18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– It was disclosed in a .debate yesterday that a copy of a security file not only had reached an unauthorized person, but also was actually used in the preparation of election propaganda. Having regard to these facts, I ask the Prime Minister, first, what measures have been adopted to ensure the safety of the files of the Security Service that are now in existence; and, secondly, in view of the fact that many files may contain information of varying degrees of credibility, secured in the special circumstances of war, and having regard to citizens of Australia, whether the Government will consider an examination of -the files by a competent person or authority, -and the subsequent destruction, under close supervision, of all those files which can be of no further value?
– The Attorney-General will answer the’ question.
– The only instance of any misuse of a document known to the Government is the instance to which I referred yesterday. The right honorable gentleman’s suggestion will be taken into consideration.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has decided to defer consideration of the Bretton Woods Agreement until next year. Was the time within which the agreement might be ratified by Australia or any other nation which had not yet ratified it extended to the 31st December next? If Australia ratifies the .agreement before that date, may it fix its own rate of parity of exchange with the dollar? If it joins at some date subsequent to the 31st December next, will it lose its right to do so, and may the rate at which it .may become a member of the International Fund and the International
Bank be such as the other members of the fund may decide? In view of grave risk to the internal economy of Australia if the agreement bo not ratified by the 31st December next, will the Prime Minister state the reasons for the Government’s decision not to proceed with a matter of such urgent national importance before the rising of the Parliament in the near future 1
– The Parliamentary Labour party has decided to defer the final consideration of whether Australia will become a member of the International Fund and the International Bank and sign the Bretton Woods Agreement. The decision to defer action means that Australia will not join as an original member, because, in order to become an original member, according to present arrangements, action to that end would have to be taken before the 31st December next. By joining after that date I understand, that Australia would enter under conditions to be determined by the management of the fund. As for the reasons for deferring consideration of this matter by the Parliament, and for not joining as an original member, I should have to make a long speech if I were to state them all.
– The Prime Minister will have to make the explanation before Parliament rises.
– Honorable members -opposite have had much to say on this subject. I too, could say a good deal, and give reasons, but . I do not propose to weary the House now. I shall in due course set out some of the reasons why the party and the Government believe that, at this time, it is not desirable to join.
– Is it a fact that Australia’s failure to join the International Fund and the International Bank under the Bretton Woods agreement within the time specified will mean that Australia will be deprived of the opportunity to be represented on the governing board .which will determine the policy and administration of the bank for the next twelve months?
– There is no certainty that, even if Australia joined im mediately, it would be able to have a member appointed to the board. -
– But there is a strong possibility.
– There was a possibility, but I cannot say more than that. It is merely an assumption that by joining now we should have had a member appointed to the controlling authority. I do not think that such an opportunity will occur again until about 1948, but i cannot be definite on that. It is clear, at any rate that, by not joining immediately, Australia will not be precluded for all time from being represented on the managing authority.
– Has the substance of Mr. Melville’s latest report to the Government on the Bretton Woods Agreement been conveyed to Government supporters? If so, will the Prime Minister supply similar information to members of the Opposition?
– A number of reports were submitted by Mr. Melville. The initial report which was prepared by him and by Mr. Wheeler, “who also attended the Bretton Woods Conference, was circulated to honorable members generally. At a later stage Mr. Melville attended the Savannah Conference as an observer and submitted a report thereon for the information of the Government. That report has not been distributed to other than members of the Cabinet.
– Owing to the high importance to Australia of the ratification or otherwise of the Bretton Woods Agreement, I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question on the subject. I point out that several statements of a conflicting character have appeared in the press on this subject during the last two or three weeks. Since the report has come before Cabinet we have been told, first, that the Government had decided to’ ratify the agreement, then that the Executive of the Australian Labour party had decided, by a majority vote, on ratification; now we have been informed by the Prime Minister that as the result of a. decision of the Parliamentary Labour party to-day, it has been decided that nothing shall be done about the matter for the time being. Seeing that so much discussion of this subject of paramount importance to the people of Australia has occurred outside of the Parliament, I ask the Prime Minister when honorable members will he. given full information on the matter, and provided with an opportunity to discuss it?
– The only statement that I have made has been that Cabinet had decided to recommend that Australia should become a party to the agreement by 31st December next. The Parliamentary Labour party has decided to defer a decision on the matter - a decision which it was entitled to make. It is the duty of the Government to place business before the Parliament, and a detailed statement on the Bretton Woods Agreement was made to this House when I spoke on the subject some little time ago. If the Leaders of the Opposition parties desire an opportunity for a discussion I shall be pleased to consult with them to ascertain when it can be provided.
– Earlier in this sessional period, I asked the Prime Minister whether he would lay on the table of the House any reports which the Government had received in connexion with the Bretton Woods Agreement from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the Governor of the Bank of England, and the Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States of America. The right honorable gentleman undertook to make inquiries and to decide whether any reports which had been received could be laid on the table of the House. I now ask him whether he has made the inquiry, and whether he will table any reports that have been received.
– I had a conversation with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank on this subject, hut no report has been received from him or from the Governor of the Bank of England or from the Federal Reserve Bank.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Clark, Dr. Evatt, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Hutchinson, Mr. McEwen, Mr. Sheehan and Mr. Williams be members of the Committee nf Privileges; five to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Beazley, Mr. Brennan, Air. Duthie, Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. White be members of the Library Committee; three to form a quorum.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say when the unfortunate boycott on Dutch ships in Australian ports will be terminated ? Are the representatives of the so-called Indonesian Republic to be invited by Australia and New Zealand to attend the conference in Canberra in January in connexion with the appointment of a regional commission on native welfare and other matters?
– The answer to the second part of the honorable member’s question is “ No “. As for the first part,
I have nothing to add to the answers previously given by the Prime Minister.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs make a statement regarding the murder in Java about nine months ago of three Australian officers by Indonesians, and state whether anythinghas yet been done to apprehend the offenders and bring them to trial? Has the Government made any decision regarding the suggestion which I have made on more than one occasion in this House that a demand should be made for financial reparation in order to alleviate the lot o£ the dependants of the men who were murdered in the course of their duty whilst seeking information about missing Australians ?
– This is the first time that a question has been addressed to me on the subject. The honorable member must have asked his previous questions during my absence. I regard this as a very important matter, and I agree that some compensation should be paid. We sent an officer to Indonesia especially to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the murders. I shall ascertain the position, as a matter of urgency, and inform the honorable member.
– A lot has been said about the alleged ill-treatment of aborigines in Northern Australia. Before honorable members take any notice of such statements, I ask them to obtain a report from station managers in the north, and from their wives, on this subject. These people are charged with the responsibility of developing those remote areas for the benefit of “ tenderfoots “ who follow in later years. Has the Minister for the Interior seen the fantastic statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 3rd December attributed to the secretary of the North Australian Workers Union, Mr. J. Walker, alleging shocking maltreatment and cruelty to aborigines in outback areas? Has he received a report from Mr. Walker upon the subject, and has he any knowledge of a public allegation by Mr. Walker that a gin was tied to a tree and belted to death ? Will the honorable gentleman cause a thorough inquiry to be made into thisand other allegations by Mr. Walker?
– I have not received a report from Mr. Walker concerning the allegations to which the honorable member has referred. My attention was, however, drawn to a report concerning them which appeared in a Melbourne evening newspaper. I immediately took action to have the allegations investigated and I intend to ask Mr. Walker to substantiate his allegations.
– Is it a fact that little or no Canadian salmon will be available in Australia during the next three or four months? If so, will the Government arrange for the Division of Import Procurement to obtain supplies of salmon from Siberia?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and ascertain whether the honorable member’s assessment of the supply position is correct, and, if so, whether any action can be taken to obtain increased supplies.
– I ask leave to reply to a question asked last week by the honorable member for Wimmera in regard to tools of trade for ex-service personnel.
– Is leave granted ?
Opposition Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
– Has the Minister seen the report in the press that the parents of a nineteen-year-old Australian merchant seaman named Ronald Machin, who died in Perth last week of tuberculosis, claim that the Australian authorities abandoned him in New York, and that the seaman himself stated on his return that Australian officials had’ visited him in hospital only after the New York press had publicized his case? Has the right honorable gentleman also seen the claim by the seaman’s parents that seven months elapsed after the boy was admitted to a sanatorium before the Department of External Affairs informed Mrs. Machin that her son had advanced tuberculosis? Will he make immediate inquiries and ensure that Australian nationals in other countries will not in future be victims of such serious neglect?
– I did read a report, which appeared in the press, in relation to this case, and I immediately had inquiries made into the circumstances. Without going into all the details, I inform the honorable member that the man in question was at Baltimore, where he was looked after by the British Consulate. Subsequently, the Australian Consulate was established at New York, and the officials there did everything possible to assist him. This young man apparently was suffering from tuberculosis in an advanced stage. When he finally arrived in Australia, his relatives sent to the department a letter thanking the various government agencies for the special consideration that they had extended to him. If the honorable member for Franklin is interested in all the details, I shall furnish a full report, which covers three pages. Whenever such a situation as this arises, the Commonwealth officials abroad take the utmost care. Evidence of that is provided by the special letter from the relatives of this young man.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform the House how many naval personnel with experience of mine disposal have been demobilized in the last three months? Will the honorable gentleman also inform me how many have been demobilized in the last fortnight?
Mr.RIORDAN.- I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable member.
Dutchand Swiss Nationals
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform me whether the published report from Holland that the Commonwealth Government has intimated to the Dutch Government that Dutch migrants will be welcomed in Australia is correct? What kind of reception does the Minister expect that this proposal will receive from the Dutch, in view of the pro-Indonesian, anti-Dutch attitude of the present Government, as revealed by the refusal of waterside workers to load Dutch ships in Australian ports?
– In the statement which I read to this House a fortnight ago, I made it perfectly clear that negotiations were proceeding between the Australian Government and the Dutch Government for the completion of a scheme of assisted passages to Australia for Dutch nationals. Since I made the statement, negotiations have proceeded quite satisfactorily, and I believe that next year we may see the arrival here of a limited number of young Dutchmen. The number will not be very great, but it will be a beginning, and ultimately we expect to see a flow to Australia of Dutch and Swiss, because negotiations are proceeding between the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and the Swiss Consul-General in Australia for a similar scheme for assisted migration. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government to the Netherlands East Indies question, as I understand it - and I have been closely associated with the repatriation of approximately 2,700 Indonesians, all of whom left this country voluntarily - has been neither pro-Indonesian nor proDutch; and it has not been antiIndonesion nor anti-Dutch.
Dr. EVATT (Barton - Attorney-
General and Minister for External Affairs). - by leave - Recently the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) asked me to furnish information to the House describing and summarizing the modifications that Australia had proposed to the Trusteeship Agreement in relation to New Guinea. With the permission of the House I incorporate in Hansard the following statement, in tabular form, setting out the draft proposed by Australia and the amendments that have been suggested : -
Preamble: The Territory of New Guinea has been administered in accordance with Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and in pursuance ofa mandate conferred upon His Brittanic Majesty and exercised on His behalf by the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
India: Insert in the preamble between second and third clauses the following new clauses: - “Whereas included in the purposes of the United Nations are the principles of equal rights and self-determination of the peoples “ and “ Whereas the Charter provides as the basic objective of the trusteeship system the self-government or independence of each territory andthe peoples according to the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.”
The Territory to which this agreement applies (hereinafter called the Territory) consists of that portion of the island of New Guinea and the group of islands administered therewith under the Mandate dated 17th December, 1920, conferred upon His Brittanic Majesty and exercised by the Government of Australia.
The Government of Australia (hereinafter called the administering authority) is hereby designated as the sole authority which will exercise the administration of the Territory.
The administering authority undertakes to administer the Territory in accordance with the provisions of the Charter and in such manner as to achieve in the Territory the basic objectives of the international trusteeship system, which are set forth in Article 70 of the Charter.
The administering authority will be responsible for the peace, order, good government and defence of the Territory and for this purpose will have the same powers of legislation, administration and jurisdiction in and over the Territory as if it were an integral part of Australia] and will be entitled to apply to the Territory, subject to such modifications as
No amendments proposed.
India: Delete all words after “the Government of Australia” and substitute the following words: - “to act on behalf of the United Nations who shall be the administering authority in terms of Article 81 of the Charter and the said Government of Australia will exercise in accordance with the Charter and on behalf of the United Nations, the functions of the administering authority.”
United Slates of America: Add a second sentence - “The administering authority also undertakes to apply the addition;! I principles laid down in Articles 73 and 74.
Netherlands : Add to the sentence- “ with due recognizance of the principles embodied in Article 73 of the Charter, namely that the interests of the inhabitants of the Territory are paramount and taking account of the obligations accepted in that Article and in Article 74 of the Charter.
Byelorussia-: New paragraph 2 - “ The administering authority shall take measures for the development of democratic organization* of representation of the people suited to New Guinea. To this end and as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Territory and its peoples, the administering authority shall insure to the inhabitants of Now Guinea a progressively increasing share in the administrative and other services of the territory, shall develop the participation of the inhabitants of New Guinea, with a view to proceeding at the necessary moment and under the direction of the Trusteeship Council to the requisite consultations in order to give the inhabitants the opportunity to express themselves freely on the question of their political regime in accordance with Article 76 (6) of the Charter of the United Nations.
United States of America-: Add at the beginning of the Article - “ To this end “.
China: Change last phrase to read - “Such laws of the Commonwealth of Australia as it deems appropriate to the needs and conditions of the Territory and are in conformity with the letter and spirit of the Charter of the United Nations.” it deems desirable, such laws of the Commonwealth of Australia as it deems appropriate to the needs and conditions of the Territory.
It is agreed that the administering authority, in the exercise of its powers under Article 4, will be at liberty to bring the Territory into a customs, fiscal or administrative union or federation with other dependent territories under its jurisdiction or control, and to establish common services between the Territory and any or all of these territories, if in its opinion it would be in the interests of the Territory and not inconsistent with the basic objectives of the trusteeship system to do so.
The administering authority further undertakes to apply in the Territory the provisions of such international agreements and such recommendations of the specialized agencies referred to in Article 57 of the Charter as are, in the opinion of the administering authority, suited to the needs and conditions of the Territory and conducive to the achievement of the basic objectives of the trusteeship system.
The administering authority may take all measures in the Territory which it considers desirable to provide for the defence of the Territory and for maintenance of international peace and security.
India: To the second line add word “ local “ before “ Defence “. In phrase “ will have same powers of legislation “ delete word “ same “. For the words beginning from “ as if it were recommendations of the Territory” (as received) substitute as sub-clauseb “and shall ensure that it shall play its part in the furtherance of International Peace and Security “.
Soviet Union : Amended to read - “ The administering authority will be responsible for the peace, order, good government and defence of the Territory and for this purpose will have powers of legislation, administration and jurisdiction and over the Territory, insofar as this does not conflict with the terms of the present agreement and with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, will be entitled to apply to the Territory, subject to such modifications as it deems desirable, such laws of the Commonwealth of Australia as it deems appropriate to the needs and conditions of the Territory.
United States of America : Delete the words “ in its opinion “.
India: Delete whole article and substitute the following: - “It is agreed that the administering authority in the exercise of its powers under Article 4 will be at liberty to establish common services between the Territory and any other territories it would not be inconsistent with the objectives of the trusteeshi p hasten to do so “.
Soviet Union: Delete whole Article.
India: Delete whole Article and substitute the following: - “Article 7 (a) The administering authority may take all measures in the Territory which, it is necessary to provide for the local defence of the Territory, and (6) May take such other measures as it may be required or permitted to undertake by the Security Council for the furtherance of international peace and security “.
Soviet Union: Add following paragraph: - “ In case the abovementioned should include such measures as the establishment of military bases, construction of fortifications and maintenance of armed forces in the Territory of New Guinea, these measures shall be carried out on the basis of obligations to the Security Council assisted by the administering authority under Article 84 of the Charter and defined in a special Agreement on a strategic area which according to Article 83 of the Charter is subject to approval by the Security Council “.
Article S. - This Agreement is valid for the period of ten years at the end of which period it may be renewed with or without amendments at the discretion of the Trusteeship Council.
Article 9.- The inhabitants of New Guinea are possessed of, and shall retain, New Guinea identity and nationality.
Article 10. - The Mandatory shall secure to all nationals of States Members of the League of Nations the same rights as are enjoyed in the Territory by his own nationals in respect of entry into, and residence in the Territory, the protection afforded to their person and property, the acquisition of property, movable and immovable, and the exercise of their profession or trade, subject only to the requirements of public order, and on condition of compliance with the local law. further, thu Mandatory shall ensure to all nationals of States Members of the League of Nations, on thu same footing as to his own nationals, freedom of transit and navigation, and complete economic, commercial and industrial equality; provided that the Mandatory shall be free to organize essential public works and services on such terms and conditions as hu thinks just.
Concessions for the development of the natural resources of the Territory shall be granted by thu Mandatory without distinction on grounds of nationality between the nationals of all States Members of the League of Nations, but on such conditions as will maintain intact the authority of the Local Government.
Concessions having the character of a general monopoly shall not be granted. This provision does not affect the right of the Mandatory to create monopolies of a purely fiscal character in the interest of the Territory under Mandate, and in order to provide the Territory with fiscal resources which seem best suited to .the local requirements; or, in certain cases, to carry out the development of natural resources either directly by the state or by a controlled agency, provided that there shall result therefrom no monopoly of the natural resources for the benefit of the Mandatory or his nationals, directly or indirectly, nor any preferential advantage which shall bc inconsistent with the economic, commercial and industrial equality hereinbefore guaranteed.
The Tights conferred by this Article extend equally to companies and associations organized in accordance with the law of any of the Members of the League of Nations, subject only to the requirements of public order, and On condition of compliance with the local law. (This is Article 7 of the League of Nations British Mandate for East Africa.)
Article 11. - The administering authority shall administer the Trust Territory on behalf of and solely for the benefit and in the interests of its people, and on the termination of the trusteeship, all the powers of ‘the authority shall cease, and it shall surrender the territories together with nil public property then existing, whether movable or immovable, to the peoples whose sovereignty and whose right to self-government or independence shall always be recognized.
Article 12. - In the year . . . the Trust Territories shall be declared fully selfgoverning or independent. Iraq has suggested the following new Articles: -
Article 8. - New Article 8 proposed similar to Article 5 of Western Samoa Agreement. This Article reads - “The administering authority shall promote the development of political institutions suited to New Guinea. To this end, and as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Territory and its peoples, the administering authority shall assure to the inhabitants of New Guinea a progressively increasing share in the administrative and other services of the Terri.tory, shall develop the participation of the inhabitants of New Guinea in advisory and legislative bodies and in the Government of the Territory, and shall take all other appropriate measures with a view to the political advancement of the inhabitants of New Guinea in accordance with Article 70 (6) of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Article 9. - In framing the laws to be applied in New Guinea the administering authority shall take into consideration customs and the usages of New Guinea and shall respect the rights and safeguard the interests, both present and future, of tho natives. In particular, the laws relating to the holding or transfer of land shall ensure that no native land may be transferred except with the same consent. (The text of this Article corresponds with the text of Article 8 of the Agreement for Western Samoa.)
Article 10. - The administering authority shall, as may be appropriate to the circumstances of the Trust Territory, continue and extend a general system of education including post-primary education and professional training. (This corresponds with Article 11 of the Western Samoa Agreement.)
Article 11. - Subject only to the requirements of public order, the administering authority shall guarantee to the inhabitants of the Trust
Territory freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly and of petition. (This corresponds with Article 12 of the Western Samoa Agreement.)
Article 12. - The present Agreement shall enter into force upon ratification by the General Assembly of the United Nations and shall remain in force for a. period of . . . years and thereafter shall be reviewed and modified in accordance with the degree to which it purports.
United States of America proposed several new Articles as follows: -
The rights conferredby this Article on the nationals of members of the United Nations apply equally to companies or associations controlled by such nationals and formed in accordance with the law of any member of the United Nations.
– I ask the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General to indicate the intentions of the Government concerning the erection of automatic telephone exchanges in country districts.
– I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to furnish a reply to the honorable gentleman’s question as quickly as possible. Information has been sought on several occasions concerning the construction of automatic telephone exchanges in both city and country districts. Generally the replies of the Postmaster-General have indicated that work has been delayed because of inability to provide the necessary materials and man-power. I shall obtain what information I can for the honorable member concerning work proposed to be put in hand in the immediate future.
– Recently, Mr. Justice Simpson inquired into the shooting of an Italian prisoner of war at an internment camp at Rowville. Will the Minister for the Army lay His Honour’s report on the table of the House? If he will not, will he state the reason for his refusal to do so? What action has been taken upon the report? Is it a fact that the Australian concerned was not legally represented at the inquest into the death of the Italian prisoner of war? Will the Minister make a general statement in connexion with the matter?
– I have just received the report, but have not yet had time to peruse it. When I have studied it, I shall reply to the honorable member’s question.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs read in the New Era, of the 22nd November, what is claimed to be the republication of a cabled news item published in the Australian press on the 25th and 26th October which had completely escaped the notice of the general public, reading -
The General Assembly of the U.N. organization began work in earnest yesterday, when delegates took the oath of allegiance.
The oath binds delegates not to take instructions from any government- even their own - or anybody outside the U.N.
Can the right honorable gentleman give any information on the matter?
– I have not seen the news item referred to by the honorable member. The statement made in it is quite inaccurate. I believe it must refer to the fact that, at the opening of the General Assembly, certain permanent officials appointed by the United Nations were required to give a public undertaking that, in performing their duties to the United Nations, of which they were servants, they would not take instructions from the particular country from which they had been appointed or by which they had been recommended.
– Are there any Russians among them?
– I have no doubt that the officers of the United Nations are representative of quite a number of nations. The undertaking to which I have referred is required by the constitution and rules of the United Nations, and has no application whatever to the delegates from the different countries, as the newspaper paragraph would appear to suggest.
– Having regard to the plea in connexion with Spain which was made by representatives of Poland at the meeting of United Nations, as reported in this morning’s press, has the Minister for External Affairs represented to the United Nations that the representatives of Poland, so-called, are themselves not representatives of Poland, but were forced on the conference by the Soviet Union?
– I have not made any such representations in connexion with the representatives of Poland. I believe that I can see the significance of the honorable member’s suggestion.
Intra-state Services - Permits - Butler Airways - Air Transport Agreement: United States of America and Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether many ex-service airmen have purchased aeroplanes from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, with a view to commencing air services in the Common wealth, and cannot obtain permits from his department to commence such services. In view of the widespread rumour in New South Wales that all intra-state air services are being concentrated in Butler Airways, with a view to their ultimate resumption and the taking over of the Butler Airways by the New South Wales Transport Department, will the Minister make a statement tomorrow setting out the policy of his department in connexion with civil aviation generally, the issue of new licences, and the taking over of intra-state air services in New South Wales by a Government department of that State?
– .Some exservicemen have purchased aircraft, with the object of establishing airlines in different States. I ha.ve already mentioned the number, in answers to previous questions. The total number of applicants for such services is SO, but not all of them are ex-servicemen. I believe that the applications total 250. I have already announced that an inter-departmental committee is examining all applications, with a view to determining whether the applicants have the necessary capacity to operate air services over the routes with respect to which they desire to obtain permits. I believe it will be agreed that it is essential to ensure that applicants are qualified to operate air services safely, and in such a manner that they will not need to be heavily subsidized by the Government, and thus involve the imposition of heavy taxes. Most of the air services, other than those that are operating between capital cities, are subsidized at the present time, and the majority of the new services will need subsidies when they are put in operation. In my view, it is the duty of the Government to ensure that all applications shall be thoroughly examined before a decision is made. The examination will be strictly impartial. It is not correct to say that all intra-state services are being concentrated in Butler Airways. There is no justification for such a statement, or for the suggestion that the intention is to transfer Butler Airways to the New South Wales Transport Department. I hope that this answer will satisfy the honorable member, and that he will concede that there will be no need for me to make a further statement to-morrow.
– by leave - I am glad to be able to announce to the House the conclusion of an air transport agreement with the United States of America. This agreement has just been signed in Washington by the Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, Mr. Makin. The negotiations, which were conducted on my behalf in Washington by the Assistant Director-General of Civil Aviation, necessarily occupied a considerable period of time because of the necessity for reconciling the policies and vital interests of the two governments. It would be appropriate here to pay tribute to the aid and co-operation given by the Minister and officers of the Department of External Affairs. The fact that we have managed to secure an agreement after careful but friendly examination of alternative proposals results from the willingness displayed by both Governments to appreciate the other’s point of view and policy. This process has required time, but it has enabled us to achieve a satisfactory arrangement. The primary objective has been to obtain adequate opportunity for British-operated airlines to carry traffic on an economical and efficient ‘basis across the Pacific and on local regional services connecting Australia with the Pacific Islands. There is little need to remind honorable members that these links are invaluable not only for commercial but also for security reasons. Our view that, pending the wider adoption of internationalization, individual nations are justified in seeking to protect their interests in regard to both trunk and regional services of vital importance, is shared by many other nations. There was conclusive evidence of this trend ait the Provisional Conference on International Civil Aviation Organization which I attended at Montreal earlier this year.
The terms of the agreement now negotiated provide an opportunity for full participation by British services in the development of trunk and regional ser vices in the Pacific. In particular, we have secured a provision in the annexure to the agreement affording, through the control of fares, protection for local regional services which it is contemplated Australia will operate in the South-west Pacific Area connecting the mainland with neighbouring important islands. The terms of the agreement with the United States of America require Australia to designate an airline as the operator of the trans-Pacific service. As a result of our understanding with the Governments of New Zealand and of the United Kingdom, we have established British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited as an operating concern with shares held by the three governments, the major shareholding, however, being in the name of the Australian Government. The present Sydney- Vancouver service is being operated on a temporary basis by Australian National Airways Limited under contract to British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited. As a result of the agreement now concluded with the United States of America, the British Common^ wealth air service across the Pacific will be able to pick up and discharge international traffic in passengers, cargo and mail on the route from Australia via Fiji, Canton Island, Honolulu to San Francisco and beyond to Vancouver. If it be desired at a later stage, and subject to the conclusion of an agreement with the French Government, the British service may also carry traffic to and from Noumea on the trans-Pacific service, The United States airline will have similar rights to carry traffic between intermediate points on the direct route between San Francisco and Sydney. It is anticipated that there will shortly be a more frequent service than the present single trip a fortnight operated between Sydney and Vancouver, as under the agreement a frequency of up to two trips a week is envisaged.
Operation of air services by joint British Commonwealth organizations has become a characteristic feature of international air services. We are participating in the Tasman Empire Airways service and in the Australia-United Kingdom service. These services parallel in type the operation by British .Commonwealth Pacific Airlines across the Pacific. There is also a similar joint operating organization in the ease of the United Kingdom - South Africa service. Moreover, on the trans-Pacific service, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines will be operating before long in parallel partnership with Trans-‘Canada Airlines. This same principle is visible in the formation of a joint company by Scandinavian Airways to operate Atlantic services. Steps are thus being taken towards the ultimate goal of international operation of air services, an objective favored by the Australian and New Zealand Governments.
It will be remembered that at the last assembly of the Provisional international Civil Aviation Organization at Montreal it was unanimously agreed that the achievement of a multilateral agreement on commercial rights in international civil air transport was most desirable. This agreement provides that if such an international multilateral air transport convention be achieved, to which both Australia and the United States of America are signatories, the agreement shall be amended so as to conform thereto. Simultaneous agreements covering Pacific services are being concluded by the United States of America with our partner governments in the operation of the British Pacific service, namely the Governments of the United Kingdom and of New Zealand. I might add that the closest consultation has been maintained between ourselves and the New Zealand and United Kingdom Governments throughout the negotiations. I am confident that the inauguration of these services will bring immense benefits to all countries concerned. The Australian Government, the major shareholder of British ‘Commonwealth Pacific Airlines organization, is determined to achieve, with the assistance of the New Zealand and United Kingdom Governments, a high standard of service for travellers on the long journey across the Pacific, maintaining that essential link with our allied neighbour, the United States of America. I believe that the Australia-United States Air Transport Agreement will prove in practice to be an eminently satisfactory arrangement, chiefly because it is based essentially on goodwill .and sympathetic appreciation of the desire of both countries to provide efficient and economical air services for the travelling public, and I am gratified that, after necessarily prolonged but amicable negotiations, our two countries have been able to reach an agreement which I believe will be of benefit to both and assist considerably in the further rapid development of transocean international civil aviation.
– Will the honorable gentleman indicate whether he proposes to follow his statement by the introduction of a bill to ratify the agreement, or will this be the only opportunity given to honorable” members to debate the agreement?
– The introduction of a bill will not be necessary.
– The Minister might then be agreeable to move for the printing of the paper.
– I shall be glad to do so. I lay on the table the following paper : -
Air Transport Agreement - United Statex and Australia - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies’) adjourned.
Eviction Proceedings at Canberra.
– Recently, the Department of the Interior found it necessary to institute proceedings with a view to securing the eviction of a male resident of Braddon from one of the department’s houses. As this man has been unable to obtain another house, he has arranged to sell his furniture to-morrow, to have his indentures of employment cancelled, .and to transfer to Queensland after, having spent a lifetime in this city. I ask the Minister for the Interior whether the proceedings for forcible eviction can be delayed for .a few days, until the disposal of his furniture has been effected’?
– This is the first intimation I have had of any proceedings on the lines mentioned by the honorable member. It is impossible for me to examine his request, and make a definite decision upon it, at the moment. My department is anxious at all times to lessen in every possible way any burden imposed, not only on the individual referred to in the question, but also on many other persons who are suffering hardship because of the lack of housing in Canberra.
– About a week ago, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he would inquire as to the possibility of oats being received into the barley stocks, and he promised to make inquiries. In the northern areas of Victoria, farmers are beginning to harvest oats, and they will find it extremely difficult to keep them in their paddocks, because they have no cover for them. It would be much easier to look after them if they were in big stacks. Can the Minister give me any information on the matter now, or say whether I am likely to receive any in the near future?
– The Barley Board receives into its stores, through its agents, feed oats for which a guaranteed price is provided. Up to the present, it has not received oats of other types, such as seed oats and milling oats. I am inquiring as to whether such receivals can be made, but I do not anticipate that the Barley Board will find it convenient to undertake that work. I shall let the honorable member have the result of my inquiry.
Appointment of Director of Native Affairs
– The newspapers report that the recently appointed Director of Native Affairs in the Northern Territory has had experience in New Guinea, and I ask the Minister for the Interior why he did not appoint one of the many able persons in the Northern Territory who have had experience of our own natives from Arnheim Land to Alice Springs, instead of appointing a man who, according to reports, has had experience of only the New Guinea people, whose way of life is altogether different? I should also like some information from the Minister regarding the Government’s policy, or lack of policy, in regard to native affairs. On this subject there are two points of view, that of the missionaries, and that of the anthropologists. In view of the conflict between the policy of the missionaries and of the anthropologists, or pseudo-scientists, will the Minister say what is the policy of the Native Affairs Section? Is it to be in line with the policy sponsored by the missionaries, or in accord with the policy sponsored by the pseudo-scientists?
– Major Moy was selected from a number of applicants, because it was believed by men conversant with the Northern Territory that his qualifications for the position were outstanding. As for the second part of the honorable member’s question, the Government has a policy in regard to native affairs which it intends to put into operation, hence the appointment of a wellqualified officer in the person of Major Moy.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Somers Training School
– At the Royal Australian Air Force Initial Training School at Somers there are valuable amenities, including hospitals, dental clinics, &c. I ask the Minister for Air to see that these are not handed over for demolition by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, but reserved for the. accommodation of migrants, or for use by the Education Department.
– I shall have the matter examined in order to see what can be done. The policy of the Air Board is to inspect all air force stations which have been declared surplus, and then to hand them over to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. If there is good ground for doing what the honorable member suggests, I shall see that it is done.
Payment of Taxes
– Last week the Minister for Immigration and Information, when speaking in a debate in this chamber, said that a man named Fitzpatrick had had about £62,000 extracted from him by the Taxation Department. In view of the fact that the Commissioner for Taxation and his officers are bound to secrecy, are we to assume that the Minister obtained his information from confidential sources? Will the Prime Minister ascertain the exact position regarding this disclosure of information, and make a statement to the House as soon as possible ?
– I know nothing of the circumstances.No information was disclosed by the Commissioner for Taxation, even to me, as Treasurer. Of course, the man could himself have made the facts known, or they could have been disclosed in the course of a prosecution in the courts.
– Was the information made public?
– The Minister concerned may be able to supply the information.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I made the statement referred to by the honorable member for Richmond on the strength of a public statement by Raymond Fitzpatrick, a contractor of Bankstown, near Sydney. He said publicly that Mr. Morgan had followed him in a spirit of revenge, and had turned the taxation people on to him and, as a result, he had been forced to pay that sum of money. He added that he intended, therefore, to spend more money - £5,000, I think he mentioned - for the purpose of defeating Mr. Morgan politically. I received no information from the Taxation Department at any time. I would never seek information on any matter from officers who are sworn to secrecy.
– Will the Minister for the Army say how many Japanese war criminals have been tried by the Australian War Crimes Tribunal at Rabaul, and how many have been executed ? Why has so little publicity been given to this matter, having regard, especially, to the many tales of heroism and of gallantry which have been disclosed in the evidence?
– I shall have inquiries made and supply the information to the honorable member at an early date.
Bill presented by Mr. Drakeford, and read a first time.
– by leave - Imove -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited - widely and popularly known as “ Qantas “ - was a pioneer civil air service operating company established with head-quarters at Longreach soon after thewar of 1914-18, and operated, as its name implies, between Queensland and the Northern Territory. At first it connected the terminals of those Queensland railways which run inland west from the coast, but as time went on the service was extended and the head office was moved to Brisbane. Its operations at that time were purely internal. When, however, the time came for the development of an air route between Australia and the United Kingdom, Australia undertook to operate the section Sydney-Port DarwinSingapore and the Qantas Company logically undertook what was in reality an extension of the service it was already operating. The company’s head office was then transferred to Sydney. With the introduction of seaplanes in the operation of the United Kingdom service, it became necessary for the company to increase its capital and this was supplied by Imperial Airways Limited - the United Kingdom operating company responsible for that portion of the route from Singapore to the United Kingdom. This resulted in the formation of what is now Qantas Empire Airways Limited with 50 per cent. of the shares held by the English company, Imperial Airways Limited. Imperial Airways Limited subsequently became the British Overseas Airways Corporation Limited owned by the United Kingdom Government and, consequently, the United Kingdom Government became the owner of 50 per cent, of the shares’ of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. The Commonwealth Government has contributed to the development of Qantas Empire Airways Limited from its formation through a payment of an annual subsidy, which subsidy it will be necessary to continue until the growth of traffic and the development of aircraft make it no longer necessary. It is expected that this is not far distant and it is towards that end that the Commonwealth recently agreed to the provision of funds for placing an order in the United States of America by Qantas Empire Airways Limited for the purchase of four Constellation aircraft for delivery early in 1947.
It is proposed that in 1947 the Australian service shall extend to London, and operate in parallel with British Overseas Airways Corporation service along the same route. In these circumstances, it is logical that the Government owning 50 per cent, of the shares in Qantas Empire Airways Limited shall be the Commonwealth Government rather than the United Kingdom Government, and, with this object in view, an agreement was reached between the two governments early this year, in which it was arranged that the Commonwealth should purchase the United Kingdom Government’s interest in the form of the British Overseas Airways Corporation’s shares in Qantas Empire Airways Limited. The paid-up capital of Qantas Empire Airways Limited is- £523,000, consisting of fully-paid fi shares, and arrangements are now in hand for the purchase of United Kingdom share holding totalling 2-61,500 shares based on the company’s financial position at the end of its financial year at the 31st March last. The present bill is designed to authorize this purchase.
The chairman of directors, the managing director and principal officials are Australian, and the head office of the company is in Sydney. British Overseas Airways Corporation Limited exercises its rights through the medium of three members on the board of directors, and with the purchase of that corporation’s shares by the Commonwealth, those directors will be replaced by three nominees of the Commonwealth Government. The Government has established the Australian National Airlines Commission for the operation of interstate services. It has joined with the United Kingdom and New Zealand Governments in the formation of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited for the operation of a trans-Pacific service. In this it has, with the other governments, made a direct monetary contribution. It has similarly joined with the United Kingdom and New Zealand Governments in subsidizing the Tasman Empire Airways Limited in the operation of the air service between Australia and New Zealand. The Australian interest in Tasman Empire Airways is to be found in a Qantas Empire Airways Limited holding of 23 per cent, of the shares of that company. By becoming half shareholders in Qantas Empire Airways Limited the Commonwealth Government automatically becomes also a shareholder in Tasman Empire Airways Limited, which it already subsidizes.
The Government has considered Qantas Empire Airways Limited as the appropriate organization for the operation of external air services out of Darwin, and it is logical to make the purchase, now proposed, in order that it shall be a wholly Australian company. This aspect has, in fact, no little importance in the completion of agreements with other nations for international services. The Commonwealth believes that international air traffic will develop considerably in the immediate future, that such development will be of great benefit to Australian trade and industry, and by reason of reducing our geographical isolation a benefit to the Commonwealth as a whole. I believe that additional international services will be called for over the coming years to establish communications, especially with our northern neighbours, and Qantas Empire Airways Limited seems to be the logical agency for this development.
– Have the three government directors been nominated?
– No ; they cannot be nominated until after the agreement has been concluded.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
Morton (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the- Census and Statistics
Bill presented, and1 read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Census and Statistics Act, in its present form,,, requires certain named questions to be included in the census questionnaire, and allows other questions to be included if they are prescribed by regulations made, under the act.. The object of the amendments proposed, in the present bill is to remove two items from the list of named questions, which, was originally compiled over 40 years ago.
The- questions proposed to be omitted from the named list are one relating to sickness or infirmity and one relating to education. The “ sickness or infirmity “ question was limited in the 1933 census to ascertaining which persons were deaf, dumb or blind. It was regarded as of little value; and much better data could probably be obtained from other sources. Moreover, good records of sickness generally are now becoming available from the operation, of the sickness and unemployment benefits scheme. The “education “ question asked in 1933 related chiefly to the kind of school, or university, which young people were attending. Such information can now be obtained for all practical purposes from the records of the Education Departments and other educational institutions. There was also a subsidiary question relating to ability te read and write a foreign language, but the answers given were of very limited value.
Whilst the proposed amendments will not in themselves prevent similar questions being asked in future censuses, as they may still be prescribed by regulation, it is not intended to include them in the 1947 census questionnaire. There is obviously a limit to the total number of questions which can be asked, if the replies are to be accurate and. if the information resulting from the census is to be tabulated and published with reasonable expedition. For this reason, it is proposed, in 1947, to replace the questions to which I referred with others of greater general statistical value.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 21st November (vide page 443), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now road a second time.
.- This bill is designed to continue in operation for a period of twelve months, from the 31st December of this year, certain regulations and orders made under emergency wartime powers. I do not desire, .at the second-reading stage, to engage in a detailed discussion of the various regulations that are concerned. But as this is a most unusual bill, both in form and in substance, I should like, by way of preliminary, to offer a few general observations about the normal tests that should be applied to legislation in a democracy, because I consider that this is a very good opportunity for us to recall them to our own minds, and, if necessary, to formulate them clearly. In the first place, legislation in a democracy should be made by the Parliament. That is a broad principle which has, of course, fallen into the background a good deal during the last few years; but it is still true that under normal conditions, that is to say, apart from the special. strains and circumstances of such an emergency as war, the laws should be made by the Parliament, and not by the Executive, except on matters of detail, which the Parliament has not time to deal with. Even when all the detailed provisions are left- to the Executive; the Parliament itself should always propound the broad principles to be applied. To put it in another way, the true shape of popular law in a democracy should be hammered out. by the Parliament and not by the Executive.
The second principle is that the laws made in a democracy should be readily and conveniently accessible to the people, so that they may know their rights and duties. We occasionally, perhaps, forget that one of the many objections to the excessive use of regulation-making power is that the devil himself cannot discover the total mass of regulations. One needs to have a special type of mind and a special supply of time to be able to ascertain what the law is and how the citizen is affected by the volumes of emergency regulations. Consequently, I recall to the minds of honorable members the important principle that in a democracy the people should be able reasonably, and in some accessible fashion, to discover what the law is. For the last few years this has not been feasible.
In the third place I believe that legislation in a democracy should not be too far removed from general public opinion, because, if the law and public opinion become violently opposed, widespread evasion of the law occurs, and the law conies into contempt. Perhaps the most classic example of this was the prohibition law of the United States of America, but at this very moment we are threatened with some examples of it in our own country, which are rather disturbing. It has been stated in this House by more than one honorable member that the regulations dealing with the transfer of land are evaded quite possibly in more cases than they are obeyed. If that be so, there is a serious conflict between general public opinion and the law, and when the law is consistently evaded, it becomes bad law. The fourth point I mention is that the law should be of such a nature that it will be observed fairly and impartially, and enforced resolutely. If the law, having been made, is not enforced, it becomes useless. If on that test, it .appears that a law is not being enforced it contributes to the decline of the sense of law among the people.
The propositions that I have stated roughly and briefly apply in normal times, but in 1939, by common consent of the members of the House, modifications were made of these principles for the Executive had to be given, and was given, very wide executive powers, and also, very wide legislative powers. A mass of regulations and orders, not easy to get at or to classify became necessary and was brought into existence. That was due, of course, to the pressure of war, when the feelings produced in the minds of the people were such as to induce a willingness to obey even unpleasant and unpopular rules because of an overpowering conviction that such unpleasant and unnecessary orders were essential to save the country and enable its people to make an effective contribution to the winning of the war. In such circumstances, the very important principles of legislation which I have mentioned, were put in the background or substantially modified. I emphasize that this was done during the war, and for the purposes of the war. The Avar is now over. I am not using a technical expression in making that statement. I am making an observation of substance. Our task now is to return, so far as we can and as quickly as we can, to those normal principles of legislation and parliamentary rule which are so vital to a democracy. In brief, we must set out to restore the authority of the Parliament. In time of war the Executive exercised great control, but in time of peace the nation should look for a restoration of the authority of the Parliament as a matter of first and urgent importance.
I suggest to the House that we should make’ a very sharp distinction between two things that have no necessary relation to each other. One is the problem of continuing certain controls. We should ask ourselves whether certain controls should continue to exist in Australia and, if so, in what form. What rules that are laid down should continue in force? That is one question. The other question is entirely different and involves the method, by which the controls are to be continued. I have stated that the authority of the. Parliament is of great importance. This House, I believe, should adopt the attitude that, now that the war is over - and it has been over for some time - any necessary controls should be imposed by the Parliament itself, and not by the Executive. Unless we assert that principle and stand by it, we shall diminish the authority of the Parliament. Indeed, in such circumstances, the diminished authority of the Parliament, which resulted from the war, may be seriously aggravated and the Parliament may become a secondary instead of a primary instrument of government. I wish to say one or two things about the method by which controls should be imposed. I began by saying that this bill is extraordinary in its nature. I say now that it is also extraordinary in its substance and form. The measure does not put regulations into legislative form. It merely states, in schedules, which of the regulations -are to be continued. It refers to the regulations in short form. Those who desire to know what the law is as stated in these regulations, will not find it in the bill, but, must search for it in the regulations that are to be found in various statutory rules. Clause 6 provides that the regulations, the titles of which are specified in the first column of the first schedule, shall be enforced until midnight on the 31st December, 1947. Clause 7 provides that the orders made under various war-time regulations and specified in the first column of the second schedule shall be continued until a prescribed time in similar fashion. I remind honorable members that this subject was discussed briefly before the elections. On the 10th April, 1946, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) introduced and moved the second reading of a measure entitled the National Security Bill, which was designed to terminate National Security regulations by the 31st December, 1946. The National Security Act is the chief fountain from which all these regulations have proceeded. We were told, and indeed the bill introduced in April of this year provided that the National Security Act would end on the 31st December next. I understood, and I am perfectly certain that many other honorable members understood, that the whole idea was that the National Security Act, as the source of emergency regulations, having ceased to operate at the end of this year, any further prescription of control would be contained in a bill or bills presented to this House, so that we might get away from regulations and in future deal with these matters through acts of parliament. That belief is, I confess, supported when I look at the speech which fell from the right honorable gentleman in moving the second reading; because, at the end of that speech, which was quite a short one, he indicated that the Government had given consideration to the possible extension of defence regulations, as had been done in England, as one of the means of continuing controls through the Executive, but - and now I quote his exact words - “ is convinced that it is preferable to terminate the act at the end of this year, leaving it to the Parliament to deal with any specific matters by legislation “. That was a very distinct undertaking to this House - that if prices control, for example, was to continue, it would continue by virtue of some prices control measure introduced into and passed by this Parliament ; that if we were to have a continuation of Landlord and Tenant Regulations, of Capital Issues control, or of any other of those admittedly important matters, the rules to be observed after the 31st December next would be the rules laid down by this Parliament in statutory form. But the general elections have come and gone, and the satisfaction which many of us experienced must have oozed away when we saw this bill, because the last thing that it doe3 is to put any of these prescriptions into legislative form. It is quite true that, in a technical sense, it may be said that it does. It is quite true that somebody may now say that after the end of this year the regulations will derive their force, not from the National Security Act but from the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. That, of course, would be a mere technical answer. In substance, all of these matters will still be dealt with by regulations. And the oddity of that position will bc in no sense diminished if one will look at some of the regulations, because one will find that some of those which are to be continued in force by this legislation still have observations only about the present state of war, and other observations of that kind which plainly have a great deal of relation to the time at which they were made but do not seem very appropriate to 1947.
Before I make my next observation about the bill, let me complete that point; because there is one aspect of it which should be emphasized. This bill will continue in operation a mass of regulations, which are described in the schedules. They are not textually incorporated in the bill, with the result that during the next twelve months it will still be necessary to wade through masses of regulations in order to ascertain the precise obligations of citizens. As I have already pointed out, it is essential to any coherent statement of the law that it should be known and readily available. Therefore, the regulations which are to continue to operate under this bill should have been treated in one of two ways ; and it may not be too late now. to do it. First, and this is my major contention, they should have been set out in full in the legislation. True, it would havebeen an enormous bill. But are we to consider at this stage the convenience of the Government Printer or of the citizens who have to obey the law ?
– Or the absorptive capacity of honorable members.
– There is no limit to chat. The number of things which we have absorbed from this Government in the last five years shows that we are far from saturation point. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifiey) will concede that all of these regulations have to bo absorbed by somebody, because they are there. They are the rules which people have to obey. Is it better that they should be found in bits and pieces in the volumes of regulations that are issued by the Government, or in one compact form in one act of Parliament - or, if it be preferred, in a dozen acts of Parliament ; at any rate, in acts of Parliament, so that they can be taken up, and everybody may be able to say, just as he can with ordinary legislation, “ There is the rule which the Parliament has laid down “. Instead of that, this incorporation by mere reference in the schedule means that the people concerned, or their advisers, will still have to conduct a great search in order to discover what the law is. My proposition is, first, that in spite of its apparent cumbersomeness, the right thing was to put all these rules that mattered, all that the Government desired to continue, into statutory form, so that this House might deal with them. If the Government rejected that proposal - as it plainly has, judging by the bill - then at any rate it wouldnot be too late to put in one volume all the regulations that are to be continued in operation and to have that volume printed and made available to the people, so that the labour of searching through a mass of existing regulations in order to discard those that are no longer in operation and to pick out those that are preserved by the bill, would not have to be undertaken.
– That is what we are doing.
– I am very glad to know that that is being done. But my major proposition is that the best way, the right way, of dealing with this matter is to incorporate all these rules in statutory form.
The next point that I make about the bill is this : I thought that we were going to get rid of government by regulation to this degree; but we are not, because, first, the regulations are to continue to exist as regulations; and, secondly, as honorable members will find if they look at sub-clause 2 of clause 6 -
The Governor-General may, before the prescribed time, make regulations -
repealing any Regulations in force by virtue of the last preceding subsection ;
In other words, by a regulation, this Government may, during the next twelve months, repeal any of the regulations referred to in the schedule - and
So that, in relation to any matter which is dealt with by any regulation continued in operation by this bill, there may be an amendment by regulation. That means, of course, that for the next twelve months these controls will operate not under statute, not in the terms of legislation considered and passed by this Parliament, but in the terms of regulations which will continue to operate as regulations, and which, in turn, may be altered by further regulations. To usea compendious expression, on all of these matters government by regulation will continue to exist for the next twelve months.
I have addressed these remarks to my proposition that the method by which controls are to be continued is of very great importance. I now want to deal quite briefly with the substance of the controls that are to be continued. Primarily, of course, the substance is a matter for consideration in committee. I want to mention, right away, while it is in my mind, a very important question of procedure that will arise in committee. An honorable member here or there may desire to discuss, say, the Landlord and Tenant Regulations, or the Prices Regulations, with a view to suggesting some improvement, and so on. Following the normal procedure in committee, I suppose thai the first schedule, for example, will be discussed as a whole. The result will be that honorable members will perhaps have an opportunity to discuss one set of regulations, and no others. I suggest at this stage, for the consideration of the Attorney-General, that when we get into committee it would be proper to take the first schedule and the second schedule, and either treat each regulation as an item to be debated separately, or, possibly, group the regulations to some extent, so that honorable’ members may have a proper opportunity of discussing them individually.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he can comply with that request. If we were assured of that being done, the second-reading, debate would be shortened.
– I think that we shall adopt the second course suggested. I hope that there will not necessarily be discussion on every regulation.
– There will not be. I have raised the matter at this stage for the very reason referred to by the honorable member for Warringah (Mir. Spender). The discussion on the secondreading: might be quite brief if all honorable, members knew that they would have an opportunity to deal with the various problems in committee, instead of being confined to two speeches,, each. o£ fifteen minutes, on. the entire schedule ; because, if that latter were the position,.! have no doubt that many honorable members would; be forced to take the opportunity of speaking on these matters on the second-reading of the bill.
– I shall adopt a course in consultation with the Leader- of the Opposition.
– I am obliged to the Minister. The second comment that I want to make on the substance of the matter is this: There are two things which have occurred, or which in the normal course occur, which make it very important that there should be almost continuous parliamentary control over these controls. The first of them is that, undoubtedly, there are very many evasions of certain controls. Because of their very nature, certain rules that are set up will, be increasingly disobeyed. For example, to cite a case that is familiar to everybody, I. do not believe for one moment that the rules in relation to the sale of second-hand, motor cars are observed, by a very large percentage of the people of Australia.
– Not by 10 per cent.
– I should think that if we said 10 per cent, we would be making a very handsome estimate. Consequently, it is important that Parliament should from time to time, even during the next twelve months, have an opportunity to form its own judgment as to whether a certain control should or should not continue to exist.
The second thing, that bears on. the same problem is this : It is- notorious that once Parliament gives to an Executive, and to- persons* working under the Executive, a sustained experience of .almost dictatorial power, they will be very reluctant to give it up. Every temporary war-time department reached the stage, whether it. is fertile in- nothing else it is fertile in reasons- for its- own continuance. Therefore, Parliament must assert its right to determine periodically whether controls should continue.
The bill provides that the act shall continue’ in operation until the 31st December, 1947. I believe that in the committee stage that it will be moved from this side of the House that for the date of the 31’st December there should, be substituted the 31st March, 1947, not because it is believed’ that all these controls, and particularly the major ones) ought to terminate on the 31st March, but because it- is believed that where- there’ is’ a mass of controls of this- kind, they ought to be’ vigilantly reviewed by the Parliament itself. If the act which will result from this bill had a life of three months’ duration, so that it could be then extended for another three months and so on, the Parliament could say that controls A, E, and :C are good and should continue or are to go, that control D should be modified, and that control E should disappear. Such a measure of control the Parliament should keep for itself, and it would do so effectively if the date fixed in the bill were altered to the 31st of March.
I have only one further observation to make in view of the accommodation to which the Attorney-General has given to the House, making it unnecessary to discuss the matter ad nauseam at the secondreading stage. There is in this Parliament a good deal more agreement regarding the necessity of certain controls than some people imagine. There are certain matters dealt with in this bill which we would all want varied after the war was over. Nobody, I believe, has ever advocated that controls should be cut off as by a guillotine, but it may very well turn out, when we come to consider individual controls, that there is a very sharp division of opinion between the Government and the Opposition. I have no doubt that some members of the Government, and perhaps all of them, would like to see certain of these war-time controls made a permanent feature of our economy, whereas we of the Opposition say that we must he vigilant to ensure that restrictions on the normal liberties of the people, and the freedom of industry which should thrive and expand should riot continue any longer than the emergency which produced them. That is why in this House and outside it we have emphasized that the stimulation of production is infinitely more important to our economy than the mere restriction of enterprise. When this stimulation has produced a state of affairs in which there is some normal healthy competition among sellers, the case for prices control will have disappeared. So with other controls, each one of which must be examined and terminated immediately the reason for its continuation has ceased to be powerful.
I emphasize that this is not a ‘bill which gives to the Parliament any real or effective control over the rules that are to operate during the next twelve months, and if Parliament wants such control it should take the opportunity in committee to vote for the amendment foreshadowed which will give a short life to the bill, and give to honorable members on both sides of the House power to review the controls periodically.
– One of the first casualties of war is civil liberty. The -National Security Act was a war measure passed in time of national peril. Consequently, it necessarily allowed an unprecedented encroachment by the administration upon the legislative functions of government. As far back as 1929, Lord Chief Justice Hewart sounded a note of warning on what he called The New Despotism. He said -
Writers on the Constitution have for a long time taught that its two leading features are the sovereignty of Parliament and the rule of law. To tamper with either of them was, it might be thought, a sufficiently serious undertaking, but. how far more attractive to the ingenious and adventurous mind to employ the one to defeat the other, and to establish a despotism on the ruins of both! lt is manifestly easy to point a superficial contrast between what was done or attempted in the days of our least wise kings, and what is being done or attempted to-day. In those days, the method was to defy Parliament and it failed. In these days, the method is to cajole, to coerce, and to use Parliament - and it is strangely successful. The old despotism, which was defeated, offered Parliament a challenge. The new despotism, which is not yet defeated, gives Parliament an anaesthetic. The strategy is different, but the goal is the same. It is to subordinate Parliament, to evade the courts, and to render the will, or the caprice, of the executive unfettered and supreme.
In other words, according to Lord Hewart, it is one thing to confer power, subject to proper restrictions, to make regulations; it is another thing to give those regulations the force of a statute. It is one thing to make regulations which axe to have no effect unless and until they are approved by the Parliament; it is another thing to make regulations behind the back of the Parliament, regulations which come into force without the assent, or even the knowledge, of the Parliament. It is a grave thing to place the decision of a Minister in matters affecting the rights of individuals beyond the possibility of review by the courts of law, and it is a grave thing to empower a
Minister to modify, by his personal or departmental order, the provision of a statute which has been enacted.
As far back as 1931, a select committee of the Senate recommended that all regulations made under a statute should be scrutinized to ascertain -
The war years necessarily provided a rich field for executive or bureaucratic domination of Parliament. The legislative function was superseded, because of a national emergency, and was transferred largely into administrative hands. The result can be seen in two large volumes of National Security Regulations which contain, in all, thousands of separate rules of the most far-reaching nature, which have never been discussed in the Parliament, although technically the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act relating to the tabling of the regulations may have been carried out. From the outbreak of war in 1939 to the end of that year, S9 separate statutory rules were made. In 1940 and 1941, just under 300 statutory rules were promulgated in each of those years. The year 1942 was a record, with over 550 separate sets of regulations, or over ten a week. Then, the number fell to approximately 300 the following year, and it has tapered off since.
Numerous as are the regulations which have been issued, the number of orders under them is immensely greater. For instance, there have been over 2,300 prices orders, ranging from aluminium to yacca gum, from bricks to toothbrush handles. Despite the technical right of a member to move for the disallowance of regulations, their sheer weight of numbers, their intricacy and the pre-occupation of the House with legislative and other matters would have made it absolutely impossible to have even a small percentage of them debated in this chamber.
On the 2nd April, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), knowing that he would have to face a general election within a few months, announced that Cabinet had decided that the 31st December, 1946, was to be fixed as the date on which the National Security Act would expire. He went on to say -
Cabinet realized that controls such as price control, rent control, interest control and antiinflationary controls generally will be needed after December 31st, 1946, and, for that purpose, appropriate legislation (not regulations) will be introduced in Parliament before December 31st, 1046.
Following this announcement, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) introduced a bill in Parliament eight days later which carried out the Cabinet decision. It will be noted that, at that time, the expressed intention was to introduce appropriate legislation to Parliament - not regulations - before the 31st December, 1946, to cover those controls which it was deemed necessary to retain during the transition period from war to peace.
There could have been no objection to this policy at that time, as it was clearly intended to return to the legislature those functions of government which had necessarily been transferred to the Executive or the Administration by war-time necessity. However, the present bill embodies an entirely different, and more reprehensible, principle. No appropriate legislation is brought down to continue the controls which are deemed necessary. It is merely promised in the future, and in the meantime the will of the legislature is, in fact, anticipated. Other clauses of the bill merely prolong the operation of the National Security Act, so far as certain regulations made under it are concerned, and to that degree the act itself, though repealed, remains still operative.
It is paradoxical that this Labour Government has been the greatest exponent of deflationary means of combating the effects of war, and of continued extravagant maladministration. The maximum possible direct taxation has been maintained well into the peace era; the loan market has been exploited to the greatestpossible degree, and the surplus revenue has even. been used for capital expenditure. Wherever possible, the sovereign powers of the States have been employed to continue drastic war-time controls. Side by side with these expedients, the physical controls themselves have been continued, both by national security legislation, and now by the present bill. The controls contemplated in this legislation fall naturally under three headings -
The defence power of the Commonwealth is admittedly extremely wide in war-time. Admittedly, the period of transition from war to peace is one in which the same defencepower necessarily shrinks rapidly from day to day. The general legal principles stated so clearly by the Attorney-General in his secondreading speech cannot be expected to apply with equal force to each of the hundreds of regulations which are continued by the present legislation, nor can they be applicable to such regulations in six months’ time, or even in three months.
Obviously the legislation before the House will be a fruitful source of litigation. In fact, in many instances, it will devolve into a neck and neck race between the Attorney-General’s repeals on the one hand, and on the other hand those classes of litigants who will be sufficiently affected in their liberties and will have sufficient money to invoke the judicature. The Government’s dilemma is largely of its own making. The 1944 referendum was jeopardized and in fact lost by the obvious political provisions grafted on to it. Those alien growths, in fact, killed the parent tree, and consequently the present legislation relies, to a certain extent, on the laws delays, or the time gap which necessarily must occur before the courts areenabled to pronounce judgment upon questioned regulations at the invocation of interested litigants. The Attorney-General has listed eight groups of regulationsfor the continuance of which parliamentary approval is sought. I propose to deal briefly with each of these groups.
The first group comprises regulations which provide the basic structure for orderly economic transition. While prices control and rent regulations must necessarily be continued, the necessity for their continuance is largely increased by Government ineptitude. The greatest, automatic control of prices can be brought about by increased production of goods, but the Government has scarcely tackled that problem. The shortage of housing contributes materially to the need for extending the Landlord and Tenant Regulations, yet the Government has not adequately tackled the need for increasing the flow of materials, nor has it coordinated even such sources of supply as are available. The relaxation of wagepegging is merely a palliative. The Government has only itself to blame for not implementing the obvious means of granting a real increase of wages without increasing either the cost of goods or the amount of subsidies payable, namely, a reduction of direct taxes. That would be the most scientific and effective method of increasing wages. Even in the matter of control of interest rates the Government should itself set an example, first, by compelling the States to reduce interest rates to home-purchase borrowers when the original money has been raised by the issue of 1 per cent. treasury-bills and, secondly, by inducing the States to reduce interest and redemption rates to local authorities where the Commonwealth itself makes a contribution to the sinking fund in respect of the loans.
The second group comprises regulations relating to marketing schemes. The only effective method of overhauling that legislation is by a full-dress debate in this House. Much dissatisfaction has arisen over these war-time controls in the various industries affected, especially in respect of producer representation, methods of disposal of crops and the cash proceeds, and kindred matters. There was much talk during recent referendum that such schemes were in great jeopardy and that their continuation accordingly depended upon an affirmative vote of the people. It was difficult to tell when legal reasons merged into propaganda as the supposed illegality diminished rapidly in importance immediately the referendum proposal was defeated.
The third group of regulations deals with rationing which was introduced by dire war necessity. Its extension in certain respects can even now be justified. However, the cost of administration of rationing is so high that one suspects that, in some instances, advice to the Government to continue rationing is given by officials whose sole desire is to retain their highly paid jobs, and to continue their bureaucratic control of the Government. For instance, petrol rationing is to be continued. The cost of administration of the petrol rationing scheme this year amounts to £170,000, yet little has been said in this House in justification of its continuance.
The fourth group embraces industrial regulations. The Government’s industrial record indicates that its incursions into the field of industrial legislation have not been startingly successful. In my view a great many of the war-time industrial upheavals in Australia have been due to the Labour Government’s failure to enforce the very regulations which it has promulgated in order to curb industrial trouble. Official statistics disclose that industrial disputes occurred during the war years on an abnormal scale. Whether these were due to war conditions, to Communist activities, to the effects of high taxes or to other factors, is too important a subject to debate in a speech of this kind. There is a great deal of truth in the statement of a prominent trade unionist of New Zealand, Mr. F. P. Walsh, who, when appointed by the trade union movement of New Zealand to carry out an economic survey of the dominion, had this to say amongst other things -
The battle for minimum wages and living standards has been fought and won. We are now past that stage. It is now a question of tlie distribution of the flow of goods and services which form the real income of the community.
In other words, he focused the searchlight of criticism on to the necessity for increased production, which, of course, is a basic principle in our economic recovery which should not be departed from in this country. He said that the
Government of New Zealand had paid too much attention to the streamlining of the machinery devised to deal with disputes after they had arisen instead of dealing with the basic factors, such as high taxes imposed on overtime and kindred matters, which, if remedied, would remove the causes before the disputes in fact arose. This Government is absolutely powerless to prevent industrial dislocation in this country, and the mere extension by legislation of existing industrial regulations will not, of itself, bring about any material diminution of the prevailing industrial unrest.
The next group comprises pending legislation. This has been dealt with by me to some extent and it is to be hoped that legislation to carry out the will of the Parliament will not be unduly delayed. The members of the Australian Country party and honorable members on this side of the House generally are determined to use every effort to ensure that Parliament meets frequently while these controls remain in force. We believe that the Parliament should constitute itself an ever-watchful vigilance committee with its eye constantly on the operation of these regulations and that .honorable members should be kept apprised of what corrective legislative action .is necessary from time to time.
The next group comprises regulations dealing with rights to pensions and the like. Some of these regulations were most necessary in the interests of justice to many people who, but for their imposition, would have suffered extreme financial hardships. Nevertheless, the regulations will not suffer through being debated in the House. After debate anomalies may be removed and those portions of the regulations which it seems desirable to retain may be incorporated in a legislative enactment.
The seventh group comprises military and security regulations. There can be no doubt that regulations which fall under this heading must necessarily continue until the need for them has absolutely disappeared. As, in general, they are directly related to the defence power, I do not propose to criticize their continuation.
There must be a considerable field for controversy as to whether the Government has gone too far, or not far enough, in its policy regarding the relaxation of war-time regulations. The key to the Government’s sincerity in the matter of voluntarily divesting itself of unnecessary bureaucratic powers can readily be ascertained by reference to the Reestablishment and Employment Act of 1945. Section 137 (2) of that act provides that regulations may be made for the repeal or amendment of, or addition to, any of the provisions of that act. Under that section, the Executive, in 1945, by Statutory Rule No. 181, amended more than 30 sections of legislative enactments without reference to the Parliament. As a matter of fact, by regulations promulgated under’ the powers conferred by that section the Government has materially altered many legislative enactments in many important respects without the consent of the Parliament. The same power was invoked again this year by means of Statutory Rule No. 14 of 1946 to amend section 98 of the principal act by administrative regulation and on at least two other occasions. This reprehensible practice of amending a legislative enactment by an executive rule is still in force. By the exercise of this power the rights of .returned soldiers to preference and in other respects may be withdrawn by the Government or by a Minister at any time, even when the Parliament is not in session. Let the Government give evidence of its sincerity by putting an end to that reprehensible blot on the statute-book. While the provisions of this bill are, in the main, necessary during the transition from war to peace, there rests upon each and every one of us a responsibility to minimize to the greatest possible degree the cancerous growth of government by regulation. The best safeguard against the continuance of this practice is to he found in the amendment which will be moved at the appropriate time and which will have for its purpose the summoning of Parliament as frequently as possible in order that honorable members may exercise the greatest possible vigilance in respect of orders made under legislative enactments.
.- This is one of the measures which justifies me in coming into this Parliament. After listening to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) all expressing practically complete unanimity as to the principles of this measure, one would think there were noother viewpoints upon it. But there is another viewpoint which I believe would be expressed by overwhelming numbers of the people of this country were they given an opportunity to do so. This bill’ represents the price that a government pays for its continued acceptanceby the people. Despite all the words that have been spoken, there is only one provision in the measure that counts, yet so far no one has dared to mention it. Honorable members havekept as far away from that as they possibly can. Yet wage-pegging is theonly provision of the bill that really counts. The remainder of the bill is just a tail. It is thrown in with the hide.
As the war developed, the government of the day was unable or unwilling topay the price demanded for its continuance in office. That price was military and industrial conscription, and wage-pegging. “Big business” in thiscountry, and the big newspapers, knew that the workers of Australia would never accept conscription, either military or industrial, unless possibly it was imposedby a political party that was known by the name of “ a Labour government “. After that, a Labour government cameinto office and for the first time military and industrial conscription began tofunction in this continent. Industrial’ conscription had to be abandoned immediately after the war, because it wasknown that the people of Australia would not tolerate it any longer. But wagepegging has remained, and this bill seeks to perpetuate it. This legislation will determine, not the minimum wage, but the maximum wage that shall be paid. That is the price which has to be paid’ for the continuous support of those influential interests in Australia that usually support a low-wage party and a lowwagegovernment. Those interests, which placetheir powerful battalions behind a lowwage political party, have put their forces behind this Government.
For some time, the present Government professed to be deeply concerned because it thought, or it said, that it lacked the constitutional power to peg wages after the National Security Regulations had expired. Therefore, it held a referendum with, a view to obtaining constitutional authority to enable it to make laws to peg wages. But the people of Australia refused to transfer those powers to the Commonwealth. Efforts were then made to induce the State parliaments to refer the wage-pegging powers to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth professed to be very worried about the position-. Now, what do we find? The Government is not concerned any longer. Its constitutional inhibitions have disappeared. We are now asked to pass this legislation which, a few months ago, the Government believed, would be unconstitutional.
The purpose of this bill is to enable the Government to continue to peg wages. What is the cause of this sudden change? The Attorney-General said that recent decisions of the High Court had led the Government to believe that if this legislation is passed, the High Court is likely to hold that the Commonwealth has the power to peg wages. It is not surprising to me to find that the High Court of Australia would approve this class of legislation. The only surprising thing to me is that anybody thought that the High Court would ever reject this class of legislation. As the community realizes, wagepegging is the means by which wages are pegged at a certain level, although the ‘ money value “ or “ money price “ of every commodity in the community is allowed to rise. Wages arc pegged at a dead level, never to move, but the prices of everything that wages buy are soaring higher. Wage-pegging keeps the income of a home pegged at a low level. although the cost of living incessantly rises. This bill, I warn the Attorney-General, will reduce wages. Wage-pegging is a means of reducing wages. State governments would not have anything to do with this method of reducing wages and, therefore, the matter could not be left to the State parliaments. When a government has been found that is ready and willing to reduce wages, it would be folly for any one to consider that it did not have the power to do it, because the High Court would certainly approve it. It would be a “ horse of a different colour “ if the Government brought in a measure to increase wages and salaries. Then, this unanimity which we witness to-day would not be in evidence. Honorable members unanimously approve this proposal to reduce wages. But they would not be unanimous if a bill were introduced to increase wages. Just imagine - and it requires a lot of imagination - that the Government brought in- a bill to increase the basic wage to £6 8s. a week, for which the Commonwealth’s own employees are agitating to-day. If such a measure were introduced, the unanimity which we now witness would rapidly disappear. I should like to know what the High Court would do with that proposal. If wages were increased to £6 8s. a week, the High Court would not be able to assemble fast enough to declare the legislation unconstitutional.
– I rise to order. On more than one occasion in his speech, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has, by innuendo, conveyed quite clearly the opinion that the High Court was there, not to administer the law, but to give expressions of political opinion. I submit that the honorable member is not in order when he makes, directly or indirectly, such innuendoes regarding the judiciary.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Reid are in order.
– If the validity of such a measure were challenged, the High Court would declare it unconstitutional. Indeed, it would not be able to meet quickly enough for the purpose of throwing such a bill into the dust-bin.
The other portion of the bill deals with price-fixing, and the control of land sales and rents. All the controls which arecontained in the schedule of the bill are supposed to keep down the cost of living to the level at which wages are pegged, so that the purchasing power of the pegged wage may remain stable. But the bill does not do that. Lawyers have not had so much conveyancing work to do since the economic depression as they are doing now. Nobody pretends that the transactions in land are being made at the pegged price. There is so much subletting that the pegged rents to-day are only a fraction of what the occupiers of the premises have to pay. Price-fixing has become so involved and intricate that it is now a specialized industry. Everybody knows what is happening in this country. When the Government decided to adopt a system of scientific taxation the first result was that the ordinary person in the community was no longer able to prepare his own taxation return. There was established in Australia at that time a new profession known as “ taxation consultant”. Hundreds of highly qualified’ officers in our Taxation Department, and some of its best mcn, resigned from the Public Service and established themselves in every capital city of Australia as taxation consultants. Where they used to earn hundreds of pounds per annum they very soon earned thousands. This is a profession with very great prospects, for every time the Government amends our taxation legislation there is additional need to consult these taxation consultants. Even bewildered taxation officers have freely admitted to bewildered taxpayers that they do not themselves fully understand the law. Just as scientific taxation has created the taxation consultant, so scientific price-fixing has created the price-fixing consultant. Men are practising as price-fixing consultants to-day who have served in the office of the Prices Commissioner for years. These individuals are now venting offices in ou:1 cities and are finding no dearth of business. In fact some of them are being nearly killed in the rush of clients. The price-fixing consultant is of prime importance, because he is able to show business men how they can “get away “ with prices before the taxation expert shows them how they can get away with profits. Last week the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) seemed to bc very much concerned because the production of immigration papers might disclose confidential information in regard to the guarantors of certain immigrants. If it is so important to protect that kind of private information, what about the price-fixing consultants, who are able to produce dossiers right down the years in connexion with every business in the Com- monwealth ? If they chose to do 30, and only if they so chose, they could give their clients a complete view of the position of their competitors.
But this scientific price-fixing is UO so much a matter of price-fixing as of profit-fixing.- I do not, at this moment, propose to go into the merits of profit- fixing, but as a means of keeping down prices to pegged wages, I say that this legislation is worse than useless. It does not make prices conform to the basic wagor pegged wages, but it fixes prices. It is worse than useless because it legalizes high .prices just as wage-pegging legalize.? low wages. That is what it does in essence. Let roe illustrate ray point. A returned soldier in a certain line of business in Sydney was able, by good buying and other legitimate means, to advertise in the press a certain textile at 3s-. a yard retail. Other big business houses in the city were advertising the same- cloth at ls. a yard. What happened? To the amazement of this returned soldier, who was just setting out in business, he was visited by a price-fixing authority. He showed the authority the advertisement of the big business houses and indicated that he was able to sell the cloth at 33-i per cent, less than the price demanded by other big retail stores. He thought that that would be a sufficient answer te any one who asserted that he was asking an unjust price. He was then initiated into the ways of scientific price-fixing. It was explained to him that it was possible that, with his lower costs and better management, by which he could sell at 3s. a yard as against 4s. charged by his competitors, he was making a greater profit^ and if that were so he was guilty of an offence against the price-fixing regulations. Naturally he abandoned all further attempts to sell at a reduced price. Thereafter he bought in the ordinary way and sold at the same price as the other retail traders. If price-fixing was intended tokeep prices down to pegged wages it would have been logical to suppose that the price-fixing authority would have gone to the big retail stores and said to the management, “ Why cannot you sell at 3s. a yard the same as your competitor ? “ The authority did not do that but because a man was selling at ls. a yard less than some of his competitors he was accused of breaking the regulations. It is obvious, therefore, that the regulations fix and legalize a high price. The Prices Commissioner did not appear to think that it mattered whether the price to the basic wage-earner was 3s. or *4s. a yard. All that he was concerned about was that nobody should make too much profit. Nobody must make a greater profit than the law allowed. The purchasers are not considered at all ; it is the amount of profit that is made. The regulations do not provide for pricefixing ‘but for profit-fixing, and that does not conform in any way at all to pegged wages. Pegged wages mean low wages and price-fixing means legalized high prices. No one to-day is interested in keeping down costs. When all his costs are accounted for the trader has to deal with the Prices Commissioner in regard to profits. That is where the pricefixing consultant comes in. He can show the business man how to wangle his profits no matter what his costs may be. In practice there is only one of the provisions of this measure which will work. The provisions in regard to land sales and rent-fixing will not work; only the wage-pegging regulations will work, and there is no black market in that regard. There is a black market in regard to land transactions and rents, but there is no black market in regard to wages. The worker has to sell his labour at the pegged .price, and he cannot get out of doing .so. He cannot get more than the pegged wage no matter what he does. If he went to see a price-fixing consultant or a wage-fixing consultant or a taxation consultant - if he could afford to engage any of them - not ons of them could show him how he could get Id. more wages or a reduction of Id. in his taxation. But when he goes to spend his pegged wages he has to pay black-market prices for almost everything he buys. So the wageearner loses all along the line. That is why I say that this is a bill to legalize low wages. That is the only provision of the measure which will really work. None of the other so-called controls do what they are supposed to do, or what is claimed for them; they are merely gestures to lead the worker to believe that by controlling other things the Government is pegging the cost of living down to the level of the pegged wages.
The Government says that it believes in the Arbitration Court. If it does so, why does it not show its belief? It can easily do so. Let it indicate to the Arbitration Court by legislation the policy it desires to be adhered to, and then let the court, after full inquiry and the hearing of the evidence placed before itr fix a wage with as much justice as that policy will permit. Every one now and then repeats what he has read in the press. America is held up as a horrible example of what will happen to our country if we do not pass a measure such as that which is now before the House. We are told that if we abolish wage-pegging, if we allow the arbitration courts to fix a just wage, the people of Australia will be destroyed by inflation, as it is claimed America is being destroyed. My answer to that is this: Canada is much closer to the supposed American menace than we are. Canada is just across an imaginary border-line. Yet Canada has just decided that there is no further use for wage-pegging in that dominion. Out here, thousands of miles away, we are told that America is being ruined by inflation, yet just across the border from America a sister dominion, which has our own traditions, language and ideals, has decided that it has no further use for wagepegging. Wage-pegging is something which the big employers in this country have always wanted. They do not want arbitration courts which raise wages; they want low wages. Never before in the history of Australia have the big employers, the monopolists, been able to get a government which has been game to “ pull it on “ f or them. Wage-pegging is wage-fixing by the Parliament. What hypocrisy and cant is all this talk that we hear about the Parliament doing it! Wage-pegging is more than wage-fixing by the Parliament; it is the arbitrary fixing of a low wage. The Parliament fixes it without calling anybody before it, or taking any evidence. It is just the Parliament’s “ say so “. The Parliament arbitrarily fixes a low wage. It makes the minimum wage the maximum wage, and says, “ That is the maximum that can be legally paid in this country “. That is another view which I put to this House. 1 was afraid that this measure would go through without another word being said in regard to it, because everybody seemed to be satisfied with it. I have expressed my view upon it, and it is a Labour view. I say in conclusion that I doubt whether there is another country in the whole wide world in which a parliament has, by act of parliament, fixed a maximum wage. Do not misunderstand the word “ maximum “. There has not been any parliament in the wide world, other than this one, which has fixed a maximum wage.
Sitting suspended from 5.5 to 8 p.m.
– The measure before the House is of very great consequence in that it is not one bill only but a measure which embraces a whole series of legislative enactments which are set out in the schedule in the form of regulations which were in force during (he war. We were told by the Government that Parliament would have an opportunity to examine war-time regulations, which would be brought before it in the form of legislation. That promise was made to Parliament and to the people just before the last elections, but this bill does not effectively honour the promise. We have not before us the regulations governing relations between landlord and tenant, nor those relating to price control, or the control of land values, which the Government proposes to continue for another twelve months in some instances, and in others for several years. Hostilities ceased about fifteen months ago, and there is no reason why, if the Government found that it could not bring all the legislation before us in the form of enactments now, it should not do so when Parliament meets early in the new year. That, however, has not been done, and the Government proposes in this bill to continue the regulations for a further twelve months.
– Some of them.
– It applies to the most important regulations and particularly those controls affecting our industrial and economic life. In addition, we are not yet to get away from the inevitable war-time evil of making legislation by regulation, because this bill provides that regulations may be continued by the promulgation of further regulations, which will have the same effect as acts of Parliament. In short, the bill makes it plain how little protection the people can expect from the Parliament, and especially from the Government. I am the fourth speaker on the measure, and so far no member of the Government party has spoken at all, or made any comment on it. Apparently, Parliament is to side-step its responsibility, and once more surrender to the Executive in this further grab for power.
The aftermath of war is always difficult. There is nothing novel in that. Whatever controls may be attempted, it cannot be hoped that a perfect solution will be found. One concedes that quite readily, but there seems to be a hypnotic effect in the word “ control “ for this Government. The word seems to have a sort of magic. It conjures up in the mind of the Government the idea of an orderly and, at the same time, an energetic transition from war-time economy to peace-time economy. In time of war, there has always been a tendency for the growth of bureaucratic control. Indeed, in Great Britain after the World War I. the Geddes commission was appointed with the idea of getting government expenditure back to a reasonable peace-time level. It is not surprising that departments, which became swollen as a result of war expenditure, and other departments which came into existence only as a result of the war, should seek to perpetuate themselves at the war-time level. What is surprising, however, is that, far from being content with the bloated existence they led during the war, they should be proposing an actual increase of war-time administrative expenditure. Thus, administrative expenditure which amounted to £8,500,000 in 1945-46, the last year of the war, is now to be increased to just under £17.000,000. It may be urged that some departmental administrative expenditure has been brought under its appropriate heading for the first time, and that is certainly true of an amount of £2,200,000; but that still leaves roughly £15,000,000 administrative expenditure within our own government departments compared with £8,500,000 in the last year of the war. That is an extraordinary development, and it illustrates how intoxicated the
Government has become with the idea of control.
Is it sound policy for the Government to apply much the same kind of control by regulations in time of peace as proved useful in time of war? Quite clearly, conditions are now very different. In war-time, the people are prepared to surrender a great part of their freedom of action, and to accept limitations upon what they can do with their business and their own lives - all in the interests of the security of the nation. In time of war, the people are prepared to accept high taxation, even extortionate taxation, because they believe that in that way they are helping the war effort. They are told that it is necessary for civilians to reduce consumption so that every effort may be made to increase war production. They accept the statement that money must not be spent on imports because it is necessary to save exchange. All this sounds like good sense to them, and so the people accept it. However, the various circumstances which make these things reasonable in time of war make it unreasonable for the same conditions to be continued in time of peace. Then, the whole situation is reversed, and it is necessary to induce civilians to increase the production of goods and services to meet the demand. If we are to increase our exports we must be prepared to accept a reasonable quantity of imports. Thus, the restrictions on imports, however useful in time of war, should not be continued in time of peace. In war-time, the Government sets out deliberately, by imposing heavy taxation, to discourage the production of civilian goods and services, but in time of peace it is surely good policy, by reducing taxation, to stimulate the production of goods and services.
The fundamental error of policy committed by this Government is its attempt to continue into peace-time the economic restrictions which proved useful during the war. I challenge a great deal of what has been said about the usefulness of controls, even during the transition period from war to peace. Let us consider what happened in the United States of America, which was held up to us as a bogy for our warning. I remember how public opinion here was turning just before the last elections, how the people were becoming impatient to get rid ot controls. There was a general acceptance of the age-old economic truth that the best way to regulate prices was to permit economic competition. Prices control ia not a new thing. It has been tried over and over again. It was tried in Roman, times, hut there is only one tested and tried way to control prices - ‘namely, competition among sellers. We were told of the terrible things which happened in the United States of America when some of the controls were lifted. I did not believe these sensational reports for several reasons. The first was that the American people had shown during the war that they were able to increase production tremendously, and once the industrial potential was harnessed to the war effort, they turned out an extraordinary flood of war equipment. At the end of the war, they have not reduced their living standards, but were actually paying for the war out of their surplus production. I consider that a country which was capable of such enormous production during the war would not take very long, given the proper incentive, to overtake the demands of the civilian market in a period of peace. The two great political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, were both pressing for the removal of war-time controls in the United States of America, and they were removed. There was a certain amount of panic buying, and an attempt was made to restore some of the controls, but the significant thing was that, after the elections, the controls were discarded. The parties, fresh from the elections, but still responsive to public opinion, considered it desirable to east aside controls which were hampering industry. I make the confident prediction that the United States of America will get out of its difficulties far quicker than, this country, or even Great Britain. It is true that there will be some temporary dislocation. That is inevitable after a war, and let us not believe that we can avoid dislocation here by persisting with controls. It is significant that Canada, which is in a position to note more closely what is happening over the border, has also abandoned economic controls, and is allowing ordinary economic factors to operate in order to stimulate production.
What does the Government hope to achieve by keeping controls in operation ? Presumably, it hopes to achieve an orderly transition from war conditions to peace conditions. Are we achieving that orderly transition to-day? What man or woman cognizant of what is happening in Australia to-day will agree that controls are proving effective? Let us consider the industrial situation alone. The Government has brought down regulations controlling wages, but to-day we have industrial disturbances on a scale never hitherto reached in this country. In the last few days references have been made in the press, no doubt inspired by the Government, as to the extent of the cancerous growth of black marketing in this country affecting those fields in which production still falls far short of demands. The Attorney-General says that because production is short we must maintain controls, but so long as production is scarce the black market will be maintained. Those who could assist by bringing about increased production or by making goods more readily available to the general public find themselves tempted to sell on the black market because of the high profits to be derived. Human nature being what it is they see nothing wrong in turning many a dishonest pound to their own profit. This tendency, which manifested itself during the war, is likely to manifest itself just as much in time of peace. That is obviously what is happening in Australia to-day. The Government, however, maintains that the retention of economic controls will bring about orderly transition from war to peace. Let us recall what happened after World War I. and see if we can obtain guidance from our experiences at that time. It is true that there was not the same dislocation of the economic life of Australia during the first world war as we had during the war just ended; there was nevertheless very considerable dislocation during and after the first world war and there were problems of reconstruction and rehabilitation then just as there are today. I direct the attention of honorable members to a very interesting analysis of the circumstances of our production following the first world war made by Mr. Colin Clark, the well known economist.
Mr. Clark is by no means a right wing economist; I suppose it would not be attributing to him a title he would reject if I described him as a left wing economist. In a lecture delivered in Adelaide in 1938 he said that Australia at that time had a standard of living which measured up to that of the four most advanced countries of the world, the highest standard being enjoyed by New Zealand, next came the United States of America, followed by Great Britain and Australia. He continued -
From 1920 to 1026-27 came a rate of economic progress which has never been equalled at any other time in Australian history, or scarcely in the world. … It will pay to examine in more detail the astonishing spurt of Australian productivity between 1920-21 and 1926-27. In many other countries there have been short, or sometimes prolonged, periods of very rapid economic growth, and from the available statistics of national incomes I have selected all the available figures. It will be seen that this period, when production per head in Australia was expanding at the rate of 91 per cent, per decade, nearly constitutes a record.
That is very interesting. But was that tremendous productive spurt made possible because the government of- the day had imposed a rigid system of controls over our economy? Of course not. Private enterprise, industry and commerce at that time were virtually untrammelled and, as the result, the natural resiliency of the Australian economy asserted itself; industries developed by the people during the war were able to take advantage of the conditions that then prevailed. In Australia to-day, we are favorably situated for a similar productive spurt. We have expanded our industries and built new ones; we have a better trained industrial population today than at any other time in our history ; we have reached a record peak in employment. There were, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has told us, about 523,000 more people in employment last July than there were in July, 1945. Knowing that we have export markets to be satisfied, that we have a peak demand by Australian consumers for housing, clothing, foodstuffs, amenities, services of all kinds, motor cars-, refrigerators, and all the rest of the things that are in short supply, one would think there would be a wonderful opportunity to be grasped. But are we getting that response under this so-called orderly control through the transition period? No one in his senses would say that we are, and the reason for it has been partly explained by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) this afternoon when he said the existence of wage-pegging and other controls is fettering production. Are we achieving maximum production from those thousands of ex-servicemen who are waiting to get an economic foothold in the industrial life of the community? No doubt I shall be told that very many big business men strongly favour the continuation of the economic control system. That does not surprise me, nor does it convince me that my views on this matter are wrong. While these controls remain in operation, many big business men enjoy an immunity from competition that they would not otherwise enjoy. They know that, under the economic control system, there is less competition because it is more difficult for others to break into and compete in the particular industries in which they are engaged. That ds true of reputable business men, who see in the control system a protection that mitigates some of the discomfitures they might otherwise have to suffer; but there are less reputable business men who find that the controls provide a happy huntingground for exploitation because they are able to withhold supplies from the market and take advantage of the demand for goods in short supply and thus reap the benefit of higher prices. They have no desire to promote the normal development of production which otherwise would take place. The control system has created a degree of roguery which this country has never known before. It is defeating the objective of increased production which could readily be attained if the national wealth and skill were adequately utilized. Let us turn to another aspect of the control system. I mentioned earlier that one of our public departments has been seeking to justify its very existence by continuing controls over a number of items. Let us consider for a moment the rationing of petrol, tea and clothing. I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that the consumption of petrol in Australia to-day is very close to, if it does not exceed, our pre-war consumption. I have yet to be convinced that if some power with constitutional authority over the Australian people decided to-morrow that it would sweep aside controls over the rationing of petrol, tea and clothing, this country would be one bit worse off. In many respects it would be a great deal better off. More people would be available from departmental offices now engaged in policing the rationing system to do the work of production, and public expenditure would be reduced accordingly. The average annua] consumption of tea during the four years prior to the outbreak of the war was 46,000,000 lb.; to-day our consumption is at the rate of 42,000,000 lb. per annum. Does the Government say that if rationing of tea were lifted it would be impossible to supply the additional 4,000,000 lb. required to meet the Australian demand? One of the principal objectives of clothing rationing was to divert civilian effort from the production of clothing to the manufacture of materials for war use. Another objective was to bring about a reduction of imports of materials and thus preserve exchange. The necessity for attaining those objectives does not exist to-day. No one would suggest that under the rationing system we now get a more equitable distribution of clothing. Although people have clothing coupons, they find that many articles they need >are not obtainable in the shops. Several items, such as sox, shoes, and boots, which were previously included in the ration scale are now coupon free. It was found that when rationing was lifted from those items the demand for them diminished. In most households during the war, people carried much heavier stocks of clothing and other goods than they would normally possess in prewar years. They did not want to he caught by sudden shortages, but when they knew that these goods were coming back into adequate supply they reduced their holdings.
– Does the honorable member suggest that supplies of clothing to-day are adequate?
– I do not, but I maintain that controls of prices and rationing are defeating the objective of greater production so necessary for the preservation of our economy. All of these things add up in my mind to the conclusion that the control system has proved ineffective during the period of peace. I have been assured by many people that it is no longer necessary for them to be continued. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) however, makes a stab in the dark and says, “ They will be removed at the end of next year “. Why the end of next year? Why not March or July of next year? Why not to-day? I suggest that if controls were lifted to-day, whatever temporary dislocation might result would be offset by the conditions prevailing in the course of the next six or twelve months, especially insofar as clothing, housing and certain other requirements are concerned. We are told, however, that these controls are to remain and that in respect of some of the most important of them, such as prices control, wages control, rationing, control of land values, control of capital issues and control of interest rates, the Attorney-General intends to bring down legislation to continue them for several years. Any criticism that I have made earlier regarding this legislation applies with ev/en greater force to any proposal to continue indefinitely these particular controls, which have no place in our peace-time economy. Before the war, there was no demand for them, and certainly production was not hindered by their absence. But production is undoubtedly being hindered by their presence to-day. I shall deal with only one aspect of this matter. The control of land values and rents has got into such a chaotic condition that for the one property to-day, four different values may obtain.
– For city or suburban property ?
– I am dealing with rental values in general, but I have no doubt that my remarks apply mainly to city and suburban properties. To determine the rent payable for a property we take the rent payable, in 1940. For a sale, we take the sale value of 1942. If we have a new building, we take the sale value on the estimate for 1945-46. If the Commonwealth acquires property, the valuation is supposed to be a fair purchase price at to-day’s value. Thus, a chaotic condition of affairs applies in respect of land, and the things that flow from it. Many people consider that the Government has achieved wonders in keeping rents pegged ; but the only effect of that, as the honorable member for Reid pointed out this afternoon, is that lettings do not take place at the pegged rent which applied in 1940. The reason is that a black-market transaction intervenes. If people are prepared to abide by the strict letter of the law, the Government compels them to take a return based on what the situation was in 1940. So far as the rest of the community is concerned, the Commonwealth has permitted certain upward adjustments in order to meet increases of costs since 1940. This leads to a thoroughly inequitable position. Some, who deal on the black market, resist it. Others, who are not prepared to break the law, must accept what is for them a thoroughly unwarranted Tate of rent. That must have a damaging effect on the future construction of houses.
Let us consider the position of the investor who, before the outbreak of war in 1989, invested his capital in the construction of homes. He expected to get a fair return from his investment. The fair return was kept at a reasonable level, because .many people were prepared to engage in this form of investment in preference to other forms. If they found that this kind of investment was not sufficiently profitable, they turned to other avenues that were offering. But who, in his right senses, wouldinvest to-day in property which he proposed to let? A tenant may ask the fair rents court to determine the rent, and the basis which is fixed for a return to the landlord is a net 5 per cent, on the capital invested. In order to obtain that net return of 5 per cent., the investor must accept all the risks associated with building. One risk is that the site may not develop subsequently. Another risk is that the building itself will be subject to depreciation at a higher rate than the Taxation Department allows. The investor will also have all the difficulties of unsatisfactory tenants. For all those risks, he is entitled to a net return of 5 per cent. He could lend his money as a mortgage on a property, have the land fully secured with no risk attaching to it, and obtain a rate of 4f per cent.; or he could invest his money in Commonwealth bonds at 3£ per cent. The Government has got itself into a vicious circle regarding housing. The Treasurer asserts that the Government must retain the control of rent and land values until housing overtakes the demand. But the construction of houses will not overtake the demand, because those who normally would build houses and let them have no inducement to invest their money in that particular field of activity.
I return now to the point at which I started* We are told that a thoroughly chaotic and disorderly condition of affairs will develop if the Government abruptly terminates the present controls. No one can say that the lifting of the controls will be an abrupt act. Although hostilities against Japan ceased about fifteen months ago, the Commonwealth has shown no signs of hastening to get out of the transition period. Indeed, the Prime Minister has expressed the determination to carry on the most important controls for many years. Therefore, no honorable member can suggest, with justification, that a chaotic situation will develop if these controls are removed abruptly, even if they were to expire this week.
One of the most important controls - prices control - could be modified very considerably. The control is too detailed in respect of many items which are rapidly being supplied in Australia. A radical overhaul should be made there. As I stated, the position regarding the control of land sales and rents is chaotic. An examination of the rationing of goods, which I mentioned earlier, reveals a thoroughly unnecessary perpetuation of a war-time administration. All these things are hampering the normal development of the country in the post-war opportunities that should be available to Australia. They are restricting our exservicemen from obtaining any employment other than wage-plugging jobs, and pick-and-shovel work, and are denying to them the opportunities to fend for themselves. They prevent real competition, which would strengthen our economy, industry and commerce, to meet the inevitable competition which we shall encounter from other countries during the next few years. Because I declare that many of these controls are outmoded and others should be removed more rapidly than the Government intends, the House must accept the amendment which the Leader of the Opposition has foreshadowed - an amendment which will bring this legislation back before this Parliament not later than March, 1947, when we shall be able to examine each of these controls under the magnifying glass, and analyse them, not in the higgledy-piggledy way in which we now find them in the schedules of this bill, but for what they are - substantive pieces of legislation which are having a major effect upon the community and the commercial life of Australia. I shall support the amendment, and hope that a majority of honorable members will do so.
.- I welcome this bill. The Australian people remember the economic depression after World War I., when the political parties supported by honorable members opposite were in office, and I arn sure that they do not want a repetition of those conditions. Those political parties borrowed heavily overseas and “ busted “ this country. They could never redeem any promise that they made. Ex-servicemen wore out their shoes as they tramped the streets looking for elusive jobs.
– That is not correct.
– It is true. Exservicemen and other workers were not able to find employment during the economic depression. I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). All members of the legal profession and real estate agents are very “ sour “ about the control of land sales. This is one of their bugbears, because between them, real estate agents and lawyers fleece the people. I can remember perfectly the conditions immediately after the termination of World War I. The Israels and the Cohens made a practice of hiring charaabane to take people to Lake Macquarie, where they bought blocks of land for between £100 and £150. With the advent of the economic depression, people became unemployed, and some of them, being unable to pay the municipal rates, sold the blocks for as little as £10. That was a ridiculous condition of affairs. The control of land sales and prices control have been of inestimable benefit to Australia during the last few years. Of course, the racketeer and the blackmarketeer will always find means of evading the regulations, if the people will not help the administration to enforce them. Unfortunately, some people are prepared to pay a black market price for the land or the goods that they require. They may sign a contract to purchase land at the fixed price, but they pay an extra sum to the avaricious black marketeer. If the extra payment is not made, the transaction lapses. A few days ago I heard of an ex-serviceman who had this experience. The delegate of the Treasury would not consent to the transaction at the price which the vendor asked, and thereupon, the vendor withdrew from the sale and returned the ex-serviceman’s deposit. I warn the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that these regulations must be policed more rigidly, and the evil-doer must be punished. The people who claimed that the ValuerGeneral’s valuations were too high in normal times now contend, for their own selfish purposes, that his valuations are too low. They know that people will pay almost any price for land that they urgently require. Owners protested for years that the Valuer-General’s valuations were too high, but immediately the Commonwealth proposed to acquire their land, they asserted that the Valuer-General’s figures were too low. The same applies in respect of almost every private transaction in land.
– The High Court declared that the valuations were too low.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) probably has claimed that the Valuer-General’s valuation for his farm was too high ; but if he received a good offer for his property to-day, he would probably claim that the Valuer-General’s valuation was too low. I do not believe that members of the Opposition, bad and all as they are, desire conditions in Australia to revert to what they were during the economic depression. “We must pull together as a nation. We must co-operate in the interests of the ex-servicemen whom we promised to rehabilitate. We must honour that promise. If we do not, chaos will result. The fathers of men who fought in World War II. will remember the treatment that they and their fathers received after World War I., and they will instil in the minds of the young men of Australia the desire to embrace revolution in order to change the present social order. We, as democrats, do not believe that bloody revolution is necessary before full employment for every one can be provided. The purpose of this measure is to provide full employment. The honorable member for Fawkner criticized the control of prices, and said that the method which the Government adopted is wrong. His remedy is to have open competition, because, he said, competition will control prices. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) knows better than any honorable member of the House probably what open, cut-throat competition meant in the coal industry years ago. He knows that the mineowners reduced the price of coal in open competition, and then cut down the wages of the men. Our experience should warn us against applying a policy of open competition. The honorable member for Fawkner mentioned America, but he quickly “shied off” it. Prices control has been lifted in the United States of America with the result that a pound of steak costs £1 sterling. It is estimated that about 6,000,000 people are out of employment in the United States of America. The honorable gentleman said that prices control should be lifted because it leads to roguery. The poor people, however, cannot indulge in much roguery; their meagre wages do not allow them to do so. The workers cannot operate on the black market because they have not the wherewithal for the purpose. Only people with money can afford to pay exorbitant black market prices for commodities.
I appeal to the workers throughout Australia to assist the officers of the Prices Commissioner who are trying to do a good job. Let me offer a word of advice to the Attorney-General to strengthen the prices control regulations. At present, when a private person or a storekeeper is reported by an inspector for a breach of the regulations a long process is set in motion. If the alleged offence occurs in a country town of New South Wales, for example, the matter must be reported to Sydney, and from Sydney it must be reported to Canberra. It is then taken up by the appropriate officer and the same process must he repeated in reverse. The result is that probably six months will elapse before a prosecution is actually launched. In my opinion tha inspectors of the Prices Commissioner should be given the same power as a police constable. Evil-doers should be brought to book at once. Those who commit breaches of the regulations should be “put straight in”. That, I suggest to the Attorney-General, would quickly put an end to the present racket. The people of Australia should not shut their eyes to offences against the regulations. They should do their utmost to help officers charged with the policing of our prices control enactments.
It is all very well to say that the workers may apply to the Arbitration’ Court for an increase of wages, but everybody knows that immediately an increase of the basic wage or of some marginal variation is granted prices begin to soar. Prices should be controlled for all time because only by that means can the workers be sure of receiving an advantage from wage increases. I believe, however, that the wage-pegging regulations could be relaxed to some degree in order to enable the workers to “ catch up “ on prices.
– Surely, if prices are to be controlled wages also must be controlled.
– I believe that prices must be controlled, otherwise wage increases will be of very little use’ to the workers. We know from experience that commodity prices very often increase out of all proportion to wage increases. I gave an illustration of this when I first entered this Parliament eighteen years ago. I referred to the occasion when the coal miners received a wage increase of ls. 6d. a day in respect of which the mine owners were permitted to charge an extra ls. 6d. a ton for coal. The average output from a mine in those days, taking into account the miners, the hoys, the managers, the agents, and everybody else, was three tons per man. It needs very little calculation to realize how greatly the mine-owners benefited bv the increase of ls. 6d. a ton for coal, particularly as only 50 per per cent, of the workers received the increase of ls. 6d. a day. Immediately the basic wage-earner receives an increase the price of butter goes up Id. per lb., jam Id. a tin, and other commodities in proportion, and in one fell swoop the employers more than recoup themselves for their extra outlay in wages.
The honorable member for Fawkner said that he was opposed to prices control, and referred specifically to the control of land sales and house rents. Apparently, the only control he believes in is the control of wages. It must be obvious to everybody, however, that with the housing position as it is, the control of rents is absolutely essential. If open competition were permitted in regard to housing, rents would soar immediately and people with two or three children would very soon find themselves pitched into the streets, because it is common knowledge that landlords dislike letting their properties to people with small children. At present an approach must be made to a fair rents tribunal before rents may be increased, but if controls were lifted rents would very quickly skyrocket.
I consider that there should be a greater measure of control of the operations of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, particularly in regard to the sale of motor vehicles. We all remember that, when motor vehicles were impressed during the war, owners were required to take their trucks and cars to a specified police station, where officials of the various services fixed a price for them and settled the deal on the spot. One would have thought that now that the vehicles were no longer required for war purposes, owners whose cars and trucks were commandeered would be given priority in regard to vehicles that are available for disposal, but that procedure has not been followed. Unfortunately, motor traders have been able to purchase, as it were, whole fleets of motor vehicles. Sometimes 50 or 100 vehicles or even moss vehicles are disposed of in one lot. The individual who desires only one truck or one jeep has not a hope of competing with the traders.
– This Government sponsored wholesale disposals in the Northern Territory and New Guinea.
– Well, I am not sponsoring it. I am urging that the Government should prevent motor traders who buy vehicles in bulk at a cheap price from disposing of them to individuals at an exorbitant price. I have just received a letter from an ex-serviceman who points out that the pegged price for a jeep purchased from a motor trader is £225, notwithstanding that the trader purchased in bulk at an average price of £95. This man also said that some ex-servicemen were obliged to pay as much as £50 in excess of the pegged price before they were able to acquire a jeep.
– And the Minister for the Army is doing nothing about it.
– I believe that the Government will take notice of the circumstances to which I am referring, and I hope that an instruction will be issued to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to the effect that persons who desire to purchase single units must be given the opportunity to do so. The same kind of thing is happening in regard to the disposal of motor boats which were used by the Royal Australian Air Force.
– There is profiteering going on.
– And honorable gentlemen opposite represent the profiteers; we do not. The members of this Parliament should be doing their best to ensure that ex-service men and women are treated fairly. The experience of the past in these matters should serve as a guide for our present activities. We should be ready to do everything we can to help the men and women who were prepared to give their lives in the service of their country. I have seen hundreds of them go to the war, from my district, having reached the age of 26 years, without having done one days’ work in this country. At the outset, they received 5s. a day, plus keep, under the regime of a government composed of honorable members opposite. The succeeding Labour Government raised the amount. Some of these men became commissioned officers, and were killed in Greece and Crete, fighting for a country which could never providethem with jobs. Are we to have a repetition of those tragic conditions? I conclude by reading a poem which accompanied the letter that was sent to me by the soldier to whom I have referred. It was written by one Latham, of Tarakan, and ought to impress all of us. It reads -
“AUSTRALIA, MY COUNTRY, WILL YOU REPAY?”
On the crosses which mark the arid mounds, Are the tales of courage, which knew no bounds, “ Killed in action “ and died of wounds,
But the wasted lives, are war’s worst ruins.
You will see their mates at the graveside stand,
Quietly their slouch hats in their hands,
And you may grieve as they will too,
For the hopes and dreams which will not come true.
You may gaze at the flag which hangs from the mast
To honour the men who were staunch to the last ;
And fancy you hear a quiet voice say: “ Australia, My Country, will you repay?”
Will you warm my hearth, give daily bread,
To the hungry mouths which have to be fed;
Through the sweat and toil of a fallen man
Who sleeps by the road on Tarakan?
Nobody will say of the Attorney-General, who is piloting the bill through this House, that he has not gained worldwide renown in his honest endeavours to place Australia “on the map” among other nations of the world, or that his motive was other than to rehabilitate this country which he loves. His aim has. always been to secure equity and justice for those who fought and bled for us. I ask this House to carry this measure. Honorable members who now sit opposite may one day find themselves sitting on this side of the House. I admit that such a possibility is remote. In such an event, they would find this legislation of benefit, not only to themselves, but also to this great country which we all love.
.- The undertaking given by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), that at the committee stage each item of the schedule will be considered separately, has relieved members of the Opposition, particularly myself, of the need to do more than address general remarks to the bill in a second-reading speech.
My first observation is, that it is well to acknowledge that war does not cease when the last shot has been fired, and that the consequences of the last great war must continue for a long time into the months that lie ahead. So I acknowledge that there is need, at this stage, to continue certain controls.
My second observation is, that the problem of peace is entirely different from the problem of war. The problem of war involves the mobilization of the nation’s resources for the purpose of producing a limited number of commodities, mostly munitions of war, in the quickest possible time, irrespective of the cost to the nation. It is necessary to express the problem of peace, because it bears upon the contents of this bill. It is, to produce not a limited number but a multiplicity of goods. They are not goods of war, but civilian goods, and their cost is of paramount importance. Instead of being of very minor consequence because of urgency, civilian costs are of great significance, because they affect the economy of every man and woman in the country. When the problem is viewed in that general light - and perforce I can describe it only in general terms - it becomes obvious that certain controls are necessary. I believe it to be important that the Opposition should sweep aside some of the debris, so that the position may be made clear. I know where I stand. I believe that the real question before this House is, what controls are necessary, and in what way are they to be given statutory effect? The vice in this bill is, not the mere continuation of controls, but the manner in which they are sought to be continued. If honorable members will peruse clause 6, the extent to which, in time of peace, we are continuing the abject surrender of the authority of this Parliament to the Executive, and through the Executive to administrative officers in the Public Service, will become readily apparent. I have no criticism to offer of the officers of the Public Service, who perform their tasks with splendid loyalty, and generally with great efficiency. I am directing my remarks to the functions of this Parliament, and the way in which they are being steadily abrogated from us. In deed, the bill seeks to continue an evil which will reduce this Parliament to a mere farce. We have listened on more than one occasion* to debates in this House being continued almost exclusively by members of the Opposition. We lose in that way all the deliberative characteristics which should be the mark of this chamber. If one looks at clause 6, one will see that, if it be passed - and passed it will be, of course, by weight of numbers - it will continue over 60 controls which at present are contained in regulations that have been made under the National Security Act. It will do more than that. It will transfer every one of the subjectmatters of those regulations to the Executive of this country during the next twelve months. In short, it will abstract from the legislative field of this Parliament practically all that is important in the life of this country. In my view, that is the major problem which this bill presents; because, not only are these regulations, by sub-clause 1 of clause 6, to be continued for twelve months, but, in addition, by sub-clause 2, the Governor-General - which means, of course, the government of the day, which in turn, as those of us who have had some experience in government know, means the administrative officer who places a matter before a Minister for submission to the Governor-General in Council, a body usually presided over by a junior Minister, after which it becomes the law of the country - may, before the prescribed time, which will be the end of next year, make .regulations amending any one of the regulations in respect of any subject-matter dealt with by those regulations. That means that, over the wide field covered by the regulations that are contained in the first schedule to the bill, the Executive will have for a period of one year the most complete power to govern this country. It has been said more than once from this side of the House, and I certainly have not refrained from repeating it, that in time of war, and particularly in the urgent days of 1939-43, it was necessary to give plenary powers to the Executive. But I can see no reason why, the emergency having passed, we’ should continue the practice of delegating the government of this country to an outside authority.
Already, this Parliament has been reduced to a farce. There is no purpose in any member of the Opposition criticizing any portion of the Government’s legislation, because it has been predetermined; and, irrespective of the logic or the force of our argument, that predetermination is given effect. So we lose what seems to rae to be one of the main characteristics of a democratic assembly, namely, deliberation upon the details of the legislation which comes before it. The major point of my remarks is that there is no need, at present, for continuance of the policy of delegating the widest field of our legislative powers to some other authority outside this Parliament. That, to me, is the negation of democracy. But my objections do not cease there, because my contention is that the Government promised a complete cessation of tho controls instituted under the National Security Regulations, as from the end of this year, and the impostion of new controls, which would be placed before the Parliament. If the English language means anything, that statement by the Government, when it went to the people, meant that the controls that had been exercised under the National Security Act would cease at the end of this year, and that new controls covered by specific legislation on each such control would be introduced which could be examined by this Parliament. But what, in truth, has occurred? I have taken the trouble to go through the schedule to the bill and compare it with the existing regulations the regulations which are sought to be extended. Despite the criticism directed at many of the regulations by the High Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of New South Wales in particular, and other State supreme courts, no real effort has been made to deal with the anomalies, the difficulties, and many of the hardships which result from the regulations as they are now drawn. The Government has simply gone through all the regulations, and has excluded mainly those which have exhausted their power, or are covered, at least in part, by existing legislation. The exclusion covers a large number of regulations which are now “dead-wood”. But the remaining regulations, with minor amendments, are being carried forward by this legislative manoeuvre. Although the Attorney-General has been fair enough to agree that in committee every regulation can be dealt with as a separate item, that is not sufficient. Let us take one example. The economic organization regulations. They deal with a large number of matters, including wage-pegging, control of land sales, transfer of leases for more than three years, control of shares, &c. If one bill had been drawn to deal with those matters alone it would warrant careful scrutiny and full debate; yet in committee honorable members are to be allowed only two periods of fifteen minutes each in which to discuss them. Procedure of this kind is tending to destroy the authority of Parliament. An amendment has been foreshadowed to the effect that the powers should be continued only until the end of March of next year. That is not because it is not recognized that certain of them should be continued beyond that date, but because we believe that each separate subjectmatter should be the subject of a special bill. There seems to be an idea abroad that Parliament should not concern itself with these things; a budget debate may be allowed to drift interminably, but apparently we should not concern ourselves unduly with legislation. There is no reason why each item in the first schedule should not be the subject of an individual bill. I should be in favour of the application of the guillotine so as to prevent prolonged discussion, provided a reasonable time was allowed for the discussion of each measure. In that way the business of the House would go through more quickly, and we would recapture our powers as a deliberative assembly.
I am not now concerned with, the details of economic controls, but with their nature. I do not’ see how such controls as those over prices, wages, capital issues and land values could be removed without precipitating an economic crisis. That statement, however, does not mean that I agree with the extent of the controls now in operation or with the methods of administration. It is well to do a little clear thinking on this subject. I listened this afternoon to the honorable member for Reid (Mr.
Lang), who advanced the popular theory that all control over wages should be removed. It is easy to advocate such a policy, and to tell the worker that the removal of wage-pegging would be to his benefit and that of the country. It is the easy and popular line to take, particularly when one does not have to accept responsibility. The honorable member for Reid will get no assistance from me in the attempt he is making to capture public acclaim by posing as the sole incorruptible in this House. I acknowledge the need to continue economic controls. It is as clear as daylight that. if wagepegging were removed, the second condition of the workers would be worse than the first. At the same time, I acknowledge that it is necessary to relax somewhat the wage-pegging regulations. For reasons which have been advanced more than once, particularly from this side of the House, the basic wage is no longer in accordance with the needs of those who have to live on it. It is not sufficient to make that admission without saying what the degree of relaxation should be, but the honorable member for Reid made no attempt to meet that requirement, except in general terms. Indeed, I gathered the impression that he wanted to make, the best of both worlds. He spoke about the fixation of prices, and also about the removal of wage-pegging. The fact is that there is a shortage of labour in Australia to-day, and if wage-pegging were removed the competition for labour would force up wages and, in turn, costs. Those who would benefit would be the employers who were prepared to outbid their competitors. As a matter of fact, that is going on now, despite controls. I should like to see a stricter supervision of controls, both in respect of goods and wages. It is mere political hypocrisy to say that the workers would be better off if controls were removed. However, the present regulations should be relaxed, and it should be left to a reformed and streamlined arbitration system to say what the new wage ought to be, basing its determination upon what industry can bear. Employers are quite prepared to pay the wage which the court fixes, but there are others who are paying more than the fixed and permissible rate - to the disadvantage of their competitions.
Moreover, I know that the Government is aware of what is goingon. Prices officials are going through the books of certain companies which are paying more than the pegged rates, and are telling the companies that they must write back the additional amounts which they are paying in -wages. In other words, as prices officials, they are rightly forcing the companies to reduce their profits and costs in accordance with the law, but it is an amazing thing that the Government, which is aware of what is going on, does nothing to enforce the law. It is an old saying that a law which is not enforced is a bad law, and if conditions have reached such a stage that the law in regard to wages cannot be enforced it should, in its present form, be abolished. I am also prepared to say that there should be less legalism in the arbitration system.
– There should not be any at all.
– I do not agree with that. There is need for legalism in the fixing of a common rule, but once that is laid down its application can be left to subordinate bodies which would then be able to deal with applications quickly and efficiently. A great deal of trouble in industry to-day is related to the wagepegging regulations, which must be modified or they will be “blown off” by the workers in any case. The reformed arbitration court should be in a position to give to the workers what they are entitled to, and it would then be possible to control prices effectively.
While I agree that prices control must be continued, I believe that the system should be simplified. An attempt has been made to cover far too wide a field, and in some instances wrong methods are applied. Under the present system the Prices Commissioner may fix prices according to different standards, so that different prices may apply in the case of different producers or sellers handling the same goods in the same area of distribution. Thus it is not prices that are fixed so much as profits. This was never intended, and it has had the effect of penalizing efficient traders and producers, which is one reason why production has not increased. Moreover, profits can be sufficiently controlled by taxation, without resorting to other means. I support the observations of the honorable member for Eawkner that when the supply of any particular commodity equals the demand control of the price of that commodity should cease. Should the situation change, it can be reimposed.
Certain anomalies have developed in regard to prices control. Recently, I asked a question in the House about the fixing of prices for amusements, and I was told that, in general, they were fixed by the Prices Commissioner. I then asked why people were being charged up to £7 for ringside seats for a certain boxing contest in Sydney. I do not know how many honest people can afford to pay £7 for a seat. I am told that since prize fighting is not an essential commodity the price of admission does not need to be fixed by the Prices Commissioner. Yet we find that the fees of private schools, hospital charges and the Lord knows how many other items which are as little essential commodities as a prize fight, are controlled. The point I am seeking to make is that the price-fixing control needs to be simplified both in the area over which it operates and the methods by which it is applied. There is for example no longer need to control the price of shares. I was one who until recently supported the control of share sales. If, however, one regards what takes place in the share market to-day one would know that a large number of leading industrials have fallen below the ceiling prices permitted by the Treasury. In no other place in the English-speaking world is control over share values still operating. Since market conditions control the supply of shares, it seems to me that that control could be abolished, and all the expenses associated with it saved. Retention of such a control cannot be justified on any ground relating to the defence of this country or to the transition from war to peace. As to land values, the Government, by the very nature of its control over this aspect of our economy, is encouraging black marketing. We encourage black markets when our controls are so severe in character that large numbers of people will not observe them. Recently the honorable member for
Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that in Sydney SO per cent, of the lamb sales were made on the black market. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) rejected that allegation, saying that he could not believe it to be true. I incline to the view that the honorable member for Richmond was very near the mark. The question of controlling land values does not involve solicitors or land and estate agents. Everyone knows that there is nothing that solicitors and land and estate agents can do to prevent black marketing in the sales of property and land. Although real estate land transactions are submitted for Treasury approval, private arrangements are made between the respective parties to the transaction under which the difference between the approved valuation and the agreed price is covered by a payment in cash or by some other means. That is done time and time again. Control of this description penalizes the honest person and encourages those who are prepared to defy the law. The multiplicity of the bases used in calculating values is inexcusable. As the honorable member for Fawkner has said, rents are fixed on the capital value at a prescribed date, namely, 1940; land values in respect of properties erected before 1945 are fixed on the basis of the value pertaining in April, 1942, in which year the market was probably at its lowest point; and land values in respect of properties erected in 1945-46 are fixed in accordance with present-day costs. Finally, the value of land acquired by a government is determined solely by what is regarded as the just compensation that should be paid for it. In a recent case, Mr. Justice Roper, of New South Wales, made it quite clear that the actual value of land as such had increased substantially since 1942 and it is indisputable that when people erect cottages or homes to-day the cost of erection is at least 50 per cent, in excess of what it was in 1942. So, there is the amazing anomaly that if a man builds a property next door to your own home to-day, using inferior building materials by comparision with those used in your house, the valuation of that property is determined by an entirely differentmethod from that which would be applied if you desired to sell. Property values should be rationalized and determined by present building costs and that method should be applied in the assessment of the value of both old and new buildings. In respect of old buildings, the price could be further adjusted by writing off from the value so ascertained a sum for depreciation in accordance with the number of years the building had been erected. I realize that the problem of economic controls is not an easy one to solve. To remove controls is always a popular cry ; it is never popular to continue them. For my part I have no desire to see this country experience what has been experienced in the United States of America. No doubt conditions in that country will improve and, economically, it may recover its stability more quickly than we anticipate. However, the problems of the United States of America are entirely different from our own. Most of the controls now sought to be continued were originally imposed by a government supported by honorable members on this side of the House. They have been added to and extended by the Labour Government. I am not opposed in principle to the continuance of some, but I am opposed to their continuance in the way they have operated in the past. In a second-reading speech of this kind I have been able to make observations only of a general character; I hope to be able to add to them when the bill is in committee. The substance of my remarks may be summed up in this way: We can best scrutinize legislation such as this if we revert to the wholesome practice followed before the war of having all legislative enactments brought before the Parliament in the form of bills. If we do that - and I hope that the practice will be reverted to more quickly than appears likely at present - Parliament will be able to re-assert its authority. I trust that those supporting the Government will endeavour to support the major propositions which I have advanced during this debate.
.- Because of the undertaking given by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that at the committee stage honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss each of the control regulations proposed to be continued, it will only be necessary for me at this stage to address myself to the general principles of the bill before the House. I remind honorable members that the very narrow issue which we are discussing at the moment is whether this bill, with all the attached regulations, should go through in its present form, or whether the Parliament is to have an opportunity to consider step, by step, and in detail, the separate subject-matters contained in the schedule at some later stage. To put it in another way, is the bill to be passed and to remain in force from now until the end of next year, or is it, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) suggested, to be operative only until March next, so that we may be given an opportunity to reconsider some of the subject-matters contained in the schedule ? As relevant to that I would like to recount shortly the history of the national security legislation. The National Security Act was passed in 1939. By far the most important provision in that Act was contained in section 5 which gave to the GovernorGeneral in Council - which, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has indicated, simply means a Cabinet Minister - power to make regulations for the safety and security of the Commonwealth in respect of a vast variety of subject-matters. Pursuant to that power many thousands of regulations have been promulgated. It is not my intention to comment upon them now ; they were passed during a period of war. Even at this stage of our transition to peace, however nearly 2,000 of them still remain in existence. We are acutely concerned with this matter. It is obvious that these regulations very profoundly interfered with the ordinary rights of the citizens. That may be said to have been necessary in time of war. If one reads them closely, one finds that the ordinary common law and statutory rights of the citizen - many of them established for centuries - were cut away by these war-time regulations. They were extremely drastic. We will assume for the moment that they were necessary; though there may be different views as to whether they were necessary that, however, is water that has gone under the bridge. The regulations were formulated by some clerk iu the office of the Attorney-General or the SolicitorGeneral in Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne. They were presented to the Minister and they became law by the simple process of their being signed by the Minister and being laid on the table of this House. It is not an accident that this debate has been carried on so far mainly by lawyers. They are trained to be vigilant in guarding the liberties of the subject. To impose upon the people drastic legislation which cannot be debated in this House in the ordinary way, and which can in no circumstances be amended, constitutes a revolutionary reversal of parliamentary practice. “We have justified this practice as being necessary in time of war, but we cannot justify it in time of peace. All authorities agree that legislation by regulation is evil, undemocratic and dangerous and interferes with the liberties of the people. Reference was made by the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) to Lord Chief Justice Hewart’s observation of many long years standing in regard to it. The High Court has said so again and again in no uncertain terms, the Chief Justices of the State courts have said so in no uncertain terms and the Attorney-General himself has said so quite recently. Mr. David Maughan, K.C., who until recently was chairman of the Law Council of Australia, is perhaps the most celebrated lawyer in Australia to-day. He is a man of great ability and experience, and I believe that he is held in very high regard by the Attorney-General. I remind the House that Mr. Maughan, K.C., Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C., and Dr. Lou at were members of a committee which the Attorney-General appointed to inquire into the operation of these regulations. On his retirement from the Chairmanship of the Law Council of Australia recently, Mr. Maughan said -
The most important happening from the point of view of a constitutional lawyer during my six years’ terms of office has been the transfer of the power of law-making from the Parliament to the Governor-General in Council under the provisions of the National Security Act. The change in the methods of legislation and government effected by this transfer was revoluationary. No constitutional lawyer would question the necessity for conferring’ upon the Governor-General in
Council, in other words, upon the executive government of the Commonwealth, in time of war a very wide power to pass law* upon any subject connected with the prosecution of the war or the defence of the Commonwealth.
But although the conferring of such a power is necessary, the exercise of it is only justifiable in one of two cases; such power should be exercised only ill case of emergency when it is impossible to wait for Parliament to act, or in matters of detail upon subjects upon which Parliament has already passed a law. In practice, the Governor-General in Council under all the governments that have been in power during the war has passed laws upon every subject under the sun, whether the. matter was one of urgency or not, whether Parliament was sitting or not or even if the law interfered in a radical way with the ordinary common law rights of the citizen. Examples of this were the Apple and Pear Acquisition Regulations
These regulations are to be perpetuated in this bill - and the Landlord and Tenant Regulations
These regulations are also to be perpetuated -
Kach of these codes altered the common law in vital respects and radically changed the rights of owners of property both real and persona! and also of tenants. It is my submission as the present head of the profession in Australia that such laws should prima facie only be made by Parliament and not by the executive government. Other cases in which the power of law-making by regulation was exercised were the raising of the rate of invalid and old-age pensions and the abolition of the right of appeal in certain cases under the Industrial Peace Regulations even after an appeal had been duly instituted.
I repeat the words “ even after an appeal had been duly instituted “. That is utterly revolutionary, because it is a commonplace of the law that, once a man has acquired vested rights, and a vested right in that case was his right of appeal, no legislation should be passed to deprive him of them. But, in this instance, under the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations, rules were made which prevented litigants who had appeals current or about to be heard, from instituting their appeals. Mr. Maughan’s statement continued -
When laws are passed through Parliament in the ordinary way there is opportunity for criticism by the public and the press and by members of all parties in Parliament and there is also an opportunity for amendment in the committee stage in cither House of the Parliament. The result of this criticism may result in improvements in both the substance and the form of th<> proposed law or even in its withdrawal fromParliament. When, how ever, laws are made by regulation, there is no opportunity for this criticism or opposition or amendment and a law may be made by a Minister of the Crown if he can secure the presence of a majority of the Executive Council, without even his colleagues inthe Cabinet being aware of the proposed law. This star-chamber legislation should not take place in a democratic community.
I believethat many honorable members opposite will receivethose words with the utmost sympathy, and as much to them as to my colleagues on this side of the House are my remarks addressed, because this is not a party political matter. This matter strikes at the liberty of the subject, and, therefore, should be considered very gravely and solemnly by every one who wishes to protect the liberty of the subject.
Shortly before the Attorney-General introduced this bill, I asked him the following question: -
I preface a question to the Attorney-General by reminding the right honorable gentleman that during the war the normal legal rights of citizens were profoundly altered by many regulations passed under the National Security Act, which regulations could not be amended by the Parliament, and could not in practice be adequately examined or debated.I now ask the Minister whether, in connexion with the legislation shortly to be introduced to replace the existing National Security Act and the regulations made thereunder, he will give consideration to the necessity for providing that the power to make regulations shall be limited, as far as possible, to matters of an executive character, and shall not extend to matters of a legislative character?
That meant that regulations should be limited to ordinary, every-day matters of procedure and administration, and rules affecting the liberty of the individual should be made, not by a regulation laid on the table of the House, but by substantive statute which could be fully debated in this chamber. In reply to my question, the Attorney-General said -
I propose to introduce to-morrow the legislation to which the honorable member has referred. When that legislation is before the House he and other honorable members will have an opportunity to make suggestions in relation to it.
Next day, the legislation was introduced, and I then observed that most of the controls which have been in force for some time, were to be perpetuated by a device. Something had to be done in order to give them legislative effect; otherwise they would expire at the end of this year. So, the Government asked the Parliament to pass a simple and short bill containing an enormous schedule, and announcing that all these tabulated regulations were to have the effect and force of law. That meant that 62 acts of the Parliament, because there are 62 sets of regulations in the second schedule of the bill, totalling 1,850 regulations, will go onto the statutebook in one “hit”. If that is not a revolutionary way in which to pass legislation, I do not know what is. If one adds to those 1,850 regulations, all the hundreds of orders and proclamations which have been made pursuant to them, there is literally no limit to the quantity of legislation which is suddenly to be “popped “ into the statute-book in this extraordinary way. As if that is not enough, when I turn to the bill itself, I find that clause 6 provides - (1.) The Regulations the titles of which are specified in the first column of the First Schedule, being the Regulations having those respective titles as in force under the National Security Act immediately prior to the commencement of this Act, shall, subject to this Act, be in force until midnight on the thirtyfirst day of December, One thousand nine hundred and forty-seven (in this Act and in the Regulations in force by virtue of this section referred to as “ the prescribed time”) and no longer, with such amendments (if any) as are respectively specified in the third column of that Schedule. (2.) The Governor-General may, before the prescribed time, make regulations -
Under clause 6, the Attorney-General will perpetuate the very grievance which has been criticized by all legal authorities from time immemorial. Mr. Maughan, in particular, criticized it, in the statement that I read to the House. The grievance is that this regulation-making power is to be perpetuated in the same way as it was during the war. We are to witness no change of method, except that the regulation making power is to be limited to subject matters already on the statute-book. That does not mean anything, because it is inconceivable that the Parliament should want to pass regulations, in this time of peace, on new matters. What it means is that if the Government desires to amend, expand or do anything else with the 62 sets of regulations contained in the second schedule, all it has to do is follow the same procedure as that which it followed under the National Security Act in war-time. I make it perfectly clear, and this is the substance of my objection to the bill, that I am rigidly opposed to giving power to the Government to pass regulations affecting the common law rights of citizens without proper deliberation. 1 repeat that this is not a party matter. Honorable members opposite should be as deeply concerned about it as I am. For some time, I have had considerable experience of the administration of these regulations. I remember that, in practice, the regulations are drawn by clerks in government departments. They are put before the Attorney-General, and I venture to suggest - it is only fair to do so - that often, he does not know what is the substance of these matters. He trusts his officers. The regulations are laid upon the table of the House, and become law. I have, in my legal practice, prosecuted and defended under these regulations. When matters have cropped up which have not been covered by the existing regulations, the instructing officer has said, “We shall get a new regulation passed, and fix this matter up “. A telephone call was made to Canberra, and a few days later a new regulation was made. That may be all right in war-time, and be justified in an emergency, but it can only be justified in an emergency when the Parliament cannot be called together. This proposal to perpetuate a state of affairs like that in peace-time is blatantly stripping away the liberties of the citizen and depriving this chamber of the right, which it should have, to criticize and mould legislation.
Earlier this year, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the AttorneyGeneral said that the National Security Act would expire at the end of this year, and that the regulations made thereunder would automatically cease. He did indicate, in the words which the Leader of the Opposition repeated, that it would be preferable to leave to the Parliament the matter of subsequent legislation; that is to say, the subsequent legislation which was to be in substitution for the National Security Regulations that would expire at the end of this year. Instead of doing that, the Attorney-General has adopted the device of incorporating 62 sets of regulations in one bill, which will go through the chamber in a few hours. I appreciate the gesture which the AttorneyGeneral has made in stating that, in committee, honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss these regulations separately. During his secondreading speech, I asked him whether he would allow honorable members an opportunity to discuss them fully, because of their vital importance. He said that he would provide that opportunity. Within the forms of the House, I can see that he has done so by the procedure which he has adopted, but it is palpable that there can be no adequate debate. If the experience of the last few days is any indication, the Parliament will be overwhelmed with legislation before the adjournment, and this matter cannot be adequately debated within that limited time. All these regulations should be brought before the Parliament in separate bills, which the House could examine in great detail, because it has not yet considered them. So on that ground, if on no other, every honorable member who is careful for the liberty of the citizen, should oppose this bill.
There is another reason for criticizing the measure. Here, we have sets of regulations - I shall refer to only two or three of them - which are of such importance that they should be considered minutely. Take the Prices Regulations. I make it perfectly clear that my experience drives me to the conclusion that there must be a continuance of prices control for the time being. That does not mean that I agree with the continuance of the present method of prices control. I mean that I am satisfied that there must be a continuance of some degree of prices control. Does any honorable member suggest that the method of prices control which is exercised at the present time, relating, say, to the sale of motor vehicles, is satisfactory? I make this positive and unequivocal statement that 95 per cent. of the motor vehicles sold in the city of Sydney are sold above the pegged price on the black market. I make that statement with a full sense of responsibility. I have acted for both the prosecution and the defence in these matters, and I know, and every business man in ‘ Sydney knows, that very rarely can a car be bought at the regulation price. Everybody, almost, is acting on the black market. That is due to the poor administration and fancifully foolish methods of fixing prices by regulations which bear no relation to present-day costs and circumstances. The whole procedure needs overhauling. This subject-matter should nave been dealt with in a separate measure, and honorable members should have been given an opportunity to contribute towards evolving a solution of the problem associated with it.
Can any one say that our Landlord and Tenant Regulations are in a satisfactory state? I did not come here to defend landlords who rack-rent their tenant or seek to charge exorbitant rents, but everybody in Sydney - and I speak of Sydney because of my special knowledge of it - would) agree that a racket is going on in regard to houses which is not limited to landlords, but is just as active with some tenants who sub-let their properties and over whom there is virtually no control under these regulations. The Attorney-General must know of this. If he does not know of it, his departmental officers have misled him or failed to tell him the facts. This cancer is causing widespread distress. The Landlord and Tenant Regulations should be most carefully examined and this subject, also, should have been dealt with in a separate measure. The fixing of rents under the Landlord and Tenant Regulations is also treated in a ridiculous fashion. It is utter nonsense that rents fixed on the basis of September, 1939, should remain practically unchangeable. To adopt that stand is to indicate a complete lack of touch with reality, and to inflict grave injustice upon both landlords and tenants. To provide that these regulations shall remain in force, with all their faults and flaws, of which everybody is aware, is ridiculous. Yet the regulations are being taken holus-bolus and embodied in the schedule of this bill to remain in force for the next twelve months. That pro cedure is unworthy of the AttorneyGeneral. I cannot understand why the right honorable gentleman has not dealt with the subject in a specific measure, as it deserves to be dealt with.
Finally, I refer to the Economic Organization Regulations relative to the sale of land. At the committee stage I propose to indulge in some plain speaking on this subject. Under most of the regulations, as everybody knows, a code is laid down which must be observed, but under the economic organization regulations in relation to the sale of land the delegate of the Treasurer may approve or reject proposals for sales. He is sole arbiter, and can determine, without reference to any code, whether a property may be sold or not, and the price which must govern the transaction. It is the length of the Chancellor’s foot. The Economic Organization Regulations so far as they relate to the sale of land are clouded with discontent, suspicion and rumours of corruption. I say positively and definitely that between SO per cent, and 90 per cent, of the transactions for the sale of land are conducted on the black-market. I make that statement also with a sense of responsibility, because I know the facts. Both in and out of the courts I have dealt with literally hundreds of cases. Every solicitor, every land and estate agent, and every business man would be ready to declare that it is virtually impossible to buy a property at the pegged price. Instead of bringing down legislation to deal with this matter, and to cut out this cancer, the Government has merely incorporated the regulations in toto in the bill. The best brains in the community should be brought to bear upon this subject. Whether honorable members of this Parliament have or have not the best brains in the community they should be given an opportunity to deal with the matter in an effective way. The regulations are in a hopelessly chaotic condition at the moment, and separate legislation should have been introduced to meet the situation. It should not be dealt with in this way.
For the reasons I have given it would be utterly wrong, in my opinion, to allow this measure to pass. For my part I shall not be a party to placing on the statute-book legislation of this description which undoubtedly cuts away the liberties of individuals and cynically disregards their common law rights.
.- The purpose of this measure is to carry into peace-time certain regulations which the Government has been applying under it3 war-time defence power. It is interesting to note that the introductory words in the preamble of the bill read -
Whereas a state of war still exists between His Majesty and Germany, Japan and other countries :
Most of us believe that Germany, Japan and Italy have been thoroughly beaten, though we are also aware that, in the legal sense, peace has not been declared. Apparently the ^Government is taking advantage of this in order to continue in the peace period controls which should have been whittled down long ago. During a period of total war total control of the country’s economy, including its resources and man-power, was necessary. The whole economy had to be coordinated and centralized. But surely every one must agree that such controls should have terminated with the cessation of hostilities. This Government, however, is attempting to continue the controls. Socialization, of course, means centralization. Freedom and socialism, as we all know, are not compatible. We were informed some months ago that the National Security Regulations, except in certain specified instances, would cease to operate on the 31st December next. Yet the Government is asking us to consent to the continuance of many controls that were not then specified. In this regard Ministers, of course, are being actuated by their policy of socialism. Some of them believe that they can plan the lives of the people and they are supported in that belief by departmental bureaucrats. I do not make that statement in a sense derogatory of the whole civil service, for many civil servants, especially in the higher ranks, discharge their onerous duties with the highest efficiency. Nevertheless some Ministers and some civil servants appear to desire to plan the lives of other people. ‘ In this connexion I refer to an interesting book by E. A. Hayek entitled The Road to
Serfdom, which should be read by all honorable gentlemen who have not informed themselves of its contents. In this book the writer says -
The dispute between the modern planners and the liberals is not on whether we ought to employ systematic thinking in planning our affairs. It is a dispute about what is the best way of so doing. The question is whether we should create conditions under which the knowledge and initiative of individuals are given the best scope so that they can plan most successfully; or whether we should direct and organize all economic activities according to a “ blueprint “, that is, “ consciously direct the resources of society to conform to the planners’ particular views of who should have what “.
We know, of course, that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is a dogmatic and ardent socialist who believes - I do not say insincerely, because I believe that he is sincere - that he can sit down in his office, call for blueprints from some of his officials, and set to work to plan everything. He believes that, by that means, he can find the solution of almost any problem. It is this attitude that seems to me to be actuating the Government in seeking to continue many of these controls. The writer of the book from which I have just quoted also states -
It is important not to confuse opposition against the latter kind of planning with a dogmatic laissez faire attitude. The liberal argument does not advocate leaving things just as they are; it favours making the best possible use of the forces of competition a* a means of co-ordinating human efforts. It is based on the conviction that, where effective competition can be created, it is a better way of guiding individual efforts than any other.
Will any one deny that a close relationship existed between socialism, fascism and nazi-ism, or that the fascists and nazis - men like Mussolini, Hitler, Laval and Quisling - graduated from the ranks of the socialists? These individuals believed that they could plan the lives of other people and they proceeded to do so on a magnificent’ and sometimes idealistic scale. But we shall not submit to that kind of thing. I hear an honorable member say that there is some planning going on in New Guinea. It is a fact that a kind of semi-dictatorship is operating there about which we can get very little information. We know as little about it as we know about Tibet or Russia.
– The honorable member voted for the original National Security Bill -when it was before this Parliament.
– I did. It was necessary for the purposes of total war.
– I voted, against it.
– If the Minister had been listening to my earlier remarks he would know that I said that for total war, total co-ordination was necessary. But that is no reason why the same procedure should be perpetuated after the return of peace. During a period of scarcity some controls should be retained. This relates, in particular, to economic factors until supply and demand can be more nearly related to each other. By continuing unnecessary controls, however, initiative and incentive are cramped. In my opinion, it is dictatorial to persevere with war-time controls under peace-time conditions. Ridiculous rules were made during the war. It was provided, I understand, under a most idiotic set of regulations and rules, that certain- furniture had to be manufactured to specified dimensions only. It was also provided that, in regard to certain confectionery, spots could not be used for decoration and stripes had to be employed. Pink icing and pockets on pyjamas were prohibited. Surely it will not be suggested that regulations of that kind are justifiable now. During the war all kinds of ordinances were enforced, but the people of Australia will not tolerate their perpetuation for there is no firm promise of their cessation. The lust for power seems to have gone to the heads of certain individuals. The time has come for power to be shorn from the Executive and restored to the legislature. The maintenance of certain controls is, in my opinion, encouraging black marketing. I do not think that it can be denied that if controls were relaxed there would be less black marketing. We all know that extraordinary things occurred in relation to building operations during the war. In days when it was extremely difficult to obtain a permit for the building of the humblest cottage, certain individuals seemed to be able to erect large homes. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has referred to this matter. Restrictive legislation such as it is now proposed to perpetuate oppresses the poor, but encourages the properous to operate on the black market. Therefore, by this time, the Government should have been able to go carefully through the regulations of the war period, and discontinue those that are now superfluous.
– Which regulations would the honorable member place in that category?
– I shall be specific. If a country of the size of Australia, and with the natural resources that it possesses, is to be populated and developed, it must have two-way trade. Yet, for the last five years not a single item on the list of imports has been considered by this legislature. The whole of the import trade has been controlled by officials. A tariff schedule has not been discussed in this Parliament for some years. Orders are written by officials, and approved by the Minister. Previously, the world knew what we imported. A tariff schedule had to be tabled, and it was open to debate by every member of the Parliament. For years, fiats and orders have fallen upon us like autumn leaves. The Division of Import Procurement, with a huge staff of clerks, became an annexe of the Department of Trade and Customs. There was some need for it, but it became swollen, as new departments do, according to the ambitions of the principal official in it or of the Minister. Although its functions have reverted to the parent body, the Department of Trade and Customs, it still controls the import trade of Australia. A few weeks ago, I placed a question on the notice-paper, seeking information as to the extent to which it was necessary to obtain licences in respect of imports from Great Britain. That is a matter of some importance to us. Great Britain is our best customer, and has been for many years. It is only common sense that we should trade with Britain and other parts of the Empire. Britain must export in order to live, because it sacrificed its resources during the war. Britain must buy raw materials from us, and we must make purchases in return to enable it to do so. I discovered that 40 per cent, of the commodities that come from the United Kingdom are still eontrolled under licence by the Division of Import Procurement. We are subject to the will of a remote official who is unknown to any of us. If any individual wants to purchase any of the commodities that come from Great Britain to-day, he must fill in numerous forms and lodge them with that division. After they have filtered through various wire baskets, he is told whether he is permitted to import them or not. The tariff decides whether a commodity may be imported free or at a prescribed rate of duty. No official should be empowered to say, “ You cannot import that commodity from Great Britain; you can get it in another State “. or “ We know of something equally good “. The tariff is the law, and nobody who believes in democratic government can regard it in any other light.
– What would the honorable member do?
– I would remove the control of imports from the sterling bloc, and let the tariff operate. It is the only statutory authority. Yet those are the conditions under which we have had to conduct our trade during the last several years. I hope that I have been sufficiently specific to suit the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). Because of war-time restrictions, we are still labouring in trade matters. Exports are in a similar category. I know of many Australian manufacturers and merchants who want to export to other dominions. They have to apply to the Department of Trade and Customs for an export licence.- One man recently sought permission to export a very minor commodity. After an inordinate delay, permission to do so was refused by the Minister, doubtless instigated by a departmental official. He may have had good reasons, but he did not state them. I understand that the textile trade is in a similar position. I have had a question on the notice-paper for several weeks, seeking information in relation to the position of manufactured woollen goods within Australia. It has not yet been answered. In it, I have asked whether the prices are fixed within Australia and for export. I know that they are fixed within Australia, but not for export. The quality of Australian worsted is high, and it can compete with cloth manufactured in any other part of the world, but there is an incentive to make shoddy goods, export them, and double the profit on their sale. I believe that the price per yard can be doubled by exporting instead of charging the fixed price within Australia.
– If export should hecontrolled, is not that an argument for the continuance of the present system ?
– I am not advocating the control of all exports. The control of many items should be discontinued. Only after very strong pressure by some members of the Opposition over many months was the control lifted from a number of items. I stress these matters of trade in particular, because I do not know whether they have occurred strongly to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), whose time, I admit, is so fully occupied with legal matters that he cannot give much attention to these. Few honorable members have the time to peruse, let alone to study, all the rules and regulations that are issued. Only recently, the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) tabled regulations relating to the Royal Australian Air Force. I asked him whether they would do any injustice to members of the Royal Australian Air Force, and was assured that they would not. Yet they provided that, retrospectively for about three years, the deferred pay of certain ment was to be calculated at a lower rate than had previously applied. Although I had brought the matter up constantly in this House, it was rectified and it was not until the personnel concerned took their case to court, that proper payment was made. Thus it can easily be realized that government action by regulation does not receive the scrutiny which should be applied to it. We are the elected representatives of the people, and are here to do the just and the right thing. We cannot fulfil that purpose if legislation is given effect “ in the dark “. I am not suggesting that at any time departmental officers do not act according to their lights and to the best of their ability, but I do contend that that is not the form which democratic government should take, and the sooner it is discontinued the better.
The Government should not have the audacity to ask us to empower it to carry on in that way for another year.
In order to be specific again, I shall refer to price-fixing. Price control, as I said earlier, has to be continued while goods are scarce and until production overtakes demand, otherwise prices will rocket, and some of the things we have known to happen in Europe, and to a certain extent in America recently, may prevail. There is no quarrel, I believe, among political parties or the public generally, in regard to the necessity for some measure of prices control. But how is it applied? During the last Parliament I referred to the activities of the Prices Branch in the Riverina. As the honorable member for the district may know, inspectors have visited many country towns, in which they have interviewed small shopkeepers. That has happened also in Canberra. A woman who had sold a small ornament for 3s. 6d., when the fixed price was 2s. 6d., was fined £25. A hairdresser who had charged 2s. instead of ls. 6d. was fined something like £20. Yet, the wholesale racketeer and black marketer, who deals in cash for big amounts in the cities, and dodges the payment of income tax, goes free. How many wholesale racketeers have been brought to book? That kind of thing is being encouraged. Honorable members opposite are the friends of those men, because they permit them to continue to operate. The matter could be put right if controls were relaxed and competition were allowed to prevail. Honesty would then return to trade. The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has asked how many investigators were employed in the Prices Branch, which recently went into occupation of new premises that had been built for it in Canberra. I believe that the answer was that about 1,400 investigators in the Public Service were policing regulations in different departments. I hope that I am not exaggerating.
– I, too, express that hope.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral put me right?
– I cannot.
– The right honorable gentleman is in charge of the bill, and intends to push it through by weight of numbers. I ask any honorable member who can do so, to tell me how many investigators there are in the Prices Branch.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean in Canberra?
– No, in the whole of the branch.. I believe that the number is in the vicinity of 1,400.
– That is quite possible.
– These investigators visit business men in the city, and investigate their cash sales and credit entries over a lengthy period, for what reason nobody knows. Some one may have informed them that the firm has overcharged.
– How would the honora’ble member police prices control?
– I would overlook the small shopkeeper and business man, and fix prices on the basis of the wholesale trade’s transactions which affect the basic wage. The Attorney-General will agree that that is where there should be scrutiny and supervision. The little grocer has to keep masses of figures, and be au fait with every price alteration. He is fined heavily if he makes an error. It may be only an error, and not exploitation. The Government is marching on to the track which the Nazis took. When I was in Germany in 1928, I conversed with many Nazi merchants and business men. Those who were not afraid to talk “ off stage “ said, “ This country is tied down with red tape “. Anybody who wanted to export anything had to make about 30 applications. We approached close to that state of affairs in Australia during the war period. The time has arrived for the cutting of red tape and the pulling down of the barbed wire which encloses bureaucracy and authority. Let us return to proper methods of trading. Let competition be the price-fixer. In retail trading, when production increases, competition will keep prices right, if during the intervening period prices are fixed on a wholesale, basis. The army of “ snoopers “ should be reduced to a’bout one-half of its present strength. I do not want any man to be dismissed from government employment. But what Australia needs most to-day is productive employment.
Many of these men would be anxious to leave the department so that they might engage in the very businesses whose affairs they are investigating.
– How is free enterprise operating in America?
Mr.WHITE.- America to-day is the most advanced country in the world industrially.
– Its prices have certainly advanced.
– I agree. During the war, when Britain applied itself to its task so thoroughly, and with such complete organization, its production per head of aircraft, guns, and other munitions of war was more than twice that of any other nation in the world. That may sound amazing, but it is correct.
– The honorable member said that there are 1,400 investigators in the Prices Branch. I am informed that the number is 600.
– I am glad that the right honorable gentleman has corrected me. I should like to know what the number was when the question was asked by the honorable member for Wentworth. Replying to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), I admit that in America, owing to the lifting of price-fixing, there was a stiff rise of prices. But the prices of some commodities have againbeen pegged in that country. The United States of America has great productive capacity, and so has Great Britain. It is not dependent on outside countries for raw materials, and neither is Australia to any great extent. I suggest that if the Attorney-General would visit the wharfs, and induce the wharf labourers to load Dutch Ships, he would be doing a better job than by having an occasional round with Molotov or Gromyko. Only twelve months ago, he was on great terms with them. That was when Russia was having a difference of opinion with Persia, and the AttorneyGeneral said that Russia was anxious only for security. Apparently, he believed it was taking measures to defend itself against aggressive action by Persia! When I asked him earlier to-day what was being done to have the ban removed on the loading of Dutch ships in Australian ports, he said that he had nothing to add to what had already been said on the subject. His has been a fine record of masterly inactivity by a man who would settle the affairs of the world. In Australia to-day, more than a year after the conclusion of the war, householders still have to submit to the rationing of necessary commodities and, indeed, everybody in the country is subject to governmental control of one kind or another. The Government seems to think that it has discovered a short cut to Utopia, and therefore, is clinging to every shred of power it can. In pursuance of. its socialistic ideal, it has started an airline, and pushed into fat jobs people who know nothing about aviation. That is why the TransAustralian Airlines - T.A.A. - has come to be known as “Tax all Australia Airways”. Instead of having to depend on its earnings, as private companies have to do, it can call upon the resources of the nation. I quote this as an instance of the drift towards socialism which has taken place in Australia, and it is so closely allied with communism that the Communists find a happy hunting ground in Labour organizations. Again I quote from the book, The Road to Serfdom: -
It is those who cry loudest for a planned economy who are most completely under the sway of the ideas which have created this war and most of the evils from which we suffer.
The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this. A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.
I propose to support the proposed amendment to limit the operation of this measure to the 31st March next. I believe that the authority of Parliament should be restored, and power stripped from the Executive, and the bureaucracy.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and succeeding speakers have pointed out the desirability of limiting the operation of this measure, and most speakers have dwelt on the fact that laws and regulations which the public will not obey, because it is impossible to obey them, are good neither for the Government nor for the community. Many of the regulations still in operation serve no purpose other than to make the community dishonest. I am not critical of the increasing number of people who have become disrespectful of the law when the law is as stupid as many laws are to-day.
I refer, in particular, to the regulations referring to land sales. Every honorable member knows that when these regulations were first promulgated he received a great many letters from people who had approached the Treasury for permission to sell or buy property. The Treasury bad refused permission to sell at the contract price, and had proposed a lower price to which it would agree. Then the buyer or the seller approached his member, and asked his help to have the transaction approved at the contract price. However, I do not think that any member of this House has received a letter on that subject for many months, and the reason is obvious More transactions are going through now than, ever before. According to figures published in the press, the daily number of transactions in Sydney alone is about 600, compared with about 300 bef ore the war. Recently I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to relax the control over property transactions so that valuations might be brought up to date, and blackmarketing in land discouraged. I spoke ill the interests “of returned servicemen and others who are trying to buy small home-building sites, and who must at present go without, ot make the purchases through subterranean channels contrary t6 the law. I do not think that the Parliament ever intended to make law-breakers of people who desire to be law-abiding. If a man who’ desires to’ buy a home site offers the owner the pegged price he is “ not in the hunt “, as is known to every member of this House and to every intelligent member , of the community. Land to-day is worth far more than the pegged price.
– Does the honorable member refer to farm land or to suburban land?
– To suburban land, in particular. In the case of farm land, the disparity between market price and the fixed price is not so great, because many branches of farming are unremunerative;
– The honorable member would not sell his own farm too cheaply.
– In my district,, many farmers would be glad to sell theirproperties at the valuation of the ValuerGeneral, but the position is very different in urban areas. A friend of mine whowas trying to buy a building site in Sydney went to 25 different auctioneers,, and every one told him, despite the fact that he was a stranger - so open has this thing become - that the only way hecould get the deal through was to make out a contract at a price that would beapproved by the Treasury, and then hand over an additional amount of money of which no record would be made. I am putting this matter forward seriously because it is important. If there is to be respect for the law, then the law should be of a kind that commands respect. All the facts support an increase of land values. For instance, the cost of living, even according to the Statisticain’sfigures, has increased by 25 per cent, since 1941. and the basic wage has increased in the same proportion, but land values are still pegged at the 1942 level. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as a 1942’ valuation. The Valuer-General went through the country ten years before that,, and fixed values. That is the position in New South Wales, and as for” the other States, I do not think that there has been any genuine valuation at all. It is just a matter of opinion what a particular property was worth four or five years ago. -I suggest that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) should test the matter for himself by trying to buy vacant land in Melbourne at the pegged price. If he is able to do so, he may then controvert what I am saying. However, he knows that what I say is true.
– The 1942 values were based on the rental value of property.
– I emphasize that there should be a more realistic approach to real values. The people who are being hurt by these regulations are not the wealthy members of the community but the small people who saved their money during the war years. The Labour Government took particular pride in announcing during the election campaign the great increase of the savings deposits in the last five years. That increase, which would have occurred no matter what government had been in office, waa brought about because of the huge expenditures of Government money on pay and allowances of the services and on the wages and salaries of munitions workers and others engaged in war industries. In 1939-40 savings banks deposits amounted to £236,000,000; to-day they amount to £664,000,000. It can be generally accepted that the bulk of the deposits in the savings banks and war savings certificates are held by people who are not wealthy members of the community. If we add to the latter figure excess notes held by the public valued at £1S0,000,000 to-day and, in addition, the value of war savings certificates, it will be found that there is excess purchasing power amounting to £548,000,000 in the hands of the small people. I desire to give them a legitimate opportunity to invest their money legally in real assets. If they invest it in a home for which they pay £1,000 but which the delegate of the Treasurer values at £750, completing the transaction by making an illegal payment of £250 to the vendor, they will have an asset legally worth only £750. Of the £1.000 total investment, £250 has gone into the black market. I challenge the Government to satisfy itself, if satisfaction be required on the point, that a very large percentage of transactions in real estate proceed along those lines. It is only common sense to meet the situation by giving these people an opportunity to invest their money legally. The Prime Minister made a very bold attempt to stem the tide of inflation. I give him every credit for his endeavour in that direction.
– The right honorable gentleman has been successful, too.
– He has not; inflation has developed and is developing. The real market value of property is represented not by the price arrived at by Government valuers but by the price commonly agreed upon by the buyer and the seller. Thus, when the legal market is maintained at a fictitious level, the black market becomes the real market. What possible benefit can accrue to the Treasurer’s anti-inflation measures by a too rigid adherence to a fictitious price for vacant home building blocks ? What possible difference could it make to our eco nomy if a seller legally received £300 instead of £200 in a legal deal and £100 on the side ? The removal of this restrictive control would make no difference one way or the other to the right honorable gentleman’s anti-inflationary measures. The sensible thing to do is to recognize that the time has arrived when building land should no longer be pegged at the 1942 levels. If land values were assessed on present values the drift towards illegal dealings would be arrested.
– Does the honorable member believe that that would stop black marketing in land sales?
– It would discourage such transactions because people would then be able to do legally what they now do outside the law.
– Is not the honorable member’s assumption based on the premise that almost every sale of land is on the black market?
– No; but it is a fact that a large proportion of sales is made in that way. The Government should make a realistic approach to this important subject. There should be a complete revision of the existing method of ascertaining land values, not only for the good of Australia but also in order to promote decent public conduct. If the morality of the community continues to decline, as it undoubtedly did during the war because of Government action or inaction, it is bad for the community as a whole. The same may be said of the regulation under which the values o:f second-hand motor vehicles are pegged. Has any honorable member attempted to buy a secondhand motor vehicle at the pegged price! Is there a chance of buying a good secondhand motor car at less than approximately double the pegged price?
– That is not so. The honorable member would have us believe that everybody is dishonest.
– If one goes to a legitimate car-dealer to-day and endeavours to buy a second-hand motor vehicle he will find that the dealer has no such vehicles to sell. Most of the trade goes through the hands of those who are prepared to take the risk of dealing outside the law. Motor traders of established reputation can no longer engage in the second-hand trade. Everybody is aware that the great bulk of sales in second-hand motor vehicles is made on the black market. Of what value to anti-inflationary controls is the maintenance of fictitious prices for second-hand motor vehicles? The pegging of prices cannot have the slightest effect on the cost of living, yet the Government proposes to continue to enforce the regulation under which these fictitious prices are maintained. I am firmly of the opinion that all economic controls should be reviewed more frequently than at twelve-monthly periods. Frequent revision is necessary if only for the sake of our ex-servicemen who are endeavouring to re-establish themselves in business. Many ex-servicemen have given me facts and figures relating to their efforts to purchase second-hand motor vehicles. To use their own expressive phrase, “If you stick to the pegged price you are not in the hunt “. Such disrespect for the law does not affect only the little man; it is rife amongst the wealthiest people of the community. Just prior to the dissolution of the last Parliament the Electoral Act was amended to provide for the limitation of the size of election posters. One of the metropolitan newspapers published an interesting story relating to abuses of that law.
– Is the honorable member able to verify the accuracy of the newspaper report?
– “Was the honorable gentleman able to verify his statement concerning Mr. Fitzpatrick?
– Order !
– I was. All the statements I made in this House are true.
– The Minister makes them in the House where his utterances are privileged; he is not game to repeat them outside.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I am not intimidated by the blackmailing threats of any member of this Government.
– Order ! I again ask the honorable member to discuss the bill.
– The newspaper article reads as follows: -
Late in the last session of Parliament, the Federal caucus, on the motion of Mr. Falstein, rejected a recommendation by the Government that the ban on the use of election posters should be dropped and, instead, amended the Commonwealth Electoral Act to make this wartime innovation permanent.
When Mr. Chifley went to Clovelly to support the perpetuator of the poster* ban, he found Mr. Falstein on a platform flanked by two big posters, both exhibited in flagrant defiance of the Labour Electoral Act.
When he spoke for Mr. Morgan in Reid, he spoke from a lorry displaying a calico poster, also illegally on the lorry.
At Drummoyne and Burwood, Mr. Chifley spoke for Mr. Daly and Mr. Haylen in halls iu which more illegal posters were conspicuously displayed.
And when Mr. Chifley himself spoke at Lawson yesterday afternoon he had under his nose a motor car pasted over with signs, “ Australian Labour Party. J. B. Chifley 1 “. All were several times larger than allowed by the restriction his Government imposed a few months ago.
Query for Dr. Evatt - does the Law Department intend to prosecute these breaches of Labour’s brand new Electoral Act or, alternatively, is it Government policy, as during tlie last election, to prosecute poster offences only if committed by the Opposition?
I understand that that story was written by a correspondent of one of the leading metropolitan newspapers who had accompanied the Prime Minister on his election tour.
– In what newspaper was the story published ?
– By a Melbourne newspaper, either the Argus or the Herald. The point is that the Government amended the Electoral Act to provide for the limitation of the size of posters, yet the very person responsible for the endorsement of the draft amending bill by the Labour caucus was the first to contravene it.
– That is, assuming the report to be true.
– Yes. Now that the Attorney-General has come into the discussion, I ask him to inquire into the allegations. I shall supply him with the particulars, if he washes to have them, on the understanding that he will take some action if the truth of the report can be proved.
– The honorable member had better start by giving me the extract which he has quoted.
– I shall supply it if the right honorable gentleman will agree to take action if the report is proved to be correct; probably he will not do so. This account was supplied by a reputable newspaper correspondent. It appeared in a newspaper with a circulation of probably 100,000 or more copies daily. I do not suggest that the Attorney-General should launch a prosecution against the Prime Minister, the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Falstein), or anybody else at this juncture, because I consider that the regulation should never have been promulgated. Its’ terms encouraged people to disregard it, as many candidates did. I did not do so. In this matter, at least, I adhered to the Government’s regulations, although I do not pretend that I have not broken many war-time regulations. I doubt whether any citizen was able to keep up with all of them. I believe that everybody, at some time, has in some way broken a wartime regulation. I am sure that my law-abiding friend, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), will find, if he examines his conscience, that he was guilty in this respect, too.
A great deal has been said about recent events in America and the dire consequences that will result if Australia follows the lead of that country by eliminating price controls. 1 refer honorable members to the index figures of prices in the United States of America and Australia issued by the Commonwealth Statistician in tie Monthly Review of Business Statistics for October, 1946. They show that in the United States of America in 1941-42, the wholesale price index was 1,163, and that in June, 1946, the figure was 1,387. As everybody knows, American prices in respect of many items have always been very much higher than Australian prices. The wholesale price index for Australia in 1941-42 was 1,242. In June, 1946, it was 1,410. Honorable members will realize that the movements of the two sets of figures have been approximately the same. In spite of everything that Government supporters have said about the lifting of price ceilings in America, [ remind them that the electors of America, with full knowledge of the possible results of their action, voted the Democratic party out of power a month ago. This means that millions of people disregarded the warnings issued by President Truman and others and deliberately threw the prices regulations out at the polls. I do not believe that Americans have much less business acumen than Australians. In fact, they are credited with having considerably more acumen than we possess. They know where they obtain value for their money, and they are prepared to take the consequences of their recent action. Anybody who has studied the reasons for the change of policy in America must realize that the American people acted in the belief that, although a period of temporary inflation would follow the lifting of price ceilings because the demand for goods would be greater than the supply, the encouragement to produce goods would be so greatly increased that, within a short time, production would overtake demand. Therefore, although they expect to pass through a period of travail, they are confident that the situation will be righted by the operation of the natural law of supply and demand. I do not suggest that we should rush in “blindfolded” and lift all price controls in Australia. Many controls are necessary and will have to be continued. However, .we should make a realistic approach to tie problems of these controls. What I have said about the necessity for relaxing controls on land sales and motor vehicle sales applies with equal force to many of the basic requirements catalogued in the basic wage index. If production were stimulated, it would soon be unnecessary to have price controls. The experiences of primary producers prove this. In good seasons, they soon find that they have to sell their products on glutted markets in which there is neither a ceiling price nor a floor price. This is happening now in the fruit and vegetable markets of most cities. There is no need for any sort of control over the prices of those commodities. In fact, the Government has removed price controls from a great many primary products. If production is encouraged, competition will soon bring down prices.
Isupport the amendment submitted by the Leaderof the Opposition.I agree that the situation should be reviewed at frequent intervals. A period of twelve months is too long to allow the Government, and particularly its appointed servants who administer these restrictions, to go unchecked. These petty autocrats, bureaucrats, or whatever they may be called, decide just how the policy of the Government isto be applied. Parliament should begiven frequent opportunities to review their administrative acts so that it may attempt to make the transition period between war and normal peace conditions : as smooth as possible for the entire community.
– The object of this bill, according to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), is “to authorize a gradual and orderly transition of our national life from what may broadly be termed war-time conditions to those appropriate to peace. It seeks to do this by giving effect for twelve months to certain regulations and orders made under the National , Security Act 1939-1943, which would otherwise be terminated with the parent act on the 31st December,1946.” The right honorable gentleman said, referring to the parent act : - “ Now it has run its full time and is to disappear “. When I read the bill, I find a vast number of regulations in the second schedule which put the chainsback onto the people of Australia, and hold them just as firmly as didthe National Security Act. This legislation perpetuates the existing controls and, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies.) pointed out, confers on the Government complete powers to pass “regulations under a series of headings, and to do nearly all the things which the National Security Act enabled it to do. In addition, the bill perpetuates bureaucratic control throughout the Commonwealth. I shall refer in a few moments to the impotence of Ministers to impose their wills on the heads of the departments which theyare supposed to administer. When introducing the bill, the Attorney-General said -
With the cessationof hostilities, it has been possible to remove, and the Government has lost no time in removing, or,whereit would not memove, at least inrelaxing, avery considerable number of wartimecontrols. Evenprior to the cessation of hostilities,a committee under the leadership of the honor able member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) had assistedme in cutting downand simplifying numerous controlsand regulations. Every Minister : and department has for eighteen months been under an obligation to reportregularly toCabinet, through my colleaguethe Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), on progress made do eliminating controls,and on reasons for retaining the remainder.
Thecommittee to which the AttorneyGeneral referred consisted of the honorable member forEden-Monaro, Mr. Maughan,K.C., ofSydney, Dr.Louat, of Sydney, and Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C., of Melbourne. The committee made five reports, and I should like to knowwhat has becomeof its recommendations. I understandthat its reports were received very favorably by the late Prime Minister, Mr.Curtin, the Attorney-General and the former Minister for Supplyand Shipping, Mr. Beasley. But when the recommendations were sent to various departments for action the departmental heads ignored them.
– More than100 national security regulations have been repealed.
– I emphasise that the departments ignored the committee’srecommendations. There were three important matters about which the committee showedparticular concern. First, it advocated the appointment of an authority to review the decisions of the bureaucrats. It pressed for the right of appeal against certain rulings by departmental officers. One example which was given to me related to the issue of licences for petrol pumps. In this instance, apparently, no appeal was allowed against Caesar if the department refused to grant to an applicant a licence. The departmental bureaucrat was supreme.His decision was final. Although thecommittee pressed for the appointment of a reviewing authority, the department rejected it.Of course, Ministerswere said to favour the adoptionof the recommendations, but they were ignored. That kindof information was not passed on to the Minister for PostwarReconstruction(Mr. Dedman) withother information regardingthe progress made in removing controls. This strong and unanimous recommendation went unheeded.
The National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations, which were consolidated on the 23rd March, 1944, were examined by the committee, in draft, at the end of that year, about three months before they were gazetted. The committee made important recommendations, which were forwarded to the responsible Minister, Indeed, the then Minister for Supply and Shipping, Mr. Beasley, thanked the committee for its recommendations, and stated, I believe, that he approved of them. All these recommendations were rejected by the department. Is not this evidence of the fact that the countryis ruled by bureaucrats, and will continue to be so ruled in future? The Ministers concerned who were supposed to be supreme in their departments, were merely rubber stamps for the invisible rulers of the Commonwealth, whose rule the Government desires to perpetuate against the rights of the people.
The committeefelt very strongly about the regulations controlling real estate transactions. These are contained in the National Security (Economic Organization)Regulations, consolidated on the 10th May, 1944. Those regulations provide -
Certain land transactions forbidden.
Except as provided by this part, a person shall not, without the consentin writing of the Treasurer -
Under those regulations the delegate of the Treasury was not obliged to give reasons for his refusal to permit a sale. Evidently, he could act “ at his own sweet whim “. I am informed that the committee pressed for the inclusion in the regulations of a provision setting out the grounds on which refusal to consent could be made. However, the department concerned did not agree to this recommendation, and, again, people who desired to buy or sell land were left at the mercy of the dele gate of the Treasury. Doubtless, many honorable members have had the same experience as I have had in dealing with this official. He made rulings which he had no legal authority to make. He refused to allow his valuer to inspect a proposed sub-division at T am worth and put values on the blocks of land, until the municipal council had approved the sub-division. Whether the local authority approved the subdivision or not was not his business. All he should have been concerned with was the valuation of the land. But so arrogant and so supreme have these bureaucrats become that apparently, this gentleman would refuse a citizen the right to have his valuation made until the council had approved the subdivision. That is not an infrequent occurrence. Departmental officers, acting without any authority concerning the value ofland, say whether a transaction shall go through and make searching inquiries into the business of the intending purchaser. One outstanding instance, which came to the notice of the committee, concerned a gentleman at Nowra who desired to purchase a farm for his sons, who were ex-servicemen. The delegate of the Treasury refused to permit this sale. In another instance, an architect was refused permission to purchase a property. In my own electorate, a hotelkeeper, who desired ultimately to change his occupation, was anxious to acquire a property, but the delegate of the Treasury refused to permit the transaction. By the direct intervention by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the delegate was forced to allow it to go through. He had acted in accordance with no rule except that which he laid down for himself and changed from time to time.Reverting again to the Tamworth transactions, I mention that when I placed the matter before Mr. Lush, the officer in charge of the department in Sydney, he referredme to another officer who looked after this matter, and the latter said, “This is a regulation of the department, and we do not intend to alter it “. When I pointed out that it had been in operation for only three months he said : “ It is a regulation which is in operation, and the department will not change it “. I then said, “ I will write to your “ boss “ in Canberra,and also to the Prime Minister, -who is Treasurer, and we shall see who is going to rule this country - bureaucrats or the representatives of the people in the Parliament “. I received a letter from Mr. Balmford in which he said that he happened to be going to Sydney, and that [ would be pleased to know that my objection had been upheld, and that the officer concerned had been instructed that the valuation would be made without the consent of the municipal council to the subdivision taking place. That kind of thing was going on all the time. The committee’s recommendations were not being observed. The committee asked that a provision should be inserted setting out the ground on which refusal could be withheld, and the Minister apparently approved; but when the matter came bef ore the invisible rulers of this country it was a different story altogether. The Treasurer of the Commonwealth was impotent to alter the rule of the civil servants in his own department. That is what will happen so long as we have government by regulation and not by act of Parliament passed by the representatives of the people. A limitation of the operation of this act to three months from the date of its passing as proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and supported by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is necessary in order to preserve the rights of the people, and to prevent the perpetuation in this country of government by .regulation, which is so common in Continental Europe. It is mere pretence to say that the National Security Act has been abolished, when this document is substituted for it. In the light of the evidence that I have presented it is incorrect to say, as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has said, that the committee’s reports were acted on. Its principal recommendations were disregarded, and the rule of civil servants, not the laws passed by the representatives of the people, has been perpetuated without any attempt by the Government to prevent it. I hope that those honorable members who profess to believe in democracy, and claim to express the will of the people, will put on their thinking caps and remember that they are here not only to represent the people but also to protect them from the invisible rulers - those bureaucrats who exhibit neither courtesy nor justice.
– in reply - The debate has covered a wide field. Its purpose has been served in that there has been a full discussion of the subject-matter in principle. The purpose of the bill is, as its title correctly states, to ensure that there shall be no disaster to the economic life of this country through lack of control, but rather an orderly and just transition. I have heard a good deal of criticism of minor aspects, and some criticism of important aspects of the National Security Regulations - and they may have to be considered in detail - but I have not heard one denial of the necessity for a law to be passed to cover some period in the future which would approximately represent the period of transition. One suggestion from the Opposition was that the period should be limited to three months. The Government cannot accept that proposal; but that does not mean that every regulation which will be continued by this bill will necessarily continue for twelve months, or that it will be unnecessary, in some instances, to come to the Parliament next year to ask for a further continuance. It would be absurd to say that a period of three months is sufficient. Unlike the National Security Act this legislation does not give to the Executive power to pass any regulation to deal with the transition period. I repeat that the scheme of the bill is essentially different from that of the National Security Act which gave power to the Governor-General to make regulations for the better and more efficient prosecution of the war. It was an exceedingly wide power. The Executive was the judge of what was the essential for the efficient prosecution of the war. This bill is differently framed. It takes some of the National Security Regulations and orders and asks the Parliament to endorse them. It is true that a regulation-making power is contained in the bill, but that power must deal with the subject-matter of the regulation which is to be approved by Parliament in this bill. Outside the subject-matter of the particular regulation or regulations now submitted it will not be possible for the Executive to. make regulations. Let us take an illustration from the first regulation dealt with in the Schedule, namely, that relating to Agricultural Aids. The Parliament may support its continuance, and thereafter the Executive may -make a regulation on that subject-matter, but not one dealing first with the transition period. As I have said, the position is entirely different from the National Security Act. But it is still an important power. There is power to revoke, repeal or amend regulations. Every restriction or regulation must come before the Parliament and may be disallowed by either House. That is the protection given in the National Security Act.
I shall deal with some of the objections to the bill voiced by honorable members opposite. With most of the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) about direction of the Executive by the Parliament we all agree. There is no intention whatever on the part of the Government to continue indefinitely into the period of peace these special powers which were invoked for the purpose of winning the war, and are now being modified but are still necessary to cover the transition period. Wo shall have no power to do more than that. I have referred to judgments of the court, merely with a view to illustrating the approach to the court, which interprets and safeguards the Constitution, and in order to show that the judges themselves recognize that in a war effort comparable with that of this country, which made a very great contribution to allied victory, particularly in the Pacific, difficulties arose, due to many factors, including the very organization for war. The phrase used by Sir Robert Garran was that in some instances it is more difficult to unwind the war effort than to wind it up. That is obvious, because there are thousands of ramifications that are caused by the regulations themselves. The judges have taken note of that fact. It is futile, meaningless, and not worthy of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), to say that this is an instalment of governments similar to a Fascist or Hitlerite government. I admit that there are difficulties in the way of the Parliament dealing with the element of time. But there are also difficulties in the path of the Government. I submit that we are doing the democratic thing by asking the Parliament - the representatives of the people - to approve these regulations, of which I admit there is a large number, and to give to the Executive a strictly limited power.
– There are occasions on which the Parliament should be consulted.
– This is one of those occasions. Members of the Opposition are taking advantage of it, and I have no objection to their doing so. The Leader of the Opposition, and another honorable member opposite, argued that it might .be more in keeping with ordinary parliamentary practice if, instead of having this series of regulations continued in existence by inclusion in the schedule, a bill was brought down dealing with each group of regulations. If that were done, there would be a bill dealing with agricultural loans, another dealing with agricultural production, another dealing with regulations concerning the Australian Barley Board, and so on. In theory, that is correct. I could have brought down 63 bills to deal with the situation; but the result would have been substantially the same. Had I done that, criticism would have been levelled against me for not having tried to simplify the problem. Many of these regulations are related to each other, and to the general purpose of this bill. Their only justification, in law and in practice, is that they are intended as a group to cover the transition period. They should be considered together. I submit that that completely answers the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition.
– Will not the right honorable gentleman agree that the whole basis of the matter is that many of these regulations require amendment and reconsideration, which the Government ought to have given before bringing them in?
– If the honorable gentleman looks carefully at the Schedule, he will find that it contains hardly a set of regulations in which some modification
Las not already been made by the Government for approval by the Parliament. Some of those modifications, I admit, are of minor importance. We have considered this matter most carefully. A sub-committee of Cabinet spent days going through the regulations, its general mandate being to exclude whatever was possible of exclusion, and only to continue what was really necessary for the purposes which I outlined in my secondreading speech. Many of them simply wind lip existing schemes, particularly in connexion with primary industries. I have placed them under various headings, :ind they are a fair description of the purposes of the regulations.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) concentrated his criticism on the wage-pegging regulations. I do not wish to deal with that criticism at great length
Mt this stage, because I submit that the honorable member has completely misunderstood, and certainly has exaggerated, the effect of the wage-pegging regulations. Those regulations are a part of the Economic Organization Regulations. Prices control was instituted simultaneously with them. Already, five types of exception have been included in the Economic Organization Regulations, modifying the effect of wage-pegging. For instance, there is power to remove anomalies. That is a very important power, which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) informs me has been exercised in hundreds of cases. That is checked by the Chief Judge of the Arbitration, Court, to ensure that there shall be no departure from the general purpose of the regulations. Another power is that wages maybe lifted to compensate for a change of circumstances. That, again, is a broad power which has frequently been, exercised, and has not been sufficiently recognized in the criticisms that have been levelled against the wage-pegging regulations. Cost of living adjustments have been provided for. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures in relation to the cost of living have had a reflection in wages. Any increase of the cost of living has been included in the adjustment of wages. A special amendment was made, dealing with the allowance of time off without deduction of pay, by way of annual recreation or sick leave. Very important decisions have been made by the court in pursuance of that modification pf the wage-pegging regulations, and a very important benefit has been, obtained by many hundreds of thousands of workers by their having been granted fourteen days’ leave. The Full Bench of the Arbitration Court has been given complete power, notwithstanding these regulations, to reduce the standard hours and to increase the basic wage in industry, and applications in respect of those matters have been pending before that tribunal for a considerable time. The criticism of the honorable member for Reid is most unjustified. The Government has been active from first to last in seeing that the court shall be given every assistance, so that a modification may be made of standard hours. Already the court has pronounced in favour of a 40-hour week in principle. The Government, through the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Labour and National Service, has also assisted the court, by providing statistical and other information, with a view to enabling it to make a just re-assessment of the basic wage, quite irrespective of automatic adjustments by reason of increases of the cost of living. Again, a very important provision has been made by the direct act of the Commonwealth Government, for the fixation of female minimum rates up to 75 per cent, of the male rate in twelve vital Australian industries. That has affected 4’0,000 women workers iu this country, whose standards had already been greatly improved during the war as the result of the legislation of the Government, by reason of the jurisdiction exercised by the Women’s Employment Board. That is an illustration of direct legislation by the Government itself. I do not know whether the honorable member for Reid is aware of these modifications. They are very substantial. But there is another aspect. During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister undertook to modify the wage-pegging regulations: And, to-day, he stated that the modification of those regulations, which has been under close consideration for some weeks by a sub-committee of the
Cabinet, will be made by the 14th December. “What is now the position? Power to adjust the basic wage is already in the hands of the court; and the matter of standard hours is already before the court, regardless of these regulations. Outside that, there are the marginal allowance and penalty ox shift rates. In effect, they constitute the aggregate wage.
– There ave the various awards.
– I am speaking of what is in the awards. Everybody with knowledge of industrial arbitration knows that the wage is made up of a base irate, and the other rates I have mentioned. It is most regrettable that after the Prime Minister and the Government have announced that wagepegging regulations are to be modified very shortly, person after person, and in some cases unions, make the demand for a modification of those regulations, knowing perfectly well that such modification will be effected. Thus, after a dispute has occurred, they will be able to say “ Look what we did “ ; and some individuals will say, “After I made that speech, the wage-pegging regulations were modified “. The honorable member for Reid criticized the Government’s exercise of its war-time powers, mentioning manpower compulsion and conscription for military service in defence of the country. For those measures the Government makes no apology. They were important contributions towards our victory.
– And the unions agreed to them.
– Yes; the Labour movement agreed to them. And the people of this country showed by their verdicts at the last two general elections that they concurred with those decisions of the Government.
I turn now to the criticism made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) whose main complaint was that the regulations are not being obeyed. From the information I have, I do not agree that disobedience of the law is as extensive as he suggests. We know from the cases in the courts that there are many instances of disobedience of regulations. The following figures are rather striking. Since the introduction of the National Security Act by the Menzies Government in 1939, the number of cases launched under the regulations total 29,618. Prices prosecutions total 5,452, involving 8,837 charges; and rationing offences total 1,751. The percentage of convictions is very high, being between 95 per cent, and 98 per cent.
– Nearly as many as in a dictator country.
– If the honorable member complains, as he does, that the law is not being as rigorously enforced as it should be, those figures answer his objection.
– The prosecutions fall upon the little people.
– They fall upon everybody. The figures I have cited illustrate the degree of organization established under these controls. I look forward just as eagerly as does any honorable member opposite to the time when the purple book containing all these regulations can be placed in. the archives of the Commonwealth, and we shall no longer need to enforce them.
– If the right honorable gentleman lives long enough.
– I do not believe that it will be so long as the honorable member suggests. We must continue economic controls for the benefit of the people. If we chose to follow our own inclinations, ignoring our duty to the people, we could do what has been done in some countries and abandon these controls. But that would be treachery to our people. I know what would happen should we now abandon prices and wages controls. We should find that wages would never catch up with, prices; and all the evils mentioned in this debate would be multiplied. What would happen if, for instance, the restrictions in respect of the sale of used motor vehicles were lifted? Even those who indulge in black marketing feel some limitation on the demand, because it is illegally made in view of the conspiracy. Whilst black marketing may be carried on to a serious degree, I do not accept the view that it is carried on to so great a degree as has been suggested. We must simply do our duty to the people. I ask honorable members to look at these groups of regulations. Most of them are quite essential. Some of them affect primary production. What is to be done in respect of them. For instance, are we to give up controls operating in respect of the apple and pear industry, and thus upset contracts and arrangements which have been made? Of course not. The real attitude of honorable members opposite will be tested at the committee stage. Does any honorable member opposite say that any one of these sets of regulations ought to be abandoned? I can understand criticism of the administration of the controls, and complaints that hardships arise due to methods of enforcement. But those matters are matters of administration. At the committee stage, honorable members must answer the question whether they are prepared, in view of the verdict of the people and the necessity to continue these controls, to say that they will discontinue any set of them. The Government cannot take that responsibility. Although that would be the easy course, we shall not take it. Other matters which have been mentioned can be more appropriately dealt with at the committee stage. When one sums up the position as put by honorable members opposite, there is no real contest as to whether some regulations must be continued. Prices controls, obviously, must be continued. No honorable member opposite has said that all existing controls should be lifted. Therefore, this measure is essential ; and the only difference existing at this stage between the Government and honorable membersopposite is whether the controls we propose to continue should be continued for a maximum period of three months - in which period Parliament would have to deal with them - or whether the grant of power should be, as stated in the bill, for a period not exceeding twelve months. The Government proposes that these controls shall remain in force for twelve months; and it is in the position where, out of its sense of duty to the House and to the people, it must repeal each regulation as and when it becomes unnecessary for carrying Australia through the transition period. Some regulations may become unnecessary within three months; others may continue to be necessary for a longer period. I submit that the Government has made out a case for the retention of these controls for a maximum period of twelve months.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Thursday, 5 December
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) The Regulations the titles of which are specified in the first column of the First Schedule, being the Regulations having those respective titles as in force under the National Security Act immediately prior to the commencement of this Act, shall, subject to this Act, be in force until midnight on the thirtyfirst day of December, One thousand nine hundred and forty-seven (in this Act and in the Regulations in force by virtue of this section referred to as “the prescribed time”) and no longer, with such amendments (if any) as are respectively specified in the third column of that Schedule. (2.) The Governor-General may, before the prescribed time, make regulations -
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the word “ December “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ March “.
The clause would then read- (1.) The Regulations the titles of which are specified in the first column of the First Schedule, being the Regulations having those respective titles as in force under the National Security Act immediately prior to the commencement of this Act, shall, subject to this Act, be in force until midnight on the thirtyfirst day of March, One thousand nine hundred and forty-seven.
The reasons for this amendment were stated by the Loader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and by me during the second-reading debate. We believe that the greatest vigilance should be exercised by Parliament over the operation of the regulations. If they are allowed to continue in force until the 31st December, 1947, there will not be the same obligation on the part of the Government as there is at present to call Parliament together frequently. Indeed, the Government need not summon Parliament at all. The Excutive could renew the regulations, or modify them from time to time, as happened in the case of the Re-establishment and Employment Act.
– I emphasize that all the regulations cited in the schedule to this bill are not in the same category. It is desirable in the interests of the public that some of them should be terminated at an early date. I have previously referred to the restrictions on imports and exports, and I mentioned the cases of two men who, before their enlistment in the armed forces, were manufacturing furriers. One imported skins from abroad, whilst the other bought them from merchants in Australia. One of the men found that when he was discharged he could not get back into his business premises because they were occupied by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. When he complained, he was told that that was the very department that existed to help him, but he did not get back his premises. In addition, he now finds that he cannot import skins, because he was not an importer in 1942, which is the basic date fixed in the regulations. The other man, who had not been an importer before his enlistment, was also refused an import licence, although licences have been granted to persons who are not even Australians. An import quota of £40,000 was fixed under the regulations, and new arrivals were given quotas, whilst the man who had been in the business before was refused one. In the interest of men of this sort, who are not seeking employment from others, but are anxious to carry on their own businesses, I ask that the regulations be reviewed immediately.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) made a very important second-reading speech on this bill, and I tried to answer him when I was replying to the debate, but he was not in the ‘House. I knew that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) intended to move this amendment, and I said in my reply that the period proposed was too short. It is true that some of the regulations do not in themselves need to remain in force for another twelve months. Some of them are to be retained for winding up existing schemes. It is the duty of the Government, and particularly of the department concerned, to end them when the time arrives, but it would not be practicable to lay down a rule that all the regulations must be considered before the 3lst March next. Therefore the Government cannot accept the amendment. The honorable member for Balaclava raised a matter which affects the administration of one particular set of regulations. A sub-committee of Cabinet has gone through all the regulations, and the Hansard record shows that a great many of them have been withdrawn. That process will be continued until the number of controls remaining in force is greatly reduced.
– Only the unimportant ones were withdrawn. Those of substance remain.
– That may be so. For instance, it would be impossible to contemplate the repeal of the prices regulations even at the end of next year, although I am not making any pronouncement on behalf of the Government in that regard.
– I venture into this discussion again because I do not think I made myself clear to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) when I spoke in a general way in support of the amendment. I support the amendment for a very clear reason. We, on this side, say that the regulations, the titles of which are specified in the first column of the first schedule, should operate only until the 31st March because, before them, the Government should have an opportunity to examine the regulations in a way which it has not done hitherto. The Attorney-General says that “ a subcommittee of Cabinet has looked at it”. All I can say is that I am sorry for that sub-committee. It did not look far. I think the Attorney-General, if pressed. would agree that many of the provisions in the regulations are thoroughly unsatisfactory in their present form. We are pressing the amendment, not because we want to drop the regulations altogether, but because we think that they ought not to continue, as proposed by the Government. They are. not a credit to the Parliament. We are ready to give the Government three months to bring the regulations down in the form of proposed statutes, which we shall then be able to look over and debate. To say that it is not practicable to do that and that the regulations must continue for another twelve months after the end of this year is absurd, and perpetuates in some cases regulations that are an evil. If there were a breathing space of three months, many of the difficulties that we complain about could be removed. As we go farther in committee we shall state the objections that we have to individual regulations.
– I support the amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), because I think it essential that Parliament should meet at frequent intervals to review the administration of this measure. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has said that that is impracticable. What he means is that he will not call the Parliament together every three months, but will try to keep it in recess. That is just what every dictator does to prevent Parliament from reviewing the acts of the Executive. Earlier I directed attention to the fact that the Attorney-General has taken no notice of the prime recommendations of the “ Fraser committee consisting of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, (Mr. Fraser), Mr. J. V. Barry, KC., Mr. David Maughan, K.C., and Dr. Louat, which made recommendations that certain national security regulations should provide for the right of appeal against the decisions of the administrators of those regulations. The bill contains no such provision. I do not know what the sub-committee of Cabinet, about which we have heard so much, was doing When it failed to take notice of the recommendations of the “Fraser committee “ in that respect. Officers administering regulations ought not to be given a blank cheque to amend them every now and then, so that the people do not know where they stand. The administrators at one moment enforce rules in one direction and then cancel them on behalf of some favorite or other. That is the habit of some departments. When I refer to bureaucrats I make no attack on the permanent public servants. I am referring to certain gentlemen who are temporary public servants and who havenot learned the first lesson in .public service ethics. The way they have acted is a shame to the name of the Public Service. Thank goodness they are only temporary. May they soon disappear. It is -absolutely essential that the Parliament should have an opportunity to review this legislation every few months. Quoting Sir Robert Garran, the Attorney-General said - “ This is an unwinding power; it is more difficult to unwind than to tie up “. We want to ensure that the fetters shall not be left too long on the people’s ankles and wrists. We want to be able to express in the only place open to us, this Parliament, our criticism of the way this legislation may have been administered. We want to ensure that the regulations necessary for the Unwinding shall not be kept in operation longer than is necessary. There is far too great a temptation to keep in being regulations long after the time for their disappearance has gone by. When the Attorney-General resists the amendment he resists the calling together of Parliament, damming the rights of the people and preventing their representatives from watching the acts of the Executive. It is utterly ridiculous for the Attorney-General to say that it is impracticable to do as we suggest. Does tko right honorable gentleman think that we want to amend -this proposed act eve ry time the Parliament meets? We do not. We wish to be sure that the regulations will be administered properly. If necessary we want to be able to criticize maladministration. The Attorney-General’s resistance is against all ideas of democracy. The way he carries on in the Parliament, preventing its voice from being; heard, is far too tyrannical. He would have the country administered by the Executive alone and not by the elected representatives of the people.
– I direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to the fact that the Customs Act provides that all tariff schedules must be validated within three months of their being tabled. That provision was incorporated in the act as the result of an amendment to a bill that I was handling in this chamber when I was Minister for Trade and Customs. It was a good amendment because it ensured that, no government would be able to operate for the duration of Parliament new tariff schedules undebated and unvalidated by the Parliament. Since this Government took office about five years ago it has conducted the import and export trade of Australia under regulations, but that time is coming to an end, and the need to bring matters of the kind specified in this bill before the Parliament for its scrutiny is greater than the need ever was to provide that tariff schedules should be considered and validated within three months of their having been tabled. The Attorney-General should see the great importance of that and accept the reasonable amendment moved by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), which would enable the Government within the first three months of next year, to get down to the joh of excising the regulations that are no longer necessary.
.- The thought that occurred to me, in listening to the discussion, is that the measure before the committee is called the “Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1946”. Until the measure was introduced it was understood around Australia that the powers to be exercised under it were beyond the constitutional authority of the Commonwealth. It occurred to me that the very title of the measure is one that the Attorney-General (Dr Evatt) and the Government think will enable it to pass by as a constitutional measure purely because of its temporary character. The Opposition has declared itself to be in favour of the retention of controls, but insists that the trial period should be only three months. That would mean, that it would be impossible to legislate further. The Government could not extend the operation of this legislation for periods of three months interminably. The Opposition should be prepared to give the measure a fair trial for twelve months, so that desirable and undesirable controls may be distinguished.
– There is no assurance that it will end in twelve months.
– That is so; but there is a great risk that at the end of twelve months it would not be possible to produce another transitional period, and that an act of Parliament would be necessary. The question of the Commonwealth’s power would then arise. So far, this measure has been a lawyer’s bill, and 1 should like to hear what the lawyers have to say in this matter. In the very title of the measure lies the Government’s hope of making it acceptable to the High Court. In seeking to change the period from twelve months to three months, the Opposition’s intention clearly is to destroy the measure utterly.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) either misunderstands or affects to misunderstand the point that has been made by the Opposition. I am rather inclined to favour the latter explanation of his attitude. The question of power does not depend upon the terms of this bill. Whatever powers are vested in, the Commonwealth are vested by virtue of the Constitution, and one power or another continuing either for three, six, or five years under this measure or any extension of it, would rest entirely upon the question whether, when the legislation was challenged, it was supported by the defence powers. I should have thought that was clear. The Opposition has moved this amendment not to destroy the controls in which it believes, but to reassert the authority of Parliament. If the honorable member for Reid had been listening carefully to the debate he would have understood that quite clearly. I am somewhat affected by his strange solicitude for the needs of the High Court after what he said during the secondreading debate, when, I rather gathered that he believed the High Court to be corrupt. In his view, apparently, not only are honorable members corrupt, but the High Court also is corrupt. It would seem that the only sea green incorruptible is the honorable member himself.I place little reliance on what he says in this House at any time. I repeatthat in moving this amendment the Opposition is endeavouring to reassert the authority of Parliament.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out (Mr. Fadden’s amendment), stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Majority . . 9
– I move -
That paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2.) be left out.
All through the war we suffered from the excessive use of the regulation-making power by the Government which, in legislative matters, ought only to be resorted to, in cases of urgency. The proposal that this power shall be used in time of peace cannot be justified. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) says that it is not the intention of the Government to use the power in respect of new matters. That, in my view, is beside the point. In this bill the Government proposes to take to itself powers as wide as a barn door and as high as a church steeple. It is idle for the right honorable gentleman to say that this provision does not constitute an encroachment upon the ordinary right of Parliament to decide these matters. There are already62 sets of regulations covering a vast variety of subject-matters. Paragraph b of sub-clause 2 proposes that the Government shall have power to amend any or every one of those regulations, thus giving it virtually unlimited power over all the matters contained in them. The authority of the Parliament should be restored and any desired additions to these powers should be made by statute and not in this improper way.
– in reply - The effect of the amendment would be to enable the Governor-General to get rid of a set of regulations, but not to relax them. If the honorable member’s amendment were accepted it would prevent the Government from omitting such portions of, say, the economic organization regulations as related to the subject of wage-pegging.
– And also from adding to them.
– That is so. For the reasons which I explained during the second reading stage of the bill the regulationmaking power is an important one, but it must be exercised on the same subject-matter as the regulation which ex hypothesi will be approved by the Parliament. The general trend will be to relax regulations, but the acceptance of this amendment would give no alternative to repeal.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Amendments of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act).
– I desire to move -
That the clause be left uut. 1 submit that this clause should not be inserted in the legislation, because it relates to an entirely different subjectmatter, which, if dealt with at all, should be made the subject of a separate bill.
.- The position with regard to this clause is simple. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act as passed by the Parliament in 1940 provided a pensions scheme for merchant seamen captured and disabled and certain allowances and pensions to dependants in the case of war deaths. That act was not issued under the defence power of the Commonwealth. As the war progressed it was found necessary to provide additional benefits for these victims of the war, and such benefits were granted by national security regulation. The regulation contained important provisions which were not in the act, and these are being retained by incorporating in this bill the relevant clauses of the regulation. The actual pensions now being paid by the Repatriation Commission to seamen and their dependants have been arranged to correspond with those paid to servicemen and their dependants, and accordingly they are, in some cases, in excess of those provided in the original act. The honorable member contends that this provision should not be inserted in the bill. It has been so inserted because otherwise these additional benefits would terminate on the expiration of the National Security Act.
– Such an amendment as that indicated by the honorable member for Parramatta would not be in order. If he wishes to delete the clause he may vote against it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses .12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 - (1.) Sections forty-eight and forty-nine of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1941 shall apply to orders, rules and by-laws made under this Act or made under any regulation in force by virtue of this Act which are of a legislative and not of an executive character, in like manner as they apply to regulations.
– I move -
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following sub-clause bc inserted: - “ (1a.) Orders, rules and by-laws so made shall not be deemed to be Statutory Ruler within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939”.
The reason for the proposed amendment is that the National Security Act provided that orders made under the national security regulations should not be deemed to be statutory rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act, and it is desirable that similar provision should be made in this bill. The effect of the application of section 4& of the Acts Interpretation Act to orders made under this bill is that all such orders must be published in the Gazette. Consequently, it is unnecessary for them to be published again as statutory rules. The same section of the Acts Interpretation Act provides for the disallowance of orders by either House of the Parliament, and the proposed amendment will not affect that provision. It will make unnecessary the double printing of the orders.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Offences by corporations).
– This clause throws the burden of proving innocence upon a person charged with an offence. It states -
Where a person convicted of an offence against this Act is a body corporate, every person who, at the time of the commission ot the offence, was a director or officer of th* body corporate shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence, unless he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge, or that he used all due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.
I understood from the report of the committee which investigated national security regulations that there was a general objection to throwing the burden of proving innocence upon a person charged with an offence. This clause will do that; there is no justification for a departure from the normal rule. If a person is charged with an offence, the Crown should prove that offence against him. This is an important matter which deserves the close attention of the com,mittee. Why does the Attorney-General insist upon this provision? Sometimes it is very difficult for an innocent man to prove innocence when a charge is made against him, and frequently it is impossible. I should also like the AttorneyGeneral to state why this clause differs from section 5 of the Black Marketing Act 1942, which also relates to offences by bodies corporate. The Black Marketing Act will be made a part of this legislation by another provision of the bill. Section 5 of the Black Marketing Act is as follows1: -
Where a person guilty of the offence of black marketing is a body corporate, every person who, at the time of the commission of the offence, was a director, officer or servant actively concerned in the conduct of the business of the body corporate shall be deemed guilty of the offence, unless he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge and that he used all due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence or of offences of the same character. lt contains a conjunctive in the provision! - unless he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge and that he used all due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence . . .
This clause contains a disjunctive in the provision that a person shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence - unless he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge, or that he used all due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.
What is the reason for the difference? This is a minor part of my principal objection that the clause will unnecessarily carry over into peace-time the objectionable war-time provision that the burden of proving innocence shall be thrown upon a person charged with an offence.
– This clause is similar to section 12 of the National Security Act. It does import a vicarious liability for offences committed by corporations, and by its operation, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has pointed out, a director or officer of a body corporate is deemed to be guilty of an offence committed by the corporation unless proof is made by the person concerned that the offence was committed without his knowledge or that he used all due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence. Since the corporation can operate only through the agency of individuals, it is thought to be just that an obligation should be imposed on its responsible officers to police its activities in order to ensure that they comply with the requirements of legislation such as this. If the officer concerned satisfies the court either that he was unaware of the commission of an offence charged against him or that he took due care to prevent its commission, then he escapes from liability. I accept what the honorable member has said about the difference between section 5 of the Black Marketing Act and this clause. However, section 5 of the Black Marketing Act applies to selected cases after a recommendation has been made by a committee. I admit that there appears to be an anomaly, but I submit that we should follow the rule of proof accepted in the National Security Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 19 agreed to.
– The desire of honorable members is that the series of regulations dealt with in the schedules be considered item by item, and I suggest that that be done, Mr. Chairman, so that honorable members may have the opportunity to draw attention to any particular matter.
Ordered that the schedule be divided.
National Security (Agricultural Aids) Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Agricultural Production) Regulations.
– I ask the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to state the precise intention of the proposed amendment of the National Security (Agricultural Production) Regulations. The schedule provides that the regulations shall be continued, omitting regulations 3, 4 and 6. There are onlysix regulations an the copy which I have before me. If regulations 3, 4 and 6 be omitted, all that will be left will be as follows : -
What is the Director of Agriculture to do, what will be his obligations, and why are the regulations to be continued in these terms?
– I remind honorable members that at the conclusion of my secondreading speech, I incorporated in Hansard an explanation for the retention of each of these regulations. The honorable member for Warringah (Mi-. Spender) was quite correct. This regulation provides the legal basis of the contract with, the Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock. In the opinion of the Government, his functions should be continued, in view of the Commonwealth’s interest in the restoration of rural industries and the expansion of food production to supply the United Kingdom and other countries. I assume that this regulation has the approval of every honorable member, particularly those who represent Queensland electorates.
Regulations agreed to.
National [Security (Aliens Control) Regulations.
– I ask the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to explain why he requires authority to restrict the movements of aliens, particularly without recourse to any tribunal. The definition of “ alien “ is not confined to an ex-enemy alien.
is correct Certain of these powers are being continued, irrespective of whether the alien is an ex-enemy alien or a friendly alien. The regulations require every alien to register, and produce a certificate of registration on demand. They also impose restrictions on the movement of aliens, and enemy aliens may be detained. The Commonwealth must retain this power in connexion with the possible deportation- of enemy aliens.
– This .regulation includes all aliens.
– The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) agrees that this matter should be dealt with in special legislation. Certain aliens are awaiting deportation, and under these regulations restrictions are imposed on their movements. In addition, aliens on arrival in Australia arc still obliged to register. A hill dealing with certain proposals for the control of aliens will be introduced next year, and in the meantime the regulations will be continued.
– Honorable members must be astounded at the reply of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). In his secondreading speech, the right honorable gentleman informed us that a subcommittee of Cabinet had been examining all national security regulations with a fine tooth comb with a view to repealing them as soon as possible. In addition, every minister and. department during the last eighteen months has been under an obligation to report regularly to Cabinet through the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on the progress made in eliminating controls and on reasons for retaining the remainder. Now, the Attorney-General rests like a “ lame duck with a crutch “, and states that we must retain these obnoxious controls on friendly aliens at a time when the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is endeavouring to attract foreign migrants of every race, colour, and creed. The AttorneyGeneral treats honorable members with scant courtesy when he gives such a reply to the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender), and asks us to believe the statement that he made in his secondreading speech about the repeal of regulations. Why does the Government retain regulations which, the Attorney-General admits, are not required? His entire speech was hypocritical and a sham. Every word that he has uttered in this chamber during this discussion simply proves that the Government is attempting to put shackles and fetters on the people. That is borne out by his lame and pathetic excuse in reply to the honorable member for Warringah.
Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition) Regulations.
– I should like the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to inform me how long the Government proposes to retain these regulations. Control of the marketing of apples and pears was introduced because of the loss of the United Kingdom market to Tasmania and Western Australia as the result of war-time conditions. It was never intended that this control should be continued indefinitely in the post-war period. As growers in States other than Tasmania and Western Australia are exempt from the regulations, they are able to obtain high prices for their fruit in the principal markets of the Commonwealth, namely, Melbourne >and Sydney. The consumer, whose rights have to be considered in this matter, is compelled, because of the destruction of millions of cases of apples in Tasmania and Western Australia, to pay a higher price for fruit than he would if these regulations were not in operation. Last year, the budget provided £84,000 for the apple and pear industry; this year, an amount of £856,000 has been set aside for the purpose.
– The loss has been reduced by nearly £1,000,000.
– I am not contesting the necessity for these regulations in war-time. What I do contend is that in the post-war period, we should not countenance the destruction of food, when people in other countries are nearly starving.
– Shipping is not available to transport food to those people.
– Shipping will not be found while growers are paid £800,000 per annum to dump their fruit. If the Government desires to conserve the interests of consumers as well as producers, it will endeavour to meet the situation by arranging for adequate shipping during the next twelve months. I suggest, not that fruit-growers in Tasmania and Western Australia should be left stranded, but that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture should make a determined effort to get the apples to the United Kingdom instead of having them dumped in Australia.
– These regulations are being continued to enable the apple and pear acquisition scheme to be continued in Tasmania and Western Australia for the 1947 season in accordance with an undertaking already given by the Commonwealth to those States.
Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Australian Barley Board) Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Australian Tobacco Leaf) Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Beef Shortage) Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Board of Business Administration) Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Boot Trades Dilution) Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations.
– The relevant part of the schedule reads -
I move’ -
That in the third column the words “ Omit from sub-regulation (3.) ‘regulation 10 of the Regulations so repealed ‘, insert ‘ the previous Regulations ‘ “ be left out.
This is a drafting amendment. It is proposed to revise the National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations, and subregulation 3 of regulation 3 will probably be affected by the amendment. Any necessary amendment of sub-regulation 3 will be made in the revision, and it is therefore proposed to omit the amendment from the bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Regulations, as amended, agreed to.
National Security (Change of Name) Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Claims against the Commonwealth in relation to Visiting Forces) Regulations.
– This regulation is difficult in construction and has given- rise to a good deal of argument. I should like the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to tell the committee what justification there is for continuing the regulation now. I admit that it was necessary in time of war, but there are now no visiting forces.
– I am astonished at the request of the honorable .member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). The purpose of this regulation is to enable Australian citizens to submit claims, other than contract claims, for personal injury, caused by accident or negligence or in respect of damage by members of visiting forces. Instead of making claims against members of visiting forces, or the Government responsible for sending them to Australia, the regulations enable claims to be made against the Commonwealth which will accept responsibility in respect of such claims. If the conditions prescribed in the regulations are satisfied, the claim will be allowed.
– What about the future?
– If we discontinue the regulations from the 31st of this month, a number of claims will not have been dealt with. I remind the committee that the last of the American forces in Australia left this country only a short time ago and that claims in respect of injury caused by them may be made up to twelve months from the date of their departure. The regulation aims at protecting Australian citizens. The legal basis of any such right must be sustained and this is the way to do it.
– I should be pleased if the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) would confer with the Minister for tie Army (Mr. Chambers) in connexion with these regulations. A case came to my notice recently which concerned a farmer in my electorate and an Italian prisoner of war. A day or two before he was to be taken off the farm in order that he might return to Italy, the Italian prisoner of war attacked his boss and injured him so severely that the farmer spent four months in hospital and is still incapable of working. In a letter from the Minister for the Army I am informed that there is no authority in Australia under which the farmer is entitled to compensation, but according to what the Attorney-General has just told us there is a claim against the Commonwealth for injury sustained iu similar circumstances.
– The prisoner of war was not a member of a visiting force.
– If there is an obligation on the part of the Commonwealth in .respect of a member of a visiting force, a. similar obligation should exist in respect of a prisoner of war. The injured man is still under medical attention and expects to undergo another operation soon. In his case the Government, like Pontius Pilate, has washed its hands of the whole affair, but the Attorney-General tells us that the Commonwealth recognizes its liability in such cases. It is anomalous that an injured person should have the right to make a claim in respect of injury or damage caused by a member of a visiting force, but not in respect of damage caused by a prisoner of war. We should not stand for that.
– I am very interested in what the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said in regard to an assault by an Italian prisoner of war upon one of his constituents. I draw the attention of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to the fact that whoever is responsible - and I presume that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) and his department would not act in such a case without advice from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department - there appears to have been complete inconsistency in his department; because, in a similar case in the New England district, in which an Italian prisoner of war made a violent assault on a woman and severely injured her, not only did the Department of the Army accept liability, but in addition the Attorney-General’s Department paid compensation to the woman concerned. Why should there be one law for South Australia and another law for New South Wales? Because of such happenings, we who sit on this side of the chamber consider it to be essential that the Parliament should be called together every three months to review inconsistencies in the administration of these regulations by the Attorney-General’s Department and other departments. The Attorney-General is a just man; he is an ex-justice of the High Court; yet he does not deal out justice evenly in different parts of the Commonwealth, despite the fact that the Constitution provides that all Australia citizens shall have equal treatment.
Mr. Falstein interjecting,
– Whenever I hear the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) interjecting I am reminded of these lines by a poet -
The Assyrian came down like a wolf to the fold,
His pockets were bulging with watches and gold.
THE CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The Chair has been somewhat indulgent. The debate must be confined to the regulations, which provide for claims against the Commonwealth in relation to visiting forces. The matter now being discussed is outside the scope of those regulations.
– Italian prisoners of war belonged to an armed force. They were brought to this country. We compulsorily entertained them, and placed them in internment camps. Therefore, I maintain that the Attorney-General must accept responsibility for the assault com mitted by an Italian prisoner of war in South Australia, as he did for the assault committed by an Italian prisoner of war in New England.
– There have been many claims in connexion with members of visiting forces. The total amount of the claims during the currency of these regulations has been more than £100,000. They have included claims in respect of injuries sustained in connexion with American, British and Dutch forces. The regulations apply to visiting forces, and are so recognized by the Commonwealth. Those forces would not include prisoners of war of a force which did not visit Australia. In the case mentioned by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), probably there would be justification for an ex gratia claim. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), and if there is any inconsistency in the attitude of the Commonwealth towards the two cases mentioned I shall see what can be done.
Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Coal Mining industry Employment) Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Control of Animal Diseases) Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Dairy Produce Acquisition) Regulations.
– I move -
That the following words be inserted in the third column: - “ After regulation 1a add - 1b. These regulations shall not operate until the profits being made on the sale of Australian butter to the United Kingdom shall have been paid into the funds of the Dairy Equalization Committee for distribution to the farmers entitled thereto ‘.”
The Australian dairy-farmer is receiving at the present time ls. 71/2d per lb. for his butter. A dairy costs production committee, consisting of representatives of the industry, such as the Primary Producers Union, the Dairymen’s Association of Victoria, and other like organizations, has established that the average cost of production of butter in Australia is not less than ls. 111/2d per lb.
– That is an .unofficial committee.
– But it is a committee which is representative of the dairying industry, and many of its members have already been appointed by the Minister to the official committee. The Commonwealth Government has made a contract with -the United Kingdom Government for the new period which began on the 1st July last. Under that contract, the Commonwealth Government secured from the United Kingdom Government ls. ll£d. per lb., or as near thereto as decimal points will permit us to state the price. It still pays ls. 7id. per lb. all round to the Australian dairy-farmer. In other words, it is making a profit of approximately 4d. per lb. on every pound of butter that is exported to the United Kingdom, and that money is being paid into consolidated revenue.
– That is deliberately untrue.
– If it is untrue, the acceptance of this amendment will establish its falsity, because the operation of the amendment will lapse as soon as the money has been paid into the funds of the Dairying Industry Equalization Committee. This is a test of the honesty of the Government in its relations with the dairy-farmer. Wo know that it has received from the United Kingdom Government millions of pounds, and that it is still receiving a very large sum in excess of what it is paying to the dairy-farmers.
– The Commonwealth Government has paid over £22,000,000 to the dairy-farmers of this country.
– At the present time, the dairy-farmers are suffering from the effects of a very severe drought in New South Wales and Queensland. Their production in Queensland during the last three months has been 52 per cent, less than their production during the comparative three months of last year; and in New South Wales, the loss of production during the last three months has been 48 per cent, compared with the production during the same three months of last year. Therefore, this is a matter of very great importance to them. All that I ask is that they shall receive just treatment. Other issues are involved in connexion with the price structure for the dairying industry. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) claims that many millions of pounds have been paid to the dairy farmers by way of subsidy. I point out that that subsidy has been paid in order that the Australian consumer may not have to pay a higher price for butter. I point out further that if these regulations were lifted, and a free market were allowed to operate on the basis of the law of supply and demand, what has happened in America - as has been pointed out by Government members - would possibly happen on a less severe scale in Australia. The price of butter would skyrocket from ls. 8d. per lb., which is the present retail price, to unlimited levels. In the United States of America the price of butter is now approximately 7s. 6d. per lb. as the result of the lifting of price controls. Therefore, the Government’s claim that it is paying a subsidy to the producer is untrue. The only person who has been kept down as the result of this legislation, is the dairy-farmer. He has been prevented from taking advantage of a free .market which would probably return him 3s. per lb. At this juncture, I am not arguing for the repeal of the regulations as they apply to the dairying industry as a whole. What I want to know is what amount the Government is receiving from the United Kingdom government which it is not paying to the dairy-farmer. In any amendment I ask that the Dairy Produce Acquisition Regulations shall not have effect until the sum of money received from the United Kingdom government as a surplus on the price of butter shall have been paid to the Dairying Industry Equalization Committee. I cannot say how much those moneys amount to, but the total must be considerable. We are informed in the budget that last year the dairying industry was subsidized to an amount of £6,373,000, whereas this year the subsidy is to be reduced to £2,250,000. It is being reduced because the Government is off-setting its receipts from the United
Kingdom government against what it would normally pay in subsidy Therefore, this year the Government is bilking the dairy-farmers of no less than £4,000,000. That is clear from the budget itself. Those facts and figures speak for themselves; and my amendment will put the Government “ on the spot “. If it is honest, and is not making a “steal” from the dairy-farmers, it has nothing to fear, because my amendment, should it be carried, will automatically lapse so soon as the Government has paid that money to the Dairying Industry Equalization Committee. My amendment will determine whether the Government is hanging on to that money, refusing to pay it to the dairy-farmers who are justly entitled to it.
– -For a considerable period so many misstatements have been made by honorable members opposite regarding the Government’s treatment of the dairying industry, and so many misconceptions have arisen out of those mis-statements, that it is high time I should clearly state the facts of the .matter, and explain the treatment meted out to the dairying industry since Labour assumed office. I shall give the facts generally for the benefit of honorable members, and also for the purpose of exposing the perfidy of certain honorable members opposite. In order that the people may compare the treatment meted out to the dairying industry by Labour governments. I shall quote the pr, ces which have ruled for butter since Labour assumed office.
– I rise to order. I directed my remarks to the Dairy Products Acquisition Regulations. Nothing in those regulations concern the administrative history of previous governments. I dealt specifically with certain powers which are being exercised under the regulations. I submit that the Minister is not in order in dealing with the history of the subject.
– The honorable member widened the scope of the debate on the subject, and the Minister is entitled to reply to his statements.
– I shall quote the prices which obtained for butter when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Minister for Commerce. The prices obtaining in an earlier period tell an even more shocking story. In 1935, the dairy-farmers of this country, in return for their hard toil received the magnificent sum of 9.4d. per lb. for their butter. Would any honorable member opposite say that even at that time that was a payable price to the dairy farmer? When the right honorable member for Cowper was still the Minister for Commerce, the price paid to the Australian dairy farmer in 1936 was 11.4d. per lb., and in 1937, 12.2d. per lb; whilst in 193S the price sneaked up to 13d. per lb. In 1939, when Senator McLeay was Minister for Commerce, the price was 13d. per lb., whereas to-day, as the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has stated, the price paid to the dairy-farmer is ls. 7£d. per lb. In order to uncloak the lies which are told by honorable members opposite in this matter, I shall deal with the following allegations which, according to a report under a Wangaratta, date line, were made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. MoEwen) : -
Wangaratta, Thursday. - An attack on Labour’s deal to dairy-farmers was launched to-day by Mr. J. McEwen, retiring Australian Country party member for Indi. He said whatever generosity Labour might claim to have shown the dairying industry, the farmer knew that Labour had been virtually dishonest in his dealings with him.
He added that how far the Labour Government was prepared to go in secretly depriving the dairy-farmer of his just due, was brought to light in Parliament when it was revealed that, in the two years ended June, 1945, the Government received in payment from the British Government £.3,300,000 more than it paid to Australian dairymen for butter sold to Great Britain. The purpose of the Government’s subsidy to the dairying industry was the very worthy one of protecting the buyer against increased prices and increased living costs. In the case of the dairying subsidy, the Labour Government had the audacity to tell dairymen that the subsidy was paid to them in their interests. The payments had been, made entirely in the interests of the consumers.
On the 6th of August of this year, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) informed the House of the advices received from London in regard to the prices which had been determined for butter and cheese for the third year of the contract, namely, from the 1st July, 1946, until the 30th June, 1947. The new prices represent substantial increases on those which operated for the first two years of the contract, and are somewhat in excess of those expected by representatives of the industry. In his statement the Minister intimated that it was the view of the Government that it should consult the industry with the idea of working out long-term plans for the industry which would have as their objective the creation of floor prices below which returns to producers would not fall, irrespective of the fluctuations of the world’s markets.
In accordance with the undertaking given on that occasion, I have arranged to meet representatives of the dairying industry in conference in Sydney on Tuesday, the 17 th December, 1946, when the following organizations will be represented : Executive of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, executive of the Australian Dairy Produce Board., and the executive of the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee, and the Dairy Produce Control Committee.
Honorable members opposite may suggest that these bodies are not sufficiently representative of the dairy-farmers. That is what they said when I announced the constitution of the advisory committee. In case it .is suggested that the Government has loaded the committee against the producers, let me say that Mr. Howie was president of the Dairy Farmers Federation, and a member of the Victorian Dairy Farmers Association. Mr. Gibson is president of the Primary Producers Association of New South Wales, and a dairy-farmer himself. I believe that he was once a country party can.didate ‘for a seat in this Parliament. Mr. Plunkett M.L.C., is a member of the Country party. The other member of the committee is Mr. Naughton, who represents Western Australia., Tasmania and South Australia, and he was the Country party opponent at the last election of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). Therefore, it cannot be claimed that the advisory committee is loaded politically against the producers.
– Who else is on the committee?
– There are also on the committee representatives of the Prices Commissioner, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and the Treasury.
– And the chairman will have a casting vote.
– If the honorable member had listened to statements madein this Parliament he would know that this is an advisory committee, and that individual members have the right to record minority opinions. Representatives of the Commonwealth Prices Branch and the Commonwealth Treasury will be present at the discussions which will take place regarding the disposal of the additional returns which have been received for butter and cheese. There appears to be considerable misunderstanding in regard to prices, and I take this opportunity to advise honorable members of the position as it exists to-day. In October, 1942,’ the Commonwealth Government passed the Dairying Industry Assistance Act, which provided for a subsidy to suppliers of milk and cream to cheese and butter factories of a sum of £1,500,000 in respect of the year ended the 30th June, 1943. This subsidy was calculated to return to the producer an average price of ls. 5 1/2d. per lb. on commercial butter, or ls. 9.27d. per lb. for butter fat, delivered at the factory. The final rates worked out at Ss. Id. per cwt. for butter, and 4s. lOd. per cwt. for cheese, but owing to developments, this rate was paid on the nine months’ production to the 31st March, 1943. The cost to the Government was £1.186,306. and no reimbursement was claimed on exports.
The Commonwealth Government then passed the Dairying Industry Assistance Act 1943, which provided for the subsidizing of suppliers of cream and/or milk for use in the manufacture of butter, cheese and processed milk products. The purpose of the subsidy for the year ended the 31st March, 1944, was to ensure a subsidy rate of 3 1/2d. per lb. for commercial butter with a corresponding payment for cheese and milk products. It was calculated that this rate would bring the producer an average return of ls. 6d. per lb. for commercial butter, or ls. 9.88d. per lb. for butter fat, delivered at the factory. This figure bad been suggested by the industry as representing suppliers’ average costs per lb. of butter delivered at the factory. The cost to the Government was £7,346,120, and by agreement, the Government of the United Kingdom reimbursed the Commonwealth Government the actual subsidy paid on exports, and this amounted to £1,439,579.
Prior to the expiry of the previous subsidy year, a committee consisting of representatives of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, the Dairy Produce Control Committee and the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee stated a furthercase to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner in respect of future payments, figures being advanced to support a contention that the average cost per lb. of butter delivered to the factory had advanced from1s. 6d. to a shade over1s. 7.3d., or1s. 11.458d. per lb. on butter fat. This figure was accepted by the Commonwealth Government and subsidy payments calculated to ensure such a return to dairy farmers for a period of two years, commencing 1st April, 1944, were approved by Cabinet as follows : -
The cost to the Commonwealth for the first year of this subsidy was £6,812,197 and reimbursement received was £2,693,191. This reimbursement was made for the first nine months of the year at the rate of the actual subsidy paid. For the balance of the year the new contract price of 184s. 8¼d. per cwt. f.o.b. had to be taken into account and subsidy reimbursement was made at the rate of 16s.8d. per cwt. This figure represented the difference between the contract f.o.b. rate of 184s. 8¼d. and 201s. 4¼d. which was calculated to net the factory 196s. per cwt. butter,this being the factory value equivalent ofa net return to producers of1s. 7.3d. per lb.
For the subsidy year 1st April, 1945 to 31st March, 1946, the position was altered by the new contract with the United Kingdom Government as the increased prices provided thereunder had the effect of lifting the equalization or average net market value and permitting of the achievement of the objective return of 196s. 7d. per cwt., commercial butter equivalent, to factories on a lower rate of subsidy.
In addition special seasonal subsidies equivalent to 2.4314d. per lb. butter fat for the months of May to August, 1945 and 1.21 57d. per lb. September to October, 1945 were paid on a flat rate basis to compensate producers for increased costs.
During the year the Dairy Production Costs Committee made a new costs submission to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. The outcome of this case was a decision by the Government to grant an increase of subsidy of 44d. per lb., commercial butter equivalent, in respect of butter fat used in the manufacture of butter, cheese and processed milk products as from the 1st November. 1945, this decision being designed to yield to dairy-farmers an average return of 1s. 7½d. per lb., commercial butter equivalent, or1s. 11.7d. per lb. butter-fat.
In making public this decision the Government intimated that the higher rate of subsidy would apply until the 31st March, 1947, when the whole question would be reviewed subject to the proviso that overall returns to dairy-farmers based on commercial butter equivalent in the ensuing year to the 31st March, 1948, would not be reduced below the average basic rate which operated during the year prior to the 1st November, 1945. namely,1s. 7.3d. per lb.
The cost of this subsidy to the 30th June, 1946, was £6,373,511 and claims totalling £1,654,692 have been rendered on the Government of the United Kingdom for reimbursement of the difference - 16s. 8d. per cwt. - between the f.o.b. contract rate of 184s.8¼d. and the rate which was calculated to net the factory a value equivalent of a net return to producers of ls. 7.3d. per lb. Owing to the longterm arrangement with the United Kingdom covering the sale of Australia’s surplus butter and cheese which provides for price alterations on the 1st July of each year it was not possible to raise the question of an increase equivalent to the 44d. per lb., or 4s. Id. per cwt. The subsidy arrangements as set out above will continue during the period from the 1st April, 1946, to the 31st March, 1947, and an amount of £6,250,000 has been estimated as the cost.
From the above it will be seen that the Commonwealth Government has already paid out £21,718,134 and will finally obtain £5,787,462 from the United Kingdom Government as reimbursement of subsidy paid on exports made on account of the British Ministry of Food. In addition the sum of £6,250,000 has been placed in the Estimates for 1946-47. In order to dispel this charge of secrecy regarding these “reimbursements, let me state what the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, said on the 19th April, 1945 -
In the matter of values I am pleased to say that for the first two years of the contract overall payments by Britain are calculated to cover production costs as at present recognized, thus obviating the need for further subsidy from the Commonwealth to raise export values to the level necessary to achieve the objective indicated, i.e., an average return of ls. 7.3d. per lb. (commercial butter equivalent) to the dairy-farmers.
That clears that up.
The recognition of the return to dairyfarmers of ls. 7-Jd. per lb. commercial butter equivalent, or ls. 11.7d. per lb. butterfat, necessitates an average overall return to the manufacturer of 200s. 8d. per cwt. commercial butter. This requires an f.o.b. return of 205s. 5£d. per cwt.
Mr. Francis interjecting,
– I am now having my “ mag “ in reply to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who has been making frightful allegations about robberies. Robberies ! I have been in the dairying industry for about fifteen years. I know the conditions under which dairy-farmers were forced to live in the days when honorable members opposite occupied the treasury bench. They subsisted on a mere pittance. To-day, with butter fat at ls. Hid. per lb. they have the opportunity of meeting their liabilities, one that they have never had before.
As from the 1st July, 1946, the new export price of 216s. 10id. Australian currency per cwt. f.o.b. is lis. 5 1/4d. in excess of the figure required and it is the disposal of this amount which will be discussed with the industry in accordance with the terms of the decision of the Government as made known to this House on the 6th August, 1946.
Summarized, the financial position is -
The information that I have given will reveal to the people the actual facts concerning all this talk of subsidies, and this humbug about dairy-farmers having been robbed of £4,000,000. The information conveyed to the Government of the United Kingdom was that this party had agreed to pay to the dairy-farmers of this country the recognized cost of production. A request was made that the Government of the United Kingdom should give favorable consideration to reimbursing to the Commonwealth Government the difference between the price that was being paid by the United Kingdom Government, and the actual cost of production as accepted by the Commonwealth Government. The Government of the United Kingdom generously agreed to that proposal, and has honoured it to the letter. Over the years, this Government has subsidized the dairying industry to the amount of £22,000,000. I should be very surprised indeed to learn that honorable members opposite, during their many years of office, paid even £250,000 to this industry by way of a subsidy.
– Although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) spoke at considerable length, he did not make any reference to the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), which relates to the difference between the price of ls. 7-Jd. per lb. that is being paid by the Commonwealth Government to producers for all butter that is exported, and the ls. ll£d. per lb. that the Government of the United Kingdom is paying the Commonwealth Government for this butter. The Minister has side-stepped the issue. He reminds me of a story about a bishop and his curate. The curate was invited to preach in the cathedral. Afterwards, he said to the bishop, “What did you think of my sermon?” The bishop said, “I have little regard for your sermon, first, because you read it; secondly, because you read it badly; and thirdly, because it was not worth reading at all “. That is my opinion of the Minister’s observations. The issue is this : After an investigation, the Government of the United Kingdom decided to pay ls. 11 1/2d. per lb. for Australian butter. The producer however, is receiving only ls. 7-£d. per lb. from the Commonwealth, which is pocketing the difference. The Government’.0 action in this regard is similar to its action when the first subsidy was paid to the dairying industry. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) returned to Australia from Great Britain and urged that the principle adopted in Great Britain of granting a subsidy to primary industries should be followed in this country. Honorable members on this side of the House supported that proposal, but the Government raised objections. Eventually, however, the Government weakened and appointed a committee to inquire into production costs. The committee recommended -that a subsidy of 3$d. per lb. be paid on butter. The Government refused to table the report, and introduced a proposal to pay Id. per lb. Honorable members on this side of the chamber pressed for the tabling of the report, but still the Government refused. Ultimately, the report came into the hands of a member of the Australian Country party, and its contents were made known to all honorable members on this side of the chamber. When we found that the committee had recommended 3d. per lb., we pressed for that amount, and ultimately the
Government granted it, but with very bad grace. Every concession that this Government has given to the dairying industry has had to be punched out of it. What the honorable member for Richmond is now asking is fair, and I trust that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will accept the amendment. I promise honorable members opposite that the Opposition will continue to flog this matter until the additional 4£d. per lb. is paid to dairy-farmers.
– As is very often the case, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), either through ignorance or for some other reason, is hopelessly astray in the figures that he has quoted and on which he has based his amendment. Quoting ls. 11 1/2d. per lb. as the price that is being paid by the Government of the United Kingdom for butter and ls. 7£d. per lb. as the actual price received by the producer, he has arrived at a difference of 4£d. per lb., ignoring completely handling costs, transport costs, and most important of all, manufacturing costs. It is well known by every honorable member that from the price of ls. 11 1/2d. paid by the British Government there must be deducted the charges which I have mentioned and that the return to the Australian producer is ls. 9d. and not ls. 11 1/2d. as stated by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). That the honorable member is hopelessly astray on this point is well recognized by the representatives of the producers’ organization. It has already been shown by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture -(Mr. Pollard) that in respect of all previous payments received from the British Government for butter exported to Great Britain, not one penny has been withheld from the producers by the Australian Government. On the contrary, the Australian Government has from time to time subsidized butter exported to Great Britain. On this occasion the Government has already made it plain that not one penny of the new price received from Great Britain will be retained, that all the money will be used in the interests of the producers and sooner or later be paid to them. The Government has been praised by the representatives of the producers for its action in deferring a decision as to what should he done pending their return from Great Britain. The industry is well content with the composition of the advisory committee. Having personal acquaintance with many of the members of that body I am delighted at their appointment. I am, however, slightly disturbed to find so many of them have been associated with the Country party. The history of the Country party in its association with the Liberal party in the Government of this country, and the treatment meted out by its ministerial representatives to the dairying industry clearly demonstrates that the Australian Country party cannot be trusted to represent the dairy-farmers. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has cited figures to show how deplorably low was the price received by the dairying industry during the régime of the composite LiberalCountry party governments at the outbreak of the war. Even after the war had begun governments supported by honorable members opposite twice sold Australian butter to Great Britain by contract for 144s. a cwt. These facts cannot , be denied. Only since the advent of the Labour Government to office have the dairy farmers received a fair deal. I am satisfied that, following the deliberations of the new committee, steps will be taken to ensure that on this occasion as in the past the producers will receive the full benefit of the increased price received from the British Government. The dairy-farmers deserve every penny of that price. I am satisfied, too, that all the subsidies paid by this Government in respect of dairy products have gone, not to the producers, but solely to the consumers, thus saving them from having to pay the higher prices which the costs of production of this industry warrant. Any further subsidies required, or any increases of price that may become necessary, will be given by the Government, and no matter how high the price goes it will not be beyond the deserts of the industry. Dairymen have to work hard and at inconvenient times and as a class of producers rendered unparalleled service to this nation during the war years.
Mr.RANKIN (Bendigo) [2.23 a.m.]. - Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr.Ward) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Chairman, that as I received the call from the Chair before the Minister moved “ That the question be now put “, I should be permitted to speak.
– There is no point of order. Any honorable member may rise at any time and move “ That the question be now put”.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Anthony’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The subject under discussion is the National Security (Dairy Produce Acquisition) Regulations. There was some discussion on the amendment, which was unfortunately defeated, relating to the way in which the Commonwealth Government has dealt with certain moneys which obviously it has received from the United Kingdom Government. Up to date we have not been told what has happened to the money. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) skated all around the truth. In that respect he reminded me of an Irish Attorney-General in a South Australian parliament, of whom it was once said that he had skated around the truth for an hour and a half without touching it once. There are several important points to be considered on this subject. In the first place, for the purposes of this discussion it does not matter what position the Australian dairying industry was in when the subsidy agreement was made between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government. That is not the subject of the argument, although I could argue very easily and happily about it with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. For a long time the Commonwealth Parliament was not informed of the conditions under which the subsidy was paid. Certainly nothing in connexion with the subsidy was disclosed to the Parliament in the statement made by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, which was so glibly quoted by the Minister a few minutes ago.’ The leader of the Australian Country party had to drag the information out of the Minister.
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss the subsidy now. That matter was raised in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). The amendment has been disposed of, and the regulations are now before the Chair.
– I rise to order. I point out that in submitting my amendment I did not deal with the subsidy. My amendment proposed that the difference between the contract price obtained from Great Britain, and the amount paid to the dairy-farmer, should be paid to the Dairy Equalization Committee. That money is not related to the subsidy.
– Order ! The Chair interprets the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) as dealing with precisely the same matter as the amendment dealt with. As the amendment has been disposed of, I shall not permit discussion along those lines.
– I desire to take a further point of order. You said, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member for Barker was discussing the subsidy. A new contract has been agreed to-
– Order ! The Chair has given its ruling and the honorable member for Richmond will not be in order in canvassing it.
– I rise to order.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) may not take a point of order on the ruling that the Chair has given.
– Certainly not! I refer to the undertaking which the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) gave when he said -
I regard the bill as being of supreme importance and expect that it will be fully debated, and no honorable member will have cause to complain of lack of opportunity to deal with it.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat. He has not raised a point of order.
– The Chair has not yet heard my point of order.
– Order! The honorable member must not canvass the ruling of the Chair.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I propose to deal with the method under which the Commonwealth Government, in exercising the powers which it possesses under the National Security (Dairy Produce Acquisition) Regulations, has obtained from the United Kingdom a certain subsidy on exports of butter and cheese from Australia. I would have been saved the necessity of raising these matters here if a question which I had placed on the noticepaper had been answered by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). If the Minister is able to place before this committee detailed information in regard to prices, surely he could have answered my question over the weekend.When Ministers do not answer questions, honorable members concerned must take the first opportunity which presents itself to obtain the desired information. The Estimates which have been passed-
– I have listened carefully to the honorable member’s remarks, and he is getting away from the subject before the Chair, which is whether the regulations should be continued or disallowed.
– Unless I can discuss what the Commonwealth Government does with the produce after it has been acquired, the only thing open to me, and, indeed, to any honorable member, is to say “ Yes “ or “ No My position is the same as that of a young woman to whom a proposal of marriage is made. If I apprehend the statement of the Attorney-General - (Dr. Evatt), honorable members were to be given the greatest possible freedom in discussing these matters.
– That undertaking has been honoured.
– An agreement was entered into between the Attorney-General and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and I believe the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) also, that if there was a curtailment of the debate on the second reading the fullest freedom to discuss the regulations would be allowed.
– I repeat that that arrangement has been kept.
– It is for that reason so many Opposition members did not avail themselves of their right to speak on the second reading. I pui it to the committee that had honorable members decided to avail themselves of that right, this bill would not yet be in the committee stage, unless. of course, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) had superseded his seniors-
– The honorable member must confine himself to the subject before the Chair.
– There are certain things that are germane to the discussion.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to those things.
– Unless the Attorney-General has repudiated that arrangement-
– That matter i« not before the Chair. The question is whether the regulations before the Chair be agreed to.
– I desire to know, Mr. Chairman, whether I have the right to advance arguments to show why these regulations should not be agreed to. I cannot exercise that right unless I am able to bring before the committee certain things which the Government has done with produce which it has acquired in pursuance of these regulations. It is not disputed : indeed, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture claims that credit is due to the Government for having taken certain dairy produce from the dairy-farmers of Australia and disposed of it to the United Kingdom Government; that it has received certain money in exchange for that produce, and that those moneys have been disbursed but not accounted for.
– No such claim wai made by me.
– The Minister must have been talking in his sleep.
– I ask the honorable member to address the Chair, and ignore interjections, which are disorderly.
– Apparently, interjections are out of order unless they come from the ministerial bench.
– If the honorable member intends that interjection as a reflection on the Chair, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I was not reflecting on the Chair. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was not on the ministerial bench. I had failed to notice that he had moved to another position in the chamber.
– The honorable member must address himself to the subject before the Chair.
– I was endeavouring to deal with a matter which is agitating the minds of the Opposition. We are entitled to know whether, if granted this power, the Government proposes to do in the future the things which it has done in the past, and to which we on this side object. No account has yet been given to the Parliament of the disbursement of certain moneys in the hands of the Government. If these powers be given, it is reasonable for the Opposition 10 assume that in twelve months time there is no more likelihood of an account of the disbursement of those moneys being given to the Parliament, or of other moneys still to be received, from tho United Kingdom Government. That is a perfectly fair proposition to place before the Government. Before the Government can expect us to grant this extension of powers by regulations, it ought to be prepared to give to the committee a clear, concise and unequivocal statement as to the money it has received and how it has been disbursed. “We know that £4,000,000 has been obtained and placed in general revenue, but has not been accounted for. Any moneys obtained in the future by way of subsidy from the United Kingdom Government, as well as other moneys which have already been received from that source, arc not moneys which should accrue to the revenue of the Commonwealth; they are the property of the dairymen of Australia.
– The honorable member has been allowed considerable latitude, but he must not deal with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), which has already been disposed of. He must confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– I am not dealing with that amendment.
– I have put the matter clearly to the honorable member. The amendment of the honorable member for Richmond was in relation to a particular matter.
– lt was not in relation to a particular matter.
– Order ! Honorable members must be silent while the Chairman of Committees is speaking. The amendment of the honorable member for Richmond related to the sale of Australian butter. It dealt with a specific matter in relation to a certain fund. That amendment has been disposed of, and I do not propose to allow any further discussion of it. The ruling of the Chair must be obeyed.
– Am I to understand, Mr. Chairman, that any discussion of this regulation, or of the disposal of butter to the United Kingdom Government, would be out of order?
– The honorable member is not entitled to canvass the matter that I have outlined.
– The honorable member for Barker has not been suspended from the service of the House for a long time.
– The honorable member for Barker is not entitled to waste the time of the committee.
-I take that as a reflection on me.
– The honorable member must abide by the Standing Orders.
– Name him.
– In that case, I shall not continue the discussion on this occasion, but shall seize another opportunity to do so, perhaps by way of a formal adjournment motion when the House next meets.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. During the previous discussion, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) made reflections upon me. He said that certain statements of mine had been made either in ignorance or - and he left the remainder of the sentence in the air - the presumption being that I had made a dishonest statement. He said that in respect of butter I had misrepresented the price of ls. 11 1/2d. per lb. which was being received from the United Kingdom Government, in that I had not taken into consideration transport and other charges which had to be met out of that price. In justification of my statement, I quote from the summary of a report on the dairying industry of Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to introduce fresh matter. He may say in what way he has been misrepresented, but may not continue the debate beyond that point.
– I have been misrepresented, in that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has said that certain charges had to bo taken into account and that, in having failed to make allowance for them, I had been guilty of ignorance or something worse. In the summary to which I have referred, it is shown that the price paid by the United Kingdom Government for . Australian butter is f.o.b. Australia, and that no shipping charges are included in it.
Regulations agreed to.
National Security (Disposal of Commonwealth Property) Regulations agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - W. E. V. Boud, G. P. Brown, A. C. Heintz, D. J. Medley.
Interior - K. P. McGrath.
Labour and National Service - S.
Holman, K. F. Walker.
CommonwealthRailways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations for year, 1945-46.
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for 1945.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Geraldton, Western Australia.
National Security Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (41).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders- Nos. 132-134.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinance - 1946- No. 12 - Scaffolding and Lifts.
Rules - Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance.
House adjourned at 3.5 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The purpose of clause 6 (3.) of the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement 1945 is to authorize the Commonwealth to charge a rate of interest not exceeding that applicable to the current long-term Commonwealth public loan. Temporary advances have been obtained from the Commonwealth Bank to date at 1 per cent, per annum. Advances made to the State to 30th June last have been funded into a Commonwealth Savings Bank loan at 3 per cent, per annum. The Commonwealth has charged to the States the rates of interest actually paid and those rates have so far been lower than the maximum rates authorized by the agreement.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
Commonwealth Disposals Commission: Motor Vehicles, Spare Parts, Sales in New Guinea; .Selling Prices of Goods - Tea.
n. - On the 27th November, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked a question concerning the disposal of tractor and motor spare parts in bulk lots at a Commonwealth Disposals Commission sale held at Lae, New Guinea.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The spare parts which the commission offered for sale by auction at ‘Lae were extensively advertised .throughout the whole of the mainland and New Guinea. Before the stock wa-s included in the auction, a survey of its value and potential use was made by the commission in association with representatives of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries in Australia. The decision which was agreed to by the representatives of the industry was that it should he offered for sale bv auction as. in the main, it was represented by equipment for War Department type_ vehicles and consisted mostly of parts for which there was little demand. It is correct that certain tractor parts were included in the list, and every endeavour was made to induce buyers to bid a reasonable’ price for the individual lots before stock was offered for sale in bulk. The auctioneer was unsuccessful in obtaining reasonable bids in single lots, and the stock was then offered in bulk and sold for an amount of £13,000 which was £1,000 above reserve price. The statement of the estimated value at £335,000 is entirely incorrect. As already mentioned, the reserve, which was based upon assessment of value by experts, was £12,000, and the stock was sold” in excess of this amount. Every endeavour was ina.de by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to obtain .the maximum amount for the spare parts and the results indicate that this was achieved.
I desire to refer to certain statements by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Wednesday the 13th November.
From his remarks it would appear that the honorable member is under a certain degree of misunderstanding concerning the sales of machinery by the Disposals Commission. The facte are, that before any goods are submitted for auction by the Disposals Commission, catalogues are submitted to the Commonwealth Prices Branch. On these catalogues the_ Disposals Commission endorses what it believes to be the maximum selling prices fixed for the various goods under. Prices Regulations. These lists are checked by the Prices Branch, and any prices in excess of those approved are amended. The Disposals Commission does not accept any bids in excess of those set out in the list.
I am in a position to inform the honorable member that the liaison between the Disposals Commission and the Prices Branch is a close and active one, and any sale at a price in excess of that approved under Prices Regulations, would be rare and accidental.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Taxation Department: Employment of ex-Servicemen.
– On the 26th November, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked the following question: -
Has the Treasurer been informed that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has protested against the failure of the Taxation Department to carry out the instructions of the Government in regard to the retrenchment of female employees with a view to the employment of ex-servicemen in their places? Have such instructions been issued? If they have been, what steps does the Government propose to take with a view to ensuring that they will be obeyed?
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
I find that the Government issued an instruction that females occupying male positions should be replaced as soon as possible by persons entitled to preference under the Reestablishment and Employment Act 1945. This instruction was issued to permanent heads of all government departments on 11th June, 1946.
It is a fact that a protest was received in July, 1946, from the Victorian Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia stating that the league was not satisfied with the rate at which certain female employees in the Taxation Department were being replaced by ex-service- men. I have discussed the matter with the Commissioner of Taxation, who informs me that wherever ithas been practicable to obtain returned soldiers to replace the female employees concerned, that has been done. Most of the female employees concerned, however, are employed on income tax assessing and similar technical work for which they had to be specially trained. Because of the heavy arrears of work which had accumulated in the Taxation Department during the war period, it has not been practicable to replace trained female officers, in technical positions, with officers who have no training or experience in those duties. Schools have been established within the Taxation Department for the purpose of training newly appointed officers in income tax assessing and other technical work. In making appointments to the department for the purposes of the training course, the provisions relating to preference to returned soldiers have been observed.
Bank of International Settlements.
y. - On the 14th November, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the following questions : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d. - On the 20th November, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked if it was the intention of the Government to reduce the profit margin allowed on sales of petrol through bowsers in Australia, and if so, before reaching a final decision on the matter, would the Minister take into consideration the case submitted by the Queensland Petrol Sellers Association and also have regard to the fact that the great increase in the number of petrol bowsers operating in this country is made up chiefly by ex-servicemen.
I have been informed by the Minister for Trade and Customs that the margins of profit on the sale of goods in Australia are determined by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner by powers vested in him under the National Security (Prices) Regulations. Any representations made by the Queensland Petrol Sellers Association with respect to margins on bowser sales of petrol will be given the fullest consideration by the Commissioner as they are submitted.
d. - On the 22nd November, the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked questions concerning the recent increases in the prices of meat in Australia. The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
The price increases were considered to be justified and arose from a variety of causes, including loss of stock consequent upon two droughts, increased price of wool brought about by resumption of auction sales - which has increased the value of sheep, and the heavy demand for store-stock consequent upon the droughts already mentioned. It is quite true that butchers who overbid on the stock market would have to restort to black-market practices to recover their outlay, but the Prices Commissioner has consistently refused to reimburse butchers for overbidding. Many prosecution: have been made where overcharges have been discovered, such overcharges in many case? being the result of an endeavour to recover ex cessive prices paid for live-stock. The expedient of acquisition of meat on the hook has been adopted on occasions and has checked the overbidding on stock markets which has so embarrassed law-abiding butchers. Acquisition of all meat on the hook has been considered on a number of occasions by both the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner and the Meat Control authorities, and has been rejected owing to the difficulties and costs that would arise in regimenting the market in this manner. Finally, the products of graziers are not allowed to be sold at uncontrolled prices in Australia, but, as indicated in the recent orders relating to the sale of meat, are subject to maximum selling prices in. the some way as other commodities.
Prices Control: Prices of Admission to Boxtng Contests.
d. - On the 27th November, the honorable member for Warringah, (Mr. Spender) asked certain questions relating to admission charges to places of entertainment and in particular to charges for admission to the boxing contest at the Sydney Stadium.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
Prices for admission to places ofentertainment are controlled by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, and that for all regular places of entertainment such as picture theatres and the like prices have been pegged in order to make them available to all sections of the public at a cost within their Teach. Events such as the one brought under notice by the honorable member cannot be administered in this manner because substantial expense is involved by the promoters in importing contestants with world reputations, and if certain sections of the public desire to witness such contests they must be prepared to pay prices imposed to cover the high promotion costs.
The principal objective of the Government’s policy in connexionwith price control is to dee that the price of essential commodities should be kept on a level which will enable allsections of the community to obtain supplies of such items, and the honorable member will appreciate that a contestsuch as this could not be classified as an essential commodity.
d. - On the 28th November, the honorablemember for Parks (Mr. Haylen) asked a question concerning censorship of books. The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
Mr.Fadden asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
At the same time negotiations are proceeding with the Government of Western Australia with a view to establishing a land-based whaling station in Western Australia and a number of sites have been examined. Considerable work has been done on the financial, technical and administrative background for the commencing of pelagic operations, including questions concerning the acquisition of the necessary equipment. Australia is also cooperating closely with the “ Discovery “ Committee and accepting obligations for research work in whaling in the neighbouring oceans.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19461204_reps_18_189/>.