15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Work of Constituent Bodies
– Some time ago I asked the Minister for External Affairs for some information regarding the League of Nations and the work carried out by its constituent bodies. Is the Minister now in a position to supply the information?
– Yes. On the 26th May last, the Leader of the Opposition, in reply to the statement made by me on the tabling of the report of the Australian delegation to the 1937 assembly of the League of Nations, referred to the budget of the League of Nations, and naked for information as to the work carried out by its constituent bodies. Honorable members are aware that the League of Nations derives its income, in the main, from the contributions of member States, each State being assessed at a number of units varying with its economic and financial resources. The latest complete figures available are for t he year ended the 31st December, 1936. During that year the total receipts, by way of contributions from Governments, Amounted to 28,149,385 Swiss francs, or approximately, £1,316,000 sterling, at the rale of exchange ruling on the 4th December, 1936. The Australian contribution for the year 1936 amounted to £51,062 sterling, but the number of units of contribution allocated to Australia has since been reduced. Most of the money received by the League is allocated between the three chief League of Nations organizations, namely, the League of Nations Secretariat, the International Labour Organization and the Permanent Court of International Justice.
The heaviest item of expenditure of the League of Nations is, of course, the amount payable to members of the Secretariat by way of salaries, wages and allowances. This was8,076,281 Swiss francs, or, approximately, £378,635 sterling for the year 1936. The staff of the Secretariat is responsible for the preparation of material for, and assistance during meetings of, the Council,the Assembly and various conferences which meet at Geneva and elsewhere from time to time. The staff is also charged with the duty of carrying ona vast correspondence with governments on a wide range of topics in connexion with past and future work of the League of Nations. The auxiliary organizations of the League of Nations include the following: Health, Economic and Financial. Communications and Transit, Intellectual Co-operation, the Permanent Mandates Commission and the Opium Advisory Committee. The special work of these organizations carried out during the year 1937 may be summarized as follows:-
A revised draft for the unification of customs nomenclature has been reprinted in two volumes.
The sum expended on the general services of the International Labour Orga nization during 1936 was 8,302,309 Swiss francs, or, approximately, £389,232 sterling. In April, 1937, on the suggestion of President Roosevelt, the International Labour Organization convened at Washington a conference to discuss the social and economic aspects of the textile industry throughout the world. Subsequently, the twenty-third session of the International Labour Conference adopted a convention applying the forty-hour week to the textile industry. At the same session, a convention was adopted for the protection of building workers against accidents connected with their work, and two recommendations were made concerning public works schemes.
The cost of the general services of the Permanent Court of International Justice during 1936 was 1,822,191 Swiss francs, or, approximately, £85,428 sterling. Three judgments were delivered by the court during 3 937. concerning: (1) Diversion of water from the Meuse (NetherlandsBelgium) ; (2) Lighthouses in Crete and Samos (France-Greece) ; and (3) The Borchgrave Case (Belgium-Spain). Several other cases are pending in the court.
This brief summary of some of the principal non-political activities of the League of Nations in the social, financial and humanitarian field will, I feel sure, convince honorable members that this, work is of great international value.
– In view of the many conflicting reports concerning the permanency or otherwise of the Rose Bay air base, will the Minister for Defence assure the House that this base is only of a temporary nature? Will he also inform the House how long the Rose Bay site is to be used as a temporary base; whether a permanent base has been selected; if so, the locality of the site, and when the construction of the permanent base will be commenced?
– There have been no conflicting statements whatever, as far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned. We made it clear and definite that the. Rose Bay site has always been regarded, and is being treated, as a temporary base. In addition, a comprehensive survey was carried out at Botany Bay, which is recognized as the most suitable site for a permanent base, and, as soon as arrangements can be completed, the construction of the necessary works will be commenced there. This will occupy three or four years, and will cost anything from £500,000 to £700,000. The Government has several times announced its definite decision that the Rose Bay site is to be used only as a temporary one, to meet the immediate requirements of the flying-boat service. The buildings being constructed are of a nature that will permit of their being removed at an economic cost, when the time comes to remove them ; but I cannot give a definite date when a new base will be prepared at Botany Bay, nor can I state how long it will be necessary to use the Rose Bay site. The buildings at Rose Bay, other than the control tower and the hangar, which I inspected last week-end; are made of galvanized iron, and are of quite a temporary nature to meet the requirements of the flying-boat organization pending the completion of the construction of the hangar. These will be removed as soon as the hangar is built.
– According to a newspaper report published on the 4th May, 1937, the then Acting Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) stated -
I believe that it will be possible to make satisfactory arrangements with all parties. If the waters ofRose Bay are available for the landing and taking-off, when the weather makes this necessary, it should be possible to get another site for the hangars.
Can the present Minister say why the suggestion was not adopted, and will he now consider the advisability of using Rose Bay for the landing and embarkation of passengers only?
– The decision to establish Rose Bay as a temporary base with landing stage, slipway, control office, hangar, and other equipment required to make it a complete flying-boat base, was reached only after the most exhaustive inquiries by experts and engineers associated with this Government, and the Government of New SouthWales. After the fullest discussionwith the Govern ment of New South Wales, and the municipal authorities of Woollahra, it was decided to erect a hangar beside the slipway, because otherwise the slipway would be useless. It would not be practicable to take the flying boats away from Rose Bay to a hangar in another part of the harbour. As a matter of fact, no other site for a hangar is available in any of the inlets of the harbour. Every inlet was closely examined by the officers of the department, as well as by the officer in charge of the aerial base at Singapore, when he was in Sydney. Everything is being done to keep the organization of Rose Bay down to the absolute minimum necessary to meet the requirements of the service.
– Is it a fact that if the money now being expended on the temporary base at Rose Bay were used to expedite construction of the permanent base at Botany Bay, that base would be sufficient to meet all the requirements of the service?
– It would be impossible to make a base at Botany Bay in less than three years, even if the work were commenced now. As I have said, the organization at Rose Bay will be kept down to the absolute minimum necessary to meet the requirements of the service, keeping in mind the necessity to provide every facility in the interests of safety. The Commonwealth will not be a party to any action likely to imperil the safety of passengers and pilots, or the efficient working of the flying boats.
– Will the Minister for Defence explain, for the satisfaction of honorable members who are not directly interested in the comfort or convenience of the residents of Rose Bay but who are directly interested in the expenditure of government money, why, if Rose Bay is apparently acknowledged by experts to be an ideal landing site for air-mail flying boats, it is proposed to erect a temporary and not a permanent structure at that site?
– As I have explained on previous occasions, the decision to establish the temporary base at Rose Bay was arrived at after very careful investigation of not only the whole of the areas in Port Jackson and Botany Bay, but also every other site, keeping in mind the possible developments of aviation, particularly in relation to the flying-boat service. Before the Rose Bay site was selected as the most suitable site available, due regard was given to the possible development of surface craft within the next few years, and the almost certain developments in the construction of flying boats. It was deemed advisable to have a survey made of Botany Bay, and the inquiries made justify the Govern mentin coming to the conclusion that Botany Bay will be an ideal permanent flying-boat base to meet the requirements of the future. The Rose Bay base, however, meets present requirements and, in those circumstances, the Government was quite justified in taking action to establish the temporary base there.
– Is it a fact that a Mr. Tart, a son-in-law of the right honorable member for Cowper, has been appointed to a position in the publicity section of the Defence Department? What are his particular qualifications, apart from the fact that he married a daughter of Sir Earle Page?
– I have no information on the subject at the present time.
– On the 25th May, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation concerning Private Russell Atkinson, who had been reported as illegally absent from duty during the war period in France. I promised to have inquiries made regarding the matter. The Minister for Repatriation has had a full inquiry made, andthe case has been considered by the Cabinet. It has been ascertained that the deceased soldier was killed in action.Cabinet has considered all the circumstances, and has come to a decision that is favorable to the widow and son of the deceased. The terms of its decision have been communicated to the honorable member for Hunter in the form of a letter, and the honorable member is at liberty to make it public.
– Will the Government approve of a suggestion that the Government Geologist of Western Australia should accompany Dr. Woolnough when he is making an examination of the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits so that reports may be prepared simultaneously for the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia?
– I have been given to understand by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) that Dr. Woolnough will consult with the Government Geologist for Western Australia, and that either that gentleman, or somebody nominated by him, will accompany Dr. Woolnough.
– I have been requested by Major Vail, of the Yampi Sound Company, to ask the Prime Minister if theGovernment has yet come to a decision with regard to its amended offer, and if information can be made available with regard to it as quickly as possible?
– I hope to be able to make a statement in regard to the matter to-morrow. In any case a statement will be made at a very early date.
– Can the Treasurer state whether it is the intention of the National Oil Proprietary Limited to convey oil produced at its works at Capertee or Newnes by pipe line to Richmond? If so, can he state the reason for this, and whether the oil is to be refined at the point of production or at the terminus of the pipe line? To what extent is the project generally fulfilling the hopes of the Government in regard to the production of oil?
– I understand that it is proposed to pipe petrol, not oil, from the works to Newnes railway junction on the western line, the principal reason being that the railway line up to that point is in such very bad order that it would cost a disproportionate amount of money to put it in repair. I understand that it is also proposed, for reasons of convenience and economy, to pipe petrol beyond Newnes Junction to a point near
Sydney, probably Richmond or, perhaps, Parramatta. I have no reason to ‘believe that the Government is otherwise than quite satisfied with the progress being made. Regarding the balance of the honorable member’s question, I shall have inquiries made, and will furnish him with the information later.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that the Government has decided to raise £3,000,000 in. extra taxation next financial year? If so, is it to be expended for defence purposes, and what proportion is to he raised by direct taxation and what proportion by indirect taxation ?
– No statement has been made by the Government in regard to this matter. When the Government is in a position, to do so, it will malco a statement to this House.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is proposed to alter the date for the closing of the financial year in the Northern Territory? By way of explanation, I point out that half the dry season of eight months has elapsed by the end of June, with the result that the prosecution of public works is greatly delayed. Will the Treasurer devise a scheme to enable the financial year to commence from the 1st January, so that material for public works may be imported by April? Alternatively, will he establish, under the control of the Public Works Department, a fund for the prosecution of minor works, this fund to be replenished at intervals when the Estimates are passed ?
– The Government is aware of the difficulties associated with the carrying out of public works in the Northern Territory owing to tho incidence of the wet and dry seasons. The Government has now under consideration a proposal whereby an allocation from the budget for public works shall be placed in a trust fund to enable the expenditure t o be spread in such a way “as to fit in with seasonal conditions.
– In view of the fact that Australia is still a financial member of the International Labour Office, will the Government take steps to apply the 40-hour working week convention at least to Commonwealth employees on public works, and will the Prime Minister consult with the various State governments in an effort to induce them to apply the convention to the textile and other industries covered by the convention ?
– I have already replied to a question to-day dealing with this subject.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to inform honorable members on what days the House will sit this week and next week, and when it will go into recess?
– It has been suggested that, if sufficient progress has been made, the House shall adjourn to-morrow night, and resume on Tuesday next to sit four days during that week. The date upon which the House will adjourn for the recess depends upon the progress madewith the business before it.
– Can the Prime Minister state whether the newspaperreports are correct that Senator Pearce has been offered the chairmanship of the proposed Inter-State Commission?
– The answer is, “ No. “’
– Did Mr. Telfer, UnderSecretary for Mines in Western Australia, in his report on Northern Territory mining, recommend that the field staff in the Territory be increased? If so, is the intention of the Minister for the Interior to increase that staff on the lines of the practice adopted by the Western Australian Government ?
– The report of Mr.. Telfer, who is now Under-Secretary for Mines in Western Australia, dealt with. the administrative side of mining in the Northern Territory and with certain ordinances and suggested amendments of ordinances. As regards the field staff, I have been in communication with certain of the State Mines Departments with a view to strengthening the field staff in the Northern Territory. I expect to be able to make a pronouncement in regard to the matter at an early date.
– Does Mr.Telfer’s report on mining administration in the Northern Territory in any way cover the ground as regards the mining industry to the extent to which the; Payne committee’s report covers the ground concerning the agricultural and pastoral industries? If so, can it be made available so that honorable members can form an opinion as to what further steps are justifiable? If the report does not so cover the ground, is any other report being called for or arranged which would enable honorable members to form an opinion as to the development in the Territory of land industries and the mining industry ?
– No, the report of Mr. Telfer in respect of the mining industry is not of such a nature as would enable it to be compared to the general Payne committee’s report concerning the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory. The report of Mr. Telfer concerned administrative practices, and was secured purely for departmental purposes. Mr. Telfer was also asked to suggest, if he desired to do so, amendments of mining ordinances. As regards the mining industry itself, I have, quite distinct from the Telfer report, almost completed arrangements for securing the services of a very well-qualified, officer of a State Mines Department, not to furnish the department with another report, but to go to the Northern Territory and to do things.
Dealings with Commonwealth Bank.
– Will the Treasurer make inquiries to ascertain if it is. correct that a firm of brokers, known as Sydney Evans and Company, is receiving preferential treatment in its business with the Commonwealth Bank? Will the honorable gentleman also make inquiries to ascertain whether a son-in-law of the present chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board is a partner in this firm? That, it has been suggested, might lead to the preferential treatment complained of.
– There is an inference in the question that should not be made.
– I cannot believe that anything of the sort has taken place. 1 shall certainly have inquiries made into the matter.
Subscription by Commonwealth Bank.
– Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Bank, as a bank, subscribed very substantially to the recent internal loan? If so, will the Treasurer inform the House how much of that loan the Commonwealth Bank took up?
– It is normally the habit of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank to make quite substantial contributions towards public loans they underwrite. It is true that, on this occasion, they also made substantial contributions. I do not think, however, that it is in the public interest that individual contributions, even those of the Commonwealth Bank, should be made public.
– Is it a fact that the subscription of the Commonwealth Bank on this occasion was so great as to be substantially greater proportionately than its subscriptions to other internal
Ioans raised in recent years? Does the statement that the bank has made substantial contributions to the recent loan actually mean that if it had not done so the loan would have failed?
– I do not think it is necessary to add anything further to what I have already said. I said that the bank on this occasion, as on all previous occasions, made substantial contributions towards the loan. I can only repeat that it is not in the public interest to make public the contributions to such loans of individuals or of public, semi-public or private organizations.
– In view of the fact that the. National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill has been passed by this House, will the Treasurer now give the names of his legal advisers who asserted the constitutional validity of the bill? Also, is the honorable gentleman prepared to lay on the table of the House all of the papers in this regard?
– I can see no necessity to do either of the things the honorable member suggests.
– Is the Minister for Defence able to announce at what rate aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force are arriving in Australia from England? Further, can he give the numbers of aircraft arriving and at what intervals they arrive?
– As previously explained, I arn not prepared to give detailed information in connexion with the defence forces of the Commonwealth, particularly of the nature sought by the honorable member.
– Has the Minister any information as to how many of the aircraft ordered have arrived in Australia?
– Large numbers of aircraft imported from abroad are in commission with the Royal Australian Air Force. Other orders have been placed, but I do not consider it my responsibility to make information available to the public as to the details and actual date of arrivals.
– In order to convenience the people at Darwin, can the Minister for Defence announce what resumptions at Darwin for the use of the navy are contemplated? Extraordinary delay has characterized this matter.
– The question of making certain resumptions of land in and around Darwin to meet the requirements of the naval authorities has been investigated by officers of the Department of Defence acting in collaboration with the
Department of the Interior. A full report has been furnished and the matter is now under consideration. An announcement will be made in the near future.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether Cabinet has yet considered the question of choosing a site for the new capital of New Guinea? If so, is the Minister able to make a statement?
– I replied to a similar question yesterday that I hoped to be able to make an announcement to-day. I am unable to do so, but I hope to be able to make an announcement to-morrow.
– In view of the fact that a new capital is to be built for New Guinea, necessitating a good deal of road construction and other manual labour, will the Prime Minister give favourable consideration to giving preference of employment on those works and on other proposed governmental works in New Guinea and other places to the unemployed coal miners, of whom there is a vast number?
– The honorable member has already brought this matter under my notice outside the chamber. It would be difficult to give preference to these men; but as I have already promised the honorable gentleman, the Government will give the closest consideration to the difficulties of the unemployed on the coalfields.
– Can the Acting Minister for Commerce indicate what progress has been made in regard to amendments of the Seamen’s Compensation Act?
– At this stage, I am unable to give the honorable member any information. I shall make inquiries and reply to him to-morrow.
– Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral endeavour to have rescinded the decision of the Postmaster-General’s Department to prevent mail contractors, who are also general carriers, from delivering to settlers newspapers which arrive for them at the railway stations - a service which they generally perform gratis?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral and urge that he give the request every consideration.
– I ask the Prime Minister if the Government has yet reached a satisfactory conclusion in the negotiations that have been taking place for the purpose of safeguarding the Australian shipping line that trades to the Far East? If not, will the Government put at least the same determination into this matter, which is of immediate economic importance to the Australian maritime industry, as it put into the hypothetical safeguarding of Australian iron resources for future generations?
– From the beginning, the Government has put into these negotiations the same determination as it put into the safeguarding of our iron deposits. The negotiations are now very near to satisfactory settlement.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The precarious position of the wheat industry, and the urgent need for an effective means of governmental action to stabilize the price of wheat so as to assure a reasonable return to the producer “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
During the last few weeks I have received a great number of letters and telegrams from wheat-growers in every State of the Commonwealth, particularly, of course, from wheat-growers in my own State. They are very perturbed by and anxious about the position that has arisen as the result of the collapse of the price of wheat and also the fact that, in many areas of the wheat belt, the farmers are facing what appears to be an impending drought. I hope that honorable members will be indulgent to me in my endeavours to place before the House some facts in respect of the wheat industry of Australia with which I am fully conversant.I may, perhaps, have to crave the indulgence of the House for an extension of the time allowed to me under the Standing Orders. Some time ago the organization of which I am a past president, the Wheat-growers’ Association of Victoria, placed before the Federal Cabinet a draft proposal for the stabilization of wheat prices in Australia. It took that action when the price of wheat was on the fairly high level of about5s. a bushel. We realized from experience that that position was not likely to obtain for long, and that it would be in the best interests of the industry and of the nation to take some steps to stabilize the industry. I have never been advised as to whether the Government reached any considered opinion on the proposal. In moving the adjournment of this House I am actuated by the belief that the great majority of honorable members, irrespective of party, realize the supreme importance of stabilizing primary industries. It has, however, been the policy of this Government to deny to this chamber any democratic expression of such belief, particularly in regard to wheat. Decisions are made by Cabinet, and transmitted to the people through the columns of the daily press, which, I believe, in no way express the opinion of this House. We are told that we live in a democracy. I am doubtful whether in any country, except those countries in which dictatorships are the order of the day, there is a more autocratic régime than is to he found under the present control of the federal parliamentary sys tem The experience that I have had since I entered this Parliament has convinced me that those who provide the very life-blood of this country can expect no real sympathy or effective assistance from this Government towards stabilizing the future of primary industry in Australia. I refuse to believe that private members of this chamber have so completely lost sight of the value of primary industry, and of the work of those who are engaged in it, as to endorse this callous disregard of agriculture which has been exhibited by the Ministry. It may, of course, be argued that there are men here who have been elected as direct representatives of primary industry. Normally, that may be so; but it must not be forgotten that, within recent years, it has been the invariable practice for some of these men to accept their 30 pieces of silver for acquiescence in government policy, irrespective of the views they publicly expressed before their election. It has been the practice for others fo say “.We cannot obtain all that we desire in the matter of marketing legislation from the United Australia party, but we can secure no assistance at all from those who are now in Opposition; therefore, we consider it advisable to continue our present association with the Ministry “. This argument, and many other arguments of very doubtful accuracy, were advanced by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) a few weeks ago when addressing the public over the air. Having had some experience of United Australia party governments during my presidency of the Victorian Wheat-growers’ Association, I can scarcely conceive that that statement is true. I refuse to believe that honorable members of the Opposition are less concerned regarding the welfare of those engaged in primary industry than are the members of the present Government. I invite honorable members of the Opposition to say to those members of the Country party, “If you are prepared to honour your promises to country people, if you are sincere regarding the principles which you expounded on the hustings, we are prepared to support you in the implementation of those promises.”
I do not propose to weary the House with statistics concerning the position of the wheat-growing and butter industries. It is sufficient for me to say that the prevailing price’ of wheat is -far below the economic level established by the Royal Commission on Wheat set up by a previous Federal Parliament. I may say that the report of that commission is regarded by the wheat-growers of Australia as their Magna Oharta. To the everlasting disgrace of this Government, it has failed to implement the main recommendation of that commission, which would place the wheat-growers of Australia on an economic basis similar to that enjoyed by most protected industries in Australia. The royal commission made its recommendations only after a most exhaustive inquiry into all phases of the industry. Chief among them was a recommendation which stressed the emphatic belief of the commission that in the interests of the nation some stabilizing influence on a federal basis should be introduced. I have often heard it said that a royal commission provides a most convenient medium for the shouldering of responsibility by a government. If that be the real motive behind such inquiries, the Government may regard this commission as extraordinarily convenient and successful.
Let us consider the likely effects of the present serious fall of values. This matter must be faced by the Commonwealth Parliament. It has been conclusively proved that ruinous commodity values are the forerunner of an acute contraction of purchasing power, a shrinkage of national income, and a severe increase of unemployment, with its attendant misery. In amplification of that, I need only ask honorable members to recall the circumstances of a year ago, when wheat prices were on a payable level. I then heard no complaints anywhere in regard to the price of the loaf of bread. I think it must be admitted that all sections shared in. the benefits that then accrued, and which always accrue when the primary producer is prosperous. Despite beliefs which may have been developed to the contrary, through a method of reasoning which can hardly be understood or appreciated, it is the farm that maintains the factory and its operatives, and not the factory that maintains the farm. The latest fall of values may well -prove to have very serious consequences for the lower paid members of the industrial community, a state of affairs which members of the Opposition, I feel sure, least of all desire. I again ask honorable members to carry their minds back to any period in the history of this country when the primary industries were prosperous and good prices were obtained. Every section of. the community then shared in the benefits which resulted.
What applies in regard to wheat may apply also with equal emphasis in regard to butter. The butter industry, under its equalization scheme, is resting on voluntary props. Merely a slight hitch in the agreements between the producer and the consumer may result in chaos throughout the industry. The butter producers to-day are making frantic efforts to overtake costs.
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss the butter industry on this motion, which is confined by its terms to the wheat industry.
– I was endeavouring to draw an analogy between the wheat industry and primary industries generally. I am informed that, at the recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, the States reached the unanimous decision, that the Commonwealth should safeguard primary industries by providing a marketing structure under its excise and bounty powers, but the Government, in its customary perverse way - a perversity which, I believe, is born of its financial affiliations - revealed its usual disposition to run away from the duty it owes to the farming community, by decrying or ignoring the opinion of the States. The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), in the bulletin issued on behalf of his party, intimated that such a proposal would have little possibility of being carried in this House. I ask the honorable gentleman on whose authority that statement was made? How does he know the extent to which such allegedly callous disregard for the welfare of our basic industries has developed ? How can he accurately forecast the outlook of every honorable member of this chamber to such a proposal? The leaders of all primaryindustries take it as a personal affront that the man who poses in the Cabinet as a strong man and a. representative of primary industry should, like his colleagues, give in, without making so much as an attempt to convince Parliament of the desirability of providing that stability which is so essential.
What a sad and sorry contrast this pathetic plea is to the statements made by Government supporters during the recent referendum campaign. Speaking at Launceston during that campaign the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said : -
Just as the framers of our Constitution did not foresee the development of aviation, neither did they visualize the need which would arise for the organized marketing of primary products. At that time the world feared a future food shortage, but to-day it is not production but distribution which is the problem and if men are to continue to produce dairy produce and dried fruits and apples and wheat, etc., they must have the best possible marketing organization to dispose of them if their labour is to return them a living wage.
I give the honorable member credit for having made such statements. They were brave words. But they have probably been forgotten by one who is also amongst those who pre-suppose that this House will not assist our primary industries to secure their just dues.
– I do not pre-suppose anything of the kind.
– Has the honorable member consulted all the honorable members of the hybrid combination ofwhich he is, at the moment, a private member, or has he become faint hearted and decided that in the interests of peace it is as well to forget the interests of struggling producers?
– Has the honorable member for Gippsland consulted the members of the Opposition to see whether he could secure a majority for a plan which would protect both farmer and worker? If he has not, why should he to-day give utterance to a belief of which he has no proof, namely, that it is not politically possible to achieve stability of prices for primary products.
– I have never said such a thing!
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and many supporters of the Government also considered it desirable to stress from the public platform their concern for the producer. This form of lip service reached its peak in February of last year. Has the need entirely disappeared? If not why has the Government taken no practical steps to give effect to the views enunciated? Its failure is, I believe, a fitting indication of its lack of sincerity. It is, of course, being argued that the verdict of the people must be accepted as final. I regard this as a pure evasion of a duty to a long-suffering section of the community which renders Australia a vital national service.
Those who were at all interested in the referendum will recollect that the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, who was regarded as the virtual leader of the “ No “ side, based his arguments against the referendum on the contention that the Commonwealth had ample power under the Constitution to apply orderly marketing principles. This argument had considerable weight with the great majority of people who were loth to extend greater powers to the Federal Parliament than it needed. I observe from recent press comments that Mr. Butler has again advanced this view, and thus has indicated his belief that the people have not spoken in the manner in which some supporters of the Government would have us believe. A move is to be made again to urge the Government to use its excise powers in the way desired. If we are to place our industry upon a proper and a stable basis, we must move for the elimination of disruptive factors in the community. Many honorable members in this House are foolish enough to believe that a basic creed known as the law of supply and demand is still operative, but they ignore the fact that there is to-day greater market manipulation in the world’s wheat-trading centres than ever before in the history of man. They ignore entirely, too, that the sources of information which force the wheat barometer high or low, in accordance with the decree of speculative influences, are subject to as great if not greater manipulation than ever before.
I believe that the time is opportune to hold an international conference of representatives of the organized wheatgrowers of this country and other major wheat-producing nations of the world.
– Does the honorable member want a trip abroad?
– No ; if I did I should join the United Australia party.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion by (Mr. James) put -
That the honorable member have leave to continue his speech.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
There is, I believe, world-wide recognition of the desirability of world-planned agriculture. Owing to government inertia, or refusal to recognize the value of the work of the primary producers, Australia lags seriously behind in this respect. This would appear to furnish an additional reason why the private members of all parties should determine upon a course of action in the national interests, despite despotic decisions of Cabinet. Mr. Henry A. Wallace, Secretary for Agriculture in the United States of America, where an agricultural policy and a wheat programme have been prepared, has pointed out that experience has demonstrated that a low price for wheat does not necessarily mean an adequate increase of the consumption of wheat. I particularly invite honorable members to bear this fact in mind. Mr. Wallace recently stated -
Experiencehas conclusively demonstrated that a low price does not necessarily mean an adequate increase in the consumption of wheat, hut rather a piling up of surpluses, and that, in consequence, production that is in excess of consumption requirements hurts to a grave degree the producer and brings no benefit to the consumer.
For the wheat-growers of the United States of America, Mr. Wallace suggested the following programme : -
This programme, Mr. Wallace said, is designed to give economic equality to agriculture, and, with other measures for other classes of farm production to prevent the farmer class declining to the status of peons. But, he said, the farmers can only win this battle for equality by maintaining an organized and united front.
The Government of Great Britain, which, although more conservative, is less susceptible than that of the United States of America to domination by vested interests, has provided for the well-being of its producers under marketing acts. This fact was emphasized by Sir Dorman Smith, M.P., in his address to the recent Empire conference, when he said : -
Our marketing organization in the United Kingdom is based upon the principle of producercontrol, and I can see no reason why we should not adopt precisely the same principle in devising machinery to servo our common Empire interests in this matter.
Then, again, we have the example of South Africa, where the government of the day is doing its utmost for agriculture. As an instance, I quote from the report of the wine-growers, which reads -
Co-operative control has met with far more success than any of the control boards except that for tobacco, which is based on the strong position created by the tobacco co-operatives. It has gone from strength to strength. Not only has it stabilized the price of distilling wine at a fairly remunerative level, but it has also built up markets overseas for the surplus - an otherwise impossible task.
The Honorable J. G. Gardiner, Canadian Minister for Agriculture, in addressing the Chamber of Agriculture, said -
The modernization of Canada’s marketing method requires that the product bo followed from theproducerto the consumer, and that governments, producers, processors, transporters and distributors of the product must fnd the way to co-operate in placing the producer before the consumer.
Mr.WILSON. - I was merely drawing a. comparison. In New Zealand a Labour government is courageously grappling with the problem of effective distribution. Whilst complete success may not yet have come its way, at least it is showing a more sincere and genuine appreciation of its responsibilities than is the case in the Commonwealth.
Not only has the Commonwealth Government refused to accede to the many requests of the organized growers in practically all industries for necessary and desirable reforms ; it has also consistently refused to take this Parliament into its confidence in relation to the nature of its negotiations concerning revisions of the Ottawa Agreement. Moreover, although it gave this Parliament a promise that primary industry would be consulted in any matters affecting the preferences of the various sections, that promise has not been: fulfilled. In fact, all industries, both secondary and primary, have been counselled not to interfere with the Government. But what is government policy?
I reiterate what I have stated so often, that organized marketing, instead of being a hardship to consumers, actually guarantees stable prices, which are the workers’ best basis for determining his real relationship to the rest of the community.
There is no denying that the real need of Australia is an adequate agricultural policy. I despair of this being achieved in the life of this Parliament,unless the despotic rule of the Cabinet -
– I regret that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) has made such poor use of the time available to him for the discussion of such an important subject. Listening to him, I was reminded of the criticism of an old Scot of a sermon he had heard, He said that he objected to it, first, because it was read, secondly, because it was badly read, and, thirdly, because it was not worth reading, anyway. Wheat is such a big subject that it was not necessary for the honorable member, in discussing it, to speak disparagingly of members of the Country party, or to decry the efforts of the Government, or of myself, on behalf of the wheat-growers. I agree with him that the industry should be properly organized in regard to marketing. There is no doubt that the world’s wheat market is very unstable at the present time, and there is more than a possibility that, when harvest time arrives within the next few months, the price of wheat will again be well below the cost of production. I hope that the various governments, State and Commonwealth, will not allow the matter to drift until, at the eleventh hour, we are again confronted with the need for providing a dole to keep the growers on their feet. The growers do not want that. In my -electorate, the growers around Sale, and in the other wheat-growing districts, want a fair home-consumption price for that part of their wheat which is consumed in Australia. They want a price in conformity with Australian living standards, neither more nor less. For the surplus, the grower knows that he must take just what the world will give him. To-day, the overseas freight on wheat is approximately ls. a bushel. I do not know whether honorable members opposite realize that, because of the freight, the Australian consumer is obtaining his wheat for ls. a bushel less than the price it brings in London.. So long as the export parity price of wheat dictates the price in Australia, so long will the growers be compelled to accept in tha Australian market for locallyconsumed wheat all the disabilities connected with export. They are, in effect, compelled to pay overseas freight on wheat sold for consumption in Australia. That position should be altered. Is there any one in this Parliament who would say that it is reasonable that the growers of wheat should bc required to lose the equivalent of the 12,000 miles ocean freight on wheat consumed in Australia? Docs any one say that the growers are not entitled to a fair Australian price for that part of their crop consumed by Australians?
Two years ago, the Commonwealth enacted legislation, and secured the co-operation of the State governments to enact complementary legislation, to give to ‘ the Australian growers a homeconsumption price. Unfortunately, before that legislation could bc put into operation, the Common-wealth was deprived by a Privy Council judgment of the power to regulate interstate trade, which, up to then, we believed it had enjoyed. When we tried to regain those powers by an appeal to the people through a referendum, prominent members of the Labour party - whom the honorable member for Wimmera appears to regard, as allies - by urging a “ No “ vote regardless of the interests of the primary producers did their utmost to prevent us. However, it is of no use crying over spilt milk. We must to-day consider what can be done by the Commonwealth, ber.eft of interstate marketing powers, to deal with the problem before us. If, out of the unwieldy mass of irrelevant material which the honorable .member for Wimmera put before us, it is possible to cull anything resembling a proposal, it is that an excise duty should be imposed with the object of raising the price of wheat sold in Australia. That is exactly the original Paterson butter, scheme, with compulsion applied to the collection of the levy. It would certainly increase the return to the grower for exported wheat, and the local price would rise in sympathy, but it would not fix the home price at a stable level. Judging by past performance, not one member of the Opposition would be prepared to support, a proposal for the imposition of an excise duty for that purpose.
I believe, however, that there is n method of obtaining the objective of the wheat-growers which would commend itself to all parties, and I propose briefly to put it before the House. It requires that certain action should be taken by tho States-, action which they alone can take, and it requires also the taking of supplementary action by the Commonwealth which only the Commonwealth can take. Definitely to fix a fair home-con-: sumption’ price is beyond, the power of the Commonwealth. We cannot fix the price of anything; the Constitution bars us. The States, however, can. I remind honorable members that, in connexion with the legislation passed two years ago, is. 9d. was accepted by the representatives of all the States as a reasonable homeconsumption price. I now suggest that the wheat-exporting States adopt that, or same other satisfactory figure, as the Australian price, -aird let the States, by virtue of the powers which they enjoy in regard to trade and commerce, fix that as the home-consumption price. I believe that members of the Opposition, as well as members on this side of the House, are desirous that a fair Australian price should be obtained by the growers.
However, the mere fixing of an internal price by the States would not be enough, because some producers would obtain the lion’s share of the local market, while others would be compelled to sell most of their wheat overseas. Tt would bc necessary to evolve some scheme to obtain equality of returns. This could be done without compelling any individual or State to export a fixed proportion of wheat, and to sell a stipulated proportion on the local market. This is where the Commonwealth would come in. After the States had fixed a fair home-con su nation price, the Commonwealth could enact excise legislation under conditions which should be supported hy all parties, even by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane). The profeeds of this excise duty would be used to make an adjustment of the returns of the growers who sold on the local market and those who sold overseas. The imposition of this excise duty would not affect consumers, because the States would have already fixed the local price. It would enable equality of treatment to bp. meted out to the growers in States like Western Australia, with a small homeconsumption market, and the growers in such States as Victoria and New South Wales, with a big home-consumption market. I submit this proposal to the earnest consideration of honorable members and of the Government. I believe that if is the only means left to do justice -to the wheat-growers, having regard to the fact that the Commonwealth has been robbed by the decision of the Privy Council of the powers which we formerly possessed to regulate marketing in cooperation with the States.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who moved this motion, could have spent his time more profitably in portraying first, the conditions under which the wheat industry carries on in Australia, and, secondly, the methods by which the grievances of growers could be redressed by parliamentary action. This problem must be considered under the two headings of production and marketing. The Commonwealth Government has no control over production; that is entirely a- matter for the States, which control land settlement, and which in most instances, assist the producers to go upon the land. Incidentally, the States have sole and complete constitutional power to deal with the marketing of wheat within their own borders. The Commonwealth comes into the picture only when wheat is . exported overseas. By a decision of the people of Australia taken last year - regarding which I will not comment - the Commonwealth Parliament was shorn of every vestige of power to deal with interstate trade. Moreover, the Commonwealth has no power to fix prices. As one personally interested in wheat-growing in one of the more doubtful districts in Australia, I say, with a good deal of regret, that I view with very great concern the trend of wheat prices to-day and with equally great concern the trend of the seasonal conditions, not only in the marginal areas, but also in some of the better-class wheat-growing areas of this country. I submit, however, that nothing to assist the wheat industry will be achieved along the lines mentioned by honorable members to-day. The problem of finding a satisfactory solution of the difficulties facing the wheat industry today cannot be solved by the Commonwealth Parliament alone, or by the State parliaments alone; it can he solved only by the wholehearted co-operation of the Commonwealth Government and governments of the States. It has also to be borne in mind that, since the Privy Council decision in connexion with section 92 of the Constitution, the initiative of redressing matters of this kind rests entirely with the State governments. Reference has been made to the remedy proposed by the Wheat Commission. I do not propose to traverse everything recommended by that commission. If we look at the documents produced by that body after a long and exhaustive inquiry, we must be impressed by the monumental record of the condition of the wheat industry at that time. The main remedy proposed by that body, which was contained in a recommendation, in respect of which its members were not unanimous, was based on the erroneous assumption that section 92 of the Constitution bore the interpretation placed upon it by the commission at that time. Consequently, it is not of very much use to argue that that recommendation could he given effect by this Parliament, because constitutional conditions have changed since it was : made. Reference was also made as to what has been done in connexion with the wheat industry in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand. Again I refer honorable members to the fact that the constitutional position of those countries is entirely different from ours. For instance, the Constitution of New Zealand contains no such provision as section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution. The Parliament of that dominion has sole, complete and absolute power in regard to everything.’ That is also the case in the United Kingdom. As regards Canada and South Africa, every honorable member knows, or should know, that the constitutional position in those dominions is that the Federal Government has paramount power and, consequently, the position which arises in regard to the marketing of primary products in those dominions is quite different from ours.
– The Commonwealth Parliament will never have complete power until the Constitution has been recast.
– That is so; therefore, it is futile for us to cite as an example of what may he done or what ought to be done in Australia what other countries, which have not the constitutional limitation under which we suffer so much in Australia, have already done.
I come now to the question of what this Government is doing to assist the wheat industry at the present time. That is a question which I have no desire to burke. I readily admit it is causing the Government a good deal of concern, but the Government has been as active as is legally and constitutionally possible. The whole matter was thoroughly discussed at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council last month, and certain decisions were arrived at. The council recognized as clearly as I and every fair-minded honorable member must recognize, that the constitutional position is such that the Commonwealth Parliament is left with only one power to redress the position in which the wheat industry finds itself to-day, and appears likely to find itself during the next harvest. That is, by the provision of a bounty on export. That remedy has been applied by the Commonwealth previously on about five occasions.
That brings us to the consideration of the question of how the necessary money is to be raised. In the past, the money was raised by levying a flour tax. I remind honorable members, however, that on each occasion when bills imposing the flour tax as a method of assisting the wheat industry were brought down they were bitterly assailed by honorable members opposite.
– And will be again if they are re-introduced.
– I remind the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that in 1935, when the Wheat and Wheat Products Bill was declared by the Minister for Commerce an urgent measure, honorable members opposite divided the House on the question. By so doing they took up the attitude that the bill was not an urgent measure.
– Oh, no !
– We are entitled to refer to these facts in a debate of this description.
– To deal with an urgent national problem does not involve the suppression of the deliberative power of this Parliament.
– Honorable members on this side of. the House voted against the application of the “ guillotine “.
– If the flour tax is ruled out as a method of assisting the wheat industry, new methods of taxation must be evolved to raise the necessary money to pay a bounty on wheat exported. A total sum of £14,316,000 has been disbursed in the past in assistance to the wheat industry. It is of no use for honorable members on either side of the House to say that this matter can be satisfactorily settled by appropriating the necessary money from general revenue ; general revenue is not so easily got as that. If honorable members reject the flour tax they must accept the responsibility of declaring the method by which the money shall be raised.
– That does not provide a home-consumption price.
– No, it gets entirely away from the question of a home-consumption price. The aim of the Government is to see the wheat industry by co-operative effort placed in a position in which the wheat-growers will receive an Australian price for all wheat locally consumed. Owing to the constitutional limitations, apparently the only solution left is to accept the recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council that, after consultation, the six States should introduce legislation to assist the wheat industry and secure a homeconsumption price. It was decided that the six State Ministers of Agriculture should report tothe Agricultural Council at its meeting in Perth in August or September next the result of their recommendations, whereupon the Commonwealth Government would discuss with them what measures were necessary on the part of this Parliament to put the copingstone on the foundations laid by State legislation based on State powers. Any suggestion that the present Government has overlooked the interests of the wheat industry is not correct. That charge does not lie against thisGovernment; it is not in accordance with facts. Every possible move has been made by this Government to safeguard the interests of the wheat industry,without any pressure or threat on the part of the industry concerned. The Government is most anxious for many reasons to see the wheat industry placed in a sound position. Can honorable members seriously challenge the faith of this Government in view of the fact that during the last Parliament it provided £12,000,000 for debt adjustment? A very large portion of that money went to assist the wheat industry. In addition, £14,000,000 was provided directly for the industry by way of bounty.
– Does the Minister say that the Commonwealth Government actually provided £12,000,000 for farmers’ debt adjustment?
– The Government committed itself to provide that amount.
Mr.Curtin. - But it has not had to provide it.
– It has provided such sums as the State governments have required year by year. The State governments have to decide what amount of money will be expended on debt adjustment, and it is for the State governments to decide the speed at which the rehabilitation of the wheat industry will be continued.
There is little more I can say on this question. Though I shall not attempt to traverse all the points raised by honorable members, I propose to deal briefly with the preference of 3d. a bushel accorded by the Ottawa Agreement, which has been referred to in this debate. As one deeply interested in the welfare of the industry, I have never yet been able to discover the value of that preference, because as a condition of the granting of the preference the wheat must have been sold to the United Kingdom, and at world parity prices. It is rather interesting to go back over the debates in this House on that very question. I have not been able to discover one honorable member who considered that that proposition was any more than a gesture at that time. Not until some honorable member suggested recently that it might be modified did I discover that anybody in Australia saw any virtue in it.
– Is it not a fact that foreign countries had to pay a duty of 3d.?
– It is a fact that the British buyer had to pay it. It was paid by the importer and not by the exporter. From the point of view of the importer it does not matter very much whether he pays 38s. a quarter to Argentina and 2s. to the Government, or whetherhe pays 40s. to the Australian exporter. He has to part with 40s., and in business I have not yet been able to discover a great deal of sentiment in regard to these matters. I have put the case as I see it from the Government’s viewipoint. The wheat industry has not been overlooked; it is engaging the attention of the Commonwealth and State Governments. I hope that when the deliberations of the various Ministers of Agriculture have been completed, and are made known at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in Perth in the near future, some satisfactory solution will be arrived at. When the recommendations of the council are announced, the Government will be in a position to acquaint the House in regard to the measures it considers necessary to safeguard the wheat industry in connexion with the next harvest. I may say in respect of the last harvest that I was fortunate enough to dispose of my wheat at a figure which I would be very happy to average over a period of years. It cannot be said that the present difficulties of the wheat industry have been of long duration. The year before last wheat ripped the high price of over 5s. 6d. a bushel. The problem that has developed in connexion with the industry this year has developed only slowly, and it has received the serious attention of the Government.
.- The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said that in regard to the home-consumption price for wheat, the wheat-growers are at the mercy of the constitutional problem. He states what that problem is,but leaves it at that.
– I said that the mover of the motion suggested no remedy.
– The Government has to resist the challenge that has been issued. It has to outline what it proposes to ask Parliament to do or seek to do after the formidable constitutional difficulties, which prevent the Government from proceeding with legislation to meet this problem, have been overcome. Par liament has a right to expect the Government to indicate what it proposes to do.
– It did so.
– Oh, yes. But the Government must not only indicate what it contemplates, but also stand behind what it puts forward. The Labour party is prepared to offer to the Australian people an export control and marketing system for primary products generally, including wheat, by an amendment of the Constitution, which, in addition to giving the growers of wheat a homeconsumption price, would at the same time secure the users of wheat against exploitation in the form of improper prices. That is to say, prices regulation and security for the consumer will go hand in hand. The Government has never put forward any such proposition. When it does, it will have the support of the Opposition, and of all whom the Opposition can persuade to vote for such a change.
I say, parenthetically, that in an era in which the economic life of this country is almost at the mercy of forces operating elsewhere, it becomes imperative that the sovereign power of the nation should be used to conserve as far as possible the interests of the wheat producers and other commodity producers. Therefore, such alterations of the Constitution as will give to this Parliament the requisite sovereign authority to deal with the matter, not only in the interests of the producers, but also to safeguard the consumers, should be the policy of the Government. The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. ArchieCameron) said that the Government, had found £14,000,000 for the wheat-growers. The fact of the matter is that it has not found £14,000,000 for them. Faced by every financial difficulty in the depth of the depression, the Scullin Government found £3,300,000 for the wheat-growers.
– Byloan, yes.
– Whether the money came from loan or from revenue, none the less the wheat-growers got the money. The purpose of the legislation was to give to the wheat-growers needed assistance. The farmers received £3,300,000, more than £1,000,000 in excess of what they received in the next year when the United Australia party govern- incut took office. I can give the House the precise figures. In 1932-33 the wheatgrowers received £2,132,000 from Consolidated Revenue. In 1933-34, £3,044,000 was found and of that £1,254,000 came from the flour tax and the balance from Consolidated Revenue. In 1934-35, when £4,040,000 was given to the farmers, the greater part came from an unexpected surplus, and only £748,000 from the proceeds of the sales tax on flour. In 1935-36, £1,915,000 was given to the farmers, and of this amount, £1,150,000 was obtained by means of the flour tax. Honorable gentlemen opposite say that in order to provide assistance tothe growers by medium of a bounty a sales tax on flour must be imposed. The answer to that is that in the three years in which the sales tax on flour was in operation and in which the bounty was paid, £9,000,000 was paidto the growers, and only £3,202,000, one-third, came from the proceeds of the sales tax on flour. The Opposition objects to the bounty on wheat being paid as the result of a device which taxes unfairly the basic wage earner, whose budgetary difficulties compel him to bea larger consumer of flour than are the more fortunately circumstanced families of Australia. The Government can pay a bounty on wheat in this year of falling prices out of Consolidated Revenue. I remind the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) thatthere was an unexpected surplus of £3,600,000 at the end of May which, by the end of June, should be at least £4,000,000. If the honorable gentleman prefers to allocate that surplus to other forms of expenditure rather than provide assistance to the wheat-growers, that is his business. If he chooses to do so, he will say that the wheat-growers have less claim upon this fortuitous surplus than other forms of public expenditure.
– That is purely a political remark.
– It is not purely a political remark; it is an arithmetical fact. The Government in the current year has a surplus of about £4,000,000. which was unexpected when the budget was introduced. Now the Government isin the position to use that £4,000,000, and it chooses not to give it to the wheatgrowers. It says that if the Opposition desires that a bounty should be paid to wheat-growers, that £4,000,000 of unexpected surplus cannot be used. “We must resort to some form of taxation”, it says, and suggests the form of the tax that should be imposed. My answer is that general taxation should be broadbased, applying to the whole of the community and borne in proportion to the capacity of the individual citizens of the community to carry that tax, and that, as between the variation of the incidence of the income tax and a sales tax on flour, the weight of equity is on the side of the variation of the income tax rather than on the imposition of a sales tax on flour. That is the fairand reasonable contention of the Opposition. The Acting Minister for Commerce had the audacity to say that the Government had provided £12,000,000 to relieve the debt difficulties of the farmers. It promised to provide £20,000,000, but brought down legislation for only £12,000,000, and said that it would disburse that money in three or four years.
– Who said that?
– The Leader of the Country party in his second-reading speech said that the money would be disbursed within three or four years.
– The farmers could have had £3,800,000 last year, but preferred only £2,000,000.
Mr.CURTIN.- I do not say that the Prime Minister made that promise, but the Leader of the Country party, when he made that statement in his second-reading speech, was speaking on behalf of the Government. The Prime Minister, however, in conjunction with the Leader of the Country party, did promise £20,000,000.
– And is the Leader of the Country party the Leader of the Government ?
Mr.CURTIN. - No; but he was speaking on behalf of the Government, and out of the £12,000,000 that was provided, only £4,000,000 had been expended up to last March.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr.PROWSE (Forrest) [4.27] -With the object of the mover of the motion for the adjournment of the House (Mr.
Wilson) I agree, but I do not agree with his arguments. His scheme may be all right, but he should have taken more time to explain it and devoted less to an attack upon the Government. It is not fair to say that this House has been indifferent to the wheat industry. Some time ago this Government, by legislative act, agreed to .an imposition of a homeconsumption price for wheat, and by the passage of that legislation declared its good intentions towards the industry. The decision of the Privy Council in the James case overruled that act and set aside the intentions of this Parliament. The question now is whether the Commonwealth Government can carry out its intention to stabilize the wheat industry of Australia, and I agree that it should take some definite action, even though its action is limited by the result of the referendum taken after the decision of the Privy, Council had been given. My memory is good enough for me to recollect the time when the question that should be placed before the electors of Australia was being considered. I distinctly remember that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) rose in his place in this House and moved an amendment to the very simple question that we had’ proposed to put before the people, one that would, so to speak, simply fill up the gap made by the decision of the Privy Council. His amendment was that all the words after “That” be omitted, and the substance of the words he desired to insert was that full trade and commerce powers should be given to the Commonwealth. No man in Australia knows better than the Leader of the Opposition that the people of his State would turn that proposal down most emphatically. I am making these remarks to inform the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) that, if he is wooing the Opposition, his efforts will be futile. When this House carried the form of referendum which was to be placed before the people which- would not extend to the Commonwealth greater powers than it was thought the Commonwealth had before the Privy Council gave its decision - many members of the Opposition voted with. the Government on that occasion - what was the attitude of the
Collier Government of Western Australia? That Government had already passed the necessary implementing legislation complementary to the Common”wealth’s wheat marketing act, yet when that had to be put into the melting-pot because of the decision of the Privy Council, Mr. Collier, with his Cabinet assembled, asked the people to vote “ No “ on the referendum, because to say “ Yes “ would give “greater powers to the Commonwealth “. Paney the Premier of the State of which the Leader of the Opposition is a representative, and a member of a party which is asking for full trade and commerce powers for the Commonwealth, objecting to the little power necessary to do this thing! However, the principle remains, and the Leader of the Opposition, in taking up a sort of neutral attitude in his own State, said that there were other powers that the Commonwealth had. The honorable gentleman contended that the Commonwealth could assist the wheat industry out of general revenue; that it still had the power to levy a tax on flour or wheat. I should like the Government to bring down a bill to impose a small tax on either wheat or flour, in order to create a stabilizing fund for the wheat industry. I remember the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) saying, “I shall vote for a home-consumption price in respect of wheat, but I shall not vote for a tax on flour “. Flour is politically too near the mouths of the people-; in the ease of wheat the position is not, perhaps, so dangerous. I urge the Government to use the power which has been given to it by the people. Were it to do so, the honorable member for Wimmera would see whether members of the Opposition are prepared to give to the wheat farmer stabilized conditions. They would not like the destiny of the Arbitration Court to be brought under review annually in this chamber. The tariff is a permanent instrument, being subject only to occasional revision. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has said that, in a country which has a tariff to protect secondary industries and an Arbitration Court to fix for the working man reasonable wages and hours of labour, the primary producers also should have an assured position. I submit that the Government will fail in its duty if it does not bring down a measure designed, by the imposition of a small flour tax, to raise a fund for the equalization of the price of wheat in this country, and to make provision for a home-consumption price. That would be infinitely better for the working man than is the existing arrangement, because he would know that the prices of flour and bread were on a permanent basis. The Arbitration Court could make its awards on the permanent basis, and an industry which is most valuable to Australia in supplying new money by the export of its products would be established on a reasonable basis. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and I have continuously fought along these lines since other industries have been protected. If it be right to afford protection, the effect of which is to increase the price of boots and hats and to ensure high dividends to manufacturers, why should there be any hesitation about making it possible for the wheat-growers to enjoy reasonable living conditions, merely because their stockintrade happens to be an article of food? There is no soundness in the contrary argument. I impress upon the Government the need for wasting no time in the imposition of a flour tax or a wheat tax, with the object of establishing a fund to stabilize the prices of wheat and bread, as well as the wages of the community in general. I shall be happy to co-operate with the honorable member for Wimmera and others in legislating along those lines.
– I agree - I do not think that any honorable member does not - that the position of the wheat industry should be stabilized. In my opinion, in presenting his case for the stabilization of that industry, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) has not exhibited that courtesy which we are entitled to expect. It must be admitted that, during the period of the depression, when farmers in every country were suffering on account of low prices, those who represented the wheatgrowers in this Parliament, and those who knew that the economics of this country were based upon the efforts of the man on the land, from time to time did whatever was possible to assist the primary industries. Since this Government has been in power it has done all that- it could to assist the wheat-grower, and we all hope that it will make every endeavour to bring about the stabilization of the wheat industry. Every other industry in Australia is stabilized. As the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has pointed out, the secondary industries have protective tariffs. The policy of the nation to-day is to afford such protection as will make those industries secure against outside competition. Although some of us may not agree with the degree of protection afforded, the fact remains that those industries are protected. By means of the Arbitration Court, the worker is able to offset the higher prices which, in consequence, he has to pay for his commodities, either those that are imported from overseas or those that are manufactured in this country. The wheat-grower, however, depends for his return upon whether the acreages planted with wheat in Australia and other countries produce big or little crops. Last year, Australia produced a big crop, and it is predicted that this year the United States of America will have a record crop. Consequently, the price of wheat has receded very quickly, the reduction during the last four months having been ls. a bushel, with the result that today the figure is below the level which the Royal Commission on Wheat considered a payable one. Therefore, we who represent the wheat industry appeal to the Government, either on its own account or in co-operation with the States, to introduce some form of stabilization which will settle for all time the argument as to whether the wheat farmer should receive a bounty when prices arc low. I do not think I need go further than to say that when the price of wheat receded below 4s. a bushel the price of bread remained at the figure- at which it stood when wheat was at 5s. 6d. and 6s. a bushel. Consequently, the consumer should not complain if the price of wheat were fixed at a higher level than that which now prevails. What we urgently require is the stabilization of the industry by the’ method proposed by the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron).
– The Acting Minister for Commerce has said that the States must first take action.
– The Commonwealth must wait for the States to move in the matter, because its rights have been taken from it. Under section 91 of the Constitution, the States have the right to impose a tax and to fix prices. Therefore, the onus is on them and not on the Commonwealth, which last year found that it had not the power it thought that it possessed. As a member of another place, I attempted to have the referendum worded in such language that the general public would realize what they were voting for. I do not believe that they understood the matter. Because of the opposition to its proposal, the Government did not succeed in its objective. I consider that its failure was largely clue to faulty wording of the question that it submitted to the people. It would not accept the amendment that I moved in another place, and the people believed that the object of the Commonwealth was to take away all the powers of the States.
The honorable member for Wimmera attacked members of the Country party in this House on the ground that they had not advocated the cause of the wheatgrower. I represent 53 per cent. of the total area under wheat production in South Australia, and I intend to stand behind those who are endeavouring to help the wheat-growers.
– The honorable member will support them with his voice, but not with his vote.
– I resent such a statement. I am prepared now, as I have always been, to vote for any proposal that will advance their interests.
– An honorable member is not in order in casting a reflection on the vote of another honorable member.
– I have said that secondary industries can, by a certain method, obtain a fair return for their production, and that the Arbitration Court provides means whereby the worker may have his position stabilized on a fair basis. Certain honorable members would oppose the granting of assistance to primary producers because of disagreement with the form of assistance proposed. We prefer the method of stabili zation propounded by the Acting Minister for Commerce, if the States are prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth. The onus rests upon the States, andI hope that ere long they will recognize the fact.
The honorable member for Wimmera accused the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) of having said in Adelaide that the duty of 3d. a bushel on wheat entering the United Kingdom is useless to Australia. The honorable member claimed that that statement was made to a deputation of wheat-growers which waited on the right honorable gentleman. I introduced that deputation. When the Minister for Commerce was urged to do his utmost to retain that duty of 3d. a bushel in favour of Australia, he promised that he would do so. I can recall no statement that would lead any one to believe that he suggested that the duty was of no value to Australia.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Mr.McEWEN (Indi- Minister for the Interior) [4.44]. - The motion of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) is one which, on its face, may be regarded as embodying a very laudable objective. Coming from a representative of one of the greatest wheat-growing electorates of Australia, and a gentleman who has been honoured by having been elected as the president of the Australian Wheat-Growers’ Association, we might well have expected a speech containing some constructive proposals. I listened intently to every word uttered by the honorable member for Wimmera during both the time before he was granted leave to continue his remarks and the time he occupied afterwards. Perhaps honorable members thought that by granting him leave to continue he might make some constructive suggestions, as he had failed to do so during the first twenty minutes of his speech, but any suchhope was disappointed, for the honorable member treated us only to a vituperative attack upon supporters of the Government. He made poor useof the time allotted to him to discuss the important subject of the stabilization of the wheat industry of Australia, in that he used it to cast unwarranted, unjustifiable, and despicable reflections upon Go- vera ment supporters. I am surprised that an honorable member who, only the other day, took exception so easily to a remark made by another honorable member should, on the first subsequent opportunity afforded to him to speak, use such terms as reflected upon Government supporters even to the extent of referring to “ thirty pieces of silver “. I am also surprised to find that the Standing Orders permit such a statement to go unchallenged.
– If the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) wished to take exception to any remark made by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), he should have done so at the time it was made.
– The honorable member for Wimmera occupied the whole of his time in an attack upon Government supporters, and an effort to woo honorable members of the Opposition to his point of view.
– That is the Minister’s construction of my remarks.
– He will get them, too!
– I suggest that they will get him. As the honorable member has seen fit in what he regards as his extremity, in his survey of the wheat industry of Australia, to turn to the Opposition for assistance, it will be pertinent to direct attention to the actions taken by those honorable gentlemen on various occasions when the assistance of the wheat industry has been under the consideration of the House. It is scarcely possible to think of the vicissitudes through which this industry has passed during the last few years without instantly remembering that the leader of the last Labour government (Mr. Scullin), speaking for- his supporters, appealed to the wheat-growers to put every possible acre of their land under wheat. In making his appeal the right honorable gentleman promised the farmers that 4s. a bushel would be paid’ for all the wheat they grew. The leader of the Labour party in New South Wales. Mr. Lang, was not nearly so modest in his promise, for he assured the farmers of that State that they would be paid 7s. 6d. a bushel for all the wheat they grew.
– Not at that time! The Minister should be fair in his statements.
– Turning now from the promise of 4s. a bushel on the one hand, and 7s. 6d. a bushel on the other, let us look at what ultimately occurred. The farmers actually sold their wheat that year for an average of ls. 9d. a bushel. That is how the interests of the wheat-growing industry were conserved and safeguarded by the honorable gentlemen to whom the honorable member for Wimmera is now looking for assistance;
– It appears to me that the Minister for the Interior is not now discussing the subject before the Chair.
– I submit, sir, that I am deal big more closely with the needs of” the wheat industry than did the honorable member for Wimmera in moving his motion.
– Order !
– The honorable gentleman, in speaking to his motion, said that the wheat-grow.ers could now look only to the members of the Opposition for assistance in their time of need.
– I did not say that.
– In reply to the honorable member, I direct the attention of the House to the manner in which thi Labour party sought to assist the wheatgrowers as recently as two years ago when a certain bill was before the House.
– The bread tax!
– Under that bill the Government proposed to make available £1,800,000 for the assistance of the wheat industry. Part of that amount was to be obtained from general revenue, and part of it from a tax on flour. What happened on that occasion? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) moved an amendment to the Government’s proposition, the effect of which, if carried, would have been to confine the assistance to wheat-growers who were distressed in consequence of seasonal conditions. The honorable gentleman said in this House on the 17th March, 1936-
The present price can be regarded as a price enabling the industry to carry on
The price of wheat at that time was 3s. Sd. a bushel. The honorable member for Wimmera is, therefore, allying himself with a party which holds the view that wheat-growers can carry on their operations successfully with wheat at 3s. 8d. a bushel. The most recent price offered for wheat, of which I have been able to obtain definite information, is 3s. 6d. a bushel at Williamstown. That rate was quoted last Saturday. That is substantially the same price as that referred to two years ago by the Leader of the Opposition. So the honorable member for Wimmera thinks that the wheat industry is likely to be assisted by gentlemen who consider that that is a payable price! As the Leader of the Opposition cited a passage from the report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry to the effect that half the wheat produced in Australia was being grown on a production cost of 3s. a bushel, I feel that I am justified in saying that that was the hypothesis upon which he based his speech. The honorable member for Wimmera should be at least as familiar as I am with the reports of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, so he should know that the statement cited by the Leader of the Opposition was founded on the view that a wheat-grower was adequately paid for his services if he received £125 a year.
– And no interest on his capital.
– That is so; and also no wage whatever for any member of his family under 21 years of age. Not only were such members of the farmer’s family to work without one penny allowance for subsistence, but. also members of the family who were more than 21 years of age were to receive only £1 a week.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I commend the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) for having introduced this discussion. I was surprised that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) should have spent the whole of his time in abuse of the action of the honorable member for Wimmera, who was actuated by only one motive.
– I rise to a point of order. I object to the statement that I occupied the whole of my time in abuse of the honorable member for Wimmera. The statement is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The only word to which the Minister has referred in respect of which exception can properly he taken is “ abuse “. I ask the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. The honorable member for Wimmera has, at least, demonstrated his honesty to the wheat-growers of Australia. We know that, at this juncture, the wheat-growers are at an extremity and in urgent need of assistance. I speak as one who has been connected all his life with the wheat industry, and who represents one of the largest wheat-growing electorates of Australia. Notwithstanding the remarks made by the Minister for the Interior a few moments ago, I assert that the Labour party, alone among the political parties of Australia, has sought to do something definite in days gone by, and, in fact, wishes to do something to-day of a concrete character to assist the wheat industry, and I am proud to belong to such a party. The Minister referred to the action of the Scullin Government in seeking to obtain legislative approval for the payment of 4s. a bushel to the wheatgrowers of Australia. I remind the House that its desire in that regard was defeated by votes recorded in the Senate by members of the Country party. The Scullin Government, alive to the requirements of the distressed wheat-growers, made £3,000,000 available to assist them throughout the Commonwealth. I was surprised to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) interject that the money required for that purpose was borrowed. The very fact that the money had to be borrowed showed the sincerity of the desire of the Labour party to’ assist the wheat industry. The Minister for the Interior said that a Labour government of New South Wales had promised the wheat-growers 7s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat. This price was actually paid to them by a Labour government. That was done only once in the history of the State, and it also was an indication of Labour’s desire to assist the wheat-growers. Reference has been made to the action of the Lyons Government in introducing legislation to provide £12,000,000 for rural rehabilitation. The first promise in that connexion was made by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), and the amount mentioned was £20,000,000. This was subsequently whittled down to £12,000,000. But although the rural rehabilitation plan was approved by Parliament several years ago, only a little more than £2,000,000 has, so far, been made available to necessitous wheatgrowers. Where is the sincerity of the Country party, seeing that it has made only that small amount of assistance available to the industry over a period of years, although, during the peak period of the depression, when the Scullin Government was in power, over £3,000,000 was provided for the industry in one year alone?
I, as a representative of a wheatgrowing district, keenly appreciate the action of the honorable member for Wimmera in bringing this matter under the notice of the House. There is, indeed, a striking contrast between his earnest attempt to do something to help the sections which he represents, and the opposition received hy him from members of the Country party. Immediate action is required to assist the wheat-growers. A record area has been put under wheat in the northern and north-western districts of New South Wales, and the prospects have never been more promising than they now are, but the growers throughout Australia are apprehensive regarding the price they are likely to receive for their product. The Government should act at once on the advice tendered by the honorable member for Wimmera. It should not delay action until August or September, because, in the north-western districts of New South Wales, a considerable quantity of wheat is harvested as early as October, and it would then be too late, probably, to put into operation any scheme of assistance that might be decided upon. The primary producers should be represented on a Commonwealthwide pool, into which the whole of the wheat of Australia should be placed. The necessary finance could, and should, be made available through the Commonwealth Bank. Then the wheat not required for export could be marketed in an orderly manner at a price considered rea.sona.ble. Members of the Opposition would not cavil at a price for home-consumption of 5s. a bushel, because that would not involve an increase of the price of bread. The only satisfactory and logical way to handle the Australian wheat crop i3 to establish a producer-controlled pool on the lines adopted a few years ago in Canada, where that scheme tided the farmers over a very difficult period. Similar action should be taken in Australia immediately.
When the Country party was in power in this Parliament, it did more than any other Government has done to injure the wheat industry. The Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line proved of untold value to the wheat-growers, because it enabled their grain to be carried to the overseas markets at a minimum of cost. [Leave to continue given.”] The cost of transport was only about 3d. a bushel, but, since that shipping line has been given away, the freight has increased to about ls. a bushel. A fewweeks ago I addressed a question to the. Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), and he courteously replied that the Government was unable to come to the assistance of the farmers by arranging for a reduction of freights. As one who mingles constantly with the wheat-growers, I say definitely that no government action in Australia has received greater condemnation than that taken when the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line was disposed of. Cheaper shipping freights are absolutely essential for marketing our surplus wheat.
– The sale of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line of ships cannot be discussed on this motion.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 193S, No. ‘54 (Parliamentary Officers).
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations amended Statutory Rules 1938, No. 53.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1938 - No. 7 - Methylated Spirit.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924-1937.
Bill brought up by Mr. Archie Cameron, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924-1937, makes provision for the submission annually, and in the month of July, of a report by the Dried Fruits Control Board to the Minister, and subsequently to Parliament. In this provision the board has seen an opportunity to place at the disposal of honorable members and the trading community a report on its activities for the year, together with authentic statements regarding the conditions obtaining in the industry and the disposal of its products overseas, as well as a valuable collection of statistical information. A large amount of detailed work is undertaken to make the reports accurate and as comprehensive as possible, and experience shows that, as the financial year does not close until the 30th June, it is difficult to get this done within the month of July, as prescribed in the act as it now stands. The report also includes the financial statements of the board and it is not practicable to have all the accounts completed, the balance-sheet prepared and the books audited within such a short space of time, especially as a certain amount of the data has to come from the United Kingdom. The purpose of this bill is to allow the board until the 30th day of September, for the purpose of preparing its report, and submitting it to the Minister for presentation to Parliament. The desirability of making the information contained in these documents available as early as possible is appreciated, and has not been lost sight of, as the relevant section of the act, as proposed. to be amended by this bill, will stipulate that the report may be presented at any time prior to the 30th September, with the object of its prompt presentation to Parliament, and subsequent circulation to those interested elsewhere in Australia and overseas. The action contemplated in this bill with regard to the Dried Fruits Act was taken in 1936 in regard to the Wine Overseas Marketing Act, and last year the Australian Wine Board had the convenience of the additional time in which to assemble its data. The good work which is being done in an unostentatious manner by the control boards is widely recognized, and I am pleased to recommend the . granting of the convenience proposed to be accorded by this amendment of the act.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Meat Export Control Act 1935-1930.
Bill brought up by Mr. Archie Cameron, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now road a second time.
The Meat Export Control Act 1935-36 contains a provision that the Australian Meat Board shall present a report annually in the month of July to the Minister for presentation to Parliament. A similar section exists in the acts under which the other boards are constituted. As explained previously, in connexion with the Dried Fruits Control Board, difficulty is experienced by the Australian Meat Board also in completing the voluminous details of its report in the month of July, and it is proposed to extend the time so as to give that board the advantage of a longer period for the work.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That lie have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926-1035.
Bill brought up by Mr. Archie Cameron, and read a first time.
. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In common with other export control boards, the Canned Fruits Export Control Board finds difficulty in submitting its annual report within the month of July, as prescribed by the Canned Fruits Export Control’ Act 1926-1935, and the Government proposes that the act be altered to allow additional time for the work. As I have explained in connexion with other bills of similar purport, the report may be presented earlier, but not later than the specified date, namely, the 30th September, so that, as soon as the documents can be prepared, action can be taken to put them into circulation.
This bill also provides for the alteration of the name of the board to bring it into conformity with recent practice in connexion with certain other boards. Experience has proved that the use of the word “ control “ in relation to the board’s activities is somewhat misleading and results in confusion. The incorporation of this word has been found to cause some misunderstandings as to the actual functions of the board, which has deemed it expedient to use the title, as set out in the act, only in legal documents. It has become apparent that, in many instances, the “ control “ of the canned fruits industry has been incorrectly regarded as being all-embracing, including the actual sale of the goods. It appears desirable further that the name of the board should include reference to the nation in whose interests it operates, and for these reasons it is proposed in this bill to alter the title to “ Australian Canned Fruits Board.’
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act 1926-1935.
Bill brought up by Mr. Archie Cameron, and read a first time.
. by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Canned Fruits Export Charges Act imposes levies upon canned fruits exported, and the funds so derived are administered by the board, appointed under the Canned Fruits Export Control Act. By a bill introduced earlier, it is proposed to alter the name of the board from the “ Canned Fruits Control Board “ to “ Australian Canned Fruits Board “. Consequently, it is necessary to alter the name in the Export Charges Act in order that the board may continue the work of administering the funds under its new name.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
.- I am surprised to learn that the Government contemplates, as apparently it does, that there shall be no sittings of the House on Thursday and Friday. Presumably, it is intended that the House shall meet to-morrow morning, and adjourn some time about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. This seems strange to me, in view of the fact that the Government found it necessary to resort to drastic means in order to get a recent bill passed through the House, and seeing that honorable members of the Opposition had reason to complain that insufficient time was given for the discussion of that measure. Honorable members were brought back on Monday in order to get the bill through, and now, apparently, arrangements have been made to cut the sittings short this week. I know that the Government has a majority for this, as it has for everything, but I do not think that the country will continue to give it the majority if this sort of thing goes on.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said at question time to-day that the House would adjourn to-morrow night, so that there will be no sitting on Thursday or Friday. Honorable members were dragged here on Monday in order to get legislation through the House, and now, apparently, the Government has so much time to spare that it does not propose that the House shall sit on Thursday and Friday. After to-morrow there will be no further sittings until Tuesday, and we know that the Government intends that the session shall end on the 1st July. It has not said so, but we know that that is its intention. Next week Supply will be jammed through, perhaps during an allnight sitting, so that Parliament may adjourn at the end of the week. If the Government had any concern for the health of honorable members it would keep the House sitting for the rest of this week so that the business before it may be dealt with in a leisurely manner. Doctors who have been members of this House have stated that the health of honorable members is endangered by late sittings, particularly when they are kept here until 3 o’clock in the morning, and then have to go out into the inclement winter night.
.- I do not share with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), the fear that the Government will force a lot of legislation through Parliament at the end of next week. I have no objection to the House meeting at 11 o’clock to-morrow morning if it is desired to get through more business, but it seems to me that, if the Government has time in hand, it would be better to sit on the remaining days of this week, and let honorable members have the extra time at the beginning of next week. The Government would be in a better position at the end of this week to know what time will be available. I make this suggestion without in any way associating myself with the assertion of honorable members opposite that there will be a rush of business at the end of next week. Such a thing would be incredible, and 1 am sure the Government would not for a moment be a party to it. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to submit my suggestion to his colleagues in Cabinet.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I remind honorable members that the motion before the Chair has to do with the time of sitting to-morrow.
.- I should like to know whether it is the intention of the Government to proceed this week with the business now on the notice-paper, or whether it will be taken next week. I hope that it is not intended to rush legislation through next week by keeping the House sitting late.
– I have not discussed this matter in any detail with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and I cannot say that I know his mind regarding what it is intended to do next week. I suggest to honorable members that the motion before the Chair, that the House meet at 11 o’clock to-morrow morning, should be allowed to stand by itself. It has no relation to next week’s work. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) are proceeding on hypothetical premises when they suggest what may happen next week. However, I shall convey to the Prime Minister the views of those honorable members who have spoken, and shall suggest that he advise the House of the proposals of the Government as early as possible. I assure honorable members that, as far as I am concerned, I have no desire to put myself under the necessity of working longer hours than we have all worked lately.
Motion agreed to.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 4th May (vide page810), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That, on andafter a date fixed by proclamation under the act passed to give effect to this resolution, liability be imposed upon employees to make payments at the following rates, being part of contributions payable in respect of national health and pensions insurance: -
In respect of the insurance of an employed person -
In the case of a male - One shilling and sixpence per week.
In the case of a female - One shilling per week. (b)In respect of the insurance of a partially exempt employee entitled in respect of his or her insurance to pension and dependent child’s allowance only -
In the ease of a male - Eleven pence per week.
In the case of a female - Fivepence per week.
In respect of the insurance of a partially exempt male employee entitled in respect of his insurance to widow’s pension and dependent child’s allowance or orphan’s pension only - Sixpence per week.
In respect of the insurance of a juvenile contributor entitled in respect of his or her insurance to medical benefit -
In the ease of either a male or a female - Fourpence per week.
That the rates of payments specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause1 of this resolution shall be increased by Threepence per week in respect of men and women as on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-four, and, as on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine, those rates shall be further increased by Threepence per week in respect of men only.
That the rates of payments specified in paragraph (c) of clause 1 of this resolution shallbe increased by Twopence per week as on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-four, and shall he further increased by One penny per week as on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine.
.- I confess that this matter has been thrashed out fairly fully, and the motion now before the committee is in keeping with the bill that was passed by the House last night. I have an objection to its general principles, to the rate of tax, and also to the form in which the taxation is being imposed, but I feel that I have said sufficient to make my position clear, and I do not propose to add anything further.
– This motion, which deals with the contribution of employees, has been in the hands of honorable members for some time. In sub-paragraph a, are setout the contributions for employed persons, male and female, the rates being 1s. 6d. for males and1s. for females. Sub-paragraph b sets out the contributions in respect of partially-exempt employees entitled in respect of their insurance to pension and dependent child’s allowance only. These are the contributions in respect of old-age pensions and pensions for widows and dependent children. Then, in sub-paragraph c, there is set out the contribution for an employee entitled in respect of his insurance to widow’s pension and dependent child’s allowance or orphan’s pension only. Paragraph d of clause 1 deals with the insurance of a juvenile contributor. It is at this point that my amendment falls. The paragraph now reads -
In the case of either a male or a female - 4d. per week.
As honorable members will remember, the Government has announced its proposal and has already amended the main bill by making available sickness benefits to juveniles between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. Therefore, to bring this resolution into agreement with that proposal, and with the principal measure, my amendment seeks to omit the words in paragraph d “ entitled in respect of his or her insurance to medical benefit.” The paragraph would then read -
Then would follow the rate. I therefore move -
That the words “ entitled in respect of his or her insurance to medical benefit,” clause 1, paragraph (d), be omitted.
During the course of the discussion on the principal measure, the Government announced its intention to alter the contribution in respect of juveniles from 4d. to 5d. a week each in respect of the juvenile employee and his or her employer. After consideration, it has decided to let the provision of 4d. stand in respect of both the juvenile employee and his or her employer. So it comes about that there is no necessity to amend the resolution in respect of the amount of contribution from juveniles, which will remain, as originally, at 4d. I might be permitted to add that this decision on the part of the Government will necessarily throw an additional burden on the central fund, but, having regard to all the circumstances, the Government decided to allow the original rate to remain. The position now in respect of juveniles is that they are entitled to enter into insurance for medical and sickness benefits between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. They will have no waiting period in respect of medical benefit and only the normal waiting period in respect of sickness benefit; but sickness benefit will continue beyond the normal period of 26 weeks. It will continue, if necessary, up to the age of sixteen years. When the juvenile reaches that age, he or she will not necessarily have any further waiting period in respect of his or her entrance into fullbodied insurance as a minor. That, briefly, is the simple purpose of the resolution.
.- We are glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has seen his way clear to accept what I believe was the desire of the committee when discussing the main bill, and we feel that, in leaving the rate at 4d., the honorable gentleman has interpreted the wishes of honorable members generally. The amendment which he proposes to make is, I think, in line with the provisions in respect of the other categories of employed persons. In respect of this part of what he has done, we do not think that there will be any occasion for anybody being accused of obstruction.
– I should like the Treasurer to clear up one or two doubts I have in my mind in regard to this resolution. I may have missed some of the discussion towards the latter end of last week and I find some difficulty in understanding the purport of the resolution. As I understand it, under paragraph a a contribution of1s. 6d. a week in the case of a male and1s. a week in the case of a female shall entitle insured persons to the benefits set out in a principal act, namely, health, sickness, disablement, widows’ pensions, child endowment and, eventually, old-age pension. That is easily understood. My difficulty arises in connexion with paragraph b which imposes the rate of con tribution in respect of partially exempt employees entitled to pension and dependent child’s allowance only. I should be glad to know what persons can be classified as partially exempt employees and what is necessary for them to become so nominated. Apparently those persons are not employed in the sense that those covered by paragraph a are employed. The rate imposed in respect of those persons who will come under paragraph b is11d. per week in the case of males, and 5d. per week in the case of females. Is there to be a supplementary contribution by somebody else of an additional 11d. or 5d. as the case may be? I also have some difficulty in understanding the provisions of paragraph c which deals with partially exempt male employees. Will contributions also be demanded from employers of these people?
Mr. CASEY (Corio- Treasurer , [5.38]. - Paragraph b refers to persons who would come into the category of government employees whose contract of service with a government would assure to them health benefits or some continuation of pay when sick to enable them to secure for themselves approximately the same degree of assurance in respect of health as is provided under the principal bill. Those persons are confined in the bill to a certain class of government employees, and the State government employing them will have to make an application to the Commonwealth Government setting out the various classes of employees and the terms of their employment. An actuarial investigation will have to be undertaken by the National Insurance Commission to assure itself that certain of those employees are wholly or partially exempt in respect of health benefits.
– Take the case of tramwaymen receiving superannuation payments and certain sick payments over a period of fourteen days in one year. Is it proposed to calculate the value of those payments on an actuarial basis?
– Yes, the commission has to be assured that the benefits, al though they may be received in a different form, are actuarially equivalent in the total to the benefits to be provided under the principal bill. This paragraph deals with, that class of persons in respect of whom the commission is satisfied that their health benefits are adequate as compared with tho.se provided for in the main bill. In the case of those who are not adequately provided for in respect of pensions and child allowances, the State government will have an obligation to pay an equivalent amount of lid. a week in the case of a man, and 5d. a week in the case of a woman.
Mv. JOLLY (Lilley) [5.42] . - I should like the Treasurer to explain why provision is made in clause 2 of the resolution that the rate of payment shall be increased by 3d. per week in respect of men and women as on and from the 3rd January, 1944, and then after the 3rd January, 1949, the rates for men only are to be further increased by 3d., a week. Why is it proposed to impose the same rate for men and women for five years, and subsequently increase the rate for men only?
– In any scheme of this sort the burden does not fall on the fund in the early years; it progressively increases as the years go on. The existing total contribution of 3s. for men, and 2s. for women, even with the proposed Government overall contribution, will fall far short of meeting the cost; but the Government finds itself able, for the first five years, to accept a total contribution of 3s. in respect of men, and 2s. in respect of women, on full insurance, provided that, after a period of time when the benefits begin to flow, particularly the pension benefits, the total contribution is made up to something that will a little more nearly meet the amount necessary to give the fund the desired stability-. For the first five years - and that has been chosen only as a convenient period - those who are insured will be paying considerably below what will be the very relatively small proportion of the total cost of the scheme.
– It is possible that the quinquennial valuation may enable this increase to be avoided.
– It is possible that it may be avoided or varied. The advice Contained in the actuarial report is that the finance of this scheme is based on contributions of 3s. and 2s. from persons insured for all benefits for the first fiveyear period. The amounts will be larger when quinquennial adjustments are made. It has been found that we can do with one increase of the contributions from women but need two increases of the contribution from men. I remind honorable gentlemen, too, that it will be five years before the full scheme begins to come into operation. For the first five years even the Government’s contribution is to be at a lesser rate than it will be in the years that follow, rising from £2,000,000 a year by instalments of £500,000 a year until the total of £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 is reached. The Government is able to give slightly reduced rates in the early years largely because the full burden ‘ of the old-age pension and the widows’ pension will not fall on the fund for five years.
.– By providing for these quinquennia] adjustments, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is providing himself with a safety valve. Neither he nor any one else can tell what the burden will be, but the Treasurer anticipates that for five years very few pensions claims will be made upon the fund. Any pensions’ that become payable in that period will be a charge upon the existing invalid and old-age pensions fundi If the insurance fund does provide the millions of pounds which the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was concerned about in his speech but not with his vote, I hope at least that the increased contributions will not be necessary. The admission of the Treasurer proves the contention of the Opposition that the Government is seeking to make pensioners pay for their pensions.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archie Cameron do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 4th May, (vide page 811), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That, on and after a date fixed by proclamation under the act passed to give effect to this resolution, liability be imposed upon employers to make payments at the following rates, being part of contributions payable in respect of national health and pensions insurance: -
In respect of the insurance of an employed person -
In the case of a male - One shilling and sixpence per week.
In the case of a female - One shilling per week.
In respect of the insurance of a partiallyexempt employee entitled in respect of his or her insurance to pension and dependent child’s allowance only -
In the case of a male - Eleven pence per week.
In the case of a female - Five pence per week.
In respect of the insurance of a partiallyexempt male employee entitled in respect of his insurance to widow’s pension and dependent child’s allowance or orphan’s pension only - Sixpence per week.
In respect of the insurance of a juvenile contributor entitled in respect of his or her insurance to medical benefit -
In the case of either a male or a female - Fourpence per week.
In respect of the insurance of a male employed person who has attained the age of sixty-five years - One shilling and sixpence per week.
In respect of the insurance of a female employed person who has attained the age of sixty years - One shilling per week.
That the rates of payments specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause 1 of this resolution shall be increased by Threepence per week in respect of men and women as on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-four, and, as on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine. those rates shall be further increased by Threepence per week in respect of men only.
That the rates of payments specified in paragraph (c) of clause 1 of this resolution shall be increased by Twopence per week as on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-four, and shall be further increased by One penny per weekas on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine.
That the rate of payments specified in paragraph (e) of clause 1 of this resolution shall be increased by Threepence per week as on and from the third day of January, One thousand . nine hundred and forty-four, and, as on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine, shall be further increased by Threepence per week.
That the rate of payments specified in paragraph (f) of clause 1 of this resolution shall bo increased by Threepence per week as on and from the third day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-four.
Amendments (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That after the word “being”, clause 1, the words “ contributions’ or “ be inserted.
That the words “entitled in respect of his or her insurance to medical benefit”, clause 1, paragraph (d) be omitted.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archie Cameron do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first and second time.
In committee (The bill) :
Bill agreed to, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Before this, the last bill dealing with this phase of national insurance, leaves this chamber, I should like on behalf of myself and a number of honorable members, to assure the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) of our very high appreciation of his courtesy, patience and thorough command of the subject which facilitated the passage of the bills. We hope that the trials that he has experienced, no doubt physical, and his patience will be amply repaid by the fact that his scheme is eventually through this House. I commend the honorable gentleman on the high quality of leadership shown by him.
.- I did not think that this procedure would be in order.
– Of course. I assure the House that the circumstances under which the main bill concluded its pas-, sage made it extremely difficult for anything to be then said. The Opposition generally, and I personally, are very conscious of the vast amount of industry, painstaking labour, and enthusiasm which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has manifested. We realize that the physical strain upon him must have been enormous. Whatever has occurred, I hope chat he will bear in mind that there has been a certain strain on other members also. We know that he has given of his very best - and it has been a very good best - in the work that he set himself to do. Without abating in any degree oar objections to the bill, I think that I echo the sentiments of honorable members on this side of the House when I congratulate him upon having been the Minister charged with the passage through this House of a bill which the Government considers is of so much importance. When the time arrives for the legislation to be reviewed by the country, it will be the business of the country to decide what it will do in respect of the government responsible for it. Even if successors of the honorable gentleman should alter it in any way, at least the fact that he pioneered it in this legislature will never be forgotten.
– As one who has had some interest and concern in regard to the legislation now being consummated, I also express appreciation of the work of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). One does not need to admit that the scheme is not without weaknesses or imperfections in order to appreciate to the full the fact that it is a beginning, and a beginning which I believe marks an epoch in Australian sociology. I merely express the hope that the strain experienced by the Treasurer in piloting the measure through this House will not- have the effect of retarding the introduction of complementary legislation which will complete the task to which the Government has set its hand.
– As a strenuous opponent of the Government in respect of very many features of this important measure, I, too, desire to associate myself with the sentiments that have been expressed in regard to the enormous industry, undoubted capacity, tolerance, patience, kindliness and frankness displayed by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to me. I know that I have been included among the rebels on the Government side of the House, and have been regarded as one of those opposed to the measure. I hope that it will bring to the people of Australia those benefits and national advantages so confidently anticipated by the Government. Time alone will tell. Some of my eftorts may have been regarded as obstructive, but at all events my object was to obtain the very best measure possible for a most important section of the Australian community. I extend to the Treasurer my congratulations upon its successful passage through this House.
.- This House having disposed of the measures which will introduce the national health and pensions insurance scheme, I hope that the expectations which honorable members entertain in regard to it will be realized. I do not think that they will be. Great difficulties have been experienced in the working of the English scheme. I realize that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has done a good deal of work, and that at times he has been under a considerable strain. Tempers become affected by such a nervous strain, and I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman is not singular in that regard. Whatever faults may have been manifested in debate on both sides of this House have been the faults of enthusiasm and earnestness. I congratulate the honorable gentleman upon the completion of his task.
Mr. FRANCIS (Moreton) [6.6 J. -As a member of a royal commission which investigated this subject in 1925, and having availed myself of every opportunity to impress upon successive governments the wisdom of introducing a measure to provide for a national insurance scheme, I express my gratification at its having become an accomplished fact. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) upon the manner in which he has handled this very important matter. Even outside this chamber, 1, possibly, have been somewhat obstructive in the view of the honorable gentleman. In past years I have strenuously urged that Sir Walter Kinnear should be brought to Australia, and having been brought he has given valuable help in the formulation of the scheme. This is one of the biggest measures with which, in my experience in this House, any Minister has ever been entrusted. The Treasurer has discharged his duties in connexion with it extremely well, and I am pleased to join with other honorable members in paying tribute to him on that account. I hope that his expectations will be realized. In every country in which national insurance has been introduced, any subsequent alteration has been only in the direction of an enlargement or improvement of the benefits prescribed. I hope that that will be the experience in Australia.
.- I have been an interested listener in this exchange of compliments which, although deeply felt, would, but for your tolerance and good judgment, Mr. Speaker, have appeared to me irrelevant to the motion before the Chair. However, as you have accepted as relevant the volume of congratulations which have flowed to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) I take leave to contribute a few observations.
I am opposed, to the bill in principle. I understand that on occasions such as this we are permitted to say a few parting words ‘ concerning a bill in principle. That is neither a threat nor a promise, because I do not propose to discuss this bill in principle. The most heartfelt expressions of opinion, I am certain, will l>e voiced later on the hustings. Then, the work of the Treasurer in relation to the interests of the people will be carefully assessed, and the value of it freely expressed. I hope to be spared to join in those expressions of opinion as to the merits of the scheme. It must be freely granted that the Treasurer has worked hard. My honorable and learned colleague from Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) appeared to suggest that any one’s temper might well -become a little frayed while piloting so large a measure through this, at times, turbulent chamber, and that consequently the Treasurer was to be excused for having occasionally lost his temper. I feel inclined to say that, although the honorable gentleman may easily lose his-seat, he has not so far lost his temper. As we may not meet him in another Parliament, it is only fair to say now that his temper in connexion with this bill has been admirable throughout. I have no complaint to make in that regard. I consider that he has piloted a most objectionable measure through a sometimes very difficult and perturbed House, with a perfect Oxford manner.
– As one of the critics of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, may I be permitted to express appreciation of the courtesy which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has shown, both inside and outside this House, in regard to the representations which have been made to him by honorable members. I believe he is fully seised of the fact that the object of the suggestions which were made to him from time to time was, not to defeat the purpose of the bill, but purely to help him so to widen it as to include those whom we felt might have been forgotten in its preparation.
– I am very greatly obliged to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and the honorable members for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), Moreton (Mr. Francis), Batman (Mr. Brennan), and Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) for the very kind remarks they have made concerning me. The bill was a lengthy one, and it imposed some strain on many of us. I have been obliged to maintain the attitude of the Government with respect to certain matters which it, at least, thought were vital tothe measure, and I hope that any undue insistence on those principles on my part will not have left any rankling, particularly in the minds of honorable members of the two parties which support the Government. The Leader of the Opposition and I have from time to time said some hard words to each other across the table with respect to the measure. I ask him to believe that I shall forget them all as soon as the bill is enacted.
– I think that forgetful- ness is required of me.
– I was trying to allocate not too closely, any praise or blame in that connexion. I assure the honorable member for Batman that I shall await the next elections without any foreboding. I hope that he will do the same in respect of his seat. I should like againto express, as I have expressed at an earlier stage of the principal measure, the very great sense of gratitude which the Government feels towards Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr. Lindsay. Without the continuous, arduous work of those two men over a period of many months, it would not have been possible to complete the preparation of this measure in anything like the time occupied. I also thank Professor Brigden, Mr. McVey, and Mr. Green, the three gentlemen who, as commissioners, will administer the scheme and carry out its many beneficial objectives. To those five gentlemen I offer the sincere thanks of the Government, and also my own personal thanks, for the service they have rendered. Our thanks are due also to the Parliamentary Draftsman, Mr. Boniwell, who has been constantly by our side and has been of invaluable help to us in preparing the bill for Parliament and in assisting its passage through the House. I am most grateful for the generous sentiments expressed by honorable members. I conclude by hoping that the series of bills will be given a speedy passage through the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.17 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 20th June (vide page 2323) on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not intend to resist the passage of this measure, but we shall offer some well-merited criticism of the tardiness of the Government in introducing this necessary amendment of the law. The purpose of the bill is to remove a restriction upon the liberty of the subject which was imposed under the War Precautions Act, and continued under the Passports Act 1920. As honorable members are aware, during the war it was made obligatory on every person who proposed to travel abroad from Australia to obtain a passport. It is now intended that this restriction shall be removed to a certain degree. Although it may be said that the restriction was necessary during the war years, I remind honorable gentlemen that the war has been over for nearly twenty years. Australia is the last British country to remove this restriction, so the present Government is running true to form, in that wherever possible it has perpetuated existing restrictions on the liberty of the subject. The law is to be amended to some extent, but the restrictions are not being removed as completely as we wish. Even after the passage of this bill, the Minister will have autocratic power to prevent the free passage of Australian citizens abroad. Although it is true, as the present Minister (Mr. McEwen) said in his second-reading speech, that hereafter Australian citizens will not be obliged to secure a passport, every honorable member of the Parliament knows that an Australian would be foolish to go abroad without having first obtained a passport. Possession of such a documentwould assure him in various other countries a safe passage which, without a passport, might not be possible. Every Australian who wishes to travel abroad will realize that it is probably in his own interests to apply for a passport. Yet, even after the passage of the bill, the Minister will have power to refuse to issue a passport, and to decline to give reasons for his action; and a person who has been denied a passport will not have the right to appear before the Minister to state his case. It will thus be seen that the Minister will still retain great powers.
We all know very well that Ministers of this Government have, in the past, used in an autocratic way, various powers vested in them in relation to passports. The Minister in his second-reading speech, said that the power to cancel a passport was used only on rare occasions, as, for example, when it was discovered that a passport had been obtained by the making of false statements. But the honorable gentleman must be well aware that passports have been cancelled on several occasions. I have in mind a case in which a passport granted to an Australian citizen travelling abroad was actually cancelled while he was overseas, not because he had made any false statement, but for some reason of which I am unaware, and of which, so far, I have been unable to obtain any adequate explanation. On another occasion, the ex-Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), exercising his power under the Immigration Act, refused to recognize the right to land in this country of a British woman named Mrs. Freer, who was travelling to Australia on a British passport. It was only after many weeks, of questioning in this Parliament that we eventually obtained some information on the subject from the honorable gentleman. We were then informed by him that, in his opinion, his action was justified by reason of the fact that the relations between Mrs. Freer and a Lieutenant Dewar had become involved in India. He further said that Lieutenant Dewar had a wife and child in Australia, and the Government did not desire to see an Australian home irreparably destroyed. I do not wish to deal at any length with that particular case, for it has already been discussed in this House. I simply direct attention to the facts. A few months later the same honorable gentleman was involved in another dispute, in which an exactly converse set of circumstances existed. A certain Australian citizen had been married for only a few months when he separated from his wife ‘ and litigation was instituted. He learned that his wife intended to go abroad, and had actually booked her passage. He applied for the cancellation of his passport on the “ground that litigation had been instituted, and asked for permission to state his reasons to the Minister. The Minister’s view of this case was exactly the opposite of his view in the case of Mrs. Freer. He refused to cancel the passport, arguing that the domestic affairs of a husband and wife were not the direct concern of the Crown. The matter was taken to the High Court, where the right of the Minister to act as he did was challenged. Mr. Justice Evatt decided, on the 29th January, 1937, that the Minister had acted within his powers.
In the light of the various circumstances to which I have referred, it seems to me that the Parliament should deprive the Minister of his autocratic power to refuse, on the one hand, to recognize a passport issued to a national of the United Kingdom, under which admission to this country was desired, and to refuse, on the other hand, to issue a passport to an Australian citizen who desires to travel abroad, without giving the aggrieved person the right to state his case.
The antecedents of anti-Labour governments of to-day were such that when action is now taken by them to remove restrictions on the liberty of the subject, we are entitled to look for the particular reason which prompts- it, for the reputation of such governments in this country is anything but savoury. I, therefore, ask why this Government has introduced this bill? Honorable members are aware that under the existing law a person before leaving our shores must secure a clearance from the Taxation Department in respect of the taxing of income earned in this country, but it seems to me that, under this bill, it will be possible for persons to leave Australia without having obtained such a clearance.
– That is not so.
– I shall be pleased to hear a definite statement to that effect from the Minister, because my reading of his speech, and of the bill, leads me to a different conclusion. As I see it, a person may leave this country unless he has been guilty of a breach of the law and a warrant has actually been issued lor his arrest.
At the committee stage of the bill I propose to move certain amendments to increase still further the liberty of the subject, and to restrict, to a greater degree, the autocratic power of the Minister to refuse to grant a passport without affording the aggrieved party an opportunity to state his case.
With these qualifications, the Labour party, although protesting against the tardiness with which the Government has introduced the bill, will not obstruct its passage. We desire, however, to make sure that the liberty which is now being restored to our people, after a lapse of more than twenty years, shall not be snatched away from them again at a moment’s notice, whenever the war lords decide to involve this country in another war. This should not be a temporary respite. Subject to what I have said, the Labour party will supportthe bill.
– in reply - I wish to refer to only two points touched upon by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He mentioned a case in which he alleged that a passport granted to an Australian citizen had actually been cancelled while the person concerned was still abroad. The honorable gentleman is misinformed on that point. The officers of my department are not able to tell me of any such instance. I have, however, been given certain information about another case which I think must be the one the honorable member has in mind. A passport issued to a British citizen was made valid for the whole of the British Empire. While the holder of it was abroad, the government of another dominion, for reasons it deemed adequate, asked that the passport should be, not cancelled, but limited in its application. It was asked that the passport should not be valid in that particular dominion.
– Which Government would make the passport valid for the whole British Commonwealth of Nations ?
– The passport was issued with an endorsement to that effect.
– Who did that?
– The Minister in Australia, in the last resort, and on the representations of the Government of an other dominion in this particular case, which is probably that which the honorable member has in mind. A request was submitted to the Commonwealth Government that the passport should be limited in its application, so that it should not apply to that particular dominion, and action was taken accordingly.
The other point raised by the honorable member for East Sydney is that, by the passage of this bill as it stands, a situation would be created in which the Government would no longer possess the machinery it now has to prevent a person from leaving Australia until he had first paid all his taxation dues. On that point also the honorable member is misinformed. The Government docs not to-day use the machinery of the passport law for that purpose.
– Since when?
– I am not aware that it has used that machinery for a considerable time.
– The passport would not be issued until a clearance had been obtained from the Taxation Department.
– That is not the case.
– That practice has been followed on many occasions.
– That is not the point. There is an arrangement to-day whereby no shipping company will sell a ticket for a passage on an overseas vessel to any person leaving Australia until the company has received a clearance from the Taxation Department.
– That was not done until 1930.
– I am speaking of the machinery which the Government uses to-day, and which has been employed for some time, and has evidently proved quite effective for the purpose in mind. The amendment of the passport law, as contemplated under this bill, will not affect that arrangement, so that even after the passage of this measure the shipping companies will not issue tickets to persons desirous of travelling on overseas vessels until those persons are able to present clearances from the taxation authorities.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 passed.
Clause 4 (Extension of act to territories).
– It is proposed that the provisions of the act, and of the regulations issued under it, shall be extended to apply to Papua, Norfolk Island and to the Territory of New Guinea.
Clause agreed to.
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ British subject “ includes -
– A full list of persons entitled to be described as British subjects is given in section 6 of the Nationality Act 1920-1936. That section is in conformity with similar provisions of the nationality laws of the United Kingdom and other self-governing dominions. I move -
That, before the definition of “ Australian passport “ the following definition be inserted: - “ ‘ Administrator ‘, in relation to a territory, means the person in control of the administration of that territory;”.
That after the word “ Australia “, the words “ or in any territory of the Commonwealth “ be inserted.
That, at the end of the clause, the following sub-clause he added: - “ (2.) Any reference in this act -
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6(Issue of Australian passports).
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added: -
The effect of the amendment would be to provide that, instead of the Minister having power to decline to hear a person to whom a passport had been refused, the aggrieved party would have an opportunity to appeal to, and at least state his case before, the Minister. If an Australian is refused anything under a law of the Commonwealth, he should have an opportunity to state the reasons why he considers that he has been unjustly treated through a departmental decision.
– I cannot accept the amendment. Honorable members will agree, on reflection, I think, that to accept an amendment conferring on any person the right to demand the privilege of personal appearance before the Minister to present his case would place the Minister in a very difficult, ifnot impossible, position in connexion with Ms general administrative work. The duties of a Minister are manifold, and, if he had to act as a final court of appeal with regard to applications for passports, I am sure that he would be involved in the possibility of an additional flood of work which it would be impracticable for him to undertake. At the present time, an applicant can appeal to the Minister by making representations to him in the usual way, and the Minister would give as serious consideration to a written application as he would to an oral one. I have no doubt that the case of any person who might find himself in the situation contemplated by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would be handled much more to the advantage of the applicant were he to proceed, as is the custom to-day, by calling to his aid in the presentation of a written case those who would probably be more competent than he to present it. I ask the committee to accept the clause as it stands.
. -I did not understand whether the Minister (Mr. McEwen) definitely stated that an opportunity is given to-day to appeal to the Minister in cases in which passports have been refused.
-There is an opportunity, but not a right.
– There is no obligation on the Minister to consider such an application.
– I have had some experience in regard to passports. I know that under the old law it was often necessary to approach one officer after another. This occasioned much delay and expense. People living in outlying places often experience difficulty now in obtaining passports, and, in view of the Minister’s statement, I am wondering if there will be any guarantee in the future that an appeal can be made to anybody at all. “ Officer “, according to clause 5, “ means any officer of the Department of the Interior, and includes any officer of Customs, any officer of the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, and any member of the police force of a State or territory of the Commonwealth.” I can imagine a person living in Central Australia having difficulty with a mounted police officer, if it is to be understood that that officer’s word would be final. The bill should provide that an applicant for a passport should be given power to approach the Minister, if he desires to do so.
.- The explanation given by the Minister (Mr. McEwen) in regard to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is very unsatisfactory. It appears to me that the Minister has regarded the matter much too lightly, indicating that the matter of principle to which reference has been made should be decided with reference to the mere matter of the convenience and time of the Minister, and the probability of the applicant receiving adequate attention from some unnamed and unknown subordinate officials. I call attention to the important matter of principle involved. It was well illustrated in regard to the exercise of certain dis cretionary powers by a former Minister for the Interior under the Immigration Act. The Minister in some cases, quite wrongly I think, is invested with a very important discretion without any corresponding obligation to justify his conduct before Parliament, or before the bar of public opinion. Every one is familiar with the case to which I refer, and which involved the ex-Minister in a great deal of criticism. I felt a good deal of sympathy with him,because I realized that he was bound to take responsibility for his own decision under the statute, and that the statute did not require him to justify publicly the exercise of his discretion. In regard to passports, a somewhat similar situation exists. A request is made to the department for a passport, the request is refused, and the Minister supports the refusal, but he is not called upon by statute to give any reason for his action. I submit that it is a very serious thing to refuse a man a passport to leave the country. There is hardly anything which touches more vitally the principle of the liberty of the subject than to declare behind closed doors, and in secret, as the representative of a bureaucracy, that a man may not have a passport, and to refuse also to state a reason. The Minister does not even undertake to familiarize himself with the facts of the case, because those facts have probably been dealt with by subordinate officials. I suggest that the amendment of the honorable member for East Sydney does not go far enough in merely seeking the right of access to the Minister for the applicant, and, presumably, the right to argue with the Minister regarding the basis of his refusal. The statute itself should provide that, if the Minister refuses a passport he should state the grounds of his refusal. It should state at least in general terms the reasons for which a. passport may be refused, and the Minister, when he refuses an application, should be prepared to run the gauntlet of parliamentary and public criticism. It is entirely undesirable that such an important matter of principle should be argued upon the narrow grounds of ministerial convenience. I am not seeking to undervalue the status or importance of the Minister’s work, but when matters of high principle are involved, Ministers must find time to attend to them.
– I am sympathetic towards the amendment of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) to the degree that I do not think that an application for a passport should be refused upon any but the most important grounds. At the present time, I understand, nearly all applications for passports are dealt with by the collectors of customs in the various States. In the case of refusals, with the exception of those which follow a clear precedent, the application is sent to Canberra., and the refusal is endorsed personally by the Minister. Therefore, even now, there is something very much in the nature of an appeal. I take it that the Minister, before he endorses a refusal, makes a fairly comprehensive survey of the facts as set out in the papers. The honorable member for East Sydney did not make it clear what he had in mind when he said that there ought to be an appeal. However, I should think if the Minister were to assure the committee that he does actually give attention to those cases in which applications have been refused, it might be satisfactory to the honorable member and to the committee.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that it is a very serious matter to refuse any person a passport, particularly when no reason’ is given for the refusal. The honorable member who moved the amendment seeks to have inserted in the act a provision guaranteeing that every one who has been refused a. passport shall enjoy the right of personal access to the Minister. Of course, every one may now communicate by letter with the Minister, but we know that Ministers are busy men, and that it would be almost impossible for them to give personal attention to every letter addressed to them. We may assume that the number of applications refused will not be very large, so that it would not be asking too much of the Minister to give them his personal attention. It has always seemed to me to be unfair that, if a person who has been refused .a passport happens to know a member of this Parliament, he may be sure of having his case fairly dealt with ; but the unfortunate person, though he may have a much better case, who does not happen to know a member, receives scant consideration. That, of course, applies also to applicants for old-age pensions. All applicants for passports should be placed upon an equal footing. Probably not many of those whose applications have been refused would exercise the right to interview the Minister; most of them would be content to state their case by correspondence, but the right of interview should exist. Also, the reasons for refusing a passport should be made public if the applicant so desires. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment, or, if he cannot do so, that he will at least give an assurance that in future persons who are refused passports will enjoy better opportunities to have their cases heard. We know that the personal equation enters into these matters, and that some people are refused passports because of a prejudice entertained by an official.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is not proposing that there shall be an appeal from the Minister; he is proposing that there shall be an appeal to the Minister in cases where the act of refusing a passport is that of a subordinate officer. It would appear from the way the act is drawn that, at the present time, the only person responsible for a refusal is the officer concerned, and there does not seem to be any satisfactory way of reviewing his action. It is not suggested that there should be an appeal to a court, but that the Minister should be” required to hear an appeal from the decision of the officer, and that the applicant, if he so desires, should be heard by the Minister. The present Minister (Mr. (McEwen) has stated that the department is overloaded with work, but we must remember that important issues are at stake. The passport, admittedly, is not’ so important as it was, because, as the Minister has stated, a person may now leave Australia without one. However, there are still many countries which will not admit travellers without a passport. Therefore, to refuse a passport is, in those circumstances, to deprive a person of the right to move about the world freely. It is all very well to say that the Minister will peruse the documents, but that is not the same thing as giving the applicant a personal hearing, so that the Minister may make up his mind what kind of person the applicant is. As I have said, it is not suggested that there should be an appeal from the Minister, but it is suggested that the ultimate responsibility for a refusal should belong to the Minister. It is not a question of the Minister taking responsibility for the action of a subordinate, but one of his taking the responsibility for his own refusal after the applicant has been heard. The Minister may be able to suggest some alternative course. lt seems to me, however, that in a matter which affects personal liberty there should be some review of the decision of a subordinate officer, and the honorable member for East Sydney suggests in his amendment that the person who does the reviewing should be the Minister himself.
– I have listened with attention to all the points raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and those who have spoken in support of his amendment, but I am still unconvinced that it would be practicable to incorporate in the law a provision conferring on any person to whom a passport had been refused, the right to appear personally before the Minister to argue his case. Obviously, should such a provision be made, it would not be just to prevent, say, an. illiterate person from having somebody to assist him in presenting his case. The more one examines the proposal, the more it emerges as one in which the Minister will be constituted a judge to hear personally a case presented by the applicant supported maybe by a lay friend, or possibly a legal adviser. I do not think that honorable members, upon reflection, will regard the proposal, meritorious as it may be in theory, as one capable of being given practical effect. As the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has said, authority is delegated by the Minister to certain officers for various, purposes, but authority to issue or refuse a passport is delegated only to officers of high standing and experience.
– Not necessarily.
– It is practically restricted to collectors of customs in the various States.
– The delegation of authority is not restricted in the principal act, which provides that authority to issue a passport may be delegated to an officer who is defined as “ any person authorized by the Minister to exercise the powers conferred on officers by this act “.
– I did not refer to any limit placed on the delegation of authority by the act itself: I referred to the actual practice adopted by me, as Minister, and by my predecessors, in regard to the delegation of this high authority. I am able to assure the committee that only in the most rare instances, and on most indisputable grounds, are passports refused. For instance, such a ground would be the case of a person for whom a warrant had been issued, if the fact of its issue were known. I suggest to the honorable member for East Sydney that rather- than press his amendment and force the committee to vote upon it, he should accept the assurance which I gladly give that, as Minister, I shall issue a direction to those who hold delegated authority to issue or refuse passports that, in the case of a refusal, they shall intimate to the person refused a passport that he may apply to the Minister for particular consideration of his case. It occurs to me that this is the more practicable thing to do. I am quite prepared to give that assurance to the committee, and I shall act in accordance with that suggestion. In view of that, I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to consider withdrawing his amendment.
– Can the Minister say how many passports were refused last year?
– No, I cannot give that information offhand, but I am able to say that only in cases where there is indisputable evidence ‘to justify the refusal of the passport is such action taken. *
.- I am quite satisfied to accept the Minister’s suggestion as far as it concerns himself personally, but the direction which he suggests should be made may not be continued by his successors in office. What I fear in connexion with this matter is a repetition of the unsatisfactory state of affairs which exists in connexion with applications for naturalization. There are many men in my electorate who have been granted naturalization who can speak no better English than those to whom naturalization has been refused on the ground of their lack of knowledge of the English language. Many of those to whom naturalization has been refused are able to make themselves understood, and there seems to be no reasonable ground for continuing the refusal. The point I make is that many of these men say that there are certain means by which favorable reports in connexion with applicants for naturalization can be secured. That may, or may not, be true. If it be true, it is possible that the same unsatisfactory state of affairs may be permitted to operate in connexion with the issue of passports. A person who is denied a passport should be permitted to approach the Minister so that the Minister himself may hear an appeal against what may be the unjust act of some individual. The department relies mainly on members of the police force for reports in connexion with these matters. If a police officer happens to have a set on a particular person he can easily so word his report that the application would be refused. In these circumstances permission to appeal to the Minister should be granted.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) because it seeks to provide some protection at least of the degree of liberty of the subject which we pride ourselves we possess in this country. I think it is quite beside the point for the Minister (Mr. McEwen) to say that the suggestion put forward by the honorable member in his amendment is meritorious in theory, but not practicable. It should be sufficient for us to know that if there is any merit in the proposal at -.all, some means should be found whereby the liberty of the subject might be preserved. . I understand that at the present time when an’ application is lodged for the issue of a passport, a report is furnished by some officer. The Minister said that the report is always furnished by a high officer pf the department. I draw attention, however, to the fact that it is proposed that this bill shall operate not only all over the Commonwealth itself, but also in the territories of the Commonwealth, and while there might be officers of sufficiently high standing in some places, it is difficult to imagine that the department has sufficiently highly-placed officers in all parts of Australia and in the mandated territories to deal with such a vital matter. When an application for a passport is refused, to say the least of it, the Minister hears only that side of the case presented by the departmental officer. I have yet to learn from the honorable gentleman that, when the matter ultimately reaches him, he hears anything else but the officer’s side of the story. That being so, how is he to balance evenly the scales of justice in these cases? The honorable member for East Sydney has suggested that before the application is finally rejected, both sides should he heard. I do not think the Minister wishes the committee to believe that at present he hears both sides of the question.
– He is not even obliged to hear one side.
– That is so; but to put it in the most generous light, I think we can say that he hears only one side of the case, and, as the result of his decision, the liberty of a subject to move about of his own free will, may be restricted merely on the report of an officer, against which there is no appeal. The object of the amendment moved by the honorable member for East Sydney was merely to provide a method of appeal. I do not know whether the suggested method would be very effective, but at least it is along right lines. My experience with Ministers in the past has been that they are usually guided by reports of their officers. Very seldom, in any department of the Commonwealth, does a Minister act against the advice of his officers. After all, even if the amendment of the honorable member for East Sydney were given effect, the Minister would have to decide between the report ofhis officer, towards whom he might have a natural leaning, and the personal representations of the applicant. The Minister has said that he would be placed in a difficult position if he were obliged to act as a court of appeal. I understand, however, that very few applications for passports are refused. If he admits that the suggestion is meritorious in theory, at least he should strain every point to see if it is not possible to accept it, having in mind the comparatively few cases in which appeals would be made. I do not think the difficulty will be overcome by the undertaking givenby the Minister. I want it to be understood that I have not the least doubt, from my knowledge of the honorable gentleman, that he will do what he says, but unfortunately hewill eventually have to relinquish the portfolio which he now holds, and, naturally, as he cannot bind his successors, his good intentions may go by the board. Any Minister is actually bound only by the words of the statute. If that right of appeal to the Minister for that careful surveillance which the Minister has promised is not provided in the statute, all of the good intentions expressed by him may vanish when he leaves the department. Seeing that the Minister has admitted that there is some merit in the right of the individual whose liberty is restricted by the action of an officer of the department, it is not conceivable that he will not agree to something that at least guarantees in the bill that which he himself has guaranteed without its being in the bill. The amendment provides that there shall be an appeal to the Minister, and the difference between the bill specifying that that appeal may be made and the Minister verbally guaranteeing that hewill carefully supervise passport matters is only the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee.
– Then why press the amendment ?
– Because, as I said before, the honorable member for Indi may not always be Minister for the Interior. With all the bestwishes that I have towards the honorable gentleman, I hope that he is not.
– I think that the Minister has overlooked an important aspect of the matter. If the amendmentwere carried, an aggrieved person would have the satisfaction at least of knowing why a passport had been refused. At the moment, all that he gets is an official communication that his application has been rejected.
– Probably from the local policeman.
– That is correct. I do not agree that in all of these matters the utmost care is exercised. Close examination of those to whom passports have been granted, those to whom passports have been refused, and those who have had great difficulty in securing passports will disclose that some very peculiar decisions have been made by the high officials, referred to by the Minister, who handle these applications. For instance, I have in mind a case mentioned during this discussion by way of interjection by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander). The Minister said that persons who owed a considerable amount of tax to the Government could be prevented from leaving the country. I remind the honorable gentleman, however, that a scoundrel named Eric Campbell had the opportunity to leave this country for a trip abroad when he owed a considerable sum of money in tax, whereas delegates to international conferences have experienced either direct refusal of a passport or very great difficulty in obtaining one. Mr. Baker. - Did not Campbell have something to do with some semi-military organization inNew South Wales?
– As a matter of fact, that gentleman, I mean scoundrel - he could not be called a gentleman - was the originator of the idea of the establishment of an insurgent army whose aim was to overthrow constituted government in New South Wales. Some of his lieutenants, including the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), are members of this Parliament. Although the present Government was aware of that fact, and although it is said by the Minister that a careful examination is made as to the qualifications of persons who apply for passports, that scoundrel was able to get a passport whilst decent citizens were refused passports. This scoundrel Campbell actually conducted against the State Government a campaign which ho said was against repudiation. In spite’ of that fact, he has only recently been involved in a charge of conspiring with others to defraud a company of certain of its moneys and assets. That man was able to get a passport.
There is no obligation on the Minister to supply to this Parliament or to the aggrieved person any of the reasons why a passport is refused. The former Minister for the Interior, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), after weeks of questioning and an adjournment motion, maintained a refusal to give information to the Parliament on the ground that it was for the public good not to do so. The same position may arise to-day. The Minister said that an illiterate person would be seriously handicapped if the amendment were carried because, if he had to appear personally before the Minister he would need the assistance of some one. The same thing would apply if he had to communicate with the Minister by letter. The purpose of the amendment is that if he so desired he would have the opportunity to take some one with him to help him in the presentation of his case. As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has said, the time of the Minister is not so taxed that he would not be able to find sufficient time to deal with the few cases of appeal against refusal to issue passports. What the Minister would be required to do as a matter of fact would be far more important than many activities on which he is called upon to occupy time at present. I suggest to the Minister and to other members of the Cabinet that, if they find their time overtaxed, they could have more time for important matters of public concern if they cut down on the “guzzles” that they so frequently attend. Much time that could be profitably diverted to the interests of the people of this country is wasted in that direction.
– The honorable member seems to think that he is in the Domain.
– I can see that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is anxious to know why I have not mentioned him in my speech. T mentioned the honorable member for Wentworth because the honorable gentleman was a lieutenant in the New Guard. The honorable member for Barton was never a member of the New Guard. I concede that even the New Guard had to draw the line somewhere.
The Minister should give further consideration to the amendment because, as I have already said, if there is any law existing in this country, and it can be applied harshly against the citizen on . the erroneous report of an official, it is just that citizens should have a right to appeal to some authority, and a right to know the reason why their rights as citizens are denied to them. That is all that the amendment seeks. I believe, as do the honorable member for Dalley and other honorable members, that the present Minister will carry out his undertaking to give necessary consideration to all of these matters, but, with the honorable member for Dalley, I remind him that he will not always occupy that position. This bill will be binding not only on the present Minister for the Interior, but also on his successors, and in the hurley-burley of politics it may he that the autocratic member for Gippsland might again take charge of the department. What we could expect from that honorable gentleman we know from previous experience of his administration of that department. We press this amendment, not because we disbelieve the undertaking given by the present Minister, but because we believe that what he has promised to do should be statutorily binding upon his successors. I agree with the honorable, member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that the amendment does not go as far as the Opposition would like it to go, and that offences for which the passports could be withheld should be definitely set out in the bill. However, it will considerably liberalize the provisions of the bill, and I . hope that the’ Minister will accept it.
– Under the existing practice the issue of a passport is not refused to any person eligible to receive a passport by reason of nationality except at the direction of the Minister. Before any refusal is made the Minister will have heard the case. I have intimated to the committee that I will issue a direction to those persons to whom delegated authority has been given regarding the issue of passports that they should intimate to the applicant whose application for a passport has been refused that his case will receive further consideration should he desire to submit it in writing to the Minister.
– Will the Minister make that a regulation?
– Frankly, I am not sufficiently familiar with this subject to know whether it would be competent to make a regulation to that effect, but, if I, as the present occupant of the post, issued such an instruction to those officers who hold delegated authority, that instruction would stand after tho day when I went out of the office, and it became occupied by another Minister. It would be rescinded only on the specific decision of the subsequent Minister. I think that honorable members will agree that it is unlikely that a fair decision like that which I have promised to make would be specially rescinded by a successor. I appeal to members to realize it would not be practicable for the Minister to be established more or less as a court of inquiry to hear applicants and any persons whom they should bring along to substantiate their evidence. Equity is adequately served by the present practice. Refusal of a passport is not made to an eligible person by a delegated officer until he has been authorized by the Minister, and with that practice continued and added to with a direction along the lines that I have indicated, which will remain in force until some subsequent Minister may decide against it - I think that we can agree that it is most unlikely to be rescinded - adequate protection is afforded to persons who apply for passports. I ask the committee to reject the amendment and agree to the clause as it stands.
.- It is most regrettable that the Minister (Mr. McEwen) has not been impressed by the argument of honorable members on this side of the chamber as to the seriousness and importance of the public matter with which he is here dealing. In spite of everything, he persists in subordinating a matter of principle to a matter of convenience. Can he not be prevailed upon to see that a person seeking to leave this country is in a very different position from a person seeking to enter it? A person coming here is possibly, almost “certainly, a non-resident of Australia, probably not a British citizen, or, if a British subject, one only by reason of his naturalization in some part of the British Commonwealth other than Australia. He is a newcomer, and as such has to establish his right to enter this country for the first time, or at all. But a person seeking to leave this country is, we may be assured, certainly a resident, probably a British subject, and almost certainly one who has established rights and interests - at all events, the right and interest which give to him opportunity to move about where he likes. Such a person may find it necessary, for perfectly good reasons and in absolutely good faith, to make a hurried departure from Australia. Lest it be suggested that I am in some covert way upholding the claim of a person who is a fugitive from justice or is attempting to get away for some discreditable reason, I say that he may be a person who, for very strong and very sound reasons, in his own interests and maybe in the interests of his family,, desires to make a hurried departure from Australia. The officer of the department dealing with the matter may in good faith, and yet for entirely mistaken reasons, refuse a passport. The Minister himself referred to the case of a man for whom a warrant had been issued, as a typical example of cases in which the issue of a passport would be refused. In that very case there may be mistaken identity. The warrant may have been issued on allegations of what were not facts, allegations which could be readily and completely answered in the proper place and at the proper time. The reasons advanced against the issue of the passport may bt reasons of prejudice or vindictivenessThey may be any of a thousand different reasons, and they ought to be carefully examined by a responsible authority. One of the very embarrassing cases which sometimes arise in connexion with the issue of passports is that in which a wronged or deserted wife seeks to return to relatives in the Old Country, where she still has an attachment. She may be married in this country to a man who has treated her badly, and from whom she has nothing to expect. .The Minister talks about the relatively few eases in which a passport is refused. I have good reason to suppose that when a husband chooses to protest against his wife being permitted to leave Australia, such protest istaken into very serious consideration by the department, and under the existing law the issue of the passport is deferred to the very day on which the ship sails. I cite acase within my own knowledge, in which a decent little woman, against whom there is not the slightest suggestion of any impropriety, who is industrious and self-supporting, being desirous of returning to her aged mother in the Old Country, was refused a passport up to the very day on which she was to sail, in case, if you please, the person who had wronged her, deserted her, and left her unsupported should, even up to the last moment, register his opposition to her leaving this country. I know the Minister will say that if such a case were brought to his notice he would exercise his discretion in favour of the wife. He may do so, or, on the contrary, he may be impressed by the specious and unexamined arguments of the person opposing her departure. That kind of case may arise. I register my emphatic protest against the continued operation of a law under which a subordinate officer of any department, without assigning reasons, may refuse to issue a passport, without imposing on the Minister any obligation to explain the reason for that refusal, or personally to inspect and examine the grounds of it, thus generally paving the way to a public scandal such as occurred in connexion with the Immigration Act. Recently we had a Minister being baited day after day in this chamber in an endeavour to induce him to furnish reasons which he declared he was not required to give and which in good faith he might not wish to give - because sometimes, in matters of this sort, the reason for any action taken may reflect on individuals. In that case the Minister felt it would be unfair and unsportsmanlike if he were to disclose the reasons operating in his mind. But it is that class of argument, that frame of mind,which leads to the worst abuses reminiscent of the Star Chamber. Although the disclosure of facts may be unpleasant, although it may hurt some people’s feel ings and may appear unsportsmanlike, yet when dealing with the fundamental rights of individual citizens claiming fundamental liberties we must be guided by the same principles of law as actuate the law courts, which say, that although a public hearing may cause a public scandal, the doors of the law courts shall be thrown, open to the public because it is more important that justice shall be done to the individual in the light of day and that the principles of justice shall be maintained than that the feelings of individuals shall be unduly respected.
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be added (Mr. Ward’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I was surprised to hear the Minister say that a clearance from the Taxation Department was not needed to secure a passport, t have had some experience in arranging for such clearances ‘from the Taxation Department, and I have always understood that it was, as I think it should be, a necessary precedent condition to the issue of a passport. “We should not rely on shipping or aviation companies or any other transport organizations to ensure that persons wishing to leave this country have met their obligations to the taxing authorities. When I applied for a passport for myself on the last occasion, I was informed that I had to obtain a clearance from the Taxation Department.
I also wish to know whether the condition which obtains at present, that a man must obtain the permission of his wife before he may go abroad, will continue after the passage of this bill.
– I can only repeat that the assumption that the securing of a clearance from the taxation authorities is a necessary condition precedent to the issue of a passport is wrong. The protection of the revenue is assured under the Income Tax Assessment Act in which it is stipulated that no person may secure a passage to leave this country by any transport service without first furnishing the company concerned with a clearance from the Taxation Department.
– -What about the case of Campbell ?
– The matter which the honorable member for Lilley has mentioned in relation to income taxation is covered by the Income Tax Assessment Act, and not by the Passports Act.
It is also erroneous to assume that the Passports Act may be used to prevent a married man from leaving Australia without having first obtained his wife’s consent. I am not familiar with all the details of this matter, but the practice which has been followed, at least during the period that my predecessor and I have held this office, is that when a married man applies for’ a passport the department or the Minister requests that he shall furnish a letter of consent from his wife. If he does not do so the department advises the wife by letter that her husband has made application for a passport to enable him to leave the country. A wife living in the same State as her husband is informed that it is proposed to issue a passport within fourteen days, and a wife living in a different State from her husband is informed that a passport will be issued after 21 days. The purpose of this procedure is to enable a wife, who feels that she may suffer some injustice or wrong if her husband leaves the country, to institute action in a civil court to protect herself. Quite regardless of whether or not the wife eventually provides her husband with a letter of consent, the passport is issued at the expiration of the prescribed period.
.- The point raised by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) was brought under the notice of Mr. Justice Evatt in the case referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The learned judge, in a judgment reported at page 146, Argus Law Reports 1936, stated -
Mr. Piddington has emphasized that the practice of the department is that, in the case of application for a passport by a wife or a husband, a certificate of consent to the departure is obtained from the other spouse. But Form H.2, in which that consent is usually embodied, seems to have no statutory basis In any case, the absence of such consent does not preclude the Minister from granting a passport. Further, I hold that neither spouse has any right to compel the Minister to consider representations that a passport should be refused. No doubt the Minister may, if he considers it proper, listen to representations on the matter from any person, including a spouse. But there is certainly no duty which the statute or any regulation places upon the Minister.
Whether the Minister is influenced or not by the submissions made to him, no means is available to review his decision.
– It seems to me that a person may now go abroad if he wishes without either a passport or the permission of his wife.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 (Power to cancel Australian passports).
.- I have followed with great interest the observations of the Minister (Mr. McEwen) regarding the practice of the department when a husband submits an application for a passport. I understood the honorable gentleman to say that after the expiration of a given time - fourteen days in one ease, and 21 days in the other - the passport issues whether or not the consent of the wife is obtained.
– That is, if the applicant is otherwise eligible to receive a passport.
– Quite so. Apparently, the notice merely intimates that the granting of the passport will be held in abeyance only until the expiration of a given time. The Minister said that the delay was intended to give the party concerned time to take any action thought necessary in a court of law. The honorable gentleman did not tell us what kind of action he had ‘in mind. I cannot think of any action which would be applicable in such cases.
– What about, maintenance ?
– An action of that description would not be sufficient to prevent a person leaving the country.
– In some cases it would.
– If at all, only in a limited number of cases. As a general practice, it would not. There may be cases of debt where the aid of a superior court could be invoked ; but they are not applicable to these circumstances. The Minister avoided dealing with the converse case to that which I used in my illustration. A wife may have very good reasons for wishing to leave thi3 country.
– The same procedure would be adopted in her case.
– The procedure seems to me to be quite futile. The Minister does not know, and I do not know, precisely what has to be done by an aggrieved party during the period within which the issue of the passport is held in abeyance. A wife may be put to very much inconvenience by the fact that the issue of a passport to her has been delayed. It seems to me, however, that the Minister does not regard the representations that are being made aB being either sincere or earnest.
– “What course does the honorable member suggest should be followed ?
– I do not think that when an application is made for a passport the Minister should participate in the private quarrels or determine tine rights of the parties concerned. He is not the suitable person, nor is his department a suitable tribunal to act in such a case.
– He’ does not act.
– We have already seen the extent to which he does act. He is able to hold up the machinery necessary to secure the issue of a passport if he conceives it to be in the best interests of the community to take such action. I submit that his department is not qualified to deal with the matter.
– It does not deal with it.
– The Minister, in the particular instance cited, does attempt to deal with it. He is influenced by the representations of other individuals showing why a certain person should not be permitted to leave the country. The decision of that question ought not to be a matter for the determination in secret of the Minister. He states that, in the particular case of a husband and wife, if the wife is an applicant, the husband must be notified and the application for the passport is held up, the converse occurring in the case of the husband being an applicant. There is machinery, of course, for a wife to protect her interests, as well as the law will allow, when she has been deserted by her husband, and there are conditions under which a person may be rightly prevented from absconding from this country; but the Passports Department is quite an inept and clumsy machine for dealing with such matters. I understood the Minister to say that he was prepared to give a departmental instruction that no passport would be refused without reference to the Minister.
– That is the present practice.
– Some Ministers may be more conscientious than others, and some may be more thorough and more competent than others; but one does not feel at all satisfied that that would mean, in a particular case, that the Minister himself had seriously weighed its implications. I have had experience as a Minister, and I am familiar with the customary practice. A minute is put before the Minister, usually by a competent officer, and, usually, although not always, the Minister is impressed by the minute and appends his initials to the document. I move -
That the following proviso be added to subclause (2) : - “ Provided that a passport visa or endorsement shall not be refused, cancelled or recalled unless and until reasons subscribed by the Minister have been conveyed to the applicant or holder of the passport visa or endorsement as the case may be.”
I have drafted this amendment at short notice, but it could well be accepted at least as the basis of an amendment on these lines. This is not too much to ask. Instead of merely intimating that a passport will or will not be issued at some distant date, the Minister himself- should take the responsibility of putting his name to a statement in which he accepts responsibility for the decision given, his reasons being placed in the hands of the person concerned. The applicant could then consult his legal advisers or anybody else upon the matter, and obtain -advice regarding it. He should be entitled not only personally, but also through his agent or representative, to see the Ministor upon the reasons given by him. To say that, in the great majority of -cases, passports will be issued as a matter of course, and yet the Minister will be inundated with the work of deciding these cases, is an absurdity. Only in exceptional cases will applications be made to the Minister personally, and on cases of this kind legal practice is formed. Just -as it is the hard case that makes bad law, so it is the exceptional case that creates precedent and makes good law. The exceptional cases’ are well worthy of the personal attention of the Minister, but, having his reasons committed to paper, he will probably take the trouble to consult the Crown Law authorities, who are always at his disposal, at least by telephone. From them, I am sure, he will obtain good advice quickly, and at a Comparatively low price.
– I have not read the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), but I gather that it is proposed to insert a provision that where the Minister, in the -exercise of his rights, refuses or cancels a passport, or declines to endorse a vise, his reason for so acting shall be presented :in writing to the person affected. It is accepted in principle, not only in all British countries, but also in every country where passports are issued or vises are given, that this action is taken on the discretionary authority of the Minister concerned. There is not a statute relating to this matter in every country.
– There is no such law now in England.
– Quite so. In many countries, I think, the Minister merely acts entirely on his own discretionary right. That is a principle that has not been challenged with regard to the issue of passports and other such documents. For the honorable member to propose that, on the Minister exercising his statutory right to cancel a passport, he should present to the applicant in writing his reasons for so doing, cuts across the traditional regard which has been given to tha exercise of this passport authority. It seems to me that on close examination it will be found that the proposal submitted by the honorable member is not strictly practicable. I referred earlier to a case in which a passport was issued to a British citizen, and endorsed as valid in all parts of the Empire, but, on representations made to the Commonwealth Government by the government of one of the British dominions, the passport was recalled and limited in its operation. The exact reason for that action was not intimated by the government that made the request, and I think that honorable members will realize that an intimation to the person affected that the Minister in Australia was not in a position to inform him of the reasons for which another government had acted would not be a very satisfactory one, and” would not enable him to secure a variation of the decision made. Therefore, I find myself unable to accept the amendment.
The honorable member for Batman apparently takes exception to the practice, which has been followed for some time, of the Minister, by a process of very slight delay, giving notice, for instance, to a wife who may be affected by the proposed departure from Australia of her husband. The honorable member takes exception to that as an undesirable exercise of the Minister’s rights, but I think that he will find himself in a minority in his opinion on this matter. I have no doubt that the present procedure is good and just, and one which does not involve any person in any hardship or .suffering, but which, in practice, provides a very necessary opportunity to a wife, who, for instance, may be in receipt of maintenance under an order of a court, or to persons who may, through processes of law which could be invoked in a civil court, secure maintenance orders to protect themselves and to ensure that they will not suffer hardship or injustice by the departure from Australia of applicants for passports. When the person who remains behind lives in the same State as the applicant, the delay is only a fortnight, and the protection ensured justifies the delay. The longest delay in any circumstances is three weeks. Clause 7 repeats the provisions of section 8 of the act, except that the word “ renewal “ has been inserted in subclauses 2 and 3. Power to cancel a passport is exercised only on rare occasions, as for example when it is discovered that it was obtained by a false statement. This also applies to a vise renewal or endorsement. A vise or endorsement for travel to some particular country may be cancelled also if it is learned that there is special objection to the grantee proceeding to that country.
.- The fact that a bad practice, sanctioned by the clause, is long established is no reason why it should not be ended. The Minister cited an instance of a passport being limited at the request of a particular dominion. In such circumstances all that the Minister need do is to inform the applicant that action had been taken at the request of another dominion. Nobody is going to make a fuss about the limiting of passports to criminals or persons of doubtful character; but if a passport is refused to a citizen of this country, the Minister ought to have the courage to state the reasons, because refusal implies that there is something wrong with the character of the person concerned, and the Minister, in such circumstances, is opposed to a tradition of silence on the part of British justice: that a person is deemed to be . innocent until he ‘ is proved guilty. The course indicated by the clause savours of star chamber methods, and I feel sure that the committee will not approve of it. If the Minister refuses a passport to a person for political reasons, he should have the courage to say so, and not give the impression that the department has discovered something about the person’s past. The whole thing is wrong. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is to be commended for having moved his amendment. We on this side of the House do not believe in this “hushhush” policy. What valid excuse can the Minister advance for not giving to the applicant reasons for refusing a passport? If the applicant desires to give the matter publicity, that is his business. The honorable member for Batman does not suggest that the Minister should do other than give the person concerned the reasons in writing.
– So that hemay take action at law if necessary?
– Does the Assistant Minister object to that in principle?
– Why should not an aggrieved person have his remedy if he thinks he has been treated unjustly? It is no compliment to the Minister for the Interior to suggest that a statement in writing of his reasons for refusing a passport may render him liable to prosecution. If he administers the act fairly he has nothing to fear. To suggest that his administration would render him liable to legal action 13 inconceivable and stupid. If, however, the Minister refuses a passport and the person concerned appeals to the courts and obtains a verdict against the Crown, the Minister should accept full responsibility. Why should the Minister be in a position to do a palpable injustice to a citizen of this country and cover it with a cloak of silence?’ If the committee will agree to this clause it will agree to almost anything. The provision is preposterous, and the Minister is doing himself and his department an injustice in seeking to have it included in the bill.
.- I wish to direct a few comments to the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). It is true that no one has the right to demand a passport, the issuing of which wa* originally a prerogative of the Crown. Although I do- not think that in any country in’ the world an applicant hai the right to demand a passport, 1 see no reason why the principle of stating the grounds of refusal where a passport is refused should not be introduced in Australia. We have not infrequently had the experience in this country of executive powers entrusted to a Minister, and supposed to be exercised in a bona fide manner, being, in point of fact, not so exercised.. Time and time again such instances have come under my notice, and there is no right of redress, because there is an absolute right of refusal, whether it be for a certificate, a passport, a licence, or some other document. I agree that a Minister, when considering the issue of a passport, is concerned with affairs of State, and that passports are not normally refused. I assume of course that passports are rarely refused except on proper grounds, but a case can arise when the grounds taken for the refusal of a passport are not legal, or valid or bona fide. If the amendment were agreed to, there might possibly be redress open to an applicant in the courts by way of mandamus, and I see no reason why such matters should not be ventilated in the courts if improper reasons actuate a refusal. If a reason for refusing a passport be given, it must either be a good reason or a bad one. If it is good, it cannot be successfully challenged, and if it is bad, it should be open to challenge in the courts. The courts are there to stand between the Executive and the people when the people challenge the Executive’s exercise of power either malafide in law or, as occasionally happens, maliciously. I speak of what has come within my own experience when I say that, in some cases, behind the refusal of a public or executive authority there is no bona fide reason, but merely an assumption of power that Parliament never intended to give to an executive officer. For that reason, I support the amendment.
I am at variance with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in regard to the practice of the Minister in giving notice to the other spouse when application is made for a passport. I believe that it is only right that such notice should be given. I doubt whether in any part of the world a passport would be issued to a husband to leave the country without his having first made proper provision for the support of his wife and family. In many European countries, the civil code provides that, before a husband may go abroad, he must give satisfactory assurances that he has taken the necessary measures for the support of those dependent upon him. The machinery employed by the department in Australia is designed to achieve the same purpose. Notice is given to the wife, in particular, of the fact that her husband is about to leave the country, and she may then take steps for the issue of a warrant for his arrest if no proper provision has been made for her support. Every lawyer has had experience of men who have escaped from the country, leaving their wives and children entirely penniless. I believe that the Commonwealth has an interest in every citizen, and, although this action may partake in some sense of an adjudication, it does not do so in practice, because the Commonwealth is merely concerning itself with the interests of citizens who may be thrown on the benevolence of the State. It merely furnishes an opportunity to the other spouse to take such action as he or she may think advisable to protect his or her rights. Therefore, I do not think that there is any substance in the submission of the honorable member for Batman in this regard, but, for the reasons I have stated, I support the amendment.
– I listened with attention to the arguments advanced in support of the amendment of the honorable member for Batman (Mt. Brennan), but I am unconvinced that we should depart here and now, and so fundamentally, from the practice and traditions which have been observed in all countries and ages in regard to the issue of passports, which are, in fact, testimonials issued in the name of the Sovereign to facilitate the travels of the holder in foreign lands. I remind honorable members of the material words of the passport itself, which are as, follows : -
I, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, request, in the name of
His Britannic Majesty, all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely, without let or hindrance, and to afford him every assistance and protection of which he may stand in need.
It is apparent, therefore, that when a passport is issued, the seal of approval is placed on the holder by the Minister of the issuing country. That being so, it must be evident that the Minister should not be required to communicate to any person to whom a passport is refused the exact reasons which have influenced him in the refusal. In our private lives, there are many occasions when, for reasons which are quite adequate, we feel justified in declining to give a testimonial to some person, but we should not like to bo called upon to disclose our reasons, or to be compelled to justify our action. In regard to the issue or refusal of passports, a Minister of the Crown is in a comparable situation. It is right that Ministers should have vested in them some discretionary power in this regard. The honorable member for Batman seemed to think, not only that the Minister should state in writing his reasons for refusal, but also that the applicant should then consult his legal advisers, presumably with the object of challenging the action of the Minister in the courts.
– That is a possibility, but what was in my mindwas that the applicant should have the opportunity to consult his legal advisers with a view to discovering if there were any steps that he could take to put himself right, in due course, with the department.
– If that is all the honorable member intended, I may inform him that, in the overwhelming majority of cases in which a passport is refused, the applicant is informed of the reason for the refusal. Only for reasons regarded as justifiable does the Minister exercise his discretionary right to refuse a passport. This is a matter of some international complexity. I still believe that the present procedure is right. The Minister should, in exceptional circumstances, have the discretionary power to refuse the issue of a passport without advising the applicant of the reasons for so doing. I am unable to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), andI ask the committee to support the clause in its present form.
.- I feel that I did not make myself clear in the instance I cited in regard to a husband and a wife. In discussing the general question which arises in connexion with my proposed amendment, I said that the blank refusal of a departmental officer to refuse to issue a passport without reason is unjust and improper. I proceeded to cite the case of a wife - one of a number that comes to my mind - who had a very good reason to be supplied with a passport, but who was nevertheless embarrassed by the delay without being given any indication of what would be the outcome of such delay. The converse would be a husband applying for a passport to depart from Australia without having made proper provision for his wife. He would be a deserter, and to that extent the Commonwealth would be facilitating desertion. Those two separate kinds of cases might occur to one married couple. My submission is that in either case the Department of the Interior is, as I have said, an inept instrument to deal with such situations. The present procedure reaches a dead end. No attempt is made to distinguish between right and wrong. In cases where justice is being withheld, and wrong is being inflicted, the Department of the Interior is not a suitable department to constitute itself a tribunal. It should be possible for a wife applying for a passport to obtain the consent of her husband, or, failing that, to remit the matter to a magistrate, or for some such procedure to be perfected under which the applicant would know what had to be faced and where a conclusion was tobe reached. Applicants should know what time would be necessary to do what was required, instead of being left entirely in the dark. They should know what their f ate was to be ; whether they were or were not to leave, and whether they could or could not make preparations to do so.
Question put -
That the proviso proposed to be added (Mr. Brennan’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . …….7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Where proceedings may be instituted).
– Clause 10 is a new provision inserted to enable summary proceedings to be taken against an offender, not only in the State where the breach of the act or of the regulations was committed, but also, if necessary, in the State in which he may be located, thus avoiding the considerable expense which would be involved in removing him to the place where the offence was committed. The Crown law authorities have advised that, in the absence of a provision of this kind, summary proceedings could be instituted only in the State in which the alleged offence was committed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Power to make regulations).
.- I should like the Minister to consider whether this clause does not invest him with power to provide that every decision of an authorized officer shall be reviewed by the Minister. Under this bill, the decisions to grant or cancel passports, or to demand that a passport be delivered up, can be made by an authorized officer. The authorized officer may be any officer authorized by the Minister, and may be a State policeman or a Commonwealth policeman. The advantage of restricting that power to the Minister is that he is controlled by the influence of this House. Two great guarantees of public liberty are stated to be, first, the fact that the actions of the Executive can be brought to the light of day by public discussion in Parliament, and, secondly, the public sittings of the courts. It is of very great importance that the Minister should be ultimately responsible for these decisions, and it is no good saying that he is ultimately responsible for the decisions without making him personally responsible for them. A Minister cannot fairly be held responsible for a . decision of- which he may never have heard, or knows nothing. Under this clause the Minister has power to make a regulation providing that all decisions shall be reviewed by him. The honorable gentleman is personally in favour of that, and intends to adopt that practice while he is charge of the department. It is desirable that that provision be made by regulation.
– I am happy to give the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) the assurance that I shall give consideration to the point raised by him. As the honorable member has pointed out, it would merely involve giving effect by regulation to a principle with which I have already associated myself personally during the debate this evening.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That, after clause 5 tbe following new clause be inserted - “5a (1 ) . The Minister may, in relation to any Territory, by writing under his hand delegate to the Administrator of that Territory all or any of his powers or functions under this Act or the Regulations (except this power of delegation) so that the delegated powers or functions may be exercised, in and in relation to that’ Territory, by the delegate with respect to the matters specified in the instrument of delegation. “ (2.) Any delegation under the last preceding sub-section shall be revocable at will, but any delegation shall not prevent the exercise of any power or function by th« Minister “.
The effect of the amendments which I have already introduced into clause 5 together with this new clause, will be to place the local administration of the act and regulations more fully in the hands of the respective administrators and obviate, as regards the territories, unnecessary references to Canberra. It will be arranged, however, that the same general rules of administration shall be observed in the territories as are observed in the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
New clause agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
BROADCASTING of Market REPORTS- Excise Duty on Petrol - Defence Department Appointment.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– A few days ago, I asked a question in connexion with the broadcasting of market reports an/I I received a most unsatisfactory reply. It has been the custom to broadcast market reports shortly after lunch, and, as a result of that arrangement, it wa3 possible for farmers who desired to sell their wheat to get the latest market information. Cables are received in Australia at 9 a.m. by merchants and by various newspapers giving information concerning market activities on the other side of the world during the previous day. From those reports the traders are able to determine what prices they will offer. They know by 9 a.m what the market position is. The broadcasting station has now ceased to broad> cast these reports at the 2 o’clock session, and does not broadcast them until 6.15 p.m. The farmer who desires to sell his wheat is inadequately equipped with knowledge until he has heard the report.
If he had had the report at 2 o’clock it might have indicated that market conditions had altered materially. If an agent through whom he is negotiating tells him that the price has advanced £d. a bushel, he is ignorant of the reasons for the change until he hears the 6.15 report, when the hour is too late for any more trading that day. If he desires to trade on the following morning, he again finds that the agents are 24 hours ahead of him with information. It is material to the farmer that he should receive the reports at the 2 o’clock session, so that he will be up to date with information about world’s markets, and will be able to meet on an equal footing those who desire to buy his products. A report at 6.15 p.m. is useless, because on the following day conditions may have changed considerably. I received a similar complaint two years ago, and the Broadcasting Commission then complied with the request made. The commission recognized that it was the desire of people in the country to have the latest commercial news as early as possible, instead of at night, when the day’s trading has been completed;. Since then, it is suggested, pressure may have been brought to bear ‘ on the commission to cease broadcasting the reports early, thus placing those who have produce to sell at a disadvantage to those who desire to buy. I urge the Minister to take the matter up personally, and to do everything possible to meet the requirements of these people. The broadcasting stations are expected to give these services, and it is for them that listeners pay licence-fees,
.- I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) whether he will have an examination made of complaints about the definition of petrol in the excise regulations. A few days ago I asked a question on the subject, and, in reply, the Acting Minister intimated that he would take steps to make certain that the revenue was not defrauded. I do not think there is any belief by the public that the revenue is being defrauded, but there is perhaps some doubt whether the definition of petrol, and therefore the definition of spirit to be taxed, is out of date. There is a fear that a considerable amount of spirit usable as motor spirit is not taxed, fly remarks apply to excise duty only; there is no question about the customs duty ou spirit. If spirit is imported in the form of motor spirit it is taxable by the customs. If it comes ‘in as crude oil it is taxed only to the extent to which it is enriched. The doubt that needs clearing up is whether the definition of petrol - that is to say, taxable spirit - as spirit that is distilled at a certain temperature, is satisfactory. Everybody who can do so is entitled to have spirit distilled free of duty at a higher temperature. The suggestion is that the temperature specification is too low according to the generally accepted practice in other countries. I urge the Minister to have the matter examined and to issue a statement on.it. If the excise laws are up to date according to the standards in other countries, the rumours that have been circulated can be stopped, but, on the other hand, if the law in this country has fallen behind the standards observed in other countries, it should be tightened up.
.- At question time to-day, I inquired concerning Wilfred Bailey Tart, a soninlaw of the right honorable member for Cowper. I had been informed that Mr. Tart was to be appointed to a position in the Defence Department. The Minister, in his reply to my question, in effect denied the inference contained in it. My information is that applications were called for this position, and that one of the stipulated qualifications was s university degree. Mr. Tart’s degree is one of Agricultural Science. The ability of a person possessing such a degree to carry out work in the Defence Department would appear, to me at any rate, to bc bordering on the miraculous. Among the 70 applicants are Australians who have had long experience in the journalistic profession. One applicant, I am told, has been covering the Defence Department for his journal for a long period, and he would appear to be in a very good position, because of his experience, to fill this vacancy with the utmost satisfaction. No doubt there are many others among the 70 applicants of whom the same could be said. In addition, this particular journalist is a Master of Arts. On the face of it, the selection of Mr. Tart for the position can hardly be justified on his record; but, more importantly, it would be an open scandal if the fact that he is a son-in-law of the right honorable member for Cowper were allowed to weigh in his favour. And that, apparently, is definitely to be the case. The Minister for Defence should tell the House whether the appointment has been made, and, if so, what are the qualifications of the successful applicant. If an appointment has not yet been made, the Minister should give the House an assurance that political’ patronage will not enter into the decision.
– I was struck by the suggestion of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). A similar request has been made several times. Up to the time when the royal commission was appointed to deal with petrol and other substances, the agitation was very much alive, and even since then many persons have entertained very grave doubts, but have been holding their views in abeyance while waiting for an opportunity to discuss the report of the commission. I agree that there is a great deal of doubt as to whether the whole of the excise duty that should be collected on petrol, naphtha, kerosene, and other fuels, is collected. As I understand the position, there is a feeling among the public regarding the duty on what are supposed to be crude oils. The suggestion that there is evasion of duty has been made publicly in more places than one. It was made in the Court room where the inquiry was held, and it is hinted at in the reports. I had samples of oils brought to me when I was a Minister of the Crown, and we endeavoured to find an oil geologist in Australia who was competent to say whether there was any truth in the allegations made. It was difficult to find any one outside the oil companies who was capable of giving a decision. It has been repeatedly stated that the Commonwealth Government has been robbed of millions of pounds in lost duty and income tax because oil has been purposely discoloured in order to get it past the customs at a cheaper rate of duty, and then bv a simple and cheap process - perhaps filtering through
Fuller’s earth - ‘brought back to its refined state. Our own company, which we hoped would prove a bulwark against the overseas companies is, more than any other company, charged with being associated with this alleged scandal.
– By whom?
– By a good many public men. The inquiry was asked for in order to get to the bottom of the charges. It has been alleged that an immense quantity of oils and petrols landed in Australia as crude, raw or unrefined, had been refined in the country of origin, discoloured to evade tax, and then, by a cheap process, returned _ to the refined state. This charge is so important that it warrants the closest investigation. It is alleged that an immense amount of money is being added to the more or less excess profits made by the major oil companies. There is no doubt as to the opinion of the people on the question of the profits reaped by those companies. On that score alone, this matter should be investigated. When the royal commission made its inquiry it was thought that some definite decision, one way or the other, would be reached and that the reports of that commission would be discussed in this House, but we have never had an opportunity to discuss the reports. The people who who have made the present charges are the people who were dissatisfied before the royal commission made its inquiry and were even more dissatisfied after the inquiry had been made Thi inquiry resulted in majority and minority reports. The members of the commission who were regarded as those most likely to throw light upon the activities of the oil companies were the persons who were opposed to publicity, and the man who wanted publicity was the man who had been expected by the promoters of the inquiry to be opposed to publicity. Australia remains unsatisfied about this matter, The public will not be convinced that there is not a serious amount of truth in the allegations until this Parliament has had a full-dress debate on the reports of the royal commission, and I agree that Australians are justified in that attitude.
When the Minister does make inquiries from his officers as to whether there is anything in the suggestion that insufficient excise is being paid over the whole range of oil and petrol products, he should also ask them whether there is any foundation whatever for the fear that ora own geologist is not sufficiently trained to make adequate tests to discover whether trickery is taking place. 1 cast no reflection upon that gentleman, but it is difficult to make those tests. I am informed that there are in the world only about twelve persons who are capable of conducting them. The officers are competent men, but they possibly have not been trained in this aspect of their work. As a layman who has been thrown into contact with some of these problems, it i8 my belief that we should have the benefit of the services of a man who is capable of making the proper tests. If we “ had his services, possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds would be added to the Commonwealth revenues through increased excise collections.
.-! support the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) concerning the discontinuation by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of the broadcast of overseas market reports a<. 2 p.m. daily. It is essential that- the farming community should have that information at the earliest possible moment. Iu any circumstances the farmers are several hours behind the big wheat-handling firms in the matter of overseas reports, and they suffer by reason of their lack of that knowledge. The wheat-growers of northern Victoria will have a great deal of doubt about the honest intentions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission if the information which they seek is withheld from them.
– The. honorable members for Riverina (Mr. Nock) and Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) have referred to the broadcasting of overseas market reports. When the honorable member for Riverina brought this matter up a few days ago, I communicated with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and obtained a reply which is now deemed to be unsatisfactory. I realize that the honorable gentlemen who have complained to-night ar« well versed in the farming industry. They have made out a good case, ana what they have said certainly indicates that a more detailed answer than has been supplied by the Broadcasting Commission is needed. I shall see that their remarks are placed before the commission, and I shall endeavour to influence the commission to revert to the hour at which the broadcasts mentioned were formerly made.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) referred to the excise on distilled petrol. Some weeks ago, when my attention was drawn to this matter in Melbourne, I made an investigation. I was assured as the result of preliminary inquiries that there was no foundation for the rumour. Not one penny of revenue was being lost and everything was being done in a scientific manner. After a subsequent question had been asked by the honorable member for Wakefield, I made further inquiries and was again assured that there was no foundation for the rumours, and that the country could rest assured that so far from millions of pounds being lost not a penny of Commonwealth revenue was being lost in the direction indicated. I forwarded a letter over my signature to the honorable member for Wakefield to-day. The details of that letter are too scientific for me to remember them, but he should receive that letter in the morning. I promise the House that the very serious question raised by the honorable member’s question will be brought again under the notice of the department. I intend to do what I informed the honorable member for Wakefield I would do, that is,when the whole inquiry is completed, make a statement on the question.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) earlier to-day asked a question about the appointment of an officer to the Defence Department. I say now, as I said then, that I have no detailed information on the matter. The position was advertised in the press in the usual way. The honorable member has raised the question again on the adjournment, and suggested that it “ has been a scandal “, and so forth. He further said that I had denied any knowledge of the appointment. I have made inquiries. The person referred to is a son-in-law of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page). He is being appointed to a junior position in the Defence Dapartment on the recommendation of the Public Service Board in the ordinary way after applications had been invited through the press. It appears that his qualifications satisfied the requirements contained in the advertisement and the needs of the department. There has been no political patronage as was suggested by the honorable member. The man was appointed to the position entirely on his own qualifications. He has been a lieutenant in the Defence Force for a considerable time, and has been able to satisfy all the requirements of those whose responsibility it was to select an officer for this position. No honorable member of this House has made representations concerning him, and I have had nothing to do with the selection, which has been made in the ordinary course and strictly in accordance with the Public Service Act. It is a temporary appointment to meet the requirements of the Defence Department. I resent any suggestion that there was any political patronage in the selection. In the past many relatives of honorable members of this House have been appointed, on their merits, to positions in the Public Service, and probably there will he others in the future. But I have no concern with the family connexions of appointees to my department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions ware circulated : -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Department of Mines, Victoria, has no knowledge of the finding of any new iron ore deposits at Gordons, near Ballarat.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the total amount received by Senator Sir George Pearce during the period he has been in Parliament, by way of salary as a member of Parliament, and salary and allowance as a Minister of the Crown (not including travelling expenses )?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n. - On the 15th June, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What number of railway sleepers was used for special re-sleeper ing purposes during each of the years 1933-34, 1934-35, 1935-36, 1936-37, and 1937-38?
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows: -
1 933-34, 89,129; 1934-35, 349,777; 1935-36, 209,057; 1936-37, 248,164; 1937-38, 165,000
(estimated). These figures embrace the whole of the sleepers used for ordinary maintenance purposes on the Trans-Australian Railway, and for the special re-sleepering programme for which funds have been provided as indicated from time to time in the annual reports of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. The Commissioner regards all re-sleepering as maintenance, and separate figures are not kept of any special renewals.
s. - On the 16th June, the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked questions, without notice, regarding a Wages and Hours Act recently passed by the United States Congress. I desire to inform the honorable members that the Acting Official Secretary for the Commonwealth at New York, who was communicated with in the matter, has telegraphed the following details regarding this act: -
The measure, which becomes effective four months after its enactment, aims at a national minimum hourly wage of 40 cents, and a maxi mum working week of 40 hours for each industry engaged in interstate commerce.
The act provides for the creation in the United States Department of Labour of a special wage and hour division, under an administrator to be appointed by the President. The administrator will appoint an industry committee for each industry engaged in commerce or the production of goods for commerce It is proposed that there shall be no limitation in the size of the committees but that they must consist of an equal number of workers, employers and public representatives, with a chairman appointed by the administrator from a public group. In appointing the personnel of the committees, the administrator will have due regard to the geographical regions where the industries are carried out.
In order to reach as rapidly as is economically feasible, and without curtailing employment, the objective of a national minimum wage of 40 cents an hour, the administrator is required to convene the industry committees from time to time to recommend a minimum wage.
The measure provides that wages must not be less than 25 cents an hour for the first year, and 30 cents an hour for the next six years.
The 40 cents anhour minimum is fixed to take effect after seven years, unless a lower minimum, but not less than 30 cents an hour, is ordered pursuant to the act by the administrator.
Higher minimum rates, but not exceeding 40 cents an hour, may he ordered as soon as possible after the effective date if committees named by the administrator make such recommendations, and if they are approved by him.
The committees are required to report to the administrator, who shall give notice to interested parties, and provide them with the opportunity to be heard before the order is made. Determinations are subject to review by a court of appeal, but reviews are confined to questions of law.
The maximum working week is fixedat 44 hours, 42 hours, and 40 hours, for the first, second and third years respectively, with certainexemptions and provisions for payment of overtime at time and a half.
No “geographical differentials” are provided, but the act contains detailed provisions under which the committees must proceed before recommending rates of wages above the minimum rate. It is stated that, although the southern States desired the inclusion of “differentials “, the conditions in the act are broad enough to meet the position created by special circumstances applicable to any particular locality.
Not until the autumn of 1945, therefore, will it be mandatory for all industry to be on a minimum hourly wage of 40 cents, and a maximum working week of 40 hours. Even then, if the administrator determines in the light of a preponderance of evidence that an hourly rate less than 40 cents is essential to prevent a substantial curtailment of employment, exceptions in the wage rate can be made.
The act makes specific allowances for highly seasonal industries, and also excepts employers who reach agreement with workers by collective bargain ing, and employers who engage employees on yearly guaranteed wages.
Other sections relate to investigations, inspections, the employment of child labour, exemptions oflearners, apprentices nnd handicapped workers, &c.
The Journal of Commerce states that a test of the constitutionality of theact is inevitable.
Regarding the question of a shorter working week in Australia, the Commonwealth Government has indicated from time to time that it is not opposed to the principle of a 40-hour week if it is found to be economically practicable, and at the same time constitutionally possible of enforcement throughout the Commonwealth. The Government considers, however, that before there can be any general adoption of shorter hours in Australia, the full facts regarding the economic effects must be ascertained, and that the matter must, in the first instance, be fully examined by a properly constituted tribunal. As previously announced, the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to do anything in its power to facilitate the determination by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration of the question of a shorter working week.
Broadcasting of Market Reports.
s. - On the 14th June, the honorable member forRiverina (Mr. Nock) asked a question, without notice, relating to an alteration in the time for the broadcasting by national stations of corn trade news and wheat market reports. The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
TheAustralian Broadcasting Commission, after having conductedan extensive inquiry, concluded that it would he preferable to provide a comprehensive information service at a special evening session, rather than transmit incomplete information at an earlier hour. The new schedule makes it possible to provide the latestand most complete information, and is understood to bo fulfilling the wishes of the country listeners concerned.
e asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
What are the fees payable in New Zealand, Australia,and Great Britain, in respect of trade marks application for registration, (a) on lodging applications for registration, and (b) for entry of the trade marks upon the register ?
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following information : -
The fees payable areas follows: -
s. - Yesterday the honorable member forBoothby (Mr. Price) asked a question, upon notice, regarding trade marks fees, and I informed him that the information was being obtained. The Acting Attorney-General has now supplied the following information : -
n. - The honor able member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions which appeared in the notice-paper for Friday, the 17th June: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380621_reps_15_156/>.