in need of the relief. Admittedly, shire councils and boroughs have had a difficult time during the last few years, but they have only shared in the difficulties borne by the whole community. The relief which would be afforded by the acceptance of this amendment would be negligible when spread among the various municipalities, councils and other local governing bodies throughout the Commonwealth. If the Government feels that it is in a position to make further remissions of sales tax, I urge very strongly that, instead of extending the list of exemptions, the rate should be reduced, even if only by¼ per cent., to bring it down to a figure which would permit of more easy calculation of the tax. If we accept the amendment of the honorable member for Barker, we should, in common fairness, exempt every other item of mobile machinery used by local governing bodies. To make that possible it would be necessary to delete from the present list of exemptions several very big items. I leave honorable members to select and suggest what those items should be. The Government is doing the right thing. It has already exempted nearly all the necessaries of life, including foodstuffs, clothing and boots, and tea, coffee, and cocoa are included in the latest schedule. To grant the exemption sought by the amendment would cost £4,000, and that would substantially reduce the small estimated surplus of £12,000. I am satisfied that municipalities, shires, boroughs and roads boards throughout the Commonwealth are very satisfied with the progress being made in the Commonwealth at the present time, and that they do not want the Commonwealth Government to show a deficit at the end of the financial year.. I have not had requests for a reduction of the sales tax from shires in my constituency. They know what the Government is doing and are satisfied that, at the right time, it will exempt these very useful items of their equipment, or progressively reduce the rate of tax to vanishing point. I oppose the amendment.
.- I discussed this matter with the honorable member for Barker a few days ago, and after he had pointed out the object he had in view in proposing this amendment, I promised to support him. Listening to the views expressed by some honorable members on this side of the chamber, however, one would think that he had done something wrong in daring to suggest that certain classes of machinery should be free from sales tax, and that the acceptance of his amendment would embarrass the Government. The honorable member had no intention to place the Government in an embarrassing position. Surely when a bill to amend the Sales Tax Act is introduced, honorable members are entitled to say “whether they approve of the exemptions and to propose others. Are honorable members expected to accept, without question, any bill which the Government may introduce? Are they here to follow blindly any policy or restriction which the Government may wish to impose, or ave they hero as representatives of the people. Too frequently we have had attempts by a single member of the Ministry to impose, without legislative authority, conditions affecting the lives and business of the people. Parliament should assert its right and, after giving certain powers to the Government, see that they are not transgressed. It is for Parliament to decide what remissions and exemptions from sales tax should be granted. I have no desire to place difficulties in tlie way of the Government, nor, J am sure, had the honorable member for Barker in proposing his amendment. Only the other day I referred to the desirability of exempting explosives used in. the manufacture of ammunition. A large sum of money is expended in Western Australia on ammunition’ used for the killing of pests. The Treasurer, however, was unable to give my request favorable consideration. When requests of that sort are preferred, the Government should seriously consider the advisability of accepting them. I contend more strongly than ever that every honorable member should assert his rights and see that nothing seriously affecting the people is done without the concurrence of the Parliament.
– Those honorable gentlemen who spoke in favour of this amendment - both those who will vote for it, and those who will vote against it - uniformly regarded it as being designed to be of assistance to the country districts. That, of course, is a fact, because the rates are paid by the people of the country districts. But have honorable members ever considered the manner in which this and previous governments have treated the people in the country districts in respect of the sales tax? Do they realize that, under the original sales tax legislation introduced by the Scullin Government, sales tax was not imposed on many commodities used by primary producers, and that this Government, and the preceding Lyons Government, exempted practically everything which primary producers require to carry on their operations? Do those who have spoken on behalf of country districts realize that the exemptions on goods used by primary producers amount to about £1.000,000?
– The Government had to do it in any case.
– I do not contest that point. The Government has done it with its eyes open in order to assist country districts, because, as was stated by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), in recent years primary producers have had a gruelling time. The object of the tax is well known. Exemptions have been granted on practically everything used by primary producers, to enable them to carry out their work. It should also he realized to a. greater extent than it is that most of the sales tax is being carried by those resident in the cities and towns, and not by persons living in country districts, who have, I think, little of which to complain in respect of the sales tax.
– I realize some of the difficulties which confront the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in this matter, but I am not quite sure whether he appreciates some of the difficulties confronting me and other honorable members representing country constituencies.
– I represent a country constituency.
– The difficulties of the people in the electorate which I represent are perhaps greater than those in the portion of Victoria represented by the Minister. The Commonwealth Government should not collect customs and excise duties on goods required for State works, and in that way divert loan money into Commonwealth revenue. I have always supported the principle that the right to impose taxes belongs to the lower House of the Parliament, and in resisting that principle even Charles I. got into difficulties. The Government should not think that its followers have to support whatever taxes it seeks to impose.
– This bill sets out items on which taxes are not to be imposed.
– I am endeavouring to add to the list. If Parliament is to be converted into a committee meeting at which honorable members can merely register their votes on decisions arrived at previously by the Government, we shall have to consider where democracy is drifting. Some honorable members should compare the speeches they delivered on Friday last with the vote they intend to record this afternoon. In studying this subject, we should peruse the evidence given before the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, and reports brought before the House setting out the difficulties under which those resident in country areas are labouring. Many local governing bodies have found it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to collect the rates due to them, and so, even without this tax, it is not easy for them to purchase equipment with which to construct roads or maintain those already in use. Heavy losses have been incurred by local authorities owing to drift sand, and in some instancesthousands of pounds have been lost owing to roads being buried under several feet of sand, necessitating the purchase of additional land to make new roads. In many instances, the damage is so extensive that additional roadmaking plant has to be purchased. It is absurd to suggest that a government with a revenue estimated this year at £81,000,000 will be inconvenienced by remitting an additional £4,000 or £5,000 of sales tax on tractors. The Government should not take umbrage if requests are made for additional exemptions; if the members of the committee are not entitled to suggest further exemptions, discussion is worthless. Is it to be contended that the list of exemptions before us, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, is unalterable? So long as I remain a member of this chamber, I shall move amendments I consider necessary, and fight in the best interests of the community. I trust that a majority of the committee will support my amendment.
said that a further remission involving £3,000 or £4,000 a year cannot affect the budget seriously, but a good case could also be made out for a remission of taxes on many commodities used by the poorer sections of the community. The people generally give the Government credit for reducing the sales tax by £3,000,000 during this financial year, and in so doing, attempting to benefit all sections of the community. I intend to oppose the amendment, but I am not opposed to further remissions of the sales tax whenever practicable. A genuine attempt has been made by the Government to lighten the burden of all sections, and I believe that local governing bodies realize that further assistance will be given as soon as possible. I intend to support the Government.
.- As I was the first honorable member to bring this subject under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), I do not propose to record a silent vote on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Some time ago I asked the Minister if it were possible to assist local governing bodies by making the exemption now proposed, and I followed closely his explanation of the attitude of the Government.
If this concession were granted, further exemptions would be sought which, if agreed to, would seriously interfere with the budget. In view of the statement made by the Treasurer, I propose to support the Government.
Question - That the words proposed to be added, be so added (Mr. Archie Cameron’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That after paragraph (m) the following paragraphs be inserted - ” (m.a.) by omitting from sub-item (3) of item 23 the words ‘but not including biscuits unless covered by any other item or sub-item in this schedule ‘ ; “ (m.b.) by omitting from sub-item (4) of item 23 the words, ‘ milk arrowroot biscuits, baby rice biscuits and shortbread ‘ and inserting in their stead the word ‘and’.”
The effect of the acceptance of this amendment would be to exempt biscuits from sales tax. “When this matter was raised on a previous occasion the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) showed that he had the utmost sympathy with the arguments then put forward on behalf of consumers of biscuits, and he said that he would give earnest and sympathetic consideration to it when further exemptions were being made. My proposal will involve a small loss of revenue. The Treasurer previously informed us that the loss would be £80,000 but as in the meantime, the rate of sales tax has been reduced from 5 per cent. to 4 per cent., the loss should be not more than £65,000. If my proposal be adopted, the full amount of tax relinquished will undoubtedly be passed on to the consumers of biscuits; they include practically all classes of the community, but amongst them, the poorer people predominate. The biscuit manufacturing industry employs 3,088 hands in 28 factories, the value of its annual output being £1,570,000. Importations of biscuits are practically negligible to-day. Overseas manufacturers have been forced to come within our tariff wall and establish factories in Australia; the latest overseas concern to commence local production is the Peek Frean company.
– The honorable member will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.
– I have no intention of delivering a speech on secondary industry generally, but desire merely to indicate the importance of the local biscuit manufacturing industry, and to show that this concession, if granted, will be passed on to consumers. The industry directly employs approximately 3,088 hands, and gives indirect employment to over 12,000 people. Biscuits are consumed in practically every home in Australia. I am not asking the Government to grant a very extensive concession, because the loss of revenue involved would be at the most only about £65,000. I believe that the estimate of revenue to be received from sales tax this year is a conservative one; most probably the actual receipts will be considerably in excess of the Treasurer’s estimate. My proposal should commend itself to the Treasurer.
– Requests to exempt biscuits from sales tax have been considered by the Government for the last two years. Each year there is consumed in Australia biscuits to the value of £1,500,000 at wholesale values, and as there are about 1,500,000 families in Australia the expenditure on biscuits for each family is about £1. Sales tax on this expenditure, therefore, works out at about Kd. a family each year, an amount which I do not think any honorable member would say was a burden. Also, the figures 1 have quoted go far to disprove the honorable member’s contention that biscuits form an important part of the ordinary family diet, seeing that, on an average, so few are consumed by each family. There is still a number of foodstuffs subject to sales tax, such as miscellaneous groceries, biscuits, tinned fish, ice cream, and condiments of various kinds. While those items continue to be subject to tax, it would be anomalous to pick out one item such as biscuits, and remit the tax on that. I give an undertaking that, when the Government is considering further exemptions, it will, determine whether it is able to extend the exemptions to all the items I have mentioned.
– But discrimination has been exercised in this very field of biscuits.
– And for two very good reasons. Exemptions have been granted in respect of biscuits used as infants’ food, such as milk arrowroot biscuits, &c, which are sometimes used in place of Benger’s food and similar preparations. The only other exemption is in respect of shortbread, which is also made by pastrycooks, whose products are exempt from sales tax. It would be anomalous to tax the article when made by biscuit manufacturers, and not to tax it when made by pastrycooks. The fact remains that more than three-quarters of the biscuits sold in Australia are still subject to sales tax.
.- When this matter was before Parliament last year, the Treasurer made much the same statement in regard to it as he has made just now.
– In the meantime wo have exempted tea and boots.
– That is becoming a stock claim.
– The honorable member does not like hearing it.
– I do not mind hearing it once, but I object to hearing it repeated over and over again “ parrot fashion “. Biscuits form part of the staple diet of the community, and as such should not be taxed. I have here a letter received from a manufacturer of biscuits in Tasmania, in which the case for the exemption of biscuits is put in the following terms : -
Although the recent concessions exempting shortbread biscuits from tax removed many anomalies, the manufacturers are still making certain biscuits which are taxable, whilst similar lines, made by pastrycooks from the same materials, are exempt. We submit that foodstuffs, and more particularly those that arc eaten by the masses, are worthy of your special consideration. From statistics covering the consumption of biscuits in Australia, if is evident that they form a staple article of food for all sections of the population, and biscuits are very largely sold in the industrial areas. It would be incorrect, therefore, to regard them as a luxury. We would draw your attention to the fact that biscuits are manufactured from the same ingredients as pastry, scones, buns and cakes, which are exempt (see sales tax exemption items - Div. VI., No. 23(3) ).
It is an anomaly that material used by one set of manufacturers should be taxed, while the same material used by another set of manufacturers should be exempt. I appeal to the Treasurer to give favorable consideration to this request.
– This item provides further evidence of the complex nature of the sales tax. Anomalies have arisen in connexion with biscuits, in that some of the more expensive varieties are free of tax, while the lower priced ones are subject to it. The fact that pastry is free of tax is a strong argument in favour of exempting biscuits also. It cannot be denied that biscuits form part of the basic diet of the peop’e, and the Government should lift the tax.
– I support the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), because biscuits are an important article of diet, particularly of the poorer people. The Treasurer said that biscuits used for feeding babies had been exempt, but a great many people give biscuits as a regular item of diet to children of two or three years of age, and the class of biscuit used for this purpose is not exempt.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The manufacturers of biscuits request the Government to exempt this commodity from the sales tax. We should not countenance the unjust impost now placed on this food of children.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Forde’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
. - I move-
That, after paragraph (p), the following new paragraph be inserted: - “ (pa) by inserting in item 30, after sub-item (5) the following sub-item: - (6) Macaroni, vermicelli and spaghetti . Nos. 1 to 9’; “.
The local manufacturers of macaroni tried last year to have this article placed on the exempt list, but, whilst similar foodstuffs have been freed from sales tax, this commodity has continued to carry the impost. The manufacture of macaroni is a useful secondary industry which should be encouraged, because the raw material is produced by a primary industry of this country. Macaroni is in the same position as maize and rice were some years ago, when they were not considered to be worth protecting, yet in a few years the fostering of those industries has put them in their present position. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) surprised me by the smallness of the figures which he cited as to the consumption of this commodity for each family. Between 400 and 500 persons are directly employed in the manufacture of this commodity in three factories in Melbourne, three in Sydney and one in Perth. Many other persons are, of course, indirectly employed through the industry. Macaroni is sold in 1-lb. packets at a cost of about 4d. per lb., and about 94 per cent. of all the macaroni used in Australia is now made in this country.
– I think it is all made here, and we also export it.
– It is not many years since most of it was imported from Italy. In view of the figures furnished by the Treasurer, it seems to me that the only reasonable thing to do is to grant the exemption. The manufacturers, by advertising their goods and packing it attractively, are endeavouring to bring this commodity into more general use. Until a few years ago this article was rarely seen, except in restaurants, but to-day it is used in nearly every household, being a wholesome food for both children and adults. Other foodstuffs in common use have been exempt from the tax, and I cannot understand why macaroni has been overlooked. In view of the small amount of revenue involved, the Government might well grant, the exemption. If the amendment is not accepted I ask the Treasurer to . give further consideration to these items with a view to their exemption in the very near future.
.- -This amendment shows, as must now be apparent to all honorable members of the committee, that there still remains a large number of commodities which logically should be included in the list of exemptions. A discussion took place regarding the removal of the sales tax from machinery required by local governing bodies, and in the discussion on other items, including foodstuffs, it has been made clear that next year, if the financial position permits, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will have every opportunity to widen the scope of the exemptions in a manner consistent with the policy already adopted. If the committee is to be consistent, it will have to follow the course marked out at the outset by declaring that there shall he no exemptions at all, or that all those commodities for the exemption of which a strong case can be put forward shall bc placed on the exempt list. Probably every honorable member of the committee could submit a strong claim for the exemption of one or more articles that now bear the tax. Personally, I strongly support the representations made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in moving his amendment. Although the Treasurer may with truth be able to suggest that over a year, the cost to the average family of vermicelli, macaroni and spaghetti is not heavy, there are some families - southern Europeans, for example - in whose diet the three foodstuffs are staple items. Furthermore, macaroni and vermicelli, when used in puddings, play an important part in the diet of children. It could, therefore, be logically contended that they should be added to the foodstuffs which have already been exempted.
The majority of the committee, however, has taken the stand that if we permit one exemption, we cannot withstand the force of arguments that may be adduced in favour of the exemption of many other commodities. The Treasurer should give earnest consideration to these three commodities when next he has exemptions from the sales tax under review. He has stated that any large additions to the list at the present time might interfere considerably with the budget proposals for the current year, but if he finds during the year that the receipts are in excess of the Estimate, he should not wait for the full year to expire before increasing the list of exemptions. If he finds that he is able to do this, the three commodities I have mentioned should be amongst the first to receive consideration.
.- I understood the Treasurer to say last week, that all foodstuffs were exempted from sales tax.
– That is the conclusion I formed. Foodstuffs should not be subjected to sales tax. Vermicelli, macaroni and spaghetti are staple items of food amongst the poorer classes. The aspect of this discussion which has struck mo most forcibly is the nauseous reiteration of what the Treasurer might do next year. It seems that honorable gentlemen opposite are pleased that the Treasurer is keeping certain articles out of the list of exemptions this year in order to include them next year and so give to his party an effective electioneering appeal. The Government, however, should eschew such tactics and do now what it will be able to do next year when an election will be looming. In view of the Government’s boasting about its surpluses, it cannot be said that the Treasurer wants the few pence which he extracts from the workers by taxing their food.
– The Treasurer has been able to announce that £3,000,000 of sales tax revenue will be remitted this year.
– He has made no remissions to those people who really need them. The biggest part of the £3,000,000 goes back to his wealthy friends. I join with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in urging the
Treasurer to consider the necessity to include vermicelli, macaroni and spaghetti in the list of exemptions, and thereby bring them into line “with other foodstuffs which are free of sales tax. The items named are amongst the essential foods of the poorer classes of the people, and it is time that this Parliament considered that phase of the matter, and ceased to extract the pennies of the poor in order to build up a budgetary position which enables distributions of largesse to the rich. If the Treasurer will not accept the amendment, I hope that the committee will carry it in spite of his opposition.
– This matter was brought up a year ago by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and it has been considered with sympathy. The three items mentioned are included in a long and miscellaneous list of foodstuffs, each of which is a small part of the regimen of the normal household. Only £75,000 worth of macaroni is manufactured each year in Australia for local consumption. About £8,000 or £10,000 worth is manufactured for export, and does not bear sales tax. The average burden of the tax on each family is only about one shilling a year. There is a wide range of foodstuffs condiments and groceries, which cannot be regarded as essentials, the sales tax on which amounts to £250,000 a year. All should be considered together, as there is no case for the exemption of any one of them more than another. I remind the committee that the Government is remitting completely the sales tax on tea which is the biggest individual item in the household expenses of the average family. This concession will cost £200,000 a year. A further concession of £300,000 is being made in respect of footwear. It should be remembered also that the sales tax is a tax on the individual and whether it is levied on one thing or another does not matter, so long as the burden on the taxpayer is lightened to the greatest possible extent. That is exactly what the Government has set out to do. It has already put forward a list of exemptions which should be highly acceptable to the Parliament. When the sales tax is next under consideration the items mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Porta, as well as other similar articles, will receive consideration.
Question -That the paragraph proposed to be inserted (Mr. Holloway’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Reform of the Covenant.
.- by leave - With the constitutional development of the dominions and the rapid increase in recent years of their status in international affairs, the formulation of a common foreign policy, commanding the confidence and support of all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations becomes increasingly desirable. In this, respect, the League of Nations and the principles embodied in the Covenant have provided a focal point for a joint British Commonwealth policy, and lately the declared policy of each individual member of the British Commonwealth has been based on League principles involving collective action, arbitration, conciliation and peace. These principles, world-wide in their scope, have facilitated a consistent and uniform outlook for the British peoples.
Unfortunately, the events of the last twelve months, more particularly in relation to the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, have, it must be admitted, tended to weaken the prestige and authority of the League, and, in consequence an examination of the whole League system becomes imperative.
Honorable members will remember that on the 18th June, in declaring the Commonwealth policy in regard to the raising of sanctions, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) also indicated the Government’s views on the need for this examination.
On the 4th July the League Assembly adopted a recommendation of the Council that the States Members of the League should put forward any proposals they might wish to make to improve the application of the principles of the Covenant. The Commonwealth Government immediately began a careful examination of various suggestions for a reform of the Covenant in the light of recent experience. The matter was considered one of such great importance as to demand the most careful study and consideration; moreover the Government felt that, in view of the widely conflicting opinions about League reform which had been expressed, not only at Geneva, but also within the individual States themselves, the meeting of the League Assembly at Geneva in the last week of September would be the earliest desirable time for announcing its proposals. Th* High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, will accordingly state the views of the Com monwealth Government at to-day’s sitting of the Assembly.
Of the numerous conflicting opinions on League reform which we have examined, I first mention the two extremes. On the one hand are the views of those who urge a tightening-up of the obligations under the coercive articles of the Covenant, particularly in respect of their automatic application, and including not only financial and economic sanctions, such as were applied against Italy, but also military sanctions. At the other extreme are the opinions of those who would weaken the obligations by eliminating all coercive and repressive articles from the Covenant; in other words, those who would rely on the League as a consultative body and as a purely moral force. As the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) indicated in a recent statement, the Commonwealth Government has endeavoured to avoid both of these extremes, believing that the urging of either view might well bring about the end of the League.
After careful consideration the Government has decided to make the following suggestions for League reform, through the delegation at the present meeting of the Assembly: -
The first proposal relates to Article XVI., which deals with sanctions. That article provides that in the event of a resort to war in violation of previous Articles of the Covenant, States Members of the League are bound to apply immediately and automatically certain sanctions severing financial, economic and personal intercourse with the State which has been, declared to have broken the Covenant. The effect of the article was, however, subsequently modified in practice by the- adoption by the Assembly in October, 1921, of a long series of “ Resolutions concerning the Economic Weapon.” These interpretative resolutions, as they become known, were to constitute rules for guidance, mainly procedural in character, as to how the obligations of States under Article XVI. were to be discharged. They were actually followed in the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. Article XVI. also provides for military sanctions which,, however, are permissive and not mandatory in character, as it is the duty of the Council only to recommend to StatesM embers what effective armed forces shall be contributed to protect the Covenant.
With regard to financial and economic sanctions, the Government feels that, upon a declaration by the Council that a Member State is an aggressor, the following sanctions should be automatic: -
Prohibition of all exports to the aggressor State;
With the exception of the prohibition of oil exports, (a), (b), (c), and to a substantial extent (d), were the main sanctions, which were applied in the recent Abyssinian dispute, and which, from the statistics collated by the Co-ordination Committee, had a constant and cumulative effect on Italian economic life. They were, however, not long enough in operation for their effect to be decisive. The Commonwealth Government feels that if a would-be aggressor knows beforehand that in the event of aggression, he will automatically become subject to these financial and economic sanctions, such knowledge will constitute a powerful deterrent in the interests of peaceful settlement of the dispute.
The Government fully realizes that in a democracy there will be objections by reason of the Government of the day having to carry out a national obligation if it has had no say in its acceptance. It therefore proposes to recommend the incorporation into the Covenant of No. 4 of the interpretative resolutions of 1921.
The resolution is as follows: -
It is the duty of each Member of the League to decide for itself whether a breach of the Covenant has been committed. The fulfilment of their duties under article 16 is required from Members of the League by the express terms of the Covenant, and they cannot neglect them without breach of their Treaty obligations.
Each Member State will be entirely free to determine whether, in its opinion, there has been a breach of the Covenant. At that point there is complete discretion, as there was in practice under the resolution of 1921 ; but once there has been a determination that a particular country is an aggressor, and that there has been a breach of the Covenant, the obligation, under Article XVI. will remain as it is to-day.
– Would a majority decision have the same effect on Member States ?
– I shall have something to say later about the point which the honorable member has raised. Each Member State must make up its own mind; but, if it decides that a certain country is the aggressor, then it cannot ignore its obligations under Article XVI. without breaking the Covenant of the League, in which case the proper course, though I suggest not the satisfactory legal course, would be for it to leave the League.
With regard to military sanctions, the Government feels that no amendment of the Covenant is necessary, as these are not automatic, but are subject to recommendation by the Council, and the adoption of any recommendation is left to the individual government’sdecision.
The Commonwealth Government also believes that an effective contribution to the general principle of collective security contained in the League would be for States, in regions where their national interests are directly involved, to agree to some form of regional pact, subsidiary to the Covenant, by which they would be obliged to render military assistance, in circumstances laid down by the agreement, if one or more of them should be attacked by an aggressor.
– Are we to understand that a regional pact, subsidiary to the Covenant, means that it must be entirely in keeping with the Covenant, or may it mean a distinct agreement, irrelevant to the Covenant?
– It means that while the agreement itself may be distinct, imposing a very definite and special obligation on the signatories to it, it must be consistent with the Covenant, and there must be some machinery to associate it with, the League. As the Leader of the Opposition probably knows, there are alternative suggestions, as to which we did not commit ourselves. One is that the agreements be required to be recorded with the League ; the other is that they be required to be approved by the League. In any event, we are not suggesting the recognition of regional pacts if they are inconsistent with the general obligations to be imposed on all Member States by the Covenant itself.
– May regional pacts be entered into by Member States with nonMember States?
– There is that possibility, to which I shall refer later.
Article XVI., it is believed, forms a reasonable basis for such agreements, which would be devised to strengthen general security, and would also be strictly within the framework of the League, and subject to the spirit and provisions of the Covenant. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that such agreements must be supplementary to, and not in substitution for, any of the vital provisions of the Covenant.
Furthermore, the Government’s view is that, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, the Pacific is the area in which we are most vitally interested in the maintenance of peace. With the United States of America and J apan outside the League, provision for a regional agreement of the particular kind mentioned could hardly be applicable, but the promotion of a regional understanding and pact of non-aggression for Pacific countries, in the spirit of the League undertakings, should not be beyond the bounds of possibility.
The second Commonwealth proposal is with regard to Article XI., which declares that any war or threat of war between Members or non-Members is a matter of concern to the whole League, and lays down that “ the League shall take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations “. As it stands at present, Article XI. is subject to the unanimity rule, and mediatory action by the Council can be blocked by the votes of States which are parties to the dispute, or by the vote of a State contemplating aggres sion. The Government feels that the Council should be enabled to make recommendations under Article XI. without the consent of the States who are parties to the dispute; this will involve consequential amendment of Article V., which deals with questions of procedure.
The third proposal is with regard to Article XIX., which provides that the Assembly may, from time to time, advise the reconsideration by Members of the League of treaties which have become inapplicable, and the consideration of international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world. The Commonwealth Government’s view is that in a world with rapidly-changing conditions this article is too uncertain. It believes that Article XIX. should be regarded as a specific article for the remedying of grievances, and that provision should be made for periodical investigation of, and report on, alleged grievances.
That, as honorable members will see, has particular relevance to such matters as have been put forward from time to time by the Government of Germanysuggestions that there are injustices in existing treaties and obligations. In order to meet such contingencies, Australia has suggested that there should be, in the machinery of the League, provision for periodic investigation of these matters, so as to avoid a state of affairs in which some nations may indefinitely postpone investigation, and so indefinitely aggravate the grievances.
Fourthly, the Commonwealth Government feels that support should be given to a proposal for the severance of the Covenant from the Peace Treaty of 1919. If the League is to become universal, and to act as an instrument for the preservation of peace, rather than be linked to a period of past history which directly concerned only a certain number of Member States, then the Covenant should be divorced from the Treaty of Versailles.
Finally, the Government is of opinion that before proceeding to deal at all with amendments to the Covenant, the League should consider inviting nonMember States to confer with it or any commission which it might set up to consider the proposed reform, as to the nature and form of desirable amendments. The Government feels that the nonMember States, and in particular the United States of America, Germany, and Japan, should be fully consulted, with a view to having their representatives present to discuss the proposals with Members of the League. Such a course, it is felt, would give to non-Member States a full opportunity to state their views as to what ultimate form of Covenant would be acceptable. If unanimity on the proposal to hold such a consultation can be secured, we believe that there will be a reasonable chance of obtaining a Covenant of a kind which would bring about universal membership, without which the League cannot fulfil the functions which its framers originally contemplated, and which are so essential to the peace and security of a troubled world.
.- by leave - The statement which the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) has just read to the House will be acknowledged by all honorable members to be of outstanding importance. It indicates the general purport of the instructions given to the High Commissioner, Mr. S. M. Bruce, who is Australia’s delegate at the Assembly of the League of Nations, which is meeting at Geneva to-day. Mr. Bruce will indicate ,to the representatives of the Member States of the League what are the views of the Commonwealth Government. How far those views may be the views of this Parliament can, at this stage, be no more than a matter of conjecture. The proposals which have been given to Mr. Bruce to put forward are in themselves controversial, and their practicability to safeguard Australia effectively is dependent upon considerations which are mentioned in the final passages of the Attorney-General’s statement. It would have been reasonable for the Government to have first permitted Parliament to express its mind upon the general character of the instructions to be given to Mr. Bruce, for, although the Government is regarded as the proper instrument for the expression of Australian opinion in respect of the work of the League, nonetheless this Parliament has an even greater responsibility for the peace of
Australia than has any government, and the rights of Parliament in this connexion ought to be safeguarded. I believe that it would have been proper for the honorable gentleman to have, in some way, made it possible for .Parliament to discuss the statement of policy which he has just presented to this House. Alternative proposals are contained in that statement, a copy of which was given to me no sooner than the Attorney-General rose to make it, so that I have had no opportunity to consider it with any degree of comprehension. I ask the Attorney-General if he will not, before it is too late, allow the important proposals which are being submitted on behalf of the Commonwealth for the reformation of the League of Nations, to be the subject of debate and decision by this Parliament. The Government may command majorities in regard to cement duties and a variety of other items of less importance; it maj also be able to secure complete support from its own supporters in respect of this particular programme; but I believe that the peace of the- world and Australia’s security are matters which might be considered by this Parliament entirely in a constructive way, and that honorable gentlemen on both sides of the House might be able to assist the Government more adequately to interpret the hopes and opinions of the Australian people.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition. I am quite prepared to lay the statement on the table of the House, and move that it be printed. The Leader of the Opposition may then secure the adjournment of the debate, the resumption of which can be arranged to suit the convenience of all parties.
– Having secured that assurance from the Attorney-General, I have nothing further to add at .this / juncture.
– by leave - I lay the statement on the table of the House, and move -
That the -paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration resumed from page 620) :
Clause 3 -
The schedule to the principal act is amended - (ab) by omitting item 77 and inserting in its stead the following item: -
– I move -
That at the end of paragraph (ab) the following new item be added: - “ ‘ 77a. Machinery, implements, and apparatus for use by municipal corporations, or other local governing bodies, or by public authorities - Nos. 1 to 9’; “.
I take this action in order to extend the concessions not only to local authorities which purchase tractors, as was suggested by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) this afternoon, but also to municipal corporations, local governing bodies or public authorities which’ buy machinery, implements and apparatus. This will include not only municipal corporations, but also suchquasigovernmental bodies, and the acceptance of the amendment by the committee will enable honorable members to comply with numerous requests by harbour boards, such as that at Rockhampton, to be granted remissions of sales tax in respect of plant and materials for their own use. In common with other honorable members. I have received a number of communications asking me to move this amendment. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) did give consideration to this matter, I admit; but he replied that similar representations had been made on behalf of many semi-governmental bodies, including municipal councils, waiter and sewerage boards, harbour boards’, fire brigade boards health hoards, &c. He stated that he would carefully examine the representations of these bodies for exemption of the goods required by them; but, unfortunately, his decision was adverse. At the present time a harbour board, which is controlled by the Government, such as the Brisbane Harbour Board, is exempted from the obligation to pay sales tax on materials for its own use because it is a government body; but the Rockhampton Harbour Board, or any other board which is controlled by a locallyelected body, is not granted that concession. Similarly, the Sydney Tramway Trust, which is a State Government authority enjoys exemption, while the Melbourne Tramway Trust and the Brisbane Tramway Trust, which are controlled by local authorities, do not.
– Actually the tramways do receive that concession.
– I was informed that a government-owned tramway would be granted exemption from the obligation to pay sales tax, but that a tramway owned by a local authority would not.
– This bill extends the exemption to all tramways, because of the anomaly mentioned by the honorable member.
– I am gratified that all tramways, whether owned by the. Government or by a local authority, have been placed in the same category. This concession will not now cost so much money as 1 had thought it would; perhaps the Treasurer will be able to inform the committee what that cost will be.
It is not necessary for me to labour this subject, because representations regarding it have been made by honorable gentlemen from both sides of the House on previous occasions. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), if he is not prepared to go so far as I have suggested, may think fit to move an amendment later, and I shall be able to support it. But I hope that he will be able to support my amendment, which will extend the concession to all municipal corporations, local government bodies and public authorities.
– The Government has largely met the troubles of municipalities in certain directions. I do not, however, believe that we have yet considered fully what we owe to those bodies for what they did during the period of the depression. It is not sound or scientific government to impose taxation upon municipalities which are largely employing labour with money that has been provided out of Commonwealth revenues. The fact that this assistance is given goes to prove that the municipalities are carrying on work which is helpful to the governments of the Commonwealth and States. In examining the situation we must realize that, whether we like it or not, private enterprise cannot and never will he able to employ anything like the whole of the labour which from time to time is available in any highly developed community. Whether the period be one of depression or of boom, there will always be a surplus of labour which will have to be employed on what is now known as “ made “ works. The municipalities are becoming more largely employers of labour as one year succeeds another, and are being so used by the governments of the Commonwealth and the States because those authorities cannot themselves employ the labour. When that occurs, a field is provided for the collection by those governments of additional revenues by means of taxation. In every big municipality the Commonwealth Government has all kinds of works and activities, yet it pays no rates aud taxes with respect to them; it is regarded as a dead-head. The electorate which I represent has in it many large drill halls, a rifle range, and extensive postal workshops, none of which pays rates to a municipality. That is quite all right:” but the principle should operate also in the other direction. During the last five or six years the municipalities have not only conducted their ordinary operations, but have also employed much more labour than they would normally employ, because they were able to provide the only avenues in which the unemployed could be absorbed. Surely it is not either sound or scientific to tax what the municipalities require in order to carry out works practically at the dictation of the Commonwealth Government, or in conjunction with the Commonwealth and the States, in order to enlarge the spending power of the nation and thus lead to the raising of greater revenues ! ‘ The situation ought to be reviewed, and sales tax as well as every other form of tax should be removed from municipal bodies which, by carrying on public works, help the government of the country to absorb the unemployed. The Treasurer should be asked to ascertain the number of items required by municipalities from which the sales tax has not yet been removed. The Commonwealth Government has advanced millions of pounds to the governments of the States for the relief of unemployment, and those authorities, not having had the necessary avenues for the employment of the labour offering, have made” loans on a £1 for £1 basis to the municipalities for the purpose. Only a few months ago the Commonwealth,, recognizing the difficulties of the municipalities and desiring that they should continue to employ surplus labour, passed legislation for the making of advances free of interest, with repayment over a period of ten years, not because of sympathy for the municipalities or out of largeness of heart, but because the municipalities are serving a purpose which the Commonwealth cannot itself perform. I urge honorable members to consider seriously the acceptance of the amendment which would remove sales tax from all tools and other plant used by municipal councils.
.- I move -
That the proposed amendment be amended by omitting tho words “, or by public authorities “.
I do this, not because I am opposed in principle to the exemption from sales tax of apparatus or implements used by the public bodies which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has sought to benefit, but because I can see quite clearly that his amendment will not be carried and this is the only opportunity which I shall have to substitute for it the amendment that I originally proposed to move. I also hope to secure the support of some honorable members who, while fervently advocating the exemption from sales tax of .the machinery and implements in question, would hesitate to involve the Government in revenue loss in the vicinity of £100,000. I hold the view that too many members who have spoken from the Government benches this afternoon and evening have been inclined to regard the Commonwealth Treasurer as a Santa Claus, for whose favours we ought to feel devoutly and profoundly grateful, entirely regardless of whether they are adequate to the people’s needs, or of the extent to which they might even be tinged with parsimony. Rather should we regard the honorable gentleman as a -Minister of the Crown who is charged with the very great responsibility of straining every nerve to lighten, as far as possible, the onerous burden of taxation that is carried to-day by probably the most heavily taxed people in the world. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) suggested to the present Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the members of this committee that they should play for safety - a wholly unnecessary piece of advice. If any man has ever played for safety, the Treasurer has done so in this year’s budget. To those who have expressed a fear of upsetting the calculations of the Treasurer, and the national finances, by causing the revenue to be depleted to an amount of £100,000, I suggest a scrutiny of the record of this Government and the budget predictions of both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer during the last four or five years. They should ask themselves whether, in any one of those years, the Government would have failed to more than offset an additional remission of tax of approximately £100,000. Yet the amendment that I have moved would reduce the probable loss of revenue by something in. the region of 50 per cent., and, so far as I can gather, the loss under it would aggregate approximately £50,000 instead of £100,000.
– What does the amendment of the honorable member exclude?
– I aim at excluding harbour boards, harbour trusts, metropolitan water and sewerage boards, fire brigades, and bodies of that character, thus confining the exemptions to municipal and shire councils.
– But many harbour boards are also in a very bad way financially.
– I admit that they are, but not in as bad a way as are the vast majority of municipal and shire councils, particularly those which are functioning in rural areas. I make the further point, which has not so far been mentioned, that probably the most striking anomaly in the incidence of the sales tax is to be found in the fact that, whereas it does not apply to machinery and implements used by bodies such as the Main Roads Board of New South Wales, which operates exclusively on main roads, it does apply to machinery and implements used by shires and municipal corpora tions which operate only on subsidiary roads. I ask the committee to consider that aspect of the case. Is it not a very grave anomalythat machinery, implements and tools used by a financially strong body such as the Main Roads Board should be free from sales tax while municipal and shire councils, which are not nearly so strong financially and operate on subsidiary roads, have to pay the tax? No more grossly unfair treatment has ever resulted from the imposition of a tax. If the municipalities and. shire councils were strong financially, and better able to bear the tax than is the Main Roads Board, the attitude of the Government might be defended; but, for a number of years they have had great difficulty in obtaining from farmers and others who themselves have been in financial straits, the wherewithal to maintain great lengths of subsidiary roads. Seeing that there is no chance of the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition being agreed to, I suggest that he accept the amendment which I have foreshadowed.
– I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to correct me if I am wrong in applying to my amendment an argument that he advanced in connexion with a previous amendment, when he said -
The Government is of the opinion that the term “ local governing body “should have a considerably wider application than the honorable member intends. In the mind of the Government it includes local governing bodies of all kinds, whether they be harbour boards, county councils, district councils or similar bodies, and of these there are in Australia no fewer than 2,000. To extend the exemption set forth in the honorable member’s amendment to all these local bodies, would cost the Treasury about £100.000, but if the definition were restricted to the narrow application intended by the honorable member, the cost would be only about £4,000 or £5,000. in view of that statement, I take it that the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) would exempt articles purchased by harbour boards.
– I am not aware of the full scope of the proposed amendment.
– The honorable member for Macquarie proposes to exclude all the words af ter “ other than local governing bodies”.
– The term “ public authority” has a wider significance.
– I am desirous that the requirements of not onlythe bodies proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie, but also harbour boards and trusts shall be exempt from sales tax. I assure the honorable gentleman that in the outlying ports of Australia, where there is not an immense amount of shipping, the harbour boards and trusts are experiencing difficulties, and are overwhelmed with debts. Many of them find it almost impossible to meet their interest payments. These bodies carry out such works as the building of retaining walls, as in the Rockhampton district, and the development of harbours, as at Gladstone. For the carrying out of these undertakings they have to purchase expensive plant and machinery. Many such authorities in Queensland survive only because of the generosity of the State government, which, in turn, has great difficulty in obtaining money from the Commonwealth Government for these works. It is anomalous that the Commonwealth Government should tax these semi-governmental bodies. All the arguments advanced so ably by the honorable member for Macquarie in relation to municipal corporations, apply with equal, or even greater, force to harbour boards and trusts. Whilst I am not personally acquainted with the financial position of harbour boards outside Queensland, I know that many of them in central and northern Queensland find it difficult to pay their way. I should like the amendment to be carried in the form in which I moved it. The honorable member for Macquarie says that acceptance of his proposed amendment would affect the estimated revenue by about £50,000 instead of £100,000. Yet in the course of his remarks he said that the Treasurer’s estimates were on a conservative basis. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that, at the end of the present financial year, the revenue will have exceeded the Treasurer’s estimate by more than £100,000. With a revenue of £81,000,000 for the year, the Treasurer need not be afraid to grant relief amounting to £100,000 to deserving local bodies, including harbour boards and trusts. I agree with the honorable member for
Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that these local bodies are doing valuable work for the country. The Commonwealth Government would find it difficult to provide relief for the large army of unemployed were it not for the assistance of local bodies throughout Australia. Moreover, the public-spirited men who carry out these undertakings receive no remuneration for their services. These bodies resent the taxing of the equipment necessary to carry out public undertakings of great value to the community. I cannot agree to exclude harbour boards and trusts from my amendment, and would like the honorable member for Macquarie to support it in the form in which it was moved. Can the honorable member give any guarantee that his proposed amendment will be more acceptable to the committee than mine is?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should collaborate with the honorable member for Macquarie.
– I congratulate the Treasurer on the leadership he displayed when he collaborated so effectively with the members of his party that he induced them to recede from their previous attitude. I hope that the honorable member for Macquarie will vote for the amendment as moved by me.
– I assure the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. JohnLawson) that I have never posed as Santa Claus;I claim only to be a prosaic -individual who is attempting to grapple with mundane matters. As to the honorable member’s statement that the Government is ina very safe position financially, I remind him that the Government is taking some chances in respect of its revenue, in than the receipts for 1937-38 willbe between £1,500,000 and £1,750,000 less than for the present financial year, because of the operation of taxation remissions for a full twelve months. The budget is far from being a conservative one. I hope that the revenue will improve, and that the Government will have a surplus at the end of the year, but I am not at all certain about it. A surplus this year would make the position a good deal more certain for the following year than it now appears to be.
– I support the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), because I believe that as far as possible the Government should relieve local governing bodies from the payment of taxes. The sales tax was first imposed as an emergency measure when the country was in sore financial straits. All parties were agreed that it should be one of the first taxes to be removed when conditions improved. The local bodies throughout Australia were of great assistance to the Government during the depression years, and now that the Commonwealth finances are buoyant, the Government should grant them some relief. As has already been stated, the members of these public bodies whose work is of great value give their services free. The Commonwealth Government does not pay rates or taxes on land held by it within municipalities and shire councils notwithstanding that frequently these bodies are involved in great expense in providing roads to serve Government properties. I have in mind a municipality which made about two miles of road to serve a government institution within its borders which pays no rates. The upkeep of that road is a continual source of expense to the ratepayers. The request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should be conceded by the Government. If the Treasurer has made up his mind not to grant further exemptions, then neither the amendment now before the committee nor that foreshadowed by the honorable member for Macquarie is likely to be acceptable. The shire councils have rendered great service to this country, particularly in providing work for the unemployed, and the Government should do all it can to assist them.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. John Lawson’s amendment) stand part of the proposed amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of proposed amendment negatived.
.- As the result of the vote just given, the words “ or by public authorities “ have been deleted from my amendment.I regret that the committee was not prepared to accept the complete proposition that I made, but I sincerely hope that it will agree to the amended amendment for even that variation of the Government’s proposal would give substantial relief to our municipal corporations and other local governing bodies. The amount of revenue involved would be, not £100,000, which seemed to offer some ground for fear to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), but only £50,000. The arguments advanced in support of my original amendment may be advanced with equal force in favour of the amended amendment, and I therefore appeal to the committee to give it wholehearted support.
– I support the amendment for reasons which have already been advanced by other honorable members, and which I do not wish to repeat. I know something of the difficulties with which local governing bodies have to contend. In my own electorate, extensive works are being carried out for relief purposes, and as the consideration which it is now sought to show to local governing bodies will not embarrass the Treasury to any appreciable extent, but will encourage the putting in hand of additional undertakings, I hope that it will be agreed to.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Forde’s), as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment, as amended, negatived. (or) By inserting after item 113 the following items: - 113a.-
Goods applied by a registered person to his own use as aids to manufacture (as defined by regulations made under the Sales Tax Assessment Acts) - Nos. 4, 6 and 8”.
.- I move-
That the words “ (not being goods specified in paragraph (A) of the definition of aids to manufacture)”, paragraph 2 proposed new item 113a, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “(including goods specified in paragraph (g) of the definition of aids to manufacture but not otherwise including goods specified in paragraph (A) of that definition)”.
The sub-item as expressed in the bill does not apply to goods specified in paragraph h of the definition of “ aids to manufacture namely, goods which are within the category of machinery, implements, tools, &c. It is intended that the subitem shall apply to goods specified in paragraph g of the definition, namely, abrasive cloths, cotton waste, marking chalks, &c, but as those goods may possibly be regarded as goods specified in paragraph h, they might consequently be construed as excluded from the scope of the sub-item. The amendment is designed merely to give effect to the original intention by providing clearly that the subitem shall apply to goods specified in paragraph g.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) agreed to.
That the words, “ (not being goods specified in paragraph (ft) of the definition of aids to manufacture) proposed new item 113b be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ (including goods specified in paragraph (g) of the definition of aids to manufacture but not otherwise in- cluding goods specified in paragraph (h) of that definition.”).
– I move-
That the words “as aids to manufacture (as defined by regulations made under the Sales Tax Assessment Acts)”, proposed new Item 113c, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ as -
aids to manufacture; or
in the processing or treatment of goods to be used by him as aids to manufacture or in the cleansing or sterilizing of bottles, vats or other containers for use in the storage of goods to be used by him as aids to manufacture.
For the purposes of this item, ‘aids to manufacture ‘ means aids to manufacture as defined by Regulations made under the Sales Tax Assessment Acts”.
Item 113c exempts goods acquired free of tax and applied by registered persons to their own use as aids to manufactures. The exemption merely implements the regulations just promulgated, which authorize quotation of certificates for aids to manufacture. In the ordinary course of events, the quotation of a certificate to acquire aids to manufacture would necessarily bring a registered manufacturer under the terms of the act and would make him taxable. The amendment remedies an omission by extending the exemption to goods which are used in the processing of aids to manufacture. This is a technical amendment to implement the Government’s intention to free all aids to manufacture from sales tax.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following item be added: - 131 - Perambulators - Nos. 1 to 9.
When the sales tax was under consideration last year I raised the question of the desirability of excluding perambulators from the incidence of the tax. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) then said he would give consideration to my request, but nothing has since been heard of it. I regret to find that they are not included in the new list of exemptions. In Australia, there are thirteen factories engaged in the manufacture of perambulators, employing 140 hands and distributing in wages £18,929 annually. These factories supply the whole of the Australian requirements. Perambulators are very necessary articles, which are purchased mainly by working-class people. The amount of capital invested in land, buildings, plant and machinery in their manufacture is estimated at £47,193. In its report on this industry, the Tariff Board stated that it had, in common with other industries in Australia, been adversely affected by the restricted spending power of the people. The official statistics show that the declined value of the output of Australian manufacturers of perambulators was as follows : -
It will thus be seen that there was a steady decline of value due, in my opinion, to the reduced purchasing power of the working-class people, who are the main purchasers of perambulators. I feel sure that the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) would support my request for the removal of the tax on perambulators, because the right honorable gentleman has been advocating all over the Commonwealth the need for an increased population. The whole of the material used in the construction of perambulators is of Australian origin, so that a considerable amount of indirect employment is provided by this small industry. The loss of revenue involved in the exemption of perambulators would be very small; and although the Treasurer has already said that there is no possibility of further concessions being given, I appeal to him to give favorable consideration to this request, because of the small amount involved. If it is not possible for the Government to accept amendments, of what use is it for the committee to continue discussing this bill.
– What amount of revenue would be involved.
– Not more than £400. Surely that small sum would not affect budget equilibrium. The manufacturers of perambulators are unable to pass on the tax because most of the purchases are made on the time-payment system. Owing to the decreased purchasing power of the people, the value of output of the factories has been reduced from £100,000 to £74,000. Notwithstanding that reduction, heavy overhead charges have to be met. I trust that the Treasurer will comply with the reasonable request I have made.
– About a year ago the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) made similar representations concerning the tax imposed on perambulators and similar vehicles. Briefly speaking, perambulators, basinettes, high and low chairs-, push carts, go-carts and wicker carts are included in the same category. The factories producing these goods also manufacture invalids’ chairs. The total production in Australia is valued at £80,000. I understand that perambulators valued at £50,000 are manufactured in the electorate of the honorable member for Cook.
– What would the remission of the tax on perambulators amount to?
– It might amount to £2,000 or £3,000 a year. The cheapest type of push carts are those with a single handle similar to that of a lawnmower. These are sold at about 30s. each, but other varieties cost much more. If the cheaper vehicles were exempt, the more expensive ones would also be exempt. Usually a good perambulator serves all the children of a family, and, consequently, the outlay is not heavy. I do not think that the honorable member for Cook will contend that the purchase of a perambulator imposes a very heavy burden on the average breadwinner. Consideration has been extended to men on the basic wage by removing the tax on footwear, tea, and other articles used extensively by every family. The small amount that would be saved by remitting the tax on perambulators would not be of great benefit.
.- I move -
That the following item be added: -
No. 131. Photographs. - Nos. 1 to 9.
Two years ago I brought under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) the claims of photographers for exemption from sales tax. On that occasion I directed hi* attention to the anomalous position which exists owing to the tax being imposed on ordinary photographs, whilst those produced by newspaper proprietors for publication are exempt. If photographers are compelled to pay the tax why should newspaper proprietors be exempt? The newspapers’ organizations have established their own studios, and, in addition to using the prints produced, enter into serious competition with photographers who have to depend on their product for a livelihood. In Canada and New Zealand, the exemption applies to all photographs, and as our sales tax legislation is based upon the Canadian Act, a similar exemption should apply here. Some may say that photographs are luxuries, and should be taxable, but the products of florists are exempt, and photographs should be treated similarly. The Treasurer cannot justify the discriminatory action of the Government in this respect. Two years ago, the Minister said that he would give the matter his earnest attention, and I trust that he will now accept the amendment I have moved.
.- There is no need to traverse the arguments adduced from time to time in support of the exemption of photographs from sales tax. All photographs are not luxuries, because passport pictures and wedding, family and sporting groups are records, and therefore essential, while personal photographs are in many instances a business necessity. It is correct that in Canada and New Zealand photographic material is exempt from sales tax. In view of the anomaly which exists, I trust that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will agree to include photographs in the next list of exemptions.
– As the honorable members for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and Watson (Mr. Jennings) have remarked, this matter has been discussed in this House over the last two years at least. I point out that when exemptions from sales tax are being considered by the Government in conjunction with the framing of the budget, every item for which exemption is claimed has to compete with many others. The Government considers the claims in respect of all of the items, and places the items most deserving of attention in order of merit. Then the amount to be remitted by way of relief from sales tax is decided upon, and provision is made to exempt items as they appear in the order of merit which I have indicated. Photographs have not yet managed by that process to come within the list of exemptions. I maintain, however, that photographers are not treated harshly under this tax, because they are charged sales tax on only 40 per cent, of the sale value of their goods, the tax being equivalent to 4d. for every £1 worth of photographs sold.
– The Treasurer advanced that argument two years ago. How is it that photographs produced by newspaper companies have been exempted ?
– Photographs sold by newspaper companies in competition with ordinary photographs are taxable. There are three principal classes of persons taxable under this heading: first, the professional portrait photographer, who takes photographs to special order; secondly, persons, usually chemists, who develop and print photographs taken by amateurs ; and, thirdly, commercial photographers. All three are obliged to pay sales tax. To exempt this item would mean a loss of between £12,000 and £18,000 annually to revenue. All I can say at the moment is that the Government has been more impressed with the claims for exemption of other items in preference to those for the exemption of photographs.
.- Are “graders “ covered bv this clause grading machines used for sizing apples and pears or for the grading of dried fruits?
– Graders for the grading of apples have been exempt for some time.
– I understood that such graders were still subject to sales tax?
– They have been exempt for some time. Graders mentioned in this instance are those used for the grading of dried fruits.
– That is the point I wished to have clarified.
I move -
That the following item be added: - 131. - Machinery, implements and apparatus for use in the repair or maintenance of goods covered by item 14 in this schedule - Nos. 1 to 9.
Item 14, which deals with mining machinery and equipment, reads -
Machinery, implements and apparatus (and parts therefor), for use in the mining industry in carrying out mining operations ana in the treatment of the products of those operations -Nos. 1 to 9.
At present division 2 of the schedule to the Sales Tax Exemptions Act 1935, exempts a number of items of mining machinery and equipment; but it will be observed that the exemptions are so worded as to ‘exclude all equipment and supplies for mining companies’ workshops. It is essential that mining operations under modern conditions must be constantly maintained, not only in order to avoid excessive costs of production, but also to provide constant employment for al) those who depend upon the mine. It is necessary, therefore, that the mines should have directly under their control - and devoted entirely to their own purposes workshops in which machinery or equipment can be repaired at the shortest possible notice, and, if possible, without a stoppage of operations. Moreover, mining operations are very, often carried on in places remote from industrial and engineering centres. For these reasons it is essential for mining companies to equip their own workshops on the mines.
All the machinery used in such workshops is as much used in the mining industry as is the equipment used underground. A distinction cannot naturally be drawn between actual mining and treatment operations and the maintenance of machinery and equipment used in such operations; such a distinction bears heavily upon the mines not only by reason of the taxation involved, but also in respect of the cost of accountancy work which is necessary for the proper observance of the Sales Tax Acts. The line of distinction between mining and workshop operations is not always easy to demonstrate with satisfaction to the Commissioner of Taxation, and, in the past, mining companies have been put to much expense in maintaining what they consider are their rights under this legislation. In addition to the amount of tax involved, the cost of keeping records and furnishing accurate returns to the department, as well as the cost to the department of checking and investigating these returns, have to be considered. I believe that the distinction between mining and treatment operations and the operations of workshops on the mines serves no useful purpose, and, as it is obviously the intention of the Government to relieve the mining industry from as much taxation as possible, I hope that all equipment used in workshops situated on mining properties and used solely for the purpose of ‘ maintaining and repairing the equipment used in actual mining and treatment operations, will be exempted from sales tax, a3 I now propose.
It is unnecessary to elaborate upon the importance of mining activity of all kinds from the point of view of creating employment. A number of the mines operated to-day are being worked under great difficulty; from time to time many have been closed down because it has not paid to operate them. The articles covered in item 34 are used not only in gold-mining, but also in mining for copper, silver, lead, and coal. Any action which the Treasurer can take to relieve the burden of taxation on these enterprises, which are important agencies of employment, should be taken. Perhaps “he may be able to refer to certain mines which to-day are making a profit; but I suggest that, in the majority of cases, such prosperity is only of a temporary nature. A mine is a wasting asset. We know that a very sad story can be told in respect of the coalmining industry in New South Wales and Queensland; in fact, owing to the loss of export trade, quite a number of mines> in New South Wales have been closed down. It has been possible to reopen some of these, but every assistance which governments can possibly give will be necessary to enable them to continue operating. Any relief that can be given to these great enterprises tends to create further employment. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has received telegrams urging him to press for this concession, and representations have also been made to me from Queensland in the same vein. This is a reasonable request, and I urge the. Treasurer to give it favorable consideration.
– The proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is in line with representations which I made in this chamber last week. Since then I have received communications from various mining organizations, including the Chamber of Mines in Kalgoorlie, asking me to press for this concession. There is a general feeling among mining men that the Government should give way on this point.
.- The case put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) is well known to me. The facts are that practically all the essential items, such as machinery, implements, apparatus and parts thereof used in the carrying out of mining operations, and in the treating of the product of mining operations, are entirely free of sales tax. This leaves a very narrow range of machinery subject to the tax, including such machines as are used in tool shops, &c. The argument of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition might be sound if it were admitted that the mining industry had a valid claim to complete exemption from sales tax in respect of all its operations wheresoever conducted, but that is not so. In my opinion, the Government has done a fair thing by the mining industry. If workshop tools, drill sharpening tools, &c, were exempt, it would be a conditional exemption of a pronounced type, and one extremely difficult to administer. Also, it would attract similar claims in respect of every machine shop in secondary industries throughout the country. Actually, workshop machinery used strictly in connexion with mining pays tax of from only £5,000 to £10,000 a year. I am not impressed by tho argument that accountancy difficulties arise in keeping track of tax payments in connexion with mining machinery, because tax is payable only when new machinery is purchased, and that is not done every day. I promise honorable members that this matter will be looked into by the Government when future adjustments are being made, but I ask that the request be not pressed at this time.
Question - That the item proposed to be added (Mr. Forde’s amendment) he so added. - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment negatived. Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “1a. This act shall be deemed to have commenced on the twenty-sixth day of September, one thousand nine hundred and thirty -six.”
Title agreed to.
Bill reported withamendmen ts ; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Labour Conditions on Waterfront.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– For a considerable period there has been a good deal of unrest among the men employed on the waterfront in the various States, and in Melbourne, particularly, the trouble has again become acute. An understanding was reached some years ago that no new labour would be introduced for the work required by ship-owners on the waterfront until the men who had been doing the work in the past had been absorbed and granted firstpreference licences, but this arrangement has not beenfaithfully observed.In fact, for years past the ship-owners have been recruiting fresh labour. One pickingup place was agreed to, and there appeared to be a prospect of the conflicting parties working in harmony. If the committee appointed by the Government had kept its promise, and had not introduced fresh labour when many members of the two original groups of men were out of work, the harmonious relations which had been developing would not have been disturbed; but neither the members of the Waterside Workers Federation nor the original volunteers are given the whole of the first preference, as members of the new group are often engaged. ‘Recently there was a rush of shipping work, and, as there was insufficient labour available at the moment owing to the fact that the men had not congregated in one place, outside labour was engaged, and these men now constitute a third group. The Melbourne branch of the Waterside Workers Federation then agreed to the request of the committee which allocates the work to open its doors to a number of younger men, the complaint having been made that the members were getting old, and that there was a scarcity of labour to do certain work, such as that required in cold chambers, &c., work which should and could be done by younger men. I believe that if the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) investigated the matter he would be able to overcome the friction that has arisen. The Melbourne branch of the federation was promised that, if it opened its doors to a number of younger men, its members would be granted firstpreference licences, but the licences are to be given for only six months at a time. The members of the union feel that they have been unjustly treated, in that, after paying their union fees, they are now to receive only temporary licences. I cannot understand this change of attitude on the part of the picking-up authorities.
– For what period is a temporary licence given?
– For seven months, at the most. If a member of the union misbehaves himself in the slightest degree, his licence is taken from him.
– The discipline is very severe.
– Yes, and therefore there is no reason why firstpreference licences could not be granted permanently. I should like the AttorneyGeneral to inquire into the matter, and ascertain the reason for the change of policy. For three or four months in the year, on the average, several hundred trained men find themselves out of employment. I trust that the Minister will endeavour to arrange that the members of the union shall receive first preference for the future, and that their licences shall not be merely temporary.
.- I also direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) to the position of the seamen at Port Adelaide. Honorable members will recall that I mentioned this matter in the House on Thursday last, intimating that there was considerable dissatisfaction among the seamen at that port, because of the unwillingness of the licensing committee to facilitate the transfer of men holding second preference licences to the rank3 of holders of first preferences.
– I was in Adelaide last week, and so was out of touch with the proceedings at Canberra.
– I hope, now that the honorable gentleman has returned, he will give his earnest attention to the matter, and see that the licensing system is so administered as to ensure justice to the seamen concerned.
– I shall give the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Port Melbourne (Mr. Holloway) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) my attention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Appointments to Parliamentary Staffs.
House of Representatives -
W. C. S. Tompsitt - Junior Attendant.
F. W. Johnson - Junior Attendant.
Parliamentary Reporting Staff -
A. K. Healy - Reporter.
A. J. Weatherston - Junior Reporter.
W. J. Bridgman - Junior Reporter.
N. J. Parkes - Clerk and Typist.
K. R. Ingram - Cadet.
N. S. Lyng - Cataloguer.
L. F. Fitzhardinge - Research Clerk.
C. A. Burmester - Research Clerk.
M. C. Allen - Cataloguer.
P. R. Dixon - Cataloguer.
C. L. Drake - Reading Room Officer.
M. R. Eccles- Typist.
L. H. Cole - Assistant.
Joint House Department -
G. Hartas - Painter.
L.E. Hammond - Gardener.
W.Rigby - Boilorman.
J. L. Harney - Cleaner.
P.W. Clemens - Junior Clerk.
– The number is 2,560.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
-No reason can be seen why information of this personal character should be supplied to the honorable member.
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the interruption of the discussions between the representatives of the Australian trades unions and the Attorney-General upon the question of the40-hour working week, in consequence of the Minister’s mission to England, will he inform the House if he has any intention of re-opening the discussions?
– The policy of the Government on this matter has already been stated by the Prime Minister.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to give the House an early opportunity to consider the ratification of the Convention adopted by the 1936 Conference of the International Labour Office recommending the application of the 40-hour week to public works financed or subsidized by central governments, which convention was supported by the vote of the Commonwealth representative ?
– The House will have an opportunity to discuss the matter referred to by the honorable member when the reports of the delegates to the Twentieth Session of the International Labour Conference are presented to Parliament. So far, only the report of the Government delegate has been received. On receipt of the reports of the employers’ delegate and the workers’ delegate, the three reports, as in the past, will be printed in one paper and laid on the table of the House, together with the official text of the draft Convention in question.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Government delegate was authorized to vote in favour of the 40-hour Conventions, provided he set out the following views of the Commonwealth Government : -
The Commonwealth Parliament can legislate as to the working hours in the Commonwealth Public Service, and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court (‘but not the Commonwealth Parliament) can deal with the question of working hours when it is raised in an industrial dispute. The State Parliaments, however, can legislate upon this matter.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
London funds at present are sufficient for normal requirements, but are not sufficiently high to provide an adequate reserve against adverse circumstances. We should aim at a favorable balance of oversea payments for a number of years with a view to building up our London funds and maintaining them at a higher level. I am in general agreement with these views..
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he supply particulars of the amounts in hundredweights of portland cement imported into Australia during each month of the finan- cial years 1934-35 and 1935-36 from each of the following countries: - United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Japan, United States of America, Italy and Canada?
Mr.White - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
). - On the 25th September, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answer to his inquiries: -
e). - On the 25th September, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Is it a fact that the Royal Australian Navy in May, 1935, was composed of the following: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
The following were built in Australia: -
e. - On the 25 th September the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to supply the following information : -
The amounts included in these sums by way of drought or disabilities relief were: -
It was left to the States to decide the method of distribution.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19360929_reps_14_151/>.