15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Tariff Board Delays
– In yesterday’s press appeared the statement thatrather large-scale industrial expansion is con- templated in Australia. Opinions expressed by the Prime Minister, particularly upon his return to Australia from Great Britain on the last occasion, and the appointment of Mr. Moore to his personal staff, would lead one to believe that there is more than the mere suggestion of truth in the statement. Will the right honorable gentleman give the assurance that no new industrial project will be undertaken until the Tariff Board has reported upon the economics of the venture ?
– As the honorable gentleman knows, that, generally, is the policy of the Government. Such being the case, it will be adhered to.
– In view of the proposal that new industrial expansion is contemplated in Australia with the backing and encouragement of the Government, and having regard to the constant complaints of manufacturers and sponsors of new industries regarding delay in obtaining Tariff Board investigations and decisions, will the Minister for Trade and Customs facilitate arrangements for Tariff Board investigation, or recommend that the Government itself shall make the necessary decisions on matters of such national importance?
– An examination of the records, both of the Customs Department and of the Tariff Board, reveals that, during recent years, no single formal complaint by any one directly concerned has been lodged either with the Minister for Trade and Customs or with the board alleging undue delay in regard to Tariff Board inquiries. Such delays as have occurred are chiefly due, in the first place, to the fact that three months’ notice is required by the British Government to he given to British manufacturers of an intention to hold an inquiry. A further cause of delay is the time that elapses between the making of a recommendation by the Tariff Board and the tabling of a schedule embodying that recommendation in this chamber. I am now examining the subject very carefully. I. have already discussed with the Chairman of the Tariff Board means whereby greater expedition can be achieved in dealing with matters referred to the board, and I hope to make a proposal regarding it at an early date.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs investigated a complaint by the glove manufacturers that for two years they have been endeavouring unsuccessfully to place a case for tariff revision before the Tariff Board? Will he inquire into this, and similar requests so that these important investigations may be facilitated?
– I shall make inquiries along the lines requested by the honorable member.
– In the absence of the Attorney-General. I ask the Prime Minister whether any steps are being taken in connexion with the ratification of such of the Maritime Conventions agreed upon at the 1936 conference of the International Labour Office as have not already been dealt with by the Government? These conventions concern holiday with pay, sickness and accident, and so forth.
– I shall ascertain the exact position in relation to these conventions, and have the honorable member informed of it.
Publication op National Programmes - Appointments.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the matter of having portion of the surplus funds of the Australian Broadcasting Commission applied to the press publication of national programmes? I take it that the Minister is aware that these programmes are not now published by the press. Will he also ascertain why the press has discontinued giving publicity to them?
– I understand that the press has discontinued publishing national programmes because of its desire that they should be published at ordinary advertising rates. In reply to the first portion of the honorable member’s question, may I say that it is the intention of the commission to publish periodically a journal setting out a comprehensive plan of programmes. I shall certainly give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House as to whether projected appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, other than clerical appointments, are advertised ? If they are not, why?
– I shall obtain the information, and advise the honorable member.
– I have received from the Hobart City Council a letter seeking my co-operation in a further concerted effort to have the Sandy Bay rifle range removed to another site. Can the Minister for Defence say why the agreement reached in relation to this matter when he was in Tasmania has broken down? Has any further proposal been advanced by the Hobart City Council? If so, when will finality be reached upon it between the department and the council?
– An agreement was made in September, 1938, but was not carried outby the Hobart City Council, which in January of this year notified the Commonwealth that it could not fulfil its part of the contract owing to certain financial difficulties in which it had become involved. Further, the Government of Tasmania was apparently unwilling to pass legislation to enable the council to acquire the proposed site at Glenorchy. Consequently, in February of this year, I, in company with the honorable member, saw members of the City Council in Hobart. They then proposed to place before the department a new scheme whereby the matter might be finalized. A scheme has been proposed, which in effect provides that the Commonwealth shallbear the whole of the financial responsibility. That matter is now being examined to see if it is possible to come to some arrangement whereby the Commonwealth may bear a portion, but not the whole, of the cost of the removal of the range to a new site.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce have a statement prepared showing the measure of assistance given during last season to the wheat industry in the United States of America, Canada, Argentina and Australia ?
SirFREDERICK STEWART.- i shall take cognizance of the request of the honorable member, with a view to meeting it.
Appointment to Country Districts
– Has the attention of the Minister for Healthand Social Services been drawn to the report in last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald, to the effect that the Government of New South Wales had decided to introduce legislation to permit foreign doctors holding degrees acceptable to the British Medical Association to accept appointment to country districts for a term of. five years, at the end of which term they would be registered? If so, will he suggest to other State governments that they pass similar legislation, in order that medical aid may be available to residents in remote country centres where, at present, it is impossible to obtain the services of a resident Australian doctor?
– My attention has not been drawn to this particular paragraph. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall have the matter investigated.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior been drawn to the shockingly corrugated condition of the last seven miles of the road between Canberra and the CotterRiver reservoir? As this is one of the favorite sightseeing motor drives for tourists visiting Canberra, will the honorable gentleman see that the corrugations are dealt with at an early date by the grading plant in the possession of the department?
– My attention has not been drawn to the state of the road mentioned, but I shall place the honorable member’s remarks before the Minister for the Interior.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral recommend to Cabinet that the wireless listeners’ licence-fee be reduced from 21s. to 15s.?
– I shall consider the proposal.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that it is a common and growing practice among employers in Australia in occupations that do not require apprenticeships to discharge young men when approaching adult age, and to engage boys or youths at low rates of pay to replace them? If he is not aware of it, will he have early inquiries made? If he is aware of it, can he give the House any information as to the steps, if any, being taken to meet the situation arising from this serious state of affairs ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
– On page 5 of the report of the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on Defence and Development and of the National Council, 1939, appears the following statement : -
Mr. Lyons here made a confidential statement to the conference on the subject of international relations.
As the then Prime Minister made available this information to Premiers who are members of State Parliaments, will the present Prime Minister make the same information available to members of the Commonwealth Parliament? If not, may it ‘be assumed that he agrees with a policy of subordinating the National Parliament to State Parliaments?
– The latter part of the question should not have been asked.
– Insofar as the honorable member’s question suggests that there is a matter for consideration by the Government, it will be considered. I am not aware of the contents of the statement made at the conference, but I shall look into it.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation examine the present administration of the Repatriation Department, having regard particularly to the appointment of the chairmen of the various tribunals, and the representation of soldiers on those tribunals? Will he agree to the appointment of a select committee of this House to inquire into the administration of the department?
– I shall give consideration to the matters raised by the honorable member.
– Has a report yet been received by the Government regarding the Kyeema disaster?* If so, will the Government have it printed, and made available to the public?
– The report of the committee that inquired into the disaster was laid on the table of the. House on the 8th December of last year.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply and Development been drawn to the fact that in the United States of America certain areas affected by erosion are being sown in a special grass, the seed of which is obtained from Russia? Will he see that the council obtains supplies of this seed with which to sow similar areas in Australia ?
– The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is already taking steps to obtain information from abroad regarding this problem, but I shall see whether the virtues of this particular grass are being investigated, and will advise the honorable member.
– Has the Government yet formulated a plan, ot does it intend to formulate one, to restrict the profits of firms engaged in the manufacture of defence equipment?
– That subject will , be dealt with by the Minister for Supply when to-morrow he moves the second reading of the bill to set up a Department of Supply and Development.
– Will the Minister for
Supply and Development give instructions to the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch to make a study of a grass known as Buffel grass (a cenchroides), which came from India and grows in the area surrounding Alice Springs? Will he ensure that the study is made on the spot, instead of at the Waite Institute, where climatic conditions are not suitable for the growth of the grass ?
– If the honorable member will give me any information he has onthe subject, I shall have it investigated.
– Has the Prime Minister read the published statement of the President of the Legislative Council of Victoria, that certain refugees are evading the factory lawsby operating small, back-yard factories in which only two or three persons are employed, those persons receiving only a few shillings a week as pocket money? Will he take steps to see that the practice is stopped?
– I have already instituted inquiries, not only into the truth of the allegations, but also regarding the appropriate remedy to be applied if they are found to be true.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - Is the Postmaster-
General aware that, for the last eight or nine years, the Postmaster-General’s Departmenthas invariably sent to public bodies that have requested the installation of public telephones, a reply admitting that the telephone would be a good paying proposition, but that the equipment was not available? Has the Minister made any preparation to secure sufficient equipment for the supply of all such telephones ?
– I was not aware that the condition of affairs referred to by the honorable member had persisted for as long as he states. I am aware that for a considerable period replies have been sent of. the nature mentioned by him, and I have already instituted inquiries along the lines suggested. He may find that, before long, the desired relief will be given.
– Can the Prime Minister make any pronouncement in regard to national insurance, which has been shelved for some time? I ask this question because of the anxiety that exists among many organizations which have spent a lot of money preparing for the introduction of the scheme. Can the right honorable gentleman indicate whether the proposed new measure will be half-baked in accordance with the views of the Country party, or a fullblooded scheme as advocatedby the Minister for Health and Social Services?
– I anticipate being able to make a statement on the matter on the first sitting day of next week.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce state whether the Government has yet come to any conclusion regarding the application which I made some months ago and which, I understand, was reported upon by officers of the Commerce Department, for a bounty of £20,000 annually for three years to assist the canned pineapple export industry?
– Inquiries are proceeding in respect of the application previously madeby the honorable member. I shall ascertain just where the matter stands.
– Various honorable members have, I understand, raised the question as to what department now administers works. I apologize to honorable members for not having made that clear originally. The Works Branch is now in its original position, namely, in the Department of the Interior, and questions relating to works should, therefore, be directed to the Minister for the Interior.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether Captain E. C. Johnston, former chairman of the Civil Aviation Board, which was severely criticized in the DepartmentalReport on Civil Aviation tabled in this House yesterday, is still known as Controller-General of Civil Aviation ? Is it also a fact that two other former members of the Civil Aviation Board, Messrs. Cobby and McComb, hold responsible positions in the reorganized Department of Civil Aviation? Does the Minister propose to make any changes in the personnel of the Civil Aviation Department apart from the appointment of a director-general already made? I point out that the report tabled yesterday recommended changes of personnel and stated that a radical change of outlook was needed .
– The answer to the first two parts of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes.” The matter of the reorganization of the department is being looked into very carefully by the Director-G eneral.
Secondreading. mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Prime
Ministernd Treasurer) [2.55]. - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
I can explain this bill quite briefly. It is one to provide out of the Consolidated Revenue an annuity to the widow of the late Prime Minister, the right honorable J. A. Lyons, at the rate of £500 per annum, and a further annuity at the rate of £500 per annum for the maintenance, education, benefit and advancement of the children of the late Prime Minister until the youngest child attains the age of 21 years. The remaining provisions of the bill are of a machinery character. In order to administer this fund, Dame Enid Lyons is appointed trustee, and there is provision in the bill for the appointment of a new trustee in certain circumstances. The annuities are to be paid in monthly instalments. I should say right away that, attention having been directed to the question of what would happen to the annuity to the widow in the event of her widowhood terminating by remarriage, it is proposed by the Government in the committee stage to introduce an amendment to cover this point.
The reasons for this bill are very well known to honorable members, and, I believe, are such as tocommend themselves to honorable members. The late Prime Minister had a great career of public service in Australia. He died at the age of 59, having in fact occupied no less than 30 years of his life in the service of State and Commonwealth, for some time as a private member, for some time as a Minister and for the last seven years of his life as Prime Minister, carrying a very great burden of responsibility, and discharging that burden, I believe, not only with infinite credit to himself but also to the satisfaction of the Australian people. He died, as no former Prime Minister has done, while still occupying that office. I do not need to say to honorable members that in this country, in spite of some easy criticism to the contrary that is occasionally made, the emoluments of public office are not very high. The fact is that for the greater part of his time as Prime Minister of Australia, while he was carrying a degree of strain which nobody else could have fully understood, the deceased right honorable gentleman was in receipt of a remuneration as Prime Minister which would be regarded as small, and, indeed, almost paltry, when compared with the remuneration paid for any degree of responsibility in outside industry. These facts are wellknown to honorable members, every one of whom, I believe, will agree with me that if, in fact, a man’s only source of income is that which he receives by way of parliamentary and ministerial allowances, and he has under such conditions to discharge the manifold responsibilities of the first office in the land, he will not make money by his occupancy of that office. In point of fact, the late Prime Minister did not make money by his occupancy of the office. On the contrary, he died in circumstances which have left his wife and large family in a state of impoverishment. I do not wish to go into any particular detail, but I can inform honorable members that the estate of the late Prime Minister, if it exists at all, will be negligible, and will amount, in the last analysis, to no more than a few hundred pounds. Consequently we have here the ease of a Prime Minister who has died in harness, in the course of doing his great and responsible work on behalf of his country, leaving his widow and numerous family in circumstances which must invoke I believe, the unhesitating activity of this Parliament and people. I say that for a reason, which I believe, will commend itself to honorable members on both sides of the House. The Prime Ministership - and I discuss the office quite irrespective of the fact that I happen at the moment to occupy it myself - of a great country like this is of first importance. I venture to think that if the history of any country is taken over the last quarter or half century and it is found that the men who have reached the Prime Ministership of it, have been, on. the whole, men of decency, honour and conscientious public spirit, then we may say that we have a vivid proof of the success of democracy of that country. I myself attach the greatest possible importance to the character and standards of men who reach the ultimate political positions in democratic countries. More than once, years ago, before any suggestion had arisen that I might occupy this post myself, I have thought what a strange reflection it would be upon us, as a people, if we should ever allow circumstances to arise in which a man can to-da.y occupy the highest popular political post in this country and can to-morrow, through some turn of the political wheel, find himself, in fact, destitute or impoverished. We owe it to the dignity of the institutions of this country, and we have a duty to ensure, that these high offices shall be open to the poorest man in the land. We have an obligation, also, to see that circumstances of the kind that I have hinted at should not be allowed to exist. That is the shortest way in which I can state the whole basis of this bill, and the whole justification for it. When my predecessor, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) announced the decision of his Government on this subject he did not attempt, and I wish to say for my Government that it has not attempted, to measure this thing by some carefully calculated mathematical yardstick. We should not, I believe, try to say how much we would pay to Mrs So-and-so and her children in some entirely different circumstances. We should deal with this subject in a broad and, I trust, a generous and warm-hearted fashion, because it is essential that whatever we do to assist this widow and her family shall be done generously. The widow of our late Prime Minister is a woman who, herself, has rendered immense public service to Australia. Whatever we do for her and for her children we should make it clear that it is done, not only because of the desire of the people of Australia to discharge what they believe to be their duty, and not only because of some sense of obligation, but also because of a real wish to do it. What we do should be sweetened by feelings of warm-heartedness, and it should carry with it the good wishes of the people.
– I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for giving me the opportunity to speak at this stage. I desired to do so because I felt that I had some definite responsibility in regard to the matter. Because of my length of service in this Parliament, and the nature of that service, possibly no other honorable member can speak with more experience of the necessity for doing what is now proposed to be done. In the first broadcast that I made to the people of Australia on the night of the Prime Minister’s death I amd-
Need I say that Australia will not forget Dame Enid Lyons or her family of young boys and girls. They have become a household name in this country and their future will be a matter of personal interest to all people who held the late Prime Minister in such high regard.
Subsequently the Government considered the position of the late Prime Minister’s family, and, after discussing the matter with the Leader of the Opposition, I made a statement at Devonport on the 13th April to the following effect : -
There can be no doubt that the people of Australia would wish that adequate provision should be made that would ensure that Dame Enid should’ have no anxieties as to the future and, as to her ability to educate and bring up her family of young boys and girls. Although no actual figure can be stated at the moment, it has been decided that adequate provision will bc made that will take into account the necessities of Dame Enid herself and also of her family, the youngest of whom is six years of age, and legislation will be prepared for this purpose.
When the matter was discussed with the Leader of the Opposition, he was in full agreement with the Government that the nation had substantial obligations to the widow and family of the late Prime Minister, though he made it clear that, while he agreed generally with the principle involved, he did not commit himself or his party to any method or amount. He also raised the question of widows of other honorable members of the Parliament who had fallen upon evil days, and referred to the position of former members of Parliament who might have found themselves, by reason of a sudden defeat at an election, in very difficult circumstances. I assured the honorable gentleman that the particular cases to which he referred would be considered by the Government which would also make an investigation of the general position of former members of Parliament. The right honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), who was then Treasurer, discussed with the Leader of the Opposition the details of certain urgent cases; and the Government, after hearing his report, agreed to deal with them sympathetically. It also said that it would take into consideration the provision of a superannuation scheme for members. I understand the present Prime Minister also has agreed to do so, and that a sub-committee has been appointed for the purpose. Before dealing with that subject I wish to say a few words regarding the late Prime Minister. There is no need for me to repeat the Prime Minister’s eulogy of the late Prime Minister, or of Dame Enid Lyons and her public work. Nor is it necessary that I should speak at length on the necessity for ensuring that the first citizen of the Commonwealth shall be placed in such a financial position as to enable him adequately to discharge the duties of his high office without the constant dread of pecuniary embarrassment. The late Mr. Lyons occupied a special position in the Commonwealth. When he entered the public life of Australia as a member of the parliament of Tasmania, he already was a public servant; for many years he had been a school teacher in that State. Had he continued in that capacity there is little doubt that he would have been alive to-day; the heavy burdens placed upon him during recent years brought about his untimely end. But even had he died while in the Education Department of Tasmania, his dependants would have been provided for under the superannuation scheme for public servants in that State, such provision bearing some relation to the salary that he would have received. For the last 30 years of his life the late Mr. Lyons gave of his best in the service of his country. Between the ages of 30 and 50 years most men make for themselves positions in which they can provide for their families in the event of their death. At that period of his life the late Mr. Lyons was leading either a government or an opposition in either a State or the Commonwealth Parliament. I am sure that the leaders of other parties in this House will agree with me when I say that the leadership of a party is a full-time position, requiring the undivided attention of its occupant. Men holding such positions have to set aside practically all personal business interests; they have not time to consider how to make investments to improve their financial position, or provide for their f amilies in the event of their death. Moreover, some of the investments which a public man could make might easily become sources of political embarrassment. When I entered public life I had to dispose of certain investments which I had made lest they would have political repercussions. Many public men are poor because of the exigencies of office. For 30 years Mr. Lyons did not consider himself, and his death at the helm of state was largely attributable to the strain of these difficult times. In the early years of his Prime Ministership he had to deal with the after effects of the depression, and, more recently, international complications pressed heavily upon him. In this Parliament honorable members have seen a former Prime Minister age rapidly because of the heavy burden of responsibility which he bore. At the same time, the position of chief citizen of the Commonwealth necessitates a certain standard of living, both for its occupant and his family, with the result that there is no chance to save money. Many years ago I realized the difficulties of the situation. In 1927, when the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was forced to dip into his private resources to carry out his duties as Prime Minister, I, as Commonwealth Treasurer, incorporated in the estimates of that year a sum of £1,500 for the purpose of providing an extra allowance for the Prime Minister. The then right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) and I spoke to the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and, later, when the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) became Prime Minister, we approached him, and said that we web prepared to support the Government if it placed a similar sum on the Estimates as an additional allowance for the Prime Minister. Mr. Scullin did not agree to the proposal, because at the time the country was feeling the effects of the depression, and there was much unemployment. Later, Mr. Lyons became Prime Minister. For several years his parliamentary allowance was subject to the percentage reductions provided for in the financial emergency legislation. Last year, however, the principle which I enunciated in 1927 was approved; the then Treasurer (Mr. Casey) placed £1,500 on the Estimates as .an additional allowance for the Prime Minister. There is no doubt that during the first six and a half years in which Mr. Lyons was Prime Minister, that additional £1,500 a year was just as necessary as it is now. Consequently, he should have received £10,000 more than he did. At 5 per cent, per annum, that sum would provide approximately the annuity suggested in this bill for Dame Enid Lyons. No one will cavil at the suggested annuity for the widow of the late Prime Minister, for Dame Enid herself has rendered conspicuous public- service sufficient to justify it. I am sure, however, that there is no need for me to argue her claim to consideration. There remains, therefore, only the matter of providing for the family of the late Prime Minister. Mr. Lyons left a family of eleven children, most of them under 21 years of age, and not yet settled in life. Although at one time fairly common, such large families are most unusual in these days. It would be a public disgrace if the children of the late Prime Minister were not given a chance at least equal to what they would have been given had Mr. Lyons remained in the public service of Tasmania, where his undoubted abilities would have carried him to the highest point of the teaching profession in that State. In that event, his family would have been provided for, and I am confident that the Australian nation is prepared to do as much far them as they would have received in such circumstances. I therefore urge the House to support this bill. Honorable members may be interested to know that in Great Britain the office of Prime Minister carries with it a salary of £10,000 a year, with a pension of £2,000 on retirement. Those emoluments are considered necessary in order to provide against the contingency of the first citizen of the land having to face destitution. I hope that the House will agree to this measure as it stands. It seems to me that the time has arrived when we should consider on their merits, and as an act of justice rather than as an act of grace, the position of the widows of all who have given valuable service to their country as members of this Parliament. We should deal also with the position of members of Parliament who, as the result of party defeat suddenly, in some instances, find their former avocations closed to them and sometimes are in difficult financial circumstances. It seems to me a disgrace that the public servants of this country - that, in effect, is what members of Parliament are - who deliberately and for the public good cut themselves off from their ordinary business avocations, should, when political reverses overtake them, find themselves at a loose end. Many, as we know, experience extraordinary difficulty in getting back to remunerative occupations when their service in Parliament is terminated. Every one also must know that because of the calls made on the pockets of a member of Parlia- ment representing a constituency of 120,000 people, spread in some instances over an area as great as one-third of Europe, he has no possible chance of ensuring his future financial security. Elections occur frequently and often are very costly. When a member loses his seat he may be in possession of a great mass of useful information but often he finds it impossible to get back to his former occupation. I urge the Government to give this matter its earnest consideration and see if it is possible to make provision along the lines of this scheme suggested some time ago by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), and the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). In this way it will be possible to ensure the future of the dependants of those public men whose services deserve so well of this country. I support the bill.
– I think it will be acknowledged universally throughout the Commonwealth not only that the office of Prime Minister is the most responsible in the gift of this nation, but also that the dignity of that office is inseparable from the character of democracy. As the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said, humble men without any of the advantages perhaps of education and with none of the advantages that come from being members of families well circumstanced, have in the history of Australia risen to the highest office. This achievement is a tribute to the innate genius of the human race. No man has made himself Prime Minister of this country. He has ultimately come to that position by the continuous process of selection by his fellowmen and women, and as the result of the decision of the people registered not once but several times in respect of his personal fitness to occupy lesser offices of service. Having thus won for himself the acknowledgment of members of his own party and the public generally, it is possible for such a man to be raised to office the equivalent of that of the President of the United States of America, or even, the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The quality of this nation is, in part, demonstrated by the character, the fitness and the probity of the men who become Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth. I should deeply deplore the circumstance, should it come to pass, in which a man having come to the office of Prime Minister at a time when, from the viewpoint of the possession of this world’s goods, he was humbly circumstanced, would be able, after a few years’ occupancy of that office, to lift his family above the average circumstances of other sections of the community. The greatness and the honour of the office of Prime Minister might well be suspect if, after a short period of its occupancy, any man was able to say that he was richer after he left the office than he was when he came first to it.
I am not at all surprised that the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should, in the tragic circumstances of his passing, have not been able to make that provision for his widow and children which, had he followed other walks of life, his natural gifts and experience would perhaps have enabled him to do. I say to the country at large that the occupations customarily followed by the ordinary citizen who does not engage in public service are not more important to the goodwill of the nation or the welfare of its people than the services rendered by those who give up, as it were, the concentration upon their own personal affairs and devote themselves to the representation of their fellow citizens in Parliament. I also say, having regard to the nature of work to be done, and the qualifications required for its efficient performance, that the standard of remuneration of those engaged in the service of corporations, joint stock companies and such like bodies, is far higher than that which is paid to men of corresponding ability engaged in the service of the nation. But I make no complaint about that. I merely state the fact. I believe that the feeling of satisfaction which can be experienced by the man who devotes himself to the service of the nation is included as part of the remuneration which he receives. Therefore, whatever sacrifice is required of him he makes willingly because he feels that he will leave some footprints upon the sands of time and that his name may endure in the. history of his country. I believe this is true of men who have served Australia in the past and, I would say, to men who will serve it in the future, that in the service which they give to this country, they will play really a great part in what I am sure will become a great nation.
These generalizations bring me to the bill itself. For the first time this Parliament is called upon to make provision for the widow and family of a deceased Prime Minister. I agree that the provisions of the measure should be on a scale commensurate with the dignity of the office which the deceased gentleman held. I make no comparison of the services that he or anybody else who preceded him rendered to the Commonwealth. That appears to be beside the point. I feel that, in view of all that has been said, and without disagreeing with the general principle stated by the right honorable the Prime Minister, it would be proper for this bill to be referred to a select committee of the House, not that there is any justification on my part for doubting the position as stated by the right honorable gentleman, but so that the country will know that the circumstances of the family of the late Prime Minister are as stated, and we shall be assured that the proposed annuity for the widow and children of the deceased gentleman squares with our conception of what is due to them. This Parliament is called upon to undertake responsibility on a scale greater than has hitherto been undertaken by it, and in the very nature of things the decision that we make to-day will influence the decision in future cares of the kind. Therefore, reaffirming my declaration that this nation has substantial obligations to the widow and family of the deceased Prime Minister, I move -
That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lien thereof the following words: - “this House, being desirous of being completely assured as to the needs and resource* of the widow and children of the late Prime Minister (the beneficiaries of this proposal ) refuses to accord a second reading to a hill proposing a grant of such magnitude until the needs and resources of the said beneficiaries, as well sis the amount of the grant (if any) which may be properly made by this Houfe, have been examined and reported on by a committee representing all parties in this House.”
.- In my opinion, the bill before the House raises the whole principle of the payment of pensions to ex-members of Parliament, and is not merely a matter of an allowance. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that the whole subject of insurance for the provision of an allowance for exmembers of Parliament should be considered. Some three years ago I placed before the Government the proposal that there should be some such system of insurance. The matter was taken up by a committee consisting of the present Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart), the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), but the proposal .was not closely examined. I feel that something of the kind is definitely necessary,’ so that should the widow of a member need assistance the matter would not be dealt with on an emotional basis, or involve a means test - which is very repugnant - but should operate automatically. From time to time cases have been brought before the Government of the widow or the family of a deceased member being in indigent circumstances, and a. number of pensions have been granted. I submit that not one-third of the members of this House are aware of the pensions that are being paid to the dependants of exmembers of Parliament. In certain cases, where the need seemed greatest, a pension was refused, whilst in other cases, in which it was acknowledged that the need was not great, pensions were paid. Pensions have been paid to the widows of all deceased ex-Prime Ministers except the widow of the Honorable Alfred Deakin. There are five ex-Prime Ministers who are still living. The whole matter needs to be considered, but not on this one basis. For that reason, the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) appeals to me. I speak quite impersonally. I pay tribute - as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition, and the right honorable member # for Cowper have done - to that great leader whose loss we now so sadly deplore. He was a great man, a modest man, a courageous man, and one who did much for Australia. His life partner is an outstanding woman, who has rendered considerable service tothe benefit of the Commonwealth. All of these matters have to be considered, and they could be taken into account by a select committee. I consider that the proposal of the Government was hastily conceived; but that is natural. Various proposals were advanced before this measure was brought down. I suggest that even within the Government itself the matter has not been properly considered. The Prime Minister has indicated that in committee he proposes to move an amendment in relation to subsequent marriage by the widow. It is not desirable that matters of this kind should be discussed in Parliament. Honorable members may feel that it is advisable that any allowance for the children should be on a basis comparable with pensions paid under other schemes, such as repatriation benefits, which cease when the children reach the age of sixteen years. There are good and pertinent reasons for the discussion of the matter by a select committee. As one who was privileged to be a Minister in the Government of the late lamented Prime Minister for nearly six years, and one who, perhaps, gave him some trouble but who, at the same time, assisted him when he was attacked by other people and who gave him loyal service, I feel that the right thing should now be done, but that the correct procedure is the appointment of a select committee to investigate the matter before legislation in regard to it is dealt with by this House.
.- I have already seconded formally the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and shall now give reasons for my support of it. I agree that the widow and children of one who was Prime Minister of Australia should not be in need. I would say that of any Prime Minister of Australia; because I agree with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition concerning the importance of the office. It would be a reflection on the nation if it left the widow and children of a Prime Minister in want.
I wish to consider this matter without any personal feeling. I had no personal feeling against the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). I was not a member of this Parliamentwhen he changed his party. My impressions of him were gained at first-hand when I entered this House, and I liked and admired him. But that is no reason whyI should vote on behalf of his widow and children the money of the people of Australia unless I am satisfied that it is right, proper and necessary to do so. It is all very well to talk about this House being generous. If honorable members wish to be generous, they can be generous with their own money. They are asked to be generous with the people’s money. It may be right and proper to devote the people’s money to this purpose, but I have to be satisfied of that, and I am not. It seems to me that the assurances given to us have been carefully guarded. We have no information as to the means of the family of the late Prime Minister. The greatest surprise is expressed generally - you hear it everywhere, not merely by people who might naturally be suspicious because of their politics, but also by supporters of the party of the late Prime Minister - at the fact that he and his family were without means. Before this House votes any money, honorable members should be satisfied beyond all doubt that the family are in need, and they should also be assured that the sum which they vote is commensurate with that need. In no circumstances would I vote the sum proposed in this measure. At the same time, however, I would be prepared to vote what I consider a reasonable sum, taking into account the resources of the late right honorable gentleman’s family.
A good deal is said about the sacrifices which men. make in order to enter parliament. I have spent a good deal of my life in parliament, and am satisfied that a man who remains in parliament continuously year after year must be very unfortunate if he is not better off than the ordinary man outside. He gets rewards which, though they may be intangible, are satisfactory to himself, by rendering service to the people. I believe that we cannot persuade the public that members of parliament are not satisfied with their lot, because the public sees that there is keen competition for seats in parliament. It is absurd to say that members of parliament make tremendous material sacrifices. Some may, but it is not generally the case.’ I consider that assistance should be given to the widow and children of a member of parliament who has been unable to make provision for them, because they should not be obliged to suffer. The strength of that argument is increased proportionately in the case of the widow and children of a Minister or a Prime Minister. This matter, in my opinion, has been brought forward, far too hastily. In a very short time it could be established to the satisfaction of the country exactly what are the resources of the widow and family of the late Prime Minister. I say nothing against the unfortunate lady; what I know of her, I admire. I am endeavouring to consider the matter quite impersonally. I would expect others to adopt that attitude were my wife and children in this position, as happily, I suppose, they will never be. I ask the House not to be stampeded or rushed into voting this money by reason of the great respect it had for the late Prime Minister. I hadgreat respect for him, and when I heard of his death I regretted it. I felt that the people of Australia had lost a useful public servant, a man whose demeanour was modest and unobtrusive, and who was an efficient, faithful servant of the people. But that realization does not lead me to the conclusion that I ought to vote the people’s money without being satisfied that it is, in fact, needed. May be it is, but we have no assurance on the point. All the assurances given to us have been carefully guarded, and are related to the estate of the late Prime Minister himself. I find it tremendously difficult to believe that the deceased right honorable gentleman held the number of offices that he did, was Prime Minister of this Commonwealth for so long, and was such a devoted husband and father, without having made some provision for his wife and family. It may be that the unexpected happened and that there is none. But this House ought to be satisfied of that by a proper inquiry into the resources and the needs of the members of the family, and it should have no doubt as to what amount, if any, it is proper to give in the circumstances.
.- I am glad to see that this House recognizes the obligation which the nation owes to the ‘late Joseph Aloysius Lyons, but we, in this House, have a responsibility to the public to see that the amount to be granted to his widow accords with our reason, and not purely with our sympathy. I was very dissatisfied with the method adopted by the late Cabinet when it announced its decision through the press immediately at the conclusion of the funeral of the late Prime Minister. A meeting was held on the same afternoon, and a public announcement made which was intended to commit this Parliament and the country to the payment of a fixed amount. In my opinion, there did not exist immediately after the conclusion of the funeral ceremony a - proper atmosphere in which to consider dispassionately a matter of this kind. If we desire to .be generous, we should be generous with our own funds, but members of Parliament are obliged not to be overgenerous at the public expense. I believe that Mr. Lyons did a great public service to this country, particularly when he took the risk of leaving his own party. I believe that his action on that occasion saved this country from financial disaster. I believe that his worth was fully recognized by the public, and that if subscriptions were invited immediately after his death, there would have been a very generous response, and there would have been no need for this bill to be introduced ; but the action of the Cabinet in rushing forward with its proposal lest it be anticipated by the press, or by some one else, destroyed the opportunity to invite public subscriptions. I approve of the amount which it is proposed shall be voted to Dame Enid Lyons, but in considering the amount to be voted to the children, we should have regard to the length of time that the payment is likely to continue, and to the commitments that will be necessary for the purpose of bringing up the family. I notice that it is proposed to continue the payment of £500 a year in respect of the children until the youngest is 21 years of age. I point out that the responsibility in regard to that family is a decreasing one. The payments in respect to the family should either be terminated at an earlier period, say when the youngest reaches the age of sixteen years, or they should be on a graduated scale, so that the amount provided for them may be in reasonable proportion to the requirements of bringing them up.
It is difficult, of course, to raise any objections in regard to a proposed vote of this kind. I believe, however, that if Cabinet had taken a little time for consideration, if it had taken honorable members into its confidence ‘before making a declaration, we should have been spared the rather painful discussion which has been forced upon the House. We all wish to be generous, but I remind honorable members that there are many other people who have great claims on public sympathy. There are in Australia thousands of women, widows of men who gave their lives for the defence of the country, who have never received anything by way of bounty from the country, though some, to my knowledge, are- in very straitened circumstances. I fully appreciate the value of the work done by the late Prime Minister, and I wish to see adequate provision made for his widow,’ but we should consider the claims of all classes of people when we are fixing the amount proper for any particular person. Therefore, I agree that the circumstances of the family of the late Prime Minister “ should be investigated. When that is done, I have no doubt that the amount recommended will be approved by all sections of the House.
.- I am in agreement with a great deal that has been said regarding the personal qualities of the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). I agree that he was a modest living man, and that he was a man of kind disposition, who, despite any party considerations, would, if it came his way, do a good turn to any man; but that does not justify me in voting for the bill. He was a bitter opponent to me politically, and that does not justify me in voting against the bill. I agree with the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that when such a grave departure from precedent is contemplated there should be a proper inquiry by a committee representative of all parties in the House, which would investigate the relevant circumstances, and take the responsibility of recommending to Parliament what pension, if any, should be paid. The subject before the House is a delicate and in some respects a painful one. It is a difficult matter to discuss. In private, such a committee might discuss it in greater detail than we can in this House. Here, we are constrained to avoid touching on matters that ought to be considered before a decision is reached. The position has not been improved by the manner in which the Government arrived at its decision, and presented its proposals to the House for ratification. Without consultation with the parties in the House, it has thrown its proposals before Parliament in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion, which places honorable members in the position of having to vote for a proposal which they feel has not been properly considered, or of refusing to give any relief at all to the family of the late Prime Minister. However, even if the Government does not remember its responsibility to the public, members of Parliament are obliged to do so. They must satisfy their consciences that the right thing is being done. The mere mention of this matter has aroused keen public interest. I have no doubt that it has been the experience of every other honorable member, as it has been mine, to receive correspondence from all kinds of public bodies, some agreeing with the Government’s proposal and requesting support for it, and some strongly opposing it. Honorable members must satisfy their consciences that the proposed vote is fair and just, and they must satisfy the public that the right thing is being done by the late Prime Minister, and by the country.
This proposal has come before the public in its present ill-digested state largely as the result of one of the most sordid examples of journalism that it has been our lot to witness. Actually, while the Prime Minister was still lying in state, and the press was making all possible copy out of his unfortunate death, some bright journalist conceived the idea of playing on public sentiment, and getting off on a new track that would at once provide more copy, and anticipate any action that might be contemplated later. Thus, even before the Prime Minister was buried, certain journals were, in effect, already passing .around the hat without any regard to the embarrassment that they might cause to the family of the late Prime Minister, or to this Parliament. I believe that, as the result of that ghoulish piece of journalism, the new Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page) was, to an extent, stampeded into making the statement he did. One of the reasons that prompts me to vote for the amendment is the belief that the new Prime Minister, when he made the announcement, was not in’ a position to know all the relevant facts.
Two matters must be taken into account in considering this proposal. The first is the actual financial position of the family of the late Prime Minister, and the second is the propriety of establishing & precedent in a matter of this kind. Out of the question, of the means and possessions of Mr. Lyons’s family arises the question of its present needs. It has been said to-day that the emoluments of office received by the late Prime Minister were insufficient, but I suggest that that is beside the point. Could a similar argument be used, for instance, in respect of any other Prime Minister who, apart from the emoluments of his office, possessed considerable wealth? Should his relatives be entitled to a public pension? The adequacy of a Prime Minister’s emoluments might he justifiably raised during the lifetime of any particular occupant of that office, but at present that question does not arise. What we are concerned with is in what financial circumstances was Mr. Lyons’s family left, and what are its present and future needs. Those are the only matters which should now be considered. Furthermore, we should hesitate to depart from precedent in this respect. We certainly shall not be justified in doing so before we hold a proper inquiry into the matter. Precedents exist for the payment of pensions to the widows and dependants of exmembers of this Parliament and to ex-members themselves, who, after rendering many years of service to their country, found themselves impoverished. In these cases the average pension paid is very small. We should remember that the combined annuity to be provided under this bill to the widow and children of the late Prime. Minister is about seven times greater than any pension previously voted by this Parliament to a former member or his dependants. In these circumstances, in order to satisfy both the members of this House and the community generally, some substantial reasons should be advanced to justify this departure from precedent. It is true that, upon retirement, public servants and professional soldiers become entitled to draw pensions, whilst no provision is made for the payment of a pension to a man who may have served 30 years in the political life of this country. Those who reject the idea that after lengthy parliamentary service a man should become’ entitled to a pension point out that retired public servants and professional soldiers contribute by way of superannuation payments- towards the pension they receive. That is true, but there is a far greater demand upon the purse of a member of Parliament in meeting commitments which he cannot avoid than there is on any of these other people to meet superannuation contributions. This aspect also requires consideration, and, I suggest, it is a matter with which a special committee should deal. For months past the press, which was responsible for the premature discussion on the question of a pension for the late Prime Minister’s widow and family, engaged in an attack on Mr. Lyons with the object of destroying his leadership and Cabinet. Had such an attack been successful prior to Mr. Lyons’s death he would probably have become just an ordinary private member. Had he died in those circumstances, despite his previous servicesto the nation, would the same consideration have been given to his family as is proposed under this measure? If the principle of a pension of this kind is sound, why should any discrimination be made between dependants of deceased ex-members? Whether they be rank and file members of their party or Ministers, or even Prime Ministers, all try to serve the people with equal zeal; but all cannot be Prime Ministers. It might be argued, as it will probably be argued in this debate, that because Mr. Lyons as Prime Minister was in receipt of greater emoluments than an ordinary member, the pension for his dependants also should be more generous. But the office bears no relation to the responsibilities which the widow and family have to face. The problems confronting the widow of even a Prime Minister are no greater, or more difficult than those confronting the widow of an ordinary member of this House. In order that all of these points might be fully inquired into, and because of the manner in which this measure has been rushed - that it has been illconsidered is shown by the fact that in his second-reading speech the Prime Minister indicated that an important amendment wouldbe necessary in committee - a proper inquiry should be made by a committee representative of every section of the House. In regard to the financial arrangements proposed for the payment of these annuities, it would be preferable for the Government to set aside from Consolidated Revenue a sum sufficient to return in interest the amount required for the payment of the annuities decided upon. In that way, the Government could eventually recover its original outlay, whereas under its present proposal the sum required for the payment of these annuities will be lost to it entirely. I also disagree with the proposed annuity of £500 in respect of the children of the late Prime Minister. If that sum is required to cover the needs of a certain number of children under the age of 21 years, surely, it should diminish as each child attains that age. This aspect should be provided for in this measure. After all, whether honorable members opposite admit it or not, the Government has consciously, or unconsciously, applied to this provision of the bill a means test, that test being that the Government recognizes that a certain number of children, who to-day are unable to fend for themselves, should be provided for at the rate of £500 per annum. It has displayed no intention to provide for any of them after they have reached that age, when, it is assumed, they will be able to fend for themselves. Consequently, as the responsibility of the widow for the maintenance of the children decreases with the passage of time, the original amount granted, Whatever it might be, should diminish correspondingly. There are many other aspects of this matter which could be fully investigated by a committee representative of all parties, but which cannot be discussed here without very painful and disagreeable results. For that reason it is the duty of this Parliament to appoint a non-party political committee to investigate the means of the late Prime Minister’s family, in order to satisfy its own and the people’s conscience that the right thing is being done. That method would satisfy not only every honorable member, but also the whole of the people of Australia.
. -I have heard with pleasure the eulogies which have been paid by honorable members to my friend the late Prime Minister, particularly by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), each of whom admitted that the late Mr. Lyons was a sincere man who endeavoured to do his best for Australia. I happened to be very closely associated with Mr. Lyons from the day on which he entered this Parliament in 1929 until he formed a little party known as the Independent Australia party, of which he was first president, and I the first secretary. I believe that the steps that were taken by that party, particularly in respect of the monetary policy of Australia, have since proved of untold benefit to Australia. After a few months this party formed the United Australia party with Mr. Lyons as leader and myself secretary. Notwithstanding my high regard for the services which the late Mr. Lyons rendered to this country, however, I am not convinced that the proposals now advanced by the Government to provide for his widow and family are the most appropriate that this Parliament could adopt. I would prefer that the people of Australia should be given an opportunity to subscribe to a public fund in recognition of the late Prime Minister’s services, such fund to be handed over to his widow and family. I object to the hasty manner in which Sir Earle Page dealt with this matter when he was Prime Minister. I am not a wealthy man, but I would be prepared to subscribe generously to a fund of the kind I suggest, and, I believe, thousands of Australians would do likewise. I do not believe in the principle of taking the money from Commonwealth Revenue. A far greater sum would be secured by public subscription than is represented by these annuities. I shall vote in favour of the proposal that a committee be appointed to investigate this matter, because I believe that a better course can be adopted. Already the Government has , indicated that it intends to move for the amendment of the bill in a certain direction, but I believe that other amendments also are desirable. I appreciate the great service rendered to Australia by the late Prime Minister and also his widow, Dame Enid Lyons; but that does not justify us in dealing with this subject hurriedly. If the whole matter were considered on a non-party basis by a small committee perhaps other methods could be suggested.
– by leave - I do not wish to reply at this stage, and for that reason I asked leave to make this statement. I have given consideration to the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I am sure that it is the desire of all honorable members, as it is the desire of the Government, that this matter should be dealt with on an agreeable basis’. As far as possible, any query raised by members of the House as to the relevant facts should be satisfied. I shall enter into consultation with representatives of each of the other two parties in the House by means of an informal committee. I suggest that two members from each party be appointed to act in this capacity. The relevant facts can be put before the committee and its work expedited so that no delay need occur. When the relevant facts are considered it may be possible for the committee to agree upon a formula acceptable to all parties. The committee, if appointed, can meet at once and consider the subject. In the meantime, further debate on the bill can be deferred. I hope that this suggestion will commend itself to the Leader of the Opposition. I have discussed it with the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Thorby) and he is agreeable to adopt it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. James) adjourned.
Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 6)
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 5th May (vide page 181) on motion by Mr. Perkins (vide page 2820, Vol. 158) -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1938 … be further amended as hereunder set out.
.- In spite of the difficult international conditions through which the world has been passing in recent years, and certainly in the last two or three years, which have seriously affected the trade and commerce of most countries, Australian secondary industries have made substantial progress. The output of our factories for 1937-38 was valued at £502,000,000. This total is at least 20 per cent. greater than the maximum figure recorded in any year prior to the depression. I am glad to advance this evidence that the sound and sane policy of the Government in dealing with our secondary industries has resulted in steady and sustained improvement, and also in the development of new industries. I shall examine briefly the figures relative to our secondary industries in 1931-32, when the Lyons Government assumed office, and compare them with those for 1937-38, which are the latest available. The comparison shows a substantial increase of the number of our factories, 5,000 new establishments having come into being. More new factories are at present in the course of erection. Prominent among the new industries is that of pulp and paper making, which is represented by an immediate capital provision of £3,750,000. Plans have also been made for the expenditure of an additional £1,250,000 at a later date. These allied industries are entering a field in which we are making importations valued at more than £3,000,000 a year, and they have every prospect of ultimately gaining the bulk of that trade for Australia. The industries will utilize Australian timbers, as will also another new company, capitalized at £300,000, which will produce fibre board. Our iron and steel industry also has made extraordinarily rapid progress. Important extensions of this industry involve the investment of some millions of pounds for the purpose of producing more iron and steel, and also steel sheets, pipes, bent and shaped tubes for use in aircraft construction, and materials for the motor car and cycle trade. The manufacture of refrigerators too, has been undertaken. Imperial Chemical Industries is employing capital to the amount of £1,250,000 in establishing the large-scale production of soda in South Australia, and it is installing another plant at a cost of at least £400,000 in Victoria. Another strong company, capitalized at £500,000, is establishing extensive plant at Geelong for the manufacture of agricultural implements. Moreover, 1938 saw the beginning of aircraft manufacture in Australia, and a large modern plant installed in Victoria is supplying large orders of modern planes for the Royal Australian Air Force. Another new company is being established for the manufacture of bombing machines and other aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force, and possibly for the East and for New Zealand. A capital outlay of £7,000,000, which has been obtained from British and Australasian sources, is involved in this new development, which will provide employment for thousands of additional workmen, who will use Australian materials valued at hundreds of thousands of pounds. The following table gives an interesting summary of the position of Australia’s manufacturing industries : -
Whilst I appreciate the extraordinary progress that is being made by our secondary industries, and am very happy to know of their steady and sustained development, I must point to one serious weakness in our tariff policy to which I urge the Government to give attention. I refer to the interpretation that is being placed upon articles 9 to 13 of the Ottawa Agreement. I support the broad principles of the Ottawa Agreement. I believe that the future well-being, progress and prosperity of the United Kingdom and the dominions are involved in their mutual co-operation and support, and in the preferential exchange of both primary and secondary products. Australia has willingly accorded preferential treatment to Great Britain almost since it first began to impose tariff duties as far back as 1906. This was done by Australia of its own free will without any request for reciprocal action by Great Britain, and the policy has been maintained without interruption throughout all the years. The Ottawa Agreement is, in fact, mainly the application by the United Kingdom and the other dominions of a policy which Australia has followed for the last 33 years. But I must again express my opposition to the interpretation given by the Lyons Government to articles 9 to 13 of the Ottawa Agreement. I hope that this Government will review the matter. I know that the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) has been weak in his attitude on this subject, but I trust that, in his new environment, he will find it possible to adopt an interpretation of these articles which, I contend, cannot be successfully challenged. The interpretation of these articles hitherto has been such as to place Australian secondary industries in an unsafe position. If it had not been for the stand taken by certain private members of this Parliament, I believe that our industrial position would be much less secure than it is. What I object to is the interpretation of these articles which places the Tariff Board in a position superior to that of Parliament itself. I contend that Parliament should be the supreme authority in all tariff matters. It alone should be able to declare what degree of protection is necessary for Australian industries. The Tariff Board was created by Parliament to investigate, by public inquiry, and report upon, the degree of protection considered desirable for Australian industries. Its reports were intended only for the information of the Parliament. In spite of the most definite opinion of four of our leading constitutional lawyers - I refer to Messrs. Wilbur Ham, K.C., W. K Fullagar, K.C., D. Maughan, K.C, and G. E. Flannery, K.C. - the Lyons Government persisted in an interpretation of these articles of the Ottawa Agreement which I contend is quite unwarranted. There are signs that the late Government relented in respect of the attitude it had adopted. The recent Australian delegation to the United Kingdom appears to have discussed this subject while overseas. Speaking in this chamber before the delegation departed from Australia, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) declared that the object of the Australian delegation was to discuss with British Ministers the Ottawa Agreement and its revision in relation to changes of the Constitution since 1932, and in particular -
What was the result ofthat mission as it affected the interpretation of those articles of the Ottawa Agreement? When the Leader of the Country Party (Sir Earle Page) returned to Australia, he pointed out, in a report which he submitted to the Parliament, that Ministers in the United Kingdom were unwilling to agree to the unconditional excision of articles 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Ottawa Agreement, and that it, therefore, became necessary to consider whether any of the friction which had from time to time arisen in connexion with those articles could be eliminated by some agreement upon interpretation. He went on to say that, after much discussion, two points were resolved, which he thought would go a long way towards removing what were considered to be undesirable limitations upon Australia’s tariff autonomy. On that occasion the right honorable gentleman said -
In the first place, honorable members will recall that, when article 10 came before the Australian Tariff Board, the board took the view that it should not be applied so as merely to equate the costs of production in the United Kingdom and Australia, but that, in spite of the words “ such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition “, the Australian tariff should, in fact, be fixed in such a way as to provide a further margin of a genuinely protective kind. The interpretation was challenged by the United Kingdom Government and was, from time to time, strongly criticized by United Kingdom manufacturers. It has now been agreed, as honorable members will see in paragraph 9 of the Memorandum of Conclusions, that the United Kingdom Ministers are prepared not to press their objection to this interpretation.
He then told the House that the delegation had, on at least two occasions, encountered acute controversy in relation to article 11. He said -
It has been asserted by United Kingdom manufacturers that, wherever under that article a reduced duty has been recommended by the Tariff Board and submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament, that Parliament must either approve of the recommendation or commit a breach of the Ottawa Agreement. Australian Ministers in London contested this view, pointing out that, while the Australian Government was, under the article, bound to invite the Commonwealth Parliament to approve of the recommendation, and was further, no doubt, bound to take every reasonable step towards securing the approval of Parliament, the actual failure of Parliament to approve was not a breach of the agreement. While this matter is still under the technical consideration of the United Kingdom law officers, it will be seen from paragraph 9 of the Memorandum of Conclusions that the Australian view of the problem has been in substance adopted, since the undertaking referred to in that paragraph is not an absolute undertaking that Parliament shall give effect to the recommendation, but that Australian Ministers shall make every effort to ensure that Tariff Board recommendations under article 11 are made effective.
For a long time our industries were in the extraordinary position that, according to the interpretation previously placed on articles 9 to 13 of the Ottawa Agreement, this Parliament was compelled blindly to follow the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I am opposed to any such restriction of the powers of this Parliament, and I am grateful to know that the late Government took the attitude to which I have referred, so that, in future, the British Government will not regard as a breach of the Ottawa Agreement any decision by this Parliament which is not a blind following of the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
According to the report furnished by the right honorable member for Cowper in September, 1938, the British Government no longer expects Australia merely to produce raw materials, but has recognized Australia’s right to develop its own secondary industries. Evidently the British Government realizes that the development side by side of both primary and secondary industries in Australia is necessary. In the speech to which I have referred, the then Minister for Commerce also said that the United Kingdom Ministers had recognized -
That, in the interests of both countries, and of the British Empire as a whole, it is desirable for Australia to endeavour to bring about as soon as possible a substantial increase in her population.
That it is impossible to achieve this objective solely or principally by an expansion of Australian primary industries.
That there is, therefore, a necessity to combine with such expansion the sound and progressive development of Australian secondary industries.
It is evident that British Ministers are now viewing this matter from a different angle, and I am grateful that that is so. I am confident that in the future there will be. greater harmony between Australia and Great Britain in the interpretation of the Ottawa Agreement.
Finally, I hope that at an early date the Minister, on behalf of the Government, will make a declaration which will confirm the attitude adopted by the previous Government, so that those engaged in secondary industries in this country may know that their position is more secure than it is to-day under what I regard as an entirely wrong interpretation of the Ottawa Agreement. Australian manufacturers are entitled to such an assurance. I hope also that the progress which has been made during recent years will be sustained, and that Australian secondary industries will go forward to even greater prosperity.
.- The present discussion relates to a tariff schedule every item of which originated with a report of the Tariff Board. As I supported the items in cabinet, I am naturally in accord with the rates of duty printed in the schedule. The time is appropriate, however, for some observations, particularly in view of certain criticism by Opposition members. I hope that with the advent of a new Government there will be no weakening of a forthright protectionist policy, and that Australia’s economic development will continue. It is easy to criticize tariff practices. There are some who would dogmatize in favour of prohibitive duties, whilst others advocate low duties. A tariff has to be considered item by item; the new Minister will soon realize that a different procedure has to be followed in almost every instance. Sometimes prohibitive duties cause retaliation ; at other times, as a previous Government discovered, they cause unemployment. On the other hand, excessively low duties may mean that’ Australian products will not be able to compete with those of cheap labour countries. Tariffs are necessary as a kind of differential or a. gear to enable our economy to fit in with that of other countries. Duties have to be carefully considered if the triple role of a tariff is to be carried out. A tariff can be used as a means of adjusting the trade balance ; it can be used for the economic development of a country and to provide employment; or it can be utilized, as in Australia, particularly, as a means of obtaining revenue. As the Australian tariff produces two-thirds of the revenue of the Commonwealth the rates of duty have to be very carefully watched. To a great extent duties must be placed upon a revenue basis, but they must not be too heavy or they will cause a diminution of imports. They must be so carefully calculated that sufficient imports will be received to ensure a certain amount of revenue. On the protective side, the duties must be weighed, and, wherever possible, investigated by a tariff board. In an open court that body hears sworn evidence from conflicting interests, and afterwards submits a report and recommendation to the Government. Infant industries are provided with sufficient protection to enable them to survive against competition, but after they have become established, and can meet competition, it may sometimes be desirable to reduce the measure of protection. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that the Lyons Government had made over 1,000 reductions of duty. Those reductions were made when I was Minister for Trade and Customs, and paradoxical though it may seem, I am a staunch protectionist. Many of the items, however, in respect of which duties were reduced were raw materials and revenue items. In other instances, duties were reduced in order to force down prices. Honorable members will recollect the discussion which took place in this chamber on the proposed reduction of the duties on cement. The lower duties resulted in reduced prices being charged for cement. It will be seen that the tariff is an economic weapon as well as a revenue producer and a creator of employment. I am proud that during the six years that I was in charge of the department the number of employees in Australian factories, as the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) pointed out, increased by 209,000 over the number employed in 1932.
– Lower duties caused unemployment in the glass industry.
– The honorable member should not attempt to side-track me; he can plead a special case at any time. But in answer to his interjection I remind him that no previous Minister for Trade and Customs ever forced the monopoly companies to face investigation by the Tariff Board. I submitted to that body the duties in respect of paper, rubber, glass and cement. As the result the rates of duty were reduced in some instances, but the industries concerned were not injured ; on the contrary, they flourished more than formerly.
– They are still paying good dividends.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) knows that the lowering of the duties on cut glass was partly due to a trade agreement that had been entered into with Czechoslovakia.
– I know that.
– The company which the honorable member has in mind launched out more ambitiously in one section of its industry than in others. Although one department may not be paying as well as others it is paying good dividends on its operations as a whole. The honorable member is wrong when he says that the glass industry suffered because of the reductions of duty. That industry is now employing more workers than formerly, and prices are sounder.
– The honorable gentleman cannot deny that 400 workers were put off.
– There are to-day 4,000 more factories in Australia than in 1932. The establishment of those factories is evidence of the confidence of employers in Australia and in their employees ; it must mean some good for Australia. This country has become more self-reliant as the result. It is true also that millions more is paid each year in wages to factory employees than in 1932, and that compared with that year, the value of secondary production has increased by over £70,000,000. There are now more employees in secondary industries than in primary industries. A further result of the establishment of these factories is that Australia is better prepared to meet the exigencies of a world war should such an event unhappily occur.
– There are still many unemployed workers in Australia.
– That may be, but the fact remains that there are 209,000 more employees in Australian factories to-day than in 1932. I exhort the Government not to mark time, or to adopt any policy which might check that expansion. The prudent conduct of tariff making will mean also the development of our manpower so that Australia will attain to that economic strength that is necessary if we are to hold this country. I have always looked on secondary industries as the best means of obtaining migrants for Australia. When our factories are prosperous and artisans are scarce, Australia will attract the hest migrants because no better migrants than British artisans and their families can be obtained. If we can encourage more of such people to come to Australia this country will develop along the lines upon which it began. That has been happening in a small measure.
I know of some industries in which there is a definite shortage of skilled labour. I regard this as a good sign. If it were not for the fact that Great Britain is heavily engaged in rearmament, there would be a greater migration of skilled British workers to this country. At the present time there is a certain volume of .alien migration which is better than no migration at all, hut it would be better for us if, instead of an exodus of British stock, more people of British origin were coming to this country. The best way to encourage them is to push on with the development of Australian industrial enterprises.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) made some reference to the overseas trade mission last year, of which I was a member. So also did the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), but as there is an item on the businesspaper under which that matter may be discussed it is not my intention to deal with it at length this afternoon. I would, however, remind the committee that British Ministers who met us around the conference table last year were out to secure the best bargains possible for British industry. They have a world market and naturally they want to keep it, and so maintain employment in Great Britain. As might be expected, the Australian view was not quite so well appreciated in British industrial circles as it is here. Nevertheless, after long discussions proposals contained in the White Paper presented to this Parliament show that we have retained our preferences in British markets. This, T think, was an achievement worthy of acknowledgment. The fact that Great Britain has also acknowledged the desirability of the further development of secondary industries in Australia, is a welcome, if rather belated, admission that Australia’s future is not now bound up in primary production solely.
May I also remind the committee that many indirect benefits accrued to Australia from that mission? At this stage, I need mention only two. The honorable member for Moreton spoke of the desirability of an immediate expansion of aircraft manufacture in this country. It may interest honorable members to know that the recent visit of the Air Mission to Australia had its genesis in a proposal which I put to the British Air Ministry that it should examine the possibility of aircraft manufacture in Australia. I suggested that, as we now have our own aircraft industry functioning in a small way, we should at first manufacture simply parts for some machines at present in use, but later we might be able to build aircraft in sufficient numbers to supply Singapore and other British stations in proximity to Australia. I was prompted to make that proposal by the suggestion put tome by a Canadian manufacturer that Canada should manufacture air frames in Canada and that Britain should supply the engines. The British Air Ministry promised to examine the proposal, and the visit to Australia of the British Air Mission will, without doubt, lead to the expansion of the industry here. There is also, I believe, some likelihood of considerable development by the establishment of associate feeder industries.
I hope also that the Government will give close attention to proposals for the manufacture of complete motor cars in Australia. There is no reason why we should not manufacture the chassis. At the present time we are manufacturing 80 per cent. of the components of motor cars; there is no reason why we should not manufacture the remaining 20 per cent. Whilst in England I occupied every spare moment of my time in inspecting motor manufacturing establishments, and was greatly assisted in my inquiries by the representatives of leading British firms. Some of them were quite frank in the statement of their attitude to the proposals for the manufacture of the complete motor car in this country. Their interest in some cases is of an export nature only. Some showed interest while others feared the effect of American competition. The possibility of setting up establishments in this country was to be explored by another, and as a result of my investigations I made a statement to this Parliament, indicating that manufacturers of motor cars had been invited to make known the terms upon which they would be prepared to manufacture motor chassis in this country. The time within which these proposals were to be made expired on the 31st March last. At the present time we are sending abroad £5,000,000 yearly for the purchase of motor chassis.
Since Australia is a debtor country to the amount of £1.200,000,000, of which half is owed abroad, it is essential, having regard to the total of our overseas interest bill, that we should limit importations, as much as possible, to raw materials, capital goods and essential requirements that we cannot manufacture. If we could manufacture motor chassis in Australia we should bf. able to save at least £5,000,000 a year, which amount could better be expended on th». importation of essential goods. Incidentally the development of this industry would lead to a greater volume of employment. There are no insuperable obstacles to the establishment of the enterprise, but adequate safeguards should be taken to prevent the creation of a monopoly. The Tariff Board made an investigation of the proposal, but the principal companies that were represented at the inquiry were not greatly interested in it, and, therefore, they did not come forward with any very helpful suggestions. The Government might note what was done by the British Government. It approached one of the big insurance companies to see if it would assist the further development of the Rootes Limited Company which manufactures the Humber and Hillman cars and many aircraft engines. That company is now one of the biggest manufacturers of motor car and aircraft engines in the world. Alternatively, the Government might entertain the idea of the Commonwealth becoming a co-partner in the industry. We have precedent for this course in connexion with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, which is functioning very well, indeed, and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. This is an alternative which, I suggest might with advantage be considered if private enterprise does not come forward soon with a concrete scheme. It is desirable that something should be done without delay because, as honorable members will appreciate, should war occur the existing motor vehicles in Australia would soon become worn out and useless, and we should not have the means to replace them.
Another industry which might be considered by the Government is that of ship-building. Some time ago the Tariff
Board made an inquiry into that subject and, when I was Minister, I arranged for a departmental inquiry as well. These reports are in the possession of the department. When the Minister examines them he will find that a practical scheme has been propounded, but at the moment I am not at liberty to mention the details of it. It is time that Australia launched a scheme for ship-building on a much greater scale than at present. During the war we built a number of vessels of considerable tonnage in this country, but that work was done under stress of war conditions. Ship-building in Australia, unlike other secondary industries, has diminished rather than expanded, and only vessels of comparatively small tonnage have been constructed during recent years. As is well known, the governments of most countries have’ given their attention to the subsidizing of ship-building. This industry, from a defence point of view, is of fundamental importance. If the Government wishes this country to go forward and not to mark time or retrogress, it must’ take definite steps to put the shipbuilding industry in Australia on a satisfactory basis. There are other directions in which the Government could do useful service for the people with a view to getting more men into industry and preventing the increase of unemployment.
One other matter which should engage the attention of the Government is the effect of German penetration in trade during recent years.
– Especially as regards the supply of medical instruments.
– I do not wish to deal with details. That might well be left to the Minister. It is well known that in many countries Germany recently has conducted important trade drives that are far more subtle and insidious than its political action. The feature of German policy is really the preliminary to political action. Long before the aggressive nature of the attack is appreciated, and long before the threat that troops will be marching, there is the more subtle trade drive. This policy has been directed particularly to a number of smaller countries in the Danube basin and the Balkans. Trade agreements. one might almost say of an unscrupulous kind, are negotiated in the interests of the Reich. I refer particularly to the exchange clearing agreements which Germany has made with many countries, especially those with which it has an unfavorable trade balance. Under th is arrangement, Germany will agree to take the entire export commodities of a particular country under the modern equivalent of the barter sytem of the StoneAge. No payments of cash will pass; only goods will be moved. Between Germany and countries with which it has a favorable trade balance trade flows freely, and Germany uses the accumulations of free exchange for the purchase of raw materials which cannot be manufactured in Germany. The smaller countries which have become the victims of this barter arrangement discover eventually that their credits in Germany have become frozen. They take bills to cover the amounts owing to them. Their financial structure is thrown into a state of chaos, and finally they are obliged to buy goods that are not wanted. Germany has actually exported wheat, tobacco, raisins and timber, which she obtained under the barter agreements from Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Yugo-slavia and other countries. In this way the normal course of world trade has been completely disorganized because these countries which have bartered their entire output to Germany have been forced to accept German goods they did not require. For example, one country, I think it was Greece, was obliged to take hundreds of thousands of mouth-organs to liquidate Germany’s debt to it; another took thousands of typewriters; another many tons of aspirins. There is something to be said for barter trade on an equitable basis that will not do injury to the financial structure of one of the parties to the arrangement; but experience has shown that when these small nations come under the spell and thrall of a great nation like Germany, it is not long before the political approach begins. The trading agencies become cells of Nazi propaganda andorganization, and ultimately the tentacles of the Reich stretch out to take over and control those countries. This method of trading has very much distorted world economy.
I mention it in order to emphasize the need for extreme caution. Germany has made many approaches to Australia to conclude barter agreements. If any blame is attachable to any one for the repulsing of those approaches, I am prepared to accept full responsibility. Germany has offered to take Australian wool in return for certain manufactured goods. For example, it might offer to take £1,000,000 worth of Australian wool if this country will take in return £1,000,000 of German manufactured goods. If we had accepted offers of that kind we could not have refused a similar arrangement with France, with whom we have a favorable trade balance of £11,000,000, or with Belgium or Great Britain. The net effect of this arrangement would be to injure British trade seriously. Ultimately our own manufacturing enterprises, and the employment of our people, would suffer.
I revert to the matter of which I was reminded by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings), namely, dumping below the home-consumption price. It is difficult to learn, in many cases, what is the true home value of German exports. Germany has some 250 values to the mark. It is a most complex and distorted system which, being so centrally controlled and so ruthless, is all to the benefit of that country and to the detriment of the countries with which Germany trades. Were it to trade honestly and fairly we should welcome and appreciate its purchases ; but it is in a most unusual economic position. There are 35 raw materials in the world, of which Germany has only five. Under its five-year plan, it is attempting to manufacture some of those raw materials. I saw in one German factory the attempt to make wool from beech logs. The logs are pulped down, and turned into a staple. Although the product is described as artificial wool, it is merely wood fibre - neither wool nor cotton, although it can be mixed with both. Unmixed, it is more like jute bagging than cloth. Germany is also making rubber, thereby saving certain credits. Cost is no object, because the policy of Germany is “Work is Wealth”. Under a highly centralized economic system, Germany is not only employing its own people, but also is working them up to a state of fanaticism for their own form of government and keeping them from access . to information from other countries. It has made an assault on world economy in a most unusual way under a financial wizard - Schacht - who is the reputed author of all of these proposals. Many of them deserve examination, and we could learn a good deal from some of them, but we must beware of listening too readily to proposals regarding a trade agreement with the country which has employed them.
The Minister for Trade and Customs will have to be prepared to face a good deal of criticism. In the Customs Department, any day on which no criticism is received is regarded as a red-letter day. The Minister receives little praise. If he can concentrate, on getting men into work and making Australia stronger economically, and if the Government will promote expansion and attract to this country immigrants of the best type, we shall experience a period of great prosperity.
.- Yesterday we had a lengthy debate on international relations, in the course of which not one honorable member disclosed thI real cause of much of the’ international trouble that exists to-day. There is not the slightest doubt that that trouble is caused by the restrictions imposed on trade by different countries. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), has discussed the barter methods of trade which are being adopted in Germany, but has not told us why that country has been compelled to take such action. Unless economic policies, especially in respect of trade among the nations of the world, are radically altered, there can be no possibility of any outcome other than war on :i far more destructive scale than that of 1914-18. I have no desire to speak in favour of Germany, Italy, or any other country; but if one were a young man in certain countries and found that the immigration laws of the world restricted one’s entry to other lands, that tariff measures, embargoes and other methods prevented trade with other nations on anything like a fair basis, and that there were countries like Australia sparsely populated, and with rich resources, what action would one take? Desiring a “ place in the sun “, one would be prepared to fight for it. Unless action be taken along the lines desired by Mr. Cordell Hull, Secretary of State of the United States of America, to bring the nations into agreement in regard to trading relations, there is bound to be another great conflagration.
When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) introduced this schedule, he made a very important statement, which gave the impression that the Government proposed to endeavour to observe the provisions of the law relating to tariff alterations. When the honorable gentleman quoted from the Tariff Board Act, I came to the conclusion that a drastic change of procedure was contemplated, and that the new broom would sweep a little cleaner than the old. The honorable member for Balaclava has told us that all the items in this schedule have been before the Tariff Board. I refer the committee to Tariff Schedule No. 7, which contained most scandalous duties in respect of items which had never been investigated by the Tariff Board, but were the result of “ engineering “ in the department. The honorable member for. Riverina (Mr. Nock) gave a full explanation of the manner in which those duties had been built up. Although the act provides that a schedule must be approved within a period of six months, that schedule lay on the table for twelve months and has not yet obtained parliamentary approval. The Minister quoted section 15 of the Tariff Board Act, and drew attention to the ministerial power to refer to the Tariff Board any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the tariff, and in particular that he is charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods, acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public, or acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer. Does any one contend for a moment that the Minister and the Tariff Board have not in”- the past been aware of the cartels that have been established and the secret arrangements that have been made with a view to taking undue advantage of the tariff and imposing restrictions on trade generally? Some years ago the honorable member for Balaclava., showed me a letter he had received from a manufacturer in Melbourne who made, a among other things, wire nails and barbed wire. This man was compelled to buy his raw materials from the drawers in Newcastle, which firm also manufactured wire nails and barbed wire. His letter to the Minister was to the effect that this firm was dumping wire nails and barbed wire in Melbourne at the price charged for the raw material, and that it insisted on doing so unless he would undertake to refrain from selling his goods in New South Wales and Queensland, would fix prices, in Tasmania, and would raise his price in Victoria by £6 a ton. I demanded that this letter be referred to the Tariff Board, and the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who is now a Minister, agreed that that should be done. [Quorum formed.] I waited for about three months, and then asked what action had been taken, and the Minister informed me that the matter had been withdrawn from the Tariff Board because the manufacturer in Melbourne had withdrawn his charge against the drawers of the wire. Any person who is engaged- in trade, especially a manufacturer, knows perfectly well the position in which he stands if the Government will not back him up in a. complaint of that sort. In the- early days of the tariff, manufacturers and others wrote to members of Parliament explaining the conditions in which they found themselves. No one dares now to voice a complaint regarding the methods adopted to ensure price-fixing. It was only a short time ago when the late Minister for Trade and Customs threatened motor body manufacturers if they dared to voice certain complaints arising out of the trade diversion policy. Some time ago I placed before this Parliament particulars of the price-fixing arrangements of Rylands and Lysaghts in respect of wire netting, which affected not only the wholesale but also the retail price. Those firms imposed penalties on any retailer who dared to sell at less than the price fixed. I was pleased to think that the Minister intended to see that when a charge was made of undue advantage having been taken of the tariff, the matter would be referred to the Tariff Board, which would make a thorough investigation of it; but past experience has made-‘, me very doubtful. The Tariff Board Act also provides that the Minister shall not bring down any increased or reduced duties without a report from the Tariff Board. The other day I asked the Prime Minister whether the Government would repeal this provision; because, so long as it remains on the statute-book, we naturally assume that when a new schedule is brought down, the items it contains have been reported openly to the Tariff Board, and we look for the relevant reports. The Government should make clear what action it proposes to take in that direction. I invite honorable members to study the statistics published by Coghlan up to about 1906. He dealt with the development of industries in New South Wales and Victoria from about 18S0 to 1900. In 18S0, Victoria produced an overwhelming preponderance of the manufactured goods of Australia. In subsequent years, however, there was considerable development in New South Wales. In the year 1891 or 1892, I well remember, there were huge public meetings, addressed by the late Mr. Deakin, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and others, which directed attention to the dreadful condition of industry in Melbourne - the sweating that was practised, and the other hardships of the employees. Living costs were high and there was considerable destitution. No such complaints were heard from New South Wales where there was a constant expansion of manufacturing.
Statistics prove that in free-trade NewSouth Wales in 1900 there were more people employed in manufacturing industries, the value of production was greater, and far fewer females wore employed in factories than in protectionist Victoria. I mention that only to show that we can build up industries without excessive duties. I do not advocate the abolition of all duties, but it is easy to overdo protection.
A committee appointed in 1927 to report upon the economic position gave in its report a list of protected industries, and compared the salaries and wages paid in those industries with the value of the protection afforded to them. Assuming that full advantage was in all cases taken of the protection, we find that in the rubber industry salaries and wages amounted to £1,337,000, whereas the value of the duty on the goods produced amounted to £2,178,000, or £800,000 more than the salaries and wages. For knitting factories, salaries and wages amounted to £1,267,000, and the duties on the goods to £1,699,000. In respect of blankets, flannels, &c., salaries and wages amounted to £399,000, and the duties to £468,000, while for confectionery, salaries and wages were £1,427,000 and duties £1,974,000. There are many other industries quoted, in all of which the value of the duty is considerably more than the total cost of all wages and salaries; and this is called protection! Surely there is no need for protection which enables companies like General Motors-Holden’s Limited or the Australian Glass Company to make such enormous profits. I remember when the chairman of the Australian Glass Company was afraid that he had backed the wrong horse at the last elections - that hehad made a mistake in supporting the United Australia party instead of the Labour party. The following extract regarding the finances of the company is illuminating : -
Following an increaseto £5,000,000 in authorized capital, it is intended to convert into ordinary shares a surplus of £2,558,814 from the realization of certain assets and to distribute thisas a bonus amongst shareholders.
The sale of the company’s assets to the new subsidiaries recently formed has been almost completed and the assets not acquired with a view to resale have enabled the surplus stated to be credited to a special fund.
Shareholders registered at 5 p.m. on the 14th March will receive a bonus distribution aggregating eleven fully-paid shares for every four shares held. This will mean that, whereas ordinary shareholders now hold four shares, their holding will be increased to fifteen shares. Paid capital following the bonus issue will total £3,604,292 in 3,489,292 ordinary shares of £1 each and 175,000 preference shares of £1 each.
Disclosed profit of £287,628 for the 1937-38 year, after allowing for the 9 per cent. preference dividend, would represent. 7.79 per cent. on the ordinary capital, as reconstituted.
On the basis of the current price of £5 12s.6d. cum bonus, the shares should be worth £1 10s. ex bonus.
Assuming6 per cent. is paid on the enlarged capital, the yield would be £4 per cent., but if 7 per cent. is distributed, the return would be £4. 13s. 4d. per cent.
Yet we hear complaints from time to time that even yet that company has not sufficient protection. We know that the prices for English wire, wire netting and galvanized iron are 35 per cent. less than those quoted by manufacturers here. Everything indicates that in Australia protection has gone mad. Powerful vested interests, which subscribe to the party funds of both the United Australia party and the Labour party, give evidence before the Tariff Board in support of still higher duties. Mr. T. W. Page, who was for many years chairman of the Tariff Board in the United States of America, made the following statement regarding the methods of big business interests : -
Lying campaign contributions, expensive and misleading propaganda, costly and expert lobbying, astute distortion of evidence and consideration enjoyed by men in control of government affairs are among the means at the disposal of “ big business “ for securing duties needlessly high. And the power to divert the effects of the law is as important as the power to make it. The more monopolistic a business may be, the more completely is it able to dictate the prices the consumer must pay and producers must receive for the raw material. This obvious advantage explains why the United States of America tariffhas been called the mother of trusts.
A magnificent work has been accomplished by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in Australia. In 1913, the general manager of that company, with the approval of the board, declared that it wanted no duties, no bounties, and no assistance. He declared that if the company could not compete with the world it would not begin the steel enterprise. Not long afterwards, however, all sorts of concessions were demanded and obtained. The company controls the richest iron deposits in the world, . and has magnificent coal supplies right alongside its smelters. Surely it should be able to compete with the products of any other country in the world ! In many instances, the duties on British goods not manufactured in Australia are not exorbitantly high, but, as in the case of wire netting, even though the goods are admitted free, the British manufacturers will not supply. Australia at the same. price as it supplies South Africa. The duty on foreign wire netting is £9 10s. a ton. Moderate rates of duty apply to British fencing wire, ‘barbed wire and galvanized iron, but the rates against foreign goods of this kind are out of all proportion. Here are some of them -
Although I have no proof, I am of the opinion that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has an arrangement with the British cartel in regard to the Australian trade. I came to that conclusion four years ago, when the British manufacturers ceased’ to supply New Zealand with wire nails, wire netting .and fencing wire at the same price as they supplied South Africa. It appeared to me that they had come to an arrangement with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, or with Lysaght Limited and Ryland Limited to give the Australian manufacturers complete control of the New Zealand market. Prices, accordingly, rose very quickly. In many instances the high duties are not necessary; they serve to enable manufacturers to impose conditions in regard to the retailing of their goods, stipulating a margin which is unreasonably high. Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited is a concern in which the Commonwealth Government holds a controlling interest, and the purpose of the company should be to supply the people with first-class goods at the lowest price. The Government should not be looking for profits in that direction, yet it is a fact that wireless instruments manufactured by ‘that company are sold in Australia at three to four times the price at which cor responding instruments can be bought in the United States of America. There is no excuse for that. We have the. raw material here, and Australian workmen ought to bc as good as those of any other country. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to the shipbuilding industry. We did build some ships in Australia, but there was so much trouble with labour that the enterprises had to be abandoned. There is no reason why, after a time, we should not be able to build ships here as cheaply as they can be built in Great Britain.
The present exorbitantly high duties hit the primary producers more than anybody else. From 1915 to 1920, there was no great increase of duties, but after 1920 they rose enormously. Since 1930, world markets for primary products have been steadily declining, so that the primary producer is hit both ways. He has to pay more for what he ‘buys, and must accept less for what he sells. I do not wish again to emphasize the great value of our export trade, because I have fully dealt with that aspect on several occasions. I urge the Government to consider seriously the effect which these high duties and restrictions on goods required by primary industry have upon our export trade namely the increasing costs of production and the consequent loss of markets. I have gone through a. list of duties on motor car parts and bodies and have shown them to ibc preposterous, because they merely encourage profiteering. I hope that the Minister will honour the promise which he gave when introducing this measure, that speedy action will be taken through the Tariff Board to prevent profiteering. In addition, he should take steps to reduce duties which are shown to be excessive. Much has been made of the boast that the duty on thousands of items has. been reduced. Most of the goods affected, however, have been allowed entry under by-law. If the Minister goes through his weekly returns he will have no difficulty in adding to that list by the hundred, and, should he so desire, thus make even a greater show in that respect. That boast goes for nought so far as I am concerned, because most of these articles have been allowed in free of duty for many years past.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) offered advice to the Minister (Mr. John Lawson), particularly in regard to increasing employment in Australia. I point out, that the government of which he was, until recently, a member, although it reduced the duty on many items, which fact does not entitle it to be described as a high-protectionist government, failed to apply the policy enunciated by the honorable member, because it let numerous contracts overseas for work which could have been done almost as cheaply in Australia. Tariff policy should be designed primarily to encourage local industry. I strongly oppose what is known as a revenueproducing tariff; that is a most immoral form of taxation, and is only resorted to by a government which is too cowardly to levy direct taxes. Such a government prefers to rely as much as possible on indirect taxation in order to pile up its revenue in the hope that the people will not realize that they are being taxed. Our tariff policy should be designed solely with the object of building up industries in this country; any other kind of tariff policy is undesirable. The present tariff policy of this Government canbe criticized very severely on that score. I have before me a very strong complaint by Mr. Cranwell, chairman of the Commonwealth Council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union of Australia, pointing out that hundreds of men were dismissed from Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited and the Clyde Engineering Company Limited at a time when the Government let contracts overseas for work which these establishments could have carried out at prices competitive with overseas prices. Thus it would appear that this Government is not living up to its alleged policy of developing Australia’s secondary industries. Only the other day I read a newspaper report to the effect that the Italian Government is dumping tapestry in Australia in very large quantities, and in other countries also, in order to create credits for the purchase of war materials. I am not saying that this report is true, but I suggest that as it has been circulated in the press it should be investigated by the Minister. If it be found to be true, steps should be taken to remedy the position. Particularly at a time when so much is being said concerning the menace which Germany and Italy present to Australia we should not hesitate to use every means in our power to counteract their activities in this direction. If it be true that these countries are dumping goods in Australia for the purpose of creating credits for the purchase of war materials, we should not hesitate to utilize the tariff in order to put a stop to that practice.
The honorable member for Balaclava also dealt with what he termed the immoral trade of Germany. I am not here to defend Germany. I have already read some of the things to which he has referred, ‘ and it seems to me that, while we have the system of production for profit, it will be hard to stop a lot of these abuses. In any case, I do not think the honorable member was justified in dealing with such matters in the way he did at a . time when we are endeavouring to arrive at a better understanding with the particular countries he mentioned. After all it is hardly likely that Germany’s arrangements in these instances were one-sided. If the other party acquiesced in them, as seems very likely, there is little that we can complain about.
I rose mainly, to deal with a statement which appeared recently in the press to. the effect that the Government ofNew South Wales had expressed a desire to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in carrying out the lattor’s desire to encourage the manufacture of the complete motor car in Australia. So far this Government has done very little in that direction. I was wondering, however, whether that statement could be interpreted as meaning that the Commonwealth Government now intends to take further steps in that respect. I do not propose to deal with the comparative prices of motor car manufacture here and overseas; I have covered that ground on previous occasions. Neither do I propose to repeat the arguments concerning the necessity for establishing this industry in order to make Australia independent of overseas monopolies. I hope that the Minister will be able to indicate whether the Government now intends to take immediate further action in this direction. This Government is not justified in continuing to levy the special import duty of . 7d. per lb. on motor chassis while, at the same time, refusing to devote the proceeds of the impost for the purpose for which it was originally intended. This duty constitutes an unfair impost on the purchases of motor cars. I am not worrying about its effect on people who can afford to buy luxurious cars; I do not care what price they are obliged to pay, but I contend that no unfair tax should be placed on the purchasers of motor trucks and the cheaper cars, ranging in price from £350 to £450, because such vehicles are a necessity for thousands of people in Australia. That special duty was levied originally with the object of securing funds to assist local industry to manufacture the complete motor car. The Government is not carrying out that promise, and, therefore, I should like the Minister to state whether that fund, which must now amount to over £1,000,000, is being expended in any other direction, and, if so, for what purpose ?
I support the protest of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) against profiteering by monopolies under the protection of high tariff duties. Had the Labour party been given an opportunity to do so it would long ago have implemented a policy which would have obviated this undesirable development. There can be no doubt that certain concerns in our midst are makinghuge profits because of the protection they enjoy. Unfortunately, the largest profit-makers are the worst employers. One such concern is established in my electorate. ‘ The honorable gentleman referred to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I point out that his trouble does not arise from the tariff. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited does not worry about what the tariff is, because it participates in the profits whether the goods be made here or overseas.It is allied with the iron and steel industry in Great Britain. Quite recently this organization extended its operations to the United States of America. Another concern to whose profitmaking I strongly object is the Com monwealthRolling Mills which was recently established in this country. We were informed the other day that its capital of £1,000,000 was subscribed in equal part by Armco, of America, and Lysaghts of London. The latter is the same concern as Lysaghts Limited of Australia, which, in turn, represents the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited interests. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, therefore does not care how high we build our tariff wall so long as it is permitted to pull down wage conditions in this country to the lowest ruling level elsewhere. The honorable member’s trouble, I repeat, does not arise from tariff policy because higher or lower duties will not affect the profiteering of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Whilst the honorable member can quote prices ruling in South Africa and show that they are a little cheaper than those in Australia, I can quote instances of countries in which goods, which are not manufactured locally, are sold at rates double those ruling elsewhere. The Government should take steps immediately to encourage the manufacture of complete motor cars in Australia. It might do the job itself, or embark on an arrangement similar to that entered into in the case of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, by securing the bulk of the shares in any concern established to undertake this industry.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Government should manufacture motor cars?
– That is a silly suggestion.
– It would appear to the honorable member as silly, but has he any objection to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited or Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia.) Limited ? It is only by retaining control of concerns of this kind that the Government can check profiteering in our big industries. The honorable member for Swan should bear in mind that the huge profits of these companies, of whichhe complained, are being made, to a considerable degree, out of government contracts for war materials.
When the late Prime Minister said that his Government did not intend to allow any profiteering in the supply of munitions and I asked him to state what he regarded as profiteering, he declined to give me a definite answer. Will the honorable member for Swan join me in an effort to secure an official statement on this point?
– In respect of the annexes, “ reasonable profit “ is bond interest.
– Will the management of the annexes not be allowed to make more than bond interest?
– I am pleased to hear it.
– Do not the companies of which the honorable member complains pay good wages.
– -They do not. If the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) had to work for five minutes insome of the factories in which men are working eight hours a day, he would not live for five minutes. I doubt whether I should either.
– They do pay good wages.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) must cease interjecting. ;
– The honorable member has always been an advocate of low wages. The Government should introduce a measure to limit profits as they are limited in Great Britain in respect of the privately-owned railways there. That might result in a better-managed economy. The people themselves would then have some measure of control over those who operate, these industries, and they would be able to eliminate huge profits. Ultimately, profits should be completely eliminated’. If the honorable member for Swan would adopt a policy designed to achieve that end, he would have less need to squeal about the huge profits that certain companies are making.
The plain fact, of course, is that the tariff is not responsible for the profits. If we had no tariff, overseas companies operating in low-wage countries would gain control of the markets of Australia under conditions which would permit them to make larger profits than those now being made by local organizations.
Whether we have a low or a. high tariff, it is not, likely, of itself, to influence the profit position very greatly.
The honorable member for Swan also complained about labour troubles. He rarely fails to make some remarks on this subject when he discusses the fiscal issue. The plain fact is that the industrialists of this country have never put their-hands up in- favour of a strike unless they have had a very sound case. The workers do not down tools lightly. In fact, they never do it until they have exhausted every legitimate means at- their hands for the redress of their grievances. If the employers would adopt a more reasonable attitude towards their employees there would be less industrial trouble in this country than there is now. In myexperience, every serious industrial dispute in Australia has been based upon legitimate grounds. Perhaps the honorable member for Swan does not know the industrial history of his own country. If he does, he must admit that, the revolt of labour in years gone by was abundantly warranted. Before labour had any representation in the Parliaments of Australia, and before the trade union movement was articulate, sweating hells existed everywhere. Does the honorable member for Swan forget that on a certain notable occasion when an inquiry was being conducted in Victoria to determine whether or not the wages board system for determining the wages and conditions in industry should be adopted, the then chairman of the Employers Federation declared that Great “ Britain had developed its manufacturing industries, on a. scale unparalleled in history, by sweating. He said that sweating might be bad for the individual, but was good for the nation. He also said that just as war was impossible without the killing of men, so industry was impossible without the breaking of men. Those remarks were made as recently as the eighties of last century. It was that attitude on the part of the employers of the day that bred the spirit of revolt and unrest in the Workers’ of Australia. The same attitude has been at the bottom of all the industrial disputes that have occurred since then. It may he declared without any hesitation, however, that the workers of this country, who love their wives and children just as dearly as do the employers and other people of wealth, and desire to ensure their welfare just as sincerely as other men in the community wish to promote the welfare of their families, do not go on strike unless they have very serious grievances to redress. They realize .how serious strikes are to their dependants. The proof of this statement is to be found in the history of industrial .arbitration. For every reduction of wages made by the Arbitration Courts of Australia, ten increases have been given. I challenge the honorable member for Swan to deny that the workers have accepted industrial arbitration as a method of adjusting their disputes. The very fact that the tribunals of this country have, in the vast majority of cases, granted increases of wages, or reductions of hours, or improvements of conditions when workers have applied for such, is incontrovertible evidence of the justice of the claims made.
It is commonly .admitted that the workers of this country are equal to those of any other country of the world. If our workmen are given a fair and reasonable deal they render first-class service. To ensure con-tented workmen, fair play is essential. I heard the Attorney-.General (Mr. Hughes) state a. week or so ago at the ceremony of the opening of lie new buildings at Port Kembla, that the development of that industry was due to government policy. It certainly is not due to the good treatment of the workmen. We had to travel for about one and a half to two miles along the railway line to get to Port Kembla. On each side of the line were numerous wretched hag humpies absolutely unfit for human habitation. They were worse than many dog kennels. The Government of New South Wales is even to-day building houses for single men to live in which are like dog kennels. It is appalling that the workers of this country should have to live under such degrading conditions. So long as that policy continues the workers will revolt. . I say with Dr. Burgmann, the Anglican Bishop of Goulburn, “I thank God for the spirit of revolt in the oppressed, unemployed and low-paid workers of this country, and I- pray God it will never die “.
.- I feel it incumbent upon me to make some remarks on the occasion of the consideration of this tariff schedule, particularly in view of the importance of the developments that are taking place to-day in the secondary industries of this country. As we are discussing questions involving national security, population and employment, I wish to refer to the: remarks of the honorable member for .Swan (Mr. Gregory). I quite agree with him that co-operation between our secondary and primary industries is necessary. After all, the success of one is dependent upon the success of the other. The closest cooperation is essential to the development of both primary and secondary industries in this country. A tremendous develop-ment of secondary industries has occured in recent years in Australia, so much st> that the employment increase has bee. so large as to be mainly responsible tor the recovery that has taken place in our economic position in the last few years. We now have 26,000 factories in Australia which give employment to over 500,000 people and meet a wages bill of nearly £100,000,000 per annum. This, of course, is of paramount importance to our primary industries, for undoubtedly the home market must be regarded as the most valuable of all to primary producers in that the products sold on the easily-obtained home market bring enhanced prices compared with similar products sold on the markets overseas. The honorable member f6r Swan had something to say about embargoes, but it must be remembered, when any comparison of our primaries and secondaries is made, that all our primary products except wool are highly protected.
– What about potatoes?
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) surely does not forget that potatoes ar< the subject, of an embargo. Sugar, flour and butter; if we include the last mentioned among our primaries, are other every-day household commodities which are also subjected practically to a trade embargo. That fact should be borne in mind by our primary producers and their friends when they set out to criticize the protection accorded to secondary industries.
Dealing with the population phase of the subject, I remind honorable members that in order to encourage people to come to this country a great amount of money has been expended, chiefly for the purpose of settling people on the land. What has been the result ? During the last 25 years, Australia has expended approximately £100,000,000 on migration schemes, yet employment “in our pastoral, agricultural and other allied industries has remained stationary. The number of persons employed in these industries is practically the same to-day as it was 25 years ago. This is mainly due to the adoption of scientific methods of production and the increasing use of labour-saving appliances. In this same period employment in our secondary industries has advanced by 175 per cent. Many of our secondary industries have advanced in consequence of tariff encouragement. Newcastle, for example, has become one of the greatest commercial cities of Australia. Other industries in the vicinity of Sydney have also been encouraged by tariff protection. I have in mind, for instance, the dry batteries industry, which is giving employment to between 500 and 600 people. Such developments as I have mentioned have undoubtedly widened the scope for the employment of artisans and commercial and professional men, and have assisted iri the development of mining, transport and constructional undertakings.
I wish now to refer to a question I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) this afternoon concerning delays in inquiries by the Tariff Board.
– It was a Dorothy Dix question.
– It was not, as the honorable member will perceive. The Minister said that no complaints about delays had come from those directly concerned. That information does not harmonize with -statements that are made by the manufacturing community. I am not attacking the Minister or the Government on this issue; but I am definitely attacking the system. The whole process of referring matters to the Tariff Board should be reconsidered. At present, after an application has been made it must be considered by the board ; the board must report upon it; the report must be considered first by the department and then by the Minister ; and finally it must come before Cabinet. The whole system calls loudly for overhaul. It would be an extremely fortunate industry, either actual or proposed, which, having asked for tariff protection, was given a definite decision in less than twelve months; it often takes two years or more. [Quorum formed.] Seeing that New South Wales industries are being considered, I should have thought that sufficient members of the New South Wales Labour party would have been interested in the discussion to be in the House and have made unnecessary the calling for a quorum by one of their number. Much of the delay to which reference has been made occurs between the time that the Tariff Board conducts its inquiry and the receipt by the Government of the board’s report and ‘recommendation; on other occasions, the delay occurs after the report is received and before the matter is dealt with in a tariff schedule. I shall cite one or two instances of delays; they are typical and could be multiplied almost indefinitely. In- September and October of last year, the Tariff Board inquired into the duties on tractor wheels, rubber tyres for tractors, yarns for the manufacture of cordage and twines, condenser yarns for manufacture of towelling and rope cordage. So far nothing is known of the Tariff Board’s reports on these subjects, nor can any one say when a ‘ tariff schedule to give effect to any changes recommended by the board can be expected.
The Minister’s statement that no specific complaints of dumping had been received is denied by manufacturers. Within recent weeks strong protests have been made by the Australian woollens industry respecting the dumping into Australia of Italian rugs in large quantities. Complaints have also been forwarded to the department of the dumping of metal bag frames made in Germany, and of bedspreads from Japan. - It is also stated that knitted outerwear garments such as pullovers, cardigans and two-piece suits made on the continent of Europe, are being dumped into Australia. In one week in January one Melbourne emporium is said to ‘ have landed 1,200 of. such garments.
There is urgent need for an overhaul of the Industries Preservation Act, which at the present time is a dead letter. Some manufacturers consider that it is practically useless to submit complaints to tha Government ; they claim that no action is taken in such cases. When considering proposals for industrial expansion and development in which considerable employment is involved I ask the Government to see that these complaints are investigated with a view to clearing up the present unsatisfactory position, and giving encouragement to industry, which is prepared to continue with this national programme.
– Whilst one naturally approaches the administration of such a vast department as that dealing with trade and customs with considerable diffidence, it is indeed a pleasant experience to be launched so buoyantly, as a Minister, upon such a sea of good advice and good wishes as has been my experience this afternoon. Although tariff-making can never be an exact science, the tariff system as we know it in Australia to-day is a very delicately adjusted instrument which not only has a vital bearing upon almost every phase of life in this country, but also affects our international relations. Tariffmaking has a more or less direct bearing upon every industry in this country. It is an instrument whereby we implement trade agreements with other countries, and to a great degree it determines our relations with them. When we regard a tariff and tariff-making in that light, I believe that we are better able to appreciate the great importance of the Trade and Customs Department to our national well-being. Much criticism against the administration of the department has been voiced this afternoon. I am perhaps fortunate that my history in the department has yet to be made. I realize that the criticism which has been offered has not been levelled against me personally, and I believe that no personal reflection on any of my predecessors was intended. It may be that Ministers have not always done what was strictly wise or correct, but, having regard to all the circumstances, they have done well, and have rendered good service to the country. That remark applies to all of my predecessors, regardless of their party allegiance.
I shall refer briefly to some of the statements that have been made, as well as to some of the fears that have ‘been expressed by honorable members this afternoon. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) expressed some dissatisfaction with the interpretation placed by a previous government on articles 9 to 13 of the Ottawa Agreement. Most honorable members are aware of the circumstances that arose following the visit of an Australian delegation to Great Britain last year. Its members discussed with representatives of the United Kingdom Government the interpretation of certain articles of that agreement, and the results of their discussion are embodied in a white paper which was issued in London on the 20th July, 1938. I regard the contents of that white paper as of such importance that I shall read from paragraph 7 -
Two possible methods of dealing with these articles presented themselves to Ministers. One was to endeavour to revise them so as to satisfy the requirements of both countries. This has so far proved impracticable. Thu other was to abolish the articles altogether and to substitute for them a schedule of maximum rates of duty which should operate during the currency of the agreement. The principle of making trade treaties on the basis of fixed rates of duty is one which has been common to most modern international arrangements; but there are special difficulties in applying it in the case of a young and developing country like Australia which also has a system of wage fixing tribunals and consequent fluctuations in industrial costs. Australian Ministers have, however, stated that the Australian Government will proceed forthwith to investigate the possibility of adopting such a system.
Paragraph 9 reads -
In the meantime, and pending the decision of the Australian Government on this matter, the present agreement will continue in force, though, in order to avoid some difficulties which have presented themselves in the past, the United Kingdom Ministers are prepared not to press their objection to the interpretations now placed by thu Australian Tariff Board upon article 10, while Australian Ministers have undertaken to make every effort to ensure that Tariff Board recommendations under article 11 are made effective.
The discussion which the motion of the right honorable member for Cowper- (Sir Earle Page) initiated has not yet taken place, but, as the honorable member for Moreton pointed out, the arrangement which has been arrived at permits a more liberal interpretation of article 11 ‘than that which was regarded as binding upon this Parliament prior to the visit of the trade delegation to Great Britain last year. In the circumstances, I think that -the honorable member for Moreton will realize that it is not an absolute undertaking that Parliament shall give effect to the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Australian Ministers, however, undertook to make every effort to ensure that Tariff Board recommendations under article 11 are made effective.
– Were it not for that arrangement, would we not be breaking the Ottawa Agreement?
– As I understood it, yes.
The honorable members for Balaclava (Mr. White) and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) referred to charges of dumping of goods into Australia by foreign manufacturers. It is true that both individuals and organizations have alleged that dumping of foreign goods has taken place, but the Government has recently to be advised of specific instances of dumping in recent months.
– What about the complaint by the Australian woollens industry?
– Although I have been Minister in charge of the department for only a short time, I have discussed this matter with officers of the department, and they have assured me that although allegations of dumping arc made from time to time, no specific instance of dumping has yet been brought under their notice. I remind honorable members that the Industries Preservation Act was specially designed to protect Australian industries. As we understand it, the term “dumping” implies t hat goods are being landed into Australia to the detriment of Australian industries.
– One of the conditions that must be fulfilled if the Government is to take cognizance of the allegations of dumping of foreign goods in the Australian market is that the goods alleged to have been dumped enter into competition with similar commodities manufactured in Australia, and therefore their introduction is detrimental to Australian industry. I remind honorable members as well as people outside who make these allegations of dumping that it is incumbent upon them to produce evidence in support of the charges.
– The woollen industry is a responsible organization.
– The Customs Department is at all times prepared to investigate thoroughly any definite charge of dumping, and I repeat that for some considerable time past no specific case has been brought to its notice.
– Does the Minister mean therehas been no specific case in recent years?
– To be quite safe I would say that there have been few specific charges of dumping in recent months. If any definite charge is made the department will take adequate steps not only in Australia but also through its organization in London to investigate it.
– Considerable difficulty arises in connexion with the costs of German goods.
– The honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Werriwa spoke of the advisability of manufacturing the complete motor car in Australia. The Government’s attitude on this matter was clearly stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last week. The Government is anxious to see the industry established on a sound economic basis so that it may become a valuable national asset. If, however, it is not possible to get the industry going on a. truly economic basis the country would be better without it. With this end in view the Government has invited firms or persons interested in the manufacture of motor cars to submit proposals. A number have been received and they are now being examined. In due course, a recommendation will be made.
– Will the Government consider the question of excise in connexion with this matter?
– That will be fully considered.
The honorable member for Werriwa spoke of excess profits in industry. When industries enjoy a considerable measure of protection there is always a risk that some manufacturers will take unfair advantage of the shelter that is afforded to them by the tariff, and in that way later show excess profits from the sale on their production. The Government is well aware of this fact and within recent weeks has taken action to inquire exhaustively into the affairs of certain companies which are suspected of making excess profits. When these investigations have been completed, certain action will be taken, if necessary.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) complained of delays in connexion with Tariff Board inquiries. I venture the opinion that some of the criticisms that have been levelled against the board should more properly be directed to instrumentalities which have no direct connexion with the board. In the short time that I have been administering the department, I have discussed with the chairman of the board suggestions to expedite the consideration of items that have been referred to it.
– Much of the delay occurs in the consideration of the reports by the Government.
– I agree with the honorable member. There is delay between the time when application is made and the granting of the application for an inquiry in respect of a particular item. If the reference to the board involves British manufacturers it is necessary by virtue of an arrangement which we have made with the British Government to give British manufacturers three months’ notice before the inquiry can be commenced. After investigations have been made by the board, probably the longest delay of all takes place between the time when the recommendation is made to the Government and the submission to Parliament of the schedule embodying a duty variation.
– How is it proposed to overcome that difficulty?
– It can only be overcome by dealing more expeditiously with the board’s recommendations, and I remind honorable members’ that it has been the custom in the past to include a large number of tariff items in the one schedule. I shall give careful consideration to any suggestion to minimize delays in future, but I would impress on honorable members that any attempt to hasten unduly consideration by the board of tariff items referred to it, may impair the value of its recommendations. If that body is unduly hurried in its investigations the possibility of erroneous recommendations in respect of particular industries will be very greatly increased.
– The Tariff Board arranges its own time-table for the consideration of items.
– When an investigation involves the taking of evidence from a large number of manufacturers in widely separated centres, it is the practice to divide the board so that evidence may be taken simultaneously by two members in different centres. In this way it is possible to expedite the inquiry. I commend the schedule to honorable members.
The general debate being concluded,
Division I. - Ales, Spirits and Beverages
Items 10 and 11 agreed to.
Division IV. - Agricultural Products and Groceries.
Items 54 and 91 agreed to.
Division V. - Textiles, Pelts and Furs, and Manufactures Thereof, and Attire
Items 105, 106, 107, 108, 110, 114, 122 and 129 agreed to.
Division VI. - Metals and Machinery.
Item 163(c) (Discs for agricultural implements).
.- I am at a loss to understand the reason for the increase of the duty. It should ho possible to obtain in Australia all of its requirements of iron and steel cheaper than in any other country. Some time ago discs for agricultural implements were duty free from Great Britain. Now there is a duty of 10 per cent, on this commodity which is so essential to primary producers. In 1926 when the Tariff Board made an exhaustive inquiry into the duties on agricultural machinery it said, in effect, that if people wished to buy imported machinery, they should be prepared to pay the extra price. The board did not take into account the enormous profits that have been made by those engaged in this industry. “We all know what a wonderful business has been established by H. V. Mackay Limited, but I fail to see why we should make millionaires of these people by giving them special concessions in the tariff. If the need were pressing, one could perhaps justify this action, hut it appears to me that it is not justifiable. With the raw material so cheap, and imports so expensive, the only effect is to add to the profits of firms that have been doing remarkably well. I object to all of these increases. I do not know whether honorable members read the balancesheets of these firms, and realize the enormous profits they have been making. It would appear that the idea is to develop manufacturing industries at no matter what cost or what profits. It is merely pandering to a rich crowd of manufacturers.
– I support the proposed rate of duty. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that some of these companies make excessive profits. But how are the industries of this country to be protected, and our people employed, if on the one hand a duty is refused unless an industry or a workshop becomes efficient, and furnishes proof of its efficiency to the Government, and on the other hand the duty is removed when efficiency has been attained? The honorable member for Swan cannot have it both ways.’ For years he has been consistent in his advocacy of low duties, or no duties at all. He always uses the argument that even a low rate of duty like that here proposed should be withheld, because large profits are made. The only alternative he has put forward is .to allow the parts of machinery to be imported, and the people who would otherwise pro duce them in Australia to be unemployed and live on the dole. I suggest that there is another alternative. When the honorable member had the opportunity to do so, he should have had the courage to make the Government retain the tax on the excess profits of these companies. We should encourage the development of manufacturing enterprises, and allow them to make as much profit as they like, but see that excess profits come back to the community. That is a view which the honorable member will never support. It is 30 years since a Labour government first discovered this difficulty. It wished to protect Australian industries, so that Australians might be employed and made efficient, and did so. To-day, everybody recognizes that that was a wise policy, because there is every reason why we should be efficient in our industrial undertakings. That government discovered ‘ what everybody now knows, namely, that in giving protection and thus helping to develop industries the way was paved for the making of large and excessive profits. Some persons would advocate the dismantling of the whole of these works and reversion to a free-trade basis. The government led by the late Mr.- Andrew Fisher endeavoured to overcome the difficulty in a logical, scientific way. Mr. Fisher suggested that, if necessary, the Constitution should be altered so as to add to the protective side of our tariff system what was called the new protection.
– The duty recommended by the Tariff Board in respect of this item is British Preferential, 10 per cent. ; General 25 per cent.
– The Tariff Board recommended a big reduction of duty on agricultural machinery, but its recommendation has never been given effect-
– The Tariff Board has examined the local production costs and the balance-sheets of the company, and is convinced that the Australianmade discs are being sold at a price which permits of little, if any. reduction except through a decrease of raw material prices and labour costs. The fact that approximately one-half of the Australian demand has been supplied by the local manufacturer without any tariff protection, in competition with the principal overseas supplier, indicates that every care has been taken to reduce production costs. The board considers that the imposition of a protective duty is justified, and has recommended the moderate British preferential duty of 10 per cent. Such a duty represents an increase of about 6d. on the landed cost of the 20- inch disc. Protection on this scale should, therefore, secure to the local manufacturer a considerable proportion of the local market.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) believes that these discs are a product of the firm of H. V. McKay. That is not so. The application for this duty was made by a very small factory run by another firm of McKay. I was responsible for the reference to the Tariff Board, and the recommendation that the application be granted. An inquiry was held in 1934, on which occasion the Tariff Board made no recommendation, because it was expected thai overseas prices would rise; but that rise did not take place. A new inquiry was held, in consequence of which the board has recommended that a duty is necessary to protect the industry.
Regarding the remarks of the honorable member for Swan in respect of agricultural implements generally, may I point out that although the report of the. Tariff Board recommended the reduction of the duty on foreign agricultural implements that reduction was refused by the Government. I advised that the recommendation of the board be not accepted. Our trade balance with the United States of America was adverse, and the result of adherence to the higher rates of duty was that the International Harvester Company established a factory in Australia, in consequence of which an additional 500 men are now being given employment. That would not have happened had the policy of the honorable member for Swan and others who believe in low tariffs been approved by this Parliament.
Item agreed to.
Item 172 (a) (Clothes washing machines).
.- 1 am quite satisfied that every Labour member will vote for this increase of duty, because they prefer that women should have to go to the wash-tub rather than be enabled to use a washing machine. In order that some employment may be provided, all clothes washing machines for household use, whether electrically or power driven, have to carry a duty of .£3 or 25 per cent, under the British preferential tariff.
Item agreed to.
Item 174 agreed to.
Item 177(b). (Tractors and tractor parts).
.- I should like the Minister to explain the meaning of this item. I do not think that it involves an alteration of the duty on tractors. Presumably, winches imported with the machine will have to bear a special duty.
I impress on the Government the advisability of investigating the possibility of developing a tractor using producer gas. A very grave mistake would be made if the duty were increased on tractors generally, not only for roadmaking, but also for agricultural purposes. Many attempts have been made to develop a producer gas tractor, but up to the present it cannot be said that any degree of success has been attained. Some years ago I heard that a regulation had been passed in Italy providing that after a certain date no motor car would be allowed to travel in that country unless it was propelled by producer gas, but I believe that it was not enforced. There were some wonderful trials with a producer gas motor car. The Government might be justified in offering a bonus for the production of a producer gas tractor, which would reduce expenses very greatly in the country.
.- I support this item. These winches are of importance to Australia, and I am glad that the industry is progressing.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has referred to the use of producer gas. I should like his proposal to be tested. It would be an excellent idea in the wheat industry if the cost of working the tractor were reduced. The Government should make a full investigation of the suggestion. .
– I shall give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price). I inform the honorable member for Swan that this item refers to winches, which now are classified as an item separate from that dealing with the tractor with which they may have been imported.
Item agreed to.
Items 179, 180 and 181 agreed to.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (a) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: - “ (a) Lamps n.e.i., except lamps for cycles and motor cycles and miners’ portable acetylene lamps; lanterns n.e.i.; parts n.e.i. of lamps and lanterns, except wicks; lampware n.e.i. but not the columns or sheetmetal framework of street lamps, ad val., British, 5 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.
And in respect of sub-item (a) -
For each£ 1 by which the equivalent in Australian currency of £100 sterling is less than £125 at the date of exportation- an additional duty of, ad val., British, . 8per cent.; intermediate, . 8 per cent.; general, . 8 per cent.”
– I move -
That item 206(a),asproposed to bo amended, be further amended, as follows: - “And on and after 11th May, 1939 -
And in respect of sub-item (a) -
For each £1 by which the equivalent in Australian currency of £100 sterling is less than £125 at the date of exportation - an additional duty of, ad val., British, . 8 per cent.; intermediate, . 8 per cent.; general, . 8 per cent.”
The purpose of the amendment I have just moved is to ensure that parts n.e.i. of miners’ portable acetylene lamps, when imported separately,shall be classifiable under the same tariff item as the complete lamp. Consequent upon therecommendations made by the Tariff
Board, action was taken in the tariff proposals of the 7th December last to exclude miners’ portable acetylene lamps from the item now before the committee. As the result of those proposals, the lamps concerned have been classifiable, as on and from the 8th December last, under item 208 (a), as “manufactures of metal n.e.i.” at rates of duty of, mainly, 333/4 per cent. British, and 65 per cent, general. It is, however, possible, in view of the existing wording of item 206 (a), for the protection, which it was intended should be accorded to the local industry, to be largely nullified by merchants importing metal parts for the assembly of these lamps at the lower rates of duty under item 206 (a). The amendment I have just moved will, with the committee’s approval, ensure that the tariff classification of imported parts of miners’ portable acetylene lamps, which are not specifically provided for in the tariff, will follow the complete lamp. The Tariff Board has advised that the action now proposed would give effect to its intentions in respect of the particular class of lamp under consideration.
Amendment agreed to.
Item as amended agreed to.
Division VII. - Oils, Paints and Varnishes.
Items 225, 229a, and 232 agreed to.
Division VIII. - Earthen ware,
Cement, China, Glass and Stone
Items 234, 242, 250 and 255 agreed to.
Division IX. - Drugs and Chemicals.
Items 268, 271 and 281 agreed to.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (c) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: -
– I move -
That item 290 (c) be amended by adding the following paragraph : -
Joss Sticks, British, free; intermediate, free; general, free.
When the tariff proposals of December, 1938, were being drafted, joss sticks, previously covered by item 290 (c) (3) in the 1933-1938 tariff, were inadvertently omitted from the proposed item 290 (c), and the amendmentwhich I have just moved is for the purpose of rectifying this omission. The rates of duty now proposed for joss sticks are the same as those already embodied in the schedule to the 1933-1938 tariff.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Division X. -Wood, Wicker and Cane
Item 305 (g) (Hairdressers’ and opticians’ chairs).
.- This item includes dental chairs, and I ask the Minister to consider a suggestion for either deferring consideration of it, or of having an investigation instituted with the idea of making an alteration of duties in the next schedule. The manufacture of dental chairs in Australia is a new industry, which has been adversely affected by the alteration of duties. When the industry was first established, it was protected by a duty of 45 per cent. A good deal of capital was expended in an endeavour to make the industry efficient, so that it could produce a good, low-priced chair at a reasonable profit. The product with which it came into competition at that time was a high-priced English ‘ chair, and an undertaking was given by the British manufacturers at: the Tariff Board inquiry that they would not compete in the low-priced field against the Australian chairs. Notwithstanding that undertaking, the British manufacturers eventually entered the low-priced field, and so keen did the competition become that the Australian product was put off the market. The British manufacturers, having succeeded in reducing the Australian trade to negligible proportions, applied to the Tariff Board to have English chairs admitted duty free. While this was going on, the Australian industry was reorganizedwith the idea of producing an even cheaper chair.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).There is no reference in this item to dental chairs.
– But dental chairs are included in the item.
– I understand that they are not.
– I ask the Minister to have the matter reviewed. Dental chairs and hairdressers’ chairs are very similar. It is possible to pull teeth from a patient in a barber’s chair almost as well as from one in a dentist’s chair. In fact, I understand that, in the old days, the one chair was used for the two operations of shaving and tooth-pulling. During the last Tariff Board inquiry, the British manufacturers gave an undertaking that, as their product was dearer, and not coming into competition with the Australian product, the Australian industry would not be affected. The Australian manufacturers accepted the undertaking in good faith, but it was not honoured by the British manufacturers. After the Australian factory has completed some fairly substantial orders for the Sydney University and for the Defence Department, it will be compelled to close down. When the Tariff Board inquiry was held, it was estimated that the total requirements of the Australian market would be not more than 40 chairs a year. In 1937, the Australian factoryproduced 63 chairs, in 1938, 65 chairs, while this year it is estimated that the market will absorb 87 chairs. I ask the Minister to give consideration to my request, because this could become a considerable Australian industry.
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
Item agreed to.
Division XII. - Hides, Leather and Rubber.
Item 331 agreed to.
Division XIII. - Paper and Stationery.
Items 334, 338, 340 and 346 agreed to.
Division XIV. - Vehicles.
Item 352 agreed to.
Division XVI. - Miscellaneous.
Items 368, 380, 390, 397 and 441 agreed to.
Preliminary paragraphs :
– I move -
That paragraph ( 1 ) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph: “ ( 1 ) That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1938, be amended as hereinafter set out, and that, on and after the eighth day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory,duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff 1933-1938 as so amended”.
This is a formal amendment, the purpose of which is to bring the preliminary wording in line with the existing Customs Tariff. When the schedule was first introduced, several other tariff schedules which were before the House had not been enacted, and it was necessary to make reference to them. Those schedules have either now been passed, and form part of the Customs Tariff 1933-1938, or have been specifically covered by a Validation Act. It is necessary now to make a reference to the 1933-1938 tariff only.
– Why has the time at Canberra been taken as the standard? We know that the standard time varies in different parts of Australia.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the definition of “ Customs Tariff Proposals”, paragraph (5) be omitted.
This also is a formal amendment, and is consequential upon the previous amendment which makes this section of the preliminary paragraphs redundant.
Amendment agreed to.
Preliminary paragraphs, as amended, agreed to.
Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. John Lawson and Mr. Street do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. John Lawson, and read a first and a second time.
.- When does the Minister propose to bring Tariff Schedule No. 7 before Parliament to enable it to be dealt with item by item? A few years ago the Customs Tariff Act was amended to provide that no tariff schedule would become operative unless it was approved by Parliament within six months from the date it was tabled. The Government has been getting over that amendment by unfair and unjust methods.
– I cannot name any specific date on which I shall he able to introduce that schedule, but I assure the honorable member it will be introduced without avoidable delay.
Bill agreed to, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from the 7th December, 1938 (vide page 2841, vol. 158), on motion by Mr. Perkins (vide page 2839)-
That, on and after the Sth day of December, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, the Schedule to the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1933-1938 bo amended as follows . . .
– The amendments proposed to the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1933-1938 are consequential upon the alterations recently made to the Customs Tariff. During 1933, the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act was brought into operation for the purpose of providing reductions of duties having a protective incidence in order to offset to some extent the protective effect of exchange. Under that act all protective -duties were reduced, whilst the exchange position remained as at present, by one-quarter of the duty or one-eighth of the value for duty, whichever was the smaller. This arrangement, being of a general nature and covering the whole protective field, in some instances allowed reductions of duty which were greater than the protective effect of exchange and, in other cases, did not sufficiently provide for the effect of the exchange. Since that act was brought into operation, the Tariff Board has taken into consideration the protective effect which the exchange has had on the particular goods dealt with, and in adopting the Tariff Board’s recommendations the new tariff items make provision for an exchange correction which is suitable for the particular goods covered by the item. When such items are placed in the tariff it is necessary, therefore, for the items to be excluded from the general terms of the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1933-1938 in order to prevent the operation of two reductions on account of exchange. It is for this reason that the amendments now proposed are brought forward. As previously stated the amendments are consequential upon action already taken by the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. John Lawson and Mr. Spender do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. John Lawson, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 5th May (vide page 174), on motion by Mr. Perkins -
That the bill be now reada second time.
– This measure simply provides for the registration of aliens, and imposes on aliens upon failure to register or to notify any change of address penalties similar to those that apply to Australians under the electoral law in respect of like offences. It is only right that some trace should be kept of the movements of aliens in this country, and certain suggestions might well be considered by the Minister for inclusion in this legislation relating, not to any particular class of aliens, but to aliens generally. At present aliens are allowed to move about the Commonwealth as they desire, with the result that their whereabouts become unknown. I do not suggest that every alien, or migrant, who comes here, apart from British migrants, is of doubtful character. “We admit that many of the aliens now in Australia have proved good settlers and have helped to develop this country, and we should welcome the arrival of any aliens of similar good character. However, it is essential that some record should be kept of their movements once they enter this country. Objection has been taken that the residential qualification of five years for naturalization is too long. I believe that the weight of evidence is against that view. It is just as well that we should make ourselves fully acquainted with the character of aliens before we allow them to become naturalized. When I was in charge of the Department of Home and Territories, which then controlled this branch, I found no objection raised to the length of this period. Rather was it the experience of the department at that time that, generally speaking, aliens not only failed to apply for naturalization at the end of that period but also rarely made such application until they were approaching pensionable age. I am not denying their right to a pension in such circumstances, but simply pointing out that so far as my experience went the residential qualification of five years proved no hardship to aliens.
Another point dealt with by honorable members concerned the settlement of aliens in groups apart from the remainder of the community. It would be unwise to encourage such a practice in this or any other country. We have seen the difficulties which have confronted the United States of America as the result of such a. practice.
– But the bill does not deal with that difficulty.
– No. I am now merely suggesting that the Minister might give it prompt consideration.
The department should also consider devising ways and means to enable migrants to learn to speak and write the English language . as early as possible. We should not allow aliens settled in groups in this country to establish their own schools unless we can ‘be assured that the children will be taught English. In anycase all such schools should be under the control of the Education Department of the State in which they are situated.
The third suggestion I make is that the investigation branch of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, or of the Defence Department, or both, should be advised of the movements of alien migrants who come here. They should also be informed of the number of children in the family. All migrants should be subjected to a language test at the expiration of, say, three years after their arrival. It is urgently necessary that the movements of aliens should be registered, for reasons which are apparent in certain parts of the Commonwealth, at any rate. I have in mind Sydney, in particular. I know that certain organizations established there consist entirely of aliens.
– They are mostly Fascist organizations.
– I agree with the honorable member. Such organizations should not be allowed to exist . and hold meetings in a country like Australia. I do not subscribe to the beliefs of the members of these organizations.
Mr. -Gander. - Surely the honorable member would not call Mr. Eric Campbell a Fascist!
– I do not know the gentleman, and I am not accustomed to criticizing people whom I do not know. We should welcome aliens from nations of our own colour, provided that they are willing to accept the conditions of living and the laws of this country. The former Minister for the Interior, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), made an excellent speech on this bill last week. He dealt seriatim with the various points that have been advanced in the debate, and made some excellent suggestions which the Government should very seriously consider.
We desire to foster and develop British traditions in this country, and to maintain our percentage of British stock. I was very glad to hear the honorable member for Indi declare that our percentage of British stock, which is set down at 98per cent., is being maintained, notwithstanding the number of aliens admitted to Australia, in recent years. It would be good for Australia, also, if additional British capitalwere invested here. I do not assent to certain propositions made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in connexion with the fiscal policy of the country. I believe that the greatest goodwe can do for Australia is to encourage the establishment of new industries. We are allwell aware of the extraordinary difficulty encountered by our boyswhen they leave school and seek employment. In New South
Wales, probably 50,000 people are unemployed at the moment, many of whom are boys who have recently left school. Our industrial arbitration law should be amended to ensure that these boys shall have an opportunity to obtain work.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the hill.
– It is also necessary, I believe, that Ave should establish our national health and pensions insurance scheme as early as possible in order to encourage migrants to come here.
– Order ! This bill has nothing to do with national insurance. The honorable member must confine his remarks to the registration of aliens.
– It is extraordinary to me that some honorable members should offer a protest against our requiring alien migrants to comply with a law “exactly similar to a law enforced against Australians and migrants’ of British stock. All of the electors of this country are compelled to register and their movements are traceable. The movements of aliens should also be recorded.
We have a just ground for complaint, I believe, in regard to allegations made from time to time that money which is sent overseas by aliens in Australia to enable their compatriots to enter this country is returned to the senders when the new migrants arrive and is then again remitted abroad to enable other people of the same race to come here. This, of course, is an evasion of the intention of the law, and action should be taken to render a continuation of the practice impossible. The Government should compel aliens who enter Australia to lodge a certain amount of money with a prescribed authority,which amount should be held at least for such a period as will enable the authorities to satisfy themselves that thosewho deposit it will make desirable Australian citizens. The money could then be returned. Iwonder whether all honorable members realize that even Australian-born citizenswho leave this country to go to Commonwealth territories such as Papua, New Guinea, Nauru and Ocean Island are obliged to lodge £50 with the Administration unless they are going, to positions in that territory. The money is held until the person lodging it returns to Australia or leaves the territory to which he has gone. The adoption of this policy was necessary because it was found some years ago that many people were going from Australia to certain territories in search of work which was not to be had, and when they became destitute the Government was put to the expense of deporting them to Australia. It would be quite reasonable to require alien migrants to lodge a sum of money with the authorities until such time as they became naturalized citizens. All aliens who come here should have to register, and our investigation officers should he called upon to report as to whether they are likely to become good citizens of Australia. If after the expiry of a specified time, it was found that certain individuals were not likely to be assimilated in our community the money that they had lodged could be used to pay their deportation expenses. The adoption of such a practice would, in my opinion, inflict no hardship on any one. ‘Certainly the cost of, deportation in such circumstances should not be a charge upon the Government,
– Does the honorable member propose that money so lodged should be placed in the Commonwealth Bank to the credit of the individual concerned, and that he should be paid interest thereon?
– I should be quite prepared to agree to that course. If the Government holds a person’s money in such circumstances, it could be lodged with the bank, and the person should receive the bank interest on it.
I am aware that some of the matters with which I have been dealing are not dealt with in the bill, but it is not often that honorable members are afforded an opportunity to make suggestions on these subjects. For that reason I have availed myself of this opportunity to do so. I hope the Government will favorably consider my proposals.
Finally, may I remind the members of the Country party that it is in the interest of the primary producers that we should increase the population of Australia and so enlarge the home market for our primary products. This is the best way for us to protect and develop Australia, lt is not desirable that groups of aliens should be ^allowed to establish themselves here without supervision. That policy must be inimical to the best interests of the mental, physical and industrial development of the country.
.- I support the contention of the honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that alien migrants should be afforded the earliest possible opportunity to become naturalized citizens. If they are people of right type they will undoubtedly be prepared to recognize that the country in which they are obtaining their living is entitled to their full allegiance. Such people would also willingly accept all the responsibilities of citizenship. Some honorable members appear to be afraid to trust the migrants. Personally, I would trust some of them more than I would trust some of the British migrants whom I have known.
– I could very soon introduce the honorable member to some migrants whom he would not trust.
– I do not trust the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in some respects. Migrants generally come here because they want work. People should give their allegiance to the country which provides them with work. Everything possible should be done to .teach migrants the English language. The sooner these people learn to speak and write English the sooner will they understand the conditions under which they should be working. At present the migrants arriving in this country are not highly educated. In fact [ have been told that some employers are doing their best to encourage the entry into Australia of uneducated people so that they may be exploited for industrial purposes. Many complaints have been made that unscrupulous employers are paying alien workers less than award rates and threatening them that if they do not work hard they will be prevented from becoming naturalized citizens. That policy is being applied, I understand, by some employers in Melbourne and other capital cities. It seems certain that alien migrants are being brought here with the definite object of reducing wage rates and living standards of this country. I should like to see in the hill a clause to provide for the imposition of heavy penalties on employers who exploit migrants who cannot speak the English language and are unable to understand the nature of the awards under which they are supposed to work.
– They should be put in gaol.
– The bill should provide for a fine of £500 for any employer found guilty of exploiting migrants in that way. There is no doubt that this kind of exploitation is taking place. Indeed, in Sydney and Melbourne, there is almost an organized system of exploitation of migrants. These unfortunate people are easy victims to unscrupulous employers.
– Why does not the honorable member report such breaches of awards ?
– I am reporting thom now in the place where they should be reported. A previous Minister of the Interior has told us that the department has an inspector to police awards, but more than one such officer is required. Additional inspectors should be appointed, and they should co-operate with trade union organizers in protecting aliens in our midst. We want these people to become good Australian citizens ; but they will not do so unless they are treated as Australians. They should be paid proper rates of wages and be freed from the threat of exploitation by unscrupulous employers, some of whom will not recommend naturalization.
Instead of bringing large numbers of migrants to Australia, the Government would- do well to find employment for Australians who are out of work.
– Just now the honorable member advocated the encouragement of migration.
– The honorable member who has interjected, drew a big salary as a Minister in a previous government but he did nothing. Finally the United Australia party got tired of him and put him out of office. It is only right that migrants who come here should be supervised, but in the event of trouble arising with other nations, they should not be treated as criminals. There is no need to fear that it will be difficult to control them should they become naturalized citizens; as such they are subject to more restrictions than are unnaturalized persons in our midst. In the event of war, an Australian citizen, whether natural-born or naturalized, can be given heavy sentences.
In the event of war breaking out, aliens should not indiscriminately be placed in concentration camps. Such things should not be done in a democratic country.
– It is well to keep an eye on them.
Mi’. MAHONEY. - I do not think so. If the migrants are carefully selected, they should become good citizens. In my opinion, the aliens who make the best citizens are those who quickly learn to speak the (English language. Such persons know what, is going on around them; they can be organized, and warned of the danger of exploitation. As an organizer, I know that many migrants have been fleeced because they could not speak our language, and did not understand our laws. It is almost impossible to induce young men from England, Scotland or Ireland to come to Australia. Those countries have no surplus men ; they require them al! for their own development and defence. Consequently, we must look to other parts of the world for migrants, if migration is to be encouraged. I have known many excellent men and women who have come here from other countries. They and their children have become excellent Australian citizens. I do not know why the Government should be so perturbed about the control of migrants after they come here, unless it be that there is no proper system of selection, and men are ‘brought here merely to break down the conditions and standard of living of Australian workers. I agree that migrants should not, be allowed to form colonies; but if we are to prevent that, we must extend to them the hand of .friendship, accept them as brothers, and help them to live among us as neighbours. If they are shunned by Australians, they will find it more difficult to understand our language, with the result that they will congregate in colonies where they will speak their native tongue until the day of their death.
We should encourage them to become naturalized Australian citizens, and if we treat them kindly we shall find that they will respond.
I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that aliens in our midst who fail to register should not be treated harshly. We all know that many Australians fail to have their names placed on the electoral rolls, and it is only natural that some aliens will fail to register. The best results will be obtained by treating them properly, for by so doing we shall demonstrate the superiority of our democratic form of government. There are many in our midst who desire that migrants shall come to Australia in hundreds to work for low wages in mills, mines and factories, and to act as strike-breakers in the event of industrial trouble arising. 1’ want to be sure that any policy of migration will protect Australian workers, and enable boys and girls from our schools to find employment in industry. Our first duty is to our. own people. If indiscriminate migration on a large scale is encouraged, we shall have more Australians out of work, and living on the miserable dole, while foreigners receive employment. The Government has not done anything to help the native-born people of this country, for it has lent a deaf ear to every proposal to improve the position of Australians who are unemployed. I warn the Government that its policy of migration may lead to thousands of Australians being displaced by foreigners. Should that happen, the position of Australia will be worse than it is to-day. The young men of this country have a right to a place in industry, and to an opportunity to become good Australian citizens.
I again protest against the exploitation of migrants, and urge that everything possible be done to enable them to become Australian citizens at the earliest possible moment. I particularly stress the need for them to become acquainted with our language, so that they may live among us as fellow citizens and their children may become Australians in a generation. I am opposed to the introduction of migrants of mature years. I want young people to come here who will get married and rear families. Any man who refuses to take unto himself a wife and share the responsibility of citizenship is not worthy to be called an Australian. Instead of looking overseas for migrants to fill the empty spaces in Australia, we should so improve the conditions under which our own people are living, that our men and women would proudly declare their intention to become married and rear families . to share the prosperity which they would enjoy in this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hutchinson) adjourned.
The following ‘ papers were pre sented : -
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year 1937-38.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1939 -
No. 7 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 8 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 9 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union ofAustralia.
No. 10 - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Georgetown, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
House adjourned at 9.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has any decision yet been arrived at with regard to the request of Cossack Lightering and Traders Limited for compensation of £10,000, being the estimated loss of freight for one year by the ship King Bay, due to the Government’s embargo on the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound?
– Yes. The matter was carefully examined, but the Government considered that there were no proper grounds for granting the request.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the activity at present being displayed by competitive wheat-exporting countries in securing markets for their exportable surpluses, will he give an indication to the House as to when he will take steps to arrange for a select committee, as promised by himself, to inquire into the several schemes propounded for the stabilization of the wheatgrowing industry in Australia?
– The Government is at present considering the general question of the position of the wheat industry, and a statement as to its intentions will be made as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
Non-official Post Offices.
i asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What is the standard, relative to revenue, required from a non-official post office having savings bank facilities, selling stamps and postal notes, and receiving telegrams, to warrant money order facilities being granted?
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
e asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What is the number of tubercular exAustralian Imperial Force soldiers receiving
How many tubercular, ex- Australian imperial Force soldiers who served in a “ theatre of war “ are not in receipt of a war pension?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Eligible for service pension, 837; (b) accepted as due to war service, 2391. Of the latter class, pensions are paid as follows: - (1) Minimum rate of 100 per cent., 896; (2) light work,365; (3) temporarily or permanently totally incapacitated, 1130; total. 2391.
Note. - War pension statistics are available only as at the 30th June in each year. Service pension figures arc as at the 31st March, 1939.
s. - On Thursday, the 4th
May, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
It is understood that New South Wales will add to the amount given above for that State.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
Formation of New Government: Communications with GovernorGeneral.
s. - On the 9th May the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked the following question, without notice -
Will the Prime Minister have inquiries made in his department to see whether any written communications passed between his predecessor and the Governor-General regarding the recent change of government? Ifso, will he lay any relevant papers on the table of the House for the information of honorable members ?
I desire to inform the honorable member that I have had inquiries made and have ascertained that the only relevant correspondence on the subject is a copy of a communication dated the 20th April, 1939, from the Right Honorable Sir Earle Page to His Excellency the Governor-General tendering his resignation as “Chief Adviser and Head of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia “.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390510_reps_15_159/>.