14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. H. Prowse) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.MENZIES (Kooyong- AttorneyGeneral). - by leave - The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) asked me a question yesterday as to the present position in Shanghai and also as to what stepshad been taken to protect Australian lives and property there. The Minister for External Affairs (SenatorPearce) made a statement in another place yesterday on the international situation, in the course of which he referred in detail to the present position in Shanghai. The facts are, briefly, that for the last fourteen days there has been heavy fighting in the Shanghai area, where British subjects have large interests, and considerable damage has been caused to British property. The International Settlement was bombed by Chinese aeroplanes on the 14th August, the result of which was the death of 173 people and the wounding of 149. No British lives were, however, lost. The British Government is determined to protect British lives, rights and property, and has intimated to the Japanese and Chinese Governments that it will hold them responsible for any damage either to life or to property that may be suffered by British subjects as a result of action taken by Japanese or Chinese forces in the course of the present hostilities in China. British, American and French troops in Shanghai have been heavily reinforced during the last few days, and it is considered that the defence position of the International Settlement is now satisfactory. About 3,750 British subjects, most of them women and children, have been evacuated from Shanghai. No arrangements are at present being made for further evacuation unless the situation deteriorates. It appears that members of the British community are unwilling to contemplate any general evacuation or abandonment of their interests. Chinese and foreign banks have resumed business, and there is no shortage of food. Many large fires have started in the belligerent area, but there are none in the immediate neighbourhood of the International Settlement. Both Japanese and Chinese aircraft appear to be avoiding any attack on the International. Settlement. The Australian Trade Commissioner in China, Mr. V. G. Bowden, whose headquarters are at Shanghai, is keeping the Government informed as to developments in the situation, and has been instructed to co-operate with the British representatives and those of other powers in measures for the protection of Australian lives and property.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to the notification in to-day’s press to the effect that there has been a further reduction of unemployment in New South Wales, the figures given by the New SouthWales Statistician being 5 per cent., and that factory employment has reached a record level, showing an increase of 11,000 compared with the same month of last year ? Does the Minister attribute this phenomenal progress chiefly to the introduction of new capital and the establishment of additional factories in Australia as the result of the Government’s trade diversion policy?
Mr.WHITE. - If it may be assumed that bad government can make conditions worse, I suppose it may logically be assumed that good government can make conditions better. I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred, but I think that all honorable members must be aware that employment in secondary industries has increased from 336,000 in 1932 to 525,000 this year. What applies to New South Wales applies generally throughout the Commonwealth.
– And the world.
– Not the world. Australia, in fact, has made a greater recovery than either the United Kingdom or the United States of America, and without the aid of any considerable expenditure on re-armament. I should say that the trade diversion policy, in association with the Government’s tariff policy, has helped to bring about the result to which the honorable member has referred.
– Does the Minister representing the Postmaster-General know of any infringement of the regulations promulgated in November, 1935, which declared that no one person, company or organization could control more than one broadcasting station in a capital city, four in a state, or eight in the Commonwealth? If unable to say so now, will the honorable gentleman prepare a statement indicating in what way, in the opinion of the Postmaster-General, the regulations have not been infringed?
– I am unable to say offhand whether there has been any infringement of this regulation; but, judging by the great care with which the Postal Department is administered, it is natural that I should say that there would be no infringement. I shall obtain for the honorable member a statement on the lines indicated.
– by leave - Infantile paralysis is world wide in its distribution, but the more serious epidemics have occurred in relatively cold regions. In Europe, the disease is periodically epidemic in every country. In 1936, 554 cases were reported in England and Wales - about 1 to every 100,000 persons ; here an epidemic does not exceed 2.5 to every 100,000 persons. In the United States of America and Canada periodical epidemics occur, but the prevalence is usually wider spread, and the numbers affected are higher.
In Australia, infantile paralysis has been epidemic for many years ; since 1927 to the present time 3,080 cases have been notified, the number of deaths for the ten years being 439. The disease is spread by contact through secretions of the mouth and nose; there is no means of preventing infection recognized by, and acceptable to, the medical profession in Australia, nor is any cure for the disease known to medical science.
The present epidemic made its appearance in the first week of July in a suburb of Melbourne, and has been mainly confined within certain parts of the metropolitan area. Recently, however, cases have been reported in the country districts of Victoria. The total number affected by the disease to date is about 159. The present epidemic has not yet reached the number affected in Victoria in 1928, 1931 and 1934, and the number of deaths, twelve, is much below that of other epidemics. This applies also to New South “Wales, which has experienced more widespread epidemics of infantile paralysis in three years out of the last ten, while none of the States has been wholly free from the disease for many years.
At the outset of the present epidemic the Victorian Public Health Department promptly took steps to prevent the dissemination of the disease through contact; schools have been closed, and all efforts have been made to reduce to a minimum the risks of infection.
The daily number of cases has been greater during the past fortnight and the disease has shown a more pronounced tendency than usual to attack those in intimate contact with actual cases, but this phase appears to be passing away. The Federal Health Department has been in constant touch with the authorities in Victoria, but it did not appear that action was called for until the growing public apprehension during the first two weeks of August, and the increasing demand by the people in the non-affected districts of Victoria for protection against infection from the metropolitan area resulted in more rigid control measures being applied either generally, or by local committees, to the travelling public. In the opinion of theReference Sub-committee of the National Health and MedicalResearch Council, which met in Melbourne recently, the measures’ taken represent the utmost practicable efforts to limit the spread of the disease.
Within the last day or two, cases of infantile paralysis have occurred in New South Wales ; the death of one of these, a man of 57 years, residing at Coff’s Harbour, is reported in yesterday’s press. On the 19th August, a lettergram was received from the Premier of New South Wales and on the 20th a telegram from the Premier of South Australia - both to the same effect - requesting the Commonwealth Government to proclaim infantile paralysis a quarantinable disease, to proclaim Victoria to be infected with a quarantinable disease, and to issue regulations prohibiting the entry of any child under the age of sixteen years into New South Wales or South Australia unless provided with a certificate issued by a doctor, clergyman, justice of the peace, or an officer of the police of, or above, the rank of sergeant. To this request the Commonwealth Government, after most careful consideration, was unable to agree. The Government was convinced that such measures could not in practice be enforced, and that even if they were enforced they could not protect the people in these States from the risks of infection.
The proposals depended for their effectiveness upon two considerations -
But this is quite wrong, since both adults and apparently healthy children may spread the disease; and
Such certificates would be worthless. It would be impossible, even for a medical man, to certify in the terms desired, while the opinions of clergymen, justices or police officers must be in the very nature of things of no value whatever. And it must be obvious that any attempt to police a land frontier of 1,000 miles must fail. In any case, no system of control of traffic or movements- of persons can be devised in these respiratory epidemics which offers any real protection, or does more than induce a false sense of security. This has been demonstrated over and over again. Memory must be exceedingly short if the lessons of the influenza epidemic of 1918-19 have been forgotten.
Dr. Featonby, chairman of the Victorian Health Commission, as reported in yesterday’s press, said -
Medical authorities never recommend quarantine as a measure to restrict infantile paralysis; that quarantine measures were most unlikely to succeed but that it was recognized that public opinion required some such action. New Zealand had tried to isolate Dunedin, but the disease .had gone right through the dominion. Such measures were bound to fail.
For these reasons the Commonwealth Government decided not to accede to the request of the Premiers of the two States. The powers of the States to protect themselves against infection from other States are ample, and, indeed, plenary. The steps taken by the Commonwealth Government to protect persons within the Federal Territory will serve to show how the powers of the States may be used for this purpose.
Under the authority of Ordinance No. 4 of 1912, every householder in whose house a person under adult years has arrived from Victoria is required to report the arrival of such person. A visit is then made by a medical officer who ascertains whether the person has been in the affected area, or is likely to have been in contact with any one suffering from the disease. If there are any grounds for suspicion the person is kept isolated for three weeks. If there are no grounds for” definite suspicion the person is kept under surveillance for three- weeks, his movements otherwise not being restricted. These measures are not taken under the Quarantine Act, but under the Health Ordinance of the Federal Capital Territory. They are, in effect^ domestic laws which can be enacted by any State. It is not claimed that these, or any restrictive measures, will prevent the spread of the infection, but they will certainly allay public fears, and by ensuring that every suspicious case is isolated, immediately the first symptoms appear, reduce the risk of infection.
Finally, I urge the public to face the position calmly. There is no need for alarm, and certainly no excuse for panic. The dangers of infantile paralysis are not comparable with those of other respiratory diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, influenza and meningitis which, year hi and year out, together kill and disable 50 times as many, yet leave the public unmoved.
- by leave - I desire to know whether the Commonwealth health officers are satisfied to leave the important matter of infantile paralysis as it stands at the present time, after the statement made to-day by the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes). To me this statement seems to show conclusively that the Commonwealth Government has entirely washed its hands of the matter, although the taxpayers of this country contribute to the cost of the Federal Health Department. The Minister says that it is of no avail to introduce such measures as will prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the Commonwealth. Yet his advisers, who, presumably, live in Canberra, have taken steps to see that every precaution is exercised to prevent the disease from being introduced into the Federal Capital Territory. I do not object to these precautions. On the contrary, I support up to the hilt the action which has been taken; but I want the health authorities of the Commonwealth “ to remember that there are other places besides Canberra, and other parents who have just as much regard for the health of their children as have the parents residing in the Federal Capital.
It is all very well to talk of whooping cough, diphtheria and the like, and to say that these diseases’ have been rampant throughout Australia, and that the people have been unmoved by their prevalence. The effects of infantile paralysis are far more dreadful than those of whooping cough and diphtheria, for it leaves the victims totally and permanently incapacitated. Every honorable member who has children of his own is aware of what it would mean if this awful disease should unfortunately cross his threshold. Therefore, every one of us should be seriously concerned about the outbreak. It is wrong for the advisers of the Government to say that the public are unmoved. The public are seriously moved.
– The Minister for Health did not say that.
– I am most serious about this visitation. I have children of my own.
– The Minister said that the people had been unmoved by outbreaks of the other diseases.
– The inference to be drawn from his remarks is that, as little public notice has been taken of the other diseases, it is unnecessary to be alarmed unduly because of the prevalence of infantile paralysis; but, as I have pointed out, the effects of this disease are such that the unfortunate victims are left helpless cripples, and become totally and permanently incapacitated. .When the parents later on are compelled to go to the Government for the invalid pension, the means test is applied, and, if they earn a certain amount they are told that they are supposed to be able to maintain the children.
These are matters of grave concern to those who live in industrial areas. The wealthy can provide their children, who “may contract this disease, with the necessary after-care, but the poor cannot do so. I desire to know whether the advisers of the Minister are prepared to let this matter stand as it is. I certainly am not, and I shall use all the resources at my disposal to see that further action is taken. The department should actively co-operate with the State authorities. More should be done for Victoria than has been done up to the present time. It is not enough to tell us how many cases have occurred. That is not sufficient to close my mouth in regard to this outbreak. The Commonwealth Government is not doing all it should do. Ministers should stand up to their responsibilities like men.
Mr. HUGHES (North Sydney- Minister for Health). - by leave - The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has imparted into this discussion a considerable amount of heat. The position, as I “have stated it, is unassailable. The honorable gentleman has sought to show that something has been left undone by the Commonwealth which, if it had been done, would have protected the people of this country from infection.
I have endeavoured to show, and my views are supported by the highest authority, that quarantine restrictions must, fail to arrest the progress of this disease. I have also pointed out, and it is undeniable, that every State possesses ample power to prevent the influx of persons from infected areas, to examine, to isolate contacts and persons suspected of having or carrying the disease. That is the crux, of the matter. I say, again, that, if it can be shown that the States lack some power, that there is something which they cannot do to protect the people, which by the co-operation, or any action, of the Commonwealth, needs to be done, we shall do it.
– Does the Minister for the Interior agree with the criticism levelled by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) against certain alien immigrants who recently arrived in Australia? Will he institute inquiries into the matter, and inform honorable members of the result of those inquiries ?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, “ No,” and to the second part, the answer is that I have already given to the House ample information on the subject.
– Having regard to the importance to Australia of maintaining the price of gold, and of co-operating with those countries which are maintaining equalization funds and absorbing the current output of gold, will the Treasurer state whether any steps have been taken by the Government or the Commonwealth Bank to hold a proportion of the Australian overseas funds in the form of gold ? If not, is the Treasurer considering the taking of any action by the Commonwealth for maintaining the price of gold?
– I appreciate the importance of the matter raised by the honorable member. The answer to each of his questions is “ No “. Neither the Commonwealth Bank nor the Government has recently given consideration to increasing the quantity of gold being purchased in Australia as backing to the note issue, but in view of the developments of the last six months, I agree that this is a matter which might well be considered, and I shall bring it under the notice of the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government’s fuel advisers have informed the Government that due to the hydrogenation of coal in Great Britain in 1935 the distillation of shale oil in that year fell by 4,300,000 gallons? Will the right honorable gentleman, before proceeding further with the National Oil Proprietary Limited Agreement Bill, make further inquiries to ascertain whether that falling off of shale oil extraction in Great Britain is due to the more economic method ‘of extracting oil from coal?
– I should be glad to give consideration to that question, but on all the information I have ‘I am perfectly sure that there has been no development up to the present which demonstrates that production of oil from coal has become an economic proposition. I gave the honorable member that information recently in reply to a question on notice.
– In view of the desir ability of attracting motor tourists to Alice Springs overland from the southern capitals, will the Minister for the Interior obtain a report on the track from
Alice Springs southerly to the Northern. Territory border with a view to placing; this track in reasonable repair for motor tourist traffic?
– I shall have inquiries made regarding the condition of the track.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: -
– If the honorable member desires an answer from me straight away I say that the whole of the series of statements he has made have not the slightest vestige of foundation.
– I desire to know from the Treasurer if the Government contemplates repeating this year the grant which was made last year to local governing bodies? In explanation of my question I point out that I received this morning a letter from a local governing body in my constituency asking whether the Government would be prepared to make a sum available this year to those bodies which are sadly in need of funds.
– The honorable gentleman must have in mind the measure which was passed about eighteen months ago under which the Commonwealth Government made available, for a period of ten years, the sum of £100,000 annually towards interest and sinking fund charges on local governing bodies’ public debts. Under this measure the State governments are required to provide between them an amount equal to that provided by the Commonwealth Government. South Australia’s share of the money amounts to £9,000 a year which will be made available each year for the full tenyear period.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been called to the following article published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph : - “x “ marks the spot to drop bombs.
Government Broadcasts Vital Secrets. (By our Aviation Correspondent.)
The Civil Aviation Board in an instruction to airmen (No. 1/37) provides an attractive map of the Commonwealth Munitions Establishments, of Footscray and Maribyrnong.
The map is circulated automatically to all licensed airmen in the Commonwealth.
It is also available for inspection at all capital city aerodromes and public libraries.
Great Value to Enemy.
It thus provides airmen with an excellent map of the most vulnerable spots.
It is a map which would be of immense value to any one bent on destroying the munitions factories.
To make the factories perfectly clear the symbols HI-X have been placed at intervals around the perimeters.
In view of the fact that it is the normal procedure in other countries to declare the areas in which munitions works are established to be prohibited areas, will the Minister consider the advisability of following that example in Australia? Will he also seek to dissuade the Civil Aviation Board from circulating this valuable information ?
– I made some inquiries into this matter a considerable time ago, but found that the information referred to is supplied on all ordnance maps which are made available to the public all over the world. Now that the honorable member has again raised the matter I shall make further inquiries.
– Has the Minister for the Interior any information with reference to the report that oil in commercial quantities has been found in Dutch New Guinea in areas adjoining British New Guinea, and that the wells have been temporarily sealed ?
– I have no information with regard to that matter.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether anything further has been done with regard to the requests directed to him last session to have the question of the extension of the railway in the Northern Territory to the Tennant Creek gold-field examined? If nothing has been done, is the question of submitting the matter to the Public Works Committee under consideration?
– Consideration has been given to the practicability of utilizing to a greater extent between the two railway termini the road train. I am awaiting a report in connexion with that. No decision has been reached regarding the proposed extension of the railway.
– As the Imperial Conference debate has now been timorously shelved by this Government, will the Minister for Defence inform the House why H.M.A.S. Canberra has been sent on a cruise from Darwin to Singapore? Was this cruise ordered at the request of the British Admiralty? Is it connected with British naval movements in the SinoJapanese war? In this respect is the action of the Government similar to that taken up when H.M.A.S. Sydney was placed under the jurisdiction of the British Admiralty in preparation for conflict during the Italo-Abyssinian war ?
– It is not usual to give information regarding the movements of warships.
– Are you aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that Senator Payne was trapped in the lift on the House of Representatives’ side of Parliament House to-day? Is it the Deputy Speaker’s opinion that the failure of the automatic lifts is due to the inability of the passengers properly to operate them?
– I am unaware of the incident to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall have inquiries made.
– Has any decision yet been reached regarding the change over to the kilt of a certain regiment in South Australia ? Is the Minister for Defence aware that the proposal has been held up for a considerable time? Does the Minister realize that the necessary funds for the purpose of providing the uniforms have been raised by the South Australian Caledonian Society, which is annoyed at the delay?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Certain formalities have to be observed. The conditions that must be observed prior to the establishment of a Scottish unit are that an existing regiment must signify to which of the new battalions it desires to be attached, that a guarantee must be given that the funds required to provide the necessary equipment are available, so that the Department will be involved in no additional expense, and that the requisite number of men are available to form the unit so that there will be nodanger of the proposal being abandoned after steps have been taken to carry it out. If the honorable member can obtain an assurance from the State Commandant on these points, there will be no delay in having the matter arranged.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 15 of 1937 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
Lands Acquisition Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 20.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 5- Child Welfare.
No.6 - Conveyancing.
No. 7 - Crown Lands.
No. 8 - Church of England Land.
Regulations amended, &c, under -
Bean Seed Export Control Ordinance.
Exportation of Fruit Ordinance.
Plant and Fruit Diseases Ordinance.
Papua Act - Ordinance No. 3 of 1937 -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration). Act - Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 7 - Canberra Community Hospital (Inquiry).
No. 9 - Unlawful Assemblies.
No. 10 - Trespass on Commonwealth Lands.
No. 11- Bank Holidays.
No. 12 - Industrial Board.
No. 13 - Administration and Probate (No. 2).
No. 14 - Unlawful Assemblies (No. 2).
Public Health Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Dairy Produce Export Charges Act 1924-1929 and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wine Grapes Charges Acts 1929.
Debate resumed from the 24th August (vide page 48), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is for the purpose of authorizing the payment of special grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania in pursuance of the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution. The amounts set out in the bill are founded upon the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its fourth report. This report differs in some material aspects from the three reports previously furnished by the commission, and I frankly acknowledge that I welcome what I regard as an improvement of the methods it has employed in assessing the claims of the three States. During the last five years, South Australia has received £6,380,000 in special grants, and its population has increased during that period from 579,000 to 588,000- not a very large increase. Western Australia, in the same period, has received grants totalling £3,000,000, the average rate being £600,000 a year, and its population has increased from 436,000 to 451,000. Tasmania has received £2,160,000 in special grants and, in the same period, its population has advanced from 228,000 to 232,000. These three States may be regarded as the weaker States of the federation in population, the accumulation of wealth, and also, I believe, in natural resources. As the result of this, they constitute for the federation a recurring obligation to ensure that they enjoy a standard of living which approximates as far as practicable to the average Australian standard. For a number of years before the establishment of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, representations were made to the Commonwealth on. behalf of these States for special grants in order that their financial difficulties might be more readily met. South Australia is the latest State for which special grants have been provided. Western Australia, ever since it became part of the federation, has had a distinctive place in this regard. For the first five years of federation, it was entitled to its own customs provision. There was then a gap of some years, but subsequently the State was again given special grants for a period of years, the amount being reduced annually until it finally ceased. At that time, the people of Western Australia, and also its Government, felt that their position was made somewhat difficult because of the impact upon Western Australian industries of Commonwealth policy. That led the Commonwealth Government to agree once more to provide special grants for Western Australia. This was done as the result of recommendations made by a royal commission which, however, also recommended other methods of assisting the State apart from the payment of grants of money.
I do not propose to-day to traverse the general and elaborate treatment of this problem set out in the fourth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I shall, however, in fairness, say that each report that the commission has furnished has been marked by great ability and very great wealth of detail, and, further, that the critcisms contained therein of the economic life of the States involved, merit the consideration of those who are concerned with this problem of federation. The problem must be looked at from the point of view of the Commonwealth Parliament, and also from that of the States concerned.
There is, however, at least one interesting aspect of the subject which deserves consideration at this stage. It is that before the advent of the Commonwealth Grants Commission the Commonwealth Treasury had acknowledged a certain degree of responsibility to these States. It was not until 1934-35 that this Parliament made financial grants to the States founded upon reports of the commission. But in 1933-34, the Treasury, without recourse to a commission, and without having been guided by any report by a royal commission, decided that £1,150,000 should be paid as a special grant to South Australia. This year, the amount of grant recommended to South Australia in the fourth report of the commission is £1,150,000. That is to say, the previous method, employed by the Commonwealth Government in assessing the needs of the States, though nothing like so exhaustive in detail as the almost monumental labours which the commission has engaged upon, indicated a reasonable appreciation of the position. I do not say that the amount of the pre-commission grant was adequate. On the other hand, I do not say that it was more than adequate. It must be apparent, however, that this Parliament, when all is said and done, showed that it was not destitute of knowledge in assessing the necessities of South Australia, and did not make a major blunder in the ‘ amount it provided. The same may be said with, respect to Western Australia, which, in’ 1934, without inquiry by a commission, was granted £600,000 by this Parliament, and this year, as the result of the commission’s investigations, is to be granted £575,000. It should be borne in mind, however, that the amount nf special grant to Western Australia this year includes £136,000 of special drought assistance, .which would not have been assessed in the ordinary way on the principles that have- guided the Commonwealth Grants Commission in the formulation of its previous recommendations. Tasmania does not appear to have had justice done to it by this Parliament prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The amount paid to it in 1933-34 was £380,000. That amount was immediately lifted in the commission’s first recommendation to £400,000, and it has increased each year by steps of £450,000 and £600,000. This vear the amount proposed for Tasmania is £575,000.
The total amount proposed to be disbursed by the Commonwealth Parliament in this way this year will involve the Treasury in the finding of £2,350,000. That amount is £250,000 less than the Parliament provided for this purpose in the financial year 1935-36. “While there may be, on the part of those who look at this matter solely from the financial aspect, some belief that these States are getting some special advantage from the federation, there is another side to the subject. The States of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have, in a variety of ways, benefited from the federation, in an economic sense, much more substantially than have the States of Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania. I shall not say that Queensland has had the equivalent of a special grant, but it has had the great advantage of the policy of this Parlia-ment in respect to the assistance given to a major industry. The effect of that has been to increase enormously the population of Queensland by providing an occupational opportunity which would not be present were this Parliament to reverse its policy or not to have adopted it. I would be opposed to any reversal of that policy, because it, would be prejudicial to the economic life of that very important State. Victoria and New South Wales have had the greater weight of advance in secondary industries as the result of the policy which this Government has adopted. In this chamber this afternoon, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) proceeded to justify the policy of this Government in providing more employment. I find that the change in our strength in secondary industries in recent years has been marked by the concentration of that improvement almost entirely in the States of New South Wales and Victoria. In a statement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made recently, he said that capital amounting to £11,300,000 had been invested in additional producing units in Australian established industries, and that employment as the result of those additional units had been given to 23,310 hands. When I examine this return in relation to the distribution of this improvement throughout the States, I find_ that, of the employment given to 23,310 workers, New South Wales benefited by 14,479, and Victoria by 6,633; that Queensland gained only 32, South Australia 1,941, Western Australia 126, and Tasmania 99. Thus, when the argument is advanced that Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are mendicant States - an expression used by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) the other day - the answer is, of course, that the general effect and incidence of national fiscal policy is to accelerate the development of wealth and industrial progress in the States of Victoria and New South Wales. When it comes to a question of new industries, as distinct from the extension of existing industries, I find that only four States shared in the new industries that have been established, and that, of the £2,718,322 of capital invested in them, New South Wales gained £2.010,782, and of the 5,042 persons given employment got the benefit of 3,691. Victoria gained 1,178, South Australia 100, and Western Australia 69. If federal policy has the effect of promoting, as it unquestionably has, the development of secondary industry in Australia, and that development has been concentrated in two States, it must be obvious that there is a disparity in the effect of federal policy among the States as a whole, and the inequity must reflect itself in the failure on the part of certain States to share on a basis of equality in what may be regarded as the common progress of the country. This reflects itself in the finances of a State government, particularly in its budgetary position. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has regarded the budgetary criterion as a basis on which to assess the claims of the States. I shall not here to-day repeat the terms which I have previously applied to this process; but I note that there are three important modifications which the commission has used in the formulation of this year’s recommendations of the practice employed in its earlier reports.
The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) intimated that in this report the commission had included New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland in determining the comparable standard deficit in working out what it regards as an Australian standard of administrative expenditure and social services. I direct attention to this latter point of social services, because it appears to me that in making the advance to Western Australia this year, which has to be deducted from subsequent recommendations because of its drought provision, the commission has not logically treated its decision to include for the first time the extra cost of administering social services in a State where the spread of population over a large area increases the general cost per capita of such services. In its report the commission, after giving a table on page 78, says -
It is not pretended that this table reveals anything more than a certain trend; but it is highly significant that the cost per head of social services is in some sort of inverse ratio to the density of population in the social service area. It will be noticed that Queensland, with 26 per cent, of Victoria’s social service density, has a unit cost 28 per cent, higher; and that Western Australia, with 20 per cent, of Victoria’s density, has a unit cost of 33 per cent, higher. We are convinced that some allowance should be made for the relative “population density per square mile socially served “.
The commission acknowledges this in its latest report, though it resisted that argument in all previous reports; and just as it is perfectly true .that if it had been committed to the principle this time the grants would be lower, the fact must be acknowledged that in its previous recommendations the grants were lower than they should have been because of this omission. If there is a reduction of the grant because of the special provisions in this report, it would be a fair thing that there should be some redress given for what was lacking in the logical character of the previous reports. I have been unable to discover any application of this principle of density in regard to social services to general administrative costs of government; because on page 79 of its report, the commission says that it has decided to allow an addition to the Australian standard for “ density of population in the area socially served” as. follows: -
The adjustment for social services, a very elaborate calculation, brings in a plus of £120,000 for South Australia, a minus of £117,000 for Western Australia, and a plus of £7,000 for Tasmania. That is set out on page 79 of the report. That represents a deduction from what the grant otherwise would be because of the excess cost of social services. I might elaborate in some detail the manner in which that works out in the case of Western Australia, because I am speaking at present chiefly in respect of my own State. Had it not been for this modification of the previous methods of the commission, the deduction in the case of Western Australia would have been greater than it has been. Last year £188,000 was deducted from the crude grant in making the various calculations which the commission has employed. There ought to be some redress, because last year’s grant was reduced by £188,000 on account of the alleged excess standard of social services, whereas -this year, by reason of the modification, it is reduced in that State by only £117,000. It would appear, therefore, that last year Western Australia suffered, undeservedly, a penalty of £70,000 in the estimate of what should be taken off its grant, because of its excess standard of social services compared with the average standard throughout Australia. The grant for Western Australia would have been lower still this year but for the inclusion of the figures of New South Wales in arriving at the Australian standard. Therefore, last year it suffered in regard to the penalty imposed upon it for its alleged excess standard, for two reasons: First, because the commission did not use the figures of New South Wales in arriving at the comparable Australian standard; and, secondly, because it made no provision for the increased cost of providing such services in a sparsely peopled State.
– The commission states that, by reason of the incidence of the deficits of the various States, the inclusion of the figures of New South Wales last year would have made practically no difference.
– It says so; but I am not quite prepared to accept that contention, because the elimination of New South Wales from the social service field was, in my judgment, much more detrimental to the States than would have been the inclusion of New South Wales in regard to cost of social services, and also the severity of its taxation in relation to its taxable capacity. The figure in New South Wales for social ser.vices was 60s. a head which, even after deducting the 10 per cent, that is applied as the measure- of more than ordinary economy which a claimant State should be practising, was still 5d. a head above the mean expenditure of Victoria and Queensland on these services. I admit that the admission of this principle is important to Western Australia, the State with the lowest density of population, and believe that, if the present system of determining grants is continued, the way will be open for refinements in the calculations which should be of greater advantage in future years. The provision of an area allowance in social services appears to me to be quite logical. I consider, however, that the principle should apply equally in an examination of administrative expenditure by the State Government. That is not a part of the methods employed by the commission this year.
I acknowledge that there is a good deal to be said for the view put by the Treasurer that the commission is a constructive body, and is elaborating, by a process of trial and error, the methods that it shall use, I have no more to say about that aspect, other than that it appears to me to be a welcome modification of a previous practice. I also think that, in softening down the penalties imposed on the States for their lack of severity of taxation, the commission has done the right thing.
Those are the three important changes that have been made. It is not necessary for me to say more than that I do not quite know what the future effect will be of the decision of the commission to bring drought relief into this year’s recommendation so far as Western Australia is concerned. The fact that it contemplates that next year’s grant shall suffer because of the advance made this year, inclines me to the view that the commission should avert the two-year time lag in. its recommendations. Having for the last four years had the matter under close review, it ought now to have before it a fairly accurate picture of the financial history of these States in recent years, and therefore ought to be equipped to make some fairly reasonable prognosis of their requirements over a period of two or three years. Unquestionably, the financial stability of those States would be strengthened if this Parliament, having arrived at a fairly accurate figure, were to adopt it for a period of more than one year. According to the records, that figure hovers around a little more than £1,000,000 in the case of South Australia, somewhere between £575,000 and £800,000 in the case of Western Australia, and £575,000 in the case of Tasmania. We ought to have a holiday from this annual business of making special grants. If the Treasurer looks frankly at the history of the matter, he will see that it would not materially alter the burden on the Commonwealth Treasury, because, averaged over a period of years, the amounts granted to the States have not greatly altered. The uncertainty associated with this annual revision might now be overcome by the commission making a recommendation for a period of three years, based on the average recommendation of the last four years. I do not know whether the State Governments would regard that as a reasonable provision, but, speaking with a certain degree of close study and knowledge of the subject, it appears to me to be so. In the last five years South Australia has had £6,380,000, Western Australia £3,000,000, and Tasmania £2,160,000. It is unfortunate that those figures are not comparable with those of the period during which. the commission has been at work. From the view-point of certain States, the rather abrupt rise and fall of the grant has caused embarrassment to Treasurers in the framing of their budgets, because the prepara-tory work has to be begun before they know what amount they will receive from the Commonwealth. They must guess, and they cannot guess accurately.
– This year we tried to anticipate that by telegraphing to the States.
– Even so, the Treasurer will acknowledge that a difficulty exists, because the preparatory work begins three months before the end of the financial year. As we now have four reports before us, the Commonwealth Government ought to be in a position to say to the States, “ You have had so much as the result of the recommendations of this commission, the decision of which has been accepted by the Commonwealth Parliament. We now say to you that we shall continue to pay you that amount “ - or whatever amount the Treasurer might regard as fair. The States would probably be not quite satisfied, but, at the same time, the stability over a period of years would be an advantage that they ought npt to forgo in the finicky hope that, by putting up a special case in any year, they might obtain a larger sum. I make that suggestion without having invited anybody else to consider it. I believe that one of the great complaints of the States, apart from the difficulty of financing - which, in principle, I acknowledge - is - the uncertainty caused by this annual overhaul as to the amount which the Commonwealth Parliament will be asked to vote.
.- The amount of the grant for this year has been the subject of some controversy in South Australia. I do not propose to make the basis of the calculations or the details a matter for discussion in this House. I am quite satisfied that the members of the commission are able men, and that they are imbued with a sense of the duty that rests upon them to review dispassionately and without bias the facts presented to them. I entirely deplore the suggestion of bias that has been made against the members of the commission. That will not help either the commission or the Government to reach a decision, nor will it have an influence in moulding public opinion to a clearer understanding of the justice of these grants.
– One is quite justified in criticizing the methods adopted by the commission.
– One . is entirely justified in criticizing the methods and principles upon which the commission works, provided that the ability of its members and the undoubted sense of duty with which they have applied themselves to their task, are recognized. I, in no way, associate myself with the personal attack that has been made upon these gentlemen.
– I hope that I have not been guilty of anything of that sort.
– While the honorable gentleman was speaking, I made a note to refer specially to the very temperate and constructive manner in which he dealt with the matter. Although I cannot entirely adopt his suggestions without more examination, I must admit that every one of them was made constructively and deserves sympathetic and thorough examination. I am convinced that certain details regarding the calculation of the amount of the grant to South Australia this year, and to Western Australia in previous years, should be made the subject of a dispassionate review very carefully undertaken by the members of .the new commission when the matter is next dealt with. I do not propose to move for the amendment of the bill now before the House, but I desire to place a few observations before honorable members. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) made the point that the grants have not, in fact, varied very greatly in amount, and that a certain degree of stability might well be introduced. I agree that, on the whole, the commission has gradually improved its technique. It has had more and more statistics available, and witnesses for the States and for the Federal Treasury have had a better understanding of the kind of analyses which the commission desired. I am forced to the conclusion, however, after reading the fourth report of the commission, that its train of argument has forced it to conclusions rather different from what its instinct tells it the result should be. In order to correct this the commission has made arbitrary loadings regarding the cost of social services in New South Wales, and regarding loan indebtedness in the other States. It is exceedingly difficult for the people of the smaller States to recognize these arbitrary loadings as reasonable, and they have, in fact, given rise to discontent, and, perhaps, unjustifiable criticism. For instance, the commission, in assessing tho amount of the grant, makes a deduction because of losses incurred on loan expenditure, and this deduction is based upon the dead weight debt per capita of the claimant State. Actually, the States with the heaviest debts show smaller losses on the services for which the loans have been incurred than does Tasmania, the State with the smallest debt per capita. Indeed, the commission has expressed the opinion that Tasmania should go deeper into debt, but it nevertheless penalizes those States that have incurred substantial debts. This seems to be utterly illogical, and occasions much distrust in those States where a small reduction of the grant may make an important difference in taxation and local services. Moreover, the commission, when comparing the debts of the various States, makes no allowance for the fact that Victoria, which has a relatively small government debt, has carried out a tremendous amount of public work by means of loans raised by non-government authorities, such as the Harbour Trust, the Metropolitan Board of Works and the Electricity Commission. In the smaller States, such undertakings must necessarily be financed out of moneys raised by the State government itself, because it would be uneconomic to establish separate borrowing departments in respect of each of those services. In addition, we must remember that, in the smaller States, tho local governing bodies do very little -direct borrowing, with the result that the local government debt in New South Wales and Victoria is very much heavier than in the smaller States.
– The commission takes into account dead debt only, that is, public works and the like in respect of which there is reason to believe that the whole of the capital outlay has been lost. I do not think that the Metropolitan Board of Works or the Harbour Trust in Victoria has any such debts.
– Then why does the commission refrain from making a deduction in the case of tho State which shows the biggest loss per capital By bringing New South Wales into the list of standard States, the commission has helped to maintain the grants on a more equitable level, but it has hesitated to bring in New South Wales in totality. It. has made a deduction because of the high cost of social services in New South Wales, which would otherwise have had the effect of increasing the discrepancy between the claimant and non-claimant States, but it has made no corresponding deduction, either on account of the deficit in New South Wales, or because of increased taxation. To some extent the present position is due to the fact that the agricultural States have been catching up to the others because of better world prices, but it is also partly due to the fact that the heavy taxation of New South Wales is brought into the average of the standard States, while on the other hand, the high cost of social services which has contributed to the high taxation is not brought in in full. I do not claim dogmatically that this is wrong, but it indicates a departure from the basic principle laid down by the commission for its own guidance, and this furnishes ground for the criticism heard in the smaller States, greatly as I deplore any personal animus in that criticism.
This brings me to the underlying cause of some of the disabilities of the smaller States as distinct from the symptoms of which the Commonwealth grants are an alleviation. The commission says that it is impossible to estimate the effects of federal policy. It goes on to say that, in its opinion, those disabilities do not amount to anything very much on balance, but it does not even begin to deal with some of the worst injuries inflicted by federal policy. It, says quite rightly that the debts incurred by the States were incurred on their own responsibility, and it criticizes the States for opening up new agricultural lands. It says that there should have been more inquiry regarding available markets, and so there should have been, but was the Federal Govern- ment entirely unconnected with, the cam- paign to grow more wheat ? The Federal Government urged the States to pursue their policy of rural development. Then, we should not fail to consider the damage to overseas markets which has resulted from federal policy. Take the injury to the market for barley in Belgium caused overnight by the imposition of a prohibitive tariff on the importation of glass from that country. That action by the Federal Government injured the prospects of 2,000 farmers in one of the smaller States, reduced the openings for employment, and lessened the security for government advances. That is the sort of thing that causes, or, at any rate, aggravates, inequalities of resources between the different States. While I cannot complain because this commission has been unable to assess it in pounds, shillings and pence a grant, I do complain at the terms in which it has merely reported that it cannot do 60. The commission left it as a matter of policy which has already been decided and remarks that populations and investments should adjust themselves to that policy. I do not believe that it is the desire of this Parliament, at the expense of the less fortunate’ areas of the Commonwealth, further to develop the already rich areas even though the best return is to be had for individual investments by giving stimulus to these investments to .the detriment of the poorer areas. I do not believe that this Parliament is so purblind and unfair that it is prepared to lay down a policy which aggravates the difficulties of the less wellendowed parts of Australia and speeds up the vaster development in the betteroff States. I admit that the position cannot be rectified by grants such as those with which we are dealing to-day. I think tl at the pioneering work that the commission has done is invaluable, in that it shows that, since we cannot assess the incidence of the matters to which I have referred for the purpose of a grant, they should therefore be taken more and more into account when federal policy is embarked upon and that if it is possible for a compensating policy to be framed it should be done.
I was glad to hear the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday, that it was the objective of the Government to decentralize some of the defence industries. In that way it may be possible to restore to the growing populations in the smaller States chances to find employment. But I was disappointed to hear that in the present circumstances a beginning cannot be made yet. This House has before it at the moment - I do not propose to discuss the merits of it - a hill designed to do something in the interests of defence by establishing oil fuel supplies in Australia, and I am glad to say that it is possible to combine that action with bringing an industry to a depressed area in one of the wealthier States. It, however, is not those depressed areas near Melbourne or Sydney, which readily receive sympathy in those cities, that should receive principal consideration. If we are to justify the holding of Australia, not by force of arms but on moral grounds, we cannot do it by developing just one side of the continent. We must do something to equalize opportunity and a little to spread the population. Certainly it is grotesque to imagine that the Commonwealth Government, or any other government, is under an obligation to give the same openings for investment, profit and employment in hopeless land as it is in good land, but the very least it should do is to see that the policy which is operated in the interests of what is believed to be the whole nation does, as a matter of fact, not handicap the areas which are already having a struggle to stay solvent. One other point I make - the nation should undoubtedly think out some means of rectifying the position which exists to-day.
I think it was in the Treasurer’s mind when he introduced this bill and it was in the commission’s mind when it drew back from the logical conclusion of its principle of assessing grants - as prosperity increases grants should automatically be reduced. We all hope that that should be the case, but while this principle continues - of assessing grants, leaving out the question of disability so that State governments can give average services for average taxation without incurring much more than average deficits. Prosperity may be increasing all over the Commonwealth ; and if it ia increasing in some States more rapidly than in others, logically the grants will nevertheless increase if the commission’s principles are fairly and logically applied. In recent years agricultural States have made more rapid recovery than others, but much more than others they suffered the blows of the depression.Whenwe reach the new stability that will not be the case. However intemperate some of the criticism from the smaller States may seem, the Commonwealth holds the strings of the purse and is in the unassailable position of being able to “ stand pat” in a superior, supercilious manner which is very exasperating. I appeal to the Government to have a truly national mind and not just a Canberra mind. It should realize just how difficult it is for the people who are having a struggle outback to talk in the dispassionate, urbane manner of those who are in an assured position. The Commonwealth Government should make it plain that there are legitimate grounds for review and that they will be examined thoroughly and that in any terms that it gives to Che commission it will approach this question with courage and sympathy which will reassure those who are impatient at the temporary setback in the grants to be made this year.
– I think there is a good deal to be said for the dispassionate statement made by the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr, Hawker) and I desire to associate myself with the observations made this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin) in his reasoned survey of the situation regarding the grants to the smaller States of the Commonwealth. Because of that reasoned statement, I do not propose to traverse the ground covered by the Leader of the Opposition. I intend, therefore, more or less to confine myself to the position as I see it from the point of view of the State of Tasmania. The Commonwealth Grants Commission is to be congratulated on the comprehensive way in which it has set out its four reports on the disabilities of the claimant States. While I do not necessarily agree with the basis of the recommendations upon which these grants are made, nevertheless, the grants have been of some material benefit to the
States and the reports themselves have been of some assistance in determining the disabilities under which the States labour. Paragraph 4 of the commission’s report sets out the two main grounds of special grants by the Commonwealth to the State as follows: - (1) the ground of needs; (2) the ground of disabilities. The report further sets out -
If a State is making every possible effort to retrieve its position and still cannot pay its way, it should receive a special grant which will enable it to achieve a balanced budget, or, more exactly, to come as near a balance as other States.
That I suggest is to some extent a departure from the basis of the recommendations contained in the commission’s previous reports. Coming to the question of a cash grant to Tasmania, I have a statement from the Treasurer of the State saying that generally he is satisfied with the amount recommended by the Grants Commission this year. The State claimed £748,229, and the grant recommended is £575,000, which is £173,229 less than the amount of the claim. The claim of the State as set out on page 88 of the report is generally accepted by the commission and I desire to direct attention to the fact that last year the commission made some very complimentary remarks about the Treasurer of Tasmania and suggested that his State’s claimcould be accepted as a standard budget. The Treasurer of Tasmania should, therefore, feel very satisfied with the case that he was able to present to the commission. In view of the fact that there has been some criticism in Tasmania concerning the assistance that has been granted to Tasmania by this Government, I think it well to make some reference to the amount of the grants that have been paid to the three claimant States. They are set out on page 142 of the report which shows the various headings under which contributions have been made to the States of Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia. The headings applying to Western Australia are as follows: -
Contribution towards interest on State debts.
Contribution towards sinking fund on State debts.
Federal aid road grants.
Special non-recurring grant.
Relief to wheat-growers.
Relief to fruit-growers.
Artificial manure subsidy.
Grant for relief works.
Grantfor metalliferous mining.
Grant for forestry.
Grant for local public works.
Farmers’ debt adjustment.
Grant for maternal and infant welfare.
Grant to cost leper station at Derby.
A similar list is given in the report in regard to the three claimant States. We also know that many Commonwealth grants are distributed among the larger as well as the smaller States. When we speak of grants such as £2,871,000 to Western Australia, and £1,118,000 to Tasmania, last year, we should offset against those amounts the sums paid to the large States. Yet this is not usually done when statements are issued by the Commonwealth Government to show that much assistance is given to the claimant States. Payments such as those made under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement benefit the large and small States alike. The only sums to which particular attention can fairly be directed are those in the nature of special grants.
– That does not make the statements inaccurate.
– No ; but they are misleading. If a Minister says that a certain sum has been paid by the Commonwealth to Tasmania, and if it includes payments which have been simultaneously made to the larger States, the statement is decidedly misleading. I suggest that such announcements are deliberately made for the purpose of presenting the Commonwealth Government in the guise of a fairy godmother.
I support the Leader of the Opposition in his suggestion that grants should be paid regularly over a period of years. This year the Commonwealth Grants Commission refers to the Statistician’s figures, on which it bases its recommendations for the present year. In paragraph 90 of its report, at page 47, it states -
Such anomalies are caused by a lagin the availability of the statistics, and cannot be avoided if we employ statistical measurements at all. The lag could be reduced if the statistics were available sooner. We make no complaint about the efficiency of the various statistical officers upon whom we rely. We have put a good deal of work on them, and they have done it with great efficiency. But the plain fact is that the statistical services are understaffed and over-worked.
Perhaps some formula could be devised for the making of grants to the smaller States over a period of years. Before anything of that sort is done, I think that the governments of the various States should be consulted, and, perhaps, the difficulty which confronts State Treasurers in preparing their budgets could be overcome ; at least, it should be possible to minimize the present difficulty by providing additional staff for the Statistician’s department to enable it to supply the necessary figures when required. The present staff; efficient as it is, can do only what is humanly possible, and, if the pressure of work is too great, its personnel should be strengthened.
In its second and third reports, the commission recommended the granting of extra assistance to Tasmania. I have drawn attention to this matter previously. It is true that, in the past, the whole of the cash grant recommended for this State has been paid by the Commonwealth, but there is another recommendation to which satisfactory consideration has not been given. I refer to that appearing on page 82 of the second report, which set out reasons why the commission’ considered that special consideration should be given to Tasmania. I have brought this recommendation under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), as has also the Government of Tasmania. It concludes -
A long-term forestry policy involving considerable expenditure over a term of years, is needed. Such a policy has been worked out and described to us in evidence, and the Commonwealth Director of Forests commented on it very favorably to us. This policy has now been initiated, with the help of the Commonwealth grant for forestry, but it is hampered by uncertainty as to the necessary funds in future years, which prevents, for example, the recruiting of an adequate technical staff. An undertaking to finance some such scheme, approved by the Commonwealth’s technical advisers, seems to us the kind of additional help that Tasmania now needs.
– The trouble is that we cannot get a quart out of a pint pot.
– If there were a desire on the part of the Government to give effect to the recommendation, it would find that the pot was large enough for the purpose. A recommendation in almost identical terms was contained in tho commission’s third report. I refer to paragraph 337, at page 129. The afforestation proposal was reconsidered by the commission in 1935-36, and the matter was regarded as of sufficient importance for special reference lo be made to it again in the third report. I bring this matter under the further notice of the Treasurer, in the hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will give it favorable consideration.
I shall- leave the matter there. Sum,marized, my requests are, first that the statistical information referred to in paragraph 90 of the report should be made available, to the State treasurers at the earliest possible date, so that they may be in a better position to prepare their budgets; and, secondly, that the recommendations in the second and third reports of the commission regarding special assistance to Tasmania should be given favorable consideration.
In conclusion, I express my appreciation of the highly eulogistic references made by the members of the commission to the Treasurer of Tasmania. These, coming from a company of experts who cannot be regarded as being of the same shade of political thought as that honorable gentleman, are the more valuable. [Quorum formed.
.- It is neither my desire nor my intention to discuss this bill at any length, first, because I have only just seen the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and have not had time to consider it; and, secondly, because I understand that this is the last report that we shall receive from the commission, and I do not suppose that any argument that we can advance in tho course of this debate is likely to cause the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to agree to an alteration of the allocations set out in the bill. I shall reserve my views on the general subject of assistance to necessitous States for the debate on the Inter-State Commission Bill. I trust that in that measure provision will be made to ensure that Parliament will be supplied with the fullest information concerning the disabilities suffered by certain States through federation.
I have always found it impossible to understand the grounds on which the
Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended larger grants to South Australia than to “Western Australia. I do not wish to underestimate in any respect the force of the case submitted to the commission in support of South Australia’s claims. I remember that when South Australia first made a request for financial assistance it based its claim almost wholly upon the disabilities under which the State was suffering due lo Commonwealth policy. That, of course, has always been the main element in the claims advanced by Western Australia. South Australia, in the course of its submissions to the commission, contended that the people of that State, especially those settled in new areas, were involved in great hardship in consequence of the heavy customs duties applied to various requirements to encourage development. That applies also to Western Australia. It is surely the great desire of the Commonwealth Parliament that the unsettled lands of this great continent should be peopled and developed. South Australia has, doubtless, made a valiant effort to encourage closer settlement, but I submit that Western Australia has made an even more valiant effort. Serious blunders have been made by various governments in trying to settle the empty lands of Australia, and huge sums have been wasted by unwise procedure. That applies to the activities of every government which has set out to encourage closer settlement. The soldier settlement schemes in .Victoria immediately following the war are a case in point. Western Australia’s difficulties have been greatly intensified by the high tariff on necessary imports.
Although I have only had this report in my hand for a few moments I have noticed the following sentences in paragraph 215 in relation to Western Australia, which deserve attention: -
The figures in table “B” indicate that the grant to this State should be reduced, but this reduction would occur in a year of financial stringency caused by adverse circumstances, namely, an unprecedented drought. The year on which the proposed grant for 1037-38 will be based is 1935-36, when economic conditions in Western Australia were relatively favorable. In that year .there was a drought, which was intensified in 1936-37. We cannot make any allowance for community losses due to drought.
If no recommendation can be made in respect of losses due to drought, may recommendations be made in consequence of disabilities sustained through loss of markets, or because of losses incurred through one State having to export a greater quantity of its primary production at a lower price, due to its smaller population, than is obtainable in a State which is able to dispose of the greater proportion of its primary products on the local market, due to its larger population? The commission recommends that the amount of £136,000 proposed to be granted to “Western Australia this year in consequence of the losses due to drought, should be deducted from any grant made next year. I ask the Treasurer to consider carefully whether some arrangement cannot be made to ensure not only that this amount shall be not deducted from the grant next year, but also that this year it shall be applied to the assistance of those who have suffered severely in the recent drought in Western Australia.
– The honorable member is suggesting that the purposes for which that money shall be expended shall be specified.
– Yes, in some way. That should be possible. The people to whom I refer have suffered severely, and the State has had to incur heavy losses in the carriage of water by rail for lengthy distances to meet their needs. It has also been necessary to make seed wheat available to farmers in drought areas. I should like to see the special amount of £136,000 proposed to be included in this year’s grant to Western Australia made available to the settlers in some way that would make it easier for them to continue their operations.
I point out that in the north-eastern agricultural areas of Western Australia difficulties have been experienced over a period of years. Four or five thousand settlers in this area had a magnificent crop in 1930-31, but they received only ls. 6d. a bushel for their wheat. Since then, and particularly in the last few years, droughts have caused an almost complete failure of the harvest. In these circumstances some further help should be afforded these people and I suggest that this special, item of £136,000 should be earmarked, first to repay the State losses incurred by the drought, and secondly in the remission of costs incurred by the farmersin the purchase of water, seed wheat and superphosphates. -As the provision of this sum is due to the drought those who suffered so severely should receive the benefit.
In dealing with South Australia, the commission reports as follows: -
As South Australia is very dependent on export industry, she -was badly hit by the fall in prices, and the railway returns had decreased.
I submit that Western Australia has suffered far more in this regard than has South Australia. In fact if it had not been for the sudden increase of the price of gold, which resulted in a large influx of capital into Western Australia from Great Britain for the development of the gold-mining industry, and an increase of the persons employed in it from 4,400 to 16,000, I do not know what the State would have done. It would have been in a dreadful economic condition. As it is, the great .many of the agriculturists and pastoralists in the northern areas have been almost ruined. I do not say that our people in the southern districts have suffered, but, undoubtedly, the northern pastoralists and agriculturists have had a very hard time. Only the sudden increase of the price of gold and the consequent stimulation to the goldmining industry have enabled the State to carry on aa ably as it has done. I do not know what attitude the commission would have adopted if the goldmining industry had remained in the doldrums. However, what I have to say on this aspect of the subject I shall reserve for the debate on the Inter-State Commission Bill. I hope that when the Inter-State Commission is established, it will be required to consider the important subject of the disabilities certain States have suffered in comparison with other States.
The people of the weaker States do not desire to be dealt with by the Commonwealth Parliament as mendicants. They do not want charity or gratuities. They want to be placed on a fair footing in relation to the other people of Australia.
Enormous sums of money must be expended for developmental purposes, and something should be done to facilitate this national work, and markets should be developed. But a State in which big developments in primary industries are occurring should not be required to sell a larger proportion of its primary production in the markets of the world at a lower price than other States not in such a position. Something should be done to make the position more even as between the various States and if the high tariff policy is to continue there must be a fixed minimum price for wheat produced in Australia. The increased price of gold has not benefited Western Australia to the extent that it should be used as a reason for reducing the grant. That State has huge areas that can only be developed provided market values are good. Western Australia has not the same rich lands as the eastern States, and is, therefore, anxious to see the greater part of its suitable land occupied in profitable settlement. The unoccupied land is a great menace to occupied areas. If the present federal policy is to be continued, the Commonwealth should be prepared to compensate those States which have suffered so much from the effects of that policy.
.- The Commonwealth Grants Commission in its report this year, has recommended a grant for the State of Tasmania of £575,000. I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to explain why the grant made available last year has been reduced by £25,000. I listened carefully to hia speech, but he made no reference to the reasons which actuated the commission in reducing the grant to Tasmania. Apparently he left it to honorable members to form their own conclusions from reading the report of the commission. I take strong exception to those supporters of the Government who term those States receiving grants as mendicant States asking for crumbs from “the rich man’s table. If that is the opinion of all the supporters of the United Australia party, representing the more prosperous and more powerful States which look upon the smaller States as beggars and paupers, they will at the proper time and in the proper place receive a very convincing reply.
I appreciate the valuable work which the commission has done, and I hope that it will be able to continue its good work for many years and will not be supplanted by another body composed of members of the United Australia party, who regard Tasmania as a mendicant State. Generally it has been able to arrive at quite satisfactory recommendations in regard to Tasmania; but looking back over the grants made to the various States over a period of years, I find that Western Australia was receiving a grant a couple of years before assistance was provided for Tasmania. Although grants increased rapidly during the period 1911- 12 to 1933-34, on a population basis, Tasmania did not receive from the Commonwealth anything like the advantages which have accrued to the more prosperous and populous States. Tasmania with the other States is equally a part of the federation, and its government is entitled to appeal for aid to this Parliament owing to the disabilities created as the result of federal policy. The argument has been advanced on many occasions that the population of Tasmania has not increased proportionately to that of the rest of the States. The reason is to be found in the fact that Commonwealth expenditure is centralized in the largest States with the result that Tasmanian workmen are induced to leave their State because of enhanced prospects of securing employment in the more populous and prosperous States. Quite a number of Tasmanians, with their wives and families, have been attracted to Canberra because of the large sums which have been spent on the establishment of the national capital. That aspect of federal policy is one that should receive every consideration when dealing with the claims of the smaller States. Because of the expenditure of revenue and loan moneys by the Commonwealth in certain mainland States, the resultant prosperity brought about in those States has attracted Tasmanians to the mainland. Thus Tasmania has lost thousands of its population to Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and even to South Australia and Western Australia. Queensland has prospered by the Commonwealth Government’s policy in relation to a major industry estab- lished in that State and has attracted hundreds of Tasmanian people. Tasmania is further handicapped by reason of its geographical position and the fact that it has to pay high freights to place its surplus production on the mainland markets. When the States agreed to federate it was recognized that as an island State, Tasmania was placed at a very serious disadvantage because of its isolation, and that it had to depend upon private enterprise for communication between its ports and the mainland markets. It is entitled to opportunities in the markets of the Commonwealth equal to those of other States. The mainland States have the advantage of railways, roads and water transport to place their goods on the mainland markets of the Commonwealth, but Tasmania has only water transport and has to pay high freight rates to reach its markets.
That the grants made to the States have been based on their budgetary position and not on disabilities will, I feel sure, have a reactionary effect in the years to come. I have no doubt that the Commonwealth will reduce the grants to the smaller States as theirbudgetary position improves.
Another disability under which Tasmania suffers is the high- customs duty on turbines imported for the development of its hydro-electric scheme. Repeated applications over a number of years have been made to the Commonwealth for a reduction of this duty, but they have been without avail, although big industries on the mainland have been able to secure reductions of duties in respect of machinery which they use. Encouragement should be given by theCommonwealth to the development of the Tasmanian hydro-electric scheme, which is designed to cheapen the cost of producing commodities required not only in Australia but also in other parts of the world. Looking over the records of the grants made to the various States I notice that a grant of £80,000 was made to Western Australia for forestry. Tasmania enjoysa better rainfall and better climatic conditions than Western Australia, and therefore is much more suitable for forestry development. We are asking the Treasurer for further assistance for forestry purposes.
Twelve months ago I asked the Treasurer whether he had agreed to a scheme propounded by the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, embracing a ten years’ forestry policy, and received the reply that the matter was under consideration. So far, the Commonwealth has not indicated its intentions, and I now press the honorable gentleman to furnish Mr. Cosgrove with a reply to his representations. Assistance in that direction would be of considerable advantage, because employment would-be found for a number of men, an asset of the State would be improved, and the economic position would be made considerably easier. I agree with one honorable member who said that the Commonwealth should endeavour to develop some of the resources of those States which have not received any assistance from it. The development of the shale deposits in Tasmania, which are extensive and valuable, would provide a tremendous volume of employment and largely solve the problem of the unemployment of youths in that State. For 30 or 40 years efforts have been made to develop these deposits. Their development would be of considerable value for defence purposes, because they contain a highly explosive gas.
– Has not the State Government resumed all the leases for the manufacture of bitumen?
– The State Government took control of the deposits solely with a view to developing them. I understand that the powerful oil combine was able to prevent developmentwhile the leases were privately held; consequently, when they expired the State Government did not issue fresh leases. I believe that it is prepared to grant a lease to any genuine company which is willing to exploit the deposits. One company was about to start and made application to the Commonwealth Government for assistance in the purchase of machinery. It wrote to me, but when I ascertained that it had no lease, I declined to make representations on its behalf. I desire that, in the matter of the development, of shale deposits, Tasmania shall be treated on an equal basis with New South Wales. I am sure that honorable members from the larger States will recognize the justice of Tasmania’s claim, and grant it a sum sufficient to enable its people to share in the prosperity that the mainland is enjoying. For a number of years, the social services of Tasmania have been inferior to those of the other States, and it now merely asks to be placed on an equal footing. Tasmania has suffered severely by the prohibition imposed by Victoria on its produce entering that State. The embargo on the importation of Tasmanian potatoes was removed only after many years of strenuous agitation. That action by Victoria, I consider, was in restraint of trade and consequently was a breach of the Constitution. Victorian goods are allowed to enter Tasmania freely and compete on an equal basis with commodities produced in that State.
The federation has been of material assistance to some of the States. Take, for example, the irrigation works on the River Murray. These have cost millions of pounds and were designed to benefit Victoria and South Australia particularly, yet very poor results have been achieved. The big States would do to Tasmania what the “ abo “ does to his lubra - eat all the meat and then throw the bone to her. I desire that Australia shall become one of the greatest nations of the world, but that cannot be until the disabilitiesof the smaller States are removed and they are given that to which they are entitled. I hope that I shall not again hear the disgusting remark that Tasmania is a mendicant or beggar State which is living on the charity of the other States. That is not an Australian outlook. I am prepared to give to the other States all the benefits they should have. I maintain, however, that Tasmania is entitled to share fairly in whatever the Commonwealth has to offer.
Another disablity under which Tasmania suffers, is in the enormous cost of shipping its apples to the oversea markets. The Commonwealth Government could come to its assistance in that direction by obtaining cheaper freights and thus enabling the apple-growing industry to prosper. Otherwise, it will not be able to export, and the revenue thus lost will have to be mads good by an increased grant from the Commonwealth. I have heard it said in this House that drought is a disability.
There have always been droughts in Australia, and when they have occurred financial assistance has been given to those who have suffered by reason of them. Tasmania does not suffer from drought, but it suffers from other disabilities which should be taken into consideration. The Treasurer, of course, has the last word in fixing the amount of these grants. He does not need to accept the recommendation of the Grants Commission; he can, we are informed, act on his own initiative. If that is so, I appeal to him to restore the £25,000 which was taken away from Tasmania. If he does not see fit to do this, or if he is unable to do it, I hope that he and his colleagues will not go on the hustings during the next election campaign and say, “ Look at what the Commonwealth Government has done for Tasmania.” I am pleased with what the commission has been able to do for Tasmania on this occasion, and I hope that the Government will introduce the principle of fixing these grants for a period of three years, instead of allowing the matter to come up for review each year. I also hope that the Government will not interfere with the constitution of the present Commonwealth Grants Commission, and that the present members will be re-appointed and will be allowed to carry on their work for many years to come. I do not think that we in Tasmania could hope for a better deal if the present commission were replaced by some other body. The Treasurer of Tasmania is very perturbed at the possibility of the present commission being abolished. In. his opinion, the Government proposes to abolish an authority which has won the confidence of the people in the smaller States, and has been able to adjust some of the wrongs from which they have suffered. The Government is not justified in abolishing a body of this kind in order that its place may be taken by political appointees.
.- This States GrantsBill has become one of the hardy annuals. We are asked to provide out of Commonwealth revenue, that is, from taxation, moneys for the purpose of financing the governments of three States, and these are the same three States which have benefited by special grants for some years past, namely, Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania. I do not believe in the principle of making grants of this kind to individual States, which yearly croak about their disabilities under federation, and on that score and others claim from the taxpayers of the eastern States some of the money which could be spent to greater advantage by the Commonwealth itself, or, alternatively, be left in the pockets of the taxpayers. Moreover, I believe that the system under which these grants have been made is absolutely illegal. The whole thing is a ramp at the expense of the taxpayers of the eastern States.
– Queensland ought to know something about ramps.
– Queensland is taxed more heavily than any other State in the Commonwealth, yet it is asked to contribute to the finances of States which are actually balancing their budgets. It is proposed to make special grants of the following sums: South Australia £1,200,000, Western Australia £575,000, and Tasmania £575,000, a total of £2,350,000 as against a total of £2,450,000 last year. The humble request of the States concerned was for £4,250,000. When we come to examine the claims of the various States, we find that South Australia puts forward in its No. 1 claim, as a reason for seeking assistance, the fact that part of the motor registration fees have been diverted to general revenue, and that, in consequence, there has been a reduction of expenditure on road maintenance. I point out, however, that Queensland is in a similar position, and I cannot, therefore, see why the people of Queensland should be asked to contribute to the revenue of South. Australia* As a matter of fact, Queensland is being taxed higher for general revenue, than any other State. In South Australia’s No. 3 claim is set forth the effect of unemployment on taxable capacity, but in reply to that I point out that the cost of unemployment relief in Queensland is greater proportionately than in any other State. The claimant States ask for grants to enable them to ^balance their budgets, but Queensland Ls further away from balancing its budget than is any other State.
Among the reasons put forward by Western Australia to justify its claim for assistance, is the fact that serious drought conditions, have adversely affected the finances of the State. Again, I point out that the more closely settled areas in the south-eastern corner of Queensland are now entering upon their third year of drought, to the very serious loss of those engaged in dairying, fruitgrowing, &c. Yet the taxpayers of Queensland are asked to make up the drought losses of Western Australia.
The impertinence of Tasmania’s claim, however, transcends that of all the others, lt says -
That, on account of the drought conditions ‘ of Queensland, the finances of that State were adversely affected, lt was urged, therefore, that the Commission should take this factor into account in determining the “ standard “ to be adopted this year for Tasmania.’
Thus, because there is a drought in Queensland, the people of Queensland must contribute towards the finances of Tasmania. As I have stated before, I oppose the principle of making drought grants to governments. If the Commonwealth has any duty in this regard, it is to the individual industries which are adversely affected. Any money which the Commonwealth has to give away should be allocated to the drought sufferers, not only in Western Australia, but in Queensland also. There are dairy farmers in my electorate, and in the electorate of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) who have not drawn a cream cheque for months. I do not wish the people of Australia to obtain the impression that the whole of Queensland is drought stricken. A great portion of our State is in splendid condition, but the south-eastern corner, which is mostly closely settled, is in a bad way. As a matter of fact, the money which the Commonwealth Government is disposing of in grants could be better spent in providing irrigation and water supply systems, than in being handed over to the State governments. Tt should be spent for the benefit of the primary producers. We find that in consideration of the drought condition that has existed in Western Australia, £136,000 is provided for that State. No such recognition has been given to the droughts which have ravaged Queensland. Yet the people of Queensland are to be taxed to help to pay this £136,000, which will go, not to the drought-stricken men iii Western Australia, but into the coffers of the State Government. .
– That is the unfortunate part of it.
– Yes. I should willingly and gladly double the contribution if it were made to the settlers and to the producers who have suffered from the droughts which periodically visit themselves upon this country. But I cannot help protesting against and opposing the principle of giving to the governments of the claimant States at the expense of the people of my State, and of my electorate, where drought has been rampant for nearly three years, who are in a worse position than those people whom they are called upon to help under a claim of disabilities under federation.
– I am in agreement with the honorable member’s criticism of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s particularizing the sum of £136,000 as the amount to be given to Western Australia in respect of drought. If that money were paid directly to tho sufferers from the drought it would be justified and welcome ; but, as it is being paid to the Government of the State and not to the sufferers, it is a misapplication of the grant which is recommended.
– Will not those people get it at all?
– They may in an indirect way, but they are subject to the good offices of the State Government. Experience has shown that Commonwealth money paid to the State Government has not been applied by it to the purposes for which it was granted, but has been paid into Consolidated Revenue.
Regarding the general tenor of the observations made by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) T think it is a good thing that the majority of the members of this Parliament are imbued more with the federal spirit than he is. The majority of hon orable members realize that they have a special duty to advance the interests of their own States, but they also recognize that the effect of Commonwealth laws is in many instances to the advantage of some States and to the disadvantage of the others.
– That is due to natural resources.
– All considerations enter into it. It is generally realized that the laws that have to be enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament react to the advantage of some and to the disadvantage of others. The majority of honorable members, irrespective of the States they represent, are prepared to agree to any reasonable scheme of compensation to those States which we may reasonably call the “ outer “ States, which have not benefited as much as the larger States from being associated with the Commonwealth. That is the basis of these grants. I have no complaint that the Commonwealth has, by granting protection to the sugar industry of Queensland, established a most valuable industry in that State. It is an industry of which we can bo proud and which should be preserved. But it shows lack of gratitude on the part of a representative of Queensland to complain of the contribution which his State might have to make to Western Australia under this bill.
– Queensland never sells any bananas in Western Australia. Yet the ‘people of that State have paid thousands of pounds in customs duties on bananas.
– Yes, but there is a more definite instance than that. The contribution of Queensland under the proposal for this year will amount, roughly, to £100,000. Every year - I am basing my figures on the report of the Sugar Commission - the people of Western Australia make a contribution amounting, in round figures, to £400,000, to the State of Queensland because they have to purchase sugar from Queensland. That is to say if they were at liberty to purchase from other markets-
– If you like, then blackgrown sugar. If they had that liberty they could purchase their sugar requirements for £400,000 a year less than they now pay to the sugar-growers of Queensland. That has been going on for several years. I am not suggesting that we should admit black-grown sugar into Australia. I do assert, however, that it is very ungrateful for the people of Queensland, who receive from Western Australia a contribution of £400,000, to protest so strongly against Queensland having to make a contribution of £100,000 to Western Australia by way of the grant proposed in this bill.
With regard to the commission’s report, I do not see any purpose in discussing it at length. The commission has made its finding; and that finding has been adopted by the Government ; nothing said here is likely to affect the result. The Commonwealth Grants Commission will be retiring at the end of this year and will, I hope, be supplanted by the InterState Commission. We in Western Australia have long felt something of a grievance against the Commonwealth Grants Commission, because it refuses to assess the disabilities that the State suffers under the Commonwealth. We have strongly resented, and still resent, that the grant should come to us as something in the nature of a gratuity, and that we are, as some honorable members have put it, in the nature of mendicants. If Western Australia did not suffer any disabilities from Commonwealth legislation our only basis of claim would be on the ground of dire necessity, but we in Western Australia believe that that is not the true basis of our claim. We take our stand on account of the position of the State, the undeveloped state of its resources, and particularly the extent to which it is affected by the Australian policy of protection. We believe that we do suffer disabilities which, if they were investigated thoroughly, would result in grants exceeding those recommended by the commission.
– The commission reported that if the grants were based on disabilities, the amount of the grant would be much less.
– I do not accept that at all. I think that the commission had no ground on which to make that statement, because it confessed that it was quite unable to assess the disabilities.
– Can the Inter-State Commission assess them ?
– We in Western Australia submit that it will be able to do so. The Commonwealth Grants Commission is going, and, although we had some difference with it regarding the assessment of claims, we appreciate the fact that it has gone to great lengths to make the most careful assessment that it could. We feel, therefore, that the commissioners have exercised, not only their best discretion, but also a high sense of duty and impartiality in making recommendations.
.- I did not intend to speak on this measure, but as the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has made such an emphatic protest, it is necessary for a representative of one of the smaller States to say something in reply. As far as the amount of the grant for Tasmania is concerned, [ understand that the Treasurer of the State, Mr. Dwyer-Grey, has expressed himself as being satisfied, with the finding of the commission, although the State does not get so much under this bill as was asked for. The honorable member for Wide Bay, in talking about Queensland having to contribute to the smaller States, overlooked the fact that those States have suffered from being in the federal partnership and that, because of the disabilities they suffered, they should actually get five times as much as is provided for in this measure. I remind the honorable member that, Tasmania per capita, is the largest sugar consumer in Australia. We pay extra money to the Queensland Government every year, to the extent of £365,000 a year, £1,000 a day. I say definitely that if the honorable member for Wide Bay and representatives from Queensland continue to talk as they do, we shall fight the sugar industry. It is time that we did so. That £365,000 a year would be of great benefit to Tasmania.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the sugar agreement?
– No, but if . I did my duty, I should be when representatives from Queensland oppose assistance to the smaller States.
– I said special grants.
– It is well known that the smaller States will never develop as they should unless they are given financial assistance.
The Commonwealth budget will provide for an expenditure on defence of about £10,000,000, but very little of that will go to Tasmania, “Western Australia or South Australia. As the young people of Tasmania grow up, many of them go to the mainland States for employment. In 1935, the Commonwealth Grants Commission recommended that a special grant should be made available to Tasmania for afforestation purposes, but the commission did not recommend the payment of a sufficiently large sum. Timber is becoming scarcer every year, and there is urgent need for re-afforestation. The paper pulp industry, which has been established in Tasmania, should be encouraged as much as possible. The smaller States would develop much more quickly than at present if more liberal grants were allotted to them. I hope that the bill will be agreed to unanimously. All of the representatives of Queensland are not opposed to it. The honorable member for Wide Bay will need to be prepared for strong opposition at a later stage when he advocates bounties on sugar, peanuts and bananas. Queensland is spoon-fed to a greater extent than any other State.
.- I do not intend to deal with the details of the distribution of the grants to the smaller States, but I propose to discuss the matter from a general aspect. By these grants a fairly effective attempt is made to equalize the financial circumstances of several of the smaller States, yet I think that we should not allow the tradition to be established that this is the only method by which we can equalize the circumstances in which Australian citizens find themselves. The Commonwealth is constituted of six States, which were defined by accidental geographical boundaries before it was possible to conceive of the ultimate development of the continent. These boundaries have never been reviewed. We find that people living in different geographical areas are not enjoying the same opportunities, and we are told that the only way, under the present Constitution, to equalize the posi- tion is to make an annual financial grant to the weaker States. Whilst I support this measure, I should not wish it to become an accepted fact that these grants must necessarily continue indefinitely.
The people of Australia are divided into groups other than by geographical boundaries, and into groups which are even more definite than those boundaries. There are sections of Australians who find themselves divided by the industries in which they are engaged, and by their social circumstances. It ha3 always seemed to me to be exceptionally incongruous that the national Parliament should have authority to endeavour to equalize the circumstances of groups which are divided by geographical boundaries, but should be bereft of authority to deal similarly with groups divided by industrial and social circumstances. Rather than to accept the principles of this bill as a satisfactory method of establishing, for all time, equality of opportunity for all Australians, it would be far better to adopt the method under protest, and consistently to express the opinion that there should be a revision of the division of constitutional authority in Australia, and, if necessary, a revision of the geographical boundaries of the States. This should be done in order to establish a condition of affairs under which the legislative activities of subordinate governments could be confined to those matters with which they could best deal. They should be enabled to finance the proposals made under the legislative powers allotted to them, and unlimited legislative authority with respect to all other matters should fall within the province of this Parliament. This is a subject to which I have referred on every occasion when a bill of this nature has come before us.
I am particularly anxious that we should not indefinitely have the divisions which now exist between the people of this country and which are inevitable in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We have had proof of this today. The necessity to divide money among the people of Australia who are segregated by State boundaries engenders a degree of interstate jealousy. This is not calculated to strengthen the Australian national spirit.
– It exists in this Parliament more than it should.
– I am merely pointing out that a certain element of interstate jealousy obtains here. The division of constitutional authority which necessitates this legislation is an ever-present hindrance to the easiest and most complete solution of some of our major problems. It is a ready refuge for parliamentarians or governments who may wish to avoid their proper responsibility. There is scarcely a topical problem of importance respecting which a parliamentarian could not excuse government inaction, if he so desired, by referring to the division of constitutional authority which exists under the federal system. If we cannot solve this problem promptly, we should at least keep before the minds of the people the circumstances to which I have referred.
– ‘Why does not the honorable member agree with his leader? Why not create new States ?
– I have said nothing to show that I am not in complete agreement with my leader. This is not the time or place to deal with details of the problem of the improvement of the Constitution.
Another most serious disability arises from this division of constitutional authority. I refer to the differences which spring from the fact that State governments are prone to blame the Commonwealth Parliament for failure to pass certain desirable legislation. The impression has been formed in the minds of hundreds of thousands of citizens that the Commonwealth is something iti the nature of a foreign overlord or tyrant. It is most unfortunate that this outlook is widespread. The members of State parliaments are much more numerous in the aggregate than the members of the Commonwealth Parliament, and the State parliaments are more in touch with the every-d’ay life of the people. Consequently matters are presented to the people more forcibly from the points of view of the ‘States than of the Commonwealth.
– To some extent there is a spirit of envy.
– Undoubtedly there is. I point out the necessity for a review of the division of constitutional authority. We shall never have a satisfactory state of affairs until there is a reversal of the present constitutional position. There should be given to the States - whether the . present States or more numerous or fewer States - a written constitution, allotting to. them authority to legislate respecting the matters with which they are best fitted to deal. They should be allotted a field of taxation which would enable them to finance the operations arising from the exercise of their authority. There should be given to the national Parliament - I prefer to call it the Australian, rather than the Commonwealth, Parliament - all the balance of constitutional authority to deal with those matters with which this Parliament is best equipped to deal, so as to enable it to legislate in respect of those problems which confront U3 to-day and those of which we know nothing to-day, but which must inevitably arise in the years to come. To-day, thi3 Parliament, being limited within the bounds of a written Constitution, is able to deal only with the matters which were allocated to it years before I and many other Australian citizens were born.
– We can always go to the people and ask for more power.
– We all know the history of appeals to the people for additional constitutional power. While we should join in supporting the measure before the House, because, at the moment, it is the best means of equalizing matters for Australia, we should, whenever we get an opportunity, voice the opinion, which I believe is shared by many members of this Parliament and a great company of electors, that such equalizing could be much better done by a reversal of the present constitutional position.
.- It is not my intention to speak at any length on this subject, for the ground has been largely covered by other honorable gentleman who have spoken in the debate. I feel, however, that I should be neglecting my duty if I did not reply to certain remarks’ made by the honorable member for Wide ‘Bay (Mr. Corser) and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) respecting Western Australian affairs. It is not the first time that the honorable member for Wide Bay has, in this chamber, attacked the smaller States and spoken of them in a begrudging, if not hostile, spirit. I have a number of friends from Queensland in this House -with whom I do not entirely agree on certain questions. There is disagreement, for example, among honorable members from Western Australia aud Queensland as’ to the sugar industry. I believe that there are sound reasons why this industry should be maintained, even though to do so involves the people of Western Australia in the payment of a higher price for sugar than would obtain if sugar were imported from abroad.
I regret that the commission has limited its consideration of the position of the -necessitous States to their needs. For example, the proposed grant for Western Australia is based on the needs of two years ago. Our needs may be greater to-day than they were then. That the method by which the grants have been determined in the past has not been entirely satisfactory is reflected in the budget of the State. For 1936-37, the State showed a deficit of £300,000. It is significant that the grant for Western Australia last year was £300,000 less than for the previous year. . Had the grant been left at the former figure the State would have balanced its budget.
It is not as though we in Western Australia were involved in big public expenditure which could be avoided. Apart from certain social services which it would be encumbent upon any Labour government to provide, Western Australian expenditure is cut to the bone. The standard of railway services in Western Australia, for example, is below that of other States. Western Australia suffers from certain natural disabilities which I do not intend to deal with at length now, but which, nevertheless, bear heavily upon the people. We are, to-day, to a great extent, a drought-stricken State, except in the south-west. Western Australia contains, roughly, one-third of the total area of Australia. It is as large as Queensland, the next largest State, and half as big again. Yet, in those parts of Western
Australia north of the Tropic of Capricorn, we have a population of only 6,000, whereas those parts of Queensland north of the Tropic of Capricorn have a population of 180,000. Much of our country in that area is comparatively sterile, although we are trying to raise sheep on it. Very little rain falls and conditions generally are difficult. In the corresponding part of Queensland, however, the sugar industry has been established to such an extent that to-day it supplies not only all the needs of Australia, but half as much again for export. The fact that the sugar industry has made possible the populating of northern Queensland, and that the people there are engaged in an industry which is an economically sound proposition for Australia, is sufficient reason for me to approve, as an Australian, qf- what has been done; but that does not alter the fact that, as a Western Australian, I, with other Western Aus- tralians, have to pay a higher price for the sugar used. To my mind, it is a wonderful thing that sugar can be grown in northern Queensland by white men who themselves work in the cane-fields in a way that white men do not do in any other part of the world. It is a wonderful tribute to our people that we are developing this industry without the help of one coloured person, and demonstrates the soundness of the view that has been enunciated by members of the Labour party for very many years.
Western Australia has per capita three times the length of railroad that is the average for Australia. Our farms are distant from each other, and we have large tracts of sandplain which is practically useless. Railways, therefore, have become an expensive proposition in Western Australia. We have tried to counteract this by relying on the 3-ft 6-in. gauge which is the gauge in Queensland. Nine out of every ten of our country sidings are- entirely unattended. This is to save labour costs. The average rate of travel over our country railways is 15 miles an hour. Goods are dumped off at the sidings by the officer in the goods van. In other States this work is done by railway men permanently located at particular stations. It says a lot for the honesty of our people generally that they never take any one else’s goods.
Western Australia has also suffered from the high-protection policy of Australia, yet, by and large, we stand for it. It may be true that some honorable members who represent Western Australian constituencies in this Parliament are a little unsteady on this principle, but we hope to convert them all in the course of time. The protectionist policy of Australia has been detrimental to Western Australia, but we believe that it has been beneficial to the Commonwealth as ‘ a whole. A committee consisting of Professors Brigden, Copland and Giblin, three eminent economists, and Messrs. Dyason and Wickens was set up by the Bruce-Page Government in 1927 to report upon the tariff. It subsequently produced a volume entitled The Australian Tariff in which a mass of interesting information is to be found. The committee pointed out that at that time £36,000,000 per annum was paid in customs duties in Australia, the average being about £6 a head of the population. In assessing the benefit of the tariff to the various States, the committee stated that it was equivalent to £5 5s. a head in New South Wales at that time, though undoubtedly when the increased defence expenditure, which has been more or less foreshadowed by the Government, is incurred, New South Wales will reap a much larger benefit than some of the other States. The benefit to Victoria was assessed at £7 a ,head, which is £1 a head above the average”. Assuming, for the moment, that the popoulation of Victoria is 1,820,000, that would be equivalent to a bounty’ to Victoria of £1,820,000, which is very nearly as much as is being provided for South Australia, Western Australia or Tasmania in grants. The benefit to Queensland was assessed at £8 a head. The population of that State being about 947,500, that is equivalent to a bounty of £1,S95,000. The benefit to South Australia was set down at £3 7s. a head, which is £2 13s. a head below the average for Australia. The Western Australian figure was £3 6s. This means, in other words, that in consequence of the fiscal policy of the nation Western Australia is suffering a loss of £1,185,000 a year, Put in another way still, it may be said that Western Australia is a very fine customer to the eastern States. The value of the goods, exported from the Eastern States to Western Australia is about £10,500,000 per annum. The value of the goods imported by the Eastern States from Western Australia is about £1,500,000 per annum. The favorable trade balance of the eastern States with Western Australia is £9,000,000 per annum. We have heard a good deal lately about the value of our foreign trade. In 1934-35 we sent to Canada from Australia, in round figures, goods valued at £1,500,000. Corresponding figures for other countries are: Malaya, £1,500,000; New Zealand, £3,500,000; Hong Kong, £750,000; Belgium, about which we heard a great deal last year, £2,500,000; France, £4,750,000; and Japan, £12,000,000.’ Practically the whole of that money was spent on wool. Actually, therefore, Japan was the only country that was a better customer of Australia as a whole than Western Australia was of the eastern States. ‘ Japan, of course, was practically forced to buy wool from Australia, or somewhere else, because we had a monopoly of the kind of wool it desired.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the dinner adjournment I was dealing with the fact that Western Australia under a policy of high protection had not received, the benefits received by the eastern States from that policy and had suffered detriment thereby. Notwithstanding that, I went on to say that I was .strongly in favour of such a policy for Australia as a whole; it is one which we must endorse for the development of this country. I quoted figures to show that not only Western Australia did not receive equal benefit with other States from protection but also South Australia and probably Tasmania, whereas some States, more particularly Victoria and Queensland, benefited greatly from such a policy. I was using that as an argument to show that those States that did not receive equal benefits were entitled to a grant on that account alone. I have taken the figures of the population at the last census in 1933 - of course later figures would make a better showing for the smaller States - to show that Victoria received a benefit of £1 a head. This was found, as I have already stated, by a committee set up in 1927 by the Bruce-Page Government. That committee found that Victoria benefited to an amount of £1,820,000, equivalent to £1 a head as disclosed by the census at the 30th June, 1933; that Queensland benefited by £1,895,000, an amount almost as much as the total sum which the three smaller States arc now receiving; that on the basis of their populations South Australia lost £1,500,000, and Western Australia £1,185,000. These figures can be verified by anybody who desires to check them. I point out also that the grant to Western Australia made last year has been reduced by £300,000 and that the deficit in Western Australia in that year amounted to a little more than £300,000, showing that that State could still have done with the £300,000 by which its grant was reduced.
Western Australia also makes a gift to Queensland in respect of the sugar industry established in the northern State. Last year Western Australia imported sugar from Queensland to the value of £437,000. I think that every one will agree that Western Australia could purchase its sugar from Java under freetrade for Id. per lb. less than it pays to the Queensland sugar producers, but Western Australians have no desire to do so because they recognize that the people of Queensland are engaged in an industry towards the development of which they are prepared to contribute. I think I may safely claim that Western Australians take a broader view of matters of this kind than does the honorable member for Wide Bay. Sugar to the value of £437,000 would total 26,220,000 lb. which represents the quantity of sugar Western Australia takes from Queensland. The additional Id. per lb. on 26,220,000 lb., which is the gift that Western Australia makes to Queensland each year by way of counter bounty, represents £109,250 per annum.
The banana duty is another factor which must be considered in relation to this matter. Western Australia is practically the only State that pays duty on bananas. Because of the great distance of Perth from Queensland, exporters of bananas in Queensland find that it is not possible to send their fruit to Perth. For this reason Western Australia imports half of its banana requirements from Java for which it has paid duty during the last eleven years amounting to £120,000. No ‘ other State pays that duty to any extent. Because of that imposition Western Australia has endeavoured to establish the banana industry in the comparatively dry north-wast coast areas at the mouth of the Gascoyne River. Water for irrigation purposes has to be pumped from the bed of the river aud a continuous supply is not always assured. Last year the water supply available from that source was barely sufficient to meet requirements. I .desire to pay a tribute to some young Queenslanders, who went to Carnarvon, and showed the growers in that district howto grow bananas. No other State has had to pay a duty on bananas except during the period when the importation of bananas from Fiji was permitted; even then only a very small amount of duty was paid. I submit, then, that the £120,000 that Western Australia has paid in duty over a period of six years should be devoted gradually from year to year towards the firm establishment of the banana industry in that State, not to the detriment of the Queensland industry, but to compete with the bananas now coming in from Java. That can be done only by the provision of pumping machinery at the Gascoyne River and at other places, and by the erection of high fences to keep strong winds from affecting the banana plants, and more particularly by the construction of roads. I am informed that the amount of customs duty collected on bananas in Western Australia amounted last year to £.12,S85. I ask the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in all good faith to give serious consideration to my request. In order to establish the industry firmly in the north-west, it will be necessary to construct about 300 miles of roads to the southern portion of the State in order that the fruit may be placed in a fresh condition on the Perth market. That would cost a considerable sum, but the expenditure would be well worth while. I ask the Minister to go into the question in the spirit of fairness for which he is noted.
– in reply - Arising out of the observations of honorable members, and also by reason of the fact that this bill sets out. to implement the recommendations of the fourth, and probably the last, report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, I should like to have an opportunity to say a few words in finishing off the second-reading debate because, as the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen), if I may say so, in a very thoughtful speech said, this question of grants to the three claimant States is one of the important aspects of State and Federal financial relations which itself, as the honorable gentleman very rightly said, is one of the most important reflections of the problem of the division of powers between Commonwealth and State authorities. It is a question of very great importance indeed, a”nd personally, I regard it as one of the problems that will give u3 and those who follow us a great many headaches in the next decade or two. I blench when I think of the amount of time and energy that is going to be wasted in the next ten or twenty years on this problem and of the amount of effort that will be nullified in the process. I have given a good deal of attention to this subject from the financial side; I have gone so far as to write a pamphlet on it which, if it were not for my inherent modesty, I would commend to honorable members for their consideration. That pamphlet sets out in a concise summary Federal and State relations of which this particular problem, the relations of the three States with weaker resources, is not an unimportant part. It has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that he thinks that after these four years of the Commonwealth Grants Commission work, we can revert to the position of doing without an expert report each year and that the Commonwealth Treasurer could estimate the approximate amount of a fair grant.
– For a period of three years only.
– I do not want to misrepresent the honorable gentleman; certainly only for a limited period of time.
In making this appeal which, if I may say so, is a reasonable one, the honorable member points to the fact that the grants calculated by the Treasury prior to the establishment of the commission were largely of the same order as the grants of the last three or four years. Personally, I have felt very much happier in the last few years in having these grants calculated by a commission composed of unbiased men, although they did not differ greatly from the shrewd calculations of the Commonwealth Treasury four or five years ago. As the honorable member has said, the grants of four or five years ago were made in the light of the instinctive knowledge of men dealing with government accounts all of the time, of the amount which would be necessary’ to enable the States to carry on on a reasonable basis. The work of the commission in the last three or four years has been of very great value indeed ; we now know a great deal more about the different problems of the three States than we did before. A great deal of light has been thrown on them, though we may not agree with all of the arguments that have been shown up in sharp relief by the commission. It has expressed itself as being unable to base its recommendations for grants on disabilities, but there may be another three men who will succeed where it has failed. However, these three men constituting the present commission had no parti pris in this matter ; they started from bedrock.
– Why not appoint, three men from Western Australia or Tasmania?
– They might come to the same conclusion that if you take disabilities solely, the grants would bc very small indeed. The members of the commission gave their reasons for that conclusion in their second and third reports.
– There is a Tasmanian on the commission now.
– There has always been on the commission one “ small-State “ man. The “say-so” of these men, after patient and almost full-time investigation, cannot be lightly disregarded. We have to take almost at face value their “ say so “ to the effect that it is extremely difficult to base grants on disabilities. As I have said earlier in the debate, they have produced a technique and reasoning for basing their recommendation on needs, with which it is extremely difficult to quarrel.
– The Commonwealth has contested it throughout the proceedings.
– Each year, on my instructions, the Treasury officers have combated the idea of basing the grant on needs and not on disabilities. Through- out, we have endeavoured to induce the commission to base its recommendations on disabilities.
– The Commonwealth strongly urged that practice, but the commission refused to adopt it.
-If I may say so, it did not refuse. It has given a reasoned argument as to why it cannot do so. It has said to our officers, “ If you can produce in general outline a scheme whereby we can base our recommendation on disabilities, we shall be only too ready to consider it. All our thought on this subject so far has failed us and we cannot suggest anything. Can you?”
– Like Nelson, they put the telescope to the blind eye.
– That is unfair. We have done our feeble best to suggest means whereby the recommendation of the commission might be based on disabilities, but have been unable to supply a technique that can compete with the existing technique for basing grants on needs, particularly as the commission has assured us that, so far as its researches have gone, they have shown that, on the basis of disabilities, the three claimant States would get very much less than they are getting to-day.
Passing through Canada recently, I was interested to find that that dominion is faced with this problem almost in the same shape and of the same order as it exists in Australia. No technique has been evolved in Canada other than what I might describe as “ hit and miss “ methods to cope with it. We at least have arrived at some basis which can lay claim to intellectual argument.
– Canada has a system of per capita grants, and takes into account the varying extent of population.
– I say, with great respect, that that is a very flimsy basis, when you take into account the varying conditions of the three western provinces and the far eastern provinces.
– The former get a larger grant per capita than the latter.
– I am not acquainted with the figures, and cannot, therefore, combat the honorable gentleman’s argument. I know that in the three western provinces of Canada there exists a very great disturbance of mind among a large number of intelligent people concerning the relations of the central government and some of the less fortunate provinces.
I consider that the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been extremely valuable. It is not difficult, on my own account at any rate, to say that I believe that the commission deserves the thanks of this Parliament for its efforts during the last three or four years. It may not have pleased everybody; it may not have pleased very many persons ; but at any rate it has a workable plan which it can defend intellectually. Up to the present time no one has produced a better plan. If the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), or any one else, has a better plan, I beseech him to bring it forward, because the Government has no fixed ideas on the subject. It has set up what, in its opinion, is an able and impartial commission. It does not either stand or fall by the methods adopted by the commission, but it does respect the gentlemen who constitute it, as men who have approached without bias the problem with which they have been confronted. We cannot quarrel with their argument.
– We shall give the Inter-State Commission a trial.
– Somefuture body may have greater success.
– The honorable gentleman’s statement requires elucidation. Does the Government intend to hold to the principle recommended in this year’s report, namely, that the advance made to Western Australia this year shall be deducted next year regardless of the fact that the Commonwealth Grants Commission will cease to exist?
– I do not want to commit the Government on that point. Personally, I consider that it would be fair to accept this year’s recommendation with all its implications. I cannot bind any body that may deal with the subject in the future.
From the view-point of economy, it has been said that we should get on perfectly well if we took the average of the last three or four years as the basis of grants for the next few years. That may be so. But the actual cost of this commission has been only £2,000 or £3,000 a year, and that is not material when’ you consider that the’ amount at stake is £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 a year. The nearer we can get to the truth in this problem, the better, irrespective of a few hundred pounds one way or the other.
If I may say so, I personally appreciate very much the tone adopted by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). Both of those gentlemen took pains to divorce themselves from any kind of intemperate language or any criticism of the commission, lt is but fair to the commission to say that the Government deprecates intemperate language, or any suggestion of bias or unfairness towards any one State, especially as this is the last occasion on which we shall have relations with this particular body. The honorable member for Wakefield went so far as to recognize - in a very generous manner, I think - the sense of duty and responsibility which the three commissioners have shown.
The honorable members for Bass (Mr, Barnard) and Denison (Mr. Mahoney), dwelt on the matter of a partial recommendation or an obiter dictum of the commission in respect of the Commonwealth Government. It was suggested that we might investigate the matter of further forestry endeavours in Tasmania. Twelve months ago I attempted to answer the honorable member for Denison on this point by explaining to him - if the matter needed any explanation - that to finance any further and more extensive, scheme of forestry in Tasmania meant the providing of money, and money. has to be found somewhere - at least under the financial tenets of this Government - either from revenue or from loan fund. At the moment, the revenue fund and the loan fund of the Commonwealth Government are loaded to their fullest capacity. Honorable, members will see this when they ‘become aware tomorrow of the contents of the budget. So far, it has not been possible to find funds to pursue any additional forestry endeavours in Tasmania from federal loan moneys. As the honorable gentleman knows, the Commonwealth Government, in common with the governments of the States, is dependent on the Loan Council for the allocation of loan money. The full amount of loan money available to the Federal Government in the current financial year - a relatively small amount - will be entirely absorbed by the needs of rural debt adjustment. It will be necessary to allocate to rural debt adjustment the whole of the £2,500,000 which will be available to the Commonwealth Government out of loan money this year. The cost of federal public works, which normally would fall on the loan fund, will have to be defrayed out of revenue.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) mentioned the drought in Queensland, and said that that State had to find a substantial proportion of the special grant to Western Australia, £136,000 of which, he affirmed, was to be devoted to the relief of the drought position in that State. His suggestion was that this money was going to the Government of ‘Western Australia and not to the men on the land who have been suffering from drought conditions. It is but fair to the Government of Western Australia to say that it has had to find very much more than £136,000 in direct payments to men who are in great distress owing to the drought. Also, in other directions, the budget of the State has suffered grievous losses of revenue. I assure honorable members generally that the Government of Western Australia is not placing this money into general revenue. It has suffered to at least an amount of £136,000 (by reason of money it has had to pass out to men who are suffering from the drought.
– (What about the money that has been passed out by the Government of Queensland?
– Actually, if we come down to tin tacks, the two States that have to find the greater part of this money are Victoria and New South Wales, particularly New South Wales. In respect of these grants, Queensland is what might be described as a “ border line “ State. In one year it might have to find a little on net balance, and in the next year not have to do so. lt is under no great disability in respect of these grants. I say with great respect that if the observation of the honorable member had come from the representatives of Victoria and New South Wales, it would have had rather more point.
Among other points raised was the particular one of the decentralization of industry. I believe that it was mentioned by the honorable member for Wakefield. The Government has given some thought to this matter. On the return journey from England recently I travelled with a number of distinguished gentlemen from Western Australia and South Australia. Many of our discussions were on this point, which at the moment appears to be very much in the minds of the people of those two States. For the purpose of argument, I adopted an antagonistic view in order to draw them on the subject. I must admit, and I think that they Will admit, that I failed to get from them any constructive scheme whereby the Commonwealth Government could encourage or expedite the decentralization of industry. We have to rely on private enterprise.
– Would you send coal to Whyalla and erect a blast furnace there ?
– That depends on the people who are in charge of that particular industry. If they can make a greater success in some other place, how can the Commonwealth Government influence them to -establish their industry in Adelaide or Perth, where, from their point of view, it would have to operate in less favorable circumstances? Personally, I should be very interested to hear any suggestions as to how the Commonwealth might encourage some degree of decentralization. Personally, although I sympathize with those who put the proposal forward, I cannot see how it is to be done.
The Leader of the Opposition drew attention to the fact that the commission had introduced ^ a new factor into its calculation, namely, the area- of the State concerned, and the degree to which this would influence the cost of social services, and he went on to ask why the same principle was not applied to administrative costs generally. In this respect I draw attention to the following remarks of the commission published at page 81 of the report : -
We have now details of the cost of practically every activity of the States. While we have found it impossible to obtain as yet an index of comparative costs for administrative services generally, the investigation will be pursued further. 1 think we may take it for granted that the investigations of this commission will not be lost to whatever body succeeds it, and carries on its inquiries.
It is well known that the Premier of South Australia has made a vigorous protest about the grant to his State, which he claims should have been about £800,000 more than it is proposed to give. The protest of the Premier lacked nothing in force of expression. I point out, however, that for the last three years South Australia has enjoyed surpluses, the first of £36,000, the next of £139,000, and the last - for the year just ended - of £139,000. “Had the request of the Premier of South Australia been granted, the surplus for the last financial year, instead of having been £148,000, would have been over £1,000,000, and that despite the fact that the rate of taxation in that State is only 2 per cent, above the average for the whole of Australia. The Premier complained that the Grants Commission had not accepted at its face value all the evidence tendered by his officers, but it is not the function of the commission to accept in an uncritical spirit everything put forward by State governments. If it were, the grants would be probably double what they are to-day. I do not think that South Australia ha3 been unfairly treated. Nor has any other State. But I do believe that the technique of assessing grants is not necessarily final and complete. The system has been evolved year by year, and I have no doubt that a body which takes over its work from tho present Commonwealth Grants Commission will, in turn, endeavour to evolve a more complete and satisfying technique. The Government has no fixed ideas on the subject; it does not stand or fall by the methods of the present commission; but I do say that the figures upon which the present grants are based were arrived at honestly and sincerely, and I do not believe that the commission deserves the very harsh strictures of the Premier of South Australia. If the Premiers of the three claimant States have any proposals to put forward regarding a better system of assessing grants, their suggestions will be examined sympathetically and carefully.
Up to the present, the efforts of the commission have been based essentially upon the premise that its endeavour is to recommend a grant that will bring the affairs of each of the claimant States up to something like the general standard of the three eastern States. Personally, I believe that that is a generous way of looking at the matter. My first impression was that the claimant States could not in reason ask for anything -more than that their affairs should be brought up to the general level of Australia as a whole, not to the level of the eastern States which have been more generously endowed by nature. Indeed, had this been the basis accepted by the commission, it would have been extremely difficult to combat it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Consideration resumed from the 24th August (vide page 49), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now, road a second time.
.- In regard to this measure, Parliament is following the usual procedure for meeting the obligations of statute in regard to the payment of pensions by the Treasury. The Opposition does not oppose the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from the 25th August- (vide page 100), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill proposes to revive the InterState Commission, and to invest it with three kinds of power, the first being the power which the Constitution contemplated being given to it ; the second being the power which is exercised by the Commonwealth Grants Commission at present, and the third being the power exercised by royal commissions. It is proposed that the Inter-State Commission constituted under this bill shall exercise the powers, perform the duties, and have the functions of the Inter-State” Commission, and also exercise the powers, perform the duties, and have the functions of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and shall be a standing royal commission. The Inter-State Commission was constituted under legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1912, and under that legislation the commission was appointed in August of the following year. It continued to perform its duties more or less effectively for several years at an average cost of about £10,000 a year. However, as the result of the decision given in the Wheat case in 1915, the commission regarded itself as being deprived of most of its powers, and this view was generally accepted, although it does not seem to me to be the correct view of the position. The only powers of which the commission was denuded were judicial powers; that is, power to hear cases, to pronounce judgment upon them, and to effectuate that judgment by what it regarded as appropriate remedies. But the power to do the principal work for which the Constitution created it or contemplated for it was not taken away from it and cannot be taken away from it. Having said that, I want to refer to the constitutional provisions upon the matter. As I think the Prime Minister said, the creation of the Inter-State Commission was incidental to giving the Commonwealth Parliament power over trade and commerce between the States. Section 101 of the Constitution says -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
That is the provision, and, while I am on that, I say it seems very doubtful whether we can constitutionally give to the Interestate Commission any powers but those and whether tho body proposed to be created under this bill would be the Inter.State Commission contemplated by the Constitution. I shall come back to that point later, but it does seem to me, in view of what has been said, particularly by Mr. Justice Isaacs, very doubtful whether we can validly confer on the proposed commission any powers except those to which the Constitution refers, whether, for example, we can confer upon it the powers of the Commonwealth Grants Commission or powers exercised by royal commissions. It may be that this commission would not be the InterState Commission contemplated by the Constitution.
Section 102 of the Constitution made the Interestate Commission judge of whether preferences or discriminations by one State against another State in respect of railways were undue or unreasonable. That is a power of which nobody can deprive the Inter-State Commission. It is not a judicial power; it is power vested in the Inter-State Commission by the Constitution which is similar to the power exercised by the Arbitration Court before its judges were clothed with judicial power; it is the power of deciding something without which decision there cannot be action by some one else. Curiously enough, although that was the principal reason for the Inter-State Commission’s coming into existence and the reason which inspired the framers of the Constitution to provide for the Inter-State Commission and although the principal feature of the Inter-State Commission’s authority in the main was this duty of preventing one State from discriminating against another State by its railways, at no time during the work of the Inter-State Commission did it do anything of the kind. At no time was it called upon to prevent a State from discriminating unfairly against another bv its railway regulations. As a matter of fact, very soon after federation, the whole thing was settled by arrangement between the States themselves. That point was brought Up several times in the evidence given before the Royal Commission on the Constitution. I have a list of the various reports that were made by the Inter-State Commission in its years of activity from 1912 to 1919 and no report deals with this matter. Moreover, Mr. A. B. Piddington, who was chairman of the commission, in his letter to the then ActingPrime Minister (Mr. Watt) in which he suggested the revival of the Inter-State Commission and the clothing of it with adequate powers, did not suggest that it was necessary at any time for the Interstate Commission to act in preventing railway discrimination. Yet, that was the principal thing which gave birth to the commission; because at the time the Commonwealth was about to be born, the various colonies were engaged in cutthroat competition against one another and were unfairly diverting trade from its natural channels. Therefore, it was decided that because the United States of America had set up an inter-state commission to prevent unfair treatment by privately-owned railways we should have one in Australia to prevent unfair treatment by State-owned railways. As a matter of fact, this unfair treatment has not taken place. The States found means of preventing it. The whole thing was amicably settled by arrangement between the States themselves. I think testimony to that effect has been given, not merely by Mr. Piddington, but also, I think, by Sir Robert Garran. In his evidence before the Royal Commission on the Constitution Sir Robert ‘ Garran said that he was unaware of any case ‘ in which the Inter-State Commission could be called upon to act in connexion with railway discrimination. But, of course,’ that was not the only function that the Inter-State Commission could have. The Inter-State Commission was given by the Constitution, the function of making decisions and, incidental to making executive decisions, coming to a determination on facts. That power could still be possessed by the InterState Commission. The bill that is now before the House proposes that whatever powers could be constitutionally given to the Inter-State Commission shall be given to it, but tha.t in addition to those powers it shall be given the powers exercised by the Commonwealth Grants Commission and that it shall be a sort of standing royal commission. As the Prime Minister says, instead of having royal commissions ad hoc to investigate different matters as they crop up we are to have a standing body to make the investigations.
I turn now to the point I raised -before. Supposing that we do recreate the InterState Commission, with what powers can we invest it? That matter is referred to by Mr. Justice Isaacs in the case of Huddart Parker and Company Proprietary Limited versus Moorehead, and Appleton versus Moorehead, as reported in the Commonwealth Law Reports, volume 8, 190S-9, at page 386-
The powers which the commission is to have are only such a3 Parliament may in its discretion confer as being in its opinion necessary to bc conferred on that body” for the maintenance of trade and commerce. No others are contemplated by the Constitution except those expressly given with the reference to railways.
In Quick and Garran, page 901, there is an expression of the same effect. It
Seems to me, in view of that statement, which gets some’ support from the evidence given by Sir Robert Garran to the Royal Commission on the Constitution, very doubtful, indeed, whether we could constitutionally clothe the InterState Commission with any other powers than those powers provided for .in the Constitution. That is to say, if we create a body, no matter what we call it, and give it additional powers to those contemplated for it by the framers of the Constitution, it may not be the InterState Commission contemplated by the Constitution, and it may not be able to exercise the powers which the Constitution confers upon the Inter-State Com mission. After the decision of the High Court in the Wheat case, the matter was raised in the letter by Mr. A. B. Piddington, who had been chairman of the commission, which appears on pages 177-179 of the evidence given before the Royal Commission on the Constitution. In that letter, dated the 26th July, 1918, Mr. Piddington requested the Commonwealth Government to take steps to clothe the commission as far as it could with judicial powers, and, in 1920, a measure was introduced into this House, receiving its first reading only, by the late Sir Littleton Groom, which was called the Commonwealth Court of Commerce Bill 1920. The proposal there made was to make the chairman of the Inter-State Commission a court of commerce, and to clothe him as such as a federal court with judicial powers. That is to say, ho would be appointed a judge of a federal court, and he would be given life tenure, as he could be given under the Constitution. Members of the Inter-State Commission could not be given life tenure, because the Constitution provided for them a term of seven years only; but it was competent for the Commonwealth Parliament to create any number of federal courts whose members would have life tenure. That bill was read a first time, but was taken no further.
From that time to this nothing has been done to re-create the Inter-State Commission, and I do not think anybody has in any way missed the InterState Commission. As a matter of fact, so far from there being unfair discrimination by States against States, we can say that there has been very little such discrimination. The greatest complaints have been complaints against the discrimination by the Commonwealth Parliament against the smaller States, in the interests of the larger States. I remember the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) raising that question, or something similar to that, during the course of the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). The Prime Minister then referred to section 99 of the Constitution as -being a complete guarantee to the States against unfair treatment by the Commonwealth. I am very sorry to say that that section cannot be regarded as a complete guarantee or efficient guarantee of any kind to the States. Section 99 of the Constitution provides -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof, over another State or any part thereof.
That sounds very complete protection, but that has been so cut clown by the High Court in recent cases that it means that, although the Commonwealth cannot give preference to a State as a State over another State, or it cannot give preference to one part of a State regarded as a part over a part of another State regarded as a part, preference can be given to one town of Australia over another town. By a law of trade and commerce or taxation, we can treat one particular region of Australia differently from other regions. The most recent decision of the High Court is the Elliott case, in which Mr. Justice Evatt said that the principle underlying the decision of the majority of the High Court would enable the Commonwealth Parliament to provide in an income tax act that no tax shall be paid in Brisbane. So long as the discrimination is not in favour of one State as against another or one part of a State as against another part of a State, section 99 does not apply. The section does not compel uniform legislation for trade and commerce or revenue. In the Elliott case .regulations had been made under the Transport “Workers’ Act which applied to some towns and not to others. It was held that these did not discriminate between States or parts of States. In that case Mr. Justice Evatt said that the decision of the majority, from whom he and Mr. Justice Dixon dissented, would enable the Commonwealth to require the traders of one town to pay, income tax whilst others did not. So that is a very inferior guarantee of uniformity. I refer to that case particularly, because I have before me a request from Western Australia for the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission. It appears to me that, as the things which Western Australia complains of, and desires the commission to consider aud deal with, are grievances of that State against the Commonwealth, and, not grievances of one State against another, there is no interference with trade and commerce between States to the prejudice of one another. I do not consider that there is any real justification for therevival of the Inter-State Commission,, and it seems to me that the bill is unnecessary.
– Does the honorablemember say that, in view of the decisionsof the High Court to which he has referred, there is no bar to the Commonwealth exempting from customs duties goods entering by a certain port ?
– That might be done. In the report of the case of Elliott versus the Commonwealth, in 54 Commonwealth Law Reports, at page 657, the heading contains the following: -
Per Latham CJ.: The discrimen which section !)9 forbids the Commonwealth to select is not merely locality as such, but localities which for the purpose of applying the discrimen are taken as States or parts of States.
Par Dixon J. : What is forbidden by section 90 is, in a matter of advantage to trade or commerce, Hie putting of one State or part of a State before another State or part thereof.
– Does that provision affect the power under section 51?
– Yes, it seems to me entirely probable to-day that the basis upon which the Federal land tax is founded could be departed from, and that wo could now discriminate, as it was originally thought we could not, according to the quality of the land, because by so doing we should be discriminatingbetween States and parts of States. But if the law as laid down in the most recent cases is right, .it seems highly probable that we could have different rates of land tax applicable to lands of different qualities.
– Exempting them according to the rainfall?
– How does’ the Cameron taxation case apply?
– That has its alleged basis in the discrimination between the States as such. In Elliott’s case the Commonwealth escaped section 99 altogether. Although it discriminates between parts of Australia, unless it discriminates between them as States or as parts of different States, it escapes section 99. As I have pointed out, Mr. Justice Evatt, in Elliott’s case, said that that view, which was the view of the majority of the Court, would enable the Commonwealth to exempt from taxation the people of one town in Australia and to impose taxation on others.
It does not seem to me that there is any need for the Inter-State Commission as a body to discharge the functions imposed on it by the Constitution. It was early contended that the only body through which trade and commerce laws could be enforced was the Inter-State Commission, but the High Court overruled that in the case of Appleton versus Moorehead, and said that the Commonwealth was entitled to enforce its laws by any means available to it.
I listened to the discussion on the States Grants Bill, and I am of the opinion shared by a great number of people, that the Commonwealth Grants Commission, as at present constituted, is functioning efficiently, and to the satisfaction of the people generally, and that it possesses the confidence of most members of this House. Having a body our experience of which has been 30 satisfactory, it is very unwise to scrap it and transfer its functions to a body which will be composed of nien of whom we know nothing and of whom we have to make a trial, as we have made in the case of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I believe that it would be in the interests of Australia to retain that commission. I regard it as a necessary body, without which it would be possible for the Commonwealth Government to control the Loan Council by arbitrarily granting or denying aid to the smaller States. Therefore, I believe that that commission is necessary, so that the government of the day may not, of its own sweet will, decide what the smaller States shall receive. We should not scrap that body and transfer its functions to a new one.
– Is there anything in the Constitution to prevent making the Inter-State Commission a board that must make inquiries and report to Parliament ? 0
– As I. have stated, Mr. Justice Isaacs, in the passage to which I have referred, said that the only powers that could be conferred con stitutionally on the Inter-State Commission are those mentioned in sections 101 and 102.
– It was assumed originally that the commission had judicial powers.
– Everybody thought so, and, in the Wheat case, two justices of the High Court held that it had. I refer to Mr. Justice Barton, the senior puisne justice, and to Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy, who afterwards became Chief Justice. These Justices both thought that the Inter-State Commission could be clothed with- judicial powers, notwithstanding that its members had only seven years tenure of office. The majority of the court, however, held a contrary opinion. But the power provided for under the Constitution in section 101 to check unfair railway competition is not a judicial one. The power that could not be given to the Inter-State Commission was the power to decide a case between two litigants, and, having decided it, to enforce its decision. It could not be given the power to issue an injunction against the State of New South Wales. That is what was held. Standing by themselves, parts of Part V. would have been valid. But they could not be severed from the invalid provisions of that part. It was said that Parliament would net have enacted any portion of Part V. unless it could have enacted the whole of it.
The Prime Minister contended that it is desirable to have a body that could conduct all kinds of inquiries, instead of appointing separate royal commissions for particular tasks. It seems to me that the problems with which royal commissions have ‘to deal are very varied, and that it is desirable that the Crown, in constituting a royal commission, should be able to choose a representative body of persons who would bring expert knowledge and special experience to bear upon the problems before them. I do not believe that the Inter-State Commission will ever be found to be a satisfactory royal commission. I believe that the real reason for proposing to give this body the powers of a royal commission is that it would have very little to do if it were not granted those powers. It is not proposed to scrap the Tariff Board, which is doing most, of the work, done by the Inter-State Commission during the two years in which it functioned. Most of the work done by it in that period related to tariff matters. It seems to me that, if the Tariff Board continues to function, an Inter-State Commission would have practically no work of its own to do. The gap could not be filled by transferring to it the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Therefore, it is proposed that it should be a general royal commission. Instead of appointing a representative commission of experts for each particular problem that arises, the work is to be handed over to the Inter-State Commission. In practice that would be unworkable. It appears to me that an Inter-State Commission would have very little, indeed, to do, and I do not consider the bill to be one which the House ought to pass.
.- The Commonwealth Constitution cast the duty on this Parliament to create an InterState Commission. The provision in the Constitution is mandatory because it says, that “ There shall be an Inter-State Commission “. It is regrettable that the appointment has so long remained in abeyance. Frequent requests for the fulfilment of this obligation have come from the State from which I come, and pleasure is expressed at the action of the Government in submitting this bill. The main thing we have now to consider is the scope of the powers of the new body. Those who sought to constitute the commission under the act of 1912 undoubtedly acted under a misconception, because they attempted to give to the commission powers which were alien to the authority of the Constitution, and immediately the legislation was tested in the High Court it was found to be invalid. The powers purported to be conferred by the 1912 act related to production, trade, industries, markets, prices, profits, wages, labour, unemployment and migration. It was contemplated that the commission would roam almost the whole field of industrial activity. It was to be given the powers of a court to impose penalties and to enforce decisions on its own account. The only decision made by the High Court in the case of New
South Wales versus the Commonwealth was that the commission had no power to issue an injunction, but the judgments given indicated that any future commission would require to have its powers set out in more careful language, and more in conformity with section 101 of the Constitution upon which the commission was founded. Under that section the commission is merely an instrumentality of the Commonwealth, which is appointed for the execution and maintenance of the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce and of all laws made thereunder. Obviously, therefore, any powers given to the commission under this new bill must not be repugnant to the powers and scope of the commission as indicated by section 101. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has raised a doubt which was raised some years ago by the then Attorney-General, now the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, as to the desirability of introducing into a . bill of this kind powers which are alien to the powers of the Constitution. It may be that, at some future time, the authority of the commission to deal with some of the powers specified in this bill is challenged. I foresee that if it should in the future be inquiring into, say, the cost of petrol, the rate of interest charged by banks, or some other subject of a controversial character, objection may be taken that it has no jurisdiction to do so. Perhaps a witness may refuse to give evidence, and the point may be taken that the subject of inquiry is beyond the scope of section 101 of the Constitution. If that should happen, it seems to me that it would be easy to appoint the members of the commission as royal commissioners to deal with the subject at issue.
The main function of the Inter-State Commission will, of course, be to inquire into the subject of State grants. It would be a good thing if we had a permanent body to deal with this subject, for it would be able to put some stable basis of assessment into operation which would bring uniformity of ‘procedure into this field of inquiry, and State governments would then be able to act with some degree of assurance in preparing information and the like. I do not think that the power of the commission to deal with State grants is likely to be challenged. The ‘Commonwealth Government would not challenge it, nor is it likely that any State government would do so. The commission would simply make recommendations.
I was thankful to the honorable member for Bourke for his references to section 99 of the Constitution and the degree of protection which it gave to States. He referred to the remarks of the Prime Minister on this point to the effect that section 99 was a protection to the States in that it prevented the passing of discriminatory laws, but, like the honorable member for . Bourke, I consider that this is a very poor guarantee. In practice, it is no guarantee, for the High Court has decided that, so long as a law operates equally throughout the Commonwealth, it is not discriminatory against any State or part of a State. Such a law may act adversely to one State as against another, but if it has equal operation all over the Commonwealth it is not discriminatory. The cotton bounty provides an illustration of what I mean. Cotton is grown only in Queensland and actually our cotton bounty legislation benefits only Queensland. It may be suggested that the bounty is, in effect, a preference to Queensland but, without doubt, this legislation is perfectly valid and constitutional, for the law has equal application throughout the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth railways provide u3 with another illustration. A good deal of complaint has been voiced, particularly by the commercial interests of Western Australia, that absurdly low freights are charged on the Commonwealth railways, which cannot possibly be profitable, and that, because of this, goods “ manufactured in Adelaide and Melbourne are delivered at Kalgoorlie to the prejudice of goods manufactured in Perth and Fremantle which have to be carried over State railways and in respect of which higher freights are charged. The commercial interests of Perth and Fremantle have substantial ground for complaint on this score, but as the freight rates have equal application on the Commonwealth railways, the hands of the Commonwealth Government cannot be forced. In fact the Government’s reply to the complaints of the traders of Western Australia is that the low freight rates are not, in fact, a preference or a discrimination, because, they have equal effect whether goods travel from east to west or west to east. That, in my opinion, is a good answer to the complaint, and it is also an effective illustration of the truth of the contention of the honorable member for Bourke that section 99 is of no real value to the States as a guarantee against discrimination. At any rate, any complaints from Western Australia to that effect have been put out of court, though it is unfair that goods manufactured in Adelaide and Melbourne should be dumped at Kalgoorlie to the detriment of goods manufactured in Perth and Fremantle. This is a complaint for which, at present, we cannot obtain redress. The insertion of the word “ anomalies “ in this bill, it seems to me, will entitle Western Australia to lodge a complaint under this heading with the Inter-State Commission.
The power of the commission could with advantage be extended in respect of its authority to deal with State grants. It is true that clause 18 authorizes the commission to inquire into the effect of Commonwealth legislation on trade and commerce as between the States; but it seems to me that the bill, as drawn, suggests to the Commissioners that they should not do so, but should adopt the precedent established by the Commonwealth Grants Commission and followed for some years of refusing to consider disabilities. The House is well aware that the Grants Commission has confined its attention to “ needs “ declaring that it could not arrive at any satisfactory basis upon which to fix grants on the ground of “ disabilities “. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) put it aptly when he said that the commission, like Nelson, put the telescope to its blind eye. The Grants Commission would not face an investigation of the effect of the tariff upon the various States, declaring that it was too intricate a subject to consider. If the bill is. passed in its present form the Inter-State Commission will, in my opinion, be invited, inferentially, to adopt the same course. For that reason I suggest that a definite direction should be given to it to deal with disabilities.
It should also be specifically instructed to deal with certain aspects of the tariff. We have been told that the Tariff Board deals with that subject, but the Tariff Board practically confines its attention to a consideration of the duties that should be imposed. It does not deal with the effect of the tariff as between States. For this reason the Inter-State Commission should be instructed to do so; and, of course, it should also inquire into the effect of such legislation as the Navigation Act in assessing the amount of grant that should be paid to certain States.
One of the principal functions that the Inter-State Commission was intended originally to perform was to observe the effect of Commonwealth legislation upon the States. In the United States of America a statutory body discharges this duty, and observes the effect of such principles as free trade and others of important national concern. The InterState Commission should also observe whether or not such laws as the quarantine laws are evaded insofar as the federal spirit is concerned. We have had examples of the failure to observe the spirit of the Constitution in this regard. As an illustration, I mention the imposition of the quarantine law by Victoria against the importation of potatoes from Tasmania, on the ground that the disease known as corky scab is prevalent in Tasmania, although it is well known that it exists in Victoria to quite the same extent as in Tasmania. Another incident which has hit us in Western Australia very hard is that on occasions when the Sydney market is short of primary produce and, if the interstate free trade principles of the Constitution were fairly observed, we would have an opportunity to place our potatoes, onions and the like on tha t market, the New South Wales Government circumvented us for some time by the imposition of quarantine regulations declaring that, as our produce was infested with lucerne flea, it could not be Drought into New South Wales. We believe that was all a fraud and that the quarantine regulations were introduced on those occasions simply for the purpose of preventing outsiders from bring- ing their produce into Sydney in order to give the local growers who had produce to sell the advantage of the higher market. It will be the function of the InterState Commission - a competent and impartial body - to deal with questions such as that. I hope that the Government will take care to select the best men available in Australia to sit upon it. If so, it will be able to exercise the desirable function of holding the “ ring “ fairly between the different States. We hope that the outer States, particularly Western Australia, will be considered when making appointments to the commission. I do not say that there should be anything like State representation on the commission; that would be an unsound principle - any member of the commission should forget the State from which he comes and any partiality he might have for it - but in order to give proper representation to the needs and aspirations of the other States it is desirable that at least one member of the commission should be appointed from one of the outer States.
– Is the honorable member putting in a word for Sir George Pearce ?
– Western Australia has been singularly unfortunate in the past in regard to the appointments made to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. While South Australia and Tasmania have had representatives on the commission Western Australia has not had that good fortune.- During the committee stage, I propose to move an amendment the effect of which will be that the commission will be required to inquire into and report upon, not only preferences and discriminations, but also disabilities as between States. I support the bill.
– I have been somewhat surprised at the information given to us by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) in regard to the appointment of the InterState Commission. While I realize that constitutionally ‘we could not clothe the commission with absolute powers to deal with matters outside of trade and commerce, I cannot imagine for a moment that the Commonwealth could not instruct it to institute inquiries and to report to the Parliament direct on the matters referred to it. “When the Inter-State Commission was first constituted some years ago, it was clothed with judicial powers and, while it can be claimed that it would be unconstitutional to give the new commission such powers, I see nothing to prevent it from being clothed with the power to report on any matter to the Parliament.
When I first learned that it was proposed to reconstitute the Inter-State Commission I was rather pleased with the idea - the Constitution provides that such a commission shall be constituted and I realized that the proposal emanated from a desire on the part of the Government to comply with that provision of the Constitution - but when the bill now before the House was placed before the Senate, I stated in the Western Australian press that I regarded the proposed new commission as nothing more than a glorified grants commission. To appoint the personnel of the commission at high salaries for a period of seven years and to give them no power other than that contained in clause 18 of the bill is ridiculous. Clause 18 reads as follows -
The Commission shall inquire into and report to the Governor-General upon -
What is there in that of any value to us? As far as interstate trade is concerned, other than in respect of restrictions placed upon it by the Commonwealth itself, I can see no value in the power given to the commission. The commission is really clothed with no more power than was given to the Commonwealth Grants Commission under the bill before us. The- clause continues -
Let me draw a distinction between the power with which it is proposed to clothe the new commission and that given to the old Inter-State Commission. When the first Inter-State Commission was appointed the Government of the day had a fair knowledge of the Constitution, and it provided that the commission should be charged with the duty of investigating and reporting upon -
All matters which, in the opinion of the commission, ought, in the public interest, to be investigated affecting -
the production of, and trade in, commodities;
the encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures;
markets outside Australia, and the opening up of external trade generally ;
That is not mentioned in the bill now before the House -
Those extensive powers were given to the old commission, but the Government of the day went further than that, and provided that the commission should have power to report direct to this Parliament. The bill now before the House provides that the new commission shall report to the Government, and not to the Parliament. Certainly its annual report will be presented to the Parliament, but in my opinion Parliament should insist that all of the commission’s reports shall be presented to it. It was also provided in the old act that either House of the Parliament might by resolution refer any matters to the commission for inquiry and report to the Parliament. One can imagine the value of such a provision. Our friends opposite, for instance, may have, say, a majority in another chamber ; if they wanted to get an expert inquiry into some matter they could do so by having a resolution passed in the chamber in which they have the majority ; the report would then have to be presented to the Parliament, and not to the Government. Because these powers are not provided for in the bill now before us, I say at once that it merely provides for the setting up of a glorified grants commission. The Prime Minister, referring to the new commission, said that it was to be “ the eyes and the ears of Parliament “ ; in other words, that it would be able to get information in regard to conditions operating in every part of Australia, and that Parliament would be supplied with the knowledge it gained. I feel that “Western Australia is badly affected by the policy of the Commonwealth - honorable members may say that I am prejudiced, but each and every member is prejudiced to a great extent in regard to the State which he represents - but if there is in existence a body such as the Inter-State Commission which, after inquiry into such matters reports to the Parliament, its reports will carry weight not only throughout the country, but also with the Parliament itself. Such a body would ascertain whether action should be taken with a view to relieving disabilities of the smaller States, and in other ways try to have justice and fair play between all the various States of the Commonwealth. When the first bill for the appointment of the Inter-State Commission was before the Parliament, Mr. Deakin said -
It will be a board of trade - an independent critic not only of social, industrial and commercial events and tendencies, but of the operations and administration of laws. It will be a board of advice to make recommendations and suggestions to Parliament as to amendments of the law.
Point out one provision in the bill now before the House that would give the Inter-State Commission power to report in regard to such matters -
This Parliament has great powers, but the old saying that “ knowledge is power “ applies in each case. Without knowledge, this is certain to be misused, intentionally or unintentionally. Under our Constitution, we have an authority of the widest kind: what we need to guide us is accurate knowledge. Without this, legislation and administration must fail. Hence, it has always seemed to me that one of the most natural endowments of this Government would besome body of high character which could be trusted to be the eyes and ears of the Government, and of the people as a whole, with respect to the great interests with which we are surrounded.
Speaking on the same measure the right honorable Member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was then a member of the Labour party, said -
It willbe a board of trade, an independent critic not only of social, industrial and commercial events and tendencies, but of the operations and administration of the law. It will he an active guardian of the Constitution.
If we are going to appoint an Inter-State Commission, surely we should give it power to report to the Parliament, so that the Parliament and the people of Australia shall be conversant with the operation of the laws which we pass, and know how they affect each and every part of Australia. If members were supplied with exact knowledge of the varying conditions pertaining to the whole of Australia, and coming from inquiry by a recognized body, injustice would undoubtedly be rectified.
– Is the honorable member in favour of appointing politicians to the commission?
– No, and if I had my way no ex-member of Parliament would be able to secure a government appointment until he had ceased to be a member for at least twelve months.
The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission was received by me only a short time before the debate on this bill commenced. In it the following paragraph appears : -
The burden of the tariff to Western Australia is stated to be £1,188,000, and the credit to Western, Australia in the allocation table is £1,117,000. Western Australia also receives an advantage in the prevailing exchange rate of about £600,000. It will be seen, therefore, that there is no net burden on either State owing to the tariff policy of the Commonwealth and that, if disabilities were the basis on which the grant was calculated, there could be no grant. The only ground for a grant to, these States is, therefore, on the score of needs.
The only ground was one of needs! I want to controvert that statement and to say clearly and definitely, as I said by way of interjection earlier, that the Commissioners must have a very blind eye in dealing with a matter of this sort. I wish to deal first with the method adopted in calculating the effect of the tariff on Western Australia. I mention this because in committee I propose to move for the inclusion of the following as a subject for investigation -
The effect and operation of any tariff act or other law or regulation of the Commonwealth on primary industries, revenue, manufactures or trade and commerce in any State or States.
It is contended that the Tariff Board is competent to conduct all the necessary inquiries. I can recall having induced the Government to refer to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report the duties on agricultural machinery. A period of eighteen months elapsed before the board could deal with that matter, and even when it made a recommendation the Government did not give effect to it. The Tariff Board is too hampered with its own work to carry out these investigations by the Grants Commission. In the calculation of the effect of the tariff, only British duties were taken into account.No notice was taken of the primage duty. Honorable members can realizewhat the tariff and primage on imports of the value of £17,000,000 would amount to. Consideration must also be given to the profit required by the manufacturer on the duties that he pays. He would want a profit of at least 15 per cent. Then, too, the retailer would want a profit of 33 per cent, on at least onehalf of those imports. All these imposts have the effect of increasing the cost of the article concerned. In the eastern States, developmental works were carried out when costs were low, whereas in Western Australia development is taking place in a period of. high prices. On fencing wire the British duty is 50 per cent, and the foreign duty 17½per cent, plus 120s. a ton. On galvanized iron, the British duty is 90s. and the foreign duty 130s. a ton. On piping the British duty is 25 per cent, and the foreign duty 56 per cent. On fittings for piping for reticulation work the British duty is 5d. per lb. and the foreign duty 8d. per lb. Wire netting is free from Great Britain and carries a duty of 200s. from foreign countries.
– Would much be imported from foreign countries?
– I should like to be able to purchase the German netting that we were able to purchase in the old days. Years ago I purchased 10 miles of wire netting for my place in Western Australia at a cost of £17 10s. a mile. It is still in good condition. According to the State Minister for Agriculture about eighteen months ago, the average price for the previous eight years was £44 a mile.
– That German netting could not be purchased to-day at the price of which the honorable member purchased it.
– I am aware of that. Cartels are now operating. I have in my possession a letter from a Belgian manufacturer stating that he could supply certain things but not wire netting, because the trade for Australia in that commodity had already been apportioned.
– How could an InterState Commission prevent a cartel in Germany from operating?
– By investigating and publishing the true facts South Africa obtains these goods free from cartel control, so should we. I wish to have the commission given power to inquire into disabilities from which a State may suffer. The duty on wire to make netting is 52s. British and 120s. foreign. Barbed wire is free from Great Britain and carries a duty of 160s. from foreign countries. One can realize what the result would have been had the investigation into the effect of the tariff been based on the general tariff.
-Would the honorable gentleman buy the foreign article?
– Of course I would.
-And pay double the price for it?
– I would sooner buy the local article if I could obtain it at anything like a reasonable figure. In 1934-35, the value of the imports into Australia was £90,707,000, of which £35,794,000 came in duty free and £54,912,000 paid duty. The average duty on those dutiable goods was 47.87 per cent. About two years ago, an inquiry into the cost of development was conducted by an accountant in Western Australia. He found that the cost of developing a 1,000-acre farm was £2,600 in 1913, and £4,400 in 1931. Yet, we are told that the effect of the tariff adds but £1,180,000 to our costs. That is an absurdity. If we are to have an Inter-State Commission, let it be clothed with very wide powers, so that it may inquire into all the matters that were referred to a similar body under the old act, and be able to tell this Parliament what are the effects of Commonwealth laws and what advantages are derived by certain States. It is proposed to spend the sum of £10,000,000 on defence. Almost every penny of that will be spent in New South Wales and Victoria, resulting in the employment of a large number of “workmen and consequently the expansion of trade and commerce and an increase of prosperity. We do not complain of that. But we do complain about the growth of huge cities to the detriment of the country. No person will continue in primary production for any length of time unless the value of what he produces is greater than’ the cost. If money were provided as a disability grant to enable freights to be reduced and superphosphates to be supplied at a lower rate, production would become more intensive and greater wealth would be created. We cannot have prosperity without the creation of wealth, and that wealth must come from the soil, because very little that is manufactured is exported to other countries. I hope, therefore, that the Government will earnestly consider the advisability of giving to the Inter-State Commission the fullest possible powers, so that it shall be the “ eyes and ears “ of Parliament, and Parliament and the people of Australia will know whether any injustice is being done to any State within the Commonwealth.
.- I do not propose to say much about the provisions of this bill. But I want to repeat and again have registered the objections that I raised when speaking on the Address-in-Reply. This commission has been in cold storage for something like twenty years. Nobody thought anything about it. The present Government has had control of this Parliament for six years, and has not worried about it until now, when the indications in the electorates are that some of its members will fall by the wayside. This’ is the proposal of a dying government, its object being to provide for some of its supporters important positions for the next seven years. It is the height of government immorality and the democracy of this country will not stand for it. It is calculated to arouse a restive spirit, and to make the people suspicious of parliamentary institutions. It will bring upon parliamentary government nothing but ridicule and contempt. The Government has only two or three months to live. AH that Ministers can do after returning from a jaunt overseas is to propose to resurrect an institution which has been dormant for twenty years, which nobody wants, and for which nobody has asked. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his last policy speech, said that when previously constituted, it had not done anything worth while. It will be absolutely incapable of doing what the Constitution says that the Inter-State Commission should do. The evidence is clear, that the sole purpose is to provide jobs for defunct politicians. I have no objection to the appointment of members of Parliament to the Inter-State Commission if they have the ability to perform their duties and are recognized by the Government to be men of capacity and integrity. I am not one of those who maintain that everybody other than the elected representatives of the people is fit for the job, but I contend that no government is justified, in creating such an institution as the Inter-State Commission or appointing men to responsible positions in the dying hours of a parliament. If the Government had any decency, it would wait until the electorate had expressed an opinion on the matter. It should make the reestablishment of the Inter-State Commission a major issue at the election, with a view to determining whether or not the people desire the revival of that body. If such a policy were endorsed at the polls, I should not object, were I returned, as I hope I shall be, to the introduction of this measure.
In regard to the personnel of the InterState Commission, I understand that several persons have already been sounded as to their willingness to serve on it, and the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) has stated that he will accept the office if it is offered to him. That is to say, he will sacrifice himself on the altar of his country and give up his claim to represent the State of Western Australia in the Senate. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has put in a plea for Senator Pearce, by claiming that Western Australia should be represented on the commission. If the honorable senator be appointed to it, we shall be told that a section of honorable members had indicated, by speeches in Parliament, their desire that he should be given the job. I also believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) is giving consideration to the question of whether or not he will accept the chairmanship of the commission.
– The right honorable gentleman has openly denied that.
– That is so, but he has openly denied a number of things that afterwards he has done. A few weeks before he became the leader of the parties now in office and they were tearing one another to pieces on the floor of this House, he denied having any associations with the Country party. For that reason I. pay no heed to the denials of the right honorable gentleman. If the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs . are appointed to the Inter-State Commission, a slur will becast upon the name of our national institution. I fail to see any justification for the revival of this body. I agree with the honorable member for Perth that the powers of inquiry which will be vested in the commission are absolutely useless. The matters which it will investigate have been inquired into so often that they have become hackneyed and are worn threadbare. That statement is proved by the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on another bill. The commission is to be given power to inquire into the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and into the claims by States for grants for disabilities. Other matters to be referred to it have been thoroughly examined by temporary commissions doing temporary jobs, but this Parliament has rarely acted upon their decisions. In an earlier debate the Treasurer stated that none of those commissions could lay down any definite line of action for adoption by the Government, but no honorable member would venture to suggest that the gentlemen who sat on those commissions were not men of ability. So far as I am aware, there is no record of any honorable member challenging the capacity of the gentlemen who were appointed to make those inquiries and make recommendations to the Commonwealth Government upon the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. Yet, apparently, all the experience which has been gained from the inquiries of those commissions is to be discarded, and we are now to take a shot in the dark, or, as it has also been suggested, make a crude calculation in respect of the allocation of grants to the State. I direct attention to the various subjects which the commission is empowered to investigate -
There are a number of other subjects, but, with the exception of the first two references, every one of those powers deals with the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States and to the payment of grants to the States. At the present time, ample opportunity is given to any State government to challenge any alleged discriminatory action by the Commonwealth in favour of another State and, if individuals feel that they are the victims of the excessive use by the Commonwealth of its powers, they have legal redress for their grievances. I insist that no interpretation, other than that this Government is bringing down this measure in its death throes before the dissolution in order to provide three well-paid jobs for certain honorable members who feel that the political water outside is too cold for them to take the plunge, can be placed upon the introduction of this bill.
I am not prepared to discuss even the provisions of this bill or anything which relates to it. I express my complete hostility to it, which is due to the manner and the time of its introduction. I am putting on record my objection to the appointment of the Inter-State Commission by the Government when it is virtually on its death-bed. The day will come when the conscience of the people of Australia will be sufficiently awakened that governments which resort to such practices as this will receive even rougher treatment than mere defeat at the polls. In my opinion, the appointment of the commission at this late hour amounts to an act of burglary, and for the Government, which has no moral right to create the commission at this juncture, to allow men to put their hands into the Treasury and rake off sums of £2,000 and £2,500 a year for seven years, is tantamount to bushranging.
– Why is the honorable member worried if he believes that the Labour party will be returned to office?
– The political honesty of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) is such that my statements apparently do not penetrate his thick skull. I take objection to the appointment of the InterState Commission only on the grounds of political immorality. Is the honorable member prepared to justify in his electorate the revival of the Inter-State Commission after it has been moribund for a period of 20 years, and when apparently nobody wants it? This action of the Government will redound not only to its own disgrace, but also to the disgrace of this National Parliament.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
– Has the honorable member been misrepresented ?
– I have. It was stated by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that I was endeavouring to pave the way for the appointment of the Leader of the Senate as a member of the Inter-State Commission. That is not correct. I have already stated publicly, and I repeat it now, that I am strongly opposed to the appointment of any members of Parliament to this commission, and if I suspected that that was the purpose of the Government, I should oppose the bill.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that I stated that he was paving the way for the appointment of Senator Sir George Pearce to the Inter-State Commission.
-That was what the honorable member for Werriwa said.
– I did not. What I said was that I believed that Senator
Sir George Pearce was likely to be one of the members of the commission, and that he had already intimated that if he were asked to take the job he would do so. That was what Senator Sir George Pearce said, or at any rate that was what appeared in the press. I then said that the honorable member for Perth, in claiming that one member of the commission shouldbe a Western Australian, might be regarded as justifying the appointment of Senator Sir George Pearce. I did not say that he advocated it.
Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [10.13].- I join with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) in protesting against the action contemplated in this bill, andI do so for the reason that there has been no real demand by any responsible body of people, outside the Government and its supporters, for the creation, or re-creation, of the Inter-State Commission. It has not been demonstrated by any of the speakers who have supported the bill that such a demand exists, and I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa that the commission is being constituted for the purpose of finding places for those who may fall by the wayside in the forthcoming election. Indeed, this much is being openly stated by the anti-Labour press.
When we examine thebill we find that this proposed commission is to enjoy very wide powers, not only in regardto proposed Commonwealth legislation, but also in regard to matters peculiarly the province of’ State governments. It seems, however, that while the commission can meddle, it will not be in a position to enforce its decisions; and if that be so, then all the money that will be spent on it will be wasted. If, on the other hand, the commission can enforce its decisions, if this commission, which is the creation of Parliament, can interfere with the functions of Parliament itself, then it is mischievous, and should not be allowed to exist. It is evident from the bill that the commission, which is supposed to be a Commonwealth instrumentality, is to be given power to interfere with State instrumentalities set up by State governments. For instance, every State in Australia has placed its railways under the control of a commission of one sort or another, whose duty it is to manage the railways as a business undertaking. Nevertheless, the InterState Commission is to be given authority to interfere with the management of State railways, and, in certain circumstances, to dictate to the railway commissioners the rates that can be charged. Clause 21, in part 4 of the bill, is as follows : -
It shall not be lawful for any State, or for any State, railway authority, to give or make upon any railway the property of the State, in respect of interstate commerce, or so as to affect such commerce, any preference or discrimination which the commission adjudges undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State. ,
The Commonwealth itself has no power over State railways, and certainly accepts no responsibility in respect to them, yet it is proposed to vest such power in the Inter-State Commission. Recently, in, New South Wales, the proposal that the Commonwealth should control aviation was overwhelmingly defeated in the referendum, because the people accepted the claims of the Labour party in that State that the control of aviation by the Commonwealth would be detrimental to the State railways. Yet it is proposed to give power to the Inter-State Commission to interfere with State railways, and to determine that it is unlawful for the railway commissioners of any State to regulate fares and freights as they think necessary in the interests of the railways as a business concern. Clause 22, in part 4 of the bill, states -
Nothing in this act shall render unlawful any rate for the carriage of goods upon a railway, the property of a State, if the rate is deemed by the commission to be necessary for the development of the territory of the State, and if the rate applies equally to goods within the State, and to goods passing into the State from other States.
No doubt that is supposed to qualify the power given in clause 21, but, as a matter of fact, it is equally objectionable. The railway commissioners in any State are charged with the responsibility of running the railways, and of making them pay, and it is they who should have the power to determine whether or not a. particular railway is a developmental railway or not. It is ridiculous to appoint in New South Wales, for instance, a railway commissioner charged with the responsibility of making the railways pay, and then to set up an Inter-State Commission composed of persons with possibly no knowledge of railways, and give them power to override the decisions of the railway commissioner. That is my principal objection to the powers to be conferred upon the commission. Even more remarkable are the number of authorities and individuals invited to raise objections before the commission. The bill provides that -
The commission may commence an investigation of any alleged contravention of the provisions of this part either of its own motion or on the complaint of any of the following authorities: - (a) the Commonwealth; (6) any State, or any State railway authority; (c) any borough, municipality, or body politic; (if) any harbour board, marine board or other State authority, or; (c) any such association of traders or freighters or producers or chambers of commerce, manufacturers, or agriculture as in the opinion of the commission a proper body to make the complaint. It shall not be necessary for any such authority to prove that it is directly aggrieved by the matter complained of.
Although the railway systems of Australia are valued at over £300,000,000, any borough or municipality, body politic, association of traders, freighters or producers can move the commission to inquire as to whether certain railway freights are justified. Railway commissioners are continually harassed by complaints that are made from time to -time regarding the freights and fares charged on State railways, and it is said, that if freights are not cut to the bone those who use the railways cannot sell their produce at a profit. Notwithstanding this, the Government, in this measure, is inviting such bodies to agitate against the administration of the railway systems and to request a reduction of freights and fares fixed by the responsible authorities. If some traders or producers feel that by attacking a railways commissioner through the Inter-State Commission they can secure a reduction of freights, they are invited by this legislation to do so. Not being satisfied with, giving such powers to these bodies, some of which may be “busybodies”, it will also be competent for the commission to hear the views of any other body or authority not specified in the bill that may wish to make representations to it.
The bill further provides that it shall not be necessary for any such authority to prove that it is directly aggrieved or suffering an injustice. For instance, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) might lodge a complaint concerning the railway freights charged in New South Wales, or even in Victoria, and it will not be necessary for him to prove that he is aggrieved or has suffered an injustice. The honorable member or any association which he purports to represent can move the commission to interfere with the policy of some State instrumentality.
– The commission is not compelled to take notice of the requests of such persons.
– That is so; but the bill provides that individuals can move the commission, and that it shall not be necessary for any such person to prove that he is directly concerned in the matter complained of. The railways commissioners of New South Wales can be forced into the position of defendants before this commission on the representation of some irresponsible authority.
– If the commission thinks fit
– Should power be given to any uninterested person or organization not alleged to be suffering an apparent injustice to move the commission to interfere in the manner provided? We have been informed by interjection that the Prime Minister is not a candidate for the position of chairman of the commission. It has been openly canvassed in the antiLabour press that he is still a possibility, and the only denial we have is the statement of the right honorable gentleman himself that he is not a candidate. I recall very vividly that for two years it was denied that an ex-Attorney-General was to be appointed to the High Court Bench. Time after time the Prime Minister said that it was not the intention of the Government to appoint him. The gentleman concerned said that certain persons were trying to force him to accept the position, but that he had no intention of taking it. History records that he accepted, not an ordinary seat on the High Court Bench, but the position of Chief Justice of that court. Part II. of the bill provides that -
The commission shall consist of three members, of whom one shall have been a Justice of the High Court or a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State . . .
I cannot imagine any Justice of the HighCourt accepting a position at £2,500 a year. As a matter of fact they have never-been noted for accepting any reduction of salary, even in times of financial stress. It is said that the’ InterState Commission will inquire into many of the matters usually inquired into by royal commissions. If this Government places on the shoulders of an Inter-State Commission as much work as it has delegated to other boards and commissions, this body will have a full-time job, and I cannot imagine any justice of the High Court, or judge of a Supreme Court of a. State, accepting a reduction of salary and status in order to be a member of the Inter-State Commission for a period of seven years. The Government aims high when it mentions the possibility of a justice of the High Court or a Supreme Court judge accepting the position of chairman, but a way out of the difficulty is provided, because a practising barrister or solicitor may be appointed. Very few first class men earn less than £2,500 a year by their private practice, and therefore, only a second-rate barrister or solicitor would be prepared to make his services available on the commission.
The Government desires to create the impression that this commission will not be composed of political dead-beats, and, to allay the suspicions of the people that the personnel of the commission will not have any legal status, it hopes to achieve the impossible. I am entirely opposed to the measure, for I regard it as totally unnecessary. There is no genuine demand for the establishment of such a body. Those who claim that it should be set up also consider that it should have power to enforce its own decisions. There may be a few persons, such ,as those who use as their political stock-in-trade the secession movement in Western Australia and other States, who believe that some good might come out of the appointment of an Inter-State Commission; but even these consider that the body should have authority to enforce its decisions. This is not only a political move to create jobs for political deadbeats, but it is also designed to mollify some of the supporters of the Government, who profess to believe that their States would be better outside the Commonwealth.
– I rise to a personal explanation. The honorable member for
Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has made an attempt to misrepresent even the statements that I have made publicly in regard to this matter. I am not worrying about what he thinks of any undertakings that I have given, but I object to misrepresentation of what I have said. I have stated publicly, and repeatedly, that I am not a candidate for any position associated with the Inter-State Commission
– What job is the Prime Minister after?
– The one that I hold, and will hold too long to suit the honorable member. I have said,’ not only that I am not a candidate, but also that I would not accept a position on the commission. That is definite and absolute. When the election is over my hands will be fully occupied once more with the position of Prime Minister of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Paterson), adjourned.
Parliament House : Refrigerator : Lift - B Class Broadcasting Stations - Subsidized Pacific Shipping Service - International Labour Office : Maritime Convention - Dumping of End-of-Season Frocks - forty-hour Week Convention - Registering Telephone Calls.
Motion (by Sir Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) asked me the following questions : -
The replies furnished by the Secretary to the Joint House Department are -
Earlier to-day, I was asked the following question by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) : -
Is the Speaker aware that Senator Payne was trapped in the House of Representatives lift to-day? If so, is he still of the opinion that the lifts are in satisfactory order, if properly operated?
In reply, I have to inform the honorable member that Senator Payne states that inadvertently he did not close the gate of the lift firmly enough to retain it in place after the lift started. Consequently, the movement of the lift disconnected it, and the lift stopped below the level of the floor. The lifts in Parliament House are in perfect order, if properly operated.
.- I direct attention to the remarkable state of affairs disclosed in the answer which the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral gave to me yesterday to a question on notice in which I requested that a return be prepared bringing up to date a similar return which the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral quoted in this House on the 3rd September, 1935. This return relates to the ownership of B class’ broadcasting stations in Australia. It will be recalled that in 1935, when this matter was being considered by the House, the Minister furnished a return in which he showed that two corporations controlled twelve of the 65 stations. He went on to observe that we had growing up in this country a monopoly of newspapers and broadcasting which, in combination, constituted a danger that this Parliament could not view with equanimity, and that steps should be taken to deal with it. He then proceeded to say that the Governmenthad had under consideration the matter of obtaining an expert report upon broadcasting control and policy in Australia, and he added -
Any such inquiry would bc unsatisfactory, however, until the question of the Commonwealth’s power over broadcasting lias been authoritatively decided by the High Court of Australia. Immediately such a decision lias been given, the Government will, finally determine the method and scope of the inquiry.
I know of no issue that has been raised, involving a High Court decision as to the powers of the Commonwealth in regard to broadcasting, which makes it either undesirable at this or any other stage for the Government to declare its policy regarding what it obviously considers an evil, namely, the monopoly control which is manifesting itself in connexion with the operation of B class broadcasting stations. The state of affairs disclosed in the return is far more serious in regard to the existence of a monopoly than it was nearly two years ago. It would appear that at present 51, out of a total of 90, B class stations are embraced in what I describe as the tentacles of multiple ownership. It is amazing that this growing chain-control and interlocking of licensed B class stations appears to be the result of newspaper organizations increasing the influence that they exercise on the public mind through the instrumentality of their newspapers by their control of broadcasting facilities. Broadcasting does not lend itself to easy competition, for no person can establish a broadcasting transmitting station without the consent of the Postmaster-General. Further, the number of licences that can be granted is more or less governed by the limitations of the wave band. Therefore, as there can be in each region only a limited number of broadcasting stations, anything that the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) said two years ago about the evil consequences to Australia of this association of newspapers and broadcasting stations can be said with greater force now, for although the number of broadcasting stations has increased the intensity of monopoly association has increased to an even greater degree.
– It has become a menace.
– I ask the Minister for Defence, as the representative in this House of the Postmaster-General, what he proposes to do to give effect to his own view of the evil effects of this monopoly. In justification of steps that he proposed to take two years ago, he made it clear that the Government was mindful of the bad effect that this combination was exercising, and of the danger which it constituted. That danger was so great that, in the words of the Minister for Defence, this Parliament could not view the situation calmly. He further said - and this is the point that I make - that steps would be taken to deal with it. I am not. in a position to know what steps have been taken; all that I am able to ascertain is the result of the develop- ments which have taken place during the last 21 months. On the face of it, those developments demonstrate conclusively that whatever steps the Government have taken have been inadequate to avert an evil which the Minister himself definitely assured this House was of such national importance that the Government would take steps to deal with it. I desire to know what action the Government has taken, what steps are in contemplation, and why, as nearly two years have elapsed since the honorable gentleman said that an inquiry by an expert would be undertaken, an inquiry has not been instituted. After all, my ability to know what happens in this connexion is limited to the answers which I get to questions. The answers that I have received within the last week - I say thiswithout feeling’ - have shocked me, in view of the statement of the Minister himself two years ago. I have here a list of broadcasting companies and an indication of’ the control that they exercise. I have noi the presumption to recite the particulars because they will appear in Hansard, and T have no desire even to paraphrase thai information in order that it may appeal twice. I am satisfied to have elicited this information as indicating the present, position, and I thank the Minister foi the fullness with which he has supplied it. I ask him to reply to the other questions which I have submitted.
– I am afraid that the Ministers present may not be able to give the information that I desire, although, perhaps, the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) may know something about the subject to which I shall refer, because 1 understand that a discussion in regard to it took place in London when he was there recently. I refer to the subsidy that is to be paid to a shipping company whose vessels will ply between Canada and Australia, via Kew Zealand. I understand that two liners, each of 25,000 tons, are to replace the Aorangi and the Niagara in this service. There is some concern in the ports which. I represent in this Parliament as to the effect of this change. I desire to know whether the employment that these two vessels now provide at Sydney will be taken from that port under the new arrangement, and whether the docking facilities and other repairs, which are provided for the two vessels now on the route, will be transferred to either Canada or New Zealand. Probably that will depend to a. large extent on the subsidies that will be paid by the various governments. I wish to know whether the new arrangement will adversely affect the interests of the Australian workers in respect to the docking and. fitting out of ships, and also what articles the seamen and stewards will be under. Will they be the NewZealand or the Canadian articles? I also wish, to know the extent to which Australian seamen are likely to be deprived of employment in consequence of what has been done. I ask the Minister, in short, to make a full statement of the effect of the changed condition as to subsidies.
I also want some information about the present position in regard to the ratification of the Maritime Convention adopted at the International Labour Conference held at Geneva from the 6th October to the 24th October, 1936. That Conference was attended by representatives of the Australian workers and employers, and the usual procedure was followed. When I asked the Attorney-General a question on this subject some time ago, he said that it was necessary to refer certain aspects of the convention to the State governments to ascertain their views. Have those views been ascertained and has the Government decided to ask Parliament to ratify the convention? I have been informed by the workers’ delegate to the Conference that many of the conditions laid down in the convention are not equal to the conditions that obtain in Australia at present, but it is nevertheless desirable that these conventions should be ratified by as many countries as possible so that the efforts of the International Labour Office to bring backward countries to higher standards may be assisted as far as possible. I urge the Government to ratify the convention. If it is Still necessary to obtain some information from the State governments, I ask that the effort to get it be accelerated. The International Labour Office should be helped in its endeavours to improve the conditions of the workers in the maritime industry throughout the world.
– Last November I directed the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to the action of certain overseas-manufacturers in dumping end-of -season frocks in Australia to the detriment of the local manufacturers and workers. I was informed that investigations would be made into the complaint. Subsequently I was notified that in order to prevent such actions proof would have to be obtained that dumping was actually being engaged in to the detriment of Australian manufacturers and employees. When that was proved, three months’ notice would have to be given of the Commonwealth Government’s intention to take appropriate action to pre- vent such trading. Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that women’s frocks are being dumped in Australia. I use the word “ dumped “, though it may not be technically correct. At any rate, the surplus stock of overseas manufacturers at the end of the season is being sent- to Australia, and this is depriving many female workers and some male workers of employment. Other employees are being put on half time. This is occurring at a period when all the workers in the industry should be on full time. It appears that the inability of the Government to take effective action is due to certain provisions of the Ottawa agreement.
In consequence of the complaints made last year, the buyers of big firms like David Jones Limited and the Myer Emporium have been sent abroad earlier this year, and they are now buying frocks in Canada for sale in the big Australian departmental stores. Last November, when I directed attention to this matter, I asked that the provisions of the Industries Preservation Act should be brought into operation, but it was subsequently discovered that this could not be done rapidly enough to be effective. The procedure necessary would occupy so much time that the damage would be done before the remedy could be applied. As between 11,000 and 12,000 employees are directly affectedby what is going on and many others are indirectly affected, I urge the Government to bestir itself to prevent a repetition of what happened last year. The small manufacturers concerned are afraid themselves to make a complaint, lest it lead to victimization, so they have approached me as the member for their district to bring the matter under the notice of the Government in the House. Many of these people have a severe struggle to maintain their trade connexion, and it is unfair that they should be subjected to such competition. We cannot expect the Canadian manufacturers to concern themselves unduly with what is happening in Australia, nor can we expect them, metaphorically speaking, to cut their own throats; they will send their goods here if they are permitted to do so. If necessary, the Government should take immediate steps to seek an alteration of the provisions of the Ottawa agreement which permit happenings of this kind. The interests of our local manufacturers should be safeguarded.
– I wish to refer to a report in certain newspapers which purports to state views uttered by me at a meeting of my party, but which in fact entirely misrepresent what I said. I take it that everybody understands that newspaper reporters cannot vouch for what is said at party meetings. They write reports partly on surmise and partly on hearsay. The statements attributed to me and to which I am now taking exception are in direct conflict with the views I expressed in the House. I should not like honorable members to think that I was contending in this House for a position which, privately, I do not believe in. I believe strongly that under its power in relation to external affairs the Commonwealth Parliament has power to adopt the 40-hour week convention as approved by the International Labour Conference; and that apart from that it has power to bring in a 40-hour week. I believe that those powers should be exercised.
.- I wish to refer to an answer given to me by the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Archdale Parkhill) to a question which I asked yesterday. It has often been suggested that honorable members can best obtain information by putting their questions on the notice-paper, but if all the answers given to such questions are anything like the one given to me, it is no wonder honorable members prefer to seek information by asking questions without notice. The answer was not only wholly unsatisfactory, but also stupid. I asked the Minister the following questions : -
The Minister’s reply was as follows: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
See answer to (1).
I suggest that any one with common sense would construe the first part of my question as indicating that, if the Minister had examined this device, he should state the result of his examination. The department is trifling with the matterwhen it is content to perpetuate conditions in the post office under which telephone subscribers are deliberately charged for calls that they do not make. A conviction that that happens exists among telephone subscribers generally, including business men. I do not say that, invariably, that allegation is justified, but I suggest that there is hardly a telephone subscriber in Australia who is satisfied that his telephone accounts are accurate. Recently a person living adjacent to me was charged for what is known as a phonogram. Hie was confident that no one in his house had sent the phonogram, but the department told him that if he would pay 10s. for the cost of an inquiry, the matter would be looked into. That particular subscriber immediately got the department to cut off his telephone. Much the same kind of thing is going on all the time.
Although I do not claim to know everything about the device to which I have referred, I suggest that a fairly reasonable case has been made out to warrant a departmental test of it. If it should be found to be effective, the Department should unhesitatingly adopt it and thus, perhaps, give the telephone a greater popular appeal. To-day tho Postal Department takes advantage of every opportunity to advertise the desirability and utility of tie telephone; yet when a device of this nature comes under its ‘ notice, which might enable it to popularise the service, the Minister representing the Postmaster-General merely brushes aside a question on the matter. Yesterday, when the Minister, in replying to my question, said there was no justification for the charge that telephone subscribers generally disputed their accounts, every honorable member registered his dissent in some way or other. I remind the Minister that I take my job in this chamber seriously, even if he does not, and when I ask a question touching on a matter of public importance I desire ordinary consideration. This matter is of sufficient importance to warrant . the Minister giving honorable members the result of the department’s investigation of this device, and indicating whether the experts thought it was good or bad. Of com-se, I am aware of the fact that every day many people come forward with devices in respect of which they make all sorts of claims. The information conveyed to me in respect of this device, however, was that it warranted a test, and the Minister should have had the courtesy, after having admitted that an inquiry had been made, to tell me the result of that inquiry.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has previously brought under my notice the matter he has just raised and it has also been referred to me by certain manufacturers. Undoubtedly there has been a great increase of imports of Canadian frocks at prices against which local manufacturers cannot compete. The honorable member ia wrong, however, in attributing the difficulty to the provisions of the Ottawa agreement. The fact is that under Article 9 of the Canada-Australia Trade Agreement we cannot apply the anti-dumping provisions of the Industries Preservation Act against Canada. That agreement was enacted by the Labour Government of 1931, of which the honorable gentleman was a member. The hands of this Government, therefore, are tied. Last year when this difficulty arose in less acute form, I gave orders for a special scrutiny of invoices in order to see that the domestic price was clearly and correctly indicated because, as the honorable member is aware, duty is paid on the domestic price or the f.o.b. price, whichever is the higher. Because the trade diversion policy has shut out American frocks, certain Canadian manufacturers seem to be concentrating on. the manufacture of frocks, particularly in Quebec, where lower wages provide an added incentive.
– The provision enacted by the Scullin Government was part of a gentleman’s understanding, and Canada has violated it.
– No; it was definitely in the agreement, and the honorable member, I should say, can recall that an exMinister for Markets explained the matter. The consensus of opinion at that time was that the agreement was a good one.
– Was not that agreement superseded by the Ottawa agreement ?
– Yes, but under the Ottawa agreement we could not override this provision which prohibited the application of the anti-dumping provisions of the Industries Preservation Act against
Canada. In conjunction with other Canadian matters, however, this matter has again been taken up and, for the time being, all I can say is that it is being actively investigated with a view to some action being taken.
– Regarding the telephone meters mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), I have before me the questions asked by the honorable member and the replies thereto initialled by the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan). I am bound to confess, however, that I. did not scrutinize the answers very closely before giving them to the House, and there seems to be some justification for a fuller explanation of the steps that have been taken to test the invention to which the honorable member has referred. I shall bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, and ask that further information be afforded to the honorable member as to the investigations made by departmental experts with respect to the apparatus.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred to the subsidizing of the new vessels to be constructed and placed in commission on the Australian - New Zealand - Canada route. I did not deal with this matter nor did I have anything to do with it in London. I understand, however, that the employment which these vessels will provide was considered during the negotiations. It was regarded as of considerable importance because a considerable sum of money is spent in Australia in connexion with the docking and repair of such vessels. My recollection is that it was agreed that, under the new conditions, the work will be done here as it is now, and. that that fact was taken into consideration in fixing the amount of the subsidy. I am glad to be able to give the honorable member the assurance that, under this arrangement, there will be no diminution of employment in the ship-building industry in Australia ; on the other hand, there is every reason to believe that when the larger vessels are put into commission, the amount of work will be increased.
The maritime convention adopted by the International Labour Conference is being dealt with by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), and I confess I am not able to state the exact position in regard to it. I shall have inquiries made, and the honorable member will be informed of the result.
In regard to the broadcasting matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), I take no exception to the quotations which he made from the speech I delivered, because they expressed the views I then held and still hold with regard to the questions then being discussed. I saw the answer to the question placed on the notice-paper by the honorable gentleman, and in the course of my reading to-day I also read a leading article in the Labor Daily which raised the same issue; but owing to my multifarious duties in connexion with the Defence Department, I did not have time to make an investigation of the matter. Had the honorable gentleman mentioned the fact that he proposed to bring the matter forward, I would have endeavoured to secure the additional information for him. I do not blame him on that score, however, because I know that matters have to be brought forward when the opportunity occurs. I am unable at the moment to give him a full answer, but the matter will be investigated, and I shall be glad to give him fuller information at a later date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
Th e following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The first Motor Traffic Ordinance in the Territory was passed in 1926, and was administered by the Federal Capital Commission. The present ordinance, which is a consolidation and revision of earlier ordinances, was passed in 1936. The present speed limits provided under the ordinance are -
The provisions of the ordinance relating to speed limits will be reviewed in the light of. legislation on the subject passed in the States.
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is included in a statement which I am making to the House.
Mr.Forde asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Experimental studies show that the most active sera are powerless to check the development of the disease, even when given before the onset of the initial febrile stage.
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he inform the House what precisely is intended in calling tenders from local manufacturers for orders of an educational nature so that the potentialities of industry may be accurately gauged for defence purposes?
– This matter will be more fully dealt with by the Minister for Defence in his speech in explanation of the Works Estimates.
i asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Oilfrom Coal: Deposits in Tasmania.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government give financial assistance to a company to develop theshale deposits in Tasmania for the production of oil and bitumen to the same extent as that given to a company in New South Wales for the purpose of developing the shale deposits in that State for the production of oil?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows
A sum of £6,200 was made available from Commonwealth sources for investigations and demonstrational operations in connexion with the shale oil industry in Tasmania, but no specific application for financial assistance has been received from any company during the past few years to develop these shale deposits. A company was recently granted permission for the admission, free of duty, of specialized machinery required by it for the development of the Latrobe shale field. Any proposition which a company may make for financial assistance would be considered on its merits. Should the Commonwealth Government be assured that there were reasonable prospects ofan enterprise succeeding, sympathetic consideration would be given to the question of financial assistance.
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers: - 1, 2, 3 and 4. The arrangements to be adopted for the transportation within the Commonwealth of overseas mails upon the establishment of the Empire air mail service are at present receiving the consideration of the Government. When a decision has been reached, a full statement will be made.
e asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Were any decisions reached at the Imperial Conference as to (a) the future control of the New Hebrides, and (b) the position of Australian interests in this group?
– The general position in the New Hebrides was examined at the Imperial Conference by the United Kingdom, Australian and New Zealand representatives, vide page 21, section XVIII. of Summary of Proceedings, Imperial Conference, 1937. The question of the future control of the New Hebrides is still the subject of consideration.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 August 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370826_reps_14_154/>.