15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to-
That the House,at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– Can the Acting
Leader of the House indicate what business will be taken next week and whether the House can regard it us certain that the order as it appears on the noticepaper will be adhered to?
– The order of business next week will be the InterState Commission Bill, the Apple and Pear Organization Bill, and the budget debate.
Transfer of Air Vice-Marshal Williams
– Will the Minister for Defence make a frank statement on the report published several weeks ago, and not since denied, that he intends to transfer Air Vice-Marshal Williams to the Royal Air Force, and to appoint a British officer as Chief of the Air Staff, in consequence of the Ellington report? Will the honorable gentleman table the Air Board’s comments on thecriticism of Sir Edward Ellington, of the Royal Air Force?
– At this juncture, I have no statement whatever tomake.
– Will the Minister table the Air Board’s comments?
– Can the Minister for the Interior indicate to what European countries the immigrationpolicy of the Government will be applied in order to draw migrants to Australia?
– It is not the policy of the Government to make any discrimination whatever in respect of the countries from which come white aliens who migrate to this country; the discrimination is in respect of the individuals who seek permits to enter Australia.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to the statement published in the Melbourne Herald of the 8th October, which reads as follows: -
The executive of the Movementagains t War and Fascism has written to the Minister for Customs protesting against the banning of the sound film Non-intervention, which has been brought to Australia by the Spanish Relief Committee.
The letter states that “ such actions can only serve to make Australia a laughing-stock in the eyes of the rest of the world “-
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to read newspaper comments when asking a question.
– The statement continues - and that the executive is confident that on maturer consideration the Customs Department will realize the unwisdom and danger of such acts of political censorship “.
– Order! The honorable member has continued to read the comments of a newspaper afterhe had been called to order. He is distinctly out of order in ignoring the call of the Chair.
– What the honorable member was readingwas the comment of the Movement Against War and Fascism. I saw that criticism in the press, and regard it as very unfair. It would appear that this organization sends letters of that kind to the press simultaneously with their despatch to me, complaining about films being banned before they have been inspected. Actually, it has imported six films in the last two years, every one of which has been released, one on appeal. That letter of protest was very premature.
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- Will the Minister have prepared a list of the dates upon which protests were received from the Council Against War and Fascism concerning particular films, and the dates upon which decisions were made either to release or to ban those particular films?
– Does the honorable member refer to the whole of the six films?
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - Yes.
– I can obtain that information, but I think it would serve no good purpose. The fact remains that all of the films were released. They go through the ordinary process of inspection by the Film Censorship Board. Apparently, this organization feels that it attracts notice and arouses enmity against the Government by making these protests before the matter has been finalized. I do not think that the department need be put to the trouble to do what has been asked.
Statement by Mr. Forgan Smith.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to statements made by the Premier of Queensland, when asked to furnish details in regard to the alleged operations of a foreign company in Australia in the direction: of supplying defence secrets to foreign countries? Mr. Forgan Smith gave three different accounts, the latest account being that he had informed Sir Earle Page of this matter in 1937.Is the Minister in a position to assure the House that this gentleman has unnecessarily alarmed the people of Australia?
– Order ! The honorable member must not comment upon a statement by the Premier of Queensland.
– If the Minister is not able to do what I have asked, can he give to the House the assurance that he will press for further authentic details in support of the assertion of the Premier of Queensland ?
– The first intimation I received that the Premier of Queensland had the information which he communicated to the press, was obtained from an indirect source. I then understood that Mr. Forgan Smith had made certain statements, and later I read in the press the report that he had said that he had information, statutory declarations, and so forth, relating to a matter concerning Queensland which was of vital importance to the Defence Department. No information whatever has been received by the department up to date, and I am now awaiting its receipt. According to the statement of the Premier of Queensland, it has been forwarded to the department. If it does not come to hand, I shall be obliged to ask Mr. Forgan Smith to furnish it to the Commonwealth Government direct.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether any report has been received by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department from the Premier of Queensland, in regard to the formation of a dummy Australian company, the object of which is to supply information to a foreign power in regard to iron ore deposits, &c. ? Mr. Forgan Smith has wired to me stating that the papers are in the hands of the Commonwealth Attorney-General.
– I have just asked the Commonwealth SolicitorGeneral to make me acquainted with the position. He has told me that a few moments ago he received a communication from his chief investigating officer, stating that his subordinate in Brisbane had forwarded these papers and that he expected to receive them to-day.
– In view of published statements concerning considerable expansion of the militia forces, can the Minister for Defence make a statement indicating the nature and dimension of the proposed changes? Can he say whether these changes follow upon any recommendation, in a report received from the Inspector-General of the Military Forces? If so, when will that report be available for discussion by this House? If not, docs the honorable gentleman feel justified in making such radical changes, before a report has been received, when the militia forces are under survey?
– I cannot quite understand what the honorable member describes as “radical changes”. The only announcement so far made is that the Government has decided to increase the strength of the militia from 35,000 to 42,000 .
– The figure published in the press is 90,000.
– I am not responsible for other than the official statement which I made on behalf of the Government, namely, that the number was to be increased to 42,000. I have also been informed that only last night the local wireless broadcasting station made the announcement that the increase was to be to 70,000. I say very definitely that these are irresponsible statements, without foundation in fact, and without authority either from me or from any other member of the Government. The report of the InspectorGeneral of the Military Forces has not yet been prepared. In accordance with the provisions of the Defence Act, a report will be furnished to the Government; and it will be made available to the House.
– In view of the admission of the Minister for Defence this morning that exaggerated and unreliable news and comments were being disseminated through the press and over the radio regarding the Defence Department and the militia, will the Minister take steps to see that such reports are contradicted by his department, and the public is correctly informed regarding defence activities ?
– I do not think that it is possible to contradict them more publicly than on the floor of the House.
– A few days ago the Minister for Trade and Customs, in reply to a question, expressed the view that motor car engines could be economically manufactured in Australia. Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether the honorable gentleman was expressing the view of the whole Cabinet?
– The Government has received the report of the Tariff Board on this subject, and it has been distributed to honorable members. The view of the Tariff Board is set out in that report. The Government itself can be guided only by that submission. Its view as to the possibilities of manufacturing motor car engines in Australia is indicated by the invitation it issued to those who consider that they can make these engines, to submit proposals before the 31st March next.
– Will the Treasurer state what amount of money has been collected up to date from the tax on motor chassis entering Australia? Has it yet been decided whether the bounty to be paid on radiators manufactured in Australia will come out of that fund, or whether it will be paid out of general revenue ?
– I shall make inquiries regarding the matter raised in the first part of the honorable member’s question. In regard to the bounty on radiators, no trust fund has been created for this purpose, and it will have to be paid out of general revenue.
– Has government assistance been given to those firms which are alreadymanufacturing motor car radiators in Australia? If not, why is it proposed to give such assistance only to those who begin manufacture in the future ?
– In the past, work on radiators in Australia was confined to repairs and replacements; very few were manufactured here. How it is proposed th at manufacturers shall enter the business on a mass-production basis. The Tariff Board inquired into the matter and recommended a duty and a bounty. The Government decided on a bounty only.
– Is the Treasurer in agreement with the opinion’ of the Minister for Trade and Customs that motor car engines can be economically manufactured in Australia ? If not, is it proposed to continue to collect the special tax on imported motor chassis?
– In regard -to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I. can only refer him to the reply relating to the same subject given by the Acting Loader of the House. In regard to the second part, I should be glad if he would put his question on the notice-paper.
– In connexion with the forthcoming meeting of the Loan Council, and in view of the industrial development in New South Wales, will the Treasurer review the allotment of loan moneys to that State, and consider iiic extension of loan facilities to semigovernmental bodies?
– The meeting of the Loan Council on Friday. the 21st October is being called primarily for the purpose of arranging the conditions and terms of the big conversion loan. The Government has other matters to bring to the notice of the Premiers, but I do not believe thai; the field can be made as broad as the honorable member suggests.
– In view of the repeated statements by the PostmasterGeneral and his officers that no technical equipment has yet been evolved which will .permit of the registration of telephone calls in the homes of subscribers, and having regard to the desire of the department to see that justice is done, will the Minister representing the Post master-General consider offering a reward of £500 as an incentive to engineers inside and outside the department to invent a meter which will satisfactorily record all telephone calls by subscribers?
– This matter was brought ,up during the discussion on the Postal Estimates. I do not know whether the honorable member was present during that discussion, but T shall make available to him the information which I gave to honorable mem hers; at that time.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House make n survey of the number of conventions that have been passed in recent years at the International Labour Office, and have listed those parts that need to be adopted by the States ‘as opposed to the Commonwealth? Will he then submit the list to the next Premiers Conference for decision, so that we may be able to bring Australia into line with the rest of the world in regard to such matters, notwithstanding the limitations of our Constitution?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive the favorable consideration of the Government.
– In view of the recent statement of the Attorney-General regarding the need for amending the Constitution, will the Acting Leader of the House seek an early opportunity to discuss with his colleagues in Cabinet questions of constitutional reform which may be agreed upon by all parties in this House, and submitted to the people, so that we may be able to obtain the powers necessary for the good government of the Commonwealth ?
– For the last twenty years I have been searching for those very questions, and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) has been searching for them for 35 years. We are still pursuing the quest.
– Has the Government yet completed arrangements for the granting of financial assistance by way of small loans to persons who are temporarily embarrassed financially ?
– I have outlined the action of the Government in this regard in reply to several questions recently. The Government, after inquiry and consideration, approached a number of financial institutions, and the Bank of Australasia has already made arrangements in many branches, and is extending those arrangements rapidly, for granting loans to men who are in employment, but have no security except their salaries.
– But what has this matter got to do with the Bank of Australasia ?
– The Government never intended to set up a department to handle this matter, but meant all along to get existing financial institutions to do the work. The Bank of Australasia has undertaken it. and is to be commended for what it is doing.
– Now that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is Acting Leader of the Government, and has with him in the Cabinet almost half his party, will he state how he feels on the question of the creation of new States, which, a few years ago, he said was the chief reason for his having entered public life?
– I still think that it is one of the most important constitutional reforms that could be carried out in Australia, and, had it been done twenty years ago, we should now have had a population of 20,000,000 people.
– Having regard to the great importance which the Acting Prime Minister attaches to the creation of new States, what does he intend to do about it?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) used to hold exactly the same views on the subject as I do, but he has done nothing at all to give them effect.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state what decision has yet been reached regarding the dispute in the cut glass and crystal industry? Having regard to the large number of persons concerned, and the amount of unemployment created by the dispute, can he say when it is hoped that a settlement will be reached?
– I have nothing to add to what I told honorable members last week. It is hoped that the results of the negotiations will be satisfactory when they are completed.
– When will that be?
– I cannot say.
– What benefit, if any, has Australia received from the appointment of Trade Commissioners to eastern countries, seeing that the aggregate trade balance with those countries has moved against Australia by more than £7,000,000 in the last trade year?
– Every intelligent person in Australia knows that the balance of trade with eastern countries has gone against Australia in the last year because of the Sino-Japanese war. But for the presence of the Australian Trade Commissioners in eastern countries the balance would have been worse than it is.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenuebe made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for Defence purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Sir Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the second reading be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
.- I know tins is unusual, but I submit that the second reading ought not he made an order of the day for the next sitting, but should be made an order of the day for the sitting subsequent to the termination of the budget debate; because this is legislation which arises from the budget.
– It is not proposed to go on with the bill immediately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported .
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated. Revenue Funda sum for war pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Sir Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr.Casey, and read a first time.
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 condition of the fresh apple and pear industry has over the last few years repeatedly come under the notice of the Commonwealth Government. Applications have been made each year since the season 1933-34 for financial assistance, and accompanying those applications were always details of the unsatisfactory condition of the export markets and the serious financial difficulties of growers of fresh fruit. In examining the cause of these adverse circumstances, costs of production and costs of marketing, and conditions governing returns from sales came under review. The Commonwealth concern was confined to marketing, questions of production coming under the jurisdiction of the States.
Oversea freights were first given attention, and although the Commonwealth has no statutory power to deal with shipowners, it managed, through the Australian Overseas Transport Association, and by negotiation between shipowners’ representatives and exporters’ organizations, to arrange agreements which covered provision for freight reductions on certain primary products, which included apples and pears. Since 1934, total reductions of freight on apples and pears have amounted to 5d. a case, including a reduction of 3d. a case secured last year. In return for these reductions, shipowners have endeavoured through the exporters’ organizations to secure economies in the working of their ships. Accurate forecasts of requirements are sought, the earliest possible notice of adjustments is asked for, and in other ways close cooperation between exporters and shipowners is aimed at.
The industry has also sought the aid of shipowners in its endeavours to regulate the flow of fruit on. to overseas markets. The voluntary organization known as the Apple and Pear Council has done excellent work in representing the industry in its dealings with shipowners, but it has found itself frequently weakened by the lack of the necessary power to take the most effective action. In other words, it has no statutory power. In the work that lies ahead it is clear that, in removing the huge quantity of fruit to overseas markets over a relatively short period, the greatest possible co-operation between shipowners and exporters is necessary. Only by these means can further economies be effected, and further reductions in freight secured. The question of dates of arrivals in the United Kingdom market, correct spacing of arrivals, prevention of congestion, and collaboration with New Zealand to secure orderly arrivals, are all highly important. These problems can be attacked only by a board enabled because of its statutory authority to enforce its decisions upon its growers and exporters. Beyond doubt, in its dealings with, shipowners, a statutory board will be able to render greater service to the industry than can a voluntary body.
Though it was enabled to secure some relief in freight costs, the Government found itself called upon to augment export returns j and in lie years from 1933-34 to 1937-3S it paid out almost £500,000 to the apple and pear growers of Australia - £489,448 to be exact. It is obvious that, while making such sums available, the Common wealth Government must question whether every possible effort is being made to improve conditions, in particular whether- lack of organization is not militating against the most effective disposal of our fruit in overseas markets.
Statements are constantly being made to the Government that marketing conditions in the United Kingdom could and should be improved. It is freely stated that there are too many agents in England, that some of them are financially weak, and that their methods of trading affect the market adversely. It is further said that too much fruit is marketed in London; that greater quantities should go to outports. These contentions might be right or wrong. All I wish to say is that a lot of people who know something about the industry say that they are right. My belief is that, a thorough examination is called for, and that a body representative of the industry should direct that examination, and apply remedies where it can do so.
Regulation of imports into the United Kingdom is certain to come. In fact it is in the interests of the Australian industry that it should be brought about if for no other reason than because of the check that it will place upon American stored fruit. At present, American apples are on the market often as late as June. Regulation, it is hoped, would stop this. If the Anglo-American agreement contains provision for reductions of duties on foreign fruit during certain months of the year, this protection against stored fruit will be absolutely necessary. If regulation be imposed at the United Kingdom end, it means regulation at this end, and the Commonwealth Government prefers that, the regulation, be done by the representatives of the industry themselves rather than by a Government department. The only way to arrange this is to form a board and give it the necessary legal power. A voluntary body will not do, because it cannot enforce its decisions.
It is by no means certain that the quotas as applied to the supplies to the United Kindom market under present arrangements are as satisfactory and as fully effective as they might be. They are decided upon months ahead, but there is no machinery for adjustment, and it might often be found that, as the export season closely approaches or progresses, amendments of the decisions are possible which would permit the entry of greater quantities than at first arranged. I know that, because of the distance from Australia and shipping arrangements, adjustments are difficult. Every one realizes that perfection cannot be attained, but it is necessary to obtain the best possible result. This can be done only by close collaboration with others interested in the market iri the United Kingdom, who could make the necessary arrangements which would be followed up in Australia. The United Kingdom market should be closely studied so that the greatest quantity of fruit possible should be sent, consistently, of course, with sound marketing; and, if it happens that one country fails to send its quota, quotas of others should be increased. If the supply in the United Kingdom suddenly falls back, for example, it might ‘be possible, by setting the cables to work and bringing about active negotiation and active organization at both ends, to act promptly enough to take advantage of that change of circumstances. My point is that, with, the arrival of quotas, the closest and most efficient organization in London and in Australia would well repay the growers of Australia whose interests are so much influenced by these quota arrangements.
Greater quantities of fruit should bc sold on the Continent. With the huge quantities of fruit going on to the United Kingdom market, greater attention should be paid to the Continental marmarkets
– What about selling some citrus to New Zealand ?
– We are selling citrus to New Zealand. Citrus fruits are not one of our difficulties at present. There are many difficulties, however, due to the governmental regulations applied by so many countries. This, question should be tackled, and, as far as contact with the governmental authorities is involved, the Commonwealth Government is prepared to help. I believe the best approach is to use the practical knowledge and advice of a representative of the industry, who can study the markets of each country, combined with that of an official who can study the import regulations of each country, and the commercial treaties, and see how best the fruit can be admitted. A gradual development of permitted exports into continental Europe should bc the aim. !t cannot be done alone by public servants. With limitation of entry to the United Kingdom, this is a very practical problem. While there is a case of apples left in Australia fit for export, which is surplus to the United Kingdom quota and the domestic requirements of Australia, no effort should be spared to we that other markets are found. There are difficulties admittedly, but they should be tackled, and a statutory board is the body to do the tackling. Where foreign governments are to be approached, Australian government representatives should be available to assist.
Every grower must realize that, if Australia is to compete with other suppliers to world markets, the quality of its apples must be high. It supplies approximately only 25 per cent, of Britain’s imports and the only way it can hold its own in the competitive struggle is to send a product uniformly sound in quality. The Commonwealth Department of Commerce, with the co-operation of State officers, is barged with the task of regulating quality and type, and who are best fitted to advise the department in forming its standards than the representatives of growers themselves?
The board will have no power to enforce any scheme of regulation within Australia.
– That is the difficulty occasioned by section 92 of the Constitution.
– Yes, sech’on 92 prevents that. But there is nothing to prevent it from collaborating with other bodies to improve marketing in Australia. For example, it could join in a policy of advertising and, where it could be shown that benefit to export would result from such policy, it could contribute, if it wished, from its funds to any advertising scheme. Again, it could approach State bodies or, through the Commonwealth Government, State governments with recommendations that, if acted upon, would improve conditions within a State.
With these considerations before the Government, the question arose whether some improvement could not be brought about by greater organization. It was clear that organization in some form had been found necessary. Associations of growers had been brought ‘into existence in. all States, and the federally organized Apple and Pear Export Council was given many functions to fulfil. The plain truth, however, is that these organizations are not sufficiently effective. In the first place, the great body of opinion within the industry cannot bind the minor factions, which seem to exist in all primary industries, and these minor factions often hamper and break down the whole work of organization. In the second place, the existing organizations frequently fail to do what they want to do simply because they lack the statutory power. The sum of the proposals I am now putting before honorable members, therefore, is not so much the introduction of the principle of organization in the marketing of apples and pears, as it is the introduction of more effective and generally more efficient organization on the basis of that which is already in existence.
Having concluded that some action, was called for, the next step was to consult representative growers’ organizations, and the State governments were invited to arrange foi- representatives to attend a conference at Canberra. The outcome of that conference was that representative organizations of growers in all States, except Tasmania, affirmed the proposals, and, in fact, approved them in detail. On the Tasmani’an State Fruit Board signifying its objections to the proposed board, I arranged to meet the full board in Hobart, and there learned that its objections were not against the principle of the statutory board, but only against certain features of the proposals. Of course, the State board itself is a statutory body, and, furthermore, it sends its representatives to the Apple and Pear Export Council, a voluntary body. I subsequently addressed meetings of growers throughout Tasmania and explained to them in detail the measures under consideration. The manner in which I was received, and the support given me, clearly showed that a great body of Tas.manian growers were in favour of such an organization as that proposed. The Tasmanian Government wholeheartedly approves the establishment of a board, and, notwithstanding the views of a majority of the members of its own statutory board, considers that the Commonwealth Parliament should pass this legislation.
The Commonwealth Government thus has clear and ample evidence that growers support the establishment of such a statutory body as that contemplated. 1 emphasize that the board is predominantly representative of producers. Out of a total membership of sixteen, eleven are producers’ representatives actually selected from men nominated by growers’ organizations. The remainder are four exporters, and one government representative. The board is thus, in principle, a producers’ body. It was considered, however, that exporters should, in fairness, be in a position to put forward their point of view. Their expert knowledge of marketing conditions will also be of benefit to the board in the parrying out of its functions.
In conclusion I believe that this bill will commend itself to honorable members of all parties. There is very little disagreement with it on general principles, but probably certain clauses may evoke some difference of opinion. I therefore suggest to honorable gentlemen opposite, and also certain honorable members on my own side of the House, that if they are prepared to curtail somewhat the second-reading debate, so that we may give as much attention as possible to particular clauses of the measure, the Government will be glad to co-operate in reaching a decision satisfactory to all.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Frost) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 13 th October (vide page 793), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Each year for quite a long period now this Parliament has been requested to make special grants, aggregating millions of pounds, to certain States. It is claimed by the representatives of these States that they have suffered certain disabilities in consequence of federation. Yet the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which has made frequent investigations into these assertions, has not found it possible to indicate the nature of tire alleged disabilities.
– What did the framers of the Constitution say on this subject?
– Whatever they said, the fact remains that the disabilities from which these claimant States suffer are largely due to seasonal and other economic factors and not to Commonwealth policy. Representatives of Western Australia, for example, invariably claim that the difficulties of that State are due to drought conditions. I point out that Queensland also suffers from drought conditions. But I should not think of declaring to the world, as do the representatives of some States, that my State is in a hopeless condition. As a matter of fact, bills of the kind we are now considering could be described as in the nature of a financial ramp on the Commonwealth Treasury. Certain State governments are not prepared to impose adequate taxation upon the residents in their States, and they look to the Commonwealth Government to make up the deficiency.
Queensland is the highest taxed State in Australia; yet its people fulfil their obligations year by year, and they are being asked to contribute to the obligations of other States not so heavily taxed. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has, as a matter of fact, found it advisable to suggest penalties on various States for laxity in imposing adequate taxes. This being so, I protest against the taxpayers of Queensland being called upon to contribute towards grants aggregating £2,000,000 that are suggested for claimant States this year. If it could bo shown that the money provided by the Commonwealth to assist necessitous States was being paid to the unfortunate primary producers who are suffering in consequence of drought and other unfavorable conditions, the situation would be different; but I strongly resent adherence to the procedure of paying Commonwealth grants to State Treasurers to help them balance their budgets. I do not think that the State Treasurers are entitled to such windfalls from the Commonwealth. In 1937, the dairying districts of Queensland passed through their third successive severe drought, and these moneys should go to assist dairy farmers financially.
The taxpayers of South Australia, in particular, have recently been relieved of certain taxes in consequence of the surplus in the public accounts in that State; and I can see no reason why, in such circumstances, we should continue to pay substantial grants to the South Australian Government.
Certain honorable gentlemen who have supported this bill, particularly the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), have complained about the development of secondary industries in the eastern States; but if the measure of secondary production is to be the measure of assistance to States, Queensland is entitled to more consideration than “Western Australia, for I find that in 1935-36 the value of secondary production per head of the population was £1615s.1d. in Western Australia and £16 2s.8d. in Queensland. Even if we take the per capita value of primary production in the two States as a criterion, Queensland would be entitled to more consideration than Western Australia, for the respective figures are Western Australia, £41 3s. 3d. ; Queensland, £33 4s.1d. In these circumstances it is hard to understand why Western Australia should be begging financial assistance from the Commonwealth, particularly as the people of that State have received a great deal more proportionately from the Commonwealth in wheat bounties, gold bounties, road grants and farmers’ debt reduction, and so on, than the people of Queens land. I strongly protest, therefore, against the payment of Commonwealth doles to Western Australia in order to ease the burden of taxation on the people of that State.
– The representatives of Western Australia cannot contradict these statements.
– They have never tried to do so. I challenge the representatives of both Western Australia and South Australia to deny my general contentions or the accuracy of my figures.
– What has the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to say? He remains quiet.
– When we think of the sugar ramp, it is the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) who should remain quiet.
-What the honorable member for Forrest pleases to call “ the sugar ramp “ is a policy which this Parliament has approved. The honorable gentleman no doubt would like to see Kanakas, Chinese and Indians producing sugar in Australia under blacklabour conditions, hut the Commonwealth Government wisely decided that coloured people should be removed from the canefields of Queensland. Since that was done, the white workers in the cane-fields have received the rate of wages payable to white men, and they have worked under Australian conditions. Moreover, the people of Western Australia and of the other States also are being supplied with sugar at a lower price, when duty and exchange are allowed for, than the people of Great Britain are paying for sugar, the bulk of which is produced in blacklabour countries.
– We could buy sugar from Java for about half the present price.
– No doubt the honorable member has in mind surplus sugar grown in Java by black labour, which was sold at less than it cost to produce by black labour. It is well known that during the war the sugar industry of Queensland made sugar available to the people of Australia under conditions which saved them more than £11,000,000. This was due to the measure of control that exists in the industry.
– Disorderly interjections have provoked the honorable member to stray from the subject-matter of the bill before the House. 1 ask him now to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I shall not allow the honorable member to lead me off the track again.
The total demands of the claimant States amounted to no less than £4,300,000. The proposed grant will have to come from the people of other States which have their own economic problems to deal with, and which are equally oppressed by unseasonable climatic conditions. The claim has been made by their representatives that the smaller States suffer great disabilities as the result of federal policy, but no tribunal has ever yet proved the justice of that claim. The claimant States have made very unfair demands on the resources of the Commonwealth. We should not have to make these contributions to their finances year after year.
– The honorable member should read the report of the royal commission on the effects of the tariff.
– I have read the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the proposals of the claimant States.
– With one eye closed !
– That is better than having both closed. The tables placed before us by the Commonwealth Grants Commission reveal that disabilities are suffered not only by the claimant States but also by the more prosperous States. In that respect I should say that New South Wales suffers more than any other State. We have, for instance, only to consider the enormous sums of money that have to be .provided for the relief of unemployment in New .South Wales and its huge expenditure in connexion with social services. The same thing may be equally well said of Queensland because I believe that no State is further ahead than Queensland in its contribution? to social services. South Australia lias dodged its obligations in that regard. It is now the first to approach the Commonwealth for assistance for its wheatgrowers by the provision of a homeconsumption price for wheat; and whilst I hope that the wheat-growers in that State will receive their just due, it must not be forgotten that the South Australian Premier headed the attack against a similar proposal when it was put to a referendum of the people by the Commonwealth. The Premier of South Australia in opposing the referendum stood side by side with the middlemen who take advantage of the people of Australia to an unwarranted degree, and with the workers who, although enjoying such wonderful conditions in our great secondary industries, want to continue to secure cheap food at the expense of the primary producers. South Australia opposes the establishment of any new industries in the State. But Western Australia is the champion in that respect. Only a few years ago when Queensland bananagrowers endeavoured to establish their industry at Carnarvon in Western Australia they found that they were not wanted and they wrote and wired me to resist Western Australia’s desire to import bananas .from Java. The people of Western Australia wanted the duty on bananas removed so that they could import their requirements from Java: but in spite of opposition so successfully has the industry been established at Carnarvon that the Western Australian growers produce almost sufficient to meet the requirements of the State. The same thing occurred in connexion with endeavours to establish the cotton growing industry; the growers were practically hounded out of the country. Subsequently, however, a Queenslander became Minister for’ Agriculture in Western Australia, and as the result of his activities, we find a changed outlook on the part of the Western Australian Government in regard to the establishment of new primary industries. They are now encouraged. We must all be imbued with the common desire to make Australia self-supporting, and to develop its natural resources in the tropics and in the southern portions of this vast continent in the best possible way.
– Do not forget little Tasmania.
– I havealways been prepared to do everything possible to assist the little island State. and shall always continue to do so. This Parliament did a great deal for that State by imposing an embargo on the importation of potatoes from New Zealand, although that policy may have inflicted hardship on some of our citrus-growers. I have always supported a policy designed to prevent the flooding of Australia with products of the land from other countries to the detriment of our own primary producers. In my opinion, Tasmania bad a right to expect the Commonwealth to impose the embargo on the importation of potatoes from New Zealand ; that is an obligation which we owed to that State just as in other ways we owe obligations to other States.
Yesterday, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) referred to the fact that 1S0,000 persons are settled in Queensland north of the Tropic of Capricorn. That is a matter of which we cart be justly proud. I hope that in the near future, through the development of tropical industries, it will be possible to settle a much larger population in the northern parts of Western Australia near Broome and other northern ports. Only by having the population spread over a greater area can Australia be developed fully.
I oppose the grants recommended for the States. I suggest that the amount proposed to be appropriated for this purpose would be much better utilized in providing assistance for individuals who have suffered severely from drought conditions all over Australia. I commend this suggestion to the serious consideration of all honorable members. The disastrous drought of 1937 had very serious consequences on primary producers all over Australia, particularly the butter producers of Queensland, and many of them are now in dire straits; assistance should be. given to them with the money provided in this bill.
.- f. was somewhat astonished at the attack levelled by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) against the claimant States. Prom year to year it has been customary to hear expressed in this Housie very severe criticism by a number of honorable members representing the eastern States. Iain. hopeful, however, that on this occasion, the honorable member for Wide Bay will be the only critic of this bill. Representing as he does a State which receives greater assistance from the Commonwealth than any other State, his criticism is in bad taste. We have only to take into consideration the great benen extended to Queensland as the result of what has been referred to here to-day as the sugar ramp to see the injustice of his remarks. Millions of pounds annually are poured into Queensland as the result of the sugar policy adopted by the Federal Government. Queensland receives great benefits from the rest of Australia, not only in respect of the sugar industry, but also in connexion with the bananagrowing, pineapple-growing and cotton industries. When the honorable member takes all of these things into consideration, he should bow his head in shame at the unwarranted attack he made on the claimant States. Prior to the inception of the Commonwealth Grants Commission,- honorable members representing the less prosperous States had la come here year after year, cap in hand, asking for Commonwealth assistance for their respective States. Since its appointment, the commission has played a very important part in inquiring into the disabilities of the smaller States, and the grants recommended by it from year to year have been instrumental in at least partially satisfying their needs. They ask, not for a dole, .but for something which the commission has clearly pointed out is their just right. I remind the honorable member for Wide Bay that the framers of the Constitution foresaw the difficulties that would confront the less prosperous States after federation. Steps were taken early in the history of federation to meet their disabilities. Prior to federation the secondary industries ot South Australia were protected by a border tariff, but after, the union had been achieved it was found, that many of them which had previously been able to operate successfully were forced to transfer their operations to the eastern States. When the border tariff was removed, boot, clothing and tobacco manufacturers, finding they had to operate in competition with manufacturers in States with greater natural resources, closed their doors and migrated to the eastern States. Power for use in secondary industries was cheaply obtained in the eastern States. As I have said, that was foreseen by the framers of the Constitution. In addition, New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, with their larger populations and more intense development, offered better markets for the output of secondary industries. The development of South- Australia . and Western Australia thus became very costly, and it became necessary for those States to approach the Commonwealth for assistance. Although Western Australia had to seek assistance from the Commonwealth for a number of years, fortunately South Australia was able to carry on until recently without &. grant. The South Australian people who, in the earlier years, had been very modest in their demands, eventually saw that the time had arrived when they could no longer continue to develop their State without Commonwealth assistance. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) was one of the most severe critics of Commonwealth grants for the States in the past, but I am pleased to note that, since he has been elevated to the important position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, he has seen the light. The honorable member is apparently now convinced that the States are merely asking for what is their just due. That reminds mc of the story of the little boy who tried to sell a kitten. He approached the residence of a priest who was in consultation with a minister of the district in respect of some charitable undertaking. The priest answered the knock at the door. The boy said to him “.We are very poor, will you buy this kitten? .It is a good Catholic kitten”. The priest replied “ No, my little fellow, it is no good to me; I could not buy it”. There the matter ended for the time being. About a month later the priest and the minister were again in consultation on the same matter at the minister’s house. Again there was a knock at the door. When it was opened, the minister was confronted by the same little boy with the identical kitten, which, of course, was then somewhat bigger. The minister, upon being asked whether he would buy the kitten, replied “I do not want it, my little fellow”. The boy said “It is a good Protestant kitten “. The priest, who had come on the scene, said to him “ Is not that the kitten that you tried to sell to me a month ago “ ? The boy replied, Yes, sir “. The priest said, “ Did you not then say it was a good Catholic kitten “ ? and the boy replied “ Yes, sir “. The priest asked him “ Why, then, do you now say that it is a good Protestant kitten “ ? and the reply that he received was “ It has its eyes opened now “. Thai is what has happened to the honorable gentleman; he has had his eyes opened in regard to this matter.
Several honorable members have mentioned drought as a State disability. I do not regard that as the disability of a particular State, because any State is liable to become drought-stricken. I support the grant recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and arn in favour of the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that an average should be struck of the amount granted during the last five years, and that that should be given for the next five years. A good deal of expense would thus be avoided, and the claims of the different States would be met in a fair and reasonable manner. We should be big enough in mind to realize that, being members of a federation, one State should assist another; we should work as a Commonwealth, in a Commonwealth, for a Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Wide Bay stated that South Australia had flourished and had balanced its budget. I agree with him. South Australia was the first State to balance its budget during the yeai’3 of the depression, and to enable it to do so, the people suffered silently under the overburden of taxation. That reflects great credit on them. The honorable member also alleged that the Premier of South Australia had stood in the way of help being given to secondary industries. No man in Australia has tried to do more to assist in the establishment of secondary industries in any State than has the Premier of South Australia. Many industries in South Australia were closed after the establishment of federation. The need for the decentralization of industry in Australia has been discussed in this House on more than one occasion, and I am in accord with it. not only for defence purposes but also for other reasons. Even New South Wales should help the smaller States in. every possible way to hae some secondary industries established, especially for defence purposes. South Australia is now better equipped than it was some years ago to engage in secondary industries, and until it is assisted by the Commonwealth to bring this about I fail to see how it can be other than a drag on the rest of the States. It is not a mendicant State; it asks, not for a dole, but for it3 rights. That is realized by 95 per cent, or more of honorable members qf this House. I hope that the Government will strike an average of the amounts paid to the three claimant States over the last five years, and make that amount available each year for the next three or five years. I support the bill, and hope that honorable members will recognize the justice of the grant that is sought.
.- This is not the first occasion on which we have been asked to consider legislation designed to assist what may be described as the three weaker States, and I am afraid that for many years to come the Commonwealth Parliament will be called upon to assist them. The matter is here dealt with in one measure, whereas formerly the case of each State could be debated separately, which is preferable.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission was constituted in July, 1933, with a view to considering applications by States for financial assistance. Three commissioners were appointed, one being a South Australian - Sir Wallace Sandford, who has recently been returned to the Legislative Council of that State. I said on a previous occasion that in my opinion he had done valuable work on the commission. When he relinquished his position, I voiced the view that another South Australian should be appointed, and I regret that that was not done. The matter of adjustments among the different States has been very fully investigated, and I have read with a good deal of interest the reports that have been presented from time to time.
I propose to deal, not with Tasmania or Western Australia, but more particularly with the State that I have the honour to represent. On this occasion, the commission has recommended a grant of £1,040,000 in the case of South Australia. The Government of that State claimed from the Commonwealth something like £2,000,000 for the financial year 1938-39, and supported its claim up to the hilt with facts and figures which clearly show that it 0.. – fair and just. It is, therefore, regrettable that the commission did not see fit to be more reasonable in its recommendation. Each year since 1928, 1 have participated in a debate of this character. The outstanding feature in connexion with the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is that the amount claimed has never been granted, although the claims have always been supported by audited figures. I agree that the object in setting up the commission was to make a thorough investigation throughout Australia. 1 have felt on numerous occasions that the commission had not done the fair thing by my State. I hope that, as time goes on, we may be able to evolve a new method of calculation to determine the payments that should be ‘ made to the different States. Under the provisions of the Constitution, the States have a perfect right to expect the Commonwealth to pay to them a proportion of its surplus revenue. We know that Commonwealth revenue is buoyant at the moment.
The Commonwealth enjoys many rich sources of revenue, and it is only natural that when it has a bountiful year it should be approached by the necessitous States for assistance. It cannot be denied that the three claimant States have been passing through difficult times financially. The position is improving in South Australia, where the State finances are now on a sound basis, and every endeavour is being made by the Government to balance the budget. In this regard, South Australia has set an example to the other States.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), speaking last night, openly and blatantly advocated secession for Western Australia. I have interests in Western Australia, and know the views of many people there. I do not think that a great many people in Western Australia seriously desire that State to secede from the Commonwealth. That would be a retrograde step, and the real purpose of the secession movement was, I am convinced, to obtain greater Commonwealth assistance than had been previously forthcoming.
Nothing would please the people of South Australia than that their government should be in such a position that it would not need any assistance from the Commonwealth. South Australia is known as a primary-producing State, hut efforts are now being made to establish secondary industries, which are necessary if the State is to prosper. South Australia in all seriousness, asked for £2,000,000 for the year 1938-39, but the amount proposed to be granted in this bill is only £1,040,000. lt will be necessary, therefore, to make up the difference by means of extra taxation, and that in a State which, at the present time, is taxed to the limit. Last week, Parliament was discussing the Commonwealth, works programme for 193S-39, and I was surprised to learn that very little of the large amount of money which it is proposed to expend has been allocated to South Australia. We should endeavour to spread such activities as far as possible over tho whole of Australia. Many of the works in the programme with which we dealt lost week could have been allocated to the smaller States. If that were done, the time would eventually arrive when the claimant States would cease to be a burden on the other States. The same principle of the distribution, of expenditure should be adhered to in regard to defence undertakings also. It would then not be necessary for the smaller States to come, cap in hand, to the Commonwealth for assistance. South Australia is not a grasping State ; it applies’ to the Commonwealth for assistance only when it is forced to do so. However, when we have a claim, we make no apologies for pressing it. It is laid down in the Constitution that we have a right to Commonwealth assistance, and we ask Parliament to pass this bill as speedily as possible. I should have been very pleased if it made provision for a larger grant for South Australia, but wo are thankful for small mercies. There is on the notice-paper a bill to set up an Inter-State Commission, and I hope it, too, will he passed.
.- As a representative of one of the States which will not participate in these grants, 1 accept the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Its report is a comprehensive survey of the financial and economic position in the various States. Whilst it is .not clear how the commission arrived at some of its conclusions, it would be very difficult to suggest another formula which would ensure results as equitable. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) stated that one of the results of the failure of the commission to give South Australia the full amount of £2,000,000 for which it asked would be that taxation in that State would have to be increased. I draw attention to the fact that State taxation in South Australia is, according to th& report of the commission, only £6 2s. 9d. a head, while the average taxation a head for all the States is £6 12s. 6d.
– That was not always so.
– We must take the position as it is to-day, because, we are making the grants to-day. The per capita taxation of the various States is as follows : -
I do not cavil at the grants it is proposed to make. After listening to the arguments of honorable members, I realize that the claimant States- are faced with- certain difficulties as the result of federation. I remind honorable members, however, that the grants provided in this bill are only part of the contribution which the Commonwealth makes to the States. Last year, in addition to the grants made to the claimant States as such, nearly £17,000,000 was granted by the Commonwealth to all the States. There is a great danger in the making of grants by one public body to another. It is a sound principle of public finance that the authority which spends should be charged with the responsibility of raising the revenue. That is the best check we can have against extravagant expenditure.
I desire, however, not so much to discuss the grants proposed in this bill, as to point out that consideration of the commission’s report suggests that the time has arrived when we should make a review of the present system of national, State, and civic government. The commission itself suggests that, in addition to considering the position of the States and the Commonwealth, it is necessary, in order to arrive at a true realization of the economic position of Australia, to consider also the position of the various local governing bodies. The other day I pointed out that the various local and semi-governmental bodies in Australia aTe raising and spending as much loan money as are the State governments. The activi-ties of the national^ State, and civic governments are becoming more and more interwoven. There is frequent conflict of authority on money matters, overlapping of activities, and duplication of social services, a condition of affairs which is not conducive to the proper development of the Commonwealth. It is essential, for instance, that we should have uniform, industrial and social conditions throughout Australia.
The honorable member for Boothby has been advocating - and I agree with him - that there should be a more equitable distribution of secondary industries throughout Australia, but one of the first requirements is that we should have uniform industrial conditions. The making of Commonwealth grants, no matter how generous, to necessitous- States, will never solve the problem. It is clear from the report of the commission, and from the debate which has taken place, that we must prepare for the day when we shall have one government in Australia to speak and act for all the people. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) suggested that Western Australia should break away from the Commonwealth, but I believe that it would be a sorry day for Western Australia if it did.
– It would be a sorry day for the other States, perhaps.
– I am convinced that it would be in the best interests of Australia as a whole if there were but one government.
– The honorable member only wants to get rid of the Queensland Labour Government.
– That is not the point at all. Let me inform the honorable member that many of those associated with his own party in Queensland are in. favour of unification. I believe that if that question were put to the people, there would be an overwhelming vote in favour of one government for one people.
.- It is regrettable that the system of States grants still continues, but in the absence of any alternative we must accept it. In view of the obvious disabilities which the smaller States suffer, no one in the eastern States will object to their receiving grants, but the main reason why I rise to speak on this question is to say that one of the most regrettable features of this debate is the fact; that some honorable members who represent States which are receiving assistance have attacked Australian secondary industries. It is the existence of those secondary industries which enables these grants to be made; it is really the secondary industries which provide a home market at enhanced prices, that goes a long way to enable the primary industries to be carried on at a profit. We must have co-operation between the two. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) made some criticism of the profits which were made by General Motors-Holdens Limited in South Australia. I am not aware of the net profits of this concern, nor do I champion excessive profits, but the Taxation Department will find those profits and the profits of all successful companies acceptable, because the taxes on them will help the budgetary position of Australia, and enable the rate of taxation to he kept down. I do not champion any particular company, but I know that the Government of South Australia has reduced company taxation. Noi one man in South Australia would raise his voice against the motor body-building industry. The Premier of South Australia and many other public men advocate the development of secondary industries in South Australia, in order to encourage their establishment; in fact, the State Parliament has decided upon a system of grants. I sympathize with the honorable member for Forrest in his effort to develop the wheat industry, but the position to-day is that, as the result of economic nationalism in Europe, the former .purchasers of Australian wheat now grow their own crops, resulting in a reduction of imports from Australia. Can the honorable member tell us where are those countries which would buy more wheat from Australia? If he could do so, he would render a great service. Three members of the Ministry recently went to London to engage in trade negotiations. They returned convinced that, if we are to develop Australia and maintain and expand our population, we must give more support to secondary industries. The Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) himself made a most impressive speech in which he stated that we must import less and manufacture more. I regret in these circumstances that certain honorable gentlemen have made attacks upon the secondary industries which largely provide the means by which the States they represent enjoy these Commonwealth grants.
– Provision for the smaller State governments is the necessary result of any composite form of government which devolves an important part of the functions of government upon local bodies. The various States, for instance, have a system of municipal grants in aid. Great Britain has it and the States of Australia have adopted it. The units of municipal government are varying. They control and administer areas of different sizes, of different populations, and of different resources; yet they have to perform pretty well the same functions in respect of those different areas. Their ability to raise revenue also varies ; consequently the central government, which in relation to them is the State Government, makes grants to them out of the revenue of the State. That policy is a necessary result of the existence of local government. In the same way a necessary result of the existence of composite government, whether it he a unitary State such as they have in South Africa, or a Federal State like Australia and Canada, is that the central government, having the greatest powers of taxation, and the greatest control over revenue, should make grants to the subordinate governments,not because they governseparate communities at all, not because the compositestate is tobe regarded as a partnership of separate communities,but because it is the one community which has been created. There are different functions of government, and those Junctions of government have sometimes been entrusted to a central body and sometimes to regional bodies such as States or provinces, call them what you will. The one nation of Australia is not governed by one Parliament and one administration; it is unthinkable that it could be. The alternative to federation would be unification with a unitary State on South African lines where the regional governments are the delegates of the central government, and where part of the powers of government are delegated to the regional governments which are subordinate to the central government. The only difference between the federal and unitary systems is that in the unitary state the distribution of powers can always be revised by the central parliament, whereas in the federal state it cannot he. In South Africa, subject to certain reservations, the distribution of powers to the provinces can always be revised, but in the Australian scheme the distribution cannot be revised by the central parliament. The scheme which operates in New Zealand was composite up to 1876, and a revision was made in1876, when the several provincial assemblies were abolished by the General Assembly of New Zealand. Australia is one nation and there ought not to be distinctions between the States except as bodies which are entrusted with local-governing functions. That is why I think that the only scheme of State aid consistent with the indivisible and indissoluble nationality of Australia must base distributions on need and not on ideas of disabilities suffered under federation. No one can tell what disabilities any State’s inhabitants have suffered, because no one can establish what position they would be in if they had not entered the federation. Newfoundland did not enter into the Dominion of Canada and its history should not encourage any State of Australia to say that it would be better outside of the federation. Newfoundland is not only bankrupt, but it is also unable to develop its territory on the mainland, Labrador, which was given to it. We have heard a great deal about the disabilities which Western Australia suffers in having been coerced into joining the federation. In some degree that is true, but the people who say these things conveniently forget that for years and years Western Australia consistently voted for enlargement of the powers of the Commonwealth Government. In 1911, Western Australia alone voted for a wide extension of the powers of the Commonwealth Government. In 1913, it voted again with South Australia for a wide extension of the Commonwealth powers, and again in 1919, thus indicating quite clearly that the people of Western Australia had a strong sense of the necessity for the federal union, and a strong sense pf the desir-ability of having the functions of the Western Australian Governmnent diminished. It is a fact that the States have important functions of government to perform and that they differ in resources and revenue that makes these grants necessary. How are the States efficiently to discharge the functions committed to them by the federal scheme? The Constitution makes provision for the States and the Commonwealth. Both are creatures of the ‘Constitution, the only difference being that there was no machinery ready, at hand to be put into use for the central organ, so it was that the framers of the Constitution spent most . energy and time in creating a scheme of central government. They then said, “There are existing machines of the old colonial government and, subject to this Constitution, these can be used with no immediate alteration at all for the States”. Thus we find in- the course of time that this position arises: The same functions must be discharged throughout Australia. If Australia is to be efficiently and properly governed there must be an efficient educational system in Western Australia and in Tasmania as well as in New South Wales and Victoria. There must be an efficient local governing system in the poorer States as well as in the big States. Tha people of Australia, if the national system is to be really federal, must get from the governments the same benefits and protection all over Australia. Therefore this system of grants-in-aid came in; this system of distributing federal revenue among the States came in, and the only way in which it can be fair and true to national principles is to distribute according to the needs of the various States - not according to the needs of the people of the States, but according to the necessity for the State government to finance such schemes as will distribute social services and benefits equally all over Australia. .That is why the Grants Commission bases its recommendations properly upon the needs of the State governments and not upon the disabilities which the people of any State have suffered - with the object of helping the State governments to discharge those necessary functions of government which the Constitution has committed to them. They are not independent of the Constitution ; they are not sovereign States; they are creatures of the Constitution as is this Parliament of ours. It is very proper that the duty of assessing on the needs of the various States should be entrusted to a commission. I am not very keen about commissions. I believe that one of the greatest evils of our system is that we have entrusted legislative powers to commissions. We have delegated to commissions not merely the task of advising us but also that of making decisions.. When a commission has made a decision we are told in this House, “ This matter has been investigated by a commission which knows more about it than we can know, and all that we can do is accept the recommendation “. I do not agree with that at all, but if there is one kind of commission which is deserving of more consideration than another it is the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Before . we had this commission, at elections we would find candidates, very often Ministers, coming forward in Tasmania and saying that they were entitled to be returned to Parliament because of the great sums of money they had got for their State. I remember one former Minister of State who was pictured bearing in his hand an immense bag labelled so many hundred thousand pounds, which was represented as having been granted to Tasmania. A system which permits that sort of thing to happen is dangerous, in that it may lead to the corruption of smaller States. That was the great disadvantage which I saw. The Commonwealth Government might, by such means, attach certain smaller States to itself. That danger became very much increased under the Financial Agreement, by which the Loan Council was clothed with greater powers than formerly. Under the Financial Agreement, each State has one vote and the Commonwealth Government has two votes. The Commonwealth Government, therefore, might by its treatment “of, say, the States of Western Australian and Tasmania, attach those States to itself by making large grants to them, and so control the Loan Council. It was for that reason that I opposed the Financial Agreement. When the agreement was under discussion in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, I pointed out that what we feared, myself and others, was that under it the Commonwealth Government might attach to itself, as subordinates or vassals, the governments of Western Australia and Tasmania, and so control the council. I arn not pure that something of that kind is not taking place to-day. At any rate, but for the existence of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the danger of it ‘would be there. Those who talk about the disabilities of certain States should remember that such remarks arc inconsistent, with the idea of Australia as one nation.
There ls actually no community of Western Australia, or of Tasmania, or of Queensland or of any State. There is one community of Australia. That community is controlled by the Australian Parliament and the State parliaments. These parliaments together control the whole Commonwealth. Commonwealth and State parliaments alike are the creatures of the Commonwealth Constitution. The State parliaments and State governments exercise their functions in territories which differ very greatly as to population, resources and circumstances. The State Government of Western Australia, on the one hand, has a measure of control over a very large territory, but a very small population, .lt has an enormous task to develop the undeveloped territory of that State. The State Government of Tasmania, on the other hand, has a relatively small territory and n small population. The resources of that State are loss than the resources of the States on the mainland. But the
State Parliament is required to perform the same functions as the parliaments of the other States. It is charged with the responsibility of providing the people with the same standard of education as is given to the people on the mainland, and also the same standard of justice, of local government and of social services. It is not desirable that the standard of the people of Tasmania should be lower than that of, say, the people of Victoria. The Commonwealth Parliament, with its unlimited power to collect revenue, and its exclusive authority over certain fields of taxation, must come to the aid of certain State governments/not on a merely money basis, and not even on the basis of the needs of the inhabitants of certain States, but in order to ensure that the people of all the States of Australia shall be able to live on similar standards. For this purpose it may need to make monetary grants to certain States.
It seems to me to be useless to embark upon the problem of ascertaining the disabilities from which the people of each State suffer. In my opinion, Tasmania is better off as the result of federation. This appears to me to be quite obvious. It is a good thing for Tasmania, for example that the industrial laws of the Commonwealth have application iri Tasmania. The workers of Tasmania have thus had the benefit of Commonwealth industrial enactments. Had it not been so, I can conceive of two things happening. If Tasmania had been separated from the remainder o’f Australia cither the Tasmanian Legislature, by a process of unfair competition, would have attempted to attract industries to Tasmania by fixing lower industrial standards than those of the mainland, or the working people of Tasmania would have been attracted to the mainland by the prospect of higher wages and better employment. For this reason I say that the union of Australia in the federation has. been of advantage to the people of Australia as :i whole.
The attitude of the people of Western Australia for a great many years was. certainly, that even if they had been forced into the union they had drawngreat advantage from it. If they suffered any disadvantage it was because their territory was so large that the State Government could not, with the limited financial resources of the State, carry out its State functions effectively. The cure for this was the transfer of State functions to the Commonwealth Government, not the taking away of federal functions from the Commonwealth Government and the giving of them to the State governments. The Commonwealth Government has a duty to perform to draw upon the general resources of the Commonwealth to enable State governments to perform their functions.
– The honorable member ought to ask for a plebiscite on that subject.
-I did not regard the secession plebiscite in Western Australia as a very remarkable or overwhelming expression of opinion. That plebiscite was really an organized attempt, not to secure the release of Western Australia from the federation, because I do not think that the people of Western Australia really expected that they could obtain that freedom, but to secure further concessions. We all know that attempts have been made, over and over again, by certain provinces to free themselves of membership in federations. That has been true of Nova Scotia for example. Such attempts rarely succeed. No one contemplated that Western Australia really desired to withdraw from the Australian Commonwealth. What was contemplated was that, as the result of the secession campaign, Western Australia would obtain special concessions. It is my settled opinion that the secession referendum was merely a process of polite blackmail upon the Commonwealth Parliament and the people of Australia as a whole. Personally I very much regret that the British Parliamentary Committee did not investigate the claims of Western Australia. I believe that had those claims been examined in the light of the history of Western Australia it would have been seen that Western Australia had benefited very greatly from federation and that any disabilities that the State may have suffered had been exaggerated. I do not think that the people of Western Australia would have got anything by secession that they have not already got, andI believe that they would have suffered considerable losses had they withdrawn from the federation.
– in reply - The debate on this bill has proceeded, not upon party lines, but upon geographical lines. We have had the spectacle of honorable members who represent three States ranging themselves, irrespective of their parties, against the representatives of other States, and some have discovered themselves with strange bedfellows. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), for example, has found himself in remarkable unanimity with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). Moreover I have just listened to a most interesting speech by an honorable member of the Opposition with almost the whole of which I can agree. I refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), which caused frowns and lines to appear on the faces of the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Forrest. These lines, again, were due to conflict on geographical and not party lines.
– They were parallels of latitude!
– In the course of the debate there has not been any very great disagreement with the findings of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, or with the decision of the Government in relation to those findings. One thought has, however, been common to quite a few of the speakers. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and some other honorable gentlemen practically suggested that the Government should adhere to the pot-shot method of dealing with this problem.
– That remark was utterly uncalled for. What I said was that we. should now be able to fix the grant for some period ahead, basing the amount upon the average ofthe recommendations in the last five reports of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. There is no pot shot about that.
– I think it was the Leader of the Opposition himself who used the words “pot shot”. I invite honorable members to cast their minds back a few years.I have ventured to do this, by deputy, and I have discovered that the criticism of the grants made to various claimant States was of a very much more acid nature before the Commonwealth Grants Commission was appointed than it has been since. Previous to the appointment of the commission, the Commonwealth Treasurer, with the help of Treasury officials, endeavoured to determine what would be a fair amount to grant to each claimant State. No one could say, however, that there was any really logical or reasoned basis for calculating the grants in those days. They were, in fact, pot shots; and I can well imagine that the representatives of the claimant States would regard these potshot grants as illogical and unfair.
– The Treasurer must know that the officers of his department were fortified, even in those days, by the recommendations of two royal commissions, and also by the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee, which made a close investigation into the disabilities of Tasmania.
– I was about to refer to those circumstances. But neither the royal commissions nor the Public Accounts Committee could discover any definite principles upon which the grants should be made. No principles whatever emerged from their inquiries. In that respect the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been very valuable.
– Hear, hear!
– The activities of the commission during the last five years have evolved some definite principles, and I think they have also enabled all of us to understand, with a great deal more clarity, the financial relations of the Commonwealth to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. If the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition were adopted and grants made over a period of years on the basis of the average grants of the last five years, I have no doubt that a certain amount of dissatisfaction would soon be noticed.
– My suggestion was to accept the findings of the Commonwealth Grants Commission during the last five years, and use them as the average for the grants for a specified term, in order to avoid the two years’ lag which is now being experienced. The commission itself admits that this lag is a disadvantage. I did not criticize the commission. [ really suggested that we should accept and profit by the results of its work, so that the grants to the claimant States could be stabilized.
– I think “ profit “ is the right word. Possibly the representatives of the claimant States would be glad to agree to grants on the basis of the average of the last five years, but I do not know that that would be a fair basis, for they had been years of emergence from depression conditions, and possibly the grants on that account have been more substantial than they would have been in average years. If that basis were adopted the claimant States might receive a good many hundred thousand pounds more than they would otherwise obtain. It would probably suit them, therefore, to crystallize the grants on the basis suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, but I do not think that procedure would’ be fair to the other States, which, in a large measure, have to find the money for the grants. Moreover, I believe that that policy would cause a great deal more dissatisfaction than if the claims of the States were assessed year by year as the result of some logical, careful and unbiased examination of State accounts.
It has been said that the Commonwealth Grants Commission gave up all attempts to base grants on disabilities. That subject was dealt with in the report presented by the commission two years ago, in which it was pointed out that very considerable investigations had been made into the alleged disabilities of certain States due to Commonwealth policy. The commission also added that the grants to the States would probably be very much lower on the disabilities basis, than on the needs basis, which had been actually adopted.
Silling suspended from .12.45 to 2.1.5 p.m.
– I find that I have almost exhausted the notes which I jotted down before the luncheon intermission. “E have dealt with “ strange bedfellows,’’ with the “lines on the forehead of the Chairman of Committees,” and also with the heading “ pot shot “. I would like, if I may, to emphasize for a moment what my friend tlie honorable member for
Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has said in respect of our interstate problems, and the fact that the problem of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States is not peculiar to this country. Those problems are not unique to us by any means; on the contrary they are experienced in every federation. In Canada during the last twelve months very great interest has been manifested in the means adopted by Australia to endeavour to find a solution of the matters affecting the relations of the Commonwealth and the States. The Canadian Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into the relations of the provincial governments and the dominion government. That commission has been sitting for the last twelve months, and if any honorable member has perused the reports issued by it they will see that it has displayed a great deal of interest in our Australian methods of attempting to solve some aspects of this very difficult problem. In fact I may
Ray that Australia can be regarded as considerably in advance of any of the younger federations in the world in its attempts to reach a solution of the problem. Actually, the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission has received most favorable comment, particularly in Canada, and it is not impossible that that dominion may adopt methods somewhat similar to those adopted here.
– That would make it appear that there is no need for an InterState Commission.
– I feel sure that the honorable member has prepared a very powerful speech which he hopes to have an opportunity to deliver shortly when the debate on the bill to constitute the Inter-State Commission is resumed. Whatever comments and criticisms may be directed against the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and against the Government for implementing its recommendations, its advice has resulted, in practice, in something very close to real budgetary balance in the three claimant States during the last five years. That was the result aimed at, and I hope it will bc maintained during the years ahead, because I cannot see Australia getting away from the era of grants by the national government to at least three States. The necessity for the making of those grants arises almost entirely, if not entirely, from the very large variations in the bounty of nature in the several Australian States. For that reason, and after examining the finances of the Commonwealth and States for a number of years, one cannot but come to the conclusion that the grants mutt be continued in large or small measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Payment for financial assistance to States).
.- I do not propose to comment in regard to the grants provided in this bill for the three claimant States. However much we may desire to do so, honorable members knowperfectly well that they have no power to alter them. I rose to refer to an argument advanced by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) which might have been a very useful one for his purpose but the logic of which would hardly appeal to a lawyer. The honorable member referred to the fact that various referendums have taken place since federation, but refrained from commenting on those that had taken place since 1919. Up to that year no State was more loyal to the federation than Western Australia; in 1920, however, this Parliament went mad and imposed all sorts of penalties upon the States.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable member is not entitled to continue his remarks on those lines.
– I was about to refer to the changed attitude of the people in regard to the need for these grants. Owing to the increased costs of production the need for the appointment of a body such as the Inter-State Commission or the Commonwealth Grants Commission to estimate the disabilities of the weaker States became very apparent. The honorable member for Bourke endeavoured to make it appear that the people of Western Australia were contented throughout the whole period since the inception of federation. It was to counteract any such suggestion thatI rose to speak on this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Allocation of grant.)
.- Unlike the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) I intend to criticize the grants proposed in this bill. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer (Mr. John Lawson) if he were prepared to ask his colleagues to withdraw the bill and introduce another in its place which would provide for. the making of a grant to Tasmania equal to the amount provided last year. I have not heard any arguments advanced either by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) or by the Parliamentary Secretary to justify the imposition of the cut in the grant to Tasmania this year. No such heavy cuts have been made in the grants to other States since the Commonwealth Grants Commission was appointed. The grant to Tasmania seems to be subject to sliding scale reduction. Honorable members, I feel sure, are all agreed that that State has suffered very severely from the effects of federal policy; it has been most outstanding in that respect.
– It is really the only outstanding State in the Commonwealth.
– I have been watching the position very closely and I am satisfied that a certain amount of potshotting has been indulged in in connexion with the method adopted by the commission in calculating the proposed grants. The Treasurer himself has admitted that it is practically impossible to arrive at an exact basis for ascertaining the disabilities of the various States. I ask in fairness to the Tasmanian people that the grant to Tasmania be increased to the amount provided last year. If the grant is progressively reduced each year a time will eventually come when it will be wiped out altogether. It will be remembered that, on a former occasion, when the commission recommended a grant of £70,000 for forestry purposes in Tasmania, the Treasurer said that the Government was not obliged to accept the commission’s recommendation. In view of that I think he should now consider withdrawing the bill and sub stituting it by another providing for an increased grant to the island State. It would be appreciated very much by the Tasmanian people if the honorable gentleman would intimate that he is prepared to use his discretion in this matter and not accept the commission’s recommendation in regard to the grant for Tasmania. After listening to the remarks of other honorable members I feel certain that no opposition would be raised against such a proposal. If it is in order for me to do so, I move -
That the figures “£410,000” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “ £575,000 “.
– The amendment is not in order because it seeks to increase the appropriation.
– I shall not delay the committee at any length except to point out to my friend from Denison (Mr. Mahoney) that no State Treasurer has been more outspoken in respect of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s work than the Premier of the State of which the honorable gentleman is such an outstanding ornament. The Treasurer of Tasmania lauded in the public press the work, the fairness, and the unbiased attitude with which the Commonwealth Grants Commission had approached its task, and I am quite sure that he would not be prepared to eat his words as the result of what has happened in the last month or two. I also point out that Tasmania is unique among the claimant States in that it is now getting more than it received before the constitution of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, whilst Western Australia and South Australia are now getting less. As to the arguments which led to the fixing of the figure at £410,000, I can only refer the honorable gentleman to the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, in which the matter is dealt with in considerable detail. I am quite sure that he is as familiar with it as I am.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That thebill be now read a third time.
.- I do not know whether the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is firmly convinced as to whether or not the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission will terminate in the present year. Should that prove to be the case - and I hope that it will not - I should like, in view of the criticism that from time to time I have directed against the work and the reports of the commission, to take this opportunity, which may be the last that I shall have, to place on record my very high - my unmeasured - appreciation of the very great ability, fairness and capacity which the commission has displayed in the most important work it has had to do. I say this so that it may be understood that, while I differ from the commission in respect of certain of its conclusions, I none the less realize, as must every student of the problem, that the commissioners have brought to the discharge of their functions very rare qualifications. I am confident that they have shown to every State a complete readiness to examine everything placed before them, and that they have done invaluable work for the Commonwealth in having enabled us to have a better appreciation of the true inwardness of the problem. I said earlier in the consideration of this bill that the problem remains unchanged, and I stand by that statement; but because of all that has occurred, I shouldnot like to leave any misunderstanding as to what I think of the personnel of the commission and of the nature of their labours.
. -Without offering any opinion as to whether the latest report of the commission will, or will not, be the last presented by it, I associate myself, and I believe the Government also, with the terms of commendation used by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I shall see that his remarks and ray own are conveyed to the chairman and present members, as well as to the past members, of the commission.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 22nd June, 1938(vide page 2,504), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of this measure is to awaken from its slumbers the Inter-State Commission. Although there is still on the statute-book an act providing for the Inter-State Commission, that body does not function because, although the act gave effect to the clear intention of the framers of the Constitution, it was held to be ultra vires. It provided that the Inter-State Commission should have judicial powers; that among other things it should have the power to prevent a State from infringing section 92 of the Constitution. That provision was considered by the High Court of Australia, which, in a majority judgment, held that the Inter-State Commission could not have judicial power conferred upon it; that is to say, it could not exercise some of the powers for which it had been created, and could not possesscertain powers which the framers of the Constitution were confident they had given to it.
The bill that we now have before us proposes to confer upon the Inter-State Commission power of two kinds, one being to make investigations of all sorts. A special kind of investigation will be that now made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That is the principal form of investigation which is to be entrusted to it. Apart from that, the commission is to be a sort of roving royal commission. The second function proposed to be given is that of reviewing State railway charges and prohibiting such as it may think are undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State.
The House, of course, has been referred to the provisions of the Constitution relevant to this bill. Section 51 of the Constitution gives to the Commonwealth Parliament power over trade and commerce between the States, while section 98 extends that power to State railways. Section 101 makes the following provision : -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and admini- stratton as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of itll laws made thereunder.
Sections 102 and 104 refer to the special powers which the Inter-State Commission was to have with respect to railway rates. They provide, in substance, that after an investigation by the commission into the railway charges, the Parliament may, acting upon the report of the commission, forbid certain charges.
The provisions relating to the InterState Commission had their root in the grave dissatisfaction felt in the ‘nineties, and prior to that time, with the differential railway rates in the various States. Sir William Lyne, a New South Wales member of the federal convention and a member of the first Commonwealth Government, had allotted to him the task of introducing the Inter-State Commission Bill. He then said that the foundation for the Interestate Commission had been laid at the Adelaide convention, upon the reports of the Railway Commissioners, and that the Railway Commissioner of South Australia had protested against the unfairness by which the Commissioners of New South Wales and Victoria were able to divert to their own capitals what should naturally have been South Australian trade. Sir John Quick another member of the first Commonwealth Parliament, who also had been a member of the federal convention, was particularly concerned about the InterState Commission. The final form which cbe provision in respect of the InterState Commission took, was of his drafting. He shared the view that provision for the Inter-State Commission would not have been made but for the necessity io deal with differential and unfair railway rates. In the book that he wrote in collaboration with Sir Robert Garran - The Annotated Constitution, of the Commonwealth - published in 1901, he said -
The chief object of establishing the InterState Commission was to secure an impartial, non-political tribunal, to interpret and administer the laws -of the Federal Parliament relating to the rates on State railways.
In the debates that took place on the Inter-State Commission Bills of 1901, J 909, and 1912, he repeated that contem- tion. His collaborator in that book - Sir Robert Garran - probably more than any other man has shaped the legal development of the Constitution. Giving evidence before the Royal Commission on the Commonwealth Constitution in 1926, Sir Robert, almost repeating Sir John Quick’s words, said -
The only real necessity for having a provision for an Inter-State Commission in tha Constitution arises from those sections - 102 and 104 - of the Constitution, both of which are for the protection of State railways. The Parliament would have power in the trade and commerce., power to deal with trade generally, but not to deal with State railways as regards preference and discrimination, except through the Inter-State Commission. Those two clauses were limitations upon. the power of the Commonwealth to deal with State railways for preference or discrimination, and the InterState Commission was set up as the guardian of the States in that respect, but it never functioned in that way, even while it existed.
The reason it did not so function was that there had never been need for it to do so. When the bill of 1901 was before this House, objections were raised to it. Those objections -earnt not merely from the Opposition, but also from Government supporters. The Barton Government introduced the bill of 190], and opposition to that measure was voiced by Government supporters. Mr. Higgins, Mr. Thomas Kennedy - member for Moira, a Victorian border constituency - and Sir John Quick joined in thinking that the bill was premature. Sir John Quick proposed that the bill should be passed, but that its operation should be postponed for six months in order to impel the States towards a. fair settlement of the railway problem. That fair settlement has been made by agreement among the States, and the need which called into existence the provisions of the Constitution for the Inter-State Commission ceased to exist. In 1905, a Premiers conference adopted the following resolution, moved by Mr. Dugald Thompson, a member of this House and Min’ster for Home Affairs in the Reid-McLean Government : -
It is desirable that the State governments should themselves abandon all preferential or differential rates which would bc abolished by the Inter-State Commission, and so’ save the maintenance expense of the appointment of such a commission
He agreed with Sir John Quick, Sir William Lyne and Mr. H. B. Higgins, in thinking that the only thing which justified the existence of the Inter-State Commission was the necessity for curbing the unfair propensities of the State railways commissioners. That resolution was carried and acted upon. At ‘the conference of Premiers in 1909, it was reported that Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland had made an agreement which, while allowing to each State a full measure of freedom in the development of its internal resources, precluded the imposition of special terminal rates, or the granting of rebates to influence the course of traffic in the future. That agreement still stands, and has been extended by the adhesion of South Australia.
That was not the last proposal for the creation of an Inter-State Commission. Since then there have been other attempts 9- use it for other purposes. The second bill was introduced in 1909 by the Deakin Government. It was introduced into the Senate by Sir Robert Best, who started his speech by saying that the State railways commissioners had fallen into line, and that there was now no need for an Inter-State Commission to secure fair railway treatment, but he made a claim that the bill of 1909 had a different object. It wa3 mainly intended, he said, to work out the policy of New Protection, that policy by which part of the benefits of a protective tariff was to be secured for the workers. The new protection, however, had been considered by the High Court in the Bargers case just before that, and had been declared to be invalid. However, the Inter-State Commission Bill was persisted with, but before it finally disappeared some interesting remarks were made by Senator Pearce, who was then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and led the opposition to the bill. He said -
Until wo have proof Unit Micro is :i likelihood of the railways commissioners abrogating thu agreement at which they have arrived, we should not bc in a hurry to establish this costly commission.
That was the opinion of Sir George Pearce in 1909, and it was still the opinion of the Government in 1932, when, in answer to a question in the Senate, Sir George Pearce said that the Govern ment was of the opinion that there was no need for a bill to re-constitute the Inter-State Commission.
Hie next bill dealing with the matter was introduced by Mr. W. M. Hughes, in 1912, when he was Attorney General. It became Law, and nine months later the act came into force. In the course of the debate, Sir John Quick said -
The conditions that obtained when the convention authorized the constituting of the Inter-State Commission, and gave it this special class of duties, no longer exist. There is now no longer the annie necessity for federal intervention or for work to be done by the Inter-State Commission of the kind there waa when the Constitution was adopted and thu bill of 11)01 introduced.
That is to say, the reserve power to create the Inter-State Commission had induced the State railways commissioners to make a fair agreement for the abolition of differential rates. If the reserve power was sufficient to check this evil, there was, of course, no need -actually to create the Inter-State Commission. Sir John Quick, and all the other framers of the Constitution, thought that the InterState Commission would have judicial power, and Sir Edmund Barton dissented from his fellow justices on the High Court” when they held that it did not have such power. The InterState Commission dealt with an application for an injunction against New South Wales to prevent it from stopping the free movement of wheat from State to State in alleged violation of section 92 of the Constitution. The High Court held that, as the members of the InterState Commission held office for seven years, and no longer, as prescribed by the Constitution, they could not exercise judicial powers which could be conferred only on persons who enjoyed practically a life tenure of office ; that is to say, upon persons who held office for life, subject to removal on address by Parliament. After the decision of the High Court the Inter-State Commission was left with practically nothing to do. It could not exercise the judicial powers that Parliament had tried to give it; it could not exercise control over the railways because there was no need for that. If the Commonwealth Government of the day had not been able to find something for it to do its members would have enjoyed the luxury and dignity of a sinecure; but th Common wealth Government got busy very quickly, and gave it a good deal of work investigating” claims for tariff protection. The only work it did for the rest of its life was work of a kind now done by the Tariff Board. There was some inquiry into costs and prices, but, in the main, the Inter-State Commission functioned as the Tariff Board does now. The chairman was Mr. A. B. Piddington, K.C., formerly Mr. Justice Piddington. He gave evidence before the Royal Commission on the Constitution in 1926, in respect of the Inter-State Commission. His evidence was summarized by Mr. H. S. Nicholas, counsel assisting the commission, in this way -
YOU will note tha,t Mr. Justice Piddington^ evidence on judicial functions states tn.ic in all probability there would seldom bc need fur thu commission to investigate competitive railway freights, the chief function assigned u> it by the Constitution, as that difficulty hud been removed by agreement between the railways commissioners “themselves.
At this point I may say for the benefit of members from Western Australia who have become, curiously enough, supporters of this measure, that the only State railways system which does not support the agreement between the railways commissioners is that of Western Australia. Giving evidence before the royal commission in 1926, Mr. E. A. Evans, a Deputy Commissioner of Railways for Western Australia, said - l feel certain that the formation of an Inter-state Commission, having for its object the control of freights and fares, and the working of the railways nf .Australia, would tend to hamper seriously the constructive policy adopted, in this State.
He implored the royal commission not to encourage the re-establishment of the Inter-State Commission, because a necessary result would be that it would interfere with the running of the railways in Western Australia. Those railways were not competitive with those of other States, but they could impose special rates against goods not produced in Western Australia, just as the New Zealand railways impose special rates against goods not produced in New Zealand.
– They do not, in fact, do so.
– Anyway, the Deputy Commissioner in Western Australia said that the railways authorities there did not want the Inter-State Commission interfering with their developmental policy.
In 1919, writing in his book Legislative Powers, Sir John Quick, who was practically the father of the Inter-State Commission, said -
The decision of the High Court involved the complete breakdown of the Inter-State Commission as originally passed by Parlia-“ ment, and it has reduced thu status of the commission itself to that of an ordinary royal commission appointed to inquire and recom mend. The usefulness of the commission as contemplated by thu framers of the Constitution has been paralysed.
That is, paralysed by the High Court’s interpretation of the Constitution, which interpretation still stands, and cannot be affected by this bill. If this measure is passed by Parliament, the decision by the High Court in the Wheal case will still remain, and for so long as it does, the commission, in the opinion of n Sir John Quick and other constitution! authorities, can do no effective work. The view expressed by Sir John Quick in 1919 is confirmed by the authors of the *Case for Union prepared by Sir Robert Garran, Mr. Keating and Mr. Somerville. At pages 26 and 27, Sir Robert Garran says -
It (the Inter-State Commission) could be brought into being by the appointment of commissioners; but, of course, the decision of the High Court that it cannot be given judicial power still holds good, and under the Constitution as it stands the commission could be little more than an investigating body without effective power to deal with any abuses that might bp disclosed.
– It was never intended to be otherwise.
– Then the honorable member contradicts all persons who have contended that the Inter-State Commission was intended by the Constitution to have power over interstate trade, and to correct the abuses of unfair competition. It is obvious that the InterState Commission cannot do that, though it is possible that the commission may be given investigatory powers. It may now be seen how illusory is the contention that this bill seeks to give effect to the intention of the framers of the Constitution. They intended that there should be an Inter-State Commission which would exercise judicial powers, and. among other powers, the supervising and checking of the States’ control of railways. For the latter purpose it is not needed : for the former purpose it has no power. It is true that the Royal Commission on Western Australian Disabilities urged the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission, but that royal commission made it quite clear that it did not want such a commission as this bill proposes. It wanted to re-create the commission with judicial power, with power to give decisions and to enforce them; but it did not ask for this body. Nobody has asked for it. We have done very well indeed without it for many years. In the eight years it was in existence it cost £10,000 a year and it will probably cost a good deal more if it is re-created. It will supersede a body which has worked well. A new personnel under new direction and new control and :it a greater cost arc to do the work which the Commonwealth Grants Commission has done to the general satisfaction of Australia. I do not know what more Western Australia or any other State can hope for from the Inter-State Commission than it has been possible to obtain from the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Interestate Commission will have to apply the principles which have been established by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Otherwise there would be great danger and jeopardy. The Royal Commission on the Constitution did not recommend that a bill like this bill should be passed. It merely recommended that the Constitution should be altered to give judicial power to the Inter-State Commission. Everybody has recognized that without an alteration of the Constitution judicial power cannot be given to it, and that without the judicial power, it can do nothing but merely investigate and report.
– If there were no public demand, for the Inter-State Commission to be re-established, there must Iia vo been some private demand.
– I suppose there is a private demand, but I do not want to refer to it in a deprecatory way. That is not my function. My function is to consider what this bill seeks to do, and not at this stage to consider details; because the time for that consideration will come when we reach the committee stage.
I contend that there is no need at all for this bill. The motive that induced the Commonwealth Constitution to foreshadow an Inter-State Commission was the motive of controlling unfair railway competition. That unfair railways competition does not exist because it has been obviated by agreement reached between the Railways Commissioners of the various States.
– lc is going too far to say that.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) contradicts Sir John Quick, the father of the clause of the Constitution which provides for the Inter-state Commission, Sir Robert Garran, who -knows much more about the Constitution than does any honorable member of this House, and the gentleman who was President of the Inter-State Commission, who all agree that an Inter-State 001111111851011 cannot, within existing constitutional limits, do the work of controlling trade and commerce or of preventing unfair competition, that it cannot make decisions or enforce them and that nil that it can do is investigate and report. The only argument that can be advanced for the reestablishment of the Inter-State Commission is that it is in the -bond. We have lived, for more than one-third of a century under the Constitution, and the bond has not been observed. If we have been false and recreant to the Constitution we have been false and recreant for a long time. The framers of the Constitution have made it abundantly clear that the Constitution never imposed upon Parliament “in all circumstances” an obligation to set up an Inter-State Commission. This matter was considered quite early in the High Court, composed of men who sat in the Federal Convention, and their decisions make the position perfectly clear. Those decisions are collected in a statement which has been issued by Sir Isaac Isaacs. I quote from pages 6 and 7 of that statement. Sir Isaac Isaacs referring to the case Appleton v. Moorehead which is reported in the Commonwealth Law Reports from 1907 to 1908, says-
Three eminent Counsel, two of whom became Chief Justices, and one is still a High Court Justice, appeared for the Commonwealth. Their contention (p. M4) is reported in those terms. “Section101 of the Constitution only confers a power to create the commission, but imposes no duty to create it and when created, Parliament need not confer upon it all or any of the powers as to trade and commerce, but may entrust some or all of them to the ordinary administration of the law.”
BartonJ. (p. 367) said - “If section 101 is mandatory in any sense, it appears to me to be a mere mandate to Parliament, which it may be the political duty of Parliament to obey, but not a mandatory enactment in the judicial sense.”
Mr. Justice Barton was Chief Draftsman of the Constitution.
Mr. Justice O’Connor said “ I am of opinion that section 101 is entirely enabling.”
Mr. Justice O’Connor was another framer of the Constitution.
I said - “ Though the creation and organization of the commission at some time is contemplated as a certainty, the only express constitutional necessity for its action is in relation to interferences with State railway preferences and discriminations . . . The powers which the commission is to have are only such as Parliament may in its discretion confer as being in its opinion necessary to be conferred on that body for the execution and maintenance of the trade and commerce. No others are contemplated by the Constitution, except those expressly given with reference to railways.”
In that case it was contended by a shipping company that no investigation in relation to trade and commerce could be carried out except by the Inter-State Commission. The Industries Preservation Act had empowered the Collector of Customs, I think, to make certain investigations, to put inquiries to individuals and to demand answers. The company contended that the only body that could do that was the Inter-State Commission, but the High Court said that the InterState Commission was not necessary for this purpose, and that the only thing it was necessary for was to pronounce on differential railway rates and to say if those rates should continue. No one to-day contemplates an Inter-State Commission functioning in respect of State railways. If that were so, honorable members representingWestern Australian constituencies would oppose the bill. The Inter-State Commission has never had need to function in relation to State railways. If reconstituted, it will become a sort of standing royal commission. That is a wrong policy. Royal commissions should be constituted ad hoc of persons who have knowledge of or interest in the subject to be inquired into. One cannot refer all possible matters to the same set of persons and expect satisfactory results. One gets the most satisfactory results by referring different matters to specially constituted bodies. There is a possibility that, by conferring upon theInter-State Commission powers of investigation of matters that have no relation to trade and commerce, it may be made constitutionally impotent. The question of grants to the States has no relation to trade and commerce. Other matters may go to the commission for investigation, and we know that States’ grants will, but it may very well be that this commission will not be able to function at all if we confer upon it powers that have no relation to trade and commerce.When he was a member of the High Court which dealt with the Appleton v. Moorehead case in 1909, Sir Isaac Isaacs said -
The powers which the commission is to have are only such as Parliament may in its discretion confer as being in its opinion necessary to be conferred on that body for the execution and maintenance of the trade and commerce.
The opinion given by Sir Isaac Isaacs nearly 30 years ago was that the only powers that can be given to the InterState Commission are powers which relate in some way to interstate trade and commerce. Therefore, if powers which relate in some way to trade and commerce are the only powers that can be conferred upon the Inter-State Commission, an attempt to confer upon it other powers may mean that it cannot function at all, and it will not be the body contemplated by the Constitution. No matter what it is called, it cannot do the work conferred upon it by the Constitution unless it is the body that the Constitution contemplates, and the body that the Constitution contemplates is one which deals with questions relating to trade and commerce between the States and with those questions only. It is very strange that, after the long time in which we have got on very well indeed without an Inter-State Commission, we are now asked to reconstitute one. I believe that the power to make decisions and carry out those decisions should not be entrusted to such a body, but should rest with the Executive, relying upon the courts for assistance. The Constitution of the Commonwealth places us in this position. We can make laws relating to trade and commerce and the Executive can carry them out without an InterState Commission. No Inter-State Commission is necessary to carry out laws relating to trade and commerce. The only constitutional necessity for an InterState Commission - to prevent unfair railway competition by unfair differential and preferential rates - no longer exists. The States by agreement have put an end to it. It is true that the States were induced to act because the Commonwealth Parliament had the reserve power to create the Inter-State Commission, hut, as the States are doing the work without the control of the Inter-State Commission, why create it? I remind the House that the only functions that can be exercised by the Inter-State Commission are already being done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission and by the various royal commissions thatwe have created ad hoc. There is no need for this bill to create at considerable expense an entirely new office which is entirely unnecessary and which may be injurious to this country if the powers and functions which are so well exercised by the Commonwealth Grants Commission are exercised by a new personnel of which we know nothing.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nairn) adjourned.
Chief Arbitration Judge and Hoursof Labour - Sitting Days - Unemployment on Coal-fields - Christmas Grant - Newnes Shale Oil Development.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government a matter of very great importance to the public at large. It is a delicate matter to discuss because of the danger of being misunderstood. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, I am not making a personal attack upon any one. During the last year or so the Commonwealth Government has continually urged the workers of Australia to take to the Commonwealth Arbitration
Court any matters affecting their employment that they wish to be reviewed. We, on this side of the chamber, agree that most of these matters may be dealt with effectively by the court. One matter, however, presents difficulties because of certain circumstances which I wish to discuss. I refer to the readjustment of working hours, which is to-day a burning issue with our people throughout Australia and the world. I refer to the claim for a 40-hour week. We have pleaded with the Government on various occasions to deal with this matter, at least in relation to its own employees; but the Government has said very definitely that the subject must be dealt with by the Arbitration Court. One of the reasons why the workers have not been prepared to submit their case to the court is that Chief Judge Dethridge, in particular, has referred to it in a way that suggests that he has actually prejudged the issue. It is very regrettable that just about the time when conferences of workers’ representatives were being held to consider this subject, and particularly to decide whether they would submit it to the Arbitration Court, a public pronouncement was made by a judge which either ridicules the claim of the workers for a shorter working week, or else suggests that he has prejudged the issue. The repercussions of such statements can be easily understood. They invariably discourage any approach to the court by the workers concerned. I am jealous of the status and authority of our Arbitration Court, and I must admit that on the various occasions when I have appeared before different judges as an advocate I have been treated fairly. For this reason I think that Chief Judge. Dethridge is, in this particular instance, performing a grave disservice to our whole system of arbitration when he makes definite pronouncements upon a matter before it has been presented to him. It is not as though the statements of which I shall complain have been made after the evidence of the workers has been presented and sifted by the judges. The trouble is that these ill-judged and distasteful observations appear in the press or are made on occasions when the issue of a 44-hour week is not nearly under consideration. The seriousness of the situation is also to be found partly in the fact that any inquiry into a shorter working week must be made by the full bench of the Arbitration Court. Consequently, if any single judge makes statements which appear to prejudge the issue, the workers naturally feel that they will not be given a fair deal if they submit their case to the court, because the judge has already made up his mind.
I have received a wire from the president and secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions which causes me to bring the matter up at this juncture, but our troubles of this nature have not arisen just recently. I direct attention to the following telegram which the president of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions sent to the Leader of the Opposition almost two years ago: -
Australasian Council of Trade Unions strongly resents the remarks of Chief Judge Dethridge in the Arbitration Court on Wednesday last relative to the shorter working week. See The Age of Thursday. It considers his attitude on issue preconceived, ill-judged and biased in opposition to the 40-hour week. Australasian Council of Trade Unions requests your party to raise the matter in the House, with a view of establishing the failure of Chief Judge Dethridge to deal with such national matters impartially and without prejudice.
The issue of the Age newspaper referred to therein was that of the 28th November, 1936. On another occasion, when a pamphlet was issued by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions on this subject, which. I remind the House, is of international significance, the Chief Judge made some comments which also had an unfortunate reaction. I refer to the following paragraph which appeared in an article in the Age on that occasion : -
Referring to the pamphlet, Why the 40- hour Week?, His Honour said that Messrs. Crofts and Monk, of the Trades Hall, in a foreword had said they did not expect shortening of hours to have any material effect on unemployment, but in the body of the pamphlet the whole argument was that shorter hours would reduce unemployment. That was the sort of loose, foggy, misinformed thing that they got on this subject.
When the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court makes statements of that description, it, is hardly likely that the workers’ representatives willbe willing to submit their case to him. They feel that the issue has been prejudged.
– Surely the Chief Judge is entitled to make comments on a subject like this.
– Yes, when the case may be before him, but I am afraid the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) does not appreciate the point of my remarks. Our position is this: The Government is not willing to consider applying this reform to its own employees. It declares that the matter should be referred to the Arbitration Court. But when the representatives of the workers give consideration to that course, they find that their case is likely to be heard before a judge who seems to have prejudged the issue.
Audible conversation interfering with the progress of the debate,
– I have frequently, within the last few days, asked honorable members not to converse audibly in the chamber.
– I was not talking.
– Honorable members on both sides of the House have been at fault. I regret that it is necessary for me to utter this reprimand, but if honorable members will not maintain silence, I shall have to take other action.
-Why look at me?
– I am not looking at the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in particular, although he has frequently been guilty to-day.
– Two honorable members are. now conversing at the table.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.Ward) immediately disregards my request.
– I wish now to refer to certain comments made by Chief Judge Dethridge during the hearing of the case The Wool and Basil Workers’ Federation v. Wm. Angliss and Company Proprietary Limited and others. These remarks were made on the 24th August last. His Honour said -
It is just as well to realize this on this question of hours:I have come to the conclusion that the wage-earners cannot risk it. But it has become a sort of fetish, it isa religion; it is not a matter of reason, it is a matter of blind faith; and, therefore, I do not think either the employers or this court can effectively appeal to the reasoning faculties of the wage-earners on this question of the 44-hour week. It is very like other “isms”; they ure swallowed holus-bolus. This 44hourism is very much like that, and it is gradually being supplanted by a 40-hourism. Horrible dope it may be, but it is being swallowed.
Surely a careful examination of those observations must lead to the conclusion that the Chief Judge has prejudged the shorter working-week issue. In such circumstances, it is very difficult for us to get the workers to .believe that, if they submit their case to the Arbitration Court, it will be given an unbiased hearing. Referring to Chief Judge Dethridge’s comment of the pamphlet, Why the 40- hour Week?, the secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. C. Crofts, said - lt had not been claimed by the president and secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions that they did not expect the shortening of hours to have any material effect upon unemployment. It was stated that while it was not claimed that” a 40-hour week would prove a remedy, it would at least alleviate the position of unemployment. The ultimate aim of the trade union movement was a 30-hour week, and the 40-hour week was but a step in that direction. His Honour’s assertion that the employers, who he claimed were mostly concerned, had not spoken on the subject, was contrary to the fact, as many of the leading industrialists of the world, :ind a majority of the big employers of America, had declared in favour of, and put into practice, the shorter working week. In Australia, Sir Frederick Stewart had been an ardent advocate of the shorter working week ever since he returned from the Geneva Conference in 1935, and he kicked his policy by putting it into operation. [ could direct attention to other similar observations, and the truth is that the pamphlet does not convey such a meaning; it does assert that the 40-hour week will not solve the problem, but it asserts that it could greatly relieve it.- The point I am trying to make is, that although the Government desires the workers to take their claim to the Arbitration Court, the workers feel that if they do so they are not likely to obtain an unbiased hearing. On two occasions I submitted claims to the Full Court Bench for a reduction of the working week, and was successful in obtaining a decision that the hours should be reduced from 48 to 44 a week. That was some years ago. The Convention of the International Labour Organization for a 40-hour week is much more recent.
We contend that the Government should be willing to apply this reform to its own employees. When we have requested that this be done, we have been told that the Constitution will not permit it, and that the Commonwealth Government cannot enforce such a condition upon the State governments.
– But it has enforced certain provisions of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act on the State governments.
– That is so, and it has also provided that State wagefixing tribunals shall not take into account contributions paid in respect of national insurance.
– That is not likely to stand very long.
– If the Government can adopt that attitude towards the States in respect of some matters, it should be able to adopt it in respect of other matters. We all know that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who represented the Commonwealth Government at Geneva when the shorter working week convention was agreed to, has endeavoured to get the Government to adopt the reform. He has himself applied it in respect of certain undertakings in which he is interested. Seeing that the reform has been applied in France, and also in certain industries in England, and that certain governments and some private employers abroad have also been sympathetic towards it, “we feel aggrieved that the Commonwealth Government, which is a party, to the convention, has not seen fit to do its best to give effect to it ; at least it could be applied to the Commonwealth Government’s own employees.
I wish the Government to understand clearly that one of the main reasons why the workers have not been willing to submit their case for the shorter working week to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is that Chief Judge Dethridge appears to have prejudged the issue.
.- I bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) the desirability of giving some indication to the House regarding the sitting days for the remainder of this session. I realize that it is not always possible for the Government to adhere to a preconceived plan in connexion with, sitting days, because various matters crop up which necessitate departure from any such plan; but at least the -Government should consider the convenience of honorable members to the extent of outlining its programme and giving some indication of the sitting days for the remainder of the session.
– That has already been announced.
– That is so, but I do not think that the announcement went far enough. Whilst I frankly admit that members of the Government are very busily occupied with their important duties, private members are not entirely without ties in their electorates. For this reason the Government should give serious consideration to the desirability of announcing the commencing days of the future weekly sittings. If it endeavoured to plan sitting days in advance, honorable members would be able to arrange their business in. their own electorates to fit in with their duties in this House. Any such plan would ‘be most welcome by those honorable members from distant States who wish to attend to the needs of their constituents without absenting themselves from the sittings of the House.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). Honorable members have to make appointments to interview their electors, but under the present unsatisfactory conditions they do not know where they stand, and consequently are unable to plan their appointments ahead.
– The proposed sittings of the House for at least a month ahead were announced a week ago.
– But they are likely to be changed at any time. In my opinion the Parliament is not summoned to meet often enough to deal adequately with the many intricate problems with which this country is faced.
Arrangements should be made to set aside at least a couple of days for the discussion of the very vexed question of unemployment, which, in spite of its rosy promises during the election campaign, the Government has made no attempt to tackle. It has refused to face up to the position, preferring to act like the ostrich, which buries its head in the sand. Government members are constantly stating that unemployment has been reduced. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who went through my electorate some time ago, was not game enough to tell the people that unemployment had been reduced in the mining areas. The problem of unemployment in the northern coal-fields has been greatly accentuated since the 1929-30 lockout, which was brought about as the result of the mechanization of the coal industry. The electors in the mining districts have a claim to the consideration by the Government equal to that of the more fortunate people in electorates represented by Government supporters in this House. Recently, in an endeavour to ascertain if the Government proposes to provide any measure of relief for the unemployed during the Christmas season, I placed the following question on the notice-paper -
Does the Government propose to make, as a gesture of goodwill for Christmas, a monetary grant to the unemployed equivalent to a fortnight’s relief pay?
The reply I received to-day was -
Provision has been made in the budget this year for over £16,000,000 for expenditure on works in Australia, including the defence works. It has been necessary to budget also for an increase of ordinary expenditure this year, apart from new works, particularly in relation to the expansion of the defence forces. The provision of these moneys should make a great deal of work available, and in view of this fact the Commonwealth Government does not propose to make a monetary grant to the unemployed at Christmas.
I made representations to the Government that, as it is ‘ not proposed to undertake any government works at Cessnock, some provision of funds should be made for relief of distress among the unemployed people of that town and of other coal-fields towns. The Government ignored the request, and would not provide a “ razoo “. The people in these districts have suffered for a long period of years through unemployment, which is greater, having regard to population, than in any other two electorates in Australia. In an attempt to provide work for these unfortunate people, I requested that funds should be provided for the improvement of Cessnock aerodrome, the unsatisfactory state of the landing ground there preventing it from being used as an intermediate stopping place by aeroplanes on the MelbourneSydneyCharleville route. Because Cessnock, a very important centre with a population of approximately 22,000, is represented in this Parliament by a member opposing the Government, nothing is done to alleviate the distress that exists there. No attempt is even made to undertake important work such as the improvement of an aerodrome, which in time of emergency would be useful for defence purposes. In the event of war, I have no doubt that all aerodromes would be taken over by the Defence Department; but despite tlie fact that the Cessnock aerodrome is regarded as of some importance for civil aviation purposes, the Government will undertake no responsibility for its improvement, leaving it to the municipality of Cessnock to undertake that work. Adjacent to my electorate and situated in that represented by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thompson) is Port Stephens, to which a number of my constituents go when out of employment in order to supplement their dole allowance from the State Government by fishing. Recently naval and military manoeuvres were held there, but normally not a gun of any sort is provided for its protection. It is completely unprotected. An enemy coming into Port Stephens could blow up the important city of Newcastle which is only 8 or 10 miles distant by air. As I have said on other occasions, the roads leading to Port Stephens are in such bad order that it would not be possible to transport heavy guns over them for its defence. I have asked on numerous occasions that, as a means of relieving the unemployment in the mining areas, the .work of reconstructing these roads should be undertaken but to no avail. Recently when travelling from my home to Canberra I met a very high official of the Defence Department who informed me that it would not be possible expeditiously to transport troops or guns -over the roads from Newcastle to Port Stephens. Honorable members opposite have much to say about the proposed expenditure of £16,000,000 for defence purposes, but out of that huge sum the Government is not prepared to spend a penny in defence works in this or the Cessnock district as a means of relieving unemployment. Many unfortunate people there have been unemployed for ten years. Some of the lads at Cessnock have reached the age of 26 years and have never known what it is to do a day’s work. They are not eligible for unemployment relief because of the permissible income limitations imposed by the State Government in respect of the earnings of their parents. Although the Government has disregarded the claims of these people entirely, it has at the same time meted out much better treatment to the people in those electorates in which the political fate of the sitting member is uncertain.
– That is completely untrue.
– It was done in Macquarie.
– That is so. In that electorate it was promised during the last elections that if the Government were returned to office work would be commenced at Newnes without delay. The workers were completely fooled by that promise. Work has not started there yet, and is not likely to start. I have no doubt that when the next elections are imminent we shall hear a good deal about further proposals for the development of Newnes. The Government hopes by promises of this sort to swing the pendulum in favour of its endorsed candidates. During the coal dispute in the northern coal-fields some years ago £100,000 was set aside by the Scullin Government for the assistance of unemployed miners. Portion of that money was expended at Newnes, but when the United Australia party subsequently came into office the balance was held in abeyance pending another election. Subsequently some of the money once more was spent there in the interests of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) who represents that district in this Parliament. Proposals for the relief of unemployment should be completely divorced from party politics. I regret that it is necessary at times to become heated over this important question, but it is necessary to do so in order to endeavour to bring it more forcibly under the notice of the Government. The miners have just recently emerged from another coal strike. To bring about a settlement of the dispute they have had to go cap in hand to the various governments in Australia. The leaders of the Miners’ Federation had to fly from New South Wales and Queensland to Victoria to get the Premiers of Queensland and Victoria to agree with the Premier of New South Wales in regard to the terms of settlement. It was wholly and solely the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to settle the trouble by means of a conference convened under the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act, which was designed to regulate disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State, but it refused to do anything, and will continue to refuse whenever that particular locality in whose interests I am now speaking is involved. Why? Because it knows that there is not the slightest possibility of any representative of that district “ ratting “ on the Labour movement and supporting the Government. Definitely this is a matter on which we should have a full-dress debate, because of the promises made by the present Administration and its predecessor. The first and second Lyons Administrations asked the electors to repose confidence in the United Australia party and thereby secure a good job at steady wages. Where are those good jobs at steady wages? Thousands of our people are compelled to live on a miserable dole of 8s. a week, while their womenfolk are ashamed to leave their homes because of the threadbareness of their clothing. That is not right. I have asked that decent clothing be made available for them. The Defence Department was given a Commonwealth grant of £3,000 to enable it to make provision in that direction, but the clothing which it sent to that locality was condemned by the municipalities. It consisted of boots that were worn out, and blankets covered with blood, vermin and other filth. Although the people were poor, they were clean, and they were not prepared to accept such filthy stuff. I do not say that the Treasurer was to blame ; it was the fault of the Defence Department, which took advantage of the grant and supplied what was fit only to be sent to an incinerator. When people are treated in this way, how could they be expected loyally to defend this country if it were assailed by an enemy? They ask what there is to defend. Have they to defend a miserable dole of 8s. a week? Many of the young men who have had an advanced education are unable to obtain employment. Parents have come to me with careworn looks and have told me that, having expended practically the whole of their resources in providing their children with a proper education, they have not been able to obtain a position for them in the Air Force or any other arm of defence. A statement of the qualifications and social position of those who are admitted to the Air Force would make very interesting reading.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
. - It is not my custom, in ordinary circumstances, to reply to statements made in a reckless or an irresponsible way, entirely regardless of the facts of the case; but when allegations are made, such as have just been made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), alleging the grossest form of corruption against the Government in negotiating an agreement with the National Oil Proprietary Company Limited for the development of the Newnes shale oil resources, and further alleging against me the grossest form of corruption in my advocacy of the development of those fields, then I feel called upon, in the interests of truth and justice, emphatically and catechetically to deny the allegations against both myself and the Government. In amplification of that denial, I would say that in not a single instance did I urge the claims of Newnes upon the Commonwealth Government because I thought that that might improve my prospects in the electorate that I represent. In fact, I think I can say quite truthfully that almost all that I said in urging the claims of Newnes upon the Government was said on the floor of this House; there was no hole-and-corner business, no crooked business, no back-door business. I was prepared to accept the decision of the Government in the matter, without concern as to whether or not it affected my prospects either for the good or for the bad. I have never considered that the development of Newnes would help me personally in the electorate. If by any chance I gained an advantage at thelast election, it was not so much because of the action of the Government as because the honorable member for Hunter went into my electorate and told the people that if a Labour government were returned to power it would revoke the agreement which this Government had made in respect of the development of Newnes, and. establish a plant for the extraction of oil from coal in his electorate.
– That is a lie !
-Order ! The honorable member will withdraw that remark, and apologize to the House for having made it.
– I withdraw the remark, and apologize; but-
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat. He will not be in order in making an explanation of his conduct at this stage.
– I do not wish to speak any further on that aspect of the matter, but I do wish to refute the further suggestion of the honorable member that no effective action had been taken to put into effect the provisions of the agreement which this Government made with National Oil Company Proprietary Limited. That statement is wholly incorrect, if not deliberately untrue. The facts cry aloud to high Heaven in denial of it.
– The progress made has been announced in this House from time to time.
– The progress that has been and is being made has been announced from time to time. The agreement is being put into effect as rapidly as possible. I say, further, that since the last election I have not received a single complaint from any elector in my constituency or from any public body which in any way bears out the statements of ‘ the honorable member for Hunter. That, in itself, is suffi- cient refutation of the vile allegations which the honorable member for Hunter has made against both myself and the Government.
– Having been misrepresented, I wish to make a personal explan ation. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has said that in his electorate I made the statement that if a Labour government were returned to power it would revoke the agreement and set up a plant in my electorate. The first part of that statement is correct. Speaking purely personally, I said that so far as the agreement with Davis was concerned, it was a one-sided agreement boosting up private enterprise; that Labour’s policy would be to revoke such an unfair agreement, and in all probability nationalize such an important industry as the extraction of oil from shale. To say that I said that we would set up a plant in my electorate is a wilful, deliberate, and contemptible misrepresentation.
– Order ! The honorable member for Hunter is out of order.
– I ask that that statement of the honorable member for Hunter be withdrawn.
– Order ! The honororable member for Hunter is distinctly out of order in saying that a statement is a deliberate and contemptible misrepresentation.
– The honorable member for Macquarie used exactly the same language concerning the honorable member for Hunter.
– Order ! That is not correct. I heard the remark of the honorable member for Macquarie. Does the honorable member for Hunter intend to withdraw his remark?
– The honorable member for Macquarie said that I made a vile statement.
– He is laughing now. He will not laugh outside, the rotten cow.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I should like to get him outside.
– Order ! I name the honorable member for Hunter.
– I appeal to the honorable gentleman-
– Order ! I shall not allow any appeal to be made.
– Well, if the honorable gentleman will not take action, I am obliged-
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to withdraw and apologize.
– I did not call for that.I called for it several times, but the honorable member did not make it. In defiance of the Chair, he made a further attack on the honorable member for Macquarie, and he has been named for doing so.
– I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to give the honorable gentleman
– Order! I cannot allow such behaviour as the House has witnessed this afternoon; it has been distinctly out of order, and not in accord with what one would expect from honorable members. If any honorable member voluntarily, and without any appeal, apologized to the Chair, I would listen to him. That has not been done by the honorable member for Hunter. After having been ordered by the Chair to withdraw certain words, instead of doing so the honorable member hurled further abusive epithets at the honorable member for Macquarie, and I shall not allow the Treasurer to make an appeal on his behalf.
– He did tender an apology, Mr. Speaker.
– In the circumstances, I am obliged to move-
That the honorable member for Hunter be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. , (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . ….. 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Rosevear) negatived -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) made out a case in respect of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Attorney-General in his capacity of Minister for Industry.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked that the days of sitting of Parliament might be made known to honorable members. I reminded him by interjection while he was speaking that several days ago the Acting Leader of the House (Sir Earle Page) made an announcement in this chamber regarding the days of sitting. I have not here a copy of his remarks, hut I have a note in my book to the effect that the House will meet on Wednesday, the 19th October, in the coming week, and on Tuesday, the 25th October, in the week after; and subsequently on Wednesdays and Tuesdays alternatively in each week; that when it meets on Tuesday it will sit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and when it meets on Wednesday, it will sit on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That will be the practice until further notice.
I do not propose to refer at any greater length to remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), except to endorse in every particular the statement of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). The honorable member for Hunter has himself said that, from time to time, he speaks in this chamber under the stress of considerable emotion, and I think we must assume that this was one of the occasions. On behalf of the Government, I cannot let the honorable member’s remarks pass without making a complete denial of any suggestion that the Government has acted in the way he said. Neither in this instance, nor in any other of which I am aware, has the Government ever been influenced, nor could it be influenced, by considerations of that kind. The development of the shale deposits at Newnes was entered upon for defence purposes, and for these only. Not even economic considerations were involved, because it will cost more to produce petrol at Newnes than petrol could he imported for, and the Government will lose the excise revenue on the petrol made here.
– When is the Government going to do something for the coalminers?
– For the moment, I am discussing the Newnes project, and I say definitely that it was undertaken for defence purposes. In my capacity as Minister in charge of Development, I have announced from time to time the active steps being taken by the National Oil Proprietary Company to fulfil its agreements with the Government. The Government has no complaint whatsoever against the company in respect of the speed with which it is carrying out the agreement.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) said that I allowed the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) to make the same remark as that made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) .
– I did not say “allowed”. I said that the honorable member for Macquarie had said the same thing. He said that the statement of the honorable member for Hunter was a deliberate untruth.
– I think I heard and understood everything that was said. The honorable member for Macquarie said that the statement was entirely incorrect, if not deliberately untrue. There is a difference. No attention was drawn to it at the time, nor was there any request that the statement should be withdrawn.
The word “deliberate” has never been permitted in association with the word “ untruth “.
– The honorable member for Macquarie used the phrase twice. On the second occasion he did not qualify it.
– I do not think that is correct.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Science and Industry Endowment Act - Reports by the Auditor-General on the accounts of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for years 1936-37 and 1937-38.
House adjourned at 4.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Government propose to make, as a gesture of goodwill for Christinas, a monetary grant to the unemployed equivalent to a fortnight’s relief pay?
Mr. Lyons (through Sir Earle Page). - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Provision has been made in the budget this year for over £16,000,000 for expenditure on works in Australia, including the defence works. It has been necessary to budget also for an increase in ordinary expenditure this year, apart from new works, particularly in relation to the expansion of the Defence Forces. The provision of these moneys should make a great deal of work available, and in view of this fact the Commonwealth Government does not propose to make a monetary grant to the unemployed at Christinas.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he state whether the Government subscribes to the substance of the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) which appeared in the press of the 10th October,1 938, in reference to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea?
Mr. Lyons (through Sir Earle Page). - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The principle underlying the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs is in accord with the views and policy of the Government in connexion with the mandate held by Australia.
– On the 23rd September the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked a question, upon notice, containing the following: -
What is the approximate area of the lands in the Bulolo Valley to be included in the timber permit tenders for the purchase of which have been invited by the New Guinea Administration, and for what distance along each side of the river does the permit extend?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the area to be included in the permit will be approximately 12,000 acres. The land to be covered by the permit extends along the east bank of the Bulolo River for approximately8 miles and approximately 4 miles along the west bank.
Mining tenements along the river banks will not be included in the area covered by the permit.
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Ministerin charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– A reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Australian Aerial Medical Services: Accommodation for Pilot at Wyndham.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Borrowing by Semi-Governmental Organizations.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Employment in Industry.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Charges forradio Messages at Sea.
s. - On the 13th October, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answers to his inquiries : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381014_reps_15_157/>.