14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 8 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform honorable members that it is not the intention of the Government to answer questions without notice to-night. We shall do so to-morrow at our leisure.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava- Minister for
Trade and Customs) [8.3]. - I lay on the table of the House reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Chassis and Electrical Equipment for Trolley Buses.
Paper and Boards.
PieceGoods, Felt, of wool or containing wool-(a)Slipper UpperFelt; (b) n.e.i; Piece Goods, Felt, composed of hair; Piece Goods, Felt, n.e.i.
Roofing Tiles and Asbestos’ Cement Sheets; &c.
Salt and Table Preparations thereof, n.e.i.
Transformers at voltages less than 66,000 between 10,000 k.v.a. and 20,000 k.v.a.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr.White) agreed to -
That the reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board, laid on the table of the House at the previous sitting, be printed.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea - Report to Council of League of Nations on Administration of the Territory of New Guinea for 1935-36.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Twentysixth Annual Report, 1935-36.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 71.
Lands Acquisition Act - Bullsbrook, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Northern Australia Survey Act - Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia - Report of Committee for period ended 31st December, 1936.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations amended, &c, under -
Darwin Administration Ordinance.
Electric Light and Power Ordinance.
Public Service Act -
Appointment of B. T. B. Stone, Department of the Interior.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 74.
Railways Act - By-laws Nos. 74, 75, 76.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 6 - Gun Licence.
No. 8 - Canberra Community Hos pital Board.
Building and Services Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Menzies), read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motionby Mr. Paterson), read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the execution by the Commonwealth of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads and other works connected with transport, and to make provision for the carrying out thereof.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. White do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Acting
Treasurer) [8.10]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the execution, by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States in the form which honorable members will find in the schedule of the bill. The agreements will be executed between the Commonwealth and each of the States, and the respects in which the provisions will vary as between one State and another are set out in a footnote on page 3 of the bill. The only variation has to do with the actual percentage of the total amount to be paid to the particular State. The immediate object is to continue the federal aid roads agreement for a term often years, to increase the amount payable to the States during that period, and to make certain special provisions in relation to the extra amount. Perhaps 1 can best make the position clear if I go back briefly over the history of ‘ this scheme. It began on the 1st July, 1926. The original agreement bore that date, and was designed to cover a period of ten years. It provided for the distribution of £2,000,000 a year among the States on the basis of approximately three-fifths on population and two-fifths on area, with a special concession to Tasmania, which received a flat 5 per cent., the remaining 95 per cent. being allocated among the other States in the proportions mentioned. The States also, in the original scheme, were required to contribute between them £1,500,000, or 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth. The pur pose of the grant was the construction or reconstruction of main trunk and arterial roads, and no provision was made for maintenance, an omission which was to be a source of trouble to some of the States before long. A further provision was that the States, on any loan moneys they used for their contributions, should pay into a sinking fund at the rate of 3 per cent. I refer to that sinking fund now, because in this agreement it is proposed to reduce payments from 3 per cent. to 2½ per cent. In 1931 the agreement, which had been designed to run for ten years in its original form, was altered, and its term was extended for six months from 30th June, 1936, to the 31st December, 1936. The provisions of the agreement were altered so that, instead of £2,000,000 a year being paid to the States by the Commonwealth, a payment was made at the rate of 2½d. a gallon of customs duty, and 1½d. a gallon of excise duty on certain petroleum products. At the same time, the contributions of the States of 15s. in the £1 were abolished and it was specified that the grant should be usable not only for the construction and reconstruction of roads, but also for their repair and maintenance, while the classification of roads was widened to cover any road. In 1936, it was agreed to extend the agreement for a further period of six months, pending negotiation and settlement of the measure now before us.Consequently, as at the 30th June next, which is to-morrow, the agreements will have been in operation for eleven years. The payments made to all the States in that period may perhaps prove interesting to honorable members. In 1926-27, the total amount was £2,000,000, and that continued up to and including the year 1930-31. In 1931-32, the payment on the new basis was £1,812,000. In 1932-33 it was £1,922,000 ; in 1933-34 it was £2,208,000; in 1934-35, it was £2,466,00.0; and in 1935-36 it was £2,779,000. The estimated amount for the year 1936-37 is £3,000,000. Therefore, the total for the term of eleven years, assuming the estimate for the current year to be correct, is £24,187,000. As honorable members may wish to have on record the amounts paid to the various
States during the last five years, I shall read them. They are as follows: -
– I am sorry that I cannot give the honorable member that information off-hand, although it has been taken out for a certain purpose. The honorable member may, however, assume, from the basis of distribution, that States like Victoria and New South Wales are States within whose territorial limits more is collected from the petrol duties than is disbursed; and naturally, in the case of the States which are less densely populated, the position is reversed.
The new agreement is designed to cover a period of ten years from the 1st July, 1937. Before the adjournment for dinner, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) offered the criticism that the presentation of this bill is somewhat belated. I agree that it is and, if I may say so, I feel some little embarrassment at having to produce it at what I admit is more or less the last moment. The position is, however, that the agreement has had to be negotiated between all the governments and their legal representatives.
– That happened some months ago.
– Honorable members will appreciate that when legal representatives negotiate concerning the form of a contract it is always safe to assume that the commencement of the negotiations is some months before their completion. Unhappily, until the last few days, I have not been in the position to bring the bill down to the House, and then it was impossible to interrupt the consideration of the Supply Bill in order to introduce it.
I need not go through the agreement in detail, because to some extent it follows the stock form. The provisions of it which require comment are few in number. In the first place, the period of the agreement is ten years from the 1st July, 1937 ; and in the second place, the grants to the States from the petrol duties - I refer to the continuing amount of 2½d., and l½d. - may be expended as was the case under the old agreement.
– They are not varied in any way?
– Not up to this point. There is an increase, but that is dealt with specifically and separately. The continuing amount - if I may so describe it - of 2½d. and1½d., may be expended, as was the case under the old agreement, on the construction, re-construction, maintenance or repair of roads. Therefore, there is no alteration of the position in regard to the continuing amount, except that, by way of relief to the States, the sinking fund contribution which they are bound to provide on loan moneys used by them for their contributions between 1926 and 1931, is reduced from 3 per cent. to2½ per cent. As honorable members will have discerned from my narrative of events, the contribution by the States was abolished in 1931; consequently, we are concerned only with the first period of five years.
The new provisions of the agreement are reflated to the increased amount of the grant. The increase, which is set out in sub-clause 2 of clause 2 of the agreement, is one of½d. a. gallon in relation to customs duty and of½d. a gallon in relation to excise duty.
– The tax is not being raised?
– No , the customs duty and the excise remain the same, but the Commonwealth makes to the States a larger contribution from the proceeds for the purpose of federal aid roads and other matters to which I shall later refer. This bill concerns itself, not with the tax or the revenue,but solely with the allocation of a certain proportion of the revenue, calculated in terms of 2½d. and ½d. the2½d.being the old amount which we continue to pay and the½d. being the extra proportion of the existing tax which we propose to pay.
I have said that the new agreement will provide in that way for a total payment of 3d. a gallon customs duty and 2d. a gallon excise. That is subject to the one qualification that the excise in respect of benzol is l½d. That, of course, remains untouched, and consequently there cannot be a contribution of 2d. a gallon out of it; but that is only a small qualification on the generality of the statement that I have made. The position that will result from the increased payment of the proceeds of½d. a gallon will be, that in this financial year, the Commonwealth will pay an extra £600,000. I speak in terms of estimate, but that, I think, will be found to be substantially correct. During the currency of the agreement the amount payable to the States, not only in respect of the 2½d., which was already showing a growing yield, but also in respect of the½d., will continue to rise if, as we anticipate, business conditions continue to develop, and the use of motor transport develops in the same way.
AnOppositionMember. - Why could not the tax be reduced because of that advancement?
– The honorable member will appreciate that I am not dealing with the quantum of the tax. What the tax should be, is a matter proper to be dealt with in the budget. I am not discussing that special problem; all that I am concerned with is the diverting, so to speak, of the proceeds of an extra½d. from the petrol revenue to the States for the purposes that I have indicated.
– What happens to the balance of the proceeds of the tax?
– The balance of the proceeds of the tax goes into revenue and is used for all the different purposes for which we have to make provision out of revenue. There are quite a lot of them, I assure the honorable gentle- ma n.
Mr.curtin. - What is contemplated is that if the petrol tax is not increased the proportion that will go to consolidated revenue from customs duty will be reduced from4½d. to 4d., and in the other case from 4d. to 3½d.?
– Quite so. The position as it stands at present is that 4½d. is retained by the Commonwealth as a revenue duty and 2½d. is paid to the States. The result of this agreement over the period of ten years will be, that 4d. will be retained by the Commonwealth and 3d. will be paid to the States for federal aid roads purposes; and corresponding adjustments will be made in the case of the excise duty.
– The bowsers now indicate that the tax is7¼d. a gallon.
– That takes into account the primage of 10 per cent. ad valorem.
The application of the funds is a matter which honorable members will find is dealt with in sub-clause 2 of clause 4 of the agreement. I hope that I have made it clear that the 2½d. - the original amount which we shall continue to pay to the States - still remains attached to the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads, and that the change which is brought about is applicable only to the extra sum of½d. The agreement provides that the moneys yielded by that shall be expended upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads, or other works connected with transport, as the State may think fit. The expression “ other works connected with transport “ has been used for a certain reason. It has been suggested in several quarters, not only among the States themselves but also in this House, that some flexibility ought to be provided for, because all persons who pay the petrol tax are not necessarily road motor users. For example, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has made particular reference to fishing havens and shelters, and other facilities in connexion with fishing.
– Beacon lights and jetties.
– I shall refer to the particular phrase in a moment. Other honorable members have referred to aerodromes and landing grounds, and have pointed out that persons who use aeroplanes pay the petrol tax and are thus entitled to some consideration. As honorable members know, it has not proved practicable to work out a system for the tracing of the ultimate use of petrol, so as to make a differentiation. But it is possible in relation to this extra amount to give to the States such flexibility as will enable them to spend money on works which are connected with transport, and the phrase that I have read is adequate to cover all the matters referred to by the honorable member for Moreton.
– “Will it exclude railways?
– I see no reason whyit should, because the railways are considerable users of petrol. Wo do not seek to attach any arbitrary limit, except that it must be associated with transport, because that recognizes the proposition that the tax is in a general sense a transport tax. The particular phrase which I think was troubling the mind of the honorable member for Moreton, and about which I am sure he would like to be assured, is that used by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), page 2134 of last year’s Hansard: It reads -
The money will be available for each State for the provision of havens, shelters, anchorages and the like for the protection of motor boats, and also for the provision of beacons and jetties for fishing boats, according as the State may desire.
It is the view and the intention of the Commonwealth that the phrase “ works connected with transport “ should be regarded as covering all these cases and eases which are analogous, because in the one case a boat is being used for transport purposes, in another case an aeroplane is being used for similar purposes, and in still another case some petroldriven vehicle on a railway may be used for transport purposes. Whatever they are, they are all associated with transport, and any works allied to them will come, as we understand and intend in this agreement, within the scope of the phrase to which I have referred.
The Commonwealth has felt for some time that there ought to be some provision requiring some portion of the money it pays over for what I may describe generally as road purposes to be used on Commonwealth roads, particularly roads used for the purpose of approach to Commonwealth works such, for example, as the road approaching the works at Maribyrnong in Victoria. There are a number of roads that fall within that description. One of the new provisions of this agreement is that “onetwelfth of the increase of the grant to the States may, at the request of the Commonwealth, be used for the maintenance and repair - not construction or reconstruction - of roads of approach to, or adjoining, Commonwealth properties. Assuming that £000,000 be the extra amount for this year, that would equal £50,000 if required by the Commonwealth, and, of course, that £50,000 would have a tendency to grow year by year thereafter. As honorable members will sec, it is not an excessive demand, and all States have willingly agreed to it, because it provides a maximum of £50,000 out of the total which we may estimate for the forthcoming financial year to be of the order of £3,700,000.
– The Common wealth is providing for that out of the extra £600,000.
Mi-. MENZIES. - I am prepared to adopt the way in which the honorable member puts it. The Commonwealth is providing an extra £600,000, of which £50,000 may, at the request of the Commonwealth, be made, available for the particular types of roads to which I have referred. The States have agreed to that. The States, at the request of the Commonwealth, will, up to a limit of £50,000, attend to the maintenance and repair of roads approaching to or adjoining Commonwealth properties.
I have explained the effect of the bill. There are various other provisions of a more or less formal kind in this agreement, but they follow stock form, and the only matters new or requiring comment are those to which I have referred.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue fund a sum for invalid and old-age pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. White do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Menzies and read a first time.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Acting
Treasurer) [8.38]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short measure for the purpose of appropriating out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, for the purposes of the relevant trust account known as the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Fund, a sum of £15,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions. I think perhaps I should say, before making the very brief remarks I shall have to make on the bill, that it does not concern itself with anything except the appropriation of a sufficient sum of money, so to speak, to see us through. It does not deal with the question of the rate of pension, or with any of those matters that might more appropriately be discussed in connexion with the budget. It has been the custom in the past to ask Parliament to provide, from the Consolidated Revenue fund, the amount of approximately one year’s expenditure to enable the fortnightly payments of these pensions to proceed without interruption. The last provision for this purpose was made in October of last year, when a sum of £12,000,000 was appropriated. The annual rate of expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions has been progressively increasing, and in the financial year 1936-37, which concludes tomorrow, it will be within a relatively few pounds of £14,000,000, and in 1937-38 a larger sum will be required partly through the purely fortuitous circumstances that there are 27 pension pay days in that year - that only happens every eleven years - and partly on account of the natural increase of the number of pensions exhibited by statistics over recent years, a matter which, of course, is very largely attributable to the fact that while we do not increase our numbers enormously in Australia, we grow older and older, and more and more people are reaching pensionable age although the total population is not increasing proportionately. The total amount appropriated by Parliament for invalid and oldage pensions up to the present time is £195,250,000, and the actual expenditure to the 31st May of this year has been £190,910,000, leaving as at that date a balance of £4,340,000 to meet future expenditure. Honorable members will therefore see that, by the appropriation made in this bill, we are providing an ample provision so that we will avoid all possibility of any interruption of the regular payment, fortnight by fortnight, of the invalid and old-age pensions whatever they may be at any given moment.
– The trust fund, as a fund, will be large enough to pay what Parliament decides ought to be paid. I urge that we do not anticipate discussion of these matters. We are not here concerned with discussing rates ; we are concerned solely with making adequate provision for the payment of these grants out of a particular fund. The amount in hand, as I have already indicated, would be sufficient to carry the payments on until August; but it is necessary, if we are to provide for a reasonably lengthy period of time ahead, to ask Parliament to make a further appropriation. That appropriation is £15,000,000, which, in view of the increase to whichI have referred, and having regard to the 27 pension pay days, is rather less than sufficient for twelve months’ payments in the circumstances now existing. The provisions of the measure, as I have said, are not connected with rates of pension or the conditions under which pensions are payable, but are concerned solely with the. total amount.
– The Opposition has no objection to the passage of this bill; it realizes that the bill is necessary in order to accomplish the purposes which the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) has just explained. I think I may take this opportunity, however, to say that the creation of a trust fund as a method of providing for regular payments of invalid and old-age pensions was suggested at the time of its inception by the then Leader of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Andrew Fisher. The very fact that he had to make that suggestion, and to show how it would be practicable for the Commonwealth to provide for invalid and old-age pensions during the period in which the Constitution prescribed that the surplus revenues of the Commonwealth should be distributed to the States is, I think, a complete and convincing answer to those who say that the Labour party had little to do with the initiation of invalid and oldage pensions in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
Thatthebill be now reada second time.
Tin’s bill contains two simple provisions. The first relates to Part III. of the Transport Workers Act 1929, which has relation to waterside workers, and sets out the details of a licensing system which I know has been the subject of much controversy. I do not propose to enter into a discussion at this moment on that aspect of the subject. I seem to remember applying the system of this act to seamen some time ago when trouble occurred at certain Australian ports, but this particular act deals in statutory form with the licensing system established in relation to waterside workers, and not to seamen. Section 4 of the principal act provides -
This part of the Act shall apply to waterside workers at such ports in the Commonwealth as are specified by the Minister by notice in the Gazette and to those ports.
Under the existing law the Minister specifies by notice in the Gazette the ports at which the licensing provisions of the Transport Workers Act shall apply. It is proposed in the bill now before honor able members that the ports to which that part of the act already applies shall be stated in the statute itself. Provision is also made that the act shall apply - at such other ports in the Commonwealth as are from time to time specified by the Minister by notice in the Gazette and to those ports.
I do not desire any misunderstanding on this subject. The Government is proposing to convert what is now a mere notice in the Gazette into a statutory provision by naming in the legislation the ports which have, in fact, already been specified by the Minister.
– And power will still be retained to gazette other ports?
– Yes. Clause 2 of the bill repeals section 4 of the principal act and inserts the following section in its stead : -
This part of this act shall apply to waterside workers -
at the following ports, namely: - Melbourne, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Newcastle, Townsville, Bundaberg, Bowen, Innisfail, Goondi, Mourilyan. Lucinda and Fort Douglas; and
at such other ports in the Commonwealth as are from time to time specified by the Minister by notice in the Gazette, and to those ports.
The statutory provision will, of course, be very much more binding than a mere notification in the Gazette. I might almost say that it will give permanence to the existing situation.
Although provision is made that other ports in the Commonwealth may be specified by notice in the Gazette, I do not desire honorable members to imagine that the Government contemplates gazetting any further ports. That is. not intended.
– But the power to do so is reserved?
– Yes. If this provision is agreed to the Minister will have the power to specify further ports if he considers that that course is. desirable. In future, however, if clause 2 is passed, the ports which have already been specified will be definitely named in the law.
– Why is this step being taken?
– It is felt that, as the licensing system has worked well, in that it has produced peace, security, and regularity in work on the waterfront it should be given some security, and should not be subject to fluctuations in executive decisions from time to time.
The second provision of the bill, which is contained in clause 3, provides for the amendment of section 12 of the principal act. Under that section power is given to the licensing officer to cancel licences issued to transport workers in certain cases. For insta.nce, a waterside worker who -
A licensing officer by whom the licence is cancelled shall, by writing under his hand, fix a period, not being less than six months nor more than twelve months from the date of cancellation, during which the person shall be ineligible to receive a licence.
This is undoubtedly a harsh provision because a man who may be convicted of an offence which is relatively trifling may, if the jurisdiction of this section is invoked, be deprived of his licence, which is the token of his means of livelihood, for not less than six months. The Government desires to ameliorate that provision by substituting one month for six months.
– The Government is generous !
– Yes. Something is being done which has frequently been requested by more than one member of the Opposition. This is the first opportunity we have had to take this action, and I imagine that this provision will give satisfaction to honorable members opposite.
I thought that in concluding my speech, I might, as a final flourish, call upon the sporting qualities of honorable gentlemen opposite in relation to this bill. Here are two provisions one of which they will like very much, and the other of which they will hate like poison. I like both of them, and I therefore invite support for my motion.
.- I am quite prepared to proceed at once with the consideration of this bill, to test whether, after discussion, the Government will review the proposed amendment of section 4 of the principal act. The law at present provides that a proclamation may issue covering all the transport “ workers at a particular port. In fact, such proclamations have been issued in relation to the ports named in Clause 2. It is now proposed to give statutory effect to those proclamations. I fear, that if this action is taken, it may be unlawful for a proclamation to be issued withdrawing the application of the act to those ports. The present procedure cuts both ways. A situation may arise which the Minister feels makes it desirable to apply the Transport Workers Act to a particular port, but when, in the course of time, the circumstances change, and the application of the act is no longer thought to be necessary at that particular port, it may be withdrawn by notice in the Gazette. That course has been taken in connexion with Fremantle. The Transport Workers Act was applied to Fremantle in 1928, but was subsequently withdrawn. But if clause 2 is passed statutory effect will be given to proclamations that have been issued in respect of the ports named, and the discretion of the Minister to discontinue the application of the act at those ports will have been withdrawn.
– But the whole matter will be in the hands of Parliament.
– Precisely. But it must be remembered that one House of this Parliament will retain its present political complexion for at- least another three years. That is the nigger in tho wood pile Even if the electors at the end of this year return to power, an overwhelming majority of honorablemembers of this House who are opposed to the continuance of the Transport Workers Act, it would still be doubtful whether they could give expression to thewill of the people on the subject, becauseof what might be done in the Senate.
The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) cannot point to any difficulty he has experienced in the operation of the act which has made it necessary for a change of policy to beapproved by the Parliament. He invites the Parliament to give the measure permanent application at the ports specified; in the bill, but he has furnished no evidence of any difficulty experienced in the last six months, or even the last four or five years, which has made it desirable that, as regards the ports to which this law has been applied since 1928, we should be asked to make it impossible for the Minister to free them from its application. It is all the more important that this Parliament should reject the proposed amendment of the law because of the known proclivities of the present Government to keep the Parliament in recess. When this Parliament is not in session, it will be impossible for the Minister to withdraw the application of the act to the specified ports. I can understand, while not approving, the Attorney-General saying that the act is conducive to industrial peace and should be applied to all waterside workers throughout Australia, but my objection to the principle of this measure is that it is partial in its application, discriminating, as it does, between workers in different ports of the Commonwealth. It exposes the workers in some ports to the penalties of not only the Arbitration Act, hut also the Transport Workers Act. Although all waterside workers have a common award, those not brought under this act have only to comply with the award of the Arbitration Court, and can only be mulct in the penalties provided under the Arbitration Act if they commit a breach of its provisions. The Transport Workers Act was passed to reinforce the Arbitration Court. It was regarded by the Ministry of the day, not as a permanent instrument, but as a measure necessary to deal with an isolated set of circumstances. The general idea was that its operation would terminate after a given period, but that it should remain a statute law, so that it could be put into operation at particular ports if considered necessary.
It is monstrous that thousands of waterside workers of Sydney are free from the odium and burden of this law, whilst thousands of similar workers in Melbourne and Adelaide are subjected to it. Upon what principle can this Parliament discriminate regarding the penalties it imposes on citizens following the same calling at different ports under an identical award of the Arbitration Court? I use this argument against the principle of the act as an additional reason why I consider that the discrimination which the Minister has hitherto exercised should be retained. The minimum disqualification of a transport worker for an offence under the act is six months, and under the bill the minimum period is to be reduced to one month, but this penalty is additional to those imposed by the Court.
If the Attorney-General desires this legislation to be made permanent, the right time to do it is when he is fresh from the country, and not the eve of his appearance before his masters. Let the people judge regarding this matter at the general election. If the present Government is returned with a majority, it can pass this proposed law. It is conceivable that if this bill is not rejected now, it will not be competent for a new government that may come into power after the election to alter the act. It would remain on the statute-book with all the new difficulties attendant upon its alteration. The Attorney-General asks us to pay too high a price for the consideration which he is now disposed to give towards those convicted of breaches of the act.
I cannot support the proposed change, because the bill seeks to remove the discretion of the Minister in an important industrial matter. We have had a sufficiently long experience of industrial disputes to know that a certain amount of give and take is required, and that conciliation is more useful in maintaining industrial peace than iron adherence to a rigid statute. This measure might even make industrial disputes more prolonged and bitter than they would otherwise be. I could understand the Parliament being asked to give the Minister a general power to apply the act to a particular port when the circumstances warranted it, but, when they no longer warrant its application, it should be withdrawn. The Attorney-General now contemplates that this Parliament should apply the act to particular ports, and that, regardless of any change in the industrial conditions at those ports, it should still continue to operate. This gives emphasis to the injustice inherent in the principle of the act, and makes more definite the discrimination between water- side workers at different ports. The bill seems to violate the underlying principle that a law passed by this. Parliament should apply to all the categories of persons engaged^ in the occupation to which it relates.
– I object more to the general principle of this legislation than to the fact that it applies to some sections of transport workers and not to others. When this act was passed it was violently opposed by not only the waterside workers, but also all other workers throughout Australia. I fear that the passage of this bill would revive the hostility that undoubtedly exists towards it. The people have decided to wipe it off the Statute-Book by constitutional means if they ever have an opportunity to do so. The act and its regulations apply to the Port’ of Melbourne, which has suffered more under them than has any other port in Australia. There is now much more peace on the waterfront in Victoria than there lias been for many years, although the workers there still hope to be freed from the operation of this legislation. It is proposed in this bill to reduce the minimum disqualification for an offence under the act from six months to one month, which I welcome, but the attractiveness of that proposal is destroyed by the Minister imposing tho objectionable principle of the act more firmly than ever upon the Waterside Workers Federation. It is rather indecent of him to do this on the eve of an election. The bill not only makes it possible to impose the act on another State, but it also changes the nature of its operation in the States to which it now applies, and it will be very difficult for any new government that may be returned to power to alter the act. Legislation in both Houses must be passed to undo it. It is wrong for the Government to attempt to alter the law on the eve of an election. Surely this proposal exposes the present Government to a charge of class bias. Two or three months ago the AttorneyGeneral received a representative deputation upon this matter, and, after a long discussion, he agreed to try to make it easier than it now is for the Waterside Workers Federation to work in con junction with the Arbitration Court and avoid ‘ future trouble. The federation’s representatives asked the Minister to lift some of the regulations so that the court would have full opportunity to deal with the conditions on the waterfront which it does not now have. I am glad to know that the Minister is doing that in the way suggested by the federation, but it would be quite unfair to amend the law in such a way as to make it most difficult for another government to remove the harassing regulations. Immediately the workers appreciate what is being done, the present harmony on the waterfront will be seriously disturbed. I urge the Minister to postpone the consideration of the bill until he has received from the Waterside Workers Federation an intimation as to its views. So far as the life of this Government is concerned, there is nothing to be gained by the passing of this bill, because it will not alter the present situation one iota. No change of the existing conditions on the wharfs whatever will be effected, and I ask every broad-minded member whether it is fair that this bill should be agreed to, in view of the fact that it does not amend the working of the act, but only provides some extra difficult method to hamper any future government which may desire to alter it. Surely it is denying to the people at election time the right to decide. I intend to oppose the bill. I hoped originally that I should have been able to accord my support to the measure, because of the amendment which it makes to the penalty clause; but I now find that it takes some unanticipated step. I have always been opposed to the Transport Workers Act. but I have worked in conjunction with Ministers year after year in an endeavour to make it work less harshly to the workers. If the Attorney-General had not interfered with the act, and allowed the factor of time to work it out, the position would have been, far- more satisfactory. The best stevedoring companies on the wharfs are urging the different committees, and are appealing to representatives of the Government as well as those of the unions, to endeavour to devise some formula in order to give them free selection of labour without being tied down to a committee that allocates the numbers of various groups which the companies are compelled against their will to employ. I am gratified to be able to say that the situation is gradually working out harmoniously. The few objectionable characters that were once upon the waterfront have now left it, and the prospect of restoring complete amity on the wharfs has never been brighter than it is at the present time. I now feel, however, that this bill, if it becomes law, will re-open the old trouble. The worst feature of it is that it cannot in any circumstances, make any difference whatever to waterside labour so long as this Government is in power, and I contend that the Government has no right to anticipate something which may happen when it is not in office.
– This bill has come before honorable members rather suddenly, and I personally feel that there are honorable members on this side of the House who have not had the opportunity, which some of them would desire, to consider the implications of clauses 2 and 3. I am fairly well acquainted with the general principles which underlie this bill, because I have a good memory of trouble which has occurred on the waterfront in various Australian ports from time to time. As a representative of the primary producers, I can only say that we, as a body, who depend upon the export of perishable commodities for our living, have been pretty sore on many occasions at the way in which overseas transport has been held up time after time by the actions of certain gentlemen who seem to obtain control of unions which handle our produce.
– It is a long time since any waterfront trouble occurred in South Australia.
– Yes, hut in South Australia drastic steps have been taken to ensure that no difficulties would arise.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. 6. J. Bell).I hope that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will not open a general discussion upon the subject of the waterfront, because he would be out of order in so doing. ‘The bill now before the House proposes to amend two sections of the act and the debate must be strictly relevant to the bill.
– Clause 2 specifies certain ports to which the act shall apply, and the bill further introduces one or two principles upon which I should prefer not to commit myself without first giving the matter due consideration. I therefore ask if the Attorney-General would be prepared to agree to the adjournment of the debate until a later stage.
– by leave - If honorable members feel that there are aspects of this bill to which they would like to give greater consideration, I am perfectly agreeable to the granting of an adjournment until to-morrow. I think that is fair enough.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beasley), adjourned.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Attorney-
General) [9.21].- I move-
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
This is an extremely dry and technical measure to amend the Judiciary Act 1903-1934. The bill relateswholly to rules of the High Court, and makes no amendment whatever of the law excepting as regards the manner of tabling- those rules in the Houses of the Parliament and the disallowance of any rule by either House. Even in these respects, the amendments are merely designed to bring the numerous provisions relating to the tabling and disallowance of rules of the High Court into a common form.
When the High Court Procedure Act 1903 waspassed, it contained a lengthy schedule of rules of court, but power was conferred on the justices of the High Court to amend, add to, or repeal those rules. The whole of those rules were, in fact, repealed by rules of court in 1928. The Judiciary Act 1903 also conferred on the justices a rule-making power. It is under the provisions of these two acts that the great majority of the rules of the High Court have been made. Both acts required, and still require, all rules made thereunder to be tabled in both Houses of the Parliament within 40 days of the making thereof, if Parliament is thensitting, or, if not, then within 40 days of the next meeting of the Parliament. Many honorable members will recall this provision as being that which was once used for the tabling of regulations. Its defects are obvious. Presuming that rules or regulations are made on the last day of sitting prior to an adjournment, Parliament is “then sitting”, but it would not again be sitting within the prescribed 40 days. Unless, therefore, the tabling were effected on the day of making, the provisions of the act could not be complied with. Further difficulties are encountered when one House only is sitting.
So far as regulations are concerned, it has long been provided by the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-1934 that they must be tabled within fifteen sitting days of each House. However, the provisions of the Judiciary Act and the High Court Procedure Act relating to tabling have remained unaltered since 1903. Since that date, numerous other acts conferring a special jurisdiction on the High Court have been passed. For example, the several taxing acts make provisions for appeals to the High Court. The majority of these acts merely confer a jurisdiction and do not mention the matter of making rules of court relating to that jurisdiction ;but some of these acts, which honorable members will find enumerated in the schedule to the bill, do empower the High Court to make rules of court, and in some instances also contain provisions for the tabling and disallowance of these rules.
The first point that emerges is. that either all these acts, which confer jurisdiction on the High Court, should confer a rule-making power, or none of them should do so. The second and more vital point is that acts relating to the tabling and disallowance of rules should be consistent. Rules issued under the early acts are required to be tabled, within 40 days if Parliament is sitting, or, if not, within 40 days of the next day of sitting. Any rule may then be annulled by the Governor-General on the receipt of an address from either House praying for such annulment. Rules made under the more recent acts are tabled under provisions similar to those of the Acts Interpretation Act applying to regulations; that is, they must be tabled within fifteen sitting days, and may then be disallowed by a resolution of either House. As a consequence, instead of making one set of rules relating to all its jurisdiction, it is technically necessary that the justices should issue one set of rules under this act, another under that act, and another under some other act, and so on.
The bill is designed to meet this position by ‘a very simple remedy. First, it enables rules of court relating to the whole of the jurisdiction of the High Court to be made under the Judiciary Act. That is the meaning of clause 2 of the bill. Having done this, the provisions of all otheracts relating to the making of High Court rules may be repealed, and clause 4 and the schedule are designed to effect this repeal.
Honorable members will see that so far no amendment is made in the law; the power now exercised under eight acts is merely placed within the scope of one act only. Having placed the rule making power under one act, the question then arises as to whether the old and rather clumsy provisions of that act relating to tabling and disallowance should continue or whether they should be replaced by the more convenient provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act. Clause 3 adopts the latter method.
Clause 5 merely retains existing rules in force and obviates the necessity for their having to be remade under the Judiciary Act. From what I have said, I am sure honorable members will appreciate that the bill is one that relates solely to procedure and will give it a speedy passage through this House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blackburn) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is, so to speak, an old friend because it has been through this House before and went to another place and was there the subject of an amendment which was unacceptable to this Government. It is desired to pass the bill once more through this House and’ to send it again to another place. Honorable members will probably not recollect without some reminder, the provisions of this bill. It was designed principally to amalgamate the provisions of two Acts Interpretation Acts which then existed, and which have been amended side by side in the Commonwealth statute-book for a long time. The primary purpose of the bill was, therefore, one of consolidation; but in addition to consolidation, the opportunity was taken to make some other amendments of the law.For example, in this particular bill, apart from incorporating in one enactment the provisions of the two sets of laws to which I have referred, it is provided that all Acts Interpretation Acts shall apply to all Acts of Parliament unless some express provision to the contrary appears in them. That has been provoked because, in a case before the High Court, it was strongly suggested by one judge at least that amendments of the 1901 act did not apply to acts passed before the amending act itself ; that is, every amendment must be applied purely prospectively to amendments of the law. In order to get over that, a special provision has been inserted to the effect that all acts interpretation acts are to apply to all acts of Parliament.
There is also a special provision fixing the date upon which acts are to operate. It is proposed that acts which receive the assent of the GovernorGeneral after the first of January, 1938, shall not commence to operate until a date28 days later. At the present time, acts usually come into force, unless it is otherwise stated, from the date upon which they receive the Royal assent, but that has the effect sometimes of causing people inWestern Australia, and other distant parts, to go on breaking the new law for a fortnight or more, because they have not had an opportunity to see it, or know anything about it. The new provision gives a reasonable opportunity for the circulation of acts to distant parts before they actually come into force.
There are also provisions dealing with the retrospective operation of regulations.
They may be made retrospective in circumstances in which, to repeat the phrase employed by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), there is retrospective benignancy. Where it is intended to ameliorate some provision by retrospective action there can be no objection, but honorable members will agree that it is not desirable that the rights of persons’ should be adversely affected retrospectively.
Then there are special provisions in relation to the voidance of regulations. The honorable member for Bourke, when the bill was last before the House, moved an amendment which I accepted. This amendment has, with his approval, been re-drafted, and has now been incorporated in the bill. Except for the inclusion of that amendment, the bill is the same measure which formerly passed this House, and I now commend it to honorable members for their favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) .
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend section 5 of the Primary Producers Relief Act 1935-1936.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Thorby and Mr. Hunter do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Thorby, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now road a second time.
This is a bill to amend section 5 of the Primary Producers Relief Act 1935- 1936, which relates to the closing date for the receipt of applications for the subsidy of 15s. a ton payable to primary producers in respect of artificial manure used during the year ended the 30th June, 1936, in the production of primary produce other than wheat.
The act provides for the payment of the subsidy through the States, subject to the condition thatthe primary producer has obtained, upon application lodged by him with the Secretary of the Department of Commerce of the Commonwealth, on or before the 31st day of December, 1936, a certificate in writing from the Secretary of that department, stating that the primary producer has furnished satisfactory evidence that he has used the quantity of artificial manure stated in the certificate. Many applications for certificates, which were declared and signed by the primary producers within the date specified in the act, were received after the 31st December, 1936, the applicants apparently being of the opinion that, so long as the applications were posted by that date, they would be eligible for consideration. Some wore under the impression that three days of grace would be allowed for the receipt of the applications. In view of the provisions of the act, however, and acting on the advice of the Solicitor-General, all such applications had to be refused as not having complied with the provisions of the act. The position has been fully considered by the Government, and it has been decided to accept applications, the declarations on which were completed on or before the 31st December, 1936, but which were actually received by the department after that date.
In a few instances primary producers have inquired regarding the subsidy on claims stated to havebeen lodged with the department within the date prescribed in the act, but of which there is no record in the department. In the cases referred to the primary producers have been in a position to furnish evidence that the claims were completed and forwarded to the department, but had apparently been lost in transit. Provision has, therefore, been made in the bill to accept claims in substitution for those which have been lost, subject to the applicant producing evidence to the satisfaction of the Minister that a claim was completed by him on or prior to the 31st December, 1936. In all, about 420 claims will be affected by this bill to amend the act, and the amount of subsidy involved is approximately £1,350. It is not proposed in this bill to do anything more than was intended under the original legislation. A legal question has arisen as to whether applications, the declarations on which were signed on or before the 31st December, 1936, but which did not reach the department until after that date, can be accepted for the purpose of paying the subsidy. If we do not amend the act, about 430 users of fertilizers who, to all intents and purposes, had met the requirements of the act, would bo prevented from benefiting under its provisions. The bill does not bring in a new class of claimants. It is merely applying the same principle to users of fertilizers as is applied to taxpayers. The Commissioner of Taxation regards returns as having been received if they are posted upon the last day permissible under the act.
– Has any specific date been fixed now?
– The amendment leaves it open for the applicant to prove that he signed the declaration on his application on or before the 31st December, 1936.
– How can it be proved ?
– It can be proved by the date of the declaration and by other evidence.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtis), adjourned.
Resumption of Proceedings at stage reached last session: Consideration of Senate’s message.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the request of the Senate contained in its message No. 2, for the resumption by the House of theconsideration of the London Naval Treaty Bill be complied with and that a message be transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith, and that the second reading of the bill (the stage which the bill had reached last session) be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
Publication of Commonwealth Arbitration Reports - Employment in the Federal Capital Territory - Trade Diversion Policy - Temporary Telegraphists - Migration.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), in the course of debate in the last day or two, referred to the publication of Commonwealth arbitration reports and, in conformity with my own feelings, pointed out that it would be very unfortunate if the regular publication of these reports were discontinued. I have made an investigation into the position and find that, largely on account of the very great volume of work falling on the shoulders of the Principal Industrial Registrar, new arrangements were made in March of last year and the compilation of the reports is now undertaken by an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra instead of by the Principal Industrial Registrar. The various volumes are in hand. Perhaps I can summarize the matter best by saying that Volume 33, to the end of 1934, and Volume 34, to the end of July 1935, are now being finally printed for publication, while Volume 35, to the end of March of last year, is set up and should be published before the end of this year.
– I thank the right honorable gentleman.
– I take this opportunity to deal with a matter that concerns the Department of the Interior, and is of some consequence to a large number of workers who are now residing in the Federal Capital Territory.
Since the Parliament reassembled, many matters have been discussed and the debates have largely revolved around what Government supporters claim the remarkable improvement that has taken place in Australia, particularly in regard to unemployment. In view of the claim that the percentage of unemployment is now lower than it was even in 1928, a recital of the circumstances of certain workers in this capital city must prove extremely interesting.
Last night a deputation waited on the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) to ascertain the nature of the position of these workers in the immediate future. Che prospects of continuity of employment seem rather remote; consequently these men, many of .whom have wives and families to maintain, are naturally apprehensive in regard to the future. I met a number of them to-night and discussed with them the facts of their case. I learned that, prior to eight months ago, married men in the Territory had had a long period of unemployment, during which they naturally contracted many debts, including accumulated arrears of rent and payments for electricity supplied to them. I have been advised that in some cases garnishee orders were issued and awaited a favorable opportunity for their application. The Government then provided continuous employment for these men. The number of married men involved is 200, and their period of continuous employment ends this month. Because of the discharge of portion of their accumulated indebtedness, the wages they received during the period of their continuous employment worked out at very little more than half the basic wage; in other words, they drew not much more than £2 a week.
– The honorable member is going much too far when ho says that.
– Then will it be sufficient if I am generous enough to say that no man drew the full basic wage for the period during which he was continuously employed? Last night, the best that the Minister could offer was to extend for a further month the period of employment. I am not certain that anything definite was determined in that regard; but even if the Minister has definitely offered employment for another month, that hardly coincides with the utterances of ministerial supporters as to the degree of prosperity which Australia is supposed to have reached. Surely it cannot be said that prosperity exists if in this capital city married men with families cannot obtain the basic wage, and have to assemble in proximity to this House to make a protest.
– They are receiving a wage of £4 5s. Od. a week, and have had eight months’ full time - more than has been enjoyed by relief workers in any State of Australia.
– There are only 200 married men in this capital city, whereas in the other cities of the Commonwealth there are thousands. The best that can be done by this Government, with all the powers that it possesses, and all the resources at its disposal for the collection of taxes, is to provide for 200 married men continuous employment for a period of eight months. I deny that these men received the full basic wage for that eight months. The Minister cannot prove that any man did so. For twelve months prior to the period of continuous employment they had to live, and in the process they naturally contracted many debts. The Minister knows as well as any one that arrears in regard to rent and electric light payments are deducted from their wages every week.
– Only when they are on full time.
– That is what I am saying; they do not get the full basic wage if the arrears are deducted. What the Minister has said is misleading, and i3 the sort of propaganda which almost invariably comes from the Government side of the House.
– There is nothing misleading in what I have said; it is all perfectly straightforward.
– The general statement that these men have had continuous work for eight months at the basic wage rate, without qualification, is absolutely inaccurate, and the honorable gentleman cannot deny it. I was generous enough to meet him half way as to the amount which these men actually received ; I said that they received very little more than £2 a week.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that deductions for debts were made by the department to the amount of over £2?
– That is absolute nonsense.
– I go so far as to say that no man drew the full basic wage payment of £4 5s. each week.
– Does the honorable gentleman expect that all workers should receive the basic wage plus the amount of their rent?
– I do not expect that. But I do expect that these men shall be provided with continuous employment, so that they may not only pay their rent, but also provide for their wives and families. That is not unreasonable; the honorable gentleman and I demand it.
– Gullett. - We cannot demand it.
– It . is a pity that these men did not take similar steps. I repeat that last night we were told that the best that the Minister could do was to promise employment for another month. I ask him, what is to happen when that month has expired? Probably this Parliament will not then be in session, and the Minister himself may not be in Canberra, with the result that these men will revert to the conditions which prevailed prior to the provision of continuous employment.
There are 250 single men in the Territory, making the grand total of 450 married and single. I have been advised that, prior to Christmas, the single men were given continuous work for a period of six weeks, but that after Christmas there was retrenchment, some men being employed for one week in five weeks, others for one week in six weeks, and still others for one week in seven weeks.
– There has been no case of one week in seven weeks. The honorable member need not try to put that over.
– Why not check this up with the Minister before ventilating it here?
– I have already established one point to my satisfaction, regarding the utterance of the Minister that all these men received the basic wage with deductions.
– They did.
– The honorable gentleman has not proved otherwise.
– It is not possible to convince a man who does not want to be convinced, and this applies to the honorable member for Barton.
– The honorable gentleman is making only vague assertions.
– Three months ago the conditions of these single men were improved; they were provided with one week on to one off alternately. Then for six weeks there was a still further improvement to full time. But the other day they were advised that this work is to cease altogether, because no provision is known to have been made for further continuous employment for them. The best I understand they can expect - and that would be the very best - will be that they revert to one week in three. Married men are likewise affected. They have had to suffer reductions of their pay because of arrears of rent which have accumulated while they have been in camps over the period of their unemployment, and, of course, during the period when they were only employed for one week in five, six or seven weeks.
– What rent do they pay while in camps?
– I have no information as to the amounts. The position of unmarried men occupying cottages, who are also in arrears, is determined by the total income received into the home. The amount these men receive into their own hands to dispose of in their own way is likewise reduced below the basic wage level. The problem that concerns them is to know what are the Government’s intentions immediately following the promises made, and whether its promises will be honoured.
– Its promises are always honoured.
– The Minister said that he would give them another month’s work; we ought to be told what is to happen after that month is up. Is that too much to ask to-night, that married men with families, particularly during the winter months, should be told exactly where they stand? Considering all the talk regarding employment - call it propaganda if you will - that the members of the Government have indulged in since this Parliament met, is it too much to ask that the Government should make a definite pronouncement in regard to this matter ? I think ample evidence has been produced to-night to show that this Government is unable or unwilling to provide these 450 men in its own capital city with continuous employment, and to guarantee them the basic wage. I take the opportunity to-night - it may be too late to-morrow night - to ask that the Minister should make some definite statement in this House in regard to this matter, not to a deputation outside, so that when we return in the not distant future, we shall be in a position to force him to face up to it.
.- As the Parliament is going into recess shortly, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to make a statement in regard to the effect of the trade diversion policy introduced about twelve months ago. I should like the Minister to show the effect of that policy under the following three headings: First. as regards Australia’s industrial development; secondly, as regards Australian trade with Great Britain; and, thirdly, as regards overseas foreign trade.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the question of the reemployment of telegraphists formerly employed by the Postal Department who left the service to better themselves or for other reasons, and who are now out of employment. Many of these men have experienced bad times through the depression, and have- tried to secure employment in a temporary capacity in the Postmaster-General’s Department, but have been informed that, because they are over 50 years of age, they cannot be employed. An officer who has served for a long period as a telegraphist or in other technical employment is usually unfitted to take up other occupations and as I understand that there is a shortage of qualified telegraphists, I see no valid reason why these men should not be employed in the department in a temporary capacity. I could understand objection being raised if there were a sufficient number of young men qualified to fill vacant positions, and that a man who had misbehaved himself whilst employed in the service could not hope to secure re-employment; but I am at a loss to understand why the age limit is imposed in respect of the re-employment of former telegraphists when permanent employees in the Public Service are retained in their positions until they reach the age of 60 years. I cannot conceive that the department could lose anything by giving employment to its former officers. I ask the Minister to give sym- pathetic consideration to their claims.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) a matter of importance to the Australian people, and in particular to Queenslanders, the question of alien immigration. During the course of my remarks, I propose to refer as briefly as possible to the latest statement on the matter which has appeared in the Brisbane Truth, a copy of which was received by me by air mail from Brisbane this morning. The article appearing in the Brisbane Truth is headed : -
Quotes Figures, Forgets to Consult Own Statistics
Acting-Premier States the Facts. aliens dumped on the state.
Theatrical producers in search of a new and original turn, might well seek out Minister for the Interior, Paterson. His antics in “ The Case of Kisch “ sent a ripple of merriment running through Australia; his performance in “The Banning of Mrs. Freer “ set not only Australia, but the whole world, rocking with laughter, his production of “ The Yarn of the Larrakia “ showed a flash of genius, and now his agile sidestepping in the problem play, “ The Aliens, “ has stricken Queenslanders dumb with sheer amazement at his effrontery and agility.
– Order ! When an honorable member makes a quotation from a newspaper he must accept the responsibility for the language it employs. An honorable member has no more right to make offensive quotations than he has to make offensive remarks.
– I have no wish to be offensive.
– The honorable member must surely recognize that the quotations are offensive to the Minister.
– I shall proceed as briefly as possible with the quotation, which continues: -
Mr. Paterson has made a woeful attempt to answer Queensland criticism of the Lyons
Government’s alien policy, and more particularly, the repeated strictures and criticisms of Truth.
He has declared, firstly, that the Queensland Government supplied him with a list of only five aliens–
– That is all I received.
– I shall read the paragraph again -
He has declared, firstly, that the Queensland Government supplied him with a list of only five aliens who were found to be on the dole shortly after their arrival, and, secondly, that in each case inquiries revealed that all five had been in Australia for more than five years.
– That is a fact.
– The article continues -
Three, being naturalized, were British subjects, while the wives and families of the persons concerned had been brought to Australia, in one instance, as recently as nine months, in another eighteen months, and in the remaining three cases, over two and a half years ago. “ So far, no evidence has been found to support the allegation that newly-arrived migrants are on the dole “, declared Mr. Paterson, and went on to add that every effort was being made to safeguard the unemployment position in Australia before alien migrants were admitted.
He declared that reports were obtained from the Queensland police regarding the employment position in the districts to which the migrants were journeying, and that the department also satisfied itself that the nominator had given an undertaking that the persons nominated will not be a charge upon the State, and that employment will be found for them which will not bring about the dismissal of any person already employed. Truth unhesitatingly challenges Mr. Paterson’s statement
– Is that the source from which the challenge comes ?
– I take it that the Minister will endeavour to answer it. The paragraph continues -
Truth unhesitatingly challenges Mr. Paterson’s statement, and in doing so asserts that, not only has he evaded the really vital issue of the alien problem, but also that ho has completely misled federal members and the general public by a ministerial pronouncement which - doubtless through inadvertence - was inaccurate.
Mr. Lane interjecting,
– Order! If the honorable member for Barton interjects again I shall take such steps as will prevent him from causing any further annoyance during this sitting.
– The article continues -
But, before responsible Ministers make statements in the House they should, if not themselves fully conversant with all the facts–
Motion (by Mr. Stacey) negatived -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
– I am endeavouring to make my quotation as brief as possible. The Parliament will be adjourning within 24 hours, and this may be the last opportunity afforded me to deal with this important matter. I am endeavouring to extract the main points from the article from which I am quoting.
– Has the honorable member no ideas of his own?
– When the honorable member for Macquarie hears the rest of the quotation it may give him some ideas, but it will be most unusual if it does. The article continues -
Firstly, will Mr. Paterson have the pigeonholes of his department searched to make certain that the State Government has forwarded him the names of only five aliens found to be on the dole? Is it not correct that a much longer list was forwarded to Canberra? If that list does not exist or. cannot be found, will Mr. Paterson, to satisfy himself he was accurate in his declaration that there is no evidence to show that newly-arrived aliens are becoming a charge on the State, apply to the State Government to see if it has any later information on the subject?
The Brisbane Truth definitely states that the number of aliens found to be on the dole is very much more than five.
– That does not prove anything.
– At least it makes it apparent that the most exhaustive investigation should be made by the Government. The article continues -
Some months ago, when Queensland first raised this vital question, casual police inquiries - not a systematic probe, such as is now contemplated - established that 80 foreigners at Innisfail had been receiving rations, fifteen at Mareeba, and four at Tully.
Can the truth of that assertion be contradicted? Last night I cited only five or six cases, but the Brisbane Truth cites over twenty cases, and states that the guarantees required by the Department of the Interior before any nominated person is permitted to land in Australia, are not worth the paper upon which they are written. It suggests that the Minister should inquire very closely into those undertakings. The article also states: -
But will the Minister explain how? Is it not correct that all that is done is to obtain a police report as to the character of the nominator plus whatever other information the department may be able to ferret out from various sources? Can he explain that this is sufficient ?
Other questions askedin the article . are : -
Will Mr. Paterson explain how his department ensures that the undertaking given is adhered to? Has it officers stationed in North Queensland who exercise a supervision of aliens and see that the guarantees are fulfilled? If not, then how can the department possibly know whether the terms upon which certain individuals have been admitted to the Commonwealth are being kept?
The article goes on to say that the Aliens Registration Act is not now in operation, and adds: -
If Mr. Paterson, as Minister for the Interior, had taken the trouble to consult the statistics his Government publishes, he would have found, firstly, that, according to the 1933 census, there arc 8355 persons in Queensland claiming Italy as their birthplace and of this total no less than 4116 were not able to read or write English, although capable of reading and writing Italian.
The Acting Premier and Minister for Labour and Industry in Queensland, Mr. Hynes, has made a further statement in which he has commented upon the statement made in this House by the Minister for the Interior. He says : -
This has been a matter which the Queensland Government has brought under the notice of the Commonwealth Government on several occasions. On the 4th November, 1936, I wrote to the Prime Minister as follows: - “ From reports received through the Queensland Police Department recently, it has been noticed that a large number of foreigners, particularly in North Queensland, are unemployed and drawing government relief rations, and it is consideredthat, during the slack season, an even greater number of these persons will draw rations, and, in all probability, a considerable number are employed on intermittent relief work. I shall be glad if your Government will kindly give consideration to this matter and would suggest that, with a view to having a check made on the question of whether the undertakings mentioned are being honored, a list might be supplied of the persons for whom permission to land has been granted within recent months on the undertakings referred to.”
In view of the fact that responsible Ministers of the Queensland Government, responsible residents of that State, and also its responsible newspapers, still declare definitely that the information made available in the House on this subject by the Minister for the Interior is incorrect, I ask that further inquiries be instituted to ascertain definitely whether more than five cases were supplied to the Minister and whether the Government has not been informed that the whole position is definitely unsatisfactory from the point of view of Queensland?
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) worked himself up into a fine state of indignation when discussing the deputation which was introduced to me last night. There was no justification whatever for the honorable member’s assumed annoyance. The four men who met me in that deputation thanked me for what the department had done for relief workers this year in Canberra, and admitted that the married men were much better off than they had been for many years. They told me that they appreciated what had been done for them especially in the last twelve months. A comparison of the amount of work provided for unskilled men in Canberra with what is done for them anywhere else in Australia, shows that the men here are unquestionably far better off than unskilled workers elsewhere. That is not an exaggerated statement. What is the position in New South Wales at present? Under the relief work arrangements, married men are provided with one week’s work in two and single men with one week’s work in four. When I first became Minister for the Interior, married men were being provided with one week’s work in three most of the time, and single men with one week’s work in five. That was altered subsequently to one week in two for married men and one week in four for single men. During the financial year which will conclude to-morrow, married men have had approximately ten months’ work. In the first four months of the year they. had one week’s work in two, and in the last eight months they have had full time. In no other part of Australia have such generous relief work conditions prevailed. We have not been able to do quite so much for the single men. They have been on a part-time basis. I gave an undertaking to the deputation last night that the Government would continue to provide full-time work for married men until the end of July, and I said that I hoped it would be possible to continue it until the end of August. Single men would be provided with one week’s work in three. The whole position is to be reviewed at the end of July.
The honorable member made some remarks about deductions for arrears of rent. Deductions have not been made unless the men concerned have been working full time. In such cases a very moderate deduction is made. It should be borne in mind that the basic wage in Canberra is £4 5s. 6d. This is arrived at in accordance with index figures that take into account the rentals charged to the whole of the public servants in Canberra, including large houses occupied by senior officers, but excluding consideration of the rentals charged for the wooden houses at the Causeway and Molonglo. The calculation gives an average rental for index-figure purposes of from£1 to 25s. a week. Most of the married relief workers pay only 5s. 6d. a week rental, and those at Causeway11s.6d. They are, therefore, in the fortunate position of having their wage fixed on the basis of rentals from 10s. to 17s. higher a week than they actually pay. In these circumstances it can hardly be argued that they are suffering any undue hardship if a small deduction is made from their wages for rental arrears when they are in full-time work. Where there are large families the Government refrains from making deductions for arrears.
I cannot accept the contention of the honorable member that it is the responsibility of either this or any other Government to provide full-time work for all the unskilled workers who choose to live in our midst.
– Whose responsibility is it, then?
– The responsibility of any government is to do its best for humane reasons to assist the people who are, unfortunately, unemployed. No government could conceivably accept the responsibility to provide full-time employment for all the citizens who care to sit down in their midst. We are trying in Canberra to do our best to improve the position for the future. We have started vocational training classes for the youth of the city and an apprenticeship system has also been adopted. The young men of Canberra who so desire are being trained to be bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters, motor mechanics or skilled tradesmen in other callings. There is no difficulty in finding employment for skilled men. A lot of building construction work will be done in Canberra for some years to come and if we can train the young men to be skilled tradesmen, we shall be making, some effective contribution towards the alleviation of this problemin future days. The immediate difficulty is in relation to the 450 men who are unskilled. The Government’s record during the last twelve months must be regarded as generous to a degree for it has provided unskilled married men with ten months’ work on full time. No record comparable with that could be found in respect of any other part of Australia.
Concerning the remarks of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), I stand by all that I have said. I believe that my statements will- bear much closer investigation than those contained in the newspaper from which the honorable gentleman saw fit to read so many scurrilous extracts.
.- The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) addressed several questions to me regarding the trade diversion policy. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has a comprehensive question on this subject on the noticepaper and the information which he seeks is being obtained. I am able, however to give the honorable member for Corangamite some particulars in reply to his questions. I do not propose at the moment to discuss exhaustively the reasons which led to the adoption of the Government’s trade diversion policy but I point out that continuous attempts have been made by the Government since 1934 to arrange a trade treaty with the United States of America in view of the fact that our adverse trade balance with that country for the ten years prior to the 30th June, 1935, was £180,000,000 sterling. Further, in the ten years period mentioned, we exported to the United States of America bullion and specie to the value of £19,000,000 sterling, and paid £22,000,000 sterling in interest to that country. Moreover, that country is one of the very few which has an import duty on wool, the rate being equivalent in Australian currency to from1s. 51/2d. to1s. 101/2d. per lb. In the twelve months before the adoption of the trade diversion policy, our exports to the United States of America were valued at £A.5,813,000 . and our imports from that country were valued at £A.16,805,000, leaving a balance in favour of the United States of America of £A.l 0,991,000. The amount of trade, apart from motor car chassis, which is now being diverted annually, is estimated at £2,200,000. This amount is distributed among the principal countries benefiting as follows: -
Australia . . 764,000
United Kingdom . . 802,000
Canada . . 169,000
Germany . . 225,000
Japan . . 20,000
Other Foreign Countries . . 98,000
There being no quorum present,
Mr. Speaker adjourned the House at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e. - On the 18th June, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following reply : -
n. - On the 28th June, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to supply the following information: -
e asked the Minister for Com merce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Aliens in Australia.
n asked the Minis ter for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Have steps been taken to secure the use of the tantalite deposits of the Northern Territory for British firms?
– No. It may be stated that the output of tantalite in the Northern Territory is very small.
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the amount of aspirin (a) imported into, and (6) produced in, each State and Australia during 1936?
– The information is being obtained.
Customs Duty on Triclorethelene.
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Wireless Broadcasting: Activities of Station 2KY
s asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Mr.Menzies. - Inquiries are being made, and the honorable member will be informed as soon as possible.
son asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he give an assurance that, if confidential information is given at the request of departmental officers, he will, if so desired by the person supplying the information, undertake that such information will not be made available to any one other than departmental officers ?
– The matter is being investigated.
d asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the unrest caused amongst the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department’s Garage at South Melbourne owing to the alleged spying tactics introduced by the employment of a Mr. Richards, who was subsequently dismissed, will the Minister lay upon the table of the House the papers dealing with this man’s appointment and dismissal ?
– The PostmasterGeneral will be glad to make available in his office the papers dealing with the case in question for the honorable member’s perusal.
en asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Where the present contractor is a returned soldier, a preference not exceeding 5 per cent, is given when comparing his tender with other tenders submitted by returned soldiers, provided the department considers that the circumstances warrant such preference being given.
Where the present contractor is not a returned soldier, a preference not exceeding5 per cent, is given when comparing his tender with tenders submitted by other persons who are not returned soldiers, provided that his performance of the service has justified such a step.
The granting of the returned soldier preference is subject to the tenderer holding a satisfactory discharge from the Naval or Military Forces as the case may be. The granting of the present contractor preference is contingent on the services of the contractor inthe performance of the service tendered for having been fully satisfactory to the department.
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
e asked the Minister repre- senting the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Postmaster-General to place on the next Estimates a sum of money for extension and repairs to the Unley City Post Office, South Australia?
– The honorable member will be furnished with a reply to his inquiries as early as possible.
y. - On the 28th June, the honorable member for Boothby asked a question without notice regarding the report of the address delivered by the Honorable E. W. Holden, M.L.C., at the Political Economy School, in which he stated that the aircraft industry proposed to be established by private enterprise would have been located in South Australia but for the opposition of the Defence Department?
I am now in a position to inform the honorablemember that there was correspondence on this subject between the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia in October last. The Prime Minister informed the Premier that the statement that there was opposition to the establishment in South Australia of the aircraft factory because of Defence Department policy actuated, in the main, by the reason that departmental officers did not desire the removal of their homes from Melbourne was without the slightest justification.No official had any authority to express any opinion as to the suitability or otherwise of any of the sites under consideration by the company. The only indication that the
Defence Department had given the company was the general one that from the defence point of view it was desirable that the industry when established should be located in as safe a position as was possible consistent with economic and industrial factors. The subsequent decision of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation to establish its factory at Fishermen’s Bend, Port Melbourne, was in no way influenced by officers of the Defence Department and was entirely a matter for the company itself.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 June 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370629_reps_14_153/>.