14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Commerce noticed a statement in the Canberra Times this morning to the effect that an ultimatum was presented to him by members of the Country party yesterday regarding the case of Mrs. Freer? Has the right honorable gentleman any statement to make as to whether that report is correct?
– I saw the statement referred to, and I may say that there is no truth whatever in it.
– In reply to a question asked from this side of the chamber, and according to a report in the press, the Prime Minister stated that Cabinet would consider to-day the question of the admission of Mrs. Freer to Australia. Has the Government yet come to a decision in the matter, and, if so, will the right honorable gentleman inform . the House as to its nature?
– Cabinet considered a communication from Mrs. Freer’s legal representative, seeking permission for her to enter Australia or a tribunal to deal with her case. The Immigration Restriction Act provides for no such tribunal. The Government is not prepared to set up such a body, and its decision in regard to the case stands.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior if he has seen the report that Mrs. Freer has left New Zealand on the Awatea and will arrive in Sydney on Friday? Does he intend “to apply the dictation test to Mrs. Freer on her arrival ?
Question not answered.
– Can the Minister give his reasons for refusing to answer my question as to whether he will apply the dictation test to Mrs. Freer when she arrives in Sydney from New Zealand on Friday?
– If the honorable gentleman alludes to a question which he asked a few moments ago, my reply is that it is covered by the statement made bythe Prime Minister this morning.
– In view of the similarity between the names of the electorates of Barker, Barton and Martin, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether some change could not be made in those names, and, as a compliment to the honorable member for Martin, if the name of the electorate of Martin cannot be changed to “ Magdalene”?
Question not answered.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior if a certain “Walter Townsend Hunt, resident of Neutral Bay, Sydney, gave him information regarding Mrs. Freer in the form of a seven-page letter? Is he aware that this person has a criminal record, that he was convicted for perjury and served twelve months imprisonment for that offence, and was also convicted for false pretences, for which offence he served nine months imprisonment?
– In asking a question an honorable member should not ask “Is the Minister aware of the fact?”. If honorable members would read the rules governing the asking of questions, it would not be necessary for the Speaker so frequently to call them to order in this respect.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that-
– Order. I have just, informed the honorable member that he should not ask bis question in that form.
– Has the Minister been informed that the person from whom he received certain information, has served sentences of three months in India, twelve months in Sydney for perjury, and nine months for false pretences? Is this the same person to whom the Minister gave a promise that he would do everything possible to assist him to obtaina position? Is he the same person to whom the Minister wrote expressing thanks for a seven-page letter which he had written concerning Mrs. Vera Freer ?
-Ireceived a long letter from the person mentioned, but my action was taken on trustworthy information quite other than that obtained from this source, I have read the press statements referred to by the honorable member concerning the record of this man. As to the part of the question which suggests that I gave the man a promise–
– I said that you offered to assist him.
– I simply did what every other honorable member of this chamber, Including the honorable member for Martin, would have done, and no doubt has done, on many occasions, when approached by a person looking for a job. I said that if there was anything I could do to assist him I would do it.
– In view of the statement by the Minister that he had banned Mrs. Freer’s entry to Australia on information received prior to the interview with the person at Neutral Bay, and that, his information was quite sufficient to justify such a ban, will the honorable gentleman inform the House of . the cost incurred in sending a departmental officer by car to Neutral Bay to interview a certain person there? What was the Minister’s idea in seeking additional information if . he had. satisfied himself that the information originally given him was quite sufficient to justify the banning of Mrs Freer?
– I have nothing to add to what I have already said on this subject.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether the difficulties that have arisen in consequence of the various decisions that he has given on the Freer case-
– Order ! The Minister has clearly stated that he has nothing to add to what he has already said on this case. I therefore ask honorable members not to continue asking questions about it.
– The question that I wish to ask does not touch any point that has already been raised.
– Order ! The Minister has stated that he has nothing to add to what he has already said on the subject.
– I claim the right to ask a further question on this subject.
– The honorable member for Barton will resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know on what ground-
– That is no point of order.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, in the future, before he takes action to investigate information supplied to him regarding persons who may be refused permission to land in this country, he will first ascertain from the Police Departments of the various States whether his informers have criminal records ?
Question not answered.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked the following question, without notice: -
With reference to the fatal shooting of a public officer in Thornbury, Melbourne, recently, by a military trainee, can the Minister for Defence inform the House as to the rules and regulations governing the rights and authority of individual trainees to carry weapons when not on duty and also to use ammunition? If he is not in a position to give such information forthwith, willhe kindly obtain a report on the matter for the information of honorable members?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that arms, such . as rifles, which are the personal weapons of individual soldiers, are made a personal issue. They remain in the possession of the soldiers, who are responsible for their care and safe custody. A soldier who puts such a weapon to improper use is dealt with by his commanding officer, and, should the improper use be a breach of the law, he is amenable to the norma! processes of law. Under no circumstances are soldiers permitted to have ball ammunition in their possession after dismissal from parade, and, by order of the Military Board, the men are periodically reminded of this prohibition. The case to which reference has been made is being inquired into, but, as the inquest has not been held, and the matter is still sub judice, it would be undesirable to complete the departmental inquiries at this stage.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava - Minister for
Trade and Customs) [11.4]. - I lay on the table -
Tariff Board - Report and recommendation - Portland Cement from the United Kingdom - Operation of sections 4 and 7 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921-1933.
The references to the board were as to the necessity for the operation of sections 4 and 7 of the act mentioned in respect of shipments of cement ex motor vessel Rabaul at Sydney, and ax motor vessel Brattdal at Fremantle in August last, and also as to the necessity for the general operation of sections 4 and 7 of the act in respect of Portland cement originated in, or exported from, the United Kingdom. The board’s recommendations are as under: -
In a footnote the board states that if has examined the proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, 1921-1933, now being considered ‘by Parliament, and desires to point out that its recommendations would not be varied by the enactment of legislation along the lines proposed. It is anticipated that copies of the report will be available for honorable members by to-morrow morning. I move -
That the report be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall lay on the table of the Library to-day a copy of a memorandum with regard to trust funds. Copies will be available to honorable members who may desire to have them.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Health Department - Summary of Activities.
Ordered to be printed.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Industrial Board Ordinances - Regulations amended.
– Has the Minister for Health received a letter from Professor A. M.Cudmore, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Adelaide; Dr. T. G. Campbell, Superintendent of the Dental Hospital, Adelaide; and Sir William Mitchell, ViceChancellor of the University of Adelaide, requesting that Adelaide be included among the centres for dental research? Has (he Minister given attention to this request?
– The honorable member has shown me a copy of such a letter, and it is no doubt among those awaiting my attention. I shall give the request careful and sympathetic consideration.
– In view of certain disquieting rumours, will the Minister for Trade and Customs indicate whether investigations are being made by his department, into the commercial affairs of Claude de Bernales? If so, what is the nature of the investigations, and will the Minister make a statement on the matter in fairness to the public and to Mr. Bernales himself?
– I have heard no “ disquieting rumours “, but the name referred to was mentioned in connexion with a customs case relating to goods that were recently landed in Western Australia without duty. If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper, inquiries will ‘be made regarding the matter.
– Is it a fact, that the Eastern and Australian Steamship Company is facing severe competition from subsidized Japanese lines in the trade between Australia and Japan? If so, does the Government contemplate taking any steps to protect this British line?
– Information available to the Government, indicates that the shipping company referred to is experiencing competition of a character which is likely to render profitable operations difficult, even under conditions of normal trade between Australia and Japan. The Government is closely in touch with the Eastern and Australian Steamship Company, and is aware of its difficulties. It will assist the company by all reasonable means to maintain its position in the trade.
– In connexion with the subsidy on fertilizers used during the year ended 30th June, 1936, it is the intention of the Government to pay the subsidy in respect of fertilizers used on wheat crops cut for hay or fed off to stock as was done in respect of the previous year’s subsidy?
– Yes! The subsidy is payable in respect of the production of all primary produce other than wheat as grain.
– Is it a fact that the Public Service Arbitrator is awaiting a decision of the Cabinet on the matter of furlough leave for temporary employees in the Defence Department, before giving his determination in the matter ? If so, has the Cabinet yet come to its decision, and if not, when is its decision expected?
– That question has been replied to in answer to a question on notice.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed in to-day’s Canberra Times, a copy of a reference given by Colonel H. E. Jones, Chief of Police, at Canberra, to Mr. Kevin Lynch, in which he states that in connexion with investigations made by Mr. Lynch in 1934 into, and regarding the obtaining of’ evidence of offences against the gaming, liquor and traffic laws of the Federal Capital Territory -
Mr. Lynch carried out his duties in a most efficient manner, and his work resulted in about 50 successful prosecutions. . . The evidence in the majority of eases was uncorroborated and was accepted by the court.
Has the Minister read in the same newspaper, the following remarks attributed to Mr. Judge Markell, acting as Royal Commissioner into allegations against the police in connexion with the suppression of illicit betting in New South Wales -
Lynch is a man whose evidence, I would not accept under any circumstances.
Will the Attorney-General, in view of this statement, cause a new inquiry into these cases, or if possible, take necessary steps for a refund when possible of the fines inflicted ?
– I have seen the statement referred to by the honorable member. I point out that the reference given by Colonel Jones was for the purpose of investigations to which the honorable member has referred. In fact, Mr. Kevin Lyncli was appointed by Colonel Jones, after recommendation by the then Commissioner of Police in Nev.’ South Wales. I say that in fairness to Colonel Jones, because it was also stated in the Canberra Times this morning that the employment of police agents by the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra was subsequent to the order being given by the Acting Police Commissioner in New South Wales, that Lynch was not to be employed again in connexion with police work. At the time of his employment in Canberra he was recommended by the then head of the Police Department in New South Wales, and no information was given to Colonel Jones about any such order as that to which reference has been made. As to whether there should be any investigation of convictions obtained on evidence given by Lynch, I shall look into that matter and advise the honorable member later.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister for the Interior if he would fall into line with other public bodies, and allow annual leave, with pay, to all employees of his department having at least one year’s service.
– I shall be able to give the honorable member a reply tomorrow, or on the following day.
Summer Naval Base
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to the report which appeared in the Melbourne Herald yesterday to the effect that the British naval authorities regard Port Darwin as a more suitable summer naval base for the China Squadron than the present naval base at Wei-hai-wei, and that it is proposed to discuss this matter at the forthcoming Imperial Conference? Has the Minister any knowledge of the proposal, and is it intended that the matter shall be discussed at the Imperial Conference?
– My attention has been drawn to that statement, but I have no knowledge of its origin or authority. No communication has reached me on the subject and I am, therefore, unable at this stage to inform the honorable member whether that subject will be submitted at the Imperial Defence Conference.
– In respect of the AngloArgentine meat agreement, I ask the Minister for Commerce how much preference per lb. will the British tariff rate on Argentine beef give to dominion producers ?
– I hope to make a full statement to the House on this matter to-morrow.
– I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if his attention has been drawn to a statement attributed to the general manager of the Australian Broad- casting Commission that there is no possibility of the Government conceding any reduction of the broadcasting licence fee? Has the Government authorized that officer to make a public announcement on government policy?
– My attention has not been drawn to the statement and, as a matter of fact, I have not seen it, but I shall be glad to make inquiries and obtain information on the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General when the relay station at Cumnock will be opened and, also, when is it proposed to establish a relay station at Broken Hill?
– I shall obtain information without delay on the matters raised by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if he is aware that a certain gentleman named Denison, of Denison’s Estates, who is also interested in Newspaper News, has controlling interests in many broadcasting stations throughout Australia? As the granting of these licences to any individual or company is covered by Statutory Rule 120, which deals with the limitation of the control of broadcasting stations, will the honorable gentleman investigate this matter and see whether a breach of that Statutory Rule has not been committed in this instance?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.There is a. regulation governing the number of stations which can he controlled by one individual or corporation. If the honorable gentleman, will put his question on the notice-paper, I shall look into the matter.
Fifth report brought up by Mr. Jennings, read by the Clerk, and - by leave - agreed to.
– On the 27th November the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked the following question, without notice : -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he is aware of the existence of a company thathas been formed for the exploitation of the Northern Territory, known as the North Australia Enterprise Limited. Is not this company connected with the Australian Investment Company Limited, better known as Vesteys. Are not the offices of both companies located in the same building in Sydney. Is the honorable Eric John Harrison, M.H.R., whose name appears in the list of directors of this company, identical with the honorable member for Wentworth, a former Minister of the Interior?
I am now able to supply the following answer : -
The company in question submitted its prospectus to my department for approval. It has been established for the purpose of developing certain products in the Northern Territory. According to the prospectus the Honorable E. J. Harrison is on the directorate of the company. I am informed that the company has no connexion whatever with the Australian Investment Agency or Vesteys, although it happens that the company has its office in the same building as the Australian Investment Agency. The Australian Investment Agency (or Vesteys) holds a lease of Melville Island. According to the prospectus of the North Austialia Enterprise Limited, the company proposes to purchase a lease of Melville Island from the Australian Investment Agency. That would be a perfectly legitimate business transaction. Apparently Mr. Hutchins, one of the directors, has an option to purchase the lease and the company proposes to acquire that option.
– I ask the
Minister for Commerce whether the rather heavy reductions of duties on wines and brandy foreshadowed in the Franco-Australian agreement, can be taken to indicate that compensating reductions of the excise duties on these products will be made by Australia?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member will be given consideration.
– Regarding the possibility of returned soldiers resident in the Northern Territory accompanying the military contingent to Great Britain for the Coronation celebrations, I point out to the Minister for Defence that many of these men had to pay their own fares to Queensland to enable them to enlist, and may now be classified on their enlistment papers as Queenslanders. Will the Minister see that these returned soldiers are not overlooked when- the selection of the contingent to journey overseas is being made?
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement made by Sir Herbert Gepp, as published in the press of the 25th November, in which he suggests the appointment of an economic research and advisory council? In view of the fact that Sir Herbert Gepp is adviser to the Government on certain matters, will -the Prime Minister give consideration to his suggestion in this regard?
– When the honorable member raised this matter some days ago I promised that it would receive consideration, and, as a preliminary, it has been referred to the Treasury for report. I point out that Sir Herbert Gepp is not adviser to the Government on the matter mentioned by the honorable member.
– Not on geophysical surveys?
– He is still adviser to the Government in that respect.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether any decision has yet been arrived at with regard to the suggestion that the Leader of the Opposition should be invited to become a permanent member of the Council for Defence ?
– No decision has yet been arrived at on that matter.
Exploitation of Aboriginal Women
– In view of the published statement attributed to the Minister for the Interior acknowledging wholesale trafficking in aboriginal women by Japanese in Northern Australia, will the Minister give an assurance that the most effective means will be taken to prevent a continuance of this deplorable traffic ?
– In view of the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to ask for £3,000,000 less from the proposed new loan, I ask the Prime Minister what public works will be restricted by the Commonwealth as the result of this action?
– I ask the honorable member to put his question on the noticepaper because I am not aware of any proposed restriction on our public works. I shall obtain full information on the matter.
– Can the Prime Minister confirm the report in the Daily Telegraph, Sydney, of the 30th November, that the appointment of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) as Administrator of the ‘Northern Territory is to be confirmed this week?
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Nationality Bill 1936.
Federal Aid Roads Bill 1936.
Trade Commissioners Bill 1936.
Northern Territory Representation Bill 1936.
Income Tax Bill 1936.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section one hundred and fiftyone a of the Customs Act 1901-1935 and to insert in that act a new section one hundred and fifty-one b.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 2574), on motion by Mr. White -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) 1934 as proposed to be amended by the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the twenty-eighth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-five, and on the first day of April, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six, be further amended as hereunder set out.
Item ex 291 agreed to.
Item ex 359 -
By omitting - “ (4) Chassis, but not including rubber tyres and tubes, storage batteries, shock absorbers excepting steering dampers, bumper bars, sparking plugs, springs, spring hangers, shackle bolts pins and assemblies,U bolts, king pins, tie rod pins, tie rod ball pins, tie rod ball studs and high tension ignition coils -
unassembled, ad valorem, 15 per cent.
assembled, ad valorem, 35 per cent.”
And inserting in its stead the following: - “ (4) Chassis, including lamps but not including rubber tyres and tubes, storage batteries, shock absorbers (excepting steering dampers), bumper bars, sparking plugs and springs -
unassembled, viz., car, and car type capable of use for commercial vehicles, per lb., 2½d.
unassembled, viz., truck omnibus or other commercial vehicle, per lb., 2¼d.
assembled, per lb., 4d.
And in respect of sub-paragraphs(a), (b) and (c) an additional duty of, per lb., . 7d.
Provided that for the purposes of paragraphs (a) and (b) the classification shall be as determined by the Minister and the Minister’s decision shall be final.”
.- It is proposed under this item to apply an additional duty of . 7d. per lb., known as the bounty duty, to all imports of unassembled motor car and truck chassis from Canada, and also to alter the basis of duty from the ad valorem basis to a specific rate of duty per lb. It is proposed that the ad valorem rate of 15 per cent, on unassembled chassis shall be altered to 2½d. per lb. on car type chassis and to 2¼d. per lb. on truck and commercial type chassis. I regret that it has not been made clear what effect this will have on the actual amount of duty payable in respect of such vehicles, and a good deal of misapprehension is abroad on the subject. I have been informed, and I believe that my information is accurate, that in consequence of this variation of both the basis of calculation and rate of duty, the amount payable on each vehicle imported from Canada will be more than doubled. I have been furnished with figures which show that in respect of a shipment of stripped car type chassis admitted on the 21st September last, the rate of duty worked out at £17 6s. 6d. per chassis. On the old ad valorem basis the rate would have been £8 3s. per chassis. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) has challenged the accuracy of statements made in this House during the last few days that the new rates of duty practically double the amount of duty payable on each chassis admitted.
– Hear, hear !
– For this reason I submit these specific figures to the honorable gentleman. My informant has furnished me with information which shows clearly that the new duty of 2½d. per lb. on car type chassis definitely increased the amount of duty payable on the shipment which he obtained on the 21st September from £8 3s. a chassis to £17 6s. 6d. a chassis.
– Is the honorable member quoting figures from a bill of lading? It is important that we should have the facts seeing that the Minister has challenged the accuracy of the statement.
– My figures were furnished by the company which states that it actually paid the duty. On unassembled truck type chassis admitted on the same date, the amount of duty paid was £25 18s.1d. These figures are exclusive of what we are describing as the bounty duty.
– That falls on chassis on those from Great Britain and the United States of America as well as on those from Canada.
– That is so, and for that reason I am excluding it from consideration for the moment. Had the duty imposed on the truck chassis been imposed on the old ad valorem basis it would have amounted to £11 19s. 5d. on each unassembled chassis. The Minister challenges those figures, but in doing so he did not produce facts in contradiction of them; he merely brushed them lightly aside.
– I did not brush them aside. I have official figures, taken from the customs invoices, which enable me to assure the honorable gentleman that he has been misinformed.
– This is not the first time that my contention has been made. It has been made several times previously, both during the general tariff debate and in the discussion on the appropriate items contained in the British and general tariff. The Minister has not placed before the committee, as it lias the right to expect, any convincing figures to challenge the statements that have been made. The point I wish to make in connexion with these new. duties is the fact that we have been informed by the Minister that they are for the purposes of trade diversion. In order to divert from ‘Canada trade in motor chassis, the Government must increase the rate of duty on the Canadian chassis.
– That is what the Government has done, hut only’ to the extent of £3 or £4 on each chassis.
– Unless there is an effective and substantial raising of the duty, trade cannot he diverted. It is anomalous for the Minister to say at one moment that a certain policy has been adopted for the purpose of trade diversion and in the next breath that the rates of duty are not being substantially increased in consequence of that policy.
Mr.WHITE. - The change cannot affect prices of motor vehicles.
– It has affected prices. It is common knowledge that prices have increased since the change of duty.
– I gained personal knowledge when I went into this matter a few weeks ago that prices have not been changed.
– I do not think that the Minister’s statement that prices have not been altered can be substantiated. Perhaps, the prices would not have been altered if the duty had only been increased to : the extent of the bounty duty.
– In taking the figure of £8 3s., the honorable member has overlooked the 10 per cent, primage on the chassis.
– That is not so.
– Order ! The Minister will have an opportunity to reply later.
– In order to make the figures clear, I invite the attention of the Minister to the following table, which presents a comparison of duty, &c, payable on a Canadian passenger chassis before and after the introduction of the weight basis of duty assessment and the imposition of a bounty duty : -
Does the Minister still say that the rate of duty has not been increased substantially?
– The figures cited by the honorable, gentleman do not compare with the departmental figures.
– But they are figures supplied to me by a company which has actually paid the duty.
– They may apply to a certain type of car, but they are not the average figures for Canadian imports. Indeed, they are a long way from being the average. I shall supply the departmental figures in a moment.
– But we all know that only two types of cars are imported from Canada. They are very similar in price and keenly competitive with each other. It is useless for the Minister to brush aside figures with respect to a type of car which comes into Australia in very large numbers, or for him to say that those cars are not typical of the imports from Canada. He cannot get away with that.
Until he is able to furnish us with figures just as definite as those which I have cited, he must be prepared to meet with a challenge that the rate of duty on unassembled chassis has been doubled. No mau in this .House has supported more solidly the principle of trade diversion than I have, but I say, in respect of the Canadian motor car, that the Government is endeavouring to divert trade in cars for which the people of Australia have indicated their preference to a type of car manufactured in the United Kingdom, the sales figures of which indicate that it is not wanted by the Australian cav users. I say, without fear of contradiction, that the cars manufactured in England do not constitute a type suitable to Australian conditions, or desired by the Australian users, and, whilst I stand behind the Government solidly on the principle of trade diversion, I am not able to support it in diverting trade in such a way as to deprive the Australian car user of the type he wants, in an endeavour to force him to use a type entirely unsuited to Australian conditions. English motor cars are subjected to a horse-power tax, which means that their power is less than that which it would normally be, and also less than the power which is necessary in a car equipped to cope with Australian conditions. I do not have to argue that; I merely have to refer to the percentage of American makes of cars imported from Canada and used by Australians, as against the percentage of cars imported from the United Kingdom and used by Australians. There is no need for me to mention the actual figures - all honorable members are familiar with them - but they speak for themselves, and indicate that the typical English car is neither desired in Australia, nor suitable to the conditions here. I cannot support the Government in diverting the trade from a sister dominion for the purpose of forcing the Australian public to buy a type of car which it does not want.
With regard to the application of the principle of trade diversion to foreign cars, however, I am wholeheartedly in support of the Government. I stand on that matter as I stood last night. I trust that the
Government’s policy will mean that in. a time not far distant we shall be able to manufacture cars in Australia, and, pending receipt of the report of the Tariff Board on the proposal, I am prepared to support the bounty duty, but I do object to the change from the ad valorem basis to the new per lb. basis in its application to Canadian cars. This change is not necessary to assist the establishment of the motor car industry in this country, and it is not desirable to divert the car trade from Canada to England,, where a less suitable motor vehicle is produced
Two further aspects of this matter which are worthy of consideration are:: first, the change of the method of imposing the duty from the ad valorem basis’ to the weight basis has had the effect of substantially increasing the rate of duty imposed on the cheaper type of car, and substantially lowering the rate of duty imposed on the luxury or expensive type of car. The weight of metal used in the manufacture of a luxury car is not substantially greater than the weight of the metal used in the manufacture of the cheaper cars.
– That is not so. The weight of luxury cars, as the honorable member terms them, is substantially greater than the weight of cheaper cars.
– I admit that the expensive cars are heavier than the cheaper cars, but I still argue that the change from the ad valorem basis to the weight basis definitely has had the effect of increasing the rate of duty on- the cheap cars and substantially lowering it on the expensive car. An examination of the figures will substantiate that. The second point I desire to make is that the ‘Government is proposing to divert trade from a sister dominion, from which, almost without exception, cars .are imported unassembled and without ‘any body or components parts of the body. Tt is proposing to divert that trade to’:th United Kingdom, which produces, a car which, in the first place, is not suitable to Australian conditions, and, ‘ in ,th’e second place, because the imports will’ not be subjected to. the weight’ duty/ will- be exported fully assembled. If the imports from the United Kingdom “we’re dutiable on the ad valorem’ basis, the importers would be forced to import cars in an unassembled state, and the work of assembly would be carried out in Australia. If the Government pursues its policy in this regard, Australia will be forced to buy cars which are neither wanted by them nor suited to the conditions of the country, and the thousands of Australian workmen, who are at present employed in the motor assembly industry, will be thrown out of employment. That, to my way of thinking, cannotbe justified by the Government on the general principle of trade diversion, and it is particularly objectionable on the ground that it endeavours to confine Australians to using a type of car which they do not desire to use. The American type of car which is imported from Canada is imported unassembled, and the work of assembly is done in Australia. Since the higher duties were imposed, with the general approval of Parliament, upon foreign cars, certain American manufacturers have adopted the practice of exporting to the United Kingdom a very substantial proportion of the components of some of their cars, adding in England just the necessary amount of labour and material to qualify for the British preference provision in Australia, and then exporting them to this country, where they are admitted duty free, except for the -duty of . 7d. per lb. imposed for the purpose of paying a bounty upon Australianmade cars.
– I assure the honorable member that very little of that kind of thing is being done. The situation is being very carefully watched by the Customs Department. These assertions are the result of one of the dirtiest bits of lobbying by one of the big Canadian motor firms that I nave ever heard of.
– The Minister should be careful that our tariff policy does not admit into Australia duty-free cars which are, to a large extent, of foreign manufacture. By admitting that the department is watching the situation he has conceded that there is something in what I have said.
– What the honorable member has said is merely one of those general statements which are inspired by unscrupulous lobbying.
– This Parliament is prepared to go to considerable lengths in order to give preference to British motor cars as a proper return for the preference which Britain gives to our produce, but we should take care that our preference provisions are not abused. I should like to know what the Government proposes to do to put a stop to this practice. I move -
That the item he amended by adding the following: - “And on and after 3rd December, 1936 -
Chassis, but not including rubber tyres and tubes, storage batteries, shock absorbers excepting steering dampers, bumper bars, sparking plugs, springs, spring hangers, shackle bolts pins and assemblies,U bolts, king pins, tic rod pins, tie rod ball pins, tie rod ball studs and high tension ignition coils - (a.) Unassembled, ad valorem, 15 percent.,
Assembled, ad valorem, 35 per cent. ; and in respect of sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) - an additional duty of per lb. . 7d.
Provided that for the purposes of paragraphs (a) and (6) the classification shall be as determined by the Minister and the Minister’s decision shall be final “.
The effect of this amendment, if agreed to, will be that we shall revert to the ad valorem basis of assessing duty on Canadian chassis, but will leave intact the duty of . 7d. per lb. for bounty purposes.
– I assure the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) that I listened to his remarks with very great respect, but I am obliged to challenge in the plainest way possible the figures he has given. I propose to give the correct official figures regarding chassis imported from Canada under the old ad valorem duties, and the figures under the new system of assessment. These figures were not compiled from a single invoice, nor do they apply to a single make of car only; they apply to the average run of cars imported into Australia. The Customs Department has made a very careful stocktaking in regard to this matter, and the position in all the States has been investigated. The new duty on Canadian chassis of 2½d. per lb. on cars and 2¼d. per lb. on trucks takes the place of the following ad valorem duties - ordinary duty on chassis, 15 per cent.; primage duty on chassis, 10 per cent.; duty on packages, 20 per cent.; primage on packages, 10 per cent. The weighted average duty on Canadian cars under the old rates was £13 10s. lOd. or 2d. per lb. In order to show how complete and thorough investigation has been, I may mention that the figure as worked out is not exactly 2d. per lb., but is actually 1.996 pence per lb. Thus the average extra duty on each car is £3 8s. 4d. which, on the gross selling price of standard Ford and Chevrolet sedan cars, represents an increase of only about 1 per cent. That is the extent of the extra preference to the United Kingdom about which the honorable member has been protesting so vigorously. I remind him that, in the year 1934-35, Australia sold to the United Kingdom produce to the value of £63,600,000, and in the same year we sold to Canada goods to the value of £1,400,000. In 1935-36, we sold to the United Kingdom produce to the value of £68,000,000, while our sales to Canada fell to £1,300,000. Bearing this trade position in mind, and bearing in mind also the electorate represented by the honorable member for Echuca - an electorate in which I was born, and which I know very well - I cannot see how he can justify the attitude he has taken up in this matter.
– Very few British cars are used in my electorate because they are not suitable.
– That may be so, but the fact remains that Canadian cars will, as the result of the new duty, be only £3 8s. 4ld. dearer, and I have no hesitation in saying that there is not om. irrigationist in the honorable member’s electorate who is not benefiting to the extent of at least £100 a year as the result of the Ottawa agreement.
– If the new duties add only £3 8s. 4d. to the cost of Canadian cars, they will not do much to divert trade.
– They are already having a desirable effect in that direction, or, at any rate, something is, because more British cars are being sold in Australia. Moreover, it is well known that British car manufacturers are now producing cars more closely resembling the popular American types than at any previous time in the history of motor car manufacture. The new British cars are much more suitable for roads of the kind existing in Australia. I remind honorable members that the figures I have given represent a true average taken over the full range of importations. I have no doubt that the honorable member presented his figures to the committee in the firm belief that they were correct,, but the discrepancy .between the two sets of figures may be explained by the fact that the Customs Department makes its calculations on the basis of what is called the stripped chassis, whereas the honorable member’s calculations may have been made on the basis of chassis with a number of accessories attached. I have checked my figures over and over again with senior officers of the department, and must regard them as correct.
– .Since the difference between the ad valorem duties, and the duties assessed on weight appears, on the Minister’s own showing, to be only Jd. per lb., why was -the change made ?
– The new method was deemed to be more satisfactory for administrative purposes. The change was also made to meet a request which has been before us for some years from the British motor car manufacturers, whose trade with this country, during the period immediately before the making of the change, was dwindling very rapidly.
– How does the change benefit the British manufacturer if, as the Minister has said, the extra duty paid on each Canadian car is so little?
– The original p.eference to the United Kingdom as against Canada was 32-J per cent. Under the treaty concluded by the Scullin Government, that preference was partially given to Canada, 15 per cent, of it being taken away from the United Kingdom. The exports from Canada to Australia have continued to increase, including exports of motor cars, whereas Australia has made very little progress in its exports to Canada. “Whether the matter be considered on a per capita or any other basis, I see no reason to increase the preference on a motor car beyond £3 8s. 4d. because a substantial preference is already given to Canada as against the United States of America.
T ‘ have taken strong objection to the lobbying that has occurred in regard to this debate, and I repeat the objection. The Government is negotiating for a treaty with Canada, and if that country had had a grievance it would have made representations to the Government by now, but no such representations have been made. I have no doubt that the matter will be discussed when the Canadian delegation reaches Australia. As Minister, I protest strongly against the class of lobbying that has been going on this week in the interests of a particular Canadian company. I consider St unfair.
.- If the representative of an important Australian corporation, which employs a great number of citizens of this country, and ‘ has invested a large amount of capital, in industry, comes to Canberra’ because a debate on a proposal affecting its interests is in progress, it is called “ dirty lobbying “ ; but the f actthat British firms have made representations to a Minister over a period of years, - is regarded as respectable diplomacy, or trade negotiations on an honorable basis. I desire to know why the term “ dirty lobbying “ should be applied to a resident of Australia, who has charge of a large industrial undertaking in thi3 country, and not to persons who are not Australian citizens, but have made overtures to the Government for years? The Minister ‘directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) remained . silent on this matter until he dramatically produced a tariff schedule which, on the face of it, threatens dangerous repercussions as far as, the present volume of employment in Australia is concerned. The honorable gentleman . states that Australia sells £66,000,000 worth of goods to the United Kingdom, but I point out that we pay about £25,000,000 a year in interest in Great Britain, and having regard to everything we have to pay to the United Kingdom, .there is no favorable financial balance this year, last year, or the year before.
– Will the honorable gentleman quote the Canadian balance?
– That would not suit his anti-British complex; he is always antiBritish.
– Pretty well.
– I ask the honorable member for Perth to withdraw that remark.
– No exception has been taken to it.
– I take no exception to the interjection of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), because I have no respect for any remark he may make.
– The feeling is mutual.
– I shall name the honorable member for Barton if he persists in disorderly interjections.
– Mr. Chairman, before you ask for the withdrawal of the statement by the honorable member for Perth, I submit that objection has not been taken to it.
– The Chair has the right to determine whether a remark should be withdrawn.
– I willingly withdraw the word to which exception has been taken.
– The object of this measure i3 to establish, as far as we can, a basis upon which reciprocal trade with the dominion of Canada can be effected. Ironically enough, the bill is called the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) No. 4, and the Minister has attempted to justify it on the ground that it will divert trade from Canada to the United Kingdom. It is true that Australia imports a large quantity of unassembled chassis from Canada, and we should continue to do so until we are able to manufacture them in our own country. That is the crux of the argument. The honorable gentleman states that British representations have been made to him with a view to having the tariff adjusted on a weight basis, but not in order to encourage the importation of unassembled British chassis. At the present time we import only the chassis, the bodies and a great many of the accessories being manufactured in Australia. It cannot be said that the final cost of each car will be only £3 8s. 4d. more than it now is, because we should base the cost of additional duty upon the chassis, which is the only part of the car which is imported from Canada.
– But the buyer in Australia is interested in the addition to the selling price.
– It must be remembered that, when a person buys a Canadian chassis, he will use a car in which the greater part of the other work is done in Austr alia, thus creating purchasing power for Australian citizens. In the case of a British car, the greater part of the chassis is assembled outside Australia, and a considerable proportion of the raw material is imported into the United Kingdom from Canada. If the purport of this schedule is not to transfer trade from Canada to the United Kingdom, the Australian buyer will be charged, unnecessarily, over £3 more than he now pays for a car having a Canadian chassis.
– The honorable gentleman is taking the exception to prove the rule. Imports from Great Britain must have the specified content of British material and workmanship.
– The Minister proposes to refer the whole matter of the trade diversion policy to the Tariff Board. Will he submit to it the question of how the bounty tax is to be applied ?
– The bounty tax applies to British cars and all others.
– The purpose of the schedule should be to establish . an Australian industry, and I am prepared to support it to that extent; but, prior to the launching of the industry, the Government will make substantial additions to the transportation charges borne throughout Australia.
– One per cent.!
– On the bounty basis a lower duty will be charged on higher priced cars, and a higher duty on lower priced vehicles.
– I have not concealed that.
– If the Minister retained the system of imposing duties in accordance with the value of the chassis, the higher duty would be collected in respect of the more valuable import, and the effect of a change over to the weight system would mean that thehigher priced import would carry less duty.
– Not necessarily. As a general rule, price goes up with weight.
– The honorable gentleman said that the ad valorem rate as applied to Canada works out at nearly 2d. per lb. He proposed to increase that figure by¼d.
– The increase is id. on cars and¼d. on trucks.
Mr.CURTIN.- If the Minister says that the previous duty was less than 2d. per lb., and the new duty represents an in crease of ii., the increase is 25 per cent.; hut the honorable gentleman has just declared that the increase is 1 per cent. He has told us that the ad valorem duty hitherto imposed works out, on the average, at 1.9d. per lb. He now says that it will be 2½d. per lbThat is an increase of 25 per cent.
– It comes to £3 8s. 4d. a car.
– But that increase is much greater than 1 per cent., as the Minister stated.
– The honorable gentleman is dealing with the chassis, whereas I am talking about what the new duty will add to the complete selling price of the car.
– I am convinced that the longer we discuss this matter the less we understand it. I propose to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Echuca.
.- I propose to support the Government on this matter. This alteration has . been proposed in furtherance of the Government’s trade diversion policy, and, although it will not make much difference in the cost of the car, it will at least help in that direction. We hope that the main diversion of trade will take place in favour of Great Britain at the expense of the United States of America. Whenever I have discussed motor car manufacture on previous occasions, I have invariably urged that we should give to the United Kingdom manufacturers a chance to secure sales in this country of a volume sufficient to induce them at some later date to follow the example of
American and Canadian firms, and commence certain manufacturing operations in Australia. I look forward to the time when we shall be able to commence the manufacture of most of the parts of a motor car. We :hall have to decide upon the appropriate lime to do this. I cannot say when that will be, but, when it arrives, I hope we shall have English firms manufacturing in Australia in competition with American firms, so that production shall not be, as it is to-day, confined to two American combines. I have held that idea for quite a long time, and it has been the basis of all of my speeches on this sub.Ject. Some honorable members have stated that British cars generally are not suitable for Australian conditions. In the course of my brief remarks last night, I endeavoured to point out that the British manufacturer, having in mind the requirements of his home market compared with those of the dominions, has been in somewhat of a dilemma as to what policy he should follow in respect of manufacturing in Australia; and it was not until recently, when the horse-power tax was reduced in Great Britain, that he was given an incentive to embark on manufacturing in this country cars of horse-power suitable to Australian conditions. As the result of recent developments, we find that at least four British companies are now attempting to do this. The Motor, a British publication, reports that, as the result of competition from American firms in Great Britain, and because of the fact that the horse-power tax has been slightly reduced, the tendency in Great Britain to-day is to produce a car of higher horse-power. I hope that this tendency will continue, and that British manufacturers will increase their sales in this country, and soon be enabled to place on the Australian market cars suitable to Australian conditions at reasonably competitive prices. Already three English cars of different make are selling in Australia at prices very much competitive with the prices of American car3 here. I have been told by one importer of British cars that, if he could increase his order by 100 chassis, he could effect a reduction of from £20 to £30 a car. That particular car to-day is selling at about £460, and a reduction to this extent would make it definitely competitive with many American, cars, and give that particular British firm a chance to place on this market a car suitable to our requirements and at a reasonable price. I hope that such a development will take place. Many English cars still require to be altered in certain directions for Australian conditions, and I hope that such alterations will be made.
The decision of the Government to alter the basis of duty from the old ad valorem basis to the present weight basis, has resulted from considerable agitation on the part of British manufacturers, who have stated that certain American firms, in order to take advantage of concessions in our tariff to Canada, were beginning works of some magnitude in Canada and shipping their parts to Aus- tralia at a great saving of duty. Whether that is actually the position or not I cannot say, but manufacturers of British cars contend that their sales have been prejudiced because of that fact. I know that 50 per cent, of a Canadian car must be of Canadian origin, but I suggest that, as it is most difficult to police that provision, there appears to be some ground for the contention of the British manufacturers.
As to the acceptability of the new basis, and the contention that it does, in fact, operate unfairly in respect of the cheaper as against the higher-priced cars, it has been asserted that, under the ad valorem basis, the duty was charged on the invoice price, whereas, under this proposal, a light car, which sells at a comparatively high price, may now be imported at a much lower comparative rate of duty than a heavy car selling at a lower price. Undoubtedly, that is one of the big arguments against this alteration, but I point out that nearly all of the lower-priced American cars are light cars, whilst the higher-priced American cars are usually heavier ears. The argument, therefore, does not apply in respect of American cars to any great degree. On the other hand, however, it does apply in respect of cars from other foreign countries. Italy, for instance, manufactures 10-horse-power or 12-horse- power cars which are definitely in the high-priced range. Those cars would have an advantage on a weight basis over other makes of heavier car. Although I admit that this point can be argued with a degree of soundness against the proposed change, I repeat, it cannot be applied to any great extent in respect of American cars.
There is a discrepancy between the figures given by the honorable member f or Echuca (Mr. McEwen) and those given by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett). When I visited the United States of America last year I studied the cost of American cars and obtained figures dealing with this matter. From those figures and my’ own knowledge of our duties, I worked out a set of costs for imported 15-cwt. Canadian cars in the cheaper class, first, on the old ad valorem basis, plus primage, and then on the :basis of the duty of 2½d. per lb. I arrived ai figures very similar to those given by the Minister, and, as our computations were made .independently, I am declined to believe that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) has made a mistake in those which he has given. It is claimed that the price of many American cars has been advanced recently by from £15 to £25, because of the alteration of the basis of duty from the old ad valorem basis to the weight basis, and also because of the additional cost of .7d. to provide the bounty. It would, indeed, be interesting to know whether this increased cost, which has been passed on to the purchaser, has been due entirely to that cause, or whether it includes a little extra profit for the seller.
I repeat that, on the main issue in this matter, namely, the diversion of portion of our trade to the United Kingdom, I support the Government. I believe that the British motor car manufacturer should be given every opportunity in this market. I say to the British manufacturer, however, “ If you fail to take full advantage of this opportunity, and, within four or five years, you are not meeting the demands of this country, we shall then be entirely justified in taking portion of this trade away from you and allowing cars manufactured in other countries to come in at a cheaper rate”. This proposal offers the British manufacturer the chance of a lifetime in the
Australian market. To-day, owing to the free admission of panels, he is able to assemble his body on a low-duty basis. It is up to him, therefore, to get down to business and to give the Australian purchaser a car of the type he requires, at a reasonable price. We have done our job at this end, and it now remains for the British manufacturer to do his job at his end and to endeavour to meet Australian requirements.
Sitting suspended from 1248 to 2.15 p.m.
– I should like the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) to try to appreciate the. fact that we have reasons for the arguments that we advance. I know that he will believe me when I say that I do not doubt in the slightest degree the figures that have been supplied by the Department of Trade and Customs. I know how careful are the officers of that department. I also want the honorable gentleman to agree that other honorable members and I have no desire to weaken in our support of the Government’s policy of endeavouring to plan for the production of a complete motor car in Australia. I stand absolutely for that policy, and I am certain that every other honorable member on this side of the chamber also does so. But we say that, in the transition period, the harm done may outweigh the advantages that accrue. If the honorable gentleman can show me that I am wrong in that belief, I shall vote for the pro. posal of the Government. At the moment, 1 feel inclined to vote for the amendment. Surely such an attitude cannot be described as anti-British!
– I have not suggested that.
– It would be news to me to learn that Canadians are not as British as we are. All that we have to do in this matter is what the people of South Africa, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom would do when considering trade relations between one member and another of the British Commonwealth of nations. In considering trade relations between the component parts of the British Empire, I look to the advantage to Australia. There is nothing antiBritish in that. I, therefore, ask myself whether or not this proposal of the Government will prove advantageous to us. It appears to me that the new method of imposing the duties will be of advantage to what are more or less luxury cars, which should carry any additional burden that has to be borne, because their owners can afford it, and that it will be of disadvantage to utility cars and trucks, which are an absolutely necessary part of the equipment of the business people and many of the wage workers of this country. My second fear is that the cars from Great Britain to which encouragement will be given will be imported as assembled cars, as against the chassis which were formerly imported from Canada. What, I ask, is likely to happen - not all at once, but gradually - to the hundreds of men in Australia who assemble cars, as well as to the bodybuilders, if the switching of trade from Canada to Great Britain encroaches on their present domain? The bodies- for the Canadian cars which we wish to import as cheaply as possible, are made ir. Australia, and will continue to be so made until something happens that we cannot avoid. This change-over will have a tendency to encourage the importation of the assembled car, and the harm thus done will more than outweigh any advantages that mav accrue.
– The honorable member knows that imports from Canada and the United States of America have been left at last year’s peak level. There will be no curtailment of those imports unless it be brought about by the altered duties.
– That will be the tendency. I have considered the quota, and realize that the Government proposes to allow last year’s volume of imports to be maintained. Wherein, then, lies the advantage of the alteration of procedure? There must be some motive for the alteration, otherwise it would not have been made. If the Government should, succeed in switching the trade from Canada to Great Britain while a plan is being worked out for the manufacture of the complete car in Australia, those r ho are engaged in assembling and in making bodies in this country will lose a portion of their employment. On the other hand, if more revenue is to be obtained, the extra duty will be borne by utility cars and trucks, the price of which should not be increased because they are ar. absolute necessity. We are not doing anything that is needful in the direction cf trading with Great Britain, because we already trade with that country when we trade with Canada.
– I do not think that the honorable gentleman can make that point. It is necessary to consider the relative markets, and their value to Australia.
– Canada is as British as Australia is; therefore, it cannot be said that preference is being given to foreigners. All that we have to do is to see whether this policy suits Australia, and if it does we should adopt it without considering the matter of preference to New Zealand, South Africa, Canada or Great Britain. Surely that is a fair proposition !
The Minister used an argument which has no connexion with this proposal, when he said that, because Great Britain takes from Australia £60,000,000 worth of commodities, Australia should do all the trade that it can with Great Britain, whether or not it pays more for its goods. On paper, that may look all right. But.. us the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), has said, Great Britain probably has to take from Australia goods to the value of something like £30,000,000 per annum on account of our interest liability, because we cannot -pay in cash - and are not expected to do so. We are not under any obligation to Great Britain in that respect, but on the contrary are “ paying through the nose “.
– There is no favour on either side.
– Probably onehalf of the balance of our exports to Great Britain is re-sold to other countries. Great Britain probably realizes a larger turnover on the wool and metals it purchases from Australia than we obtain on the first sale.
– Other countries will not buy them from us.
– I know that. But the point that I make is that Great Britain is not actuated by sentimental considerations, and that, therefore, we should not allow sentiment to influence our actions. If the Minister can assure me that this policy will not cut into local employment in the assembling of cars and the making of bodies for chassis imported from Canada, and that it will not increase the duty on cars and trucks that we cannot do without, I shall be satisfied; otherwise, I consider that I shall be perfectly justified in voting for the amendment.
Sir HENRY GULLETT (Henty- Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties) [2.26J. - As I have already said, the Government cannot accept the amendment. The duty of .7d. per lb. does not come into the comparisons. There is, however., a revenue consideration, with respect to which an adjustment would be necessary if the amendment were accepted. On the basis of collections prior to May last, the loss would amount to about £170,000 per annum, which is considerable from a budgetary viewpoint. On the basis of existing collections, the loss on the current financial year would be at the rate of some £272,000 per annum. I must insist that a very thorough investigation has shown that the increased cost to the buyer of a car will be £3 Ss. 4d. That is a weighted average, taken over all Canadian imports. I can only assume that the difteren.ee between the departmental figures and those quoted by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) is that the invoices covering a number of chassis on which ho has based his amendment vary in some way from the average stripped chassis which is the basis of the Government’s calculation. I should be very much indebted to the honorable gentleman if he would allow me to submit those invoices to the officers of the Customs Department. I believe that if he did so they would be able to disclose very quickly the error that I have no doubt occurs in them.
– I believe that I have discovered where the discrepancy is between the honorable gentleman’s figures and mine
– It all comes back to the increase of £3 8s. 4d., which on the sale price of the finished car represents an increase of 1 per cent.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has said that .in trade adjustment we should make no distinction between one part and another of the British Empire. That, to me, is an entirely new principle of Empire trade. We must have regard to our markets in considering where we shall make our purchases. For many years, without complaint in this chamber, the United Kingdom chassis enjoyed a preference over the Canadian chassis of 32-^ per cent. That continued down to 1930, when the treaty was made with Canada - a treaty which has worked extraordinarily to the advantage of that dominion. It was then reduced to 17& per cent. The present proposals, in some measure, restore the old position. I cannot believe that an amount of £3 8s. 4d. for each chassis will have any effect in this country, on either the amount of employment available or the number of Canadian chassis sold.
– Or trade diversion.
– This was intended, not as a trade diversion measure, but as a means to increase the degree of preference given to British cars. It will come into consideration in relation to trade diversion only when the time arrives, be it sooner or later, when Australia is manufacturing chassis. Tlie British Government has asked that, in the interim period, this adjustment be made. The Government has not in any way impaired the position of Canada compared with that of the United States of America - in fact, it has improved it. Last year Australia imported 30,000 chassis from the United States of America, and 30,S20 from Canada. It must be perfectly obvious, therefore, that the increase will not have an adverse effect of any consequence as between Canada and the United States of America. Honorable members should bear in mind that the old ad valorem preference was equivalent to 2d. per lb. in respect of Canada. Under the new conditions, the rate will be 5^-d. per lb. in respect of the United States of America, 2½d. per lb. in respect of Canada, and 2d. per lb. in respect of Great Britain. Canada will thus enjoy a preference of 3d. per lb. over its most serious competitor, the United States of America. I find it extraordinarily difficult to believe that any serious injury is likely to be inflicted upon Canada’s trade with Australia in consequence of this adjustment. The chassis imports for the twelve months ended the 30th April this year were taken as the quota basis for imports from North America, and the figures for that twelve months were the highest for many years. It is therefore open to Canada to supply to Australia a number of cars equivalent to the number imported in that twelve-month period - if it can do so, the only obstacle being the slightly increased preference being granted to the United Kingdom.
I ask honorable members to bear in mind, in considering this subject, the relative importance of the market in the United Kingdom, and the market in Canada to the producers of Australia. Keeping that consideration before lis, the additional preference being granted to the United Kingdom is justified a thousand times over. In terms of Australian currency in 1935-36 our exports to the United Kingdom were valued at £68,000,000 while those to Canada were worth only £1,300,000. Our exports last year to the United Kingdom increased by £5,000,000, while those to Canada decreased by £100,000. In consequence of our trade treaty with (Canada, Canada’s Australian trade has increased enormously, but Australia’s Canadian trade has scarcely varied. In 1931-32, when the treaty was made, our imports from Canada were valued at £1,700,000, and our exports to that dominion were valued at only £1,000,000. In 1935-36 our imports from Canada were valued at £6,700,000, whereas our sales to that dominion were valued at only £1,300,000. In other words, while Canada’s trade with us improved in value by £5,000,000, our trade with Canada improved in value by only £300,000. The importance of the market for Australian primary produce in the United Kingdom is, therefore, immensely superior to that of Canada. For that reason, the small adjustment to which the Government now seeks approval is abundantly merited.
– I have listened with great interest to the arguments of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) against my amendment, and I confess that I have found them most confusing, and not at all convincing. The honorable gentleman stressed the value to Australian primary producers of the
British market in comparison with the Canadian market. He need not have done so on ‘ my account, for during the last few days, I have myself placed figures before this committee to demonstrate the same fact. He also said that the British Government had asked the Commonwealth Government to make this adjustment. I presume that that statement was made in an endeavour to establish a prima facie case for the granting of a substantial additional preference to British motor-car manufacturers, as against those of Canada. But the honorable gentleman immediately proceeded to destroy the whole structure which he had erected by asserting with great emphasis that, after all, the additional degree of preference being given to Great Britain amounted to only 1 per cent.
– What I said was that the actual increase in the cost of Canadian cars to the Australian purchasers would be only 1 per cent.
– The Minister also stated figures to show that the new duties imposed an additional cost of £3 8s. 4d. on each stripped Canadian chassis imported to Australia. Figures which I used earlier in this debate indicated that the added cost was very much greater than that I think I have discovered where the discrepancy exists. The Minister stated that the average rate of duty collected . over a period on stripped Canadian chassis was £13 10s. lOd. I find’ that the amount of duty under the old ad valorem rate, plus primage duty, would have totalled £13 lis. Sd., which approximates to within a few pence of the figure given by the Minister. The Minister then compared his figure of £13 10s. lOd. with my figure of £17 6s. 6d. as the rate of duty under the new weight basis for stripped chassis imported on the 21st Spetember last, and said that the difference under the new rate of 2½d per lb. was only a little over £3. I submit that his basis of comparison was quite unfair. Primage duty was never intended for protective purposes in respect of either British or Canadian imports against foreign imports, for it was a purely emergency impost to increase the general revenue, and was collected from all countries on an equal basis.
– In respect of chassis imported from Canada and the United States of America, primage was taken into account in fixing the weight basis.
– It is that very fact of which I complain. In my opinion, any consideration of primage duty should be abandoned for comparison purposes. The only fair basis of comparison is British, free, as it always has been; the old ad valorem rate on chassis imported from Canada; and the new duty payable on the per lb. basis. Primage was imposed as an emergency measure to raise revenue. It has now been removed from Canadian imports and from United Kingdom imports, and therefore it has been removed from the whole field as a basis of comparison. A fair basis of comparison to-day is that the British chassis is, as always, free of duty, whilst under the ad valorem tariff the Canadian chassis, which was previously dutiable at £8, is dutiable on the new per lb. basis, at £17 6s. 6d. That bears out my original contention that the effective duty on stripped Canadian chassis has been doubled as the result of the alteration of the method of imposing the duty.
– Oh no, that is not so.
– If the Minister were to come forward and say : “ This rate of duty has been adopted as we wish to divert trade from Canada to Great Britain because of the magnitude of the British market for Australian primary producers in comparison with the Canadian market,” I should say that that was a fair basis on which to argue a case.
– That is all it is being done for.
– The Minister previously, in reply to an interjection by me, said that this step was not being taken for trade diversion purposes.
– We do not count this matter as being trade diversion.
– I said that if the Government put this proposal forward as a step towards trade diversion, he would have my support. The Minister then admitted that it was a trade diversion step ; but immediately afterwards he said that it was not. I have never heard such contradiction.
– The Minister himself is the only diversion.
– Yes. The Minister further said that he understood this matter up-side-down.
– I said nothing of the kind. I said I knew the honorable member’s electorate up-side-down, having been born there.
– I think that the Minister has the same degree of familiarity with the subject as he has with, my electorate. I am ready to be convinced if the Minister can advance any convincing arguments. He has had two opportunities to do so, but he has entirely failed to advance any argument that can be regarded as convincing to any fair-minded person.
– The Minister will not tell us the complete story.
– Not only that; he also contradicts himself as well as us.
– Because the honorable member has no case, he seeks refuge in personalities.
– If there is one man who takes refuge in personalities, it is the honorable gentleman who has just interjected. I confess that just before the luncheon adjournment I felt incensed at the methods used by the Minister in turning the discussion into an issue of personalities. He endeavoured to discredit me and other honorable members by referring to “ dirty lobbying.” He endeavoured further to discredit my case by referring to the nature of my constituents, and by pointing out where their interests lie. After having himself exploited the possibilities of personalities to the utmost, the Minister now turns around and accuses me of having introduced them into the debate. Yet, much as I am tempted, I do not wish to expound on that particular aspect any further and, if the Minister will refrain from interjecting in a manner which introduces this element of personalities, I, for my part, shall refrain from making any further reference to his tactics.
– Hear, hear !
– I declare that the Minister has failed to make any reference whatever to what I disclosed at the outset as the main basis of my argument. It was then, and it still is, that this added tariff has for its purpose the diversion of purchases by Australians from a type of car to which they have become accustomed, and which they desire, by increasing its cost, to a type of car which, with all my respect for and with all desire to further the interests of the United Kingdom, I still have to say is not acceptable to Australians or suited to Australian conditions. That is the substantial basis of my argument. With the desire of the Government to establish the motor car manufacturing industry in Australia, I associate myself wholeheartedly, but to expound on that would be to repeat what I have said on several occasions previously. Pending the receipt of the report of the Tariff Board on that particular proposal, I say that it is not desirable, and has not been proved necessary to compel Australians to buy a type of car from the United Kingdom which the history of car selling indicates that they do not wish to buy. Nor is it fair, without giving adequate reasons, to compel them to pay more for the Canadian type of car winch past purchases have shown to be suitable and desired. I have not been convinced by the arguments advanced by the Minister, and must press my amendment.
.- Before the vote is taken I wish to give the committee the history of the events which led up to the replacement of the ad valorem rate of duty by the per lb. rate. The application for this alteration was first made in 1934 by the British motor traders’ organization. Again in 1935, when the Australian delegation was in London, further representations were made, and, some time ago, the importers of the United Kingdom motor vehicles in Australia interviewed the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and the Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr. Abbott, on the same subject. I am not supporting the case put forward, but the reason given for the proposal of the British manufacturers and the Australian importers was that some American manufacturers were side-step ping the ad valorem duty. They reported -
Instances exist of certain United States of America manufacturers exporting chassis through Canada to Australia, the chassis being stripped of such items as running board assemblies and aprons, lock washers, flat washers, various bolts, nuts and rivets, hood side and top panels, front fender assemblies, these parts being shipped direct from the United States of America, and’ the “ remains “ shipped through Canada then enjoy the existing British preferential tariff.
I do not say that the case put forward was right or wrong, but it was contended that the American manufacturers were gaining advantages in Australia which it was not intended by the Australian tariff should be allowed to them. Similar arguments were advanced by the British manufacturers to the Government of New Zealand some months ago and the result was that the proportion of the car which had to be manufactured in Canada, was increased from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent. I submit that, it was in answer to the representations made in Australia that the Government decided to alter the method of imposing the duty.
.-I ask the Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to maintain this altered rate of duty on Canadian cars, or does it intend to use it in negotiations when the Canadian delegation comes to Australia in the new year.
– The intention of the Government is to maintain the duties as they have been passed, but they might come together with all imports and exports in our trade with Canada - indeed I have no doubt that they will - under consideration in those negotiations. They certainly could be raised by the Canadian delegates.
Question - That the amendment (Mr.- McEwen’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mb. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item put and agreed to.
Item ex 291 - “by leave - reconsidered.
By omitting - “(c) Logs, not sawn, viz.: - .
– The proposal under this item is for the imposition of a fixed rate of duty on oregon logs of 4s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, Brereton measurement, in lieu of the previous ad valorem rate of 20 per cent, ad valorem. When dealing with the main customs tariff proposals, I pointed out that the ad valorem rate on
Oregon logs had enabled timber merchants to import these logs, and cut them up locally, thus defeating the object of the duties which were imposed on sawn cregon for the protection of Australian hardwood millers. In view of representations which have since been made by timber merchants as to the small margin which exists between the proposed duties on logs and the duties on sawn Oregon, and the possibility that variations in overseas prices for logs or sawn oregon may further reduce the margin, the . Government has decided to reduce the rate on Canadian oregon logs from 4s. 6d. to 4s. per 100 super, feet, Brereton measurement. The timber merchants also brought under notice that the object of the proposed duty on oregon logs may be defeated by the substitution of hemlock, larch, spruce, and white fir, in log form. The Government proposes, therefore, to extend the Oregon duties to these timbers in the log. The alterations which the Government desires to make on Canadian logs are necessary by reason of the amendments made by the committee when dealing with logs under the main customs tariff proposals. Therefore, I move -
That the following be added to subparagraph (a) of paragraph (2) of subitem (c) : - “ And on and after 3rd December, 1936-
Douglas Fir [Pseudotsuga Douglasii) : Hemlock (all species of Tsuga) ; Larch (all species of Larix) ; Spruce (all species of Picea) and White Fir (all species of Abies) per 100 super, feet (Brereton measurement), 4s.”
Amendment agreed to.
– This item deals with spars, the rates of duty on which have always followed the duties on logs. Therefore, the remarks I have made, and the action necessary with regard to logs, apply . equally to spars. I move -
That the following be added to paragraph (1) of sub-item (d) - “ And on and after 3rd December, 1936 - (1) Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga Douglasii) ; Hemlock (all species of Tsuga ) : Larch ( all species of Larix) ; Spruce (all species of Picea) and White Fir (all species of Abies), per 100 super, feet (Brereton measurement), 4s.”
.- I should like to know from the Minister whether the Customs Department has definitely abandoned the Hoppus system of measurement in favour of the Brereton system. This matter was, I know, debated last night, but I should like to have a final pronouncement from the Minister.
– This point was fully debated when the committee was dealing with the subject of- logs, and the honorable member was then informed that the department had adopted the Brereton system of measurement. The logs are invoiced under that system, and it is proposed to adhere to that. If we were to revert to the Hoppus system, the duty would need to be higher.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.’
Preliminary matter agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Henry Gullett and Mr. White do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Sir Henry Gullett, read a first and second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a third time.
I desire to offer my apology, and express my regret to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) for a remark which I made by way of interjection while he was speaking before the luncheon adjournment, a remark which he considered to be a reflection upon him. It was not my intention to reflect upon the honorable member in any way, hut I nevertheless take this opportunity to offer him my most sincere apology.
– I thank the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) for the remarks he has just made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17 th November (vide page 1876), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), when introducing this bill, made it clear that its purpose was to amend section 7 of the original act in order to put a stop to the evasion of its- provisions. The Opposition supports the measure, hut believes that it should have been brought down before. It is not intended to increase the rate of protection. The real purpose of the bill is to ensure that the full measure of the protection intended shall in all cases be afforded. I have pointed out on previous occasions how, in the clothing trade, the end-of -season stocks of dresses, &c, from overseas are dumped upon the markets of Sydney and Melbourne at prices with which it is impossible to compete. This has the effect of throwing Australian dress designers and machinists out of work, and of disorganizing the trade generally. Surplus stocks tend to pile up in the overseas countries at the end of the season to such an extent that they actually become a source of competition with the clothing trade in those countries. It is, therefore, a payable proposition to get rid of them at any price at all, and they are dumped into Australia and elsewhere at whatever price they will fetch. I have known cases in which goods were shipped to Australia and sold at one-fourth of their cost, although they were manufactured under mass-production methods. This practice may not be technically describable as dumping, but the effect on Australian industries is the same as if it were dumping. It seems impossible to pass legislation of this kind which leaves no ga/ps by which unscrupulous traders can escape, but this bill is a useful corrective measure. Goods are often carried as ballast in order ito avoid freight charges, and this enables importers to overcome local competition. Heavy goods, such as timber, are shipped as ballast. Cement and white lead have also been so carried.
– That is one of the reasons for the introduction of the bill.
– This amendment of the principal act will make it possible for the customs authorities to act more quickly than in the past in preventing improper attacks on Australian manufacturers and their employees. This action should have been taken long ago. The Opposition has pointed out how difficult it is for an Australian business firm to recover from the effects of the competition of even one shipload of dumped goods.
.- I commend the Government for having introduced this bill, which will correct weaknesses found in previous antidumping legislation. Such a measure should have been brought down long ago. Whatever one’s opinion may be regarding international trade and the policy of protection, one should not support unfair competition. The importation of goods by dumping methods must occasionally occur, but this bill seeks to assure that fair freight rates will be charged on goods that are competitive with those manufactured in Australia.
– Does the honorable member object to the dumping of our sugar into the Old Country?
– Under this bill protection will be given to an industry which is in particularly difficult circumstances and has no protection whatever to-day. If the sale of wheat or any other com modity produced in Western Australia were affected by dumping practices, the honorable member .for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would indignantly appeal for the protection of the local industry. This bill is general in its application.
Australian industries must pay full normal rates of freight on goods carried on interstate vessels, and the ordinary rates should be paid in respect of goods imported from abroad; but the question arises whether even this excellen t measure will prevent resort to the many subterfuges that are available to escape from ordinary freight charges. For example, a full freight rate may be shown on invoices, but rebates may be passed on at any time later. It is a common practice for rebates to be made a long time after a shipment has been effected. A case came under my notice in which a rebate of freight was received twelve months after the time of shipment, although no rebate had been asked for, and none was expected. Another point which appears to me to be well worth consideration by the Minister is the position that arises when a shipping company owns a trading company. In such circumstances the rate charged as freight is not much more than a bookkeeping entry, to be adjusted by contra-account at any convenient period. There would thus be no proof of dumping. Does the Government consider that the bill covers such a case as that? .Under the anti-dumping legislation passed prior to the act now proposed to be amended, a penalty section enabled fines to be imposed when it was found that subterfuge had been resorted to for the purpose of avoiding the provisions of the law. It appears to me that such a clause would tend to discourage attempts to defeat the purpose of the act, and that the desirability of including a similar provision in this bill might well be considered. This legislation has never completely cured the evils which it was intended to remove, but the Government has gone a long way in this bill in the direction of tightening up the law, and I hope that Australian industries will benefit under the measure.
..- The object of the bill is to protect Australian industries against the dumping of goods by means of reduced freight charges. Some months ago the Opposition emphasized the danger of this practice being put into effect, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) sought to ridicule the suggestion.
– I said that if such a practice were resorted to, steps would be taken to deal with it.
– The Minister did not seem to recognize all the dangers of the situation, particularly in regard to the reduction of the duties on cement. Events in recent months have proved how tariff provisions can be evaded to such an extent as to remove the protection which Parliament has sought to give to an Australian industry. It is unfortunate that the Government did not take earlier action to safeguard the interests of local industries. It is necessary for the Tariff Board to recognize this danger in making reports and recommendations in respect of various industries affected by dumping practices by means of a reduction of freights. I have read a most illuminating document concerning the activities of overseas interests, and it showed that those interests are prepared to manipulate and fix their freight charges on an unfair basis. Whilst this bill admittedly seeks to correct anomalies, it would be well to realize the dangers that lie ahead, and to take prompt steps to see that Australian industries are properly protected. The Opposition supports the Government in its belated proposal. Even now, because of the low duties, certain Australian industries will find, it impossible to carry on.
.- It is interesting and somewhat amusing to notice the efforts made ,to prevent anything from being imported into Australia that may be regarded as cheap and nasty. We have heard many complaints regarding the plight of the unemployed and those in receipt of the dole, but we have done all we can to increase the cost of living.
– The honorable member favours a policy which would put men out of work, and prevent them . from buying anything.
– I remind the honorable member that for every four minutes the Government, of which he was a supporter was in office a man lost his job, and that as the result of that Government’s administration unemployment was more serious in this country than it has been at any other time. I was rather amused at the horror expressed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in respect of dumping, particularly when we realize that so important a Queensland product as sugar is being dumped in Great Britain and being sold at from £6 to £7 a ton, compared with the enormous home-consumption price paid for sugar in this country.
– Sugar is admitted into. Great Britain under a preferential agreement, and, therefore, it cannot be said tobe dumped in that country.
– My observation alsoapplies to butter and many other products which we export. So far as cement is concerned, I point out that the only cement factory in Western Australia is situated in the electorate which I represent. If it costs cement companies from, £4 to £4 10s. to produce a ton of cement, I cannot understand how big gold-mining, companies, such as the Wiluna Gold: Mines, can raise the hardest rock from a depth of from 1,500 feet to 2,000 feet,, and put the ore through its many processes, at the same time paying each employee at least £6 a week, and do thiswork at a cost of from 18s. 6d. to 22s. a. ton. [Quorum formed.]
The wording of the act, which thismeasure seeks to amend, is a little vague. It says that the rate of dumping dutiesshall be 5 per cent, of the market value of goods at the time of shipment. I can quite understand the desire of theMinister to amend the act to give effect to a promise he made some time ago, and’ I have not the slightest doubt he is endeavouring to carry out that promise through this measure, but I am a littlesuspicious about the rate of freight that will be fixed. Will it be that charged’ by the shipping combine? WestralianFarmers Limited has been able to chartervessels and carry exports at freights-, below those charged by the shipping combine. The freight on wool has been reduced by as much as 10s. a bale. i cannot understand why the Government has seen fit to alter the wording of thesection of the ‘ act dealing- with freight..
That section provides that the Minister may do certain things if he is satisfied that any goods exported to Australia, of a class which are being produced and manufactured in Australia, are being “ carried at freights lower than the rate of freight prevailing at the time of shipment.” I suggest that the words “ rate of freight prevailing at the date of shipment “ should be allowed to stand. The dictionary gives the meaning of the word *’ norm “ as “ an operative standard,” and the meaning of the word “ normal as “ an operative rule.” The operative rule in this case would be the rate of freight that is being charged by the shipping combine, compared with, the freight as ( secured by Westralian Farmers Limited. I strongly object to this change. If exporters to Australia were charged freights lower than the normal rate by having their goods carried as ballast, or through a system of rebates, I could understand an effort being made to avoid dumping, but the wording of the act is clearer and more definite than the wording in the bill, and moreover, covers the particular case which I have just mentioned, that of Westralian Farmers Limited. This, I contend, would not be satisfactorily covered by the wording of the bill.
In respect of paragraph 3 of clause 2, a deputation waited on the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), who was at the moment acting as Minister for Trade and Customs, and asked that the rate of dumping duty should be the difference between the rates paid and the rates provailing at the time of shipment. I ask the Minister to give further consideration to that point, because under this amendment he will have to. determine for himself, should any dispute arise, the amount of any rebate, refund, or other allowance in. respect of freight on goods. This will throw a very great responsibility on the Minister, because there will be frequent demands for special consideration. If it were made clear, however, that the amount of the dumping duty should be the difference between the prevailing rate and the rate of freight actually charged, he would be enabled to have recourse to a better method of invoking the dumping duty.
If the Minister still intends to alter the present wording of the act by using the words “ normal rate of freight “ instead of the words “ rates of freight prevailing at the date of shipment”, I should like an assurance from him that the rate being charged by the shipping combine will not be accepted as the normal rate in an instance of the kind which I have just cited, in which a reduced rate, such as is being charged by Westralian Farmers Limited, could justly be taken as the prevailing rate.
.- This measure has been introduced to give effect to the promise made by the Government that if it were found that the Industries Preservation Act was faulty, action would be taken to stop up the loopholes. Evidence that such loopholes existed was provided in the debate last session on the duties on cement, and the Government has come to the conclusion that the dumping provisions of the act are inadequate. The amendments effected by this measure deal firstly with freight rates and secondly with the payment of the difference in freights in sterling instead of Australian currency. The report qf the Tariff Board which I tabled today shows that that tribunal is alive to the fact that it is necessary to state a definite c.i.f. price. Although the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) saw fit to make a portentous statement on this matter, let mc inform him that the Australian cement manufacturer.1: enjoy 97£ per cent, of the Australian trade, and that only 2£ per cent, is coming in as importations.
– We shall not have so large a share of the market; for very long.
– We shall keep it that way if local prices are right. Both the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and tlie honorable member for Hindmarsh agree that unfair trading should not be allowed. A certain rate of duty is specified in the tariff to apply in all circumstances, but if importers reduce the price of their commodity to below the domestic price in the country of origin, or are enabled to reduce their price by the cutting of freights or by rebates, the resulting position must be remedied. The reason for using the words “normal rate of freight” instead of the wording in the existing provision is that during the course of some years the latter has been found to be unsatisfactory. For example, if several rates of freight operate over a certain period, how can the Minister decide what is the prevailing rate? It must be accepted that the Minister shall interpret the meaning of “ normal “, in a normal way, and will see that no unfair trade is allowed and that full effect is given to the provisions of the tariff in every case.
– In the instance which I have mentioned, would the freight obtained by Westralian Farmers Limited be accepted as a normal rate in preference to the rate charged by the shipping combine ?
– First of all, it has to be shown that a rate of freight is detrimental to Australian industry. It must be proved that goods are being shipped at a freight rate less than the normal rate of freight, and . then, when they come into this’ country, that they are detrimental to Australian manufacture. Those two tests must be applied. In the instance given by the honorable member, the rate charged by the shipping combine would not enter into the matter if the landed cost of the product, for instance, cement, did not operate detrimentally to any Australian industry. If the rate of freight had that effect, an investigation would be made as to the actual freight paid or payable, and the freight dumping duty would be imposed. That is the purpose of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Dumping freight duty).
.- Some industries are fearful that this provision does not adequately meet the position of a shipping company which also owns a trading company. It is believed that the rate charged for freight may not be other than a book entry, adjusted by a contra account, and that in such circumstances, dumping would he very difficult to prove. Will the Minister explain the procedure to be adopted to meet that contingency?
– The position would be the same as in connexion with a cut rate of freight. A ship-owning firm which was also an importer would have to charge a freight rate. Any business man who did not charge himself for goods taken from stock would quickly find himself in difficulties and disturbing competition would arise if a freight free basis were operated by any shipping company. In the event of dispute the Minister has the right to decide what is the actual, freight rate.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted. »*
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 24th November (vide page 2193).
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purpose of financial assistance to the States, the sum of One hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
.- I move -
That the amount be reduced by £ 1 as an indication to the Government that the amount provided is inadequate. The clause proposes to appropriate for the purpose of financial assistance to the States, to relieve the hardships of persons who are without employment, the sum of £150,000. I understand that the State Governments intend to restrict the relief to those persons whose names appear on the unemployment register from a certain date in November. To show the absolute inadequacy of the proposed relief, I point out that in Victoria alone 36,384 persons are registered as unemployed, and that the allocation to that State will enable the average distribution to be only about £1 11s. a head. Members of the Opposition feel that the Government should have made the provision at least £500,000. Those now without employment are in a more acute condition of poverty than has been prevalent at any time during the last five or six years. We cannot evade the obligation that rests upon us to do what is reasonable and satisfactory, by saying that already substantial relief has been granted. The resources of homes in which unemployment is still the rule, have been reduced to the lowest point. We should rather seek to increase the amount of ,any grant at this particular time, because those who will participate in it need it now more than at any time previously.
– They are the older persons, who cannot find employment.
– As the honorable member rightly points out, many of these persons are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain employment. ‘Considering the healthy state of the finances of the Commonwealth, and. the generous remissions of taxes that have been made by this Government in its alleged Recovery Budget surely the Ministry is only trifling with the plight of the unemployed in granting so small a measure of relief. The Opposition feels that if £500,000 were appropriated an amount equal to one week’s wages at the basic rate could be given to each unemployed person. Surely that is not asking for too much! We should do what would be worthy of the national Parliament and commensurate with the needs of those who are unfortunately unemployed. Honorable members, who do not make direct contact with these persons cannot thoroughly appreciate their difficulties. I represent a constituency in which impoverishment markedly manifests itself. Reports received from authoritative bodies indicate how desperate has become the situation in respect of malnutrition, even among the children of these communities. In the districts in which this unfortunate condition exists, the parents are anxious that their children shall have proper nourishment and clothing, but they are unable to provide these, and therefore, the welfare of the children is being sacrificed. The Opposition has no desire to obtain even the semblance of a party advantage out of this matter, but is anxious that a genuine effort shall be made to provide what Will give to the unemployed the assurance that the Commonwealth is fully sympathetic towards their sufferings. I have moved the amendment in all good faith, hoping that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will make available at least £500,000 to meet the urgent needs of a most distressing situation.
– Everything material that I had to say was said when I introduced the bill and on the motion for its second reading. I would now merely remind honorable members that this does not by any means represent the efforts of the Government in respect of unemployment. The Commonwealth and all the States are doing a very great deal in a wide variety of ways. This is entirely separated from what has been done previously; it is a simple gesture, the object being to give to the unemployed a little extra at Christmas time, and must not be regarded as the only effort that the Commonwealth has made, as the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) might suggest. I regret that the Government cannot accept the amendment.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). Discussing this matter last week, I suggested that” as a gesture by this national Parliament to the unemployed, the amount of the proposed grant should be’ increased to a sum that would enable a full week’s work at the basic rate to’ be provided for married men, and at least half a week’s work for single men, irrespective of, and . in addition to what is being done by the State governments. This much at least - should be done. The Government promised at the last election that it would reduce taxation. As a person must have an income of £8 a week to become liable to pay Commonwealth taxation, it must be evident to honorable members that any persons whose Commonwealth taxation has been reduced are in a fairly substantial position. In these circumstances it is only fair to ask that the Government should now turn its attention to the really needy classes in the community. In my opinion, the Government has not done anything effective to cope with the unemployment problem. Certain relief works have been provided from time to time, but no permanently beneficial steps have been taken to remove this serious bar to the progress of our community. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) may argue, in reply to these remarks, that the statistical information available to the Government indicates clearly that there is now less unemployment than when the Government assumed office, but as this information is based on returns supplied by trade union secretaries, and as it is well known that many young people of the community, who have never had a job in their lives, and have never joined a trade union, have not been taken into account, the figures must be regarded as quite incomplete and unsatisfactory.
To look at the subject from another point of view, I remind honorable gentlemen that quite recently it was stated in this House, in reply to a question by an honorable member of the Opposition, that . approximately 200,000 men and women in Australia were out of work. An amount of £150,000, therefore, could not provide even £1 for each of these persons. As so many people are now being called upon to pay many pounds less each year in income tax, it is asking very little of the Government to request that it should now do something really effective to make the Christmas season more cheery for the unemployed and needy people of our community. The buoyancy of the revenue also justifies the request that such action shall be taken. I join with other honorable members of the Opposition in protesting against the inadequacy of the proposed grant, and I shall vote for the amendment.
– I cannot support the amendment. The amount which the Government is providing for the special purpose it has in mind is, in my opinion, adequate. This proposed grant represents, as the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said, only a very small part of what the Government has done since it assumed office to relieve the distress due to unemployment, and it must be regarded purely as a Christmas gift. In discussing this subject at the second-reading stage, I urged the Treasurer to request the State authorities to keep in mind, in distributing this money, the youthful section of our unemployed people, who certainly should share in this gift. I requested that at least 10 per cent, of this money should be devoted to this purpose. The Treasurer said that he would make a suggestion of that nature to the State authorities. I also had in mind that a proportion, of the money should be spent in such a way as to achieve some permanently useful results. Recently the Government of Victoria made availablean amount ‘ of £300 to the Boys Employment Movement,, in order to makepossible the taking of a census of unemployed youths between the ages of 18- and 25, and also those engaged in deadend occupations; but, unfortunately, the limited scope of the proposed census, in view of the meagre amount made available for the purpose, will make it quite useless. When this proposal was first advocated, it was intended that youthsregistered with the movement as unemployed should make a thorough housetohouse canvass. It was estimated that it would take 280 boys five weeks to> gather the necessary information. During that period they were to be paid 30s. a week, plus an allowance of 2s. 6d. a week for travelling expenses. They were to distribute, collect, and sort inquiry schedules in the Melbourne metropolitan, area, and also in important provincial centres such as Ballarat, Bendigo, and Geelong. It was estimated that £2,275 would be necessary to pay wages and travelling expenses,, while an additional amount of £225 was allowed for contingencies, postage, - and stationery. The information gathered; by such a census would be most valuable, for it would give a clear indication of the nature and extent of youthunemployment in the metropolitan and the major provincial areas. Similar information covering rural areas could’ be gathered through local councils. The Government of Victoria, while not disapproving of the scheme, stated it had only sufficient money available to make a grant of £300 for the purpose. I suggest that, if one-.tenth of the £40,000 which the Commonwealth Government is how proposing to make available to the Government of Victoria for Christmas cheer could be ear-marked for the purpose of gathering and scheduling information on this problem in our metropolitan and main provincial areas exceptionally fine use would be made of tlie money. The information would be a guide to various governments in formulating effective plans to deal with the highly important problem of youth employment, and this section of the community would feel that in doing this work with the help of money provided from such a source, they would be effectively helping themselves. To divert 10 per cent, of the £40,000 proposed to be made available to the Government of Victoria for the purpose that I have outlined, would not inflict any hardship on any one. I understand that the Treasurer does not desire to fetter’ the State authorities in any way in the expenditure of this money. According to press reports the Government of Victoria proposes to grant the money to sustenance and relief workers. If that policy is pursued the young people for whom I am making a special plea will be entirely overlooked. If the Treasurer is not prepared to agree to an amendment of the bill to make definite provision, for the use of portions of the money in the way I have outlined, I hope that he will at least make a strong suggestion to the Government of Victoria that some of it should be used for this purpose.
– If the Government proposed to make £150,000,000 available to provide Christmas cheer for the great army of unfortunate people in our community, instead of a paltry £150,000, we could show a little enthusiasm for the bill. Even such an amount as that, however, would not be adequate to provide reasonably for the urgent needs of our workless people whose prospects have been so seriously damaged in the last few years. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that this is a gesture of goodwill to the unemployed. Apparently the Government can only make a gesture. It certainly has not done anything effective to cope with the situation. The smallness of this amount is additional evidence of tlie futility of the Government’s efforts to help the unemployed. The Government, like Mrs. Dombey, seems to be unable to make an effort of any kind. This amount will not provide a lolly stick each for the children of unemployed people. As I told the Treasurer on another occasion, he is the most miserable Santa Claus that I have ever encountered. The Government thinks in pennies when it thinks of the unemployed, and in millions of pounds when it thinks of its wealthy supporters. With one hand it distributes pence to the unemployed, and with the other it takes the pennies back again to give them to the wealthy. The Opposition has been most moderate in its request on this occasion. No doubt it realizes that the extraction of money from this Government for the assistance of the unemployed is as difficult as the extraction of money from a Jew. Even if the Government will not consent to increase the proposed grant to £500,000, I hope that it will make every endeavour to see that anti-Labour governments in the various States will deal equitably with the unemployed who are intended to benefit by the vote. On every occasion when grants of this kind have been made to tlie Government of New South Wales, it has used the money not to supplement the assistance already being provided for workless people, but to reduce expenditure from its own resources for this purpose, so that it would be in a better position to balance its budget.
– I give an undertaking on behalf of the Government of New South Wales that nothing of that kind will be done.
– I have known workers in my own electorate to be sacked on Christmas eve in order that the Commonwealth Government might not be obliged to pay them for the few holidays that would intervene before the new year. That happened at Liverpool. In two or three cases rectifying action has been taken subsequently by this Government, but many workers have been left to lament the injustice that they have suffered on this account. My main purpose in rising to speak at this stage is to emphasize the necessity for the Treasurer doing everything possible to prevent the Stevens Government of New South Wales from using this money for improper purposes as it has used similar grants on past occasions.
Honorable gentlemen opposite claim that they have made many efforts to assist in the solution of the unemployment problem, and that because of these efforts the unemployment figures have shrunk. I would point out, however, that in New South “Wales men who are on relief work are not classed as unemployed.For many years the Commonwealth Statistician’s unemployment figures havebeen generally recognized as being the most unreliable figures that his office publishes. They cannot be anything else than unreliable, because they are based on returns from trade unions whereas, if a man is out of work for two or three years, he is not registered by the union. Unemployment is so extensive that it is tragic- for this Government to offer the paltry amount of £150,000 towards the relief of distress at Christmas; if it were not so tragic it would be humorous to call it Christmas cheer or, as the Treasurer has done, a Christmas gift. I remind the Treasurer that the money cannot be classed as a gift because the men will have to work for it.
– That is not so ; it is to be given either in cash or in kind.
– If that is the case all I can say is that the honorable gentleman has opened his heart a little more than usual. I am glad, however, to have the Treasurer’s assurance, but I should like information as to how the money is to be distributed. I understand that the States will be entrusted with this task. I would like the Treasurer personally to undertake it. In my electorate alone the whole amount of the grant could be distributed among the unemployed, and there would be no noticeable diminution of the amount of distress that prevails there. The same position exists in the coal-mining areas which were the first settlements in Australia to enter into the depression. I do not intend, however, to labour the question ; I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) which is designed to increase the amount of the grant to £500,000, which, indeed, is little enough. In my opinion the Opposition should ask for £1,000,000, but it realizes of course that it would be hopeless to dodo. It is, however, amazing that the Government of its own volition has not come forward with a proposal for a grant of much bigger dimensions because it is continually boasting through the newspapers and elsewhere about its surpluses and about the buoyancy and stability of the revenues. It purposes expending in the near- future about £8,000,000 in avenues which might easily lead to the destruction of life; surely, therefore, it could allocate more than £150,000 for the purpose of making the conditions of life a little better for those who, through no fault of their own, but, because of the continued existence of an anachronistic system of economics, suffer the miseries of unemployment. I hope therefore that these considerations will weigh upon the Government and that itwill decide to accept the amendment.
– It is obvioiis from the remarks made by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), following the appeal made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) for an increased grant, that the Government does not intend to accede to the Opposition’s request, although members of the Opposition have produced convincing evidence in favour of the grant being increased. Unfortunately, I was unable to be present when this bill was introduced, but I was interested a few minutes ago to hear the Treasurer announce by way of interjection that this money is to be distributed either in cash or in kind.
– Mostly in cash.
– I further gather from the remarks of the honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Holt) that it is the intention of the Government to allow the State governments to handle the distribution of this money. I wish to point Gut, however, that in each of the States departments have been established for the issue of dole or unemployment relief, and that regulations framed to deal with permissible income and such things as that debar many homes from securing relief which they very urgently require. In this matter I speak with authority on what happens in New South Wales, but I suppose that my remarks would have equal application to other States. Honorable members representing constituencies in New South Wales are constantly receiving complaints from people who are unable to get assistance “ from the Government of New South Wales because it happens that members of the family, mostly minors, are employed, and receive about 2s. or 3s. a “week more than the amount of the statutory limitation upon incomes of households which are eligible to receive government relief. It may be argued by supporters of the Government that certain limitations are necessary, but although I would agree that that is so, 1 think that it will be agreed generally that, in many instances, such regulations have harsn application. I realize that it is the desire of this Government that harshness should not enter into the question of the distribution of this money, and that it is an effort to give to the unemployed some real assistance at Christmas time. I am afraid, however, that it is acting wrongly in entrusting the. States with the distribution. I contend that the State relief departments are not the proper instrumentalities, and that there are people more in touch with actual cases of distress than the State governments. Those people are represented in the municipal and town councils and other semigovernmental bodies. Of necessity, they must bc in closer touch with the requirements of the people than the Commonwealth Government or the State governments could ever hope to be.
– By their daily contact with the lives of the unemployed people they become aware of where real distress exists.
– Clearly; that is the point which I am trying to make. If the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to allow the municipalities themselves to undertake the distribution of this money, I suggest that there exist several societies with branches in all the districts where the poor live, which are better fitted to do the work than the State governments. In my own district, in which, unfortunately, there is a great number of people in distressed circumstances, these societies are carrying on good work, and I appreciate their efforts. There are, for example, the Society of St.” Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army. The Reverend Hammond, who is a member of the Church of England clergy, is also carrying on commendable work among the poor. All of these bodies and individuals know the real needs of the people, and have facilities which would enable them to distribute this money in the best manner possible. I approach this matter delicately because some of my colleagues who represent States where Labour is in power are naturally satisfied that the right thing will be done, while others represent States where colleagues of honorable gentlemen opposite are in power. This, however, does not alter my feeling that there is too much, official investigation and too much red tape about the State relief organizations. About £60,000 of this money is to be expended in New South Wales, and if the spending of it were entrusted to the municipalities or to the voluntary relief societies, it could not be said that its spending would not be properly supervised. All of the municipal councils’ funds are subject to audit, and the town clerks are trained men, able to produce satisfactory statements as to the expenditure of funds. It would be a fine gesture from the Commonwealth Government to the societies which exist for the relief of the poor, and evidence that it recognizes the wonderful work that they are doing if it decided to allow them to undertake the distribution of at least part of this grant.
– I agree with a great deal of what the honorable member for Eawkner (Mr. Holt) said, in relation to the employment of youths, and realize his sincerity, but I feel that we should put as few fetters as possible on the States in the distribution of this money. Some of the honorable member’s statements may well appeal to the States, and, of course, it is entirely within their province, in the terms of this measure, to apply this money as they please. I shall have the honorable member’s remarks brought under the notice of the Premier of Victoria, to whom I think they were particularly directed.
On the second reading, honorable gentlemen from New South Wales expressed some doubt - doubt in which I find myself unable to join - as to how the Government of New South Wales would act on the distribution of this money. I communicated with the Government of New South Wales, and have the authority to use its reply as follows-: -
It will be distributed in addition to any payments which this Government would otherwise make . . . Also the permissible income regulations will not be taken into consideration in such distribution.
I think that that should end any fears which honorable gentlemen from New South Wales may entertain in this regard.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) suggested that the money should be made available directly to local authorities, but there are many difficulties in the way of carrying out such a proposal. There are several hundreds of local authorities in Australia, and the Commonwealth Government has no means of knowing the amount of unemployment in each area, so that we should be quite at a loss to know whether to give £10 or £1,000 to a particular authority. We cannot go beyond the State Governments, which are the bodies with which we legally deal, and we can trust those governments to accept and administer the grant in the proper way.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) stated that he had been in touch with the Minister for Works in New South Wales, who had promised that every person in that State in receipt of food relief would receive an additional grant, but I point out that there are a great many unemployed men in New South Wales who do not receive the dole at all. The reason is that they have one or more daughters who are earning an amount greater than the permissible income under the sustenance regulations. An unemployed man may have two sons out of work as well as himself, but if lie has one daughter earning more than the stipulated amount, he is not eligible to receive food relief. That being so, how is such a man to benefit under this proposal?
– I did not say that the distribution was, or was not, going to be made only amongst those now drawing sustenance. The State governments are in a bettor position to decide matters of that kind than the Commonwealth Government could possibly be.
– I have no confidence in the State Government of New South Wales to distribute this money fairly. According to the report of the AuditorGeneral, that government has collected, during the last four years, £18,000,000 by way of unemployment tax, but has spent only £4,500,000 on the unemployed.
– I think the Premier of New South Wales has answered that charge effectively in his own Parliament.
– He cannot explain away the plain statement of the AuditorGeneral. I should like to know from the Treasurer how much of this money will go to the Reid electorate, where there are 10,000 men unemployed.
– That cannot bo true. If it were, the head of every household in the electorate would be out of work.
– There are 70,000 registered electors in the Reid electorate. According to the Melbourne Herald, it has been, decided, in Victoria, that money from this grant is to be distributed only to persons with authorized cards, and the issue will be at the following rates : -
Thus, a man. his wife, and eight children or more, will receive from the Commonwealth Government a Christmas box of 29s. ! A proposal was before the Geelong city council to make a grant of £120 for the provision of extra work at Christmas time, but, because of this Commonwealth grant, it is now probable that the proposal will be dropped. I am sure that many municipal authorities in New South Wales also will refrain from doing anything for the unemployed at Christmas time, because the Commonwealth is making this grant. The Treasurer does not know, as we do, Hie men at the head of affairs in New South Wales. Every day men are being refused sustenance in New South Wales because members of their families are earning more than the permissible income. “Will the Treasurer say definitely that every unemployed man in New South Wales will get something from , this grant ? If the distribution is made as wide as that, it will be seen that the amount which the Government proposes to provide will be so small that there should be no hesitation about increasing it to £500,000.
Question - That . the amount proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Mr. Makin’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. F. Harrison.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Grants to States.)
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has stated that the New South Wales Government has given an assurance that other relief will not be curtailed owing to the Commonwealth grant for the purpose of Christmas cheer. In my second-reading speech I indicated my intention to submit an amendment to ensure that the State authorities will be unable to take advantage of this special grant to reduce the amount of relief which they would ordinarily have to provide. Upon hearing the statement by the Treasurer I felt inclined to refrain from submitting an amendment, but owing to the remarks made by the honorable member forReid (Mr. Gander), and a report published in a Victorian newspaper, I propose to do so. We should safeguard ourselves against possible action by a State government that might be unscruplous enough to curtail its own charitable efforts. Such action was taken in similar circumstances in New South Wales’ by the Bavin Government in 1929. The municipal authorities in each of the States are more conversant than are the State governments with local conditions and the needs of individual families, and the Treasurer should give serious consideration to the need for providing that the money proposed to be granted under this bill’ should be allocated by the local governing bodies. This procedure was adopted by theScullin Government. Owing to the regulations in force with respect to permissible income, persons in sore need of assistance may be prevented from participating in this relief. In my electorate are families in which sons are unable to obtain relief work, because the earnings of their fathers are greater than the permissible income recognized in that State. A son aged 30 or 40 years may be unemployed, and unable to obtain food relief, because his father, aged 70 years or more, is in receipt of over £2 10s. a week. Such families have never been on the dole, and I wish to know whether they will be prevented from participating in the grant to be made under this bill. I have no doubt that the Treasurer agrees that they should share in it.
– The State authorities cannot decide how the money will be distributed until this measure becomes law.
– I hope that the Minister will give favorable consideration to the amendment which I intend to submit.
The following paragraph was published in the Melbourne Herald of the 1st December : -
Geelong City Council to-day discussed whether it would make a special contribution of £120 towards extra work for sustenance labour before Christmas. The Public Works Committee recommended the expenditure, but since then both the State and Federal governments have announced special Christmas allocations.
That statement supports the contention of the honorable member for Reid, and shows that steps should be taken to prevent action by any State government which might desire to reduce the amount that would normally be expended generally in providing relief. I have no doubt, in view of the assurance received by the Treasurer, that the New South “Wales Government will do what is fair, but he has not consulted the Governments of the other States. I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : -
Any amounts granted to a State shall be granted upon condition, that any moneys paid by such State to any person shall not be calculated as part of the income of such person for the purposes of any legislation of the State.”
– I have had a lengthy experience of the administrative methods of State authorities and local governing bodies in New South Wales, and I regret that it has been suggested that the Government of that State would act in a way that would he injurious to the poorer section of the community which is looking forward to Christmas cheer. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in earlier remarks attacked the Stevens Government of New South Wales. Now he has directed his attack at the Bavin Government. In his electorate he has several State Labour members, one of whom is the almighty Baddeley, an ex-Minister of a Labour administration. Surely those gentlemen can be trusted to see that she distribution . of this grant is made fairly. It is unnecessary for the honorable member to protest in the way he has. When I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, I remember a Labour alderman abusing his mayoral privileges by giving to his own son, a youth aged eighteen years, employment made possible by a grant like this, which employment should have been given to a married man with children. It ill becomes the honorable member for Hunter to suggest that the present Government ofN ew South Wales might take advantage of its position in regard to thedistribution of this relief. The sum to be distributed in New South Wales is only £59,000, and it . will not go far in affording assistance to the needy. If any local governing body is prepared to refrain from providing relief that would ordinarily be given by way of Christmas cheer, I should say that it would be a council that is dominated by Labour men who have a narrow outlook. The four municipal councils in my electorate are invariably most generous in their distribution of Christmas cheer, and they are not likely to reduce their benefactions because of the extra sum provided under this bill. The honorable member for Hunter has not been sportsmanlike in this matter. I sincerely hope that the committee will reject the amendment.
.- The governments of some States may be said to have no sympathy with the unemployed, but I feel sure that the Government of Tasmania will distribute its share of this grant to the satisfaction of every one concerned. The system of administration in respect of the unemployed in Tasmania compares more than favorably with that operating in any other State. I have been associated with the administration of the industrial department in Tasmania.
– The amount of thisgrant is too small.
– In my secondreading . speech on this measure I stated definitely that I was dissatisfied with the amount; but we are dealing now with the distribution of the grant and not with the amount of it. I do not agree that governments should allow grants of this kind to be distributed to the unemployed by semi-public organizations. When such a system was followed in Tasmania there was much overlapping. We found that, in respect of clothes, for instance, someof the unemployed received a certain share from returned soldiers’ organizations, whilst others received help in that direction from the Salvation Army and other charitable institutions. Those who applied for relief to the State, however, never received such assistance, and, consequently, it was agreed that all those who had anything to give to the unemployed should allow their gifts to be distributed through social service organizations controlled by the State. Under such a method of distribution the recipients are treated on an equal basis. I understand, however, that some State governments will not act as sympathetically towards the unemployed in the distribution of this grant as the Government of Tasmania has acted.
.- As the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is a very wise one, I support it. We know that in the past certain bodies which were entrusted with the disbursement of relief, such as we are now considering, utilized the grants in a way which would not be countenanced by this committee. The amendment does not impose any unfair condition in respect of this distribution: it simply seeks to make the nature of the grant more explicit. If the amount involved were very much greater than it is, we should recognize the desirability of requiring recipients to perform some act of service in return for this aid. As that condition is not desirable in this instance, however, we should let it be clearly understood that the State authorities must not use this grant in any way to exploit the unemployed.
– Will the States have to pass complementary legislation in order to distribute this money?
– Not necessarily.
– In the case of South Australia, that provision would be impracticable, because the Parliament of that State has gone into recess, and is not likely to re-assemble before June of next year. Furthermore, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has already given an assur ante that the passage of complementary legislation by the States is not required. I should like it to be clearly indicated -that no State government must distribute this money other than as a straight-out gift to the’ unemployed, and that this grant must in no way be taken to relieve the State authorities of doing something on their own part to assist their own unemployed.
– That is beyond our power.
– I feel that this House would, wish to reconsider -the matter if it were thought that the States intended, in any way, to lessen their own efforts in giving Christmas relief to the unemployed simply because the Commonwealth Government is making this grant available. It is most desirable that a provision along the lines of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter should be. incorporated in this measure. Its object is simply to make absolutely clear the intention of this Parliament, and, at the same time, to safeguard the unemployed against any unfair imposition on the part of the States.
– Replying to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), I point out that there are no means whereby this Government can effect, in any precise way, what he proposes. Three classes of bodies are concerned in the distribution of this relief - the Commonwealth Government, the State governments, and the local authorities. It is impossible to amend this measure in order to ensure that a State government, or a local authority, must provide assistance to the unemployed at Christmas in addition to this money. That is entirely the function of the particular authority concerned. A suggestion has been made that a local authority, in tlie electorate which I represent, for instance, might refrain from giving to the unemployed certain aid which it would give if this grant were not made available. It is beyond our power to meet that eventuality. In the circumstances, we oan only try on our own part to do what is right, and trust the States to act similarly. To put a tag on this grant would be derogatory to the States. We can trust all of the State governments, Labour and otherwise, to do the reasonable thing towards the unemployed. We should not, therefore, try, at is were, to dot every “ i “ and cross every “ t “. We are endeavouring simply to act reasonably in this matter, and, I think, we can trust all of the State governments to do likewise.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. James’s), be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 2127), on motion by Mr. Casey- -
That the bill bp now read a second time.
.- This is a committee bill, which represents a further instalment of the long series of machinery measures that appear to be unavoidable in the development of the taxation law.
Probably the great number of exemptions and qualifications in respect of taxation, on incomes derived from property is the reason for the complication, the ambiguity and the difficulty which appear to be inherent in this class of legislation.
The outstanding feature of the present measure is that it” enables Crown leases of land that are used for purposes of primary production to be treated in the future in the same manner as freeholds, while at the same time preserving existing rights in respect of leases. The Opposition offers no objection to it.
.- This bill carries into effect the proposal of the Government which was referred to on the introduction of the budget, to repeal the super tax on property income. I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Government to one aspect of the repeal of the tax..
The super tax on property income was first imposed during a period of financial emergency, as part of a general plan to raise additional revenue. It then imposed a substantial additional levy on income derived from property. That obtained in regard to income derived from interest on money lent on mortgage, and from rentals derived from leases. Since that date, many mortgages, the income from which was the subject of the tax, and many of the existing leases, have expired and have been renewed. It is to the circumstances of that renewal that I wish to direct attention. If a mortgage carried an interest rate of, for example, 5 per cent., at the time of the imposition of this tax, the additional levy of 10 per cent, on the income so derived virtually reduced the interest return of the lender from 5 per cent, to per cent. It was the intention of the Government of the day to levy on this income to that extent, and very few protests were made against it. I point out, however, that as mortgages fell due, the lenders covered themselves by an addition to the interest rate. Thus the weight of the tax was really passed on to the borrower, and that bore very heavily on primary producers, whose industry is of such a nature that the borrowing of substantial sums is recognized as inherently connected with the conduct of their operations. Thus we find that this tax, which was intended to, and actually did, impose a heavy levy on the income of a wealthy section of the community - those who lend money on mortgage - was progressively, as mortgages expired, passed on to the borrowers. It would probably have taxed the ingenuity of the Government to avoid that state of affairs. I am not, at the moment, offering any criticism of the Government for not havingdevised means to prevent the passing on of the tax. But, to-day, when we are considering the repeal of this additional levy, we find that thousands of borrowers are paying as part of their interest rate a sufficient additional amount to enable the lender to obtain the wherewithal to meet it.
– That applies not only to this special property tax, hut also to the ordinary property rate of tax.
– The ordinary property rate of tax is covered in all borrowing.
– It has just been reduced by 10 per cent.
– That was part of a general reduction, which applied to income from all sources, and is not to be confused with this. Here is a levy that was specially imposed on a certain class of income, the consequence of which was to raise the rate of interest. I do not think that the Treasurer will challenge that statement.
– Not at all. All taxation does the same thing.
– We are now removing this special tax; but the borrower on mortgage will still be under contract to pay the amount of it to the lender, while the lender, in his turn, will be relieved of the payment of it to the Government. Therefore, what on the face of it purports to be a relief to the lender, will in fact amount to a gift to him, in that he will be relieved of payment of the tax, while there is no provision or suggestion for the relief of the borrowers. That is a matter to which the Government could well give consideration. The attachment of a condition to the removal of the tax would not be entirely without precedent.
During the last two or three years, legislation has been introduced in the Union of South Africa, providing that certain relief from taxation should be given to lenders on mortgage, conditional only on their passing on the advantage to the borrowers by a reduction of the rate of interest. From the viewpoint of equity, I see no reason why a similar course should not be followed in this case. It will be very difficult for the Government to justify making lenders on mortgage and lessees a present of relief from this tax and at the same time doing nothing whatever to ensure that the advantage is passed on to the borrowers. I ask the Treasurer to endeavour, in the recess, to devise means whereby the relief may be passed on; although, for my own part, I believe that once the proposal has been adopted it will then be too late to devise any method. I protest against the absence of such a provision from the measure, and ask that my suggestion he considered.
– in reply - I believe that the honorable member is pursuing an ideal that is too precise for a practical world. I suggest that the rates which individuals have to pay on mortgage, and the current rates of tax on property income, are not the real determining factors.
– I think the honorable gentleman will agree that the imposition of this tax had the immediate effect of raising interest rates in order to protect the lenders.
– I should say in broader terms that the whole of the taxation on property income, of which that on mortgage interest is but a part, has a very definite effect. There are probably many impositions of which this, of course, has been one of the most onerous. I should say that the determining factors are, first, the character of the borrower, the security that he has to offer, and his past personal record; secondly, the scarcity or plentitude of money at the general rates of interest current at the time; and thirdly, the rates of tax on property income. I suggest that, in the future, mortgages that are renewed or new mortgages that are entered into, will have the advantage of the withdrawal of this tax, and the tendency will be - unless it is offset by tendencies in- other directions - towards the reduction of the rates of interest on mortgages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause4 . (.Disposal of assets of a business).
.- This clause reverses a principle that was incorporated in the consolidating Income Tax Assessment Bill which the Parliament passed earlier in this year - the principle that, where a taxpayer wound up his business and sold the assets, the value of the stock and assets, for purposes of taxation, should be as they were set out in the contract or the agreement. Subsequently, the question of the taxation of leaseholds and of any premium paid on the sale of a Crown lease, was referred to a royal commissioner, who recommended that the principle of the respective values of the different assets being set out in the. contract should be departed from, because a leasehold property would no longer be taxable, and presumably taxpayers might, by collusion between the vendor and the purchaser, concentrate a disproportionate amount of the price on the tax-free asset, to the detriment of the revenue, by reducing the price of the taxable assets. It applies more particularly to the sale of real estate on which there are livestock. It appears to me that this is an unnecessary reversal of a previous decision of the Parliament, and also of the Taxation Conference, for if a purchaser allowed stock to be included in his books for less than their true market value, he would render himself liable to additional income tax when he realized on it. The difference between what he paid for it and what he received for it would be taxable in his hands. If, by collusion, he allowed his purchase price to be unfairly understated, he would render himself liable to taxation to an excessive amount.
I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) why this was overlooked earlier when freehold properties were being considered? Freehold properties were not subject to tax in this way under the act, as passed last May, and it would have been possible in such circumstances to concentrate more on the purchase price of the freehold and less on the purchase price of the livestock. If the obvious interests of the purchaser were sufficient to safeguard the revenue in the case of freehold sales, which constitute the enormous majority of sales in Australia, why are the royal commission, the Treasurer, and the taxation officers more suspicious of the veracity of the people who buy leasehold property? Personally, I shall not resist this amendment. In practice, I think it will work out reasonably. I am certainly not pressing for any leniency to, or concessions in favour of, taxpayers who do not have regard to fair dealing according to the law, and who seek to escape their liability to pay tax in accordance with the decisions of the Parliament. The Treasurer should, however, explain why this provision, which was not considered necessary in the case of freehold sales, is considered to be necessary in the case of leasehold sales.
– All I can say is that the need to deal with cases of the kind affected has just come to light. It -was evidently overlooked earlier. I do not demur from anything the honorable member has said. Actually, I suppose this matter should have been reviewed years ago, but it has been brought to light by the review of the recommendation of the royal commission in respect to the taxation of the proceeds of the sale of leaseholds. [Quorum formed.’] The point was brought to light by Sir David Ferguson.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
The Principal Act is amended by inserting after section eighty-eight the following section : - 88a. - (.1. ) Except as provided in this section, the provisions of sections eighty-four, eighty-five, eighty-six, eighty-seven and eightyeight shall not apply to a lease from the Crown of land used for primary production. (5.) Where a taxpayer, who in the year of income is the lessee from the Crown of land used for primary production for the purpose of producing assessable income, has incurred expenditure in making improvements which, prior to the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-seven, hie was required to make under the provisions of the lease . . .
.- I move-
That after the word “ improvements “ subsection 5., proposed new section 88a, the following words be inserted : - “, not subject to tenant rights,”.
The words proposed to he inserted appear in sub-section 2 of section 88 of the principal act, but were inadvertently omitted in adapting the provisions of that subsection to sub-section 5. of the proposed new section 88a. This is purely a drafting amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I consider that the proposed new section 88a is desirable, for it appears to simplify the provisions of section88, and it will do substantial justice to a large body of leaseholders - in fact to all Crown leaseholders of this class of which I have any knowledge. I wish to record that, having considered this provision, I regard it as equitable and satisfactory.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 19 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - byleave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 19th Novem ber (vide page 2l31) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a, long machinery measure which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) claims is designed to alleviate certain disabilities and difficulties of sales tax payers. It will simplify the law and remedy certain weaknesses which at present make tax evasion possible.
It is proposed to curtail the retrospective incidence of the tax - first, by imposing a three years’ time limit; and, secondly, by providing that in cases where taxpayers act in accordance with departmental rulings and advices, no retrospective tax shall be collected except in a limited way. It is, of course, prescribed that the three years’ limit is not to applywhere the Commissioner is satisfied that evasion has been practised.
It is now apparent that the collection of taxation as from, the date at. which this class of tax was first levied in Australia, could easily prove a grievous hardship, particularly where the taxpayer’s neglect has been due to inadvertence. . The imposition of the tax in this way at present appears unjustified owing to the inability of the taxpayer to recoup the tax in the price charged, and it is therefore- fair to impose a time limit upon the retrospective application of the tax.
It appears reasonable also that where taxpayers accept and act upon the rulings and advices of the Taxation Department, they should be absolved from liability for retrospective taxation when these rulings or advices are varied.
This bill, being a machinery measure, may be more appropriately discussed in detail at the committee stage.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin) has said, this is essentially a bill for consideration in committee, but I wish to make one or two observations on various aspects of it, and to ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) whether he will explain the points that I raised, and also rectify certain anomalies by administrative act or, if that cannot be done, by amendment of the law.
I direct attention first to the words in paragraph g ‘of the definitions clause, “ to the order of individual customers “. If the act be amended as suggested, the Commissioner could treat as wholesale sales sales by a retailer if the sales were made to a person whose principal business was not the making up of articles for human wear to the order of individual customers. I give as an example goods purchased over the counter by dressmakers, milliners, and the like, and made up to individual orders. It is surely not intended that retailers shall be required to question customers as to the nature of their business.- I cannot believe that either the Treasurer or the Taxation Department wishes to insist that retailers shall be forced to make unnecessary inquiries of this kind. If the words “by order of individual customers “ are inserted that is what is likely to occur. 1 ask the Treasurer to indicate what action it is proposed that retailers shall take in such circumstances.
Representations have been made from time to time to the Treasurer asking him to make a percentage rebate or discount to firms on the payment of the sales tax in cash within 30 days in accordance with the usual business custom, or to bring the sales tax legislation into line with the more modern legislation of Canada and New Zealand, thus enabling returns to be lodged and payments of tax to be made over an extended period. For instance, the Treasurer knows that an extraordinary amount of trouble is taken by firms in the compilation of the sales tax returns in order to submit them within the prescribed period. In Canada, the time for payment is extended over a longer period than that prescribed in the Australian legislation, whilst in the NewT Zealand act, it is laid down that a return must be furnished within 28 days of the end of the month in respect of which the return is made. If the Commonwealth followed that example the firms concerned would be given more time to give consideration to the actual returns, and a lot of time which is now wasted in the department in. the checking up of returns would be obviated. The payment of the tax in Canada must be made on or before the last day of the month next succeeding the month covered by the return. This provision gives the Canadian taxpayers a much longer period for the payment of the tax than is permitted to the Australian taxpayers. The Treasurer, I submit, should give consideration to extending the period in which tax returns must be lodged and, although I know he has already dealt with the matter of allowing discount for payments in cash within 30 days, I submit also that he should give consideration to extending the period in which payments of the ta’x may be made.
A definite principle is involved* in clause 11 of the bill. All honorable members object to retrospective legislation, but in this clause there is a retrospective provision which may react to the detriment of the taxpayer. It has been suggested that, under this clause, retrospective action may operate back to the 5th October, 1932. Up to the present time taxpayers, generally speaking, have com- plied with the existing law, but proposed amendments in this clause will give to the Commissioner the right to re-open the question of sales values. Although taxpayers’ returns may have been forwarded under the existing law and may have been accepted by the department, although the taxpayers may have assumed that their liability in respect of the goods on which the tax is levied has ended, and although the profits of a taxpaying company may have been determined and dividends distributed from them, and income tax paid upon them, if the right of retrospective assessment in this regard is given to the Commissioner, and he acts upon that right, the profits of previous years may easily be converted into losses. Such retrospective legislation may easily react to the detriment, not of individuals who have been paid their dividends, but of the companies themselves. This should not be tolerated. The Treasurer may say that this clause is needed to prevent the Taxation Department from being deluged with claims for refunds, but I direct his attention to the fact that, in the principal act, the Commissioner is covered in this regard by the phrase “ The Commissioner may “. I stress the fact that it is at the discretion of the Commissioner whether refunds shall be made. On previous occasions the Commissioner has sheltered under that provision.
– It is a case of getting butter out of a’ dog’s throat.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman. The revenue is fully protected by the use of the word “ may “ ; and also by proposed new section 12c 1 of the Sales Tax Procedure Act, which specifies that no refund of overpayment of tax shall be made after the expiration of a. period of three years. “With that provision, I am in complete accord, but I draw the attention of the Treasurer to the fact that in the principal act he has a safeguard which if used in conjunction with this would give him all the protection he desires. This matter bears relation to a review of returns made by the taxpayers, based upon the fact that they could have obtained goods from another manufacturer. I know what the Minister is after, and I do not want to give the impression that I am trying to support a man who is attempting to cover up a fraud, but firms should not be forced to go back over their sales for a long period in Order to satisfy the Commissioner that they could not have purchased from another source. To have to do so would strain their resources to the utmost. The Treasurer should consider this matter from the viewpoint of a big firm like David Jones’ or Farmers. They would have to go back over a. period of years, and would have no opportunity to pass on the tax; it would put them to an unnecessary amount of trouble to show that they could not have purchased from another manufacturer. It would strain the memory of any one to have to cast one’s mind back over a period of years, and to demand that a firm of the magnitude of either of the two I have mentioned should do so is asking too much. The work involved, would be extraordinary, and it would be impracticable to determine a hypothetical “ could “. The Minister may have some knowledge of firms which have made out returns at just about under cost price and have not entered reasonable purchase prices. Those are the firms which he seeks to cover by this amendment. If, however, he will give an assurance, either by way of amendment, or verbally, that it is not the intention of the Government to harass firms unless they are definitely attempting a fraud, I shall not press this matter further.
I draw attention to the proposed insertion in the Sales Tax Procedure Act of a new section 12c 1, which stipulates that no refund of overpayment of tax shall be made after three years. A case is before the High Court at the moment, in which a claim arising out of the legislation introduced by the Government in regard to secondhand goods is being decided. This is an important matter, because the applicatioii to the High Court has been made to challenge the act with regard to section 12a. This provision was inserted for the purpose of preventing wholesale refunds being made of taxes collected in respect of second-hand goods, and if a judgment is given for the appellants in the present case they will obviously be thrown back on the provisions of proposed new section 12c. In other words, if section 12a is invalid, then the proviso 26 of section 12c becomes of no value, and the right of the litigants to a refund may be nullified by section 12c. That is to say, if a decision were given against the Commissioner it would be impossible to recover anything from him, because refunds can only be made within a period of three years of the assessment, and this action relates to assessments which were made more than three years ago. I do not think that it is the intention of the Treasurer to take action of that sort.
– An amendment has been circulated to cover that point.
– I am pleased to know that; but I knew that the Treasurer would not seek to rob these people of any just dues they might obtain from a ruling of the High Court.
I wish to point out what appears to me to be a further anomalous provision. Proposed new section 12b stipulates that the Commissioner after three years may remit unpaid tax, but I draw the attention of the Treasurer to the fact that section 17 of the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) and section 3 of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 2 to 9) provide that the tax mentioned therein “ shall “ be levied and paid. In other words, a definite obligation is imposed on the taxpayer to pay the tax, after which the Commissioner “may” make a refund. I emphasize the use of the word “ may whereas in the case of the taxpayer the word “shall” is used. I consider that the Treasurer should remove the apparent anomaly of the Commissioner having discretion and the taxpayers having an obligation, by making it also obligatory on the Commissioner to make a refund where circumstances justify it. That would place the legislation in this respect in its proper perspective.
.- Several of the matters raised by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) are worthy of consideration, and I particularly ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give favorable consideration to the request for the extension of time for the payment of sales tax. Sometimes the tax has to be paid a month or even more before the seller of the goods is himself paid by his clients: If this request were conceded, it would remove a fruitful cause of irritation.
– !The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr, E. J. Harrison) inquired regarding the proposed amendment of section 3 as contained in paragraph (g) of clause 5. I assure him that the amendment is merely consequential upon the alteration of the definition of “ manufacturer “. It has no sinister intent, nor does’ it alter the situation of the persons concerned. The present position is that the maker-up of goods is a taxpayer in that his transactions attract sales tax when the goods are for the private use only of- the supplier of the materials. When the goods are for business use, the supplier of the materials is the taxpayer.
– How can the department determine whether the goods are to be made for the individual or for stock unless the customer is questioned?
– It does not matter. The only criterion is whether the goods are eventually to be sold.
The honorable member also asked that greater consideration be given to sales taxpayers in regard to the time allowed for payment, and he put forward a proposal that discount might be allowed for prompt payment. These matters were all considered by myself and other members of the Cabinet when the budget was being framed because they have an important bearing upon the revenue. If the time for payment were extended - and nothing less than a month would be of any use - the result would be that approximately one month’s sales tax revenue would be lost to the Treasury for the financial year in which the change was made, and the Government could not agree to that. The Government examined with much care And sympathy the suggestion that discounts should be allowed for prompt payment, but it was found to be impossible to evolve machinery to enable the_ provision to work with reasonable fairness to’ all concerned.
– Would it not be possible to extend the time from 21 days to 28 days?
– The Commissioner is allowed considerable discretion in that regard. Honorable members should know that he is reasonably kind-hearted in the administration of these matters, and he will grant an extension of time if it is evident that a genuine attempt is being made to pay.
Another point raised was the substitution of the word “could” for the word “ would “. The relevant amendment is connected with a matter that has given the department a great deal of trouble in recent years. The act imposes sales tax, as far as possible, on the last wholesale transaction before the goods go into retail consumption. Immediately difficulty is encountered in the case of individuals and institutions which are at the same time manufacturers and retailers, because in that event there is no wholesale price to work on. The vast majority of such taxpayers have returned every month what the Commissioner was able to agree was a fair statement of what might be considered to be the wholesale value of the goods - somewhere between the actual cost price, and the retail price which the goods command. There are. not wanting a few individuals, however, who have sought to take advantage of the great technical difficulty of the position in order to evade payment of tax. The law says that the wholesale price is to be an amount for which the taxpayer would purchase similar goods in the market, but immediately they reply that they would not purchase the goods in the market if they cost more than the price for which they could manufacture them. The substitution has been made in order to provide a reasonable solution of this difficulty. It gives the Commissioner the right, if he is thwarted by an individual, to determine for himself a reasonable wholesale value.
The main purpose in giving retrospective operation to these amendments is not to disturb past returns, but to obviate the possibility of having to refund a large amount of revenue collected in the past in accordance with the clear intention of Parliament. I give an assurance that the amended provisions will not bc applied so as to enforce the payment of tax in respect of past transactions, except where fraud is discovered, where no sales tax has been returned under the relevant provisions, or where the sale value is so unreasonably low as not to be approximately equivalent to the lowest sale value accepted by the department in a reasonably comparable case.
As regards the use of the word “ may “ in clause 60, I am assured by the legal advisers of the Government that, in this context, it has the meaning of “ shall “. [Quorum formed.’]
– Will the Treasurer reply to my remarks regarding sales tax on secondhand goods?
– The purpose of the proposed amendment is to preserve the rights of litigants with particular reference to a case which is at present either part heard or is shortly to be heard in the courts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to. [Quorum formed.]
Clause 9- (1.) Section seventeen of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - “(2.) “For the purposes of this section goods manufactured in Australia by a taxpayer and applied to his own use means goods manufactured in Australia in the course of carrying on a business and applied by the taxpayer to his own use whether for the purpose of that business or for any other purpose and whether or not those goods arc of a class manufactured by that person for sale, but shall not include any goods so manufactured and applied if goods of the same class and for the same particular class of use are not manufactured in Australia, by the taxpayer or by any other person, for sale.”.
– This clause deals with goods produced by a manufacturer for his own use, and exempts them from sales tax, provided that no goods used for the same class of use are produced by other manufacturers. The first amendment which I shall submit puts the onus of proof on the manufacturer himself, who must prove to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that goods of this type are not made by any other manufacturer. The object of the amendment is to avoid an impossible administrative situation arising by absolving the Commissioner from the onus of proof in possibly many thousands of cases, and putting it on the manufacturer himself. A manufacturer of dies, for instance, from his knowledge of the trade as a whole, would know whether the goods manufactured by him were produced by anybody else. I move -
That, after the word “ if “, proposed new sub-section 2 the following words be inserted: “ the taxpayer establishes to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that “.
That after the word “ sale “, second occurring, proposed new sub-section 2 the following words bo added : “ or for supply to some other person in the circumstances specified in subsection 4 of section three of this Act “.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Sale value of goods).
– The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in reply to remarks made by me in my speech on the second reading of the bill, said that, with certain exceptions, it was not intended to re-open old assessments. Will the Treasurer furnish a further explanation of the matter?
– All I can say is that it is not intended to re-open old returns where the Commissioner has accepted the value stated in the previous returns, notwithstanding the fact that, in the first place, he may have debated the sale value with the taxpayer. If the Commissioner has accepted a past return, even though he did debate the matter at the time, it must now be accepted as having been closed.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Regulations).
.- In the course of the Treasurer’s second-reading speech on the bill I asked whether provision had been made to cover “ retail wholesalers “. From information I have received, I understand that these traders can be covered by regulations made subsequent to the passing of this measure.
– The honorable member is referring to a Launceston case, about which some correspondence has taken place with the department. It relates mainly to sales tax paid by . a retail wholesaler on tea purchased to go into a common stock. The power to be given to the Commissioner under this clause will enable him to make regulations which, provided the investigationof the case results as I anticipate, will have the effect of allowing a refund to be made on the portion of the tea subsequently sold by wholesale.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 59 agreed to.
Clause 60 -
The principal act is amended by inserting after section twelve a the following sections : - 12c. (No refund of overpayment after three years ) .
– This clause deals with retrospective payments. Representations have been made to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) from time to time by various organizations, including the Taxpayers Association of Queensland, urging that a time limit of three years be placed on the collection of arrears of sales tax, except in cases of fraud or evasion. Will this clause meet the request repeatedly made by these organizations?
– Yes. There is a complementary amendment which I think the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) may also have in mind, providing for a time limit of three years on the making of refunds. Refunds will still be payable in the event of a judicial decision being given in favour of appeals lodged by certain taxpayers. By virtue of the provisions of section 12 a of the Sales Tax Procedure Act, refunds are authorized in certain instances in respect of tax paid on the sale of second-hand goods. That right is preserved by the second of the exceptions to the threeyear time limit provision. Another exception is in respect of goods eventually sold to government departments or other institutions exempt from tax. There are no less than seven or eight circumstances in which the right to refunds beyond the three-year period is preserved. In fact, in all the circumstances which the department has been able to fine toothcomb out of the experience of the past, the rights of the taxpayer to retrospective payments over the period of the three years have been preserved, where it would be clearly unjust to debar such payments.
– Will this provision cover the whole of the objections raised ?
– I believe that it will. The object of the amendment is to preserve the right of litigants, who have already initiated legal proceedings, to any refund should they secure a favorable decision from the court. I am assured that it is quite sufficient to preserve the rights to pending litigants. I move -
That the following new sub-section be inserted in proposed new section 12C - “ (3. ) Nothing inthis section shall affect any judicial proceedings instituted and pending on or before the nineteenth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six, and any proceedings so instituted and pending may be heard and determined as if this section had not been enacted.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 61 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Australian- Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill 1936.
Constitution Alteration (Aviation) Bill 1930.
Constitution Alteration (Marketing) Bill 1936.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Debate resumed from the 27th November (vide page 2496), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I believe that honorable members in all parts of the House will congratulate the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) upon reaching an agreement for the improvement of the commercial relations between Australia and one of the great countries of the world which, in the past, has been a very good friend of Australian primary industries. The very lengthy schedules attached to the treaty quite probably do not represent any very great increase of the volume of trade which will flow between the two countries as the result of this treaty, but of much more importance is the fact that the agreement almost certainly marks the termination of bitter disagreement between the countries and the generally bad feeling commercially between the Trench consumers of primary products and Austraiian primary producers who formerly found markets for their products in France. A large number of our commodities in the past found a market for special lines in France. For instance, apples, of a size which it was difficult to sell in England and Germany were bought in liberal quantities at remunerative prices for special purposes in French food requirements. The loss of that market following the bad feeling engendered some years ago seriously affected the price of all apples offered for sale in England and other European countries. Apples of an unsaleable type in those countries tended to depress the price of our exports. The same observation applies to our barley and wheat and a number of other products which formerly used to be imported into France for special purposes. Australian wheat has a special quality for blending to improve the colour and texture of flour, and this was mixed in France with home grown and North American wheat. The action which the French Government took some years ago to place practically a prohibitive duty on Australian wheat, led to our loss of the French market for wheat of that quality, which was used for blending purposes in France where people have a discriminating taste for high-class bread. For the recovery of that market, and many other benefits which I shall not go into in detail, honorable members in all parts of the House will be glad. Although the action which was taken by the previous government in order to. rectify our adverse trade balance w.as not taken in any hostile spirit towards France as a country, there was no doubt that it was bitterly resented and was entirely misunderstood in France, and the result of French retaliation, in the long run, injured Australia’s trade balance rather than improved it. It is a very good thing that we have got back to cordial relations with such a good purchasing country as France.
On Australia’s side there is an imposing list of commodities in respect of which Australia gives concessions to French imports. The reductions of duty in the main are not very considerable. In the large majority of cases the tariff and primage will remain to all intents and purposes, prohibitive against the great bulk of French exports to Australia. The concessions made in this agreement will not weaken the general protective effect of the Australian tariff, but will allow a small trickle of special quality products from France to this country. In the aggregate the agreement holds out some hope of a small increase of Australia’s capacity to purchase French quality goods.
While welcoming the treaty in the main, I wish, however, to point out that as regard certain kinds of wine - sparkling wines and champagne - and brandy, particularly the imitation brandy which is made only with a little real brandy flavoring, the proposed reductions have caused a certain amount of anxiety in the wine-growing districts in Australia. In the past I have heard some winemakers say that they would welcome a reasonable mitigation of the prohibitive duties on French quality wines as they felt that some lowering of the duty would not lead to any serious competition with our main Australian wines but would enable wine-makers themselves and connoisseurs to obtain small quantities . of good quality French wine, and this development might well be the means of developing the taste for quality wines in Australia. So far as I can gather, there is not likely to be any serious effect upon the large lines of Australian wines as the result of these alterations of duties. It is with regard to sparkling wine and brandy that Australian wine-makers feel particularly anxious, and particularly in respect of French imitation brandy which is mainly fermented out of sugar and water with just a little flavoring of brandy essence. I do not know sufficient about the trade to be able to say from an examination of the schedule whether this anxiety on the part of winemakers and brandy distillers is wellfounded or not. I hope that the Minister will be able to allay these fears on the part of producers of sparkling wines, champagne and brandy in Australia, by promising that the position will be very carefully watched and that, if any appreciable injury is done to the Australian industry, he will take steps to rectify it. [ notice that in respect of a number of items in connexion with which France has made concessions, that country undertakes to consider sympathetically certain concessions in the way of quotas. In the light of that flexibility in this agreement I hope that the Minister will be in a position to secure the sanction of the French Government to review the items involved should it happen that any appreciable injury is done to Australian industry. One method that occurs to me by which injury might be averted, is by the adjustment of the excise by the amount necessary to enable Australian industry to hold its own for the normal volume of its output. I have not had the time or the opportunity to consult with members of the wine-making industry since the particulars of the schedule were circulated yesterday, but it appears to me probable that an assurance by the Minister that he will consider an adjustment of the excise where practicable and if necessary, would be acceptable to the principal wine-makers concerned, particularly if that assurance were eventually given effect. I, therefore, support the treaty generally. It is one that I welcome, and I congratulate the Minister upon having brought to a successful conclusion yet another trade negotiation with an important overseas customer of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Rill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
– by leave - I move -
That thebillbe now read a third time.
I very much appreciate the approval given by the House to the trade treaty with France.
I wish to reply shortly to the plea that has been made by the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). The honorable member paid particular attention to the reduced duties on wine - particularly sparkling wine - and brandy, and asked that I should undertake, on behalf of the Government, that the trend of trade in this respect, under the treaty, will be very closely observed. I readily give him that assurance. I also assure him that if, as the result of the trend of the trade, the Australian industry, in connexion with brandy and the particular wines that he mentioned, suffers to any material degree, the Government will consider sympathetically the taking of measures that will afford protection, whether by the reduction of the excise or in other ways.
-Will the Minister give the assurance that he will watch the duties in respect of knitted goods and textiles?
– Yes. The treaty is for a short term - only one year - and can be terminated at two months’ notice. The progress of trade, and the effect of this treaty, as well as other treaties, will “be kept under the closest observation, in order to conserve the interests of the wine industry and all other Australian industries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 19th Novem ber (vide page 2132), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill appears to be unnecessary, and, paradoxically enough, it also appears to bo without ground for criticism. I see no occasion to add to the number of coins that constitute the currency of the Australian people.
– In respect of quality or quantity?
– Either the quality or the quantity. On the other hand, I quite appreciate the readiness of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to issue a coin that will be commemorative of the coronation of His Majesty the King, and to make it one that has passed out of circulation in the British speaking world at least, with the single exception, I understand, of the United States of America, which has a silver dollar. I believe that the original intention of the honorable gentleman was ; to issue a five-shilling note. I do not know whether that rumour was warranted or not, but apparently he abandoned the note in favour of the coin. The profit on a note, I suppose, would be much greater than the profit on a coin. In any case, however, it would appear to be clear that the Treasurer will make some profit out of the issue of this coin, and even that would seem to be an object that has certain merit in it. As I have said, I see no necessity for the inclusion of a five-shilling coin in the currency of Australia. But I do not feel disposed to occupy the time of the House in objecting to the issue of it, and consequently the Opposition will allow the second reading and the remaining stages of the bill to be passed without further debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a formal measure, which proposes to rectify a drafting error in the Financial Relief Act (No. 2) passed through this Parliament quite recently. It originated in the Senate.
Prior ‘to the depression, the variations of the salaries of public servants in accordance with the rise or fall of the cost of living were effected under the authority of regulations made under the Public Service Act - that is in respect of the Public -Service proper. In respect of other Commonwealth employees, the variations were made under regulations, by-laws, or awards applicable to the respective services. From the time of the enactment of the Financial Emergency Act, cost of living adjustments were implemented under that act and not under the Public Service Act and corresponding provisions in various regulations, by-laws and awards, as they had been previously. Consequently that enactment, practically speaking, put out of court the regulations made under the Public Service Act. The Financial Relief Act (No. 2) recently enacted, repealed all the provisions relating to salaries that were embodied in the Financial Emergency Act; consequently, in respect of the regulation of cost of living adjustments, we are thrown back on to the Public Service Act and other statutory provisions,which controlled this particular situation, in the pre-depression period. Regulations made under that act specify that the ups and downs in respect of cost of living adjustments shall be effected as from the 1st July of each year. The recent Financial Relief Act (No. 2). as honorable gentlemen know, was not enacted until a few weeks ago; that is to say, after the 1st July. Therefore, technically, it was not possible to implement under the Public Service Act normal cost of living adjustments of the salaries of public servants and other government employees. This short measure is designed purely to right that matter. It makes no alteration whatever of the existing position; the salaries of public servants will still rise or fall according to the movement of certain cost of living index numbers.
– For the same period ?
– Yes. The purpose of the bill is simply to rectify an error that was overlooked when the Financial Relief Bill was passed some little time ago. I assure honorable members that no new principle is incorporated in the bill, which is purely a technical measure to remedy a flaw.
– Is the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) able to inform honorable members whether the Public Service is favorable to the existing method of adjusting salaries and wages in the Service to the cost of living fluctuations?
– No representations on the -subject have been made to me on behalf of the Public Service.
– Unfortunately, the workers in outside industry - I speak now of other than public servants - have to wait until the cost of living fluctuates to the extent of 2s. a week before they can obtain any adjustment, and sometimes they lose heavily if the cost of living maintains steadily for a long period an increase of, say,1s. 9d. or 1s. l0d. in advance of the existing award. I cannot, of course, say whether the Public Service is satisfied with this method of cost-of-living adjustment.
– I feel sure that, if there had been much dissatisfaction, I should have heard of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 8)
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Debate resumed from the 27th November (vide page 2504), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett (vide page 2497).
That the schedule to the Customs Tariffs 1933, as amended by the Customs Tariff 1930 and as proposed to be amended by tariff proposals, be further amended as hereunder set out. …
– The object of these proposals is to give effect to- the tariff alterations which are necessary consequent on the trade agreement with France. The principal alteration is the provision of intermediate tariff rates for the benefit of France and other countries which may be accorded “mostfavouredforeignnation “ treatment by Australia. However, where an intermediate tariff rate has been provided in relation to goods subject to protective duties it is at a level which is not lower than that which the Tariff Board considers necessary for the protection of Australian industry against importations from foreign countries. In a small number of cases outside the scope of the trade agreement with France, items have been amended. However,, these were instances in which the items were included in the same tariff board report as items under the trade agreement in question. Special notation has been made of these cases in the memorandum circulated for the information of honorable members.
– I offer no objection to this motion; but I wish it to be known that we understand that this schedule is entirely experi- mental. “We are not able to judge the effect it is likely to have upon the textile industry of Australia. As the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) has given me a positive assurance that he will watch the interests of the textile industry very carefully - he gave a similar assurance some little time ago to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), that he would watch the interests of the wine industry very closely - I am prepared to allow this motion to pass without protracted debate. It should be remembered, however, that the Government has a much more direct association with the wine industry of Australia than it has with the textile industry. I have no doubt that the persons connected with the Australian wine industry are in a better position to make prompt representations to the Government on any matter which they think may affect their interests than are the persons connected with the textile industry. This schedule is one of a series dealing with trade agreements with foreign countries, and is, in fact, cognate with that relating to Belgium. We should face the fact that agreements of this kind must almost inevitably be allowed to . run the full course of a year, for very strong reasons indeed would be required to denounce such a treaty within that period. It is hardly likely that advantage will be taken of the provision to give two months’ notice within the period of a year. As the Government has undertaken to safeguard the textile industry and enable it to maintain its present efficiency, I shall offer no objection to the motion.
.- It seems to me that the Government is seriously impairing the effectiveness of our protective policy. It is unfair, in my opinion, that a schedule like this should be placed before us under conditions which give us no opportunity whatever to consider its full effect. A comparative statement should have been furnished to honorable members, showing how the rates of duty provided in this schedule compare with existing duties. Simply to read that a duty is to be imposed on, say, hatters’ fur, at a certain rate, means very little to us without comparative information. The hat manufacturing industry of Australia has had a long struggle, and it is now in a comparatively satisfactory position. The industry provides employment for thousands of people throughout the Commonwealth, and I am glad to be able to say that the quality of the hats manufactured in Australia compares favorably with that of the best hats manufactured anywhere else in the world. I protest, however, at the manner in which this schedule has been tabled. I see a reference in it to pharmaceutical preparations. Is the Government proposing to allow the Boots Chemical Trust of Great Britain to get a footing in Australia ?
– Does the honorable member stand for a policy which will permit the chemists to charge extortionate prices?
– I stand for a fair deal for the secondary industries of Australia. I am not satisfied with the manner in which the Government is conducting this business. It is all very well to say that this is an experimental schedule. Certain Australian industries which will be affected by it have long since passed the experimental stage. The Government is playing with fire. I ask that additional information be furnished to honorable members showing the comparative rates of duty on goods imported from different countries, so that we may ascertain whether adequate protection is being provided for kindred secondary industries in Australia. In my opinion, the whole protective policy of the Commonwealth is being seriously undermined by this Government in its attempt to placate the members of the Country party, who are demanding so many concessions.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) may perhaps be re-assured when I inform him that none of the protective levels provided in the schedule now before us are lower than those recommended by the Tariff Board.
– The Government accepts the recommendations of the Tariff Board when it considers them favorable and rejects them on other occasions.
– There can be no menace to any Australian industry through the acceptance of this schedule, for the duties set out in it are at least as high as those recommended by the Tariff Board.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Henry Gullett and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Sir Henry Gullett and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 27th November (vide <page 2504), on motion by Sir Henry Gullett -
That on and after a date to be fixed by Proclamation the schedule to the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1933-1934, as amended by the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1936, and as proposed to be amended by Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Proposals, be further amended as hereunder set out . . .
– Honorable members will recollect that the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1933-36 provides in certain cases for a deduction from the amount of duty payable under the British preferential tariff in respect of items having a protective significance. This deduction was intended to compensate for the protective value of exchange. In recent reports the Tariff Board has rates of duty based on present exchange conditions, with a corrective increasing the rates gradually as exchange moves towards parity. A number of these reports was adopted in connexion with the Customs Tariff Proposals of the 27th November, 1936, which gave effect to the trade agreement with France. The purpose of the exchange adjustment proposals now before the committee is to eliminate from the operation of the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act those items and parts of items for which provision for exchange fluctuation is now made in the items themselves. It is really only a machinery measure, complementary to the alterations that have been made in relation to exchange in the main Customs Tariff Proposals of the 27th November, 1936, which have already been approved by the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Sir Henry Gullett and Mr. White do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bil] brought up by Sir HENRY Gullett, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 19th November, (vide page 2105) on motion (by Mr. Paterson) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is of a somewhat varied character, and though small in dimensions, it covers a number of subjects. These range from an alteration of the amount to be set aside for insurance purposes and increases of the amounts which can be imposed in fines for offences against railway . by-laws to a reversal of” the existing position under which the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is obliged not to differentiate in rates charged to customers of the railways. I am in accord with the principal objective of this bill, which is to give to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner the power to make freight contracts with any person with a view to preventing a decrease of railway income. Power exists under State legislation, I think in Victoria and New South Wales, for the respective Boards of Commissioners to make freight contracts to meet road competition, and it is exercised to prevent loss of traffic. South Australia legislates to prevent what is considered to be unfair competition with its own railways in that State, but it has taken no action to protect its own railways in like circumstances. The Commonwealth railways operating in South Australia get no protection from the South Australian legislature, and, in consequence, competition takes place by reason of which the people operating motor vehicles are new taking the legitimate and payable freight of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. There is no certainty that they will stay on the routes on which they are at present operating, because as soon, as it becomes unprofitable or their trucks wear out or become expensive they can leave the people without the cheaper service which they claim to provide. Because of that state of affairs existing it seems necessary -for legislation of this kind be passed.
The purpose of the proposed amendment contained in clause 2 of the bill, according to the Minister’s explanation, is to make it clear that it is to repair an omission with respect to a particular section and to take care of the future in the same respect. It is designed to remedy the position with regard to a. short section of line between Katherine and Pine Creek in the Northern Territory.
In respect of clause 3 of the bill, which, I think, is the main clause. Since the principal act was passed in September, 1917, nearly twenty years ago, farreaching changes have taken place in the transport sphere, and it is only logical that the act should be reviewed in order that its provisions may be kept abreast of the times. The intention of the Commonwealth Railways Act was that the Commissioner, who was constituted a body corporate, with perpetual succession and a common seal, and vested with powers to acquire, sell, lease, and hold lands and other property, should have the requisite power to conduct the business of the railways on as near to a commercial basis as possible, although the railways’ generally in Australia - particularly the Commonwealth railways - are developmental rather than commercial. I have never subscribed to the belief that, the railways should be considered as commercial propositions. At the same time, I agree that they should not be handicapped by restrictions, such as those which exist in section 30 of the principal net, which this bill proposes to amend. “When the parent bill was under consideration conditions such as exist to-day had not been thought of, and, in many other countries, as well as in the States of Australia, action such as this bill contemplates has had to be taken. The intervening years since the legislation which this bill amends was passed, have brought into being a new mode of transport, and the Commonwealth Railways Department, in common with railway services all over the world, is being forced to alter its methods in order to hold business. Section 30 of the act, as it now stands, compels the Commissioner to charge alike to all persons using the railways under the same conditions, but the amendment now before the House will give him greater latitude in fixing fares and charges where the risk of loss of traffic is involved. This merely places the Commissioner on an equal .competitive basis with road transport enterprise, and I look upon it as a reasonable provision. As a matter of fact, in my view, the Government could have gone much further in amending the act to meet current needs. Provision could have been made to permit of the Commissioner engaging in the conveyance of goods by road and by air in conjunction with the railways. Already, in Great Britain, and in many other countries to-day, the development of efficient transport by railway authorities over land surface with various kinds of transport, has been achieved. It is realized that, in order to give services for which the railways were originally established, those in control have to hold the power to take over or develop road and ai’r services and to make them operate as feeders to the railways. It seems to me that, as the result of development of air transport in Australia, it will be alsonecessary to endow the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner with power to take over air services. In the sparselypopulated territories in which the Commonwealth railways operate, it is important that the Commissioner should ,. when occasion demands, be in a position to place at the disposal of settlers in those far-out localities road and air services as feeders to the railways. I offer this suggestion for the consideration of the Minister for the Interior in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth should have full control of all forms of land transport.
Years ago, when consideration wasbeing given to the construction of the trans-Australian railway, it was said that it was never likely to return the cost of axle grease, but it will be seen from the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner’s annual report that, last year,, the line not only paid all operating costs, but also it contributed more than £45,006 towards the interest bill. The Commissioner’s latest report is an interesting document, particularly when it is compared with reports of previous years. It shows the progress that has been made in the territory over which they operate, where there is a small population - probably the least populated area in the civilized world. Despite that, the peoplethere are developing it with the aid of the railway, and, I believe that, given proper legislation, will be capable of considerable improvement on the conditions which now exist.
When the Railways Estimates were under consideration about three weeks ago I referred to concessions in freights, which contributed towards losses in railway operations, and stated that the losses on the working of the railways were used as weapons against the employees when claims for improved wages and workingconditions were before arbitration tribunals for consideration. The Minister said, by way of interjection -
The value of those concessions is made good by the Treasury and the railways are not affected.
The Minister was mistaken with respect to that matter, as what he said was far from being the case. Losses which arise from concessions are not always made good as they should be, when ordered by the Government. That the losses are not made good or are only made good in part is proved by an answer given to a question asked by myself. lt was sought to ascertain whether the concessions in freight rates operating since the 1st July, 1930, had been made at the expense of the Government or of the Railways Department. The answer given to the question was “ Yes “. Particulars were also sought regarding the value of the concessions, and what proportion of the loss was being borne by the Government and what proportion by the Railways Department. Af ter the question had been asked, it was represented to me that a considerable amount of time and trouble would be involved in compiling the information asked for. I agreed with this point of view, and eventually I was furnished with a reply by the Minister which concluded with the following sentence -
It is understood that your question related only to reductions affecting local traffic on Commonwealth railways.
I am not complaining about that, but the reply indicated clearly that concessions were given in regard to freight rates by both the Government and the department. The most important concessions were stated to be in regard to wool, fodder for starving stock, the conveyance of starving stock for agistment, long distance rebates in respect of consignments to localities more than 150 miles from the railways, and in respect of petrol, kerosene and lubricating oils. It was further stated that records were not available for the full period, but that on the figures for the year 1934-35 - the latest available - the respective proportions of the concession losses borne by the railways accounts and by the Government were £3,556 and £919. It will thus be seen, that approximately only one-fourth of the cost of the concessions are borne by the Government, while three-fourths are borne by the Railways Department. Those figures are for one year, and are, in relation to local traffic only. It is clear from the Minister’s reply to my question that the Treasury does not make good to the department all losses which it should defray, arising out of the granting of freight concessions. If the same proportion applies to conces- sions granted on through, or non-local traffic, as it is reasonable to suppose, the losses would be even greater, particularly on the trans-Australian line. It is evident, therefore, that railway losses are being swollen by causes arising out of government policy. I do not object to the concessions as such, but I object to the representatives of the Railways department going into court and opposing the claims of the employees for higher wages and improved conditions, on the ground that the railways are running at a loss. The employees quite properly believe that, if the Government desires to make freight concessions, the resultant losses should be a charge on the community as a whole, and should not be borne by them.
The elimination of the breaks of gauge at Port Augusta and Terowie by the construction of the Red Hill railway will still further improve railway business, and next year, when a day is saved on the overland journey in connexion with this extension of the standard gauge, I feel sure that further ‘financial benefit will accrue. At the same time, it seems to me that the best results will only be attained when the standard gauge is extended right through to Perth and Fremantle. I hope that it will not be long before the Government will face this question, and provide a truly national standard guage transcontinental railway from coast to coast. It is disappointing to read in the report of the proceedings of the recent Premiers Conference in Adelaide that the question of standardization of railway gauges is to be still further postponed, and that it is considered that another investigation is to be made before anything further is done. The resolution of the Premiers, which is rather vague, reads -
In view of the progress which has been made in road and air transport, this committee considers that, before any decision is arrived at with respect to standardization of railway gauges, a further inquiry by a competent body should be made, having special reference to the economic and defence aspects.
Prom this resolution, one might think that, before long, railways will cease to operate. It is strange reading this sort of thing in conjunction with the information available of the developmental railway policies which have been adopted in the United Kingdom, the United States of
America and other important countries. Overseas, we have examples of business men paying millions of pounds of their own money for modernizing privatelyowned railway enterprises. They are improving their railways, confident in the belief that, for the bulk of the traffic, rail transport will be the principal medium for the conveyance of goods and passengers 100 years hence. I should like to see the Commonwealth and State governments, as owners of the railways, treat the situation here with equal seriousness, and bring their railways into line with the rest of the world by making a serious effort towards standardization and modernization. I could quote figures to show that large sums of money are being spent in South Africa, Great Britain and the United States of America on bringing railways and railway services up to date - and this applies also to other non-English-speaking countries - but I shall not delay the House with them at this late period of the session; perhaps another occasion will present itself. These figures indicate quite clearly that the belief is not held abroad that railway services are about to be superseded by other means of transport.
I shall deal now with the claims of the union in respect of the bill. The amendment provided for in clause 4 appears to improve the position from the point of view of those leaving the employment of other railway services to join up with the Commonwealth service, but it does not seem to meet the needs of those who, after leaving other railway services, may be required to commence duty on the Northern Territory railway, and have to proceed, say, from South Australia to Darwin by steamer. The clause proposes to extend the period from three days to twelve, but I suggest that, in the case of the men to whom I have just referred, the period might be extended to as much as 24 days.
– Their position could be met.
– I am pleased to know that clauses 5 and 6a are designed to bring into accord with Treasury methods the system of keeping plant and stores expense accounts. The clause is non-controversial.
With reference to clause 7, experience has apparently shown the need for the establishment of an insurance fund to cover damage to railway property arising from storm as well as from fire. This seems to be a wise and necessary provision.
Clause 8 proposes to amend that section of the act relating to the acquisition of land for railway purposes.
I cannot understand the purpose of the amendment relating to trespass on railway property. I trust that it will not be used in order to prevent union officials from having access to railway property for the purpose of interviewing employees.
– I can give the honorable member an assurance that it will not be so used.
– I am glad to have that assurance. Union officials have never abused their privilege to enter railway property to interview employees, and it is essential that they should continue to enjoy it.
No explanation has been given by the Minister regarding clauses 9 and 11, but perhaps an explanation will be given in committee. Clause 7 merely provides for adding the words “ or storms “ after the word “fire”, so that damage by storm may be covered by insurance. I can visualize that damage may be done as the result of flooding following upon ordinary heavy rain which could not really be described as a storm. In flat country, the waters from rains which fall a considerable distance away may wash out the ballast and damage the railway. I suggest that the words- “ and floods “ might be added.
Clause 10 appears to be justified on the ground that it will result in the saving of time and expense. If the State laws provide that a person charged with an offence can be represented in court only by a properly qualified legal man, hardship may result to a person brought before a Justice of the Peace in a locality where no lawyer is available.
Clause 11 repeals section 85 of the act which provides that the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act shall apply to employees of the Commissioner. This was disposed of by the
Minister stating that because the Commissioner has been prescribed as an authority under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act it is not necessary to preserve that section. This appears to be a small matter, but the Opposition would be glad to have a further explanation by the Minister. The section appears to safeguard the rights of the employees, and that being so it should be retained as it is in the present act, or the bill should be so amended as to make the position clear.
Clause 12 provides for a heavy increase of the amount of fine which may be imposed under paragraph Te of section 88 of the principal act. This paragraph provides for a fine of £20, or imprisonment up to fourteen days. Some explanation and justification arc needed for the proposed increase of the penalty before it should be agreed to, particularly as it i=s proposed under paragraph c of clause 10 to allow the jurisdiction of the court to be exercised by a Justice or Justices of the Peace sitting as a court, perhaps, at a place where the person charged usually resides. Why is it necessary to increase the penalty from £20 to £50? On general principles the Opposition is opposed to the imposition of heavy and may be savage penalties, and would probably not feel justified in voting for such a proposal in the absence of a good reason for more than doubling the penalty. I take it that the Minister will clear up this point.
As far as the bill extends the power of the Commissioner to protect the railway asset, of which he is a trustee for the people, it should meet with approval. I hope that no great period will elapse before this Parliament is engaged in giving power to the Commissioner to control a much larger mileage of railways than he now supervises, and that a board of commissioners on which are representatives of the workers will operate the whole of the railways of Australia on a unified basis of control and administration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
After section seventy-three of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 73a. A person shall not, without lawful excuse (proof whereof shall he upon him), trespass or go upon any railway.
– I do not like the onus of proof being placed on the person charged. Those who are sometimes forced by economic circumstances to take the risk of making a railway journey without paying a fare sometimes “jump the rattler “, as it is called, but an officious railway man may take action, against an unfortunate individual whowalks along a railway line in search of employment. Such a person would have to prove that he was not a trespasser.
– -This clause would not be used harshly in such a case.
– I am inclined to suggest that the onus of proof should be on the Commissioner or his representative.
– The words “without lawful excuse” would protect a person who might be found innocently walking along a railway line.
– For more than 1,000 miles the East- West line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie is unfenced.
– It is absurd to imagine that a fine would be imposed on a person found walking along that line.
– Under this proposal he could be charged with trespass, and the onus of proving that he had a lawful excuse would be on him. I consider it necessary to protect the rights of those who may have occasion to walk along railway lines, and I therefore move -
That the words “(proof whereof shall be upon him)” be omitted.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The onus of proof that a trespasser has a lawful excuse must lie with the person concerned. Who else should be saddled with that responsibility ?
.- I understood the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) to say that for 1,000 miles the East- West line is unfenced.
– Tes, and for 500 or 600 miles the North-South line is in a similar condition.
– In that case, how can a railway line be denned? Unless a clearer definition of trespassing on railway property is provided, serious injustice may be done. Railway officials are generally courteous but now and again one strikes an official “ with a liver “ and in such an instance no citizen of the Commonwealth should be exposed to an imposition of this kind. I believe, therefore, that if the Minister will not accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) lie should at :, least have this provision more clearly defined.
Mr. BLAIN (Northern Territory) [9.45 J. - The arguments advanced by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) do not sound so humorous to me as they appear to sound to some honorable members. In a case which I have in mind, one of my constituents - a cattleman of Adelaide River - suffered the loss of many of his stock because these ate grass on railway property, which employees had been ordered to treat with arsenic. This man’s claim against the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways has not yet been cleared up. I contend that it is incumbent on the commissioner to have the boundary of the railway line, which is usually three chains in width, clearly defined. He should at least fence dangerous areas, particularly those areas under his control in the vicinity of watering places for stock and adjoining trucking sidings. In an instance of the kind which I have just given, an injured person has a “very good claim for compensation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Nairn). - I remind the honorable member that the clause before the committee refers to trespass by persons and not by stock.
– The commissioner should fence off such areas as I have indicated, or he should, at least, make some provision to notify the public when certain areas are about to be treated with poison.
.- A very important principle is involved in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), a principle with which you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, as a legal practitioner, will be very familiar. It involves the placing of the burden of proof upon the accused person, a process which I have always opposed, and which, I think, should be opposed strenuously wherever it occurs, as being fundamentally out of harmony with the principles of justice. A charge is made against a man that he has trespassed- npon the property of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. The ease is then very simple - the burden should rest upon the person who makes the charge to prove it. It has always been the endeavour of the Labour movement to stand for that principle and resist encroachments upon it whenever they are made. I am aware that the Minister will have no difficulty in finding precedents for this provision. If he refers to his legal advisers he will find ample precedents in previous Commonwealth statutes for this perversion of a sound rule of common justice because such occur only too often in Commonwealth statutes. But proof of innocence should not rest upon the accused; the burden of proof of guilt should rest upon the accuser. It may easily happen that a person discovered on railway property has a sufficiently good reason for being on such property. There may exist a variety of reasons, such as, the reason of necessity, the reason of his claiming the right as an employee, or as an agent of an employee, or as a licensee, or agent of a licensee, who has the privilege of going on to railway property in the discharge of his business. That, however, is merely amplifying the matter. The main principle involved is, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong rightly points out, that the burden of proof should rest upon the accuser, and I hope that honorable members on this side will always stand for that principle. I would,therefore, encourage the honorable member to press his amendment to a division.
.- I am not so much concerned about the burden of proof as about the clause as a whole. It seems to me that this clause would apply to a man who walked upon i, a railway line, which is the property of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and, if such a person goes on such property without legal authority, he would be guilty of trespass. If a man walked upon a railway line without doing the slightest harm to any one, he would be trespassing within the meaning of this clause, yet, in such an instance, he would probably not be able to justify his action. I should like the Minister to show the committee what need for this provision has arisen out of past experience. It is one thing to provide that a man shall not trespass upon property which is fenced in, but it is quite another thing to provide that he shall not walk upon an open railway line. Even in Sydney and Melbourne many people occasionally walk along a fenced-in railway line and, I suppose, people in the country would be even more prone to walk upon open railway lines.
.- This is one clause of the bill upon which I have not been furnished with full information, beyond the fact that the experience of the department has shown that this provision is necessary. If the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) is prepared to let this clause pass I give him the assurance that I shall make full inquiries into the matter in the morning from the Railways Commissioner in Melbourne and, if I find that the clause is not satisfactory in the light of information supplied by the commissioner, an amendment to meet his request will be made in another place.
.- Honorable members apparently regard this provision as being more vicious than it is intended to be. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is entrusted with the duty of protecting millions of pounds worth of property, and the lives of people who travel on Commonwealth Railways. I believe that if any man were found walking on a railway line because he found it better to walk there than on a rougher track in the vicinity, no earthly harm would befall him so far as this provision is concerned.’ The issue arising here would be whether a man trespassed on railway property for any sinister pu-r- - pose, and in such a case, the accused himself could best explain the reason for his presence on railway property. I believe that honorable members are making too much of this matter. Something of this kind is necessary to enable the commissioner, and other persons vested with the responsibility of looking after millions of pounds worth of property and safeguarding the lives of the travelling public to carry out that duty. A man, for instance, might trespass upon railway property with the object of placing a detonator on the line. To meet such a case a provision of this nature is essential.
.- I oppose this clause, because it represents a reversion to the policy that an accused should bear the burden of proof of his innocence. It has been the invariable practice in British courts that the onus of proof rests upon the person making the charge. This provision reverses that practice. The Government sought to insert .a similar provision in the Immigration Bill. If the practice is extended a position might well arise where an alleged offender might not be given even the right to justify what he knows to be right, as instanced in the case of Mrs. Freer. The principle involved in this provision is wrong, and every honorable member should oppose it. In effect, it declares that a man is guilty until he proves himself innocent. I suggest that the Minister should refer this matter to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) before proceeding further with it. Every one who believes in the fundamental principles of British justice should stand for the principle that a man is not guilty until he is proved guilty. Now, according to this provision, a man will be guilty of trespass so soon as he is charged with such an offence, and it will then devolve upon him to go to court to prove his innocence.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said that there are any number of precedents for this provision.
– Whatever they are, they a.re bad. The only other measure which, to my knowledge, contains a similar provision, is the Crimes Act, against which the people of Australia as a whole have protested. It was inserted in that measure, ostensibly, to meet an emer- gency of war. Now, apparently, the Government is endeavouring to enact this provision for an entirely different purpose. If the Minister accepts the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) and a person is charged with trespass, the commissioner will have to prove that the alleged offender has been trespassing for an illegal purpose. Surely, such a provision is only right and proper. When persons are charged with trespass, the department has sufficient evidence at its disposal in most cases to prove the guilt of the accused; otherwise, it would not prefer charges.
.- It seems to me that much more is being made of this clause than should be made of it. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) was in error in saying that this provision creates a new precedent. Both State and Federal legislation contain many instances of a similar provision, particularly in relation to petty offences, in respect of which proof of innocence rests upon the accused, as in the manufacture of light-weight bread. Instances in which the proof of innocence rests upon the accused could be multiplied almost indefinitely.
– Well then, it should not be.
– No such provision has been introduced in respect of misdemeanours of felonies ; but in respect of what are termed quasi-criminal offences, in which there is no serious criminal clement, it appears quite frequently. Even if the words specified by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) were omitted, the clause would not be affected to any extent.
– Then no harm would be done by omitting them.
– Even under the existing common law, it is an offence to be without lawful excuse upon private property. The clause sets a limit of £10 to the penalty. It is quite obvious that the provision would not be brought into force to take action against a private individual who was quite innocently upon railway property; but it gives to the Government the power to take action where it is clear that some damage is being occasioned or some inconvenience might result from the presence of persons on railway property without lawful excuse.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Drakeford’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- It is well-known, that persons walk along railway lines, and- tha.t they may be prosecuted for so doing.
– They never will be under this provision.
– We should not make laws in the confidence that they will never be enforced. When we make a law we assume that it will he enforced. To trespass is to go upon property that is not one’s own. The actual land covered by a railway line is the property of the Railway Commissioners. But, it seems to me that it should not be a penal offence for a man merely to walk on an open line. I urge the Minister to inquire as to whether this provision cannot be limited to enclosed or fenced property. Experience may have shown that it cannot be so limited, but prima facie, I think that it could be.
– I shall be very glad to consult the Commissioner to-morrow morning.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Arrest of offenders).
– Under the existing provision, offending persons can be brought before a police, stipendiary or special magistrate only. In South Australia, the magistrates referred to have jurisdiction over extensive areas and visit the various district courts only periodically. At Port Augusta, where most of the railway cases are heard, the visits of the magistrates are not frequent, and it has been found necessary to hold offenders for quite a while before bringing them before the court. The State has complained on occasions of having to hold such offenders on the ground of the expense of maintenance, and at times they have been released instead of . being held pending the visit of the magistrate. Under this clause, provision is made for such persons to be brought before a justice of the peace, or a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate. The law is merely being made to fit the conditions.
.- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has omitted to explain the most important feature. Paragraph a proposes so to amend section 76 of the principal act, that the Railway Commissioner or his representative, after an arrest has been made, may take the person charged before a court of summary jurisdiction without any warrant or other authority than this act. I consider that some reason should be given for dispensing with a warrant or other authority than the act. A man might be caught in the act of walking along a railway line and might not be able to give a satisfactory explanation.
– His protection lies in the fact, that he has to be taken to court ; he cannot be laid by the heels indefinitely. A warrant is not necessary in respect of a man who is caught committing an alleged offence.
– Because of the trivial nature of the offence, he should not be taken without a warrant or other authority than the act. Authority should be obtained from a magistrate.
– In cases of this kind, it is not customary to require a warrant.
.- Usually, there is some guarantee of the existence of a court, and that an offender will be taken before the nearest court. Section 76 of the principal act reads -
Any employee or agent, orany person called by him to his assistance, may seize and detain any person who has committed any offence against the provisions of this act, and whose name and residence are unknown to the employee or agent, and may without any warrant convey him with all convenient dispatch before a court of summary jurisdiction.
– There is no alteration of the existing law down to the words “ court of summary jurisdiction “.
– This is practically a restatement of the law, but provision is made for courts of summary jurisdiction instead of magistrates. Paragraph c is really a safeguard.
– The clause is arbitrary. The offence is a minor one, and may be of the most trivial character. The right is given to any employee or agent of the Commissioner to lay an offender by the heels, without a warrant, and take him off to the nearest court of summary jurisdiction, which in the unsettled country through which this railway passes may be quite a long distance from the scene of the alleged offence.
– Very great power is conferred upon the employees of the Railways Commissioner under this proposed amendment, and for that reason it needs to be considered in conjunction with the cognate provision of the act. As the amendment stands, it would be competent for an employee to make an arrest. The usual practice is that persons charged . with offences against Commonwealth law must he dealt withby a police magistrate, but in the remote areas which we are considering at the moment, the nearest police magistrate may be a very great distance away. It is, therefore, proposed that if a police magistrate is not available, a person charged with an offence may be brought before a justice of the peace within not more than 72 hours of the time he is brought in. That is a guarantee to a man charged with an offence that he will not be held in custody too long. But an employee should not have authority to arrest a man for trivial offences.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Application of Commonwealth “Workmen’s Compensation Act 1912 to employees).
– Section 85 of the Commonwealth Railways Act affords the employees of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner the benefits of the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act 1912. That measure, has, however, been repealed. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930, which took i ts place, does not give the Commonwealth railway employees the statutory right to compensation. Under that measure, the Minister may make a regulation affording the Commonwealth railway employees protection, but he may withdraw the regulation, the day after it was made. I contend that Commonwealth railway employees should have an indisputable statutory right to compensation for injuries received in the course of their employment. The amendment which I first suggested to the Minister does not fully meet all the requirements of the case, and I now ask the honorable gentleman to accept on behalf of the Government a new clause to the following effect: -
The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930 shall apply to employees of the Commonwealth railways in all respects as if they were prescribed under that act.
That would give the employees full protection. Their rights in such a matter should not be dependent upon the whim of the Minister for the time being.
– Am I to understand that Common wealth railway employees do not at present possess the statutory right to compensation for injuries received in the course of their employment?
– My advice is that they are fully covered.
– . The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) holds a different view. He contends that railway employees are covered only by regulation, and that the regulation may be repealed or revoked at any time without reference to Parliament.
– I do not think that that is the position.
– The matter should be placed beyond all doubt, for it is of vital importance to the railway employees. In the circumstances, we should satisfy ourselves on the point before the bill passes from this committee. It would be entirely unfair to our railway employees to allow the issue to remain in any doubt, for during the coming recess a score of men may be injured and deprived of compensation. The Minister himself should introduce an amendment to remove any doubts on the . point.
.- The legal advisers of the Government assure me that the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act applies at present to railway employees. Section 85 of the principal act, which it is now proposed to repeal, relates only to the old Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act, which has been repealed. The object of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act is to ensure that all government employees shall be placed on the same footing.
– I wish to be quite satisfied on the point’.
– I shall have inquiry made into it. The Government does not desire to do an injustice to any section of its employees. If, upon inquiry, it is found that the only protection the railway employees have is that afforded by regulation, steps will at once be taken to remedy the position. The Government agrees in principle with the views expressed by the honorable member for
Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). If, upon investigation, the honorable gentleman’s contention is shown to be sound, I give an assurance that steps will be taken to remedy the position when the bill is before another place.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister (Mr. Paterson). The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has had a good deal of experience in industrial matters, and his opinion on a legal point of this kind would be regarded as weighty, I think, by all honorable members of the committee. Undoubtedly, the rights of Commonwealth railway workers should be safeguarded. It was for that reason that I felt it necessary to direct the attention of the Government to this particular point and suggest the need for amendments if the clause is proceeded with. As the Minister has given an assurance that the request that I and other honorable members have made will be carefully considered before the bill is passed by another place, I shall rest content. While the railway employees may have their disagreements with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, I do not wish it to be understood that we think that that gentleman would wilfully attempt to evade his obligations under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. But undoubtedly the law should be sufficiently clear to remove all possibility of such a thing occurring.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (By-laws).
– The purpose of this clause is to amend section S8 of the principal act, to provide that the penalty for certain offences shall be £50 instead of £20. I wish to know the nature of the offences referred to in section 58. Are they serious offences ?
– Yes; sometimes they mav endanger human life.
– A penalty of £50 for an offence which may endanger human life is not excessive, but sometimes heavy penalties are provided for trivial offences. Is any information available to indicate that offences under this section of the act are increasing to such an extent that a heavier penalty is; considered to be necessary as a deterrent,, or is the proposed penalty being increased simply because some individual thinks it ought to be increased? If a penalty of £20 is sufficient to meet the needs of the case, why increase it?
– Experience has shown that a penalty of £20 is not sufficient in some instances. _Qiwrum. formed.] It does not act as a deterrent to certain offenders. I shall give the committee one instance of an offence for which heavy penalties are necessary. Sometimes in the wet season in the Northern Territory when roads are often impassable, owners of trucks will run them along the railway line and bump them along over the sleepers even when there is no ballast between them, the wheels of the truck at the same time straddling the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge line. This is a very dangerous practice and serious accidents have resulted from it.
– They actually run their vehicles along the railway lines?
– Yes; over thKatherine River Bridge, for example, they bump their 4 ft. 8 in. vehicles over the sleepers to which the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge railway line is attached. I inform the honora’ble member that things happen up in the Northern Territory which are not done in Victoria or New South Wales, and it is necessary to increase the penalty in order to safeguard lives.
– As a practical railway man, I realize the danger which is involved in circumstances such as the Minister (Mr. Paterson) has described. I have been informed that on the North-South line, trucks even proceed over bridges where there is no ballast between the sleepers in a manner similar to that described by the Minister. Members of the organization with which, for many years, I have been actively associated, have told me that their locomotives have actually met motor cars on the bridges bumping along over the sleepers. As a general principle the Labour party is opposed to heavy penalties, but I appreciate the fact that it is necessary to provide a penalty severe enough to prevent the recurrence of such practices in order to safeguard the lives of the men operating the trains and inspecting the lines on railway tricycles, and also those of the passengers.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill brought up by Mr. Menzies and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the18th November (vide page 2010), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to amend the Acts Interpretation Act. [Quorum formed.] In the first place two streams of legislation that have run more or less side by side on this subject-matter are to be merged into one, and one of the existing acts, the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-1934, is to be repealed, and the greater part of it, but not the whole, is proposed to be re-enacted under the present bill. The first thing that is done by the bill is to remove the doubt that has been raised by Mr. Justice Dixon as to the operation of amendments that have been effected from time to time. It is proposed to put their retrospective validity beyond doubt. Then a concession is made by the hill to meet the needs of the more distant States in regard to the time in which a bill passed by this Parliament shall come into operation. Normally, a bill comes into operation upon its having received vice-regal assent, or upon a date to be fixed by proclamation. Under this bill the normal date will the the twenty-eighth day after assent is given. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has explained the reasons for that, and I apprehend that there will be no objection to the acceptance of that amendment. Of course, however, a bill, in a manner of speaking, is the master of its own household, and it usually fixes its own date as to when it is to come into operation. But, in any event, what I have stated will be the normal position.
There are, however, some matters in this bill which are more or less controversial, and to them I shall direct a few observations. It is true that the clauses relating to offences and penalties have formed part of what has been the existing law for a number of years. The Minister challenges criticism by submitting them for observation in connexion with this amending bill and transferring them from the 1904-1934 act to the present bill which it is intended shall be a single statute. I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that section8 of the 1904-1934 act, which relates to attempts to commit offences, has been dropped. There is no particular significance in that. I ask him, however, to consider the propriety of dropping other clauses from this legislation. If he does not think fit to do so, I would feel inclined, at a later stage, to move an amendment suggesting that proposed new sections 42 and 43 relating to indictable offences’ and offences triable in a summary way shall also be dropped. They might well be left out of this legislation, because they are not appropriate to an interpretation act. They are appropriate to a crimes act, or legislation, whatever it may be termed, which fixes the law as to a particular kind of offence, but should not be embodied in an act of interpretation. It ought to be dependent upon the nature of the offence and dealt with under the law which creates the offence. Let us glance for a moment at the terms of this provision -
Offences against any act which -
I am not prepared to agree in principle to the view that all offences punishable by imprisonment for less than six months should be tried summarily. I think in many cases they should be heard by a jury. The delicate question is raised for consideration here as to what offences are felonies, misdemeanours, or what not. There has been a constant tendency in our Commonwealth legislation to draft, or worse still, to steer, away from the principle of trial by jury. If this House had before it the particular class of offence which the framer of these provisions had in mind, we should be able to vote intelligently on the question as to whether it was a matter which should be made indictable, or whether it was not. There seems to be a considerable amount of indefinitaness in the minds of jurists as to what is felony, and what is a misdemeanour. The position seems to have been reached that a felony is what is made a felony, . and the misdemeanour is what is made a misdemeanour, by act of Parliament, and that there is no more exact definition. I suggest that those sections might very well be omitted from the bill. The fact that they are thereat all might be overlooked even by a practitioner who considers the law relating to a particular offence, when that law is not definite as to whether the offence is indictable or non-indictable.
This bill raises also the matter of government by regulation. Honorable members who are interested will know that I have always strenuously opposed the growing tendency to legislate by means of regulation. The period of the war provided many shocking examples of the misuse of that power. It illustrated very well how debate might be prevented, and Parliament itself stultified, but I am prepared to admit that the power to make regulations is necessary, and even important, and should remain, though liable to abuse just as all administrative power is liable to abuse. I even grant that, power which is taken in this bill, to make legislation retrospective, and may be justifiable also, though there is a greater danger in making regulations operate retrospectively than in making an act of Parliament so operative. An act at least does run the gauntlet of full and free discussion, and is assured of intelligent understanding, but this does not apply to regulations.
I understood the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to say that it was proposed to omit sub-section 1 of proposed section 48, and I quite agree that it should be omitted. I think it asserts a . new and entirely undesirable principle, that of the predominance of officials over the Parliament. That the officials are expert and highly skilled is entirely beside the point. They should act, not from the throne, but from behind the throne. In any case the provision would be ineffective, and should be rejected. The subsection provides that the minister shall obtain a certificate from the proper official to the effect that a proposed regulation is within the competence of Parliament, but the issuing of such a certificate does not in fact ensure that the proposed regulation is within the competence of Parliament. That is a matter for the courts of the land to decide. It is unprecedented and absurd that a responsible Minister of the Crown should have to submit from his own department a certificate of the competency of Parliament to pass a law which the Minister is asking should be passed.
Some interesting debate occurred in the Senate a little while ago regarding these matters, arising out of the fact that that chamber had set up what it was pleased to call a Regulations Committee. Indeed, some honorable senators seemed to regard that committee as something in the nature of a super-parliament. Section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1904 provides -
Where an act confers power to make regulations all regulations made accordingly shall unless the contrary intention appears -
be notified in the Gazette;
take effect from the date of notifica tion or from a later date specified in the regulation ;
be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within 30 days of the making thereof or if the Parliament is not then sitting within 30 days after the next meeting of Parliament.
The act of 1930, passed by a Labour administration, altered the law, and provided that regulations should be brought before Parliament within fifteen sitting days after they were made. It stated -
If either House of the Parliament passes a resolution of which notice has been given at any time within’ fifteen sitting days after such regulation has been laid before such House disallowing any regulation such regulation shall thereupon cease to have effect.
This provision sharply limits the power of the Executive to withhold regulations from review by one or other of the Houses of Parliament, and, in the meantime, to act upon the power given by the regulations. That is sound in principle, though it is not always sound in practice because, as in the particular instance which occurred during the regime of the Labour Government, it reduces the power of the Executive to give effect to a policy endorsed , by the people. This difficulty is incidental to our cumbersome system of legislative machinery which enables a non-representative chamber to restrict arbitrarily the policy of the Executive. The Labour Government was defeated in 1931, and the Senate which, during the Labour regime, had been dominated by non-Labour forces procured an amendment of the act in 1932. The amendment laid down -
After section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-30 the following section is inserted : - 10a ( 1 ) Where in pursuance of the last preceding section, either House of the Parliament disallows any regulation, no regulation, being the same in substance as the regulation so disallowed, shall be made within six months after the date of the disallowance, unless the resolution disallowing the regulation has been rescinded by the House of the Parliament by which it was passed.
Any regulation made in contravention of this section shall be void and of no effect.
It will be remembered that, arising out of the clash between the two Houses of Parliament, regulations were constantly being made by the Executive, and disallowed by the Senate, and as fast as they were disallowed they were, in substance, I suppose it may be admitted, regazetted. I . think that the AttorneyGeneral might very well reconsider the propriety of that provision now that the opportunity presents itself. It is objectionable from two points of view. In the first place, the language is vague, and gives evidence of amateurish draftsman ship, for which I am sure the office of the Attorney-General is not entirely responsible. For instance, what is really meant by the words “ any regulation the same in substance “ ? It is extremely difficult to prove that a regulation, which is at least verbally different, is in fact the same’ in substance as . another. That, however, is not the main objection. The
House of Representatives is the popular chamber, and it may happen again, as happened before, that an Executive, coming fresh from the people with a definite mandate to legislate in a certain direction, sees fit to proclaim regulations for the purpose of carrying out that mandate. Next time it may not be a Labour Government which is in that position;, it may be a government of which the Attorney-General is a member. This popular chamber, whose members have come fresh from the people, may pass a regulation to give effect to government policy, and the other branch of the legislature may disallow it; yet it has to remain disallowed for a period of six months. I suggest that the Minister is yielding part of the authority of the popular chamber by allowing that provision to remain. It is a question of the relative rights and- powers of the two chambers and it affects equally all parties in this House. It is common knowledge that this provision was adopted as a reaction against what was thought to be the arbitrary action of the Scullin Government in constantly regazetting regulations disallowed by the Senate. It is entirely proper that whatever government is in power it should have authority to give effect to the mandate received by it from the people. At all events, as between the executive government and the other branch of the legislature, this House should not yield its authority. I should like the Minister to discuss the clause from that aspect, and not from the narrower point of view at all.
.- The Government is acting wisely, I think, in consolidating the two sets of Acts Interpretation Acts. The act passed in 1901 was based on the tradition of the English legislation - the Acts Interpretation Act 1889; but in 1904) we began a series of acts now known as the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-34. I think it was Mr. Charles Cameron Kingston’s idea to shorten the sections. He provided that once and for all there should be a standing interpretation of the words “ indictable offence “ and “ summary offence”, and a standing provision that “ penalties “, unless otherwise specified, should mean maximum penalties. That measure also contains provisions that are curious in an Acts Interpretation Act. It provides that regulations shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and may be disallowed by either; but, unfortunately, no machinery is provided to compel the discussion by parliament of regulations. Although a great deal has been said about the evil of government by regulation, I consider that the regulationmaking power is necessary, and under proper safeguards, salutary. Much of the details with which members of Parliament concern themselves should be dealt with by regulations, provided the regulations come before Parliament to be revised by it. This consolidating bill reproduces the sections relating to the disallowance of regulations. I have not much objection to these sections, provided they are made effective. The Senate has settled down to the discussion of regulations, and has made provision for the consideration of them, but I think that this House itself should consider regulations. The right of a member to challenge a regulation in this House is rather illusory at the present time, because, although he may place a motion on the notice-paper challenging a regulation, the Government can prevent the motion from being brought on for discussion. I shall submit an amendment to provide that, after notice has been given for the disallowance of a regulation, the regulation itself shall lapse altogether, unless within -fifteen sitting days the motion is either withdrawn or disposed of. That means that this House would have real control over regulation-making.
I quite agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in his objection to the proposed new section 48, and concur with him in the hope expressed by him in regard to the AttorneyGeneral. It is placing the AttorneyGeneral in an invidious position to ask him to express an opinion beforehand whether a regulation is valid or otherwise. A government department would not draw up a regulation unless it considered it valid; but, if the AttorneyGeneral stated that he believed the regulation to be valid, and a court subsequently declared it invalid, the AttorneyGeneral and the official to whom power was delegated to draw up the regulation would be placed in an invidious position.
This bill, as drawn, states that the same consequences shall follow the disallow- ance of the regulation as follow its repeal, and the consequences of a repeal are stated in the proposed new section 51. I submit that a disallowance should not have the same consequences as a repeal. If a regulation is disallowed, it is because one branch of the legislature thinks it should never have been made. If it is repealed it is because the body that made it has decided to repeal it. The proposed new section 51 provides that, when a regulation is repealed, any proceedings commenced under the section may still be continued. That may be reasonable; but, if a regulation is disallowed by the House, nothing should be done under it after that. We could validate what has already been done; but it seems to me entirely wrong to say that notwithstanding the disallowance by the House of a regulation, any prosecution commenced under it should continue. It seems to me that the proposed new section 51, combined with the proposed new section 50 (5). does that. I can see no reason for section 49 (5). In the past, if a regulation was disallowed, lt was of no effect, and no pending prosecution could be proceeded with. If the act were altered as proposed, it would be competent for a government to proceed with a prosecution under a regulation of which the House had already disapproved by disallowing it.
I propose to submit in committee an amendment, which I have already discussed with the Attorney-General, providing that, within fifteen sitting days of the giving of notice of a motion for disallowance of a regulation, the motion must be either disposed of by the House or the regulation shall be treated as disallowed. I originally intended to propose that the period should be within ten sitting days, but, after discussing the matter with the Attorney-General, I altered the time to fifteen days. I had also intended to submit an amendment dealing with the proposed new section 42, providing that an offence punishable with imprisonment for more than six months shall be always an indictable offence. There are some cases where imprisonment for a longer period than six months can be ordered by a magis- trate. I have discussed this matter also with . the Attorney-General, and he is prepared to consider the whole question of penalties in relation to these definitions. I am prepared to accept that promise, and not proceed with my amendment. “Whatever is provided in the present bill could be over-ridden by a subsequent measure. The honorable member for Batman suggested that this proposed new section should be omitted from the bill.’ I cannot go as far as the honorable member in that regard, because it would mean that all the existing acts would have to be overhauled and special provision made for punishments. Most of the acts now providing for penalties state that offences shall be indictable or summary. The deletion of these definitions from the act would mean that a great number of acts would have to be overhauled, and the machinery for enforcing a number of acts would entirely disappear. I agree with the honorable member for Batman that, when we look at an act, we should know what penalty is imposed and who should impose it, but we cannot do that very well now. A great number of acts would, in my opinion, become meaningless if we cut out the words “ indictable offences “ and “ summary offences “. I applaud the principle for which the honorable member stands. I agree with him that punishment by imprisonment should not be imposed except by juries, at any rate for terms exceeding three months; but I do not consider that, by the deletion of these sections, we shall be going the right way to bring about that result. Trial by jury is intended to be an important guarantee of the liberty of the people, and heavy terms of imprisonment should not be imposed by magistrates. They should be imposed only after conviction by . a jury.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - “(1a.) Every act to which the Royal Assent is given by the Governor-General for and on behalf of the King on or after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-seven, shall come into operation on the twenty-eighth day after the day on which that Act receives the Royal Assent, unless the contrary intention appears in the Act.”.
– I propose to move five amendments to this clause. The first four are formal drafting amendments, having regard to the date of the proclamation of an act after assent has been given to it. The fifth carries out what I foreshadowed in my second-reading speech, namely, that acts to alter the Constitution should come into operation on the day on which they receive the Royal Assent. In the interests of distant States, ordinary acts should have a postponed operation, in order -to enable them to become known in those States. That does not apply in respect of alterations of the . Constitution, because such proposals become notorious before they are enacted. I move -
That after the word “ Act “, first occurring, proposed new sub-section 1a, the words “(other than an Act to alter the Constitution)”, be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That at the end of the clause, the following sub-section be added: - “ ‘ ( 1b.) Every Act to alter the Constitution to which the Royal assent is given by the Governor-General for and on behalf of the King on or after . the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-seven shall come into operation on the day on which that Act received theRoyal assent, unless the contrary intention appears in that Act.’.”.
Clause further verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 -
After section forty of the Principal Act the followng headings and sections are inserted: - “48. - (1.) Where an Act confers power to make regulations, no regulation shall be made accordingly, unless the Attorney-General or the Solicitor -General, or some officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department thereto authorized in writing by the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General, certifies that the regulation, if made, would not be in excess of the power conferred by the. Act under which it purports to be made. (2.) Any regulation made in contravention of this section shall be void and of no effect. (3.) The notification in the Gazette of any regulation made after the commencement of this section shall be prima facie evidence that a certificate was duly given in respect of that regulation in accordance with sub-section (1.) of this section.
(4.) If either House of the Parliament passes a resolution (of which notice has been given at any time within’ fifteen sitting days after any regulations have been laid before that House) disallowing any of those regulations, the regulation so disallowed shall thereupon Cease to have effect. (5.) The disallowance of a regulation under the last preceding sub-section shall have the same effect as a repeal of that regulation.
– It has been suggested by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that proposed section 42 should be omitted. It is a literal reproduction of section 4 of the act of 1904 and, therefore, contains a provision which has been part of the statute law for the last 32 years, and has stood throughout the whole of that time without any criticism of which I am aware. In “those circumstances, I should not be willing, in a hurry, to repeal it, although, as I have indicated to the honorable member for Bourke, I am perfectly prepared to consider what effect it has had in relation to existing statutes. The particular point made by the honorable member for Bourke was that the words “unless the contrary intention appears” should be omitted, his general contention being that offences punishable with terms of imprisonment exceeding six months should, as a rule, be tried by jury. I agree with that. As a matter of principle, it is. perfectly sound, but it may very well be that if it has been departed from, !it has been departed from for some special reason. As the matter came to my notice for the first time this afternoon, I have not had an opportunity to go through the various acts of Parliament to find out how it came to be departed from, but I shall be glad to have such a search’ made ; and if it should appear that the principle has been departed from, as I think, improperly, I shall be willing to sponsor legislation to put the matter right. . Subject to that qualification, I am not able to adopt the suggestion that proposed section 42 should be omitted. I am equally unwilling to omit proposed section 43 for the reasons indicated by the honorable mem ber for Bourke, that if it were omitted, its provisions would need to be re-inserted somewhere else; they have a definite significance and importance. I think the honorable member agrees that they should, as a matter of form, go into thecrimes law, but as no crimes measure isbefore Parliament at this juncture in which we could insert this section, that objective could not be achieved in this instance. However, I have in mind the honorable member’s suggestion, and I share his desire that these provisionsshould be inserted in the various actsappropriate to them. To omit them in this instance is impracticable.
I indicated in the course of my secondreading speech that I was prepared to omit proposed section 48 for the reasonsI then stated and which, I gather, are concurred in by the honorable membersfor Batman and Bourke. I, therefore, move -
That the proposed new section 48 be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
– In respect of proposed section 49, the first point I take, is that proceedings under a disallowed regulation can continue to proceed after the regulation has been disallowed.
– One difficulty, is that the regulation disallowed may . have repealed some other regulation. Difficulty arises in respect of the survival of the original regulation.
– I can see what the Attorney-General means, but I should like him to consider whether there should not be a difference between a regulation repealed by another regulation and a regulation rejected by either House.
– There is a good deal of point in the honorable member’s argument.
– I need say no more on the point. I move -
That at the end of proposed new section 49, the following new sub-section be added: - “ (6.) If within fifteen sitting days after the day on which notice of a disallowing resolution has been given in either House of theParliament in accordance with sub-section (4.) of this section, such resolution has not been withdrawn or otherwise, with or without, amendment, disposed of, the regulation named: in such resolution shall cease to have effect in all respects as if it had been disallowed.”.
The effect of my amendment -will be, that if a member gives notice of a motion to disallow a regulation, that motion is either disposed of by the House in which it is . moved, within fifteen sitting days, or the regulation ceases to operate. In this House, or in any House in which the Government has complete control over the time-table, the Government can render illusory the rights of the House to amend regulations simply by postponing a motion for disallowance. Unless the regulation is brought on and disposed of, either by withdrawal or by a vote of the House, it will lapse at the expiration of fifteen days from the date of its appearance on the notice-paper. I understand that the Attorney-General is prepared to accept: this amendment.
– I accept the amendment; in fact, I am indebted to the honorable member for having drawn my attention to this point. It seems absurd, that with one hand a House should be given the right to disallow a regulation, and with the other hand the Government should be given power to overcome that by keeping the motion at the bottom of the notice-paper. The effect of the amendment is that, unless the motion is debated and decided within fifteen days of its appearance on the notice-paper, the regulation being challenged shall automatically lapse. In other words the House must be given the right within a reasonable period to express its views on the regulation.
– Unless the Government desires to bury it.
– The Government would hardly want to bury it, if it has been father to it. At my suggestion, the honorable member for Bourke has increased the number of days from ten to fifteen because, within so short a period as ten days, we do not know what small difficulties might arise.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I am very reluctant indeed, to allow to pass without a division a portion of this clause which, by inference at all events, would lead to the conclusion that the Opposition, for which I speak, acquiesces in the view that offences for which a less punishment than six months is prescribed, should not be tried before a jury. I am impressed, however, with the representations made by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), that I. may not have fully considered the possible repercussions, to use a favourite term, arising from the deletion of proposed section 42, because, as I pointed out in my second-reading speech, it has been the law since 1904. I do not think that the effect would be as farreaching as is feared by honorable members, because I feel that in the majority of cases the penalty is prescribed in the substantive act dealing with the offence; although it may very well be that in some cases that is not so. But realizing that there is always the safeguard that an acts interpretation act does not impose penalties, and that the matter must come before Parliament for reconsideration in due course - at least before further penalties are imposed - I am satisfied to allow the clause to go without division and with the explanation that I have made.
– I am sorry that I overlooked referring to the criticisms which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) made of proposed new section 50. This, of course, is hot a new provision, but, as . the honorable member has pointed out, derives from the stormy history of a few years ago. I am afraid that I must say that I do not regard the honorable member’s criticism as being substantial. If a regulation is introduced by a government and is disallowed according to the provisions of the law, and that government can then again introduce the same regulation and have it disallowed, and go on introducing it and having it disallowed, with no restriction such as is here contained, the law achieves a sort of occult quality - there is a legal obligation to-day, which is gone tomorrow ; “ Now you see it, and now you don’t,” will be the idea ; a regulation will be made on Monday and disallowed on Tuesday, with, as the honorable gentleman says, great accuracy. I venture to think that if I could penetrate into the fastnesses of the honorable gentleman’s mind, I should find there the quiet conviction that there is a good deal of sense in the idea that we should produce at least a little stability in the law. This achieves that little stability by providing that when one regulation has been put forward and, according to the provisions of the law, has been knocked out by either House, what in substance is the same regulation may not be put forward until six months later. I am sure that the honorable member will agree that that is quite reasonable. Otherwise, the rather curious process to which I have referred would be more associated with lighthouses than with legislation.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report; - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th November (vide page 2011), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The principle implicit in this bill is, in my opinion, sound. In connexion with the stamp duty upon dutiable instruments, the tendency has been to subordinate the rights of the contracting individuals to the exaction of the last penny due to revenue. It is quite right that the revenues should be protected, but it is wrong to make the money claim of the Commonwealth so far predominate as to prevent the enforcement of the contractual legal rights of the individual. The validity of the instrument - in this case a bill of exchange - is not destroyed by reason of the non-payment of sufficient duty, though of course the defaulter may be penalized according to the proper law in that behalf. From that point of view I think that the law is too strict with regard to the inadmissibility in evidence of an insufficiently stamped instrument. However, the bill is an attempt, taking advantage of the International Convention of June, 1930, to put bills issued in Australia on the same footing as those issued out of Australia so far as stamp duty is concerned. I think that it should be passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from, the 18th November (vide page 2011) on motion by MrMenzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is a proposed amendment of section 115 of the Trade Marks Act 1905- 1934, which will be found in the Consolidated Statutes of Messrs. McGrath and Sullivan, volume 3, at page 2478. The section as it stands at present affords protection to an applicant for protection in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, or any foreign country with which an arrangement of the kind mentioned in the section has been made, but it fails to extend protection to the personal representatives of the applicant, in the interests of his beneficiaries and in the event of his death. The bill supplies that omission. The other portion of the measure is purely verbal, and is tendered for greater exactitude.
.- This measure is to be welcomed, as being the first to remedy the existing unsatisfactory position of industrial property generally in the Commonwealth. The legislation affecting industrial property - patents, trade marks, and copyright and designs - has been the subject of much criticism in the legal profession. Mr. Arthur Dean, a well-known barrister who specializes in patents work, says, in volume 7 of the Australian Law Journal, 1933-34, page 182 -
Our Commonwealth legislation in regard toindustrial property, especially that dealing with patents and trade marks, affords many opportunities of indulging in such criticismIt is notorious that our law upon these matters lags far behind that of Great Britain,, and that there has been expressed by responsible authorities from time to time a general intention of reconsidering the whole of it for the purposes of revision.
Anomalies have arisen, particularly with reference to trade marks, owing to the removal of the Patents Office to Canberra. At the present time there are three separate classes of cases in which jurisdiction can he taken. In the first class, the High Court alone has jurisdiction. In the second class, the High Court and all Supreme Courts have jurisdiction ; and in the third class, the Supreme Court alone has jurisdiction ; and “ Supreme Court” is defined as being the Supreme Court of the State in which the Patents and Trade Marks Office is situated. The Supreme Court alone has the power of rectifying the register of patents; but since the removal of the Patents Office to Canberra, there has been no tribunal which could exercise this particular power. Mr. Dean points out that there is an obvious solution of this difficulty, and of others inasmuch as section 76 (ii) of the ‘Constitution provides for the giving to the High Court of jurisdiction in matters arising under any laws made by the Parliament. He says that if the High Court were given original, but not necessarily exclusive, jurisdiction in all matters relating to industrial property, including infringement proceedings, very definite advantages would result ; it would overcome the difficulties created by the present confused state of the law, and would have the effect that the rights conferred by the legislation would extend throughout the Commonwealth. In most cases, validity and infringement could be considered by the same tribunal. He also points out that in some States the judges have had little experience in patents and allied work, and that the conferring of original jurisdiction in all these cases on the High Court would result in their being tried by judges possessing some specialized knowledge of patents law. I suggest to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) the desirability of investigating the anomalies that may have been created by the removal of the Patents Office to Canberra, and to give consideration to the other suggestions for reform that have been outlined by Mr. Dean, and have the support of many responsible legal authorities.
– In reply to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) I may say that the state of the patents and the trade marks law - indeed, the whole of the law relating to industrial property - has for some time been engaging the attention of myself and my department, with the result that I expect to be in a position early in the next period of the session to introduce a completely revising patents bill, to be followed, I hope, very shortly by a completely revising trade marks bill. I may say that in the preparation of the amending patents bill, I have had the advantage of being assisted by a very expert committee of gentlemen, to whom I shall in due course make acknowledgment, and that one of that committee was Mr. Dean, the author of the article from which the honorable member has quoted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 11.4.5 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Thursday3, December 1936.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Petroleum Oil Search Act 1936 appropriated £250,000 for the purpose of making advances to persons engaged in drilling operations in connexion with the search for oil. and in payment of salaries and remuneration to persons employed by the Minister under the act. To advise the Minister in connexion with expenditure under the act, a technical committee, consisting of Dr. Woolnough, Dr. Wade and Dr. Ward has been appointed. The technical committee recommended that, in addition to making advances for drilling operations, moneys should be applied for the purposes of conducting geological surveys in Australia and purchasing core-taking drilling plants which could be let out on hire to persons engaged in drilling for oil. In the course of the years, the drilling plants employed in this work have become obsolete.
The Government approved of the recommendation of the technical committee, and this bill provides for the necessary amendments of the original act.
The technical committee is of opinion that the restriction of assistance to deep drilling may defeat the primary object of the legislation, as bores may be sunk at sites without adequate preliminary geological survey. The drilling of a deep hole without the initial steps designed to supplement superficial data might result in an expensive failure, which might deplete the resources of the companies engaged in the search, and discourage shareholders from further participation in prospecting operations. The committee considered, therefore, that the Government should provide assistance to enable companies to conduct the necessary preliminary geological surveys to justify the sinking of deep bores. Assistance towards geological surveys will he at the rate of £1 for every £2 provided by the companies.
The Government does not consider it necessary to give this new form of assistance to companies operating in New Guinea and Papua under existing permits. These permits are all issued under New Guinea and Papuan ordinances which stipulate the expenditure of considerable sums on definite geological operations. The Papua Oil Development Company Limited holds an area under permit for a period of twelve months from the 1st September, 1936. The company must spend at least £15,000, during each of the periods of six months for which the permits are in force, making £30,000 in twelve months. The Oriomo Oil Limited holds an area under permit for a period of twelve months from the 1st November, 1936. The Company must spend at least £5,000 during the first six months, and £7,500 during the second six months of the currency of the permit, making £12,500 in all. Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited has an area under permit, for a period of twelve months from the 1st November, 1936. The company is required to spend at least £15,000 during each of the periods of six months for which the permits are in force, making £30,000 in all. The capital of these companies must be at least two-thirds British.
All the companies in question will be eligible to apply for financial assistance in connexion with drilling operations, ‘but in view of the conditions stipulated in the permits, as to the amounts to be expended, it is considered that there is no necessity at present to subsidize them for survey work. The work that must be carried out during the twelve months for which the permits are in force must be in the nature of survey work. To grant subsidies for survey work would be tantamount to relieving the companies of a large proportion of the expenditure they must incur in accordance with the terms of the permits. Any renewal of the permits depends upon the Commonwealth’s being satisfied with the nature of the work carried out.
The conditions under which companies are operating in Australia are entirely different from those in force in respect of the three companies in Papua. It is the considered opinion of the three geologists on the technical committee advising the Government in this matter that the granting of subsidies for geological survey work in Australia is essential.
In view of the facts that the majority of the drilling plants engaged to-day in Australia on the work of boring for oil’ are out of date, and that there has been a rapid evolution of efficient core-taking drilling plants within recent years, particularly in the United States of America, the technical committee considers that it would be wise to obtain a few of these plants for hire to companies requiring them, rather than to allow companies to waste their resources in the purchase of unsuitable plant. Consequently, provision has been made in the bill for moneys to be expended in the purchase of drilling plants, and for the Minister to let the plants out on hire to companies.
Briefly, therefore, it may be said that the purpose of the bill is to make two amendments of the act passed earlier this year to encourage the search for oil. Authority is sought for the Minister to purchase efficient core-taking boring plants and to hire them to approved companies, and to permit of money being expended to subsidize work of a preliminary geological survey character before boring is undertaken. Such subsidy is to be on the basis of £1 for every £2’ expended in this work by the companies concerned. The bill provides that the cost of actual boring operations can le subsidized by the Government on a £1 for £1 basis. I commend the bill to honorable members.
– Although, broadly speaking, I consider that the principal act could be amended much more radically than is proposed in this bill, I shall not oppose the measure but will take this opportunity to direct attention to certain phases of the search for oil which, in my opinion, demand more attention than they are receiving. I doubt whether the Government is fully aware of all that is going on in Australia at present in regard to the search for oil. I cannot see how some of the companies referred to by the Minister a few moments ago will be able to expend from their limited resources the large sums suggested by the Minister, for their subscribed capital would seem to make such expenditure impossible to them. Oriomo Oil Limited, for example, has a capital of only £5,000. Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited has a paid-up capital of only £1,050. These companies have already been given permits to search for oil over very extensive areas. Oriomo Oil Limited has permits covering 12,000 square miles of country, the Papuan Oil Development Company Limited has permits to search over approximately 20,000 square miles of country, and Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited has permits to search over 21,000 square miles of country. During the discussion of the Estimates, I made reference to the immense importance of oil to the security of Australia and particularly to its economic sufficiency. I frankly doubt whether the Government is giving this important subject the serious consideration it deserves under present-day conditions.
I could speak at considerable length regarding the vital importance of oil to the industrial life of Australia, and also for defence purposes. Looking back over a number of years we find that the Government has continually made excuses for its failure to take adequate steps to encourage the extraction of oil . from shale and from coal, and it is only in recent months that it has done anything to encourage the finding of indigenous oil. The Govern ment has done nothing of a practical nature to develop our shale deposits, although report after report has been attained on the subject. Similarly, although in nearly every country in the world oil is being extracted from coal in large quantities, either by the hydrogenation process or by the low temperature carbonization process, this government has done nothing to encourage such enterprises here. In reply to a question that I asked in the House some little time ago, the Prime Minister stated that a bill would shortly be introduced to enable assistance to be given in connexion with geological survey in relation to the search for oil within the Commonwealth. The right honorable gentleman intimated also that no assistance would be given in relation to geological survey, within Papua or the mandated territories. This bill is evidently to be regarded as the fulfilment of those promises. An amount of £250,000, in all, has been made available by the Government. The expenditure of any amount of money would be of little consequence in comparison with the ultimate value to Australia should flow oil be found either within the ‘Commonwealth or in Papua or in the mandated territories, and for this reason every assistance should be given to companies which are legitimately trying to find oil. In my opinion we cannot separate the activities in Australia in the search for oil from those in our adjacent territories. In a previous speech on this subject, I referred to the fact that the Papua Oil Development Company Limited, and the Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited were, in effect, only subsidiary companies to the Vacuum Oil Company and the Shell Oil Company. My reason for that statement is that of the directors of Papua Oil Development ‘Company Limited Mr. V. Smith is also general manager of the Shell Oil Company; Mr. C. J. Ahearn is a partner of Messrs. Gillott, Moir and Ahearn - solicitors for the Shell Oil Company, and Messrs. W. H. Anderson and M. Bland are officials of the Shell Oil Company. On the directorate of the Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited there are Mr. H. Hamilton, an official of the Vacuum Oil Company;
Senator J. D. Millen, who is actively associated with the Vacuum Oil Company; Mr. W. A. Ince, solicitor for the Vacuum Oil Company ; and Mr. J. C Blair, one of the leading officials of the Vacuum Oil Company.
The Vacuum Oil Company and the Shell Oil Company have enormous capital behind them, and should not require assistance for their subsidiary companies in their search for oil.
– Considerations of that kind have actuated the Government in taking the action now proposed.
– But the Government is still proposing to assist these companies although it apparently expects them to contribute more generously than hitherto from their own capital resources.
– So far preliminary survey work has had to be done without any Government assistance ; but when the companies come to the stage when drilling operations can be undertaken and they make a satisfactory proposition to the Government, it will be open to the Government to grant assistance if it is thought wise.
– Nothing in the principal act, or in this amending bill, provides definitely that that shall be done. Any action is dependent on Ministerial decision, though I admit that the Minister has indicated to the House the manner in which he proposes to afford assistance to the companies. I understand from -what the Minister has said that assistance shall be given only after preliminary work has been done and the actual drilling has commenced. My point, however, still stands. It is that these companies, which have made enormous profits out of selling oil to the Australian public, are well equipped with capital to enable them to do much more with Government assistance than they have done.
– The bill does not compel the Minister to grant them assistance of any amount. It is entirely optional.
– That is so. I wish to point out, however, that there are other companies which have taken up permits or which may be formed and may be given permits that have nothing like the enormous resources of the wealthy corporations. In this connexion I cite the
Oil Search Limited, which is a company composed entirely of Australian shareholders. It would appear that this company, which has little or no resources, is doing far better work than the subsidiary companies of the Shell and Vacuum Oil companies, and it is possible that it may discover oil. The point is that oil is being discovered not far from Australia, and according to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 3rd September, the Commonwealth Government is in possession of information from the Controleur of Dutch East Indies that oil wells have resulted from drilling at Bongu, some fewmiles west of the international border between Dutch and British New Guinea, and that further explorations are in hand. The productive wells are temporarily sealed.
The article goes on to say: -
The Japanese have already succeeded in carrying to realization their quest for a nearby oil supply in Dutch East Indies. Japan is securing supplies on three of the islands, namely, Borneo, Java, and Sumatra. In Borneo, it has been announced that two companies have been producing a daily average of 13.640 barrels for the past year.
Furthermore, the Japanese have arranged for a combine of the Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Sumitomo interests to operate under the newfuel policy of the Japanese Ministries of the army, navy, foreign office, and colonies. Thus the commercial side of this effort is consolidated by a new Japanese oil combine capitalized at approximately £3,000,000!
All that activity is to be carried on in islands that are practically contiguous to our own Commonwealth territory. The article proceed® -
The American interests take the position that they are merely seeking to augment their sources of oil supply in the East. Australia and Japan are, however, engaged in an effort to develop nearby supplies of oil that would make them self-sufficient for defensive purposes.
That is the point upon which I close. Anything that the Government can do in any way to make Australia self-sufficient in oil supplies for defensive purposes will have the entire support of the Opposition and, I believe, of the country as a whole. To the extent that this bill gives to the Minister wider authority than the principal act did, we welcome it, and I say frankly that a great part of our defence organization will be, perhaps, not wasted, but to a great extent weakened in its efficiency, if the Government does not employ every means possible to provide Australia with oil supplies, whether from flow oil or from coal or shale or, in the absence of oil from those sources, if practicable, from the development of power alcohol.
.I do not think that this bill does anything except make provision for a few companies which might feel disposed to exploit the proposal. The original legislation made provision for the distribution of £250,000 to encourage the search for well oil. When the legislation was introduced into this House I spoke at considerable length and expressed the opinion that the Government was not genuine in its desire to make Australia independent of oil from” overseas, because already about £500,000 had been spent in unsuccessful efforts to locate flow oil within this country. This bill widens the scope for the expenditure of the grant by making provision for a Minister to allocate the funds for the carrying out of work of a preliminary nature, such as the installation of machinery for drilling. The original bill was specific in that the only expenditure to be allowed under the grant was on actual drilling operations, subject to approval by a committee of experts.
I remind the House that a number of experts have gone abroad from Australia to inquire into another method by which this country could be made independent of foreign oil supplies. On their return they have all said that the time is not ripe for Australia to embark upon the extraction of oil from coal or shale. Their reports, however, contrast strongly with the position in a number of other countries of the world which do not possess flow oil, countries which have adopted a process whereby at least one of them - I refer to Germany - expects to be independent of imported oil fuel by the end of the current year. I do not intend to repeat what I said when the original bill was before the House, when I gave details as to the amount of tons multiplied into gallons of oil that Germany is producing from coal. Great Britain also has rendered itself independent of foreign oil sources in respect of its requirements for its army, air force and navy, but in contrast with the steps that have been taken overseas Australia lags behind. In the last eight years I have con stantly advocated that steps should, be taken to extract oil from coal and shale. My representations were made not only to this Government and to its predecessors of the same political colour, but also to the Scullin Labour Government. Nobody, however, seemed able to appreciate the benefit that would accrue to Australia if my advocacy were translated into fact.
– The honorable member does not appear to be debating the bill.
– I desire to show that the widening of the scope of the act will make it possible for “ go-getter “ companies to put forward some “spec” for the purpose of attracting public subscriptions to companies which will never find oil in this country. Similar happenings have occurred in Queensland and Gippsland, and other parts of the country where the public has been fleeced. I am endeavouring to show that a saner proposal would be along the lines I have steadily advocated. I wish to point out that my advocacy of the claims of coal and shale oil have the support of Mr. Stevens, the Premier of New South Wales, who has just returned from a tour of Europe, during which he gave much attention to the coal-oil problem. He claims that the extraction of oil from coal has advanced far beyond the experimental stages, and in addressing meetings at Newcastle, he has recommended the enterprise as a commercial proposition.
– All of which is irrelevant to the bill.
– I am endeavouring to show that the Government should shield the public from exploitation by companies which are never likely to discover oil, and which probably are never intended to discover it. In order to link my remarks specifically with *he bill, however, I point out that the principal act provides for money to be paid out of the advance for drilling purposes only. Now the Minister will be privileged to distribute money for any preliminary work.
– Only such preliminary work as is approved by the technical committee.
– We shall take it that way then. I understand that Dr. Woolnough is one of the members of that committee. Dr. Woolnough made a survey of conditions at Belford Dome, which, before the redistribution of seats took place, formed part of my electorate. He approved of the boring plant installed there. I have asked that the technical committee should examine both the plant atFarley, in West Maitland, and the other plant at Belford Dome, but I was informed that the committee was conducting investigations in the north-west of Western Australia. AtFarley, the bore is already down 5,000 feet, supplies of gas have been tapped, and it is claimed that all the indications point to the presence of oil. I do not know whether that is so or not, but there seems to be sufficient evidence to justify an investigation. It is strange that some interests are able to have the committee examine propositions as far afield as the Kimberleys in Western Australia, while it is impossible to get it to make an inspection of a nearer proposition, which has been in operation for the last five years. For my part, I am not so optimistic, as are some people, regarding our prospects of obtaining supplies of flow oil. A large area of country has already been prospected, and much money has been spent in the search for flow oil, and I suggest that we should now be guided by the experience of other countries, and concentrate on the production of oil from coal or shale, so that we may be assured of supplies for defence purposes. If the country were attacked, we should he powerless to defend ourselves if we lacked adequate supplies of oil. The original act provided that the total government grant should be spent on drilling operations, but this hill provides that up to one-half of the grant may be expended upon preliminary operations.
– This bill provides for the making available of money to approved persons or firms conducting drilling operations for oil, for the conduct of geophysical surveys in search of petroleum, and for the purchase of drilling plant. It also gives authority to supply effective plant for drilling purposes. Certain restrictions are imposed to safeguard the expenditure of the money. There is a strong belief in some quarters, that the major oil companies, which have undoubtedly made huge profits out of the present order of things, are not serious in their search for flow oil. It is even alleged - though I do not necessarily associate myself with the allegation - that they are more interested in preventing the discovery of flow oil than in finding it. It is claimed that they are capable of promoting companies, which will never bring any profit to the investors, because it was never intended that they should do anything but continue the existing highly profitable state of affairs for themselves. Those honorable members who have read literature on this subject, know that in other countries, notably in the United States of America and Mexico, this sort of thing has. definitely been done, so that it behoves the Government to ensure- that similar practices are not indulged in here. The bill provides for certain safeguards in this direction, and we must trust the technical committee which advises the Minister and the ‘Government to see that the money provided is not wasted. This subject assumes great importance in view of the Government’s policy to encourage the construction in Australia of motor car engines and chassis and aeroplane engines. Little good will be achieved by the establishment of those industries, unless we provide ourselves with adequate supplies of oil, either by laying in large stocks, by developing the production of the flow oil that is available, or by making provision for the production of oil from shale and coal, &c. We should give more attention to the development of those oil resources which we already know to exist. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), in whose electorate the area to which I refer is situated, is probably more familiar with this matter than I am, but any one who visits the Lakes Entrance oil-field can see the oil being extracted. It may be that the quantity so far is limited, but it is claimed by those on the field that, if they were given practical assistance, there is no reason why there should not be in this area which has already proved to be oil bearing 1,000 wells each producing 80 or 100 gallons a day. I do not know whether that is true or not but those concerned are criticizing the Government for its failure to provide the assistance which they desire. I take it that, under the provisions of this bill, the Government will be able to make that assistance, provided the technical committee reports favorably upon the propositions submitted to it. A great deal will depend upon the quality of the men appointed to the committee. I know that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) wishes to encourage the development of the production of oil from coal and shale, so that the unemployed ir. his district may be absorbed in the new industry. When it was suggested to those interested in the Gippsland oilfield that, if their industry were expanded, it might throw workers out of employment on the Wonthaggi coal-field, they asserted that all the miners displaced could easily be absorbed on the oilfields. If it can be proved that the development of this oil-field is a commercial possibility, it is the duty of the Government to give every assistance possible, and it can count upon the Opposition to assist it. The Government must also take steps to ensure that nothing is done by the powerful overseas oil companies in Australia to prevent the successful development of the oilproducing industry in Australia. The oil companies operating in Australia are sections of the big overseas concerns which exercise a great influence on, not only the commercial and industrial life, but also the politics, of the world. The statement made to me by numbers of persons when I visited Gippsland was that the oil resources of Australia would be developed only when those interests were ready to do it. If that is the position Australia is suffering a disability which it should not be called upon to experience, and it is the duty of every government to see that no restriction is placed on the development of our oil resources. Every possible assistance should be given to those people who are genuinely engaged in the nationally important enterprise of producing oil on a payable basis.
– It is unfortunate that such important measures as this should be introduced in this chamber between 1 and 2 a.m., when their discussion is necesssarily restricted. I do not know of any measure that is fraught with greater pos sibilities than is this bill. I am not at all enamoured of what the Minister for the Interior (Mr Paterson) hopes to do under this measure. The fears I expressed in May last are still with me. The Government is being used to consolidate in Australia the interests of certain big overseas oil companies. I do not approve of this. I said last May that, if millionaires are to be made, let us have Australian, not American, millionaires. Clause 2 of the bill gives the Minister extraordinary power to make any agreement which he thinks fit. This matter should not he left to the discretion of one Minister, but should be subject to the approval of Parliament.
– These things can be regulated afterwards.
– Once vested interests are established it is very difficult to induce Parliament to say to a financial octopus, “Thus far and no further “. Much could be done by the Government further to investigate our oil resources. The best proposal I have yet heard has been put to me by Mr. A. E. Knight, one of my constituents, who said it should be possible for the Commonwealth and States to arrive at an arrangement under which ls. or 2s. in the £1 of the money collected by the States for motor registration fees would be placed in a separate fund, motor owners being given scrip for that money as it accumulated. The amount could be subsidized by the Commonwealth, and thus an Australian company could be established, which could be granted the sole right to conduct the search for oil in this country. If this were done every motor owner in Australia would be a part-owner with the Commonwealth Government in the concern. No member of this House is more anxious than I am to see flow oil discovered here. The kinds of companies that would be assisted under measures such as this would be more of a nuisance to us than they would be worth. I think that the Government would be wise to withdraw this bill. On a matter of such outstanding importance, a committee of this House, or a joint committee of both Houses, should be appointed to give further consideration to the problem. The Government has the help of technical advisers, but they are scientists, not business men. With all due respect to them, I doubt very much whether they are competent to try their wits in the contest that must take place “between this Government and the big interests concerned in the cornering of the oil supplies of Australia. If the measure reaches the committee stage, I shall submit an amendment to clause 2 to prevent the Minister from making any agreement he thinks fit, so that ratification of any agreement will be subject to the approval of both branches of the legislature.
, - in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. (Curtin) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) expressed doubts as to the bona fides of certain companies which are supposed to be endeavouring to find oil in the territories. With regard to the permits issued in New Guinea and Papua, every effort is made to see that the efforts of companies to find oil are genuine. Prospecting permits are of only twelve months’ duration, and will not be renewed unless the companies satisfy the Government as to their bona fides. They have to spend considerable sums of money during the twelve months. The honorable member for Maribyrnong mentioned Lakes Entrance. Dr. Woolnough, Dr. Ward and Dr Wade, who form the technical oil committee have returned from Western Australia and are now at Bega. They will make an inspection at Lakes Entrance next week. Undoubtedly more oil has been discovered there than in any other part of Australia.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has doubts about certain provisions in the bill. Every care is being taken to ensure that the money available is expended to the greatest possible advantage and that the best advice is obtained. The Government has the advantage of the assistance of the technical committee. Although the honorable member for Barker has expressed doubt as to its business knowledge, I remind him that Dr. Woolnough is the Commonwealth Geologist, and Dr. Ward is the Government Geologist of South Australia. Both of these men are geologists of considerable experience. Of Dr. Wade, the third member of the committee, it can be said that he has had a great deal of experience in many countries on the developmental side of oil wells. I think we have a very strong advisory committee. No approval of the expenditure of money is made except on the advice of this committee, and, after its advice is received, a Cabinet subcommittee, consisting of the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), the Minister for Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and myself deal with its recommendation. Therefore, every precaution is taken to eliminate mistakes. I commend the bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Debate resumed from the 28th November, 1935 (vide page 2133, volume 148), on motion by Mr. White (vide page 2128)-
– This resolution, which deals with the tropical products of Papua and New Guinea, was introduced by me on the 28th November, 1935. I then explained that its chief objective was the removal of a minor anomaly in the tariff treatment of certain territorial goods entering the Commonwealth. When preferential tariff treatment was first extended to those territories in 1926, provision was made for free admission of all their major products. In the absence of special legislation covering other territorial products,, they became technically- dutiable at the general tariff rates of duty. It thus happens occasionally that some products of the territories are subject to higher rates of duty than are payable on similar goods imported from neighbouring
British, colonies. It is sought to remove this anomaly by providing that all goods not specified in the schedule shall be subject to the duties in force under the British preferential tariff. I may say that it is anticipated that the change will have very little practical significance. In the case of Papua, the imports of dutiable goods in 1934-35 amounted to only £70 in a total import of £115,926, while in the case of New Guinea, they represented £244 in a total import of £76,684.
The Government is also availing itself of this opportunity to consolidate in a single schedule all the duties relating to Papua and New Guinea. At the present time duties are imposed on some territorial products under the main customs tariff schedule. Other items are . provided for in the Papuan and New Guinea preference tariff. These proposals bring all items together in a single schedule. Apart from the proposal to apply the British preferential tariff to commodities not specified in the schedule, the duties at present applicable to Papuan and New Guinea goods remain unaltered with a single exception, namely, the duty on tea. “With regard to tea, the Administrator of Papua is impressed with the possibility of successfully producing tea in that territory. The Government proposes to encourage the project by according a special rate of1d. per lb. on territorial tea imported in bulk which otherwise would be subject to the duty of 3d. per lb. payable under the British preferential tariff. I move -
That the following new preliminary paragraph he inserted after preliminary paragraph (2):- “ 2a. That goods (not being goods the produce or manufacture of the Territory of Papua or the Territory of Now Guinea) imported into Australia on or after the first day of January, 1936, from either’ of those territories, which, if they had been imported into Australia direct from the country of origin would have been entitled to be entered under the British preferential tariff, shall be subject to duties of customs at the rates in force under the British preferential tariff.”
That means that an aeroplane, landed in the territory, if it flew to Australia would now, perhaps, be subject to a foreign rate of duty, whereas, under the amendment, we could apply that preferential treatment to which it is entitled, and which operates as between New Zealand and Australia.
Amendment agreed to.
Resolution, as amended, agreed to and reported.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. White and Mr. Menzies do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoingresolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. White and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation, reported.
In committee (‘Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation) of revenue be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to amend the Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act 1920.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. White and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. White and; read a first time.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava- Minister for
Trade and Customs) [1.20 a.m.]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure has the effect of continuing existing bounty legislation for a further period of one year. In 1926 action was taken to provide a bounty on certain tropical products produced in Papua and New Guinea. To meet the prospective payments a sum of £250,000 was appropriated for expenditure over a period of ten years. The existing bounty legislation expires on the 31st December of this year. Pending a detailed inquiry by a committee to be appointed by the Government, it is proposed to extend theexisting act for a period of twelve months.
The products on which bounty is payable under existing legislation are-: cocoa beans and shells, manilaand coir fibre, sisal hemp, sago, vanilla beans, kapok, unground spices, bamboo and rattans. The total claims which have been submitted and paid under the existing act which has been in operation for ten years is only £8,783 out of the £250,000 provided.
There is some government disappointment at the failure of planters in the two territories to take advantage of the rather generous bounty provisions provided in existing legislation. There are many reasons advanced for this failure, but I would emphasize that if the territories are to be developed along sound economic lines it is imperative that there should be greater diversification of agricultural production. Notwithstanding the Government’s inability to point to any real achievement in production in the territories by reason of the enactment of the bounty legislation of 1926, the Government has decided to renew the legislation for a further period of twelve months. In the meantime an inquiry will be held and the administrations, planters and other interested parties will be provided with an opportunity to show an earnest of their desires for continuance of this bounty legislation. It is proposed that the committee should operate under the direction of the Comptroller-General of Customs, and will consist of an officer of the Customs Department, an agricultural expert of the territorial service, and a representative of each of the territorial administrations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The receipts do not balance the payments in respect of these bounties, but I think I am expressing the opinion of the committee when I express the hope that the territories may introduce a preferential tariff to assist Australian products, although exports from this country to New Guinea are already considerable largely on account of the subsidized shipping service that runs from Australia to the territories.
Bill agreed to, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava - Minister for
Trade and Customs) [1.25 a.m.]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which I introduced yesterday, relates to an amendment of section 151a of the Customs Act, which lays down certain conditions which must be fulfilled before goods imported from the United Kingdom are deemed to be goods produced or manufactured in the United. Kingdom for the purpose of admission under the British preferential tariff. It is a machinery measure, necessitated by the grant of the intermediate tariff tocertain foreign countries under trade agreements recently submitted to the Parliament for approval. I do not think that I should go into details in respect of the conditions laid down in section 151a of the Customs Act, which vary as applied to goods falling within different categories.
The amendment, in effect, empowers the making of regulations to prescribe conditions to be fulfilled before goods imported from a country entitled to the benefits of the intermediate tariff shall be deemed to be the produce or manufacture of that country. As it is impossible to foresee what conditions should be reasonably and appropriately applied to cover a great and varying range of circumstances, it is necessary that flexibility should exist, particularly in the early stages of administration, in order that suitable conditions may be established from experience and practice. It is proposed to commence with liberal requirements and to impose conditions only where subsequent experience indicates that the imposition of special conditions is necessary as a protection against abuses.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate;report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure amends the Colonial Light Dues (Bates) Act of 1932, under which the Commonwealth Government, onbehalf of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, collects light dues leviable under the provisions of section’ 670 of the Merchant Shipping Act, in respect of ships which, in the course of a voyage to or from Australia, pass and receive benefit from any of the lighthouses or thebuoy specified in the schedule to the Colonial Light Dues Collection Act, provided, of course, that such dues have not previously been paid in another part of His Majesty’s dominions. In three recent instances, it was claimed that the voyage on which the ship concerned was engaged at the time it passed the Bahamas lights was not a voyage to or from Australia “, and that the vessel was therefore not liable for the payment of colonial light dues. The Board of Trade, London, and the Solicitor-General for the CommonAvealth both expressed the opinion that the most satisfactory way to overcome the difficulty was to amend the Colonial Light Dues Collection Act by the deletion therefrom of the words “to or from Australia “. The bill now submitted for the amendment of the Colonial Light Dues Collection Act 1932-34 provides accordingly.
Advantage is also being taken to delete from the first part of the schedule the names of two lighthouses in the Bahamas Islands, viz. : Gun Cay and Cay Sal, which have recently been discontinued. The purpose of clause 4 of the bill is to validate payments of dues already made in connexion with which it might be claimed that they had not been levied in respect of a voyage “to or from Australia “ of the vessels concerned.
This bill is purely a machinery measure, involving no question of Commonwealth policy. It is designed for the express purpose of bringing our legisla tion into conformity with British legislation on a matter which is the concern of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) - by leave- - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth PublicWorks Committee Act 1913-1921 and for other purposes.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Government proposes, by means of this bill, to enable the Commonwealth Public Works Committee to be reconstituted. By clause 2, the Commonwealth. Public Works Committee Act 1932, which suspended the operation of the principal act, is repealed. The effect will be to restore to life the act under which the committee functioned.
Under the principal act, the committee was required to inquire into all publicworks, the estimated cost of which was over £25,000, with certain exceptions of the kind specified in section 14, such asdefence works. One effect of this was that many inquiries of an almost identical character had to be made into such works as, for example, the provision of automatic telephone exchanges, concerning which the investigations of the committee were unnecessarily repetitive. To avoid this for the future, the bill proposes, by amendments to sections 14 and 15 of the principal act, to limit the inquiries of the committee to such works as are referred to it by resolution of the House of Representatives. To ensure that control in the matter shall rest with the House of Representatives, clause 5 provides that a resolution to refer a certain public work to the committee for inquiry may be moved by the Minister or any member of the House of Representatives. There are also other minor amendments of aconsequential character.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I commend the Government for its proposal to resuscitate the Public Works Committee. The experience that I had of the committee, and its history from its constitution, proved that it was of profit to the community. I agree with the suggestion that expense should be saved by the avoidance of inquiries into works of a similar character. The Government is acting wisely in altering the framework of the act to effect that purpose. I am sure that, if the committee’s work in the future is as effective as that which it performed prior to its suspension, it will be the means of saving many thousands of pounds to the Commonwealth.
Bill agreed to, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Conditions on Waterfront in Victoria.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– A very serious position exists in connexion with the position on the waterfront in Victoria. There are two matters in dispute - the reappointment of an officer to the Allocation Committee, and the granting of first preference to men who are entitled to it. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) could settle both of these if, in my company, he met the officers of the organization in Melbourne next week. I should like to know if he is prepared to do so.
– I shall certainly do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.38 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice - -
If the facts are as stated, will he suggest to the Government that -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Erection of Oil Tanks at Birkenhead.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– There is no proposal before the department in relation to the erection for the Defence Department of oil tanks at Birkenhead, South Australia, nor is there any provision on the current year’s Estimates for such work.
Protective Assistance tor Industrial Shareholders.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Willhe make provision by legislation or regulation for shareholders in industries to have the right to submit to the Tariff Board claims for protective assistance?
e. - It is considered that there is no necessity for such action inasmuch as shareholders in companies are represented by the directors and management of the particular company concerned, and in any case any person concerned has the right of appearing before the Tariff Board and giving evidence.
Trade Diversion Policy :unemploy- ment in Warehouses.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether unemployment is being caused in city warehouses owing to the inability of merchants to get supplies of goods other than textiles from Japan ?
s. - I am not aware of any such unemployment, and I see no reason why it should occur as other sources of supply have been available.
k asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he supply the House with an outline of the agreement between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian newspaper interests for the broadcasting of news over A class stations?
– The honorable member will be furnished with a reply to his inquiries as early as possible.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e. - On the 25th November, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice -
What is the value of the imports into Western Australia of Victorian products by
I now attach, a statement supplied by the Western Australian Statistician’s Department which shows the information desired by the honorable member.
It should be noted that with the exception of the State of South Australia inwards and outwards trade by rail and sea cannot be shown separately for each State.
Detailed figures of two-way trade with South Australia were furnished to the honorable member on the 4th November, in answer to a previous question asked on the 22nd October.
Bananas: Imports into Western Australia.
On the 1st December, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
What was the total quantity of bananas imported intoWestern Australia for each of the years ended 30th June, 1934, 1935, and 1930, from (a) Queensland, (b) Java and Dutch East Indies, and (c) other places (if any) ?
What was the total local production for the local market for each of the years mentioned.
I am now in a position to supply the. following information : -
Imports of bananas into Western Australia from : -
On the 19th November the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked a question, upon notice, as to what steps had been taken to investigate methods for the preservation of orange juice and the adoption of a method as a commercial proposition. ‘
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that the Food Preservation and Transport Section of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has, for some time, been collecting and collating all the information available as to methods in this regard which have been adopted by other countries. If, after full examination, this information discloses that further research is necessary in Australia, the matter will receive consideration. In the meantime I have asked the council to inform the honorable member direct as soon as possible of the results of the inquiries that have been made.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the alarming increase in. rent costs which is bringing about considerable hardships to persons of small incomes, will he indicate if the Government will restore immediately to old-age and invalid pensioners the maximum pension of 20s. per week.
y. - In view of the general increase in the rate of invalid and old-age pensions from the 24th September last the Government regrets that it cannot see its way at this stage to make further liberalizations.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 December 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361202_reps_14_152/>.