18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. 7. S. Rosevear took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– ,Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that Adelaide is threatened with a meat famine owing to the master butchers haying instituted a> system of meat grading? If so, what does the Minister intend to do to ensure that the .public of Adelaide can obtain supplies?
– I am aware that a meat famine is threatened in Adelaide due to the development of a. set of circumstances similar to those that developed in Melbourne some weeks ago, but which now, fortunately, are likely to be overcome. I have already instructed an officer to investigate the prospect of instituting weight and grade facilities in Adelaide in order to ensure on the one hand that producers will obtain ceiling prices for their stock, and on the other hand, that consumers will be able to obtain -supplies at or under ceiling prices.
That investigation is still taking place. If necessary, the Government will endeavour to establish in Adelaide the same kind of organization as has been established in Melbourne and which has been such an important factor in the solution of the meat problem in the latter city.
Statements bt Sib David Rivett.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement, referring to secret experiments to be made with guided weapons in Australia, alleged to have been made last night’ at Canberra by Sir David Rivett, Chief Executive officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which reads as follows: -
If national sovereignty demanded the right to prepare secretly for the destruction of other sovereignties, let those who took the responsibility for such a decision keep their projects . clear of national scientific institutions m which traditional freedom of science must be maintained?
Is it true, as stated by Sir David, that the experiments about to be carried out in Australia are being undertaken “to prepare secretly for the destruction of other sovereignties “ ? If not, will the Prime Minister inform Sir David that these experiments are being made for the purpose of defence and not with a view to destroying the sovereignties of other nations? Having regard to the fact that Sir David Rivett is alleged to have expressed the view that there should be no secrecy among scientists in military research work, will the Prime Minister take steps to ascertain whether Sir David’s views are representative of those of the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and ensure that only those officers of the council be employed on research into guided weapons, who dissociate themselves from his views ?
– I did very lightly scan in the Canberra Times some statements reputed to have been made by Sir David Rivett. I did not, however, study all the aspects mentioned by the honorable member. I suggest that he allow the matter to rest- until I am in a position to supply him with a full answer to all aspects of his question.
– Will the Minister for Immigration give consideration to the status of Australian-born women married to friendlyaliens of World WarII., in order that they may preserve fully their Australian and British subject rights, particularly when travelling through or located in countries other than that of their birth or the birth of their husbands ? Is it a fact that an Australian woman married to a Dutch officer resident in the Dutch East Indies has no British subject rights? What is the status of an Australian woman married to an enemy alien of World War II.? Will action be taken by the Government to preserve full nationality rights for Australian women married to nationals of other countries?
Mr.CAL WELL.- During the last session of the Seventeenth Parliament the Nationality Act was amended, as far as the Commonwealth could amend it, to protect the nationality rights of British women residing in Australia whether natural born or naturalized. The act as amended ensures that as long as an Australian woman or a British national remains in Australia she shall continue to remain a British subject. Our laws do not obtain outside the three-mile limit. A recent imperial conference of nationality experts discussed uniformity of nationality legislation throughout the British Commonwealth. The report is now in the hands of officers of the Department of Immigration. After the June recess I hope to be able to bring down an Australian citizenship bill that will cover all the aspects mentioned by the honorable member, and preserve the nationality of women on the same basis as that on which the nationality of men is preserved.
– Will the Minister for Immigration state the principles upon which citizens of enemy countries, such as Germany, are to be admitted to this country? Will he have prepared a statement setting out the grounds on which the German, Lerch, was refused admission to Australia in order that we may understand them? In view of thepublic interest, will he give details of the policy to be applied to Germans and other enemy nationals desiring admission to Australia?
– Nationals of enemy countries in the recent war are still enemy aliens. The policy is that no enemy alien is permitted to land in Australia, except wives and minor children of Australian citizens and Australian-born women married to enemy aliens who desire to return to Australia with their minor children, if any. We have given permission to persons within those classes to join or rejoin their husbands or families in Australia. A change, of policy has been held in abeyance until after the ratification of the peace treaties by this Parliament. When that takes place, obviously a new policy will have to be devised. I have referred to the Advisory Committee on Immigration, which represents a fair cross section of leaders of important elements in the community, the general question of the future admissibility of former enemy aliens. The committee is presided over by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). When its report is received it will be given due consideration with other aspects of the general question of foreign migration. So far we have admitted only about 100 persons who come within the categories I have named. On the Egyptian vessel Misr, now on its way to Australia from Durban, there are about 22 Italian women and children included in the categories I have mentioned. I do not think there are many more such people to arrive. Prisoners of war and ex-enemy aliens who were not permitted to remain in Australia on the reports of Mr. Justice Hutchins and Mr. Justice Simpson have been deported or are to be deported to their respective countries.
Reciprocity with New Zealand.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services say how far the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand have agreed to reciprocal arrangements for the payment of social service benefits? Will a pensioner from New Zealand draw a pension in Australia or vice versa? How would a Maori fare’ in Australia and an Australian aboriginal in New Zealand?
– A satisfactory working agreement was reached a considerable time ago between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New Zealand for reciprocity in social service benefits. If a person who has been drawing a pension in New Zealand comes to Australia and remains hers, either temporarily or permanently, he or she will continue to receive a pension. Similarly, if an Australian who has been drawing a pension in this country goes to New Zealand he or she will be eligible to receive the pension there. A Maori, citizen of New Zealand, who has been drawing a pension in that dominion, will continue to receive it in Australia. Several hundred Australian aborigines are receiving pensions in this country. If any of them went to New Zealand, they would continue to draw their pension because, under the agreement, they would be regarded as Australian citizens.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether Mr. J. M. Rawling has been granted a fellowship valued at £400 by the Commonwealth Literary Fund, to write the life of the poet Charles Harper? Is this Mr. Rawling the same gentleman who was chief publicity officer of the Communist party for some years, and who wrote the Communist party’s official history of Australia, which was published by the official Communist publishing house? What qualifications does Mr. Rawling possess to write the life of Charles Harper? Are his qualifications superior to those of recognized authorities on the poet, who have no ‘association with the Communist party? Will the right honorable gentleman lay upon the table of the House all recommendations, reports and papers, relating to the granting to Mr. Rawling of this fellowship?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - Offhand, I am not able to give to the right honorable gentleman all the information that he seeks. I remember that the name of Mr. Rawling was associated with an application for a fellowship, but I am not able to recall whether the fellowship was granted to him. I do not know whether I can promise, at this stage, to lay all the relevant papers upon the table of the House, but I shall ensure that the right honorable gentleman is fully informed regarding the matter.
Statement by Sir Earle Page.
– I desire to ask the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question relating to the price of butter. To-day’s issue of the Canberra Times reports that a person named Sir Earle Page, who, I assume, is identical with the right honorable member for Cowper, told the annual conference of the Country party that dairymen were receiving 4d. per lb. less for butter than the Australian Government received for it. Will the Minister inform me whether that is correct? If it is not, what is the truth ?
– I did read in the Canberra Times the report of the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper. The statement, if it were made, is untrue; I believe that it is deliberately untrue.
– Order !
– I ask for a withdrawal of that statement.
– The British Government is paying for Australian butter 216s.10½d. per cwt. f.o.b., and, as the right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well, the price which , is paid to the farmer at. the factory door is 182s. per cwt. for unmanufactured butter. Obviously, a comparison is being made between the price at the factory door of butter fat from which butter is made, and the price paid f.o.b. for the manufactured product. The right honorable gentleman is well aware of that fact.
– The Minister does not know what he is talking about.
– Shortlybefore Christmas I met in Sydney the most representative gathering of dairy-farmers that this country could assemble, and not one of them made any allegation that this Government was depriving dairyfarmers of 4d. per lb. They would be in a better position to determine whether they were being robbed of 4d. per lb. than would the right honorable member for Cowper, who is only interested in making deliberately-
– Order !
– The right honorable gentleman is only interested in making misleading statements. He should know better.
– I rise to make a personal explanation, because I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. What I said in the speech to which he has referred was that the British Government was paying ls. ll£d. per lb. for butter; whereas the price to the dairy-farmers in Australia to-day is ls. 8d. per lb. at factories, a difference of 3½d. per lb.
– On several occasions, I have drawn the attention of the Minister for Works and Ho’using to the devastating floods which occurred in Queensland three months ago and destroyed hundreds of miles’ of fencing. The most recent occasion on which I raised the matter was in a speech that I made on the motion for the adjournment of the House last Friday. The honorable gentleman promised- yesterday that he would make a full statement of what he proposed to do with1 a view to honoring his promise to hasten the delivery of barbed! and plain wire, wire netting, galvanized’ iron ana nails to Queensland producers who are badly in need of those materials1. Is the honorable gentleman now prepared! to make that statement?
– The honorable gentleman has said that he has asked questions on this subject’ on several occasions. I have replied to him on those occasions. He well knows that the distribution of the materials he has mentioned is made by the Commonwealth- on a State basis, and that the allocation of supplies within the States is undertaken by the States. Whilst appreciating that Queensland has experienced floods, I point out that Victoria also has had floods, and that Western Australia has had extensive bush fires, which have destroyed’ fencing wire and other materials, such as galvanized iron, that’ are in short supply. I wrote to the honorable gentleman yesterday.
– I have not received the letter.
– If the honorable gentleman did not receive it by this morning’s mail; 1 am certain that it will reach him by this afternoon’s delivery. That letter stated that I had made’ a special allocation to Queensland of an additional 129 tons of wire of different kinds, in an endeavour to meet the position that had been caused by flood damage in that .State. If the Controller of Supplies in Queensland can furnish evidence to the effect that the devastation caused by floods was so considerable that a. larger allocation should be made, I shall examine the matter afre’sh.
Proposed Aerodbome at Pardo.
– I ask the Minister for Air to state what progress has been made with the provision of an aerodrome at the fog-free site selected, for, it at Pardo, near Devonport, Tasmania? The honorable member for Darwin also is interested in the matter. Has the Minister accepted the invitation that has’ been issued (itf him to inspect the’ site of this aerodrome? If he has not yet’ done so, can he indicate when he’ proposes to’ do so?
– -A sum was placed on last year’s Estimates for the purpose of providing for a commencement to- be made with the’ establishment, of an aerodrome’ at’ Pardo. Preliminary investigations have been undertaken, plans have been drawn up, and I believe that the Government of Tasmania his already carried out preliminary surveying work at the request of the Civil Aviation Department, within whose jurisdiction the matter falls, It is hoped that the concreting -work will be commenced before the end of June of this year. I have not yet accepted the invitation that has’ been extended to me to visit the site of the aerodrome, but I hope to be able to do so early next week.
Fin ai. of Loan Quiz Competition’.
– In- view of the’ very’ strong1 resentment of the Returned Sailors,- Soldiers and Airmen’s
Imperial League of Australia in Queensland against the holding of the final of the national radio quiz competiton for propaganda purposes in connexion with the Third Security Loan on the evening of Anzac Day, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government “will revieW its decision to resist such protests, especially in the light of the contention of organizations of ex-servicemen, and of public resolutions, that Anzac Day is a day of national remembrance, and, as such, should be respected by ali sections of the community, including the Government?
– I replied at some length in the House last week to a similar question by the honorable member for Moreton. I indicated then that I did not consider that the quiz competition being conducted in connexion with the Third Security Loan was contrary to the spirit of Anzac Day. I pointed out that it would occupy only one hour and that H’s purpose was to raise funds for Commonwealth activities, including the reestablishment of ex-service men and women. I also said that on previous occasions appeals for loans which had been made on Anzac Day had continued for longer than one hour with the consent of ex-servicemen’s organizations. I said, further, that an examination of the programmes of the four Brisbane stations showed that the one-hour period of the quiz competition was being conducted over station 4QG, and that the programmes of the other three stations had no reference whatever during that period to Anzac Day, but were of the normal’ commercial character. I gave the honorable member an assurance that nothing would be- done during the quiz session that would be contrary, in any way, to the spirit of Anzac Day. As to a review by the Government of the proposal, I do not intend to- seek a change in the programme.
Vote of Australian Representative on Applications for Membership - Protection of1 Minorities.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs why the Australian representative on the .Security Council of the United Nations abstained from voting on the applications last August for admission to the United Nations by Sweden, Portugal, Albania, Eire, Afghanistan and other States? Was the abstension indicative of opposition and, if so, what were the grounds of opposition?
– The constitution of the United Nations requires that applications for admission must be made to the Assembly and there must be a reference from the Assembly to the Security Council. Without the Assembly dealing with the matter at all, the -Security Council, two months before the Assembly met, took upon itself the duty of considering applications for membership. The Austraiian representative objected to that procedure in the first instance, and maintained that objection by declining to vote at that stage. Subsequently, when the matter came before the Assembly, and at the instance of Australia, it was remitted again to the Security Council, and three: nations - Afghanistan, Iceland and Sweden - were admitted, and their admission was supported by Australia. Some other candidates for admission were supported but their application was rejected,, not by a majority of the Security Council, hut by the exercise of the veto, or by the threatened exercise of it, by one of the five powers entitled to exercise it.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether Australian delegates made any specific suggestions to the Council of Foreign Ministers about the safeguarding of minorities in the drawing up of peace treaties, and if so what were they?
– The suggestions made by the Australian Government in connexion with the peace settlement with Germany were on the same lines as those made in relation to the peace settlements with Italy and the four other satellite countries. No suggestion was made for the protection of minority rights as such, but for the rights of persons as such in relation to freedom of expression and freedom of religious worship, which, of course, would be rights which minorities would’ need most. The clause which will he considered in relation to the German treaty is different from the others in this respect, however, that it contains not merely a bare expression of right but also some method of enforcement by an international tribunal or authority.
– I refer to official pub lications dealing with employment statistics, particularly in relation to employment in Government departments and by boards and commissions as compared with employment in private enterprise, and the lack of detailed information in Australian employment statistics as compared with similar publications in Great Britain and the United States of America. I ask the Prime Minister whether he will arrange with the Commonwealth Statistician for tables to be prepared for publication at least quarterly showing the distribution of Government employment according to Government instrumentalities, with specific reference to those engaged in each administrative department, those in each transport and communication service, and those employed in each of the Government productive enterprises, if that be the correct designation to use. I also desire that there shall be made available a more detailed dissection of employment statistics generally, showing the distribution of the Australian labour force under occupational classifications.
– I shall discuss with the Commonwealth Statistician the matter raised by the honorable member. I understand that in Australia, during the war, the Commonwealth Statistician was able greatly to improve the standard of statistical information available. As I listened to the references of the honorable member to the dissection of statistical information in relation to government and private employment, administrative sections and so on, it seemed to me that the preparation of such information would involve a very great deal of labour, and that the information could probably be obtained without the necessity for a general statistical review. I am reluctant to impose further duties on the Statistician’s Department at the moment. The department is short staffed, and will shortly have to arrange for the taking of the census. I shall discuss the matter with the Commonwealth Statistician in order to see what can be done.
– Will the Treasurer consider amending that section of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 which deals with the deposits of infants? Will the Treasurer look into this part of the act to see if it would be practicable to enable deposits to be made to the credit of an infant in such a way as will secure the money deposited against withdrawal until the person on whose account the money has been deposited shall have reached the age of 21, or such an age as may be required by the depositor? Is it true that there is no provision in the act to protect money deposited for infants?
– I do not know what the position is at present. I shall discuss the matter with the Governor of the Comwealth Bank in order to see whether the difficultycan be overcome by administrative action, or whether it will be necessary to introduce legislation.
Ban on Dutch Ships.
– In view of the completion yesterday of the agreement between the Dutch Government and the Indonesian factions in Indonesia, will the Government ensure the immediateremoval of the ban imposed by waterside workers in Australia on ships carrying foodstuffs and other commodities to the people of the Netherlands East Indies?
– The agreement between the Dutch Government and the Indonesian authorities was completed some time ago, but delays occurred, and apparently it has only just been signed. The other matter-
– The Government is not interested in it?
– I am very interested. I entirely agree with the implied criticism of the retention of such a ban, but one must remember that in recent weeks there has been practically a naval blockade of
Indonesian ports. I hope that the signing of the agreement will have the effect of releasing the blockade and opening up trade.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services to give favorable consideration to a proposal that discussions should be held with the Government of New South Wales with a view to establishing a youth national fitness camp in the National Capital. If such a discussion is arranged, will it he borne in mind that, no camp of this kind is nearer to Canberra than Broken Bay, and that the surroundings of Canberra provide excellent sites for a camp?
– Yes, I will certainly discuss the matter with the Minister, who is much interested in the extension of the operations of the National Fitness Council. They had to be curtailed somewhat, during the war, but the work will be extended as much as possible from now on. I shall ask the Minister to discuss the matter with the deputy director in New South Wales with a view to having the honorable member’s request acceded to.
Damage to Parcels
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether there is any truth in the report that concern is being felt today by persons wishing to send food parcels to Britain because of the circulation of reports that parcels have been damaged on wharfs and in ships by rats. This applies particularly to parcels containing dried fruits and articles made from flour.
– I cannot answer the question immediately, but I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and see that the required information is obtained.
– Can the Treasurer say whether donations by Australians to religious missions in the Pacific are free of tax? If not, will he look into the matter with a view to exempting from taxation donations to this important educational, social and religious work?
– This matter was brought to my notice some time ago by representatives of religious organizations, and there were consultations with the Commissioner of Taxation. I understand that since then there have been further discussions. I shall ascertain what has happened, and see that consideration is given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement in the last issue of the Sydney Sunday Sun and Guardian, carrying a three column heading to this effect, “All politicians are racketeers, says retiring customs official “. Then follows this sentence -
After 49 years service in three government departments, Mr. Harry Sawkins, 05, of Mittagong, thinks all politicians are racketeers.
In view of the fact that this is the reputed statement of a. man formerly holding a responsible position in a highly important government department, and that if the normal interpretation be placed on the term “ racketeer “, the collective honour of members of this Parliament is involved, does the Prime Minister propose to allow the statement to pass without comment?
– I did see the paper and I noticed the heading, hut regarded it as untruthful. Therefore, I thought that no purpose could be served by reading the item further. I have not taken any action. I am used to politicians being maligned by people of mean intelligence and, sometimes, doubtful reputation. However, now that the honorable member has indicated that some kind of slur has been cast on honorable members, I shall make inquiries and see what can be done.
Transport and Power Strike in Victoria.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say what is the latest position in regard to the threatened stoppage of the Melbourne transport, light and power services? What action is the Government taking in the present desperate situation in that State to ensure that these services will he continued in Melbourne and elsewhere?
– The latest information I have is that the two employing groups, the tramways and the railways authorities have referred the matter to the court for adjudication under the Industrial Peace Regulations. Whether the court has yet taken any action in the matter I do not know; this morning’s news in the office was that the matters are now in the hands of the court. The Federal Disputes Committee is to hold a meeting on Friday next to consider the position, f understand that Mr. Cain, the Premier of Victoria, is in consultation with the two employing bodies with a view to avoiding inconvenience to the public of Victoria in the maintenance ‘ of light and transport services.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen a statement reported to have been made by Mr. J. Ferguson, State secretary of the Australian Railways Union, to the effect that all Melbourne trains on Easter Saturday and Sunday would be stopped unless the judgment of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on week-end penalty rates had been delivered in the meantime ? Has the honorable gentleman noticed in recent months that it is becoming common practice among certain militant union leaders to threaten that work will be stopped unless the court gives a decision or acts along certain lines? Will the honorable gentleman indicate whether this practice meets with the approval or otherwise of the Government? Does he not agree that it is time some steps were taken to uphold the prestige of the Arbitration Court by making such intimidatory practices illegal?
– I have read the statement to which the honorable member lias referred, and other statements of a similar kind. As far as Mr. Ferguson is concerned, he is, I believe, too well balanced to implement such a threat. My own opinion is that statements of that kind do more harm than useful service to the unions concerned. I do not believe that the Arbitration Court will be hurried in any way by such threats. On the contrary, they are more likely to have a hampering effect. I do not know what action the Government could take in the matter. If the unions think they are wise in adopting such tactics-
– Do what the American Government did to Mr. Lewis.
– I do not believe that threats of that kind do anything to improve the position.
– What provision is to be made for the enlargement of the Australian War Memorial at Canberra in order to permit the controlling authorities to display as representative a section of paintings, drawings, relics and dioramas of the recent war as has been done in connexion with the World War I.
– The War Memorial Committee has given consideration to the extension of the existing Australian War Memorial building. Architects have already been invited to prepare the requisite plans. These will be considered by the War Memorial Committee before a recommendation regarding any proposed additions is made to the Government.
– Has the Prime Minister observed that questions on notice are easily beating the time at our disposal? On Friday last questions on the notice-paper numbered 31, yesterday they numbered 34; to-day the number has increased to 48. When replies are received many of them contain no more than an intimation that the desired information is being obtained, which is substantially the same reply as is usually given by a Minister when asking for notice of a question. Will the right honorable gentleman indicate whether it is possible to have all questions on notice answered by the time the House rises for the Easter recess?
– I have observed that the number of questions appearing on the notice-paper has been increasing very rapidly, no doubt due to the fertility of imagination of honorable members opposite. I have asked that, as far as possible, the answers be expedited. I looked through the questions this morning and noticed that a great deal of investigation would have to be undertaken by staffs already fairly heavily worked in order to obtain the necessary information. I regret that I amunable to promise that all answers to outstanding questions will be made available before the Parliament adjourns at the week-end. Where that is not possible, however, I shall endeavour to have answers forwarded to honorable members.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That Government business shall take prece dence over general business to-morrow.
Debate resumed from the 25th March (vide page 1138), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the following papers be printed : - * .* (vide page 190).
– Last night when I obtained leave to continue my remarks I was pointing out that the statement which indicated this debate and the documents which accompanied it covered a very wide field. With the exception of a few minor matters, there has been very little, if any, criticism, other than of a constructive nature. It is useful to recall the phases through which Australian foreign policy has passed or is passing. The first phase was our struggle in the war for survival as a free nation. The second has been the effort of Australia, following the war, to adjust itself fully to an environment, particularly in South-East Asia, the characteristics of which have undergone and are undergoing a profound change. This phase continues. The third phase through which Australia is passing is the struggle to formulate and have carried into effect a series of principles, embodied in the charter of the United Nations, the object of which is to achieve social justice and freedom from fear and want. Our policy in that respect should be looked upon by honorable members in the light of its first broad expression in the agreement made by this country with New Zealand some years ago. That agreement was criticized at the time as an agreement that should not have been made by two members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but public opinion is, I submit, almost unanimously in its favour. The Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand, the Most ReverendC. W. West Watson, recently described it as a model agreement because of the democratic principles involved, and because those principles were endeavoured to be carried into action by both countries at the conferences of the United Nations. After that the San Francisco conference was held at which we made a determined attempt to improve and liberalize the draft document of Dumbarton Oaks on which the United Nations Charter was based and which came before the representatives of 50 nations. I think that perhaps the most important achievement of all was the amendments made at San Francisco relating to the Assembly of the United Nations. I was asked a question about the functions of the Assembly in relation to the Security Council this afternoon. My opinion is that the last Assembly of the United Nations certainly proved itself to be a world forum for public opinion. It may ultimately become a world Parliament. 1 think that as the result of the efforts of Australia and New Zealand trusteeship has become an accomplished fact. The South Pacific Commission, which we envisaged in the Australian-New Zealand Agreement, is in process of establishment. In relation to South-East Asia, we think developments will take the course that I indicated in my opening statement.
What are the objects of the policy that we have been applying? I think they can be stated as follows : -
As to that I am quite aware that there have been instances of decisions that are unsatisfactory and difficulties of procedure that have sometimes threatened to hold up any decision. In spite of that we adhere firmly to the organization. It is the one world organization that can make a great effort to secure the peace of the world -
The Opposition does not depart from these aims. In his statement on the 19th March, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) expressed himself in favour of the following four points which presumably govern the Leader of the Opposition’s approach to Australia’s role in international affairs -
He did not, of course, advocate an imperial federation, but he did advocate in relation to foreign affairs closer cooperation between the units of the British Empire -
None of those statements could possibly be regarded as being in conflict with the aims we have endeavoured to follow. The Leader of the Opposition impliedly agrees with the broad lines of the policy at present being pursued. To quote again his own words during this debate, he said -
The second thing thathas struck me is that on many matters discussed by the Minister in his statement there is a great deal more common ground in this House than we may suppose.
One point on which all parties in this House appear to be in strong agreement is the urgent necessity for an early and satisfactory peace settlement with Japan, and for Australia to play its part in determining that settlement. I am glad to say that there is no question of the United Kingdom’s support for Australia in this regard. Honorable members will have seen for themselves the remarks made yesterday by the head of the British Liaison Mission in Japan, Mr. Gascoigne. He said that Australia must play a leading part in framing the Japanese peace treaty, because of the tremendous part it played in the war.
The making of peace treaties is not a matter which comes within the jurisdiction of the United Nations, and the part we take in relation to the settlements with Germany and Japan and their satellites is distinct from that which we take in international affairs as a member of the United Nations and of the Security Council. Although Australia has been elected to the Security Council by the United Nations it does not follow that Australia necessarily plays a similar part in connexion with the peace settlements. I should like honorable members to remember that assurances have been given from time to time that the part of active belligerants in the war will be recognized at the settlements, but the fact is that for one reason or another there seems tobe little intention on the part of the major powers that other powers, no matter what their war efforts may have been, shall fill a full and effective role in the peace settlement with Germany.
– Is there any requirement that the peace treaties shall be ratified by the United Nations ?
– No. But article 107 of the United Nations Charter provides -
Nothing in the present Charter shall invalidate or preclude action, in relation to any State which during the Second World War has been an enemy of any signatory to the present Charter, taken or authorized as a result of that war by the governments having responsibility for such action.
As a matter of fact, vaguely as that was worded, it was made perfectly clear at SanFrancisco that the major powers would not agree for a moment to the peace settlements and the principles on which they are to be based being taken up by the United Nations, representing world opinion.
– The separation was made deliberately to avoid the kind of criticism that might arise over the peace treaties and the Charter being interwoven.
– Yes. It was done deliberately to make those settlements distinct from the world organization for security. But we get this strange anomaly in contradiction. After the first World War, the Covenant of the League of Nations was linked deliberately with the peace settlements with Germany and the other enemy countries. The object of that was that the League of Nations was to enforce the terms laid down in those settlements. President Wilson went back to the Senate of the United States of America, which had a party majority opposed to the Democratic party. He put that plan before the Senate. It was rejected by the Senate, not because it was opposed to the terms of the peace laid down at Versailles, but because the Covenant of the League was in some respects objectionable to the Senate. That led to the non-inclusion of the United States of America in the League of Nations. PresidentRoosevelt was determined that that should not happen again. So, at San Francisco, all these arrangements in relation to peace settlements, and all the secret agreements and the open agreements which preceded them were kept out of the sphere of the United Nations. Therefore, we have this apparent paradox. We have an organization the object of which is to maintain peace; and yet, a state of war exists affecting many of the members of the United Nations, and that state of war can be brought to an end only by a peace settlement which will never go before the United Nations for consideration.
– Who will ratify the peace treaties?
– They will be ratified by the belligerent countries. For example, 21 countries will sign the treaty with Italy. That may be regarded as typical. But there again, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) correctly pointed out, the leaders of the United States of America, Great Britain and Soviet Russia, meeting at Teheran long before the United Nations was formed, and at Yalta before the San Francisco conference, made certain arrangements in relation to the peace settlement. Those arrangements, which arebeing implemented to-day, are quite outside the jurisdiction of the United Nations, and the effective control of those peace settlements - this is the point which I desire to emphasize - is limited to three or, at the most four powers.
Let us consider the position regarding Germany. Since I initiated this debate on international affairs, the deputies’ meeting in London has terminated, and the Foreign Ministers are now sitting at Moscow. The deputies of the four powers, namely, the United States of America, Soviet Russia, Great Britain and France could not reach an agreement on. the procedure to be adopted for the preparations for the German settlement. Now, at Moscow, the discussion is continuing day after clay on the question whether other belligerent countries should participate in this negotiation for the peace settlement, and if they should participate, what should be the extent of their participation? It is an extraordinary example of what some honorable members on both sides of the House have pointed out, namely, that the exercising of power sometimes makes the passion for the preservation of power even greater. I cite the Council of Foreign Ministers as an example. The council consists of representatives of the United States of America, Soviet Russia, Great Britain and France, and those countries are demanding a dominating and practically exclusive position during these stages of the preparation of the treaty with Germany. Even if a peace conference is held, and there is no certainty of that, it may follow the lines of the conference at Paris. Four nations came to that conference with five draft treaties, and leaving out the clauses upon which they had not agreed and dealing only with those on which they had agreed, they had an arrangement among themselves which was not fully revealed until the conference had begun. The arrangement was that none of them would support any amendment unless all of them supported it.
During the last debate on international affairs I came to the House frankly and criticized that arrangement. At the time, some honorable members said, “ You are criticizing matters of procedure “. I emphasize that these are not matters of procedure. They concern the rights of countries which have participated with their military forces in the war, often at the crucial period of the war and long before other and more powerful countries entered it. Now, their right to participate in the peace settlement is challenged. Their right might be recognized to some degree. The present proposal is that they shall not participate around the table at the preparatory stage, but shall merely constitute a committee of information over which each of the representatives of the four major powers will preside in turn. They will have to be content with that. Of course, this proposal is an extension of the Potsdam decision. In support of my statement, I need only read the following words of the former Secretary of State of the United States of America, Mr. Byrnes -
At Berlin it certainly was never intended that the three powers present or the five powers constituting thu council should take milo themselves the making of the final peace. The Berlin declaration setting up the Council begins with the statement “ The conference reached the following agreement for the establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers to do the necessary preparatory work for the pence settlements “. The council was not to make the peace settlements, but to do the necessary preparatory work for . the peace settlement.
That seemed to be a perfectly feasible proposition. Instead of fifteen or twenty countries preparing drafts, that work would be done by a committee representing all of them. That body, rather than the four major powers, should take tae initiative. But, as I have pointed out in relation to the conference of Paris, that proposition was extended to a point which, in my opinion, was quite indefensible. The drafts were put before the conference of representatives of countries including Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, which had made such an important contribution to the victory. They were informed. “ You can propose amendments, but we four will not support them unless each one of us agrees to do so “. That was an extension of the principle adopted by each of the Big Four to a point which had never been contemplated. That struggle still continues. The United Nations is excluded by the Charter from dealing with this matter, and the countries concerned, whether of medium size or small, which contributed to the victory, have to struggle even to have their voice heard in the making of the peace. As honorable members know, it is not so much the German settlement, important though, it is, that is so vital to us as the final settlement with Japan. Therefore, I ask the House to draw the conclusion that these things, which appear to be matters of procedure,, prove to be a substantive right, and affect the possibility of suggestions or proposals being made by smaller countries, and tend to prejudice their inclusion in the settlement.
– Let us suppose that a treaty has been signed, and, subsequently, a question of interpretation, revision or enforcement arises. Is there any way in which the matter oan be brought before the United Nations?
– I shall take Italy as an example. Suppose, twelve months hence, a- situation arising out of that part of the Italian settlement relating to Trieste causes international friction or an actual clash of forces. The matter can be taken up at that point by the Security Council,, and, in that way, can come to the notice of the United Nations. In. other words, troubles arising in the peace settlement may reach the United Nations in that way, but not the enforcement of the peace settlement itself.
– I assume that one of the functions of the Committee of Human Rights is to safeguard the rights of minorities. There have been considerable transfers of territories, which must include minorities within certain States, such as the Soviet Union ; and if Poland’s desires about the eastern frontier of Ger many are fulfilled, the same problem will arise there. Will that aspect of the peace settlement be considered ..by the Committee of Human Eights, an organization under the United Nations?
– I believe that the honorable member’s question can bo answered by a short narration of what happened in relation to a similar situa- tion which arose at the ‘Paris Peace Conference. The draft treaties contained guarantees not of fundamental rights as such but of fundamental freedom such as freedom of expression and freedom of religious worship.
– I was thinking of linguistic and educational rights.
– They did not go quite so far as that. There were references to certain aspects of education. I told the honorable member earlier that our view was that it would not be of much use to include such provisions unless they could be enforced before some tribunal. That view was not accepted. The argument was, “This is so important a matter that it should go to the United Nations which can deal with human rights, not merely in this restricted area of Europe but also throughout the world “. That was a powerful argument. But when the matter comes before the Human Bights Commission of the United Nations the tendency is for it to drag on and on. Of course, that body has no executive power, and at the best there can only be an agreement among all those powers, in the form of a new treaty providing that human rights shall be observed in every way. We have treaties which include some of those rights. Let something be done to make them capable of enforcement. Why has this situation arisen in regard to the peace settlements? The attitude of Soviet Russia has been quite clear and consistent. It does not accept the proposition that the smaller powers should have the right of participation, except, .perhaps, in the sense that they hare dic right to sign .a treaty after the major powers have come to an agreement upon it. I showed in the statement that I quoted, that Mr. Byrnes took a very different view. In the passage that I read., he said in substance that all that the Council of Foreign Ministers should do was to act as a drafting committee. Yet later, owing to varying disputes having arisen, and no doubt concessions having been made and counter concessions having been sought, the four major powers at the Paris Peace Conference - Britain, the United States of America, Russia and France - agreed to act in unison, not merely as a drafting committee, but also when dealing with the substance pf what they had agreed upon as a drafting committee; and that substance is, that although the other nations can discuss these matters in detail and can ask the four nations to review the matter - and that is not without some advantage - even at that last stage there is a veto, because any one of the four which stands out can, simply by standing out, prevent any alterations from being made. So there is a veto within a veto. That was the position at Paris. The proceedings of that conference have been ineffective, because the four nations spoke and voted actively against any changes unless all of them were in agreement ; and even where, in spite of that, certain amendments were recommended to the Council of Foreign Ministers, at the last stage in New York the council did not accept some of them, and accepted only those upon which there was unanimity. It is of no use to burk the position. That is what happened in relation to the peace settlements. It is one of the eonsequences of the separation of the United Nations from the bodies which deal with the peace, and they happened to be confined to the nations that I have mentioned. I shall say a final word in a moment about the effect which that has upon co-operation between the countries composing the British Commonwealth. Before I do so, there are several other points that were raised by honorable memberss to which I should like to make very short references.
I believe that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) referred to the Corfu Channel incident, and the unsatisfactory result, up to the date of the Security Council’s investigation of it. What happened was that, in the channel, close to Albanian shores, and perhaps in Albanian waters - to which, I believe, an international law.. applies which certainly could be held to be in favour of the right of innocent passage - the lives of 44 British sailors were lost as the result of the explosion of mines. The British Government placed the matter before the Security Council. A small committee was appointed to ascertain the facts. It included a representative of Australia, and the other two members were representatives of Poland and Columbia. The view put forward by the Australian representative was that, viewing the surrounding circumstances, the fact that, the mines were of German manufacture and the sources from which such mines could be obtained were limited, the conclusion could be drawn that they had been laid with the connivance of Albania. The matter is now before the Security Council, and that view is again being put forward by Australia, but both Poland and Soviet Russia are opposing a finding of that character. Of course, the proper tribunal to deal with it is the International Court; and if there cannot be a finding by the Security Council we shall endeavour to have it referred to that court. These matters have caused disappointment and great concern. They are setbacks to the cause of international co-operation. On the other hand, the United Nations has the great advantage of its public forum. After all, it has been in existence for only fifteen or sixteen months. Many disputes have come before the council, but none of those disputes that have been placed before it are accompanied at present by any armed conflict. I do not say that that, in itself, is evidence of a satisfactory working of the United Nations; but I contend that we must continue to do our utmost to make the organization a success.
– Would a finding by a purely fact-finding inquiry such as this one - as to whether or not Albania had laid the mines - be subject to the veto?
– On the subject of the veto, some argument has been put before the Security Council to the effect that the mere reference to the committee would not be subject to the veto, because the matter would be one of procedure; but when the committee’s finding has been given, the finding of the Security Council upon it will be subject to the veto. However, the matter can reach the International Court; and if there is no decision in the Security Council, I think it is quite certain that one nation can take it to the International Court. That will, and 1 think should, be done. It was most outrageous that innocent sailors should lose their lives through the recent laying of mines during a time of peace. That incident was mixed up with a. large number of other incidents in the Balkans, some of which are being inquired into by a special commission, which has on it a representative of Australia.
– Is that right df reference to the International Court a provision of the United Nations, or is it something which antedates the United Nations ?
– The right of reference is incorporated in the United Nations Charter; that is the charter for the establishment of the International Court.
There are three other matters to which I wish to refer before I conclude. I am obliged to the House for its courtesy in allowing me to do so. I shall deal first with the islands mandated to Japan after the last war. In the course of the deliberations in the .Security Council on the draft trusteeship agreement of the United States of America in respect of those islands, Australia supported the principle of administration by the United States of America at every stage, but equally maintained the principle of the right of active belligerents in the war against Japan to participate in discussions affecting the disposition of former Japanese territories. Our attitude at New York, which was supported by the United Kingdom Government, was very clear and it was based upon an important principle. But since the matter came before the House in February there has been an important change in the situation. At the instigation of Australia and Great Britain, the representatives of the belligerent nations on the Allied side have now been given an opportunity to place their views before the Security Council. These nations include Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, the Netherlands and the Philippines. It is therefore considered that the main point of our objection has been met, in that the majority of the nations which fought against Japan have been given the opportunity to express their views. In other words, the Security Council has been enlarged for this purpose into something like a small replica of the peace conference. Consequently, our representatives have been instructed to raise no objection to the final approval of the draft agreement. We consider that we have established the .point of view, not merely in a technical or narrow and procedural fashion, that the nations which fought against Japan should be entitled, as a matter of justice and democratic right, to participate in the final settlement with Japan. The Government of the United States of America has therefore been informed that Australia will support the United States draft trusteeship agreement as it stands, and that no objection will be raised by us on this matter when the final vote is taken. I wish to make it quite clear that this is not a matter of mere procedure. What I apprehend, to some extent, is that if this procedure be followed on reparations in relation to Japan, bit by bit other important aspects of the final peace settlement may be withdrawn from the peace conference and so our particular problem will be solved. Our delegates at the Security Council, we believe, have established the view that all the belligerents against Japan should have the opportunity to put their views.
In regard to the trusteeship proposals, it has always been the hope of the Australian Government that the United States would maintain its control over the mandated territories, or trust territories as they will now become, that were formerly held by Japan, and in relation to which Japan failed as a trustee. As indicated in my speech on the 26th February, the Australian Government favours an early settlement with Japan. Our desire in this regard arises out of our concern over the results of control on the final pattern of the settlement and, in particular the control of the industrial war potential in Japan. Claims have been made which would imply that the control forces have entirely completed their work in Japan. Our anxiety about such optimistic claims arises not because we consider that General MacArthur has not achieved much; he has achieved a good deal. As a matter of fact, in the period of military occupation of Japan, General MacArthur has done a magnificent job. But we fear that too much may be claimed in the way of permanent results in relation to Japan’s future behaviour as a nation. Undoubtedly there are political trends there which are most disturbing, and we are not convinced that those who were responsible for aggression in the past have been effectively excluded from political and economic influence in the Japan of to-day. Although we fully appreciate the degree to which the Japanese Government and people have complied with the demands of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, we consider that we are justified in feeling, because of our experiences since 1941, that we can take no risks. We desire an early peace treaty not as a means of liquidating the United Nations’ interest in Japan, but as an insistence that there must be not merely guidance but such effective supervision of Japan as will lead to the emergence of a genuinely peace-loving and democratic people. The particular means by which supervision is to be exercised and the extent, if any, to which it would involve military occupation of home islands, is a question which should be decided at the peace conference by countries which played an important role in the victory over Japan.
I wish to refer briefly to our relationship to the United Kingdom in regard to foreign policy, and I again emphasize the importance of those relations. Cooperation in trade and commerce and in general common policy at the Security Council and elsewhere goes on day by day. I am afraid that often in a debate of the character of this one there is a tendency to call into question Australia’s action every time there happens to be an issue on which our vote is different from that of some other member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The British Commonwealth derives its strength from the fact that its members do not have to vote as a bloc on every issue which arises. As a matter of fact independent views are expressed by some members of the British Commonwealth at almost every conference. At San Francisco, for example, South Africa was the one British nation which opposed the principle of full employment embodied in the United Nations Charter. At the same time, I believe that the measure of co-operation between the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations is far greater to-day than ever it has been. I say most emphatically that Australia has been more ready than probably any other member of the British Commonwealth to cooperate, in matters of common interest. It is easy to over-emphasize the importance of the occasions on which the members of the British Commonwealth have not all voted in the same way. At the same time I believe that the machinery of British Commonwealth relationships can be improved in certain ways. Not only has Australia been more ready to initiate and carry into practical effect improvements in the machinery of co-operation than any other member of the British Commonwealth, but I believe that the need for British Commonwealth co-operation is greater to-day than ever before. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has reminded the House that in 1944 the late Mr. Curtin suggested that a Commonwealth Secretariat should be established. The suggestion was rejected on the ground that it implied a too rigid centralization. It was rejected by the United Kingdom and Canada, and it was not accepted by South Africa. Actually only Mr. Curtin and Mr. Fraser, among the Commonwealth representatives at the time, supported it. I ask honorable members, and particularly a few honorable gentlemen of the Opposition - they are only a few - who at every stage of a discussion of foreign affairs repeat as a kind of slogan that there must be one British voice in these matters, to go further and say precisely how such machinery is to be established. I ask them, also, not to jump to the conclusion that any failure to establish such machinery must be due to the action, or inaction, of this Government. It is not possible to outline all the proposals which have been made even in relation to the peace treaty. The fact that India is undergoing enormous constitutional changes, and that there must be changes in Burma, Indo-China, Indonesia and in other countries, illustrates in a dramatic fashion that the solution of the problems that we have to face are difficult, and that the results may be of acute importance to Australia. We must maintain the closest possible cooperation with other members of the British Commonwealth and especially with the Government of the United Kingdom. The Australian Government is anxious to do this. We Shall not cease to make suggestions to that end, despite the difficulties of the situation. I say emphatically that Australia is doing its best to ensure that newer and better machinery shall be devised for this purpose.
This brings me to the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Menzies) that a foreign affairs committee should be established in this Parliament to consider foreign relations. The debate that has ensued has been important because it has revealed the fairly close approximation in principle of the views of speakers on both sides of the House,, despite some criticisms which have been made in regard to o::o or two aspects of the multifarious subjects which have come under review. The suggestion has again ‘been made that a foreign affairs committee of Parliament should be appointed. Let me point out to honorable members the difference between the position here and in Great Britain and that in the United States of America, where the executive is not responsible to Congress. Therefore, decisions of the President on foreign affairs are not subject to appeal to Congress. There is not responsible government in the United States of America; there is representative government. The Senate in the United States of America occupies a special position because, under the Constitution, it has the right to consider treaties. In neither Great Britain nor in any dominion does there exist a committee on foreign affairs.
My present view is that the best medium for dealing with foreign affairs is the Parliament, and particularly this House. The membership of this House is not too large for the satisfactory participation of all those honorable members who wish to take part in discussions on foreign affairs. At the same time, in two respects, I think that there could be improvements. The first relates to a further suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the possibility of some special mandate or duty being confered on members of the House constituting them members of a committee, and I propose to consider whether the Government could not, on occasions, avail itself of the services of honorable members of all parties by establishing special groups to deal with special problems.
The question of a mission to Japan for the guidance of theGovernment and of the Parliament regarding what might be done about the final settlement of peace with that country also mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition might be considered, and this idea is an indication of the road that could be travelled with advantage to the Parliament and to the country. I do not exclude other matters from consideration. I think that the way of progress lies in this direction rather than in the appointment of a standing committee to consider the whole range of foreign affairs.
I am deeply obliged to all honorable members who have participated in the debate for their criticism and suggestions. I have now been Minister for External Affairs for a considerable time, and I have always tried to state as fully and frankly as possible the trends in foreign affairs, and the views which Australia has put forward in the councils of the world. On the last occasion, the result was a most frank and yet harmonious exchange of opinions which will be of great advantage to Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 19th March (vide page 851), on motion by Mr. Cal well -
That the billbe read a second time.
– This bill, which aims at the effective registration of aliens, was introduced some days ago. I have read the bill with care, and also the second-reading speech of the Minister, and I have no objection, in substance, to offer to the measure.
.- I am surprised to note the agreement between the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), who is in charge of the bill, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in regard to such a measure as this. It is entirely a fascist measure. It provides for the creation of an internal passport system, and that is the first step to the police state. It will result in the creation of a new secret police force under the control of the Minister for Immigration.
That is a dangerous step to take at any time. Who, in this House, is prepared to give to the Minister the extraordinary powers outlined in this measure? The only defence that can be offered for such action is that certain aliens have arrived in this country who might endanger the security of Australia. But whose responsibility is that? It is the responsibility of nobody else but the Minister for Immigration. Ask anybody who else could be responsible. Without proper check, and without adequate precautions, permits were issued to aliens who belonged to former enemy countries. No investigation officers were sent abroad to check the credentials of these ex-enemy aliens. Permits were issued on a wholesale basis. Surely honorable members have not forgotton - I hope that the people of Australia will never forget - the speech made at a public meeting of refugees in the Maccabean Hall in Sydney early last year by the Minister for Immigration, when he excitedly announced that he had just issued 2,000 landing permits. He claimed that the issuing of these 2,000 permits had been done in record time. He said that members of a refugee organization had assisted his department in the issuing of the permits. Honorable members ought to be told whether blank permits were issued to the organization. Were they blank forms signed by the Minister, leaving the name of the future immigrant to be filled in by the refugee organization at its own sweet will? Was any supervision exercised? Now we find that, to put the matter as mildly as possible, the intentions of some of those aliens are suspect. The Black Guard lieutenant, who had been in charge of one of Hitler’s internment camps in Austria, actually arrived in Australia on board the Johan de Witt with one of the Minister’s permits in his hand. This officer of Hitler’s storm-troopers, who had been in charge of a concentration camp, landed in Australia with one of the Minister’s permits ! There is a suggestion that others have slipped through ; that they have come in undetected.
There are others, also. There are those with Communist affiliations who are under suspicion as agents of a foreign power. These people should never have been allowed into the country. If the
Minister had done his job, persons of that class would never have obtained possession of landing permits to enter Australia, but the Minister bungled the administration of his department. He allowed persons outside of his department to run his migration plans. The way was left wide open for the entry into Australia of an army of fifth columnists, and for that one person, and one only, is responsible - the Minister for Immigration. He cannot put the blame upon unnamed officers of his department, because he assumed personal control of all passports. He announced publicly that the issue of passports was his own special prerogative, and he took personal responsibility for every case, and for every passport, and for every migrant.
It is common knowledge that he refused permission for Australian social workers to travel abroad. Australians were subjected to a grilling cross-examination about their reasons for wishing to leave Australia, but there is the case of a person - to put it mildly - of very dubious character who had no difficulty in obtaining a passport, and an air priority to leave Australia. “While the Minister was placing these difficulties in the way of Australians wishing to travel abroad, he was issuing permits on a wholesale basis to aliens to come to Australia. No inquiries were made, no statistics were kept. It was simply a matter of the word of one alien already in Australia about his fellow alien who wanted to come here. The Minister conducted his department on the chain-letter principle. As soon as one refugee entered Australia he proceeded immediately to bring all his associates, whatever their background, or whatever their purpose might be in coming. That is what happened in the case of the stormtrooper who came in the Johan de Witt. He made only one mistake - he happened to travel on a ship on which there was also one of his former prisoners. But how many other Nazis have arrived in this country with permits from the Minister for Immigration ? The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has washed his hands of the whole business. He has said that the responsibility for “ vetting “ the new arrivals is entirely that of the Department of Immigration.
From the replies which the Minister for Immigration has given to questions asked in this House, we know how irresponsible his control has proved to be. The obvious place to control immigration is at the source. That should not be a matter for the Department of Immigration. The Department of External Affairs has its Ministers and its officers at all the four corners of the earth. They should be held responsible for permits, just as the American Department of State controls the permit machinery of that country. If inquiries are to be made, then the Australian legations are in the best position to carry out such inquiries. Who will recognize an officer of the Australian Department of Immigration when he is travelling abroad? No one will know him ; he will have no standing ; he will be purely and simply an innocent abroad. In the case of applications for permanent resident permits to enter the United States of America, the American consulates here make all the necessary inquiries, through the police departments and the appropriate State departments.
Inquiries respecting aliens from enemy countries should have been made through the appropriate military authorities. If that had been done there would have been little risk of Hitler’s storm troopers and members of the Black Guard obtaining a permit to come to Australia. These essential precautions were, however, not taken, and now the Minister finds himself in trouble. He does not know what kind of people he has allowed to enter this country; he was obviously worried. So, he rushed into this Parliament with a bill which provides for the registration - mark these words - of all aliens. That means that not only the people allowed in by the Minister but all citizens of a foreign power, including our war-time allies, must be registered and be subject to supervision by the Minister. Follow that up and see what it means. Many Americans who have been in this country for years controlling large commercial enterprises and industries have not surrendered their American nationality. They are aliens, and will be placed in the same category as the Minister’s refugee aliens.
– That is not so. A clause in the bill provides that they may be excluded.
– That is not so. Many of those men served with General MacArthur. During the last few days we have heard much about the duty we owe to the American people, yet the Government now proposes to herd American citizens into the same compound as the citizens of an enemy country. Under this bill there is no discrimination. Young American lads who fought with Australians in New Guinea and the Philippines, and are now married to Australian girls, are coming back here to live. When they arrive they will find that they will be seized upon by the Minister’s secret police and compelled to register as aliens. From registration it is a short step to complete secret police surveillance. Registration is, in effect, an internal passport system. It has happened in many European countries. It happened in Russia, as well as Germany and Italy. Does the Minister propose to adopt the same methods as were used by those countries? First, there is a registration, then internal vizas; then finger-prints; and, finally, the establishment of a secret police force to spy on registered aliens. If we establish that system for aliens it will not be long before we have it in action for Australians. There is no room for an internal passport system in Australia. Other British countries are already taking steps towards the abolition of the passport system. The [-abour Government in Great Britain recently announced the abolition of passports between Britain and France, as well as other friendly allied countries. That is in accordance with the principles of freedom we hear mouthed so often by members’ of the Government, but never see implemented in its legislation. If Great Britain can abolish passports for French nationals, why cannot Australia reach, a similar reciprocal agreement with the United States of America ? The Minister’s job is to attract the right kind of people to come here, and then treat them in a democratic way. Just because he has introduced some of the wrong kind of people, there is no reason for hysteria and the establishment of a counter-espionage corps under the Minister’s personal direction. I have no confidence in the capacity of the Minister to administer judicial functions. The bill empowers the honorable gentleman to establish his own system of supervision of aliens. If that supervision means anything, it means the appointment of an army of special inspectors. We have our State police, the Federal security police, and now we are to have the Minister’s own special gestapo. What guarantee is there that they will be properly trained? What is wrong with the present Security Service under the jurisdiction of the Minister for External Affairs? Once we approve of the principle of this bill we shall soon find it enmeshed in a host of arbitrary regulations, which will offend our friends without disturbing our potential foes. In this case, the public servant can only be as efficient as his Minister permits. The people whom this bill proposes shall be registered, watched and herded were or will be allowed to enter this country by the Minister. He will be personally responsible for every rotten egg in the basket. What incentive will there be for the public servant to prove that his Minister made a mistake? The people who will really suffer will be our friends, the nationals of the United States of America and those of other allies. Why should they be subjected to the indignities that will arise from this legislation, and the possible further indignities that may arise from regulations made under it? Cannot this Government discriminate between the enemy Black Guard stormtrooper and the young American veteran with a distinguished war record who fought to keep Australia white and free? This bil] does not permit such discrimination. Both are to be lumped together; both are to be branded with the same brand; both are to be subjected to the same supervision. Is that the way the Minister proposes to attract the right kind of migrants to this country? If he has bungled his job, and allowed potential enemies into the country, obviously he is not the right man to rectify the blunder. That job could be performed by either the appropriate federal authorities, or the State police, without any need for a drag-net measure such as this. The .State police of New South Wales uncovered a refugee racket six years ago. They even discovered that certain prominent members of the official Labour party were involved. But no action was taken. If the Minister bas a problem, let him pass over all the papers to the State police. He will probably be surprised at the results. They will not ask for alien registration, or offend friends of this country when carrying out their duty.
This is a reactionary, bill. It could only have its origin in the mind of a hide-bound reactionary. It will create ill-will where we most need good-will. It is not a cure. It is an irritant. Its introduction vindicates every statement I made when I demanded that the papers of these alien nationals of enemy countries should be tabled in this House. But instead of taking the logical step even at this eleventh hour of checking on the credentials of those admitted from Europe with the Minister’s permits, the Government proposes to round up the nationals of other countries and treat them as potential foes. The refugee problem is a Frankenstein monster of the Government’s own creation; But it will not be destroyed by declaring war on all nationals of other countries. If the Minister has evidence incriminating some of his new Australians, such as the Black Guard lieutenant, he has a duty to this House to produce it.
If the Government believes in the United Nations, if it believes in the freedom of intercourse guaranteed in its pledge to honour the obligations of the Atlantic Charter, it will withdraw this measure immediately. If it fails it will be guilty of lip service only to the ideal. It will reduce the ideal to an empty shibboleth. That happens too often with this Government, especially when it is called upon to implement the ideals of the Labour platform.
.- The speech we have just heard is characteristic of all speeches made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who has intervened in every debate where racial questions may be involved. Last night, in the debate on international affairs, he alleged without a tittle of evidence that the Government proposed to abrogate the principles of the White Australia policy. To-day he referred to the creation of the special police force. That is not intended in this bill. In fact it will, remove alien registration from policesupervision and courts and transfer it to. officials of the Department of Immigration. The essential points of the bill arethat it provides for the registration of aliens and notification of changes of addresses, occupations and names. The honorable member for Reid said - that this bill had its origin in the mind of a hidebound reactionary. In a sense that is true. Among the reactionary minds in which this bill originated is that of the honorable member for Reid himself. All other honorable members together have not done as much as he has to stir up in this country racial hatred directed particularly against the Jews. Because certain prominent newspapers and the honorable member for Reid are reactionary they have systematically put a most evil interpretation on alien immigration, especially Jewish immigration. Because of their systematic perversion of the facts this bill has been brought down so that the Government shall know exactly the position of aliens in this country. A particularly specious section of the speech of the honorable member for Reid was devoted to the alleged hardships that will be imposed by the .measure on citizens of the United States of America in this country. The bill is modelled upon a United States measure that provides for the registration of aliens in the United States of America, among them Australians. Because of reactionary propagandist assertions that have greatly exaggerated the number of aliens coming to this country - and, by innuendo, they have asserted that they are all like Lerch, the storm-trooper officer, who could not get into the country - it is necessary for the Government to take these powers in the interests of the aliens themselves. They understand its purpose, they know that they will be safeguarded, and they support it. For those reasons and also because it becomes unendurable at time3 to hear the honorable member for Reid twisting facts as he twists his face in speech, I have intervened in this debate to make those observations.
.- It was intolerable to sit and bear a reasonable bill dealing with the future of this nation so misrepresented as it was by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). The whole of his speech was a diatribe of such phrases as “ flooding aliens into this country”, “the terror of the gestapo” and one hundred and one othed perversions of the truth that inhabit only his mind and his newspaper. The simple fact is, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), that this is only another attempt to tie together the plans that are being made for assimilating into this country people from overseas. The reactionaries that stir up racial strife ought to be deported before we start to worry about “people coming here. There is among people misinformed about immigration a hatred of immigrants. The honorable member for Reid knows this and attempts a little rabble-rousing in this House. It is not the fear of some Australians for all foreigners, but a hatred of man for man. With few qualifications, it can be said that aliens approve the measure. It is a simple measure in line with legislation in other countries. The honorable member for Reid has attacked the measure because of spleen and because he has his brief which he reads in the House and once he begins he cannot go back, he must go on. Even if he has not read the brief and the airmail is late, he must go on. His speeches are written by his stooges and must be spoken. One clause of the bill has completely escaped the notice of the composer of his speech. Americans are not required to register as aliens. An important thing to remember about the honorable member for Reid is that his speeches often are already in his newspaper before he makes them. I remember that once he dashed from the chamber to stop the presses because the “ gag “ had been applied. But that is by the way. The worth of this measure cannot be belittled by reckless statements about a potential danger to this country. There is no danger in what the Minister has done. My three years and more in this Parliament have taught me that some honorable members of the Opposition are reasonable in big issues, particularly those that concern Australia, and those of them that are will agree that the Minister has done good work. As he has done it with enthusiasm, he is entitled to a great tribute for his Australianism. God knows what the immigrants must suffer when they find that every newspaperman short of a subject for an article, and every demagogue short of a theme, must write or say something about the refugees. It is not in character with Australianism. The history of the refugee problem has been given in this chamber before, but it will not harm if I briefly recapitulate it. After the war there was still work to be done in Europe to clean up the tragic human mess created by the Hitler regime. The main victims of Hitler were the Jews. Many of them escaped the pogrom to this country by various means and tortuous routes. They settled here. Now they want their aged parents and their children with them. If it be a crime that the Minister is humane enough to gratify them he is indeed guilty. Every application made by an immigrant settler for members of his family to come to Australia has been carefully investigated and if the Minister has decided that the request is fair he has complied. If thereby we have contributed to a lessening of the troubles of Europe it has been a little deed well done. Criticism that refugees will take the jobs of Australians has been refuted time and time again and I have no need to add to what has already been said on that subject. The aim of this bill is to get some organization into the matter of immigration. Aliens will come to this country when ships are available. They will not be necessarily enemy aliens, because when the peace treaties have been signed, there will be no “ enemy “ aliens. These people will need care. Who suggests that a gestapo will be created to oversee them? The simple departmental plan is to have these people registered so that they can be watched, in the benevolent sense, as they are absorbed into this community. The complaints which the honorable member for Reid voiced are reminiscent of the Nazi doctrine, which prescribes that “you must hound people, or they will hound you “. The honorable member lives in perpetual fear, which drives him ever onwards. That fear is not resident in the minds of Australians. Our attitude towards these immigrants is, “ Come here with us, and we shall see what we can do to help you to settle down “. There is no substance in the statement that we “ are repaying the debt which we owe to the Americans by hauling them to the police station, and ordering them to write down their names and addresses”. The honorable member for Reid said that under this legislation, guards and inspectors will be appointed. When he was Premier of New South Wales, that State had both guards and inspectors. There was the unfortunate New Guard, and the dole inspectors, who did not ask aliens for their names and addresses, but who said to the workers, “You are receiving too much rations, and your name will be taken off the list “. When the honorable member for Reid talks about inspection, he knows the depth to which inspections can go. Therefore honorable members on this side of the House reassure him that the inspections which will be made under this bill will be purely pf a machinery character for the purpose of ensuring that the movements of immigrants, who are not yet of our life and ways, shall be watched for their own benefit.
A great deal was made about the assistance which the United States of America bad rendered to Australia during World War II., and honorable members were asked, “Is this the way that Australia proposes to repay the gallant Americans? “ I could imagine that I was reading a page from the Chicago Tribune, and I am sure that the Century is an ardent advocate of, and probably collects the more flamboyant antiBritish statements which appear in that paper. I was rather amused to hear the protestations in favour of our gallant lilies. Of course, the Americans were dragged in only for the purpose of bolstering up the case. The bill, I understand, provides that citizens of the United States of America need not register. The Minister will correct me if that is not so. The bill also provides that an alien shall not change his address without notifying the authorities, and shall not change his name before he becomes naturalized. Those are simple precautions, similar to those that appear in the legislation of other countries dealing with aliens. An alien is neither saint nor sinner. He is a human being. Some of them have been subject to criticism when they have changed their names. The classical example is that of a man with an unpronounceable Hungarian name, who selected the name of Winston Churchill, and set up in business as a tailor, and thrived. The Irish community, and I am proud to claim myself a descendant, is inclined to resent the fact that the mantle of Murphy should fall upon Mr. Marcovitch until he has fully learnt what Murphy stands for. However, that is the humorous side. The alien will not have to fear the gestapo’s knock at the door, and a .firing squad, because he has changed his name. The purpose of this proposal is to ensure that these newcomers shall realize that people who live in Australia have rights just as rights will accrue to them when they are used to the democratic processes of their adopted country.
The arrangements associated with immigration are much wider than what might be loosely classified as “ restrictive” measures, such as checking, guarding, collating and prohibiting the use of names. These are simple things, but they all form part of the one pattern. The bill also envisages that the alien, on arriving in Australia, shall be made an Australian citizen by the processes of a court, as is the practice in the United States of America. We intend to dc something to make these people feel that they will, in future, belong to Australia. They will take part in a ceremony. I see no objection to the proposed ceremony. To become the right type of Australian is a noble thing. If the ceremony is presided over by a judge or a justice, it will have a very important significance. Is that reminiscent of the tactics of the Gestapo, the jack-boot and the bludgeon? That criticism is too absurd and ridiculous. This debate has taken a very unusual turn. The language of the bill is simple, but its provisions have been described as something which they certainly are not. Never while I have been a member of this
House, or in the records of its deliberations that I have read, has there been such a distortion of the facts. The lies which the honorable member for Reid put forward in this chamber are dangerous because there are some misguided people who mistake noise for knowledge. Therefore, his statements should not remain unchallenged. The bill is simple and logical, and honorable members can support it without any fear that the forebodings of the honorable member will be realized. They may vote for the bill, not on the protestations of the honorable member for Reid, but on the conscience of the Australian people.
– in reply - This bill seeks to perpetuate in a statute the requirements which are contained in regulations made under the National Security Act and which have obtained during the last seven years. However, there is this difference, that, in future, aliens will not have to go to police stations for the purpose of registering. They will make their applications to a civil department; that is, if there is a distinction between a civil department and a department of police in any State. They will also make their registrations on a form, and they will not have to subject themselves to what many people regarded as a humiliation during the war when, irrespective of their attitude towards Australia, they had to obey the regulations and register either weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, at the nearest police station. In addition, they had to submit to many restrictions upon their liberties. This bill does not seek to create a police state, or establish an internal passport system whatever that means. The question of a passport system does not arise. This bill is the antithesis of a fascist measure. What do we require the alien to do? We say to him, “ You shall register when you come to Australia, and you shall notify change of address “. Does not the Commonwealth Electoral Act impose that obligation upon every Australian citizen over the age of 21 years? Cannot our names and addresses be discovered by reference to the electoral rolls? Are we not obliged to notify the electoral authorities of a change of address, under penalty ? Of course we are ! We ask these people, in addition to fulfilling the obligations of Australian citizens, to tell us when they change their occupations. It is very important that everybody who lives in the community should discharge his or her obligations to the community in the matter of the payment of taxes. Why should not_we know where aliens are working, so that they shall pay their taxes as every one else must do? To refuse to impose these conditions would be to give the aliens an advantage over the natural-born Australian or the naturalized British subject. The argument that has been used against the proposal is so much hysterical nonsense.
The bill does not do any of the nefarious things which exist only in the addled brain of the honorable member for Reid. I treat his outpourings of hate and bitterness with complete contempt, but I must refer to some of them, because he has attempted to asperse my character inferentially, to asperse the characters of my departmental officers, and to blacken the name of the Government with charges or insinuations of incompetence or worse. He talked about a racket in aliens that allegedly existed six years ago. If true, that must have been in the life-time of this Government, but perhaps he was referring to an earlier period. Whatever period he had in mind, there is no reference on any file in any department which would support a charge against any Minister in any government of engaging in any rackets where aliens are concerned. This charge comes very glibly and amusingly from the tongue of the man who introduced into New South Wales some years ago a certain alien named Judge Swindel. He was appropriately named. As we are talking of rackets, I remind the House that Judge Swindel was brought to Australia for the purpose of introducing into New South Wales the fruit machine racket. In that racket, he was associated with the then Premier of New South Wales, who is now the honorable member for Reid. People who talk about rackets should remember some of their own past before they lay charges against other people.
Then we heard stories of fascism, and were warned that this bill would lead to the creation of fascist agents. I was charged with incompetence, because I had not prevented certain people from coming to Australia. Having a good memory for the events of the war years, I know that a certain publicity officer attached to the staff of the honorable member for Reid, was at the same time employed by the Japanese to write propaganda against the Australian Government. He was subsequently interned as a Japanese agent. I refer to Mr. J. H. Sleeman, who was publicity officer for the honorable member for Reid when he was Premier of New South Wales.
– When was that?
– The honorable member should know better than any one else. At any rate, the honorable member for Reid employed this Mr. Sleeman, and Mr. Sleeman was present in the Japanese consulate in Sydney when the documents of the Consulate were burnt just .before the attack on Pearl Harbour. He was subsequently interned and was probably working for the Japanese at the very time that he was writing the last chapter of The Life of J. T. Lang. That at any rate, is some very recent history. No alien who has arrived in Australia requires closer watching than some people who were associated with the honorable member during his political career; and no alien who ever came to Australia was more traitorous to Australia than Mr. J. H. Sleeman.
– Are there not a large number of people who were associated with the honorable member for Reid?
– I am not concerned with all the people who were associated with the honorable member for Reid. Most of those whom I know are very honorable. I am speaking about people upon whom I can properly pass strictures, because of the observations of the honorable member for Reid about certain activities of the Government and certain people who have come to Australia. When an honorable member speaks of persons of dubious character, he is sometimes in danger of being associated with other dubious characters. There is no more dubious character, alien or British, in this country than the same Mr. J. H. Sleeman, and the honorable member for
Reid has laid himself open to a great deal of suspicion because of his close association with a man like Sleeman.
– Was not Sleeman sent to gaol in Queensland?
– He went to gaol for attempting to bribe Labour members of Parliament to vote against a Labour government. Later, he was associated with Beckett’s Budget, which specialized in pornographic filth. I have little more to say about the bill because it is, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and the honorable member for Parkes said, modelled on the lines of the legislation of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. It will give to the alien some protection. It will place obligations on him, but it will make him feel that he is being welcomed into Australia. After he has served his apprenticeship, as it were, it will prepare him for his naturalization, when he can take his place in Australia as an Australian subject, who is determined to make this, his adopted country, the land of his affections, and the land to which he will devote his energies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
– The wording of clause 4 appears to be a little peculiar in one respect. I should like the Minister to state whether an alien who arrives in Australia at an age under sixteen years will become subject to this law when he reaches the age of sixteen years after his arrival.
– That is so.
– The definition of “ officer “ reads - “ Officer “ means any officer of the Department of Immigration and includes any person authorized by the Minister to exercise the powers conferred on any officer by this act.
Judging by what we have heard from the Minister, it would appear that he has specifically excluded the State police forces, if not from this legislation, at least from his mind. I should like to know how he proposes that an act of this character shall be administered without the assistance of State police.
– I intend that the act shall be administered with the aid of the Postmaster-General’s Department, using post offices instead of police stations for the distribution of the approved registration forms. There will be comparatively so few aliens that the proposal is that the officers of my department, when they receive the forms, may, if considered desirable, send for the aliens concerned, or make whatever investigations that may be necessary. We are not starting off on the assumption that every alien landing in Australia will be a suspected fifth columnist, saboteur, or anything of that sort. We shall take all the necessary precautions usually taken, and probably we shall find that the vast majority of these aliens willi do what they are required to do. We shall have very little trouble with the minority.
– I am much obliged to the Minister for his explanation, but it does not carry us very far. I should like to hear the views of the average allowance postmaster on this proposition. Allowance postmasters in country districts will have to stand up to the greater part of .the racket which the Minister intends to place on postal officials. The proper people to do work of this description are not postal officials, who are Commonwealth servants, but State police officers, who should have a better knowledge of what .is occurring than a postmaster is expected to have. The postmaster normally sticks to his job as the shoemaker sticks to his last, whereas a police officer goes through a district and should know what is doing and wto is who. Judging from what I have heard from the Minister, the title of the bill should he altered from “ A bill for an act relating to aliens “ to “ A bill for an act distantly relating to aliens “.
– ‘I make this further observation : The Government believes that when aliens are admitted into the Australian community the admission should not be through a police station. They will have come from policed States in Europe. If we want to make them appreciate the Australian way of life, it will be far better to introduce them to it through the medium of a post office or some institution of that sort. Certainly we ought not to employ the police, except when aliens fail to obey the law. In respect of those who are willing to obey the law we ought to establish, and we shall do so, the machinery necessary for the purpose of the law. That will not be done at the expense of certain over-worked or heavily burdened categories, postmasters and postmistresses.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Register not open for inspection).
– This clause states -
A register of aliens shall not be open for’ inspection except by a person authorized in writing by the Minister.
I submit, with very great respect to the Minister, that the citizens of Australia are subject to surveillance by the police departments of the States. I cannot for the life of me see why an alien entering Australia should have advantages which are denied to the citizens of the Australian Commonwealth. Having had some little experience of government departments, I suggest to the Minister that, before he has gone very far in the administration of this legislation, unless he is much more of a superman than we members of the Opposition have noticed, he will find it necessary so to amend this provision that the police will have authority to inspect the register of aliens.
– They will be able to do so.
– The stipulation that a register of this description shall be kept and shall not be open to inspection by the police, is one of the most stupid provisions that I have seen in any bill.
– Where does the bill provide that?
– It provides that the register of aliens shall not be open to inspection except by a person authorized in writing by the Minister; not by one of the Minister’s officers. Therefore, if something should happen on the far west coast of South Australia, and authority was divided between the allowance postmaster on the other side of Fowler’s Bay and the policeman stationed at Streaky Bay, a couple of hundred miles away, before anything could be done it would be necessary to obtain the written authority of the Minister, who might be anywhere between Cape York and Hobart or Sydney and Fremantle. The only advantage that we have in regard to him at present is that he does not travel; but that applies, not within Australia, but only to places abroad. In whatever way this clause is viewed, it is one of the silliest pieces of drafting that I have ever seen during my life-time. It would not be possible for any Minister to whom its administration was entrusted, to administer it satisfactorily or efficiently, even if he had all the power and authority for which one might expect to look in an archangel, and I am sure that the Minister would not claim to be so greatly endowed.
– The description “ silly “ can be applied, not to the drafting of the clause, but to the observations of the honorable member. Such a clause could quite legitimately be incorporated in any bill. There is nothing to prevent me from giving a. standing authority to the Commissioner of Police in each State to inspect the register whenever he wishes to do so. Anybody having a legitimate right to inspect the register will be given facilities and opportunities to make an inspection of it, either personally or through an appropriate officer. The purpose of the clause is to prevent unauthorized persons from seeking to use the register .for some ulterior purpose. I can imagine some friends of a certain gentleman in New Sonth Wales doing very well out of a rather big racket if he could have access to this register.
.- Certain members should avoid personal abuse, and have a look at clause 6, which reads -
A register of aliens shall not be open for inspection except by a person authorized in writing by the Minister. 1 can imagine people outside this Parliament saying, “ It is such a simple little thing. We are only asking the aliens to do the same as we ask Australians to do. We are only asking them to register themselves, the same as Australians do for inclusion on the electoral roll - to give their addresses and occupations “. If that were all, there would be no need for secrecyAny person in Australia can have a look at an electoral roll at any place at which it is open for inspection, and anybody can buy a copy of every electoral roll in Australia if he feels so disposed. But nobody at all will he able to inspect this register ; no matter whom he may be, he will be subject to the whim of the Minister as to whether authority to inspect will be given in writing. How can any one say that there might be an ulterior motive in anybody wishing to inspect this register, and that inspection of it might lead to persons being blackmailed? I wonder on what account they could be blackmailed ! Evidently they are reliable people and do not need protection. Are they so tremendously wealthy that somebody might divulge something concerning them? Such information will not be registered. The register will merely contain names, addresses and occupations. I can see nothing in the bill which will require an alien, no matter from what part of the world he may have come, to state other than his name, address and occupation, if he is not a British subject or naturalized. That is all that has to be done by a person wishing to be enrolled on an electoral roll. But the Minister says that nobody is to learn who is an alien, who has migrated to Australia, and what his occupation is. If the clause is so simple as some honorable members would lead one to believe that it is, then there is no need for a secret register. Those people who have been in Australia long enough to have become naturalized British subjects, will have to sign this register. Immediately they become naturalized British subjects they can have their names placed on the electoral roll. If they do not become enrolled, they will be liable to a fine. The Minister has provided that a secret register, which no person may inspect without his written permission, shall have on it the names of those aliens who decline to become naturalized when they are qualified for naturalization, and on that account cannot become enrolled on an electoral roll. That proves that secrecy is the basis of this provision. The alien must be registered in a secret register. He must notify the authorities when he changes his occupation or his address. He has to carry his registration form with him. The whole matter is surrounded by secrecy. That is un-Australian, and is not in any shape or form a resemblance of democracy as we know it.
– Not only is an Australian citizen required to have his name on an electoral roll, but in addition, any Australian citizen can go to a government department and inspect the books which contain particulars of births, marriages and deaths. There is a public record of bills of sale, mortgages, WillS and all that they contain. One can go into a local government office, which is quite often occupied by an allowance postmaster in some districts, have a look at the assessment hook, and thus ascertain how many acres of land are registered in the name of every person in the district, what rates each pays, at what amount each is assessed, and all other particulars concerning him, including, whether he has a dog registered, what are its name and colour, and the date of its registration. Furthermore, no person may drive a motor car without a licence, and every car owner must possess a certificate of registration. The production of either of those documents may be demanded by the authorities at any time, and any one may go to the police to ascertain the name of the owner of any vehicle in the country and whether a particular individual holds a licence to drive. Yet, the Minister tells us that although these laws apply to every native-born or naturalized subject of this country, a secret register is to be kept of every alien who comes into the country. I wish I could see the matter from the Minister’s standpoint, so that I could perceive his reason. This is one of the most warped pieces of legislation that has ever been introduced. It is utterly absurd to suggest that the register should be secret; that the people of Australia, who have made the country what it is, and even the very individuals who are administering the country, should be denied access to the records of these aliens. If the people whose names are to be in this register have nothing to be afraid of why should it be kept secret? The Minister spoke of many of these aliens as having come from a “ policed state “. It seems to me that he is inverting the pyramid in Australia; here they are to be exempt from any surveillance except by certain authorized officers, who must first apply to the Department of Immigration and receive the Minister’s personal permission before they are entitled to look at the register of aliens. This is one of tb’ strangest pieces of legislation I have ever seen. The Minister may look at the act as much as he wishes-
– I am trying to find the measure which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) supported in 1939.
– There was a war on then; but in this measure the Parliament is supposed to be making provision for peace-time conditions.
– The statute enacted in 1939 was to operate in peace as well as in war-time.
– That was the national register.
– No, I refer to the Aliens Registration Act 1939, passed by a government of which the honorable member for Barker was Deputy Prime Minister.
– I was not a member of the government after April, 1939. I did not enter the Government of which I became Deputy Prime Minister until March, 1940. The Minister may quote from that act to his heart’s content.
– It was not a war-time measure ; it was passed before April, 1939, and was assented to in June, 1939.
– The honorable gentleman may look at the act as much as he wishes ; but I have no doubt that he will find that I was not a Minister at the time.
.- The clause reads -
A register of aliens shall not be open for inspection except by a person authorized in writing by the Minister.
The prophecies of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that all sorts of dreadful things might happen would stir the imagination of honorable members were it not that his prophecies have been so egregiously wrong. I remember the occasion when he prophesied that the Russian armies would be defeated when they-
– That is an infernal lie.
– The honorable member has come to be known as the “ honorable member for mares’ nests “. I do not propose to waste the time of the Committee to rebut his assertions. I support the clause.
– I quote from the Aliens Registration Act 1939 which was assented to on the 23rd June, 1939-
Mv. Archie Cameron. - I was not in the Ministry then.
– The honorable member may not have been a Minister when it was assented to, but he was a supporter of the Government which introduced it. The bill must have been passed some time before June, 1939, because certain formalities have to be completed before a bill receives royal assent. However, it is immaterial whether the honorable member for Barker was a member of the Government then, because he voted for the measure-
– If it will assist the committee I will admit that I was responsible for the introduction of the bill.
– I want to nail the honorable member for Barker to the fact that section 10 of the Aliens Registration Act 1939 is identical with clause 6 of this bill, to. which he raises objection. Section 10 of that act reads -
A register of aliens or an index of aliens shall not be open for inspection except to a person authorized in writing by the Minister.
That act is now eight years old, and the honorable member for Barker is just discovering something that he voted for eight years ago.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) said: “Tell us the reason why this register should be secret “. I believe that it should be kept secret and I shall tell honorable members one reason. The report of the royal commission into the activities of aliens in the sugar industry in Queensland in 1924, pointed out that Australians were suspicious of aliens and apt to deal harshly with them, and that we had not yet adapted ourselves sufficiently to make friends with people from overseas. The same is true to-day. These aliens require protection from our fellow Australians. They have come from countries where they were illtreated and persecuted, but they are not welcomed by a lot of people in this country. During the war even naturalized aliens were harshly treated and, in some cases, subjected to most despicable treatment by the people of this country. Because of that and because we have not yet learned to treat decently people coming to this country from abroad, I think that in fairness to them this register should be kept secret. I commend the clause.
.- I ask the Minister why a register of this kind should be kept secret and available for inspection only by people authorized in writing by the Minister. Can the. honorable gentleman give any real reason for this provision? I am not one who pretends to see a spy around every corner, but I can visualize a situation wherein a number of aliens engaging in subversive activity such as those whose machinations have recently been uncovered in Canada, could be protected by this secrecy provision to the detriment of Australian security. If this provision is adopted not even the police will be able to examine their records unless the Minister is disposed to give his personal consent. If the police of this country are suspicious of the activities of any immigrant, they should be able to examine his history; but because of this provision the police -would have to go to the Minister for special permission to do so. That is what it actually means. I must, in all fairness to the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), and the case which she put up, protest against this proposal. I do not care a hang what happened in 1939 or in 1839. The world is moving on, and we must move with it. Although I want immigration as much as anybody does, and although I am prepared to welcome to this country all desirable immigrants, I am not prepared to accept as above suspicion the bona fides of any immigrant until he has proved himself to be above suspicion.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) was right when he said that we should not concern ourselves with what happened in 1939, or in any other year. It is what is happening now that matters. I have stressed this point before, when honorable members opposite have excused the inactivity of their government because some government ten or fifteen years before was equally inactive. A thing that is done openly is generally cleaner and less subject to suspicion than a thing which is done in secret. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) pointed out all the things which could already be learned of any citizen of Australia. Consider Coomb’s circular, from which one may learn the financial standing of any person, whether he has a mortgage on Jus property, &c. Perhaps it is best that we should obtain information about the refugees who come here. Somebody’s son or daughter may marry one of them, and domestic strife may arise. It is best to know the truth. I do not say that we should get this information in order to disparage new arrivals ; perhaps we shall be able to use it to help them.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 ,( Aliens to register).
– I should like to know from the Minister whether this clause also is a copy of the corresponding section of the 1939 act. The Minister says that I voted for that act, although I have no recollection of it. I shall have to look it up in Hansard to find out whether I did or pot. If the 1939 act was perfect, as the Minister seems to suggest, why is it now suggested that we should repeal it?
-. - The good features of the 1939 act are retained in this bill. This measure is almost identical with the provisions of the 1939 act, and the provisions of the National Security Regula tions which experience taught us during the war were necessary. What is being repealed is the provision that the electoral office shall control the register, and do all the statistical work in respect of aliens. In 1939 the Department of the Interior had no branches in any capital city. Now we have a Department of Immigration which functions in every capital city. Better machinery is available now than in 1939, and so we have transferred this work to a more appropriate department.
– Was the 1939 act ever proclaimed ?
– No. The National Security Act was passed shortly after the Aliens Registration Act was assented to, and a series of appropriate regulations - the Aliens Control Regulations, the Aliens Change of Name Regulations, &c. - were gazetted. They very effectively controlled the alien population of Australia during the war. The proposal for the keeping of secret registers is not new. Such registers were kept throughout the war, and nobody objected to them. I am sure that when clause 7 is in operation no harm will come to the Australian community or to the aliens either.
.- When we examine this clause it becomes apparent that every statement which I made in my second-reading speech was correct, and that everybody who is not a British subject, or who has not been naturalized, will be treated as an alien. It does not matter whether he be the citizen of an allied country or not. The provision will apply to citizens of the United States and to the nationals of other allied countries. All have to be registered. They will have to carry a certificate about with them to the effect that they are registered, and they will have to notify the authorities if they move from one place to another for a period of more than 30 days. All will have to carry a card of registration, which must be produced on demand. What is the difference between that and an internal passport? A demand can be made upon them to produce the card at any time, and they will be subject to a penalty if they do not. There are in Australia business executives who have never even up their American citizenship. Their work might finish, and they might be recalled at any time. Under this provision, they will be required to register. Clause 7 states - (1.) Every alien in the Commonwealth at the date of the commencement of this section shall, within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, make application within the State or Territory in which he resides or has his abode to be registered as an alien under this Act. (2.) Any alien who enters the Commonwealth shall, within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, make application to be registered as an alien under this Act.
– That is subject to clause S. and particularly paragraph 8 (d), which enables any alien, or any alien included in a class of aliens, to be exempted from registration.
– Paragraph d of clause 8 is as follows : -
Any alien or any alien included in a class of aliens exempted from registration by the Minister or by any officer authorized in that behalf by the Minister.
Ls Parliament going to leave that power in the hands of the Minister? I say that Parliament should put in the act exactly what it means. It should not be left to the whim of the Minister to exclude any class. Why cannot the clause say that nationals of allied countries shall not need a passport? We shall have to treat all allies on the same basis. Later, when peace is declared, should any persons who are now enemy aliens become naturalized they will, of course, enjoy the privileges of Australians. In its present form the clause means that every person who is not a British subject, whether natural born or naturalized, must be registered, and should he travel from place to place, he must carry an internal passport and present it when called upon or be subject to the penalty provided in the bill. The committee should reject the clause.
– It is only right that aliens should be registered, but if clause 8 is read in conjunction with this clause, it will be seen that the Minister will be given a discriminatory power. In my opinion, we oan leave the exercise of that discrimination to the discretion of the Minister.
.- The succeeding clause provides that any person who comes to this country need not register if the Minister so determines.
Yet, an Australian who goes to Great Britain must register, and carry with him an identification card in addition to his passport, notwithstanding that he is a British subject. That being so, it is not too much to ask that an alien who comes to Australia should register if the Minister thinks fit. There is nothing sinister in this clause.
– The provision in this bill is similar to that included in the act of 1939, which provided for the registration of aliens, but contained a proviso that certain categories of people need not register. The act of 1939 contained the words, “ any alien exempted from registration by the Minister or by any officer authorized in that behalf by the Minister “. The present provision is an improvement, as it provides nol merely for exemption being extended to an alien as an individual but it also covers a class of aliens. It is not the practice of the Parliament to establish a statutory discrimination between one foreign power and another, except in the event of wai”. What we have described as the White Australia policy is not based substantially on statutory discrimination : it is given effect by the setting up of a certain test, which may be applied to any person and has, in fact, been applied to people of European origin - on one conspicuous occasion with little success. If we are to avoid discrimination, the method set out in the bill is correct. Let us suppose that the Parliament passed legislation which applied to the citizens of France and Italy, but not to citizens of the United States of America and Yugoslavia. In that event Australia would at once be committed to a most unfortunate series of public discriminations in its legislation. If we want to have some flexibility of administration, it is far better to leave it as a matter of executive discretion, which we hope may sometimes be controlled by the Parliament. That is better than to set out in an act of Parliament a provocative discrimination between one foreign power and another.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Exemption from registration).
– Because of the confusion as to the effect of this bill on friendly aliens, and the fear that has been expressed that aliens may be herded together in camps, I suggest that the Minister make a statement to the Committee. I draw attention to paragraph d, which reads - any alien or any alien included in a class of aliens exempted from registration by the Minister or by any officer authorized in that behalf by the Minister.
That paragraph makes it clear that a certain degree of leniency may be exercised in regard to certain classes of aliens. An authoritative statement by the Minister would set fears at rest.
– It was the practice of the Attorney-General’s Department, which administered National Security Regulations during the war, to adopt a different attitude towards enemy aliens from that adopted towards friendly aliens. It went further, and treated friendly aliens better than neutral aliens. Friendly aliens, particularly citizens of nations which were engaged in the SouthWest Pacific war against Japan, were given facilities which they would not have had in time of peace. A discriminatory power is given to the Minister not to be abused but to be exercised by him in the best interests of Australia. For the additional reasons advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) the committee should accept the clause. Honorable members need not fear that this provision will be abused by the Minister or any officer of his department.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Change of surname).
– This most interesting clause reads -
An alien shall not, without the consent in writing of the Minister or an officer authorized in that behalf by the Minister, change the surname under which he was, immediately before the commencement of this Act, registered under the National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations, or if he was not so registered, the name by which he was ordinarily known immediately prior to ‘that commencement or, in the case of a person who enters the Commonwealth after the commencement of this Act, the name under which he is registered under this Act.
I have no objection to a power of this kind being taken by the Minister. I want to know, however, on what basis he will give his consent to an application by an alien to change his surname. The officer responsible for making a decision upon such an application may, for instance, have a strong aversion to the Scottish race and may not permit an applicant to change his patronymic to a Scottish name; he may’ be allergic to certain flowers and object to the name of, “ Rose” or “Bloom”; he may have an aversion to certain colours and refuse to accept “Brown” or “White”; or he may have a dislike for certain metals and object to the selection of “ Gold “ or “ Silver “ as a name. On what basis does the Minister propose to give authority to his officers to determine what names may be adopted? If the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) were administering the clause he would certainly not permit aliens to change their name to “ McTavish “, though he might agree to “ O’Brien “ or “ Clancy “. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to tell the committee what principles will be laid down for the guidance of his officers in this matter.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker; [5.47] . - A few years ago I saw that a man with an unpronounceable name had changed it to John Cameron. I have a violent objection to the granting of permission to aliens to change their names in that way. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) may think there are not enough Calwells in the country and he may permit aliens to change their names to his own. We should then find thousands of Calwells on the electoral roll, to the great confusion of the electoral authorities. If an alien be given permission to change his name as he pleases a certain amount of bitterness may arise in the community. My personal view is that many Polish names are just as good as those of persons of other nationalities. No one with any knowledge of Polish history would object to the name of Sobieski. It is not wise to allow aliens to change their birth names to British names. A change from “ Nacht “ to “ Night “, or from “ Broinowski “ to “ Brown “ is not a change to a phonetical
English, equivalent. I- believe, however, that a ease could be made out for the anglicization of certain foreign names difficult for an Englishman to pronounce. No difficulty apparently arises in connexion with Christian names. The whole question of the change of surnames should be very carefully considered. The power proposed to be vested in the Minister should be exercised with great discretion, and then only in such a way as not to cause confusion and bitterness in the Australian community. I read a little of what happened in Germany many years ago when certain people were forced to change their names, and to pay for the privilege of doing so. I trust that the Minister, and in the near future his successor, will exercise discretion in granting applications to alien’s to change their names.
– I assure honorable members that during the two and a half years in which I shall continue to be Minister for Immigration, and perhaps in the further decade during which I hope to hold this office, this power will riot be used to the disadvantage of the Australian community. I am conscious of the strong public opinion against aliens being permitted to change their names immediately they land on these shores. The Celtic element in this Parliament, and those with good English-sounding names, need have no fear that I shall allow any alien to anglicize his name. If an alien has an unpronounceable Polish or Hungarian name he may be given permission to change it, but only to English rendering of the phonetical equivalent. Those who come here will have to be proud of the names of their fathers until they qualify for naturalization. Then they may do as others do, and change their names at will. I heard of one person who went to England during the war, at a time when Great Britain was in grave difficulties and the name of Mr. Churchill was at its zenith, and, changed his name to Churchill, and set himself up in business. His action caused a good deal of resentment in the community. This clause will empower the Minister to prevent that kind of thing from happening in this country.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava) [5.52).- I should like the Minister (Mr. Calwell) to be more specific. After what period of residence will an alien be given the right to change his name, if he so desires? The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) took umbrage at some foreigner adopting the name of Cameron. I, too, have had a similar experience. A gentleman with an unpronounceable foreign name came to see me on one occasion; I found afterwards that he had changed his name to that which I bear. The “ White’s “ are already too numerous in this country, except, perhaps, in this chamber. Is it intended that the Minister shall exercise this power very freely? If we have a very big influx of aliens, the injudicious use of this power might subsequently result in great embarrassment.
– The power will be very sparingly used.
– Who is to decide these matters ?
– The Minister.
– After what period of residence will an alien be given the right to change his name’ ? The solvency of the applicant will, I trust, be taken into consideration.
– As long as a person remains an alien he must retain his own name. The minimum period of qualification for naturalization is five years. An alien may not change his name before the expiration of that period.
– -That restriction has not always been exercised.
– It has always been observed.
.- The Minister (Mr. Calwell) did not clarify the matter from my point of view. The honorable gentleman seemed to mistake what I meant by anglicizing a name. By that I did not mean that a foreign name should be translated into its English equivalent.
– I said that an alien might be permitted to. adopt the phonetical English equivalent of his birth-name.
– The change might be made merely by taking the “ z “ out of a Polish name and inserting an “ h “ instead. There is a vital distinction ‘between anglicization and the translation of a foreign name into its English equivalent. In any case, few would like to call me by the English equivalent of my own name. I urge the Minister to ensure that these names shall be anglicizations and not merely catch adoptions, of any names which aliens coming here may regard as satisfactory. The Minister cited the case of a man who called himself ““Winston Churchill “. I recall reading a report of a court case in Sydney about ten years ago in which one of the parties was named “ Julius Caesar “ and the other party was named “Mahomet”. That illustration conjures up quite a lot of historical possibilities. I trust that the Minister will be aware of possibilities of that kind.
, - Although I am in. accord with the general views expressed by the committee, it is wise to bring forward a point front the opposite side. I recall that within the period of two years immediately preceding the outbreak of the war, the then Prime Minister received a call from a member of an ex-German family, and in the course of his conversation he pointed out to the Prime Minister that it would be a wise provision to require that every alien coming to this country change his name to an English name in order to enable aliens to escape the kind of propaganda which that man said he was then receiving through Nazi organizations. That is something which the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) should bear in mind in view of the constant repetition of the fear expressed in this chamber that there are world-wide organizations still in existence which hope to proselytize members of society in various countries, although I do not suggest that we can hope to deal with that aspect in connexion with this measure.
– I understand that the objective which the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has in mind is to make these names clear-sounding to Australians, and he will thereby compensate, to some degree, postal officials for the additional work which will be imposed upon them.
There is no doubt that foreign names tend to confuse postal officials. An honorable member has suggested that too many aliens may adopt the one English name. That development is illustrated in respect of the name of “ Smith “, because it is recorded that at one time there was no Smith in all Israel.
– And there is none to-day.
– But there are very many “ Smiths “. The proposed register appears to me to be somewhat like a glorified stud-book. I make that statement advisedly, bearing in mind the fact that the names of some thorough-bred horses imported into this country have not been acceptable to the stud-book authorities. I mention, for instance, the thorough-bred horse which has been renamed “ The Buzzard “. Aliens who change their names on coming to this country should be obliged to accept names of which the Minister approves.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 17 agreed to.
Clause IS (Settlement of cases).
– This clause should be examined thoroughly. I have not consulted with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) upon it, but it appears to me to be most extraordinary.
– It embodies the principle included in the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– If that be so, why does not the Minister (Mr. Calwell) place the alien under that act? This measure applies a penalty similar to that applicable under the electoral law to persons who fail to enrol or vote. We are now asked to agree to an entirely secret register of people which will not be available to the community, and which has no counterpart under the electoral law; yet the Minister, in order to justify this provision, falls back upon the argument that the Commonwealth Electoral Act contains a similar provision.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Under this measure the Minister lays it down that there is to be a secret register of aliens. He tells us that he does not wish immigrants from Europe to have any experience here of conditions similar to those under which they lived in Europe. He caps that by providing for them .to be tried for certain offences by a secret court.
– Of their own volition.
-It is a secret court, anyway. The Minister tried to tie up this provision with a provision of the Commonwealth Electoral Act; but I am firmly convinced that all offences under this legislation should be tried by the proper court and not determined by departmental officers. We have courts to do things of that sort. The sooner immigrants are assured that they have rights amongst which is the right to be tried for any offence openly in the light of day and not behind closed doors, as in Europe, the better. I hope the Minister will see the wisdom of that, although I doubt that he will, and alter this clause to comply with my request.
– The Aliens Registration Act 1939, for which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) voted, contains a section identical with this clause. So if there is anything wrong with the clause the honorable gentleman had equal ground for objection to the section of the act that he was a party to eight years ago. I do not believe there is anything wrong with the act of 1939 or this clause.
– Is the penalty the same?
– Practically the same. In any case, the clause provides for a maximum penalty. and, like the penalty that is imposed by the Chief Electoral Officer on persons who elect to be tried by him for an offence under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the penalty imposed under this legislation will be assessed according to the gravity of each case and may not be great. The principle of the clause was admitted in the previous act.
.- I confess that I do not greatly like departmental interference with the courts of law. It is true that under the Commonwealth Electoral Act the Chief Elec toral Officer is vested with power to impose a small fine on electors who have not recorded their votes. I think that is open to objection, especially as the fine is £2, an amount greater than the sum which is usually compromised upon. The compromise in favour of the Chief Electoral Officer is not, to my mind, susceptible of approval. I have always objected to interference with the processes of law, which I think in all cases should be applied. I am not as denunciatory as .is the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), but I do think that it would be wiser for the Government to do as he asks. Whether this clause is a repetition of something done by the Opposition when in power, or whether it is a clause that is attributable to the Minister himself, I think that it none the less is open to some objection.
.- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is naive in his approach .to the objection of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The Minister said that because this clause was similar to a section of a previous act it should be inserted in this bill. The legislation passed by the Menzies Government was mostly good; but I freely admit the probability of mistakes in that otherwise excellent legislation. I strongly object to an official having the right to secretly impose penalties for an offence. If a person commits an offence he should be subjected to the usual procedure of the courts under which the offence and penalty are given publicity. It is futile to say that, because the Commonwealth Electoral Act contain.? a similar provision, this clause is justified. Obviously, the offence of refraining from voting is minor, but an offence under this measure would be much more serious. Under this legislation the Minister has the right that I have no doubt he will exercise to exclude from registration certain aliens beyond suspicion. Consequently, the aliens required to register will not, in the opinion of the Minister of the day, be beyond suspicion. I think any alien who abstained from observing the provisions of this legislation would give cause for such registration. If an alien has committed an offence, that offence should be proven in the ordinary courts of this country, mid a penalty imposed in the full light of day. I ask the Minister to give this clause further consideration in view of i he representations that have been made by honorable members on this side of tha chamber. The proposal that has been made by the honorable member for Barker would improve the clause considerably.
.- I ask the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) a question concerning clause 18 taken in conjunction with clause 20. Clause 18 provides that where an alien admits to an officer that he has not registered, has not notified a change of occupation or of address, or fulfilled certain other requirements of the bill, a report shall be made to the permanent head of the department, and if the alien makes ii further admission in writing, a penalty may he imposed upon him, without trial. Clause 20 provides that any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provisions of the bill shall be guilty of an offence. I assume that in this case a trial in the ordinary courts would be involved.
– In reply to an interjection that I made seeking information on the lines pf that now sought by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) said that the penalty provided for in clause 18 was a maximum penalty. I take it that the penalty of £50 or imprisonment for three months provided for in clause 20 is also » maximum penalty.
– The clause does not say so.
– It is the maximum in accordance with the Acts Interpretation Act.
– An alien who has committed an offence will be able to decide for himself whether the maximum penalty to be imposed on him shall be CIO or £50 or three months imprisonment. Recently we passed legislation providing for the setting up of a permanent Stevedoring Industry Commission which will sap some of the authority of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In the same way, this clause will deprive the courts of some of their authority.
.- This clause permits an alien who has committed an offence, to go to the Department of Immigration and admit his guilt. If he does that he may be dealt with by an officer of the department, and fined not more than £10, without publicity. If however, the alien does not go to the department and admit his guilt, he may be fined £50 or imprisoned for three months. I regard this clause as most undesirable. It means in effect that a departmental officer will be able to say to an alien : “ You take the easy course. Come to my office and admit your offence and I may fine you only 5s. or even nothing at all. If you do not do this, you may be fined £50 or imprisoned for three months by a court “. That is a most improper provision.
– I support the objection that has been raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to this clause which provides that where an alien admits to an officer that he has failed to do certain things, the officer shall take certain action. Clause 7 imposes upon aliens the obligation to become registered. One can readily imagine what might happen should an alien like Lerch get into this country. Realizing that if he applied for registration his identity would be revealed, and his record as an officer of the Black Guard brought to light, he would refrain from making such an application. Then, if his offence were discovered, he could go to the department, admit his guilt, and be fined a maximum of £10. On the other hand, an alien with far less reason for concealing his identity, might ignore notification of his failure to apply for registration and therefore be liable to a fine of £50 or three months’ imprisonment. The same thing applies co clause 9 which deals with notification of change of address, clause 10 which provides for notification of change of occupation, and clause 12 which relates to the issuance of certificates of registration. Clause 18 as it stands will leave the way open for “ star chamber “ inquiries and may be unjust to certain sections of aliens. Because of failure to observe a major requirement of this legislation, an alien may incur a minor penalty, whilst another who has failed to observe a minor provision, may incur a much heavier penalty.
.- I oppose this clause and I am completely unmoved by the argument that a similar provision was contained in the 1939 legislation. That is a bad argument. “We have to consider whether this clause is just to aliens, having regard to the circumstances that exist in 1947. I do not like the word “ admit “. It has a flavour I have always disliked. I have heard police constables in the witness box say that an accused person has admitted certain things. That is a conclusion of law, and not a statement of fact. I am sure that many honorable members will agree with me that this is a very dangerous power to put in the hands of departmental officials.
During the war I had the experience of sitting for many months on a tribunal which dealt with enemy aliens who had been interned, and were seeking release. Several hundred aliens appeared before us, and one thing that impressed me more than any other was that most of them had language difficulties. They did not understand the finer points of English. To put this power into the hands of an official who could secure what is called an “ admission “ from a person who very imperfectly understands the English language, is wrong and dangerous. I would support a provision which made it easier to have these matters brought before a court; but to empower an official to extract what he calls an “ admission “ of an offence - an offence which it is easy for an innocent person to commit - is wrong, and, therefore, I hope that the committee will not agree to this clause.
.- I object to the clause in its present form, because I consider that it is wrong to transfer to any administrative official the right to determine whether a person has or has not broken the law. This kind of provision has crept into our legislation piecemeal. For example, the Commissioner of Taxation has the right to impose heavy penalties on a person without going to a court, and the taxpayer has no appeal, except a limited one, from that decision. In this clause, two matters invite the attention of honorable members. One is that to which the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has drawn attention, namely, the word “ admits “. The other is the words -
As honorable members will see, two matters are left to the administrative official to determine. The first is the “ admission “, which can be made without a real knowledge of the circumstances. The second is that the proof will be determined by the administrative official. Sub-clause 2 of clause 12 provides -
An officer may require an alien to produce his certificate of registration and any alien who is so required shall not refuse or fail to produce his certificate at the time and place named by the officer.
No person in this country should be required, at a moment’s notice, to produce his certificate of registration. To me, this provision savours too much of political systems against which we fought for six years. This bill empowers an administrative official to ask a man suddenly to produce his certificate of registration, and if he fails to produce it there and then, he will be guilty of an offence, and the official may impose a penalty not exceeding £10. In my opinion, this principle is a wrongful surrender of judicial powers by this Parliament to an official. I urge the Minister to incorporate either in clause 12 or in clause 21 a limitation that those who are asked to produce a certificate of registration shall be given a reasonable time to do so. During World War II., civilians were required by National Security Regulations to carry their identity cards, and produce them when requested to do so by the prescribed authority. Most people, if they had been directed to produce their identity cards, would have been unable to do so, and, consequently, would have broken the law. They had probably left their cards at home, and would have considerable difficulty in finding them.
These matters which I raise might appear to be of aminor character, but they are really important. After all, honorable members support the principle of giving to the subject the utmost liberty consistent with public policy, and I cannot see any reason why an administrative official should be given the right to penalize an alien because he fails to produce his certificate of registration upon demand. I urge the Minister to reconsider this clause.
In principle, clause 18 is bad. If people break the law, there should not be any “ behind closed doors “ determination of their guilt or otherwise.. Aliens have an imperfect knowledge of the English language. If an official tells them that they have broken a regulation, they may freely admit it without knowing the real interpretation of the law. I do not believe that the administrative officials would do other than what they conceive to be justice in accordance with the case, but that begs the question. The real issue is whether people who break the law, should not have all the processes of the law open to them, so that a man who claims that he is not guilty of an offence shall be able to appeal to a tribunal against the decision of an administrative official. Therefore I oppose the clause upon the ground of principle.
I direct attention also to clause 12, and the very finite limits within which an offence is defined. As that clause has been agreed to, I may discuss this matter more fully on clause 21. During the secondreading debate, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) attacked the bill on the ground that it gave to administrative officials the right to determine too many things which should be determined by the courts. Sometimes I consider it just as important that justice should appear to be done, as that it should be done; and it is good to remove any suspicion that officials are given too much power. In the past, some officials have certainly had too much authority. On more than one occasion I have fought against it. Regardless of what may have been the purpose behind this clause, the Minister should agree to remove any possible grounds for supposing that too great a power has been conferred upon officials. Naturally, a certain degree of administrative authority must be given to them. After all, they will have to police this legislation. In this instance, however, officials will determine and exercise judicial or quasi judicial functions, and the Parliament has an excellent opportunity to indicate that in this democratic country offences against the law of the land shall be determined by only one tribunal, namely, the judicial body set up under the Constitution.
Debate resumed from the 27th February (vide page 230), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the following paper be printed : -
United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment - Report of the First Session of the Preparatory Committee.
.- The debate which is now to be resumed arises from a motion by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) for the printing of the Report of the First Session of the Preparatory Committee of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment. I begin by describing the debate, if we engage in it fully, as the most important debate that will take place in this House this year. I say that because what is involved is the whole future of Australia’s international trade and of Australia’s development. The report and the annexed draft of the charter, which are in the hands of honorable members, are, following the usual modern practice, expressed in the most villainous English. After at least 25 years devoted to the study of documents, sometimes complicated ones, I have no hesitation in saying that this document is the most hideously confused one that I have ever endeavoured to read. Of course, this is not a criticism of the Government, which did not draw up the report or the charter. The document consists of masses of long words, and wherever, somewhere in the jungle of verbiage, one imagines momentarily that there is a clear affirmative statement, one subsequently discovers that it is hedged about by provisos and qualifications and means of escape, so that, at the end, one comes to the conclusion that it does not mean anything at all. I say seriously that there never was a document emanating from some world conference which presented such frightful difficulties of ordinary interpretation. I make that observation at the outset in order to make clear that nothing that I may venture to say about the document can be dogmatic because, for all I know, some other honorable member will rise and say that these long words, most of which end in “ ion “, do not mean anything at all, and that, although I found something in Article 15, I failed to see some carefully hidden proviso in Article 47. Therefore, whatever I may say on this matter will be more than ordinarily provisional. When presenting the document, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction made a statement which is not subject to the criticism that I have just made. The statement was clear enough, though I do not agree with everything contained in it. I shall make some comments on three or four major elements in the Minister’s statement. In the first place, the Minister said -
Important though the tariff negotiations no doubt will be, the establishment of an international trade organization and the adoption of a charter embodying agreed principles for the conduct of international trade may well be of even greater importance to the future development of Australia.
That statement, highly optimistic as it is, is another illustration of the passion which, I regret to say, this Government has for grandiose paper schemes. Instead of dealing one by one with problems that fall within the compass of normal men, it seems to be all the time stretching out to see whether it cannot devise some perfect paper scheme which, in relation to some matter, will cover all the nations of the world and in which their duties and obligations will be set out in writing. Thereupon, apparently, we are expected to persuade ourselves that everything in the garden will be lovely.
– Although the scheme will never be observed.
– Naturally ! However, that problem does not present itself to the Government. In the eyes of the Government the only problem is - “Have we something here on paper, and does it go far enough ?” I reiterate a view which T and other honorable members have frequently expressed, namely, that we are much more likely to get somewhere by taking one step at a time - for example, by hammering out the trade relations of the British Empire countries and then the relations between those countries and the United States of America, to take twomagnificent and important steps - than, by endeavouring to achieve some sort of universal result in one hit. It is unhappily true about these things that the more ambitious the scheme the less likely it is to succeed. The second statement by the Minister which I quote is this -
A major success for Australia in the discussions was the acceptance of the principle that the charter of the international trade organization must be written around the positive aims of full employment and economic development throughout the world. . . . The draft charter now includes a positive obligation for all countries to maintain full employment with high levels of effective demand.
Those are good words, but I ask two questions which I invite all honorable members to consider seriously. First, is it soberly thought that any nation not otherwise disposed to seek full employment and to take measures for its own economic development, will be induced to do so because of the existence of a document of this kind ? It is against all human nature to suppose so. If a country has a government so obtuse as not to want to get rid of unemployment, so unaware of its own destiny as not to want to develop its community economically, then all the charters in the world, all the sheets of paper, all the long words and all the short words written by other nations will not compel it to do those things. Secondly, is it really thought that anything can be described as a “ positive obligation “ - I quote the Minister’s words - which in its very nature is plainly unenforceable? The third statement that the Minister made was this -
A country in a process of rapid industrialization cannot give up its choice between protective tariffs, quantitative restrictions on imports, and payment of production subsidies as a means of fostering its industrial growth.
I pause there to say that I subscribe to that view. I shall return to this point later. The Minister added -
Australia found it necessary to press for concrete recognition of its right to use such protective measures and clear provisions for their use in appropriate circumstances.
Setting aside the fact that anybody who looks for a clear provision for anything in this document will be hard pressed to find it, I say that that statement, and others which followed in the Minister’s speech, seem to indicate that the existing 3tate of affairs, broadly speaking, is to continue. An accurate description of the existing state of affairs is that we have preserved a “ choice bet ween protective tariffs, quantitative restrictions on imports, and payment of production subsidies”. If all that is to be done by the proposed charter is to continue that system, then the charter will achieve nothing. However, unfortunately for that simple view, reference to the draft charter will show that, in all probability - and I use that expression because nobody will ever know to a certainty - the intention is, not to preserve our choice of quotas and subsidies, but to eliminate them. If honorable members, when they have a spare fortnight in which to peruse this draft, will examine Article 25, they will find that it provides, under the heading of “ General Elimination of Quantitative Restrictions “ -
Except jib otherwise provided in this Charter -
Those words are always occurring in this . document -
Except as otherwise provided in this Charter, no prohibition or restriction, other than duties, taxes or other charges, whether imide effective through quotas, import licences or other measures, shall be imposed or maintained by any member on the importation of any product of any other member or on the exportation or sale for export of any product destined for any other member.
There, in relatively clear English is a clean sweep of quotas, import licences, and other measures of the wind which were referred to in the Minister’s statement There are certain exceptions. Some of them do not matter, and others are garnished with provisos which .make them difficult to understand. But at the least, export or import quotas can still be imposed under inter-governmental commodity agreements, such as the proposed wheat agreement; and then, in Article 26, there is the provision that members may need to use import restrictions as a means of safeguarding their external financial position, and as a step towards the restoration of equilibrium on a sound and lasting basis, particularly in view of an increased demand for the imports that are needed to carry out their domestic employment, reconstruction development or social policy. If Article 26 is to be given its full effect, then it may very well be said that it has the effect of cancelling out Article 25. I should not be surprised if it did. But as it is not a normal method of interpretation to say that a second article contradicts that which immediately precedes it, and one must attempt to reconcile them, all that I can say is that the nett result of it all is one of two results - either those provision? will, in the long run, make it impossible to resort to quantitative restrictions and to restrictions upon imports by means of licences and the like, or the result of the articles will be to leave the position exactly as it is to-day, and if so, the usefulness of entering into this cumbersome piece of international machinery is not very clear to me.
The fourth sentence in the Minister’s speech to which I refer is this -
The Charter enables the continuance of subsidies
The honorable gentleman was talking particularly about primary products - provided that these do not operate to increase the exports of a product or reduce the imports of such product into the member’s country.
The Minister was, I believe, very justly referring to Article 30, strange as the result of reading that statement may appear to be, because Article 30 undoubtedly provides a series of matters of which that sentence is not an unfair summary. Just consider it. If that be true, and I believe it to be true as a statement of this charter, then it means that subsidies cannot be used in order to expand exports, and therefore they cannot be used in order to expand primary production. Apparently, a subsidy is to be used not as a means of expansion, but merely as a means of preserving the status quo. This exhibits a very curious outlook on the future of a country like Australia, however well it may suit some other countries which are putting forward this charter. Again, it means that schemes for the stabilization of the domestic price of primary products - and I direct the attention of country members to this in particular - will be very specially and very seriously threatened. Let me say that Article 30, paragraph 3, deals with that specific problem, and” what it says ought to be read, even at the risk of the House being wearied by these rather lengthy citations. This is the provision in this draft charter -
A system for the stabilization of the domestic price of a primary product which sometimes results in the sale of the product for export at a price lower than the comparable price charged for the like product to buyers in the domestic market may .be determined by the organization not to be a subsidy on exportation if it has at times resulted in the sale of the product for export at a price higher than the comparable price charged for the like product to domestic buyers.
In other words, if the guaranteed price is sometimes higher on the local market than it is for export, and it can be shown that it is sometimes higher on the export market than it is en the local market, then it may be determined by the organization, not by us, not to be a subsidy. lt goes on to say that they may also agree to its not being a subsidy if the system is so operated as not unduly to stimulate exports, or otherwise seriously prejudice the interests of other members. So that when we talk about guaranteed price schemes in Australia, when we talk about what we called before the last war home consumption price schemes, let us realize that this proposal involves a crippling blow to such schemes, because, in the first place, there is a prohibition upon such matters. There is a way out if the organization can be satisfied that the scheme is working in a certain fashion. But the organization has also to be satisfied that it is not unduly stimulating exports, or otherwise seriously prejudicing the interests of other members. I ask honorable members : What are these schemes supposed to be for, if not to encourage the prosperity of certain industries; and why are we seeking to encourage the prosperity of those industries if we are not seeking to increase their output; and why are we seeking to increase their output if it be not with the idea of getting bigger markets for that output in other countries in the world? So the very thing which these schemes are designed to achieve is the one thing that they must not achieve if they are to pass through the testing machinery of the proposed charter.
I have referred to these matters, not in any logical order, but because reference was made to them by the Minister in the course of his speech. I grant, and honorable members will agree, that each of these matters might well occupy the time of the Parliament in a very prolonged debate. There are two things in this proposal that I want to concentrate my own attention upon, two things which stand out as vital in the proposed charter, in the proposed scheme for a world trade organization. They are, first, the elimination of preferences; and secondly, general, unconditional, mostfavourednation treatment among all members of the International Trade and Employment Organization. I should say, in order to avoid confusion - because this is a difficult subject, I admit - that the organization is at present only something which exists just over the rim of the horizon. Its constitution is unknown. The method by which it will be governed is unknown. Our representation on it is unknown. So that, at the moment, it is rather a mystical conception. But there is nothing mystical about that section of this charter which indicates the end of preferences, and the institution of universal, unconditional, most-favoured-nation treatment among all the members of the organization. I want to take them in that order, and say something, first, about the elimination of preferences. Goodness knows, what I have to say will not even pretend to be exhaustive. All that one can do is to indicate some prominent aspects of the matter. There are two small points of modern history which perhaps should be noted. In the first place, the Atlantic Charter, which is frequently referred to in this Parliament, stipulated for -
However, this included the proviso - with due respect to their existing obligation.
Mr. Churchill, in the House of Commons on the 21st April, 1944, described those limiting words as having been inserted - . . for the express purpose of retaining in the House of Commons and in the Dominion Parliaments the fullest possible rights . . . over the question of imperial preference.
Then came the lend-lease agreement. I recently referred in this House to Article 7 of that agreement, and to the fact that it contained a provision that part of the adjustment was to be -
The elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce.
Those are very significant words which fell heavily on the ears of those conscious of the problems associated with Empire trade. However, on the 1st April, 1944, Mr. Churchill informed the House of Commons that he had secured in private correspondence an assurance from President Roosevelt -
That we were no more committed to the abolition of imperial preference than the American Government were committed to the abolition of their high protective tariff.
I refer to those matters as constituting in some measure an historical background to the beginning of a discussion on Article 24 of the draft charter which states -
Each member . . . shall upon the request of any other member or members enter into reciprocal and mutually advantageous negotiations with such other member or members directed to the substantial reduction of tariffs and other charges on imports and exports and to the elimination of import tariff preferences.
It is as well to have the exact words before us, because an attempt has been made to create ambiguity. Article 24 ties up with page 9 of the report, on which it is stated as a principle - that existing preferences, which are of long standing and which have important effects, on the economics of the countries concerned, should be excepted from the Most Favoured Nation clause pending their elimination by negotiations pursuant to the provisions of Article 24.
In the long run, therefore - and it might not be so long a run - the charter aims at the destruction of the British preferential system. I say this without any equivocation about a great and friendly power, that the pressure to this end has unquestionably come from the United States of America, which propounded the charter in its original form, and which has felt for a long time that there is something anomalous and objectionable in the British preferential system. There are two anomalies in that attitude. The first is that the United States of America itself represents a complete customs union between the individual States, with absolute freedom of interstate trade. There, you have a great community with a far greater white population than the British Empire has or ever had, and the system in operation there represents a triumph of the principle of preference in internal trade - preference having been carried to the point of free trade. Why this should be unexceptionable in the case of the United States of America - as I agree it is - but objectionable discrimination in the case of the British Empire, it is impossible for me to understand.
The second point is that if Empire preference goes then, in an economic sense, the British Empire will be “balkanized “. We shall have an Empire consisting of a series of economic fragments with no connexion between them. They will deal with one another merely on the same terms as other nations deal with one another. Such a condition has been well described as the u balkanization” of the British Empire. If this is to happen to the British Empire, no doubt the same principle will be applied to Europe. I admit that I have been attracted for years to the notion of some system of customs union in Europe, which might greatly strengthen the mutual economies of western European nations. Such a system is needed, and fits into the pattern for restoring western Europe which I referred to in my speech during the debate on foreign affairs. However, if this new principle is to be assented to, the major economic units of the western world will be arranged like this: The United States of America will have complete internal preference. The British Empire will be converted into a series of separate units without preference. Europe will continue as a set of separate units without preference. Then, on the other side of the map, there will be the Soviet Union occupying a position like the United States of America, with complete internal preference. That will represent a loss of economic balance which I cannot believe to be good.
I do not want to overload the record of proceedings with figures, but there can be no doubt about the effects of the Ottawa Agreement, and the mutual establishment of preference which reached its flower in the Ottawa Agreement. Not only did Great Britain substantially increase its trade with the Dominions and the Dominions with Great Britain, but all of them substantially increased their trade with foreign countries; because, of course, their new internal level of prosperity reflected itself, as will always be the case, in more trade with the rest of t.ho world. The value of this can be summed up in the words of a man for whom I have a high regard as the greatest living champion of Empire trade, Mr. L. S. Amery. In the last book which he published on economics, The Washington Loan Agreement, he says at page 69 -
There can be no doubt, then, as to the enormous contribution the development of inter-Empire trade in the last 30 years, and more particularly since Ottawa, has made to the capacity both of this country and of every part of the Empire to sustain the war effort as well as our own capacity to finance that effort. It seems incredible that, instead of being encouraged to develop that policy on bolder and more comprehensive lines, we should contemplate abandoning or whittling away its effectiveness in pursuit of the willo’thewisp of a revival of the mid-Victorian economic world.
Those are powerful words. It is terrible to think of a number of people meeting together to establish a world trade organization, the membership of which, and the means of government of which, are both as yet unsettled, and that one of their objects should be the destruction of a well-tried British system of preferential trade in favour of a largely academic experiment, the failure of which will leave us with neither the bone nor the shadow. “ I turn from that to the other fundamental principle of these agreements, the provision dealing with the mostfavourednation clause. As honorable members know most-favoured-nation clauses have been found in international trade treaties for between’ 200 and 300 years. They began, in fact, with the AngloDanish Treaties of 1660 and 1670. Prom that time onwards clauses by which a contracting nation undertakes to give to another nation with which it makes a bargain, terms and conditions no less favorable than those it gives to other nations, so that, in a short phrase, it gives to its contracting party mostfavourednation treatment in relation to everything, have been an essential feature of British commercial policy. Since those treaties were made at the end of the seventeenth century, this principle has been applied by Great Britain not only to goods and ships but also to the determination of the conditions under which British subjects may enter other countries. Any one who looks over thehistory of this important matter will soon realize that adherence to mostfavourednation clauses was part and parcel of the larger policy of universal freetrade. Consider the England of the nineteenth century when most of these developments occurred. The mostfavourednation principle was looked upon as a means of reducing customs barriers. Indeed, in the circumstances of those days, it was. Great Britain as a freetrade country had only to negotiate with certain other countries which had imposed tariffs for many years and which gave it mostfavourednation treatment, and it was thereby in a position to get the benefit of all tariff reductions that might be made by various contracting countries. Any Englishman in the nineteenth century would have looked upon the mostfavourednation clause as a means of reducing customs barriers and would have unhesitatingly agreed that when universal free trade had been reached the whole purpose and utility of the most-favoured-nation clause would have disappeared. Here is where we come to a difficulty. There were at least two schools of thought about the most-favoured-nation clause, the English and American schools. The United Kingdom’ practically always used an unconditional most-favoured-nation clause of the kind we now find in this draft charter; but the United States of America nearly always used a conditional clause, that is, one in which the grant of most-favoured-nation treatment to any other nation was not automatic, but was made conditional upon the receipt of certain compensating concessions. In other words, the Americans said, “ We do not give you mostfavourednation treatment just because you happen to be a party to an agreement with us. If you want such protection you must make your own bargain with us “. The British most-favoured-nation treatment was extended automatically to all nations with whom it traded, but the American most-favoured-nation treatment was extended, not automatically, but only after a series of special negotiations in which the receiving country had to provide something in exchange. Those were two fundamentally different conceptions of most-favoured-nation treatment. Where the clause was conditional there was still room for useful tariff negotiations, and individual foreign powers could not merely sit back and automatically obtain the benefit of what other nations had succeeded in obtaining by means of negotiation. In the draft charter the proposed most-favoured-nation clause is unconditional. Article 14, which expresses quite plainly what other nations are to receive, provides -
Any advantage, favour, privilege or immunity granted by any member to any product originating in or destined for any other country shall be accorded immediately and unconditionally to the like product originating in or destined for all other members. [ Extension of time granted.]
I invite honorable members to take a realistic view of the results of that provision. No doubt it will be said that it is directed towards assisting negotiations for tariff reductions. Quite plainly, it will not achieve that purpose; on the contrary, it will probably impede it because a negotiating nation may be very reluctant to reduce its tariff in favour of another country when it knows that the benefits of that reduction must immediately and unconditionally be extended to all other member countries, some of which may be free trade, somehighly protectionest, some highly industrialized, and all with varying costs of production. Under this provision, should this country make tariff concessions to any other member of the International Trade Organization the clause automatically extends those concessions to all other members of the organizations. One has no great difficulty in understanding that a country, by making use of this unconditional clause, may secure for itself the lowest rates prevailing in low tariff areas and, at the same time, itself impose a very high tariff upon imports, and maintain high tariffs by saying, “ We make no bargain at all; we do not need to do so; we keep our own tariffs; we enter into nonegotiations; as a member of this organization we are at the receiving end of all tariff reductions made by all other countries belonging to it “. I am at a loss to understand why this nineteenth century expedient should now be revived so categorically, unless it be specifically designed, as it may be, to protect the position of highly developed industrial countries and to prevent the development of industrialization in other and younger countries. Take the case of Australia, which is a country with a small population, with developing resources. Suppose we had, side by side during the last 30 years, no Empire preference and the unconditional mostfavourednation clause as now suggested in this draft charter. What industrial development would we have had? What markets would we have developed overseas, particularly in Great Britain, for our primary products? Honorable members themselves must answer those questions, because if the obvious answers are to be given to them, then it seems abundantly clear that when we are asked to adopt this charter in its present form we are being asked to destroy the whole foundation upon which the progress of our primary and secondary industries has been built. Whilst I put it in this fashion, I do not want to be misunderstood; I am not saying that the Government at the present time is advocating the charter, or seeking to force it upon the House. It is giving to honorable members an opportunity to exercise the privilege of debating it while there is yet effective time to do so. Honorable members will recall that the most-favoured-nation clause, although it has had a lot of lip-service paid to it, has in reality been increasingly evaded in modern times; and this is another condemnation of it. It has been evaded, particularly in the last 40 years, by import quotas, exchange restrictions, specialization of tariff rates and sometimes by subtle classifications in the schedule, and sometimes by State trading. Honorable members might be amused to recall what must be the most classic example of evasion of the most-favoured-nation provision by subtle classification. It was contained in item No. 103 of Germany’s conventional tariff of 1902. That item, in order to give preference to Switzerland without violating most-favoured-nation obligations to Russia and Holland, gave a special rate to -
That cut out Holland with a vengeance - and which have at least one month’s grazing each year at a spot at least 800 metres above sea level.
If anybody complained, the reply would be, “ Oh, dear me, we are prepared to give exactly the same treatment to you, my dear fellow “. They would say to Holland, “ Certainly, if you bring along your dappled, or brown, cattle that have lived at the necessary height above sea level we are prepared to take them “. We look at it, and it seems absurd; but it only happens to be the most absurd examples out of thousands of examples which the Minister knows have occurred over that period. We must try to accommodate our desire to .make some special bargain with a country with our obligation in respect of mostfavourednation treatment. So, an expedient is looked for. Are those various devices to evade most-favoured-nation treatment really excluded by the new charter? If they are excluded, then the effects will be simple even though from our point of view they may be destructive. Let me illustrate them. If all those devices are gone under this charter, so that we come right back to the mostfavourednation clause and the abolition of Empire preference, what happens? Australia will be ultimately compelled to give the same rates of duty on cotton textiles to India and Japan as it does to Great Britain. How does that line up with our desire to preserve our substantial market in Great Britain for our own commodities? Great Britain in its turn will be required to give the same rate of duty and the same treatment, without quotas and licences, to sugar from Java and Cuba as it gives to sugar from Australia. How does that line up with our conception of the future of the sugar industry of Australia? All those things will happen if the two great principles of this charter become effective and these methods of evasion are effectively prohibited. The alternative is that they are not effectively prohibited; and what will be the effect if these devices to evade the most-favoured-nation clause continue in operation? Quite plainly, in those circumstances, the existence of the International Trade Organization will make no real difference in the practice of the last 40 years, and the whole document might just as well be torn up. It will be useless and unnecessary, and, therefore, dangerous.
I apologize for having trespassed upon the time of the House for so long in making what must have been a dreary examination. I conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will instruct its delegation to Geneva that this country must not be committed in any way to any arrangement, whether in principle or in detail, the substance of which has not been fully debated in Parliament and made fully known to the Australian people who, in the long run, must secure the advantage or suffer the injury. That, I believe, is a reasonable request. These are great matters. They are not party matters. I venture to say that almost every statement of principle I have made, I have made as much on behalf of the party opposite as on behalf of my own. We all must be concerned to see that at Geneva we are not half-committed, or wholly committed in principle with some reservation in point of detail. The matter is too important for that; and this Parliament, on behalf of the people of Australia, must retain an extraordinarily close control over it.
– Honorable members are now given an opportunity to examine the report of the First Session of the Preparatory Committee of the United Nations Conference oh Trade and Employment. Indeed, the report constitutes the articles which have been agreed upon up to the present for future consideration by nineteen countries including Australia. Although there were observers at the conference from several other countries, it must be noted that Russia was not represented in any way whatever. The committee which presented this report, and, consequently, framed these articles, sat from the 15th October to the 26th
November, and the degree to which Australia is prepared to accept the articles embodied in this report is the degree to which the fiscal policy of this country will be disastrously affected in the years that lie ahead. There is no doubt that from the viewpoint of all our industries, particularly our primary industries, the draft charter of the International Trade and Employment Organization of the United Nations is the most revolutionary document that has ever been tabled in this Parliament. There is enough dynamite packed into two, or three, of the 89 articles to blow sky-high every orderly marketing scheme in existence in Australia to-day, and, in addition, to destroy the dairying, wheat, sugar, dried fruits and other primary industries. In making those statements, I recognize that negotiations are still to be carried out, that the conditions embodied in this report have not been accepted on behalf of Australia, and that the committee is to meet again on the 8th April, when, as Dr. Coombs told the combined meeting of the Opposition parties, it will discuss most important subjects yet to come before it, namely, tariff preferences and the end of import restrictions.
It is obvious that at Geneva, the preparatory committee will be specially concerned with tariffs, preferences and the end of quantitative import restrictions. Every one of these is important to each Australian primary industry and, consequently, some industries are represented by advisers. One such adviser has had experience with wool and meat; another is an expert on sugar. The third has great knowledge of the dried fruits industry. But there is not one representative of the dairying industry, or of the wheat industry. I emphatically protest against the ignoring of those industries, which are vital to Australia. The lack of representation of them and, therefore, lack of vigilance over their interests is to be deplored.
The most important matter to be decided, as far as Australian primary producers are concerned, is that of Empire preferences. The United States of America will undoubtedly ask for the abandonment of preferences. We have had assurances from British sources and also from the Prime
Minister that preference will be abandoned only in exchange for something equally advantageous. In other words, it has been stated that British preference will be modified item by item only in direct exchange for effective and equivalent concessions. The mere inclusion of such proposals on the agenda, however, leads me to agree with Lord Croft, who said recently in the House of Lords -
If the proposals for consideration included, let us say, the elimination of the British Fleet, that, surely could only mean that we were going into conference prepared to contemplate the end of British sea power? But the same must be true of the elimination of preference if you agree to go in on that proposal.
As there is a possibility that Empire preference will be abandoned as a result of the Geneva Conference, a careful examination of the concessions or guarantees that may be offered to us in exchange should be made. In the period between the depression and World War II., British exports to countries concerned in the Ottawa Agreement increased by 70 per cent. or £69,000,000 and Britain reached the highest degree of employment in its history. If a preferential tariff had not operated in 1938-39, £8,500,000 of additional customs duty would have been chargeable in Australia against British imports of the value of £43,600,000, comprising textiles, metal manufactures, machinery, chemicals, paper, scientific and surgical instruments. The preference was reciprocal. Consequently during the calendar year 1938, £44,700,000 worth of Australian goods imported into the United Kingdom received preferential tariff treatment to an amount of £6,900,000 over similar goods from foreign countries. A few of the principal items, and the amount of the rebates were -
From 1934 to 1939, the average percentages of exports from Australia included 52 per cent. to the United Kingdom, 10 per cent. to other British countries, 6 per cent. to France, 5 per cent. to Belgium, about 4 per cent. to the United
States of America and one-fifth of 1 per cent, to Russia. If British preference goes overboard, it is obvious that the United States of America will he one of the important nations with which we will have to increase our trade. The latest issue of the London Financial Times stated -
The chief object of the United States policy at the Geneva conference for a reduction of trade barriers is the abolition of dominion and colonial preferences. The United States of America is also interested in obtaining a share of the preferential market in the United Kingdom enjoyed by Empire raw materials, including apples and canned fruit.
The report concludes -
Proof of these .statements may be found by examining lists of tariff reductions which the United States Government requested, and which Commonwealth delegates are now studying in London.
Any such agreement made with the United States of America would be built on shifting sand.
Mr. Winthrop Brown, chief of the American State Department’s Commercial Policy Division, recently declared -
In future we plan to include in every trade agreement a clause which will permit us to withdraw or modify any concession if, as the result of unforeseen circumstances, it results in such an increased volume of imports as to cause or threaten serious injury to domestic ( i.e. American) producers.
The London Economist of the 8th March, 1947, dealing with this matter, said -
The executive order covering the future pattern of trade agreements was published last week by President Truman . . . The United States now reserves to itself the right to withdraw all concessions wherever imports “ threaten “ domestic producers, and the United States Tariff Commission is empowered to exercise a constant patrol against imports, and to recommend modification or withdrawal of tariff concessions whenever such “injuries” ure iti sight . . . The United States Commerce Department will exercise a similar control over export prospects, and all trade pacts must contain ‘most-favoured-nation provisions, securing the United States fully against any possible discrimination.
Unless this executive order is rescinded and some guarantee is obtained that the United States of America is prepared to retreat from this uncompromising attitude, it seems to be useless for us to be wasting money on sending an expensive delegation to Geneva for an abortive conference, or for one in which the United States will gain all the advantages and suffer none of the disabilities. If the United States of America is adamant Australia undoubtedly will have to insist on the same privileges, with similar controls by our Tariff Board. Otherwise, under this socalled “ escape clause “, multi-lateral tariff agreements would exist only so long as the United States of America wished them to exist, and could be cancelled at any time when that country found itself at a disadvantage. Any concessions that we might hope to obtain from America in exchange for the abandonment of Empire preference naturally would affect that country detrimentally in some way. Therefore, conceivably, our primary industries might, as it were, be left out on a limb. We could be confronted with a large number of agreements that could be cancelled at any time by one or more of the signatories, and each contracting nation would have to face the prospect of not knowing from month to month what the tariff, position would be. Obviously, nations in the northern hemisphere could take advantage of such a position to the detriment of this country, as the difference in seasons would enable them to sell their products under an agreement, and then cancel the agreement before Australian products could be marketed. Our main primary industries such as wheat, wool, dairying and sugar, could easily be made vulnerable to this practice.
It is undeniable that the Labour party has never been enthusiastic about the Ottawa Agreement which is the bulwark of Empire preference. When the agreement was introduced into this House for ratification in 1932, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. .Scullin), then Leader of the Opposition, moved for its withdrawal and the re-opening of negotiations. He said -
The most serious blow struck at the unity and goodwill of the British Commonwealth of Nations has been struck by this agreement.
At the conclusion of his speech, he said -
This agreement may be ratified by this Parliament under the crack of the party whip, but it cannot last.
The present Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley, who, no doubt, will have considerable influence on the Geneva talks, had this to say during the Ottawa Agreement debate in 1932 -
If the bill is passed, as is probable, I make it clear, not only to our own people, but also to the people overseas, that immediately an opportunity presents itself to terminate the agreement, we shall accept it. We do not feel ourselves bound by the agreement in any shape or form.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is now Minister for Transport said -
Although the party to which I belong may not be the dominant party in this House, it will support any party that takes action to break the agreement and to replace it with a more equitable one.
Finally, the present Australian High Commissioner in Canada, Mr. Forde, said -
The Ottawa Agreement is the greatest political ramp that has ever been perpetrated by any Australian delegation abroad. .
These quotations show that the Labour party, and its representatives now holding key trade positions abroad, have shown themselves to be unsympathetic with Empire preference, at least in the form in which it appeared in the Ottawa Agreement; yet that agreement has stood the test of time and has proved advantageous to every one of its signatories. Undoubtedly Empire preference to-day is in danger, and not only from the source to which I have referred. The charter itself contains at least three articles that sound the death knell of Australian primary industries, even though, as I have stated, it is generally alleged that preference is not in danger and that the present talks will deal with non-binding proposals. The most dangerous of the so-called proposals are Articles 24, 25, and 30. Article 24 provides for a reduction of tariffs and the elimination of preferences. Article 25 deals with the average elimination of quantitative restrictions, whilst Article 30 provides for the elimination of any system which results in the sale of a product for export at a price lower than the domestic price. Article £5, if applied strictly could completely destroy the Australian sugar industry because the fundamental basis of that industry is the embargo against the importation of sugar into Australia. The long-range stability of the industry is dependent upon this embargo. The livelihood of thousands of Australians, particularly Queenslanders, is bound up with the sugar industry which operates under the unique conditions of the White Australia policy and high Australian living standards. The 1937 International Sugar Agreement has proved satisfactory to all concerned, and in its present form, the draft charter would prejudice very seriously the operation of that agreement.
Article 30 vitally affects negotiations for future sugar exports, whilst the full operation of this provision would also ruin the orderly marketing and price stabilization schemes for butter, sugar, wheat, dried fruit and other Australian primary products so laboriously built up through the years. The charter of the International Trade and Employment Organization is part of the United Nations framework and its terms must be read in conjunction with the Bretton Woods Agreement. The final objective of the International Monetary Fund to which we propose to subscribe under the original terms, compels the fulfilment of obligations by members. On the one hand, the controllers of the fund have power to criticize and discipline a member nation the policy of which provides an artificially high standard of living through improper use of fund resources which the country itself cannot permanently afford. On the other hand the controllers can also discipline members which have a series of favorable balances, by curtailing their exports. In such circumstances, it is quite conceivable that the controllers would have an opportunity to criticize the domestic policies of member countries, such as the 40-hour week, and, through the interrelation of the International Trade and Employment Organization Agreement, if signed as at present drafted, to upset schemes for the organized marketing of primary products. The Australian worker, the primary producer and the manufacturer would be affected by the interaction of these international agreements. The primary producer would lose the advantage of higher prices overseas by the elimination of preference, and at the same time, his comparatively high home consumption price on the Australian market would be jeopardized. In the past, Australia has been able to benefit considerably from preferential bilateral tariff agreements with other countries, especially within the Empire bloc. For instance, in 1925 a reciprocal trade agreement was made between Canada and Australia. Under the subsequent enlargements of that agreement, nearly £10,000,000 worth of commodities, such as printing paper, motor chassis, timber, fish, piece goods, &c, of Canadian origin, were imported into Australia in the year 1939-40 under preferential conditions. At the same time, Australian dried and preserved fruits, sugar, tallow, Asc., were admitted to Canada under similar preferential conditions. In 1933, a New Zealand preference act came into force, which repealed previous acts of a similar nature. From time to time, we have had bilateral trade agreements with Newfoundland, Southern Rhodesia, and the Union of South Africa. Agreements of this nature, if based upon the Tariff Board’s expert advice, appear to be much more satisfactory than multilateral agreements applying equally to many countries, especially when one of the main participants reserves the right to cancel the agreement at any time, as the United States of America contemplates.
As a further possibility, I suggest that the procedure outlined by the Tariff Board on page 24 of its latest annual report should be canvassed. The system therein described is, in essence, that used in operating the Ottawa Agreement. Under it, each country would be required to state at the outset the internal problem and conditions which its trade policy is designed to meet. Higher duties than are necessary for protection should be recognized as harmful, as well as other obstacles to the importation of goods not produced in a country, except for a modification in respect of (a) currency conservation, (6) luxury imports, or (c) the establishment of key industries. Protective measures, according to the Tariff Board, should be reviewed by request of the other party and on adequate notice. The revising body should be the tariff advisory authority or board which should hold its sittings, as far as possible, in public and should give affected persons or industries the right to be heard. The report of the Tariff Board should then be subject to review by the legislature of the country concerned, which should be free to accept, modify or reject the proposals contained in such report. This procedure seems to me to be eminently logical. Each country would have as a guide the advice of a skilled tariff advisory authority. Interested countries and persons would have full right to be heard, and the legislature would have complete democratic control by being able to accept or reject the tariff authority’s recommends tion.
That probably seems to be infinitely preferable to a blind acceptance of an obscure, complicated and untried charter, in which we might well be signing away our primary producers’ birthright for a mess of international pottage. I urge the Government to resist, even to the degree of having nothing to do with this proposal, any interference whatsoever with the continuance of Empire preference as it operated under the Ottawa Agreement. During this transition period from war to peace-time conditions, we cannot afford to interfere with our fiscal policy. The preservation of the White Australia policy is based upon it, and the maintenance of our standard of living depends upon it. It gives incentive and encouragement to production. The volume of our production is determined by the degree to which our economic equilibrium can be maintained.
Summing up, I contend that despite protestations to the contrary, Empire preference is definitely in jeopardy unless the Labour party changes its attitude to the Ottawa Agreement. The Labour party will need to go into this matter more enthusiastically than it did when the Ottawa Agreement was introduced. The United States declaration by executive order of the right to cancel any agreement made, will either render the Geneva Conference abortive, or give entirely illusory advantages to the other participating nations. The operation of any one of the articles 24, 25 or 30 of the Charter, as at present drafted, could annihilate one or all of Australia’s great primary industries. The interrelation of Bretton Woods and the International Trade and Employment Organization charter could cause definite international interference with domestic policy, especially in connexion with hours of work and high living standards. There are alternatives, namely, bilateral trade agreements, such as those which we have in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Newfoundland, and the procedure suggested by the Tariff Board, which the Government has rejected out of hand. I shall be very surprised if this charter does not result in a considerable whittling down, if not the elimination, of Empire preference. I urge the Government not to commit Australia to this proposal before this Parliament has examined it and, if necessary, protested against it.
– I was most interested in the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The purpose of this particular paper, which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) presented to the House, was to give to honorable members an opportunity, not to debate the charter of the International Conference on Trade and Employment, but to discuss the proposals and make useful suggestions. In this debate, the Government is not attempting to commit the Parliament in any way to the adoption of any particular policy. I also make it clear that the representatives of Australia who will attend the conference will not have authority to commit this Parliament, this Government, or this country to the adoption of any particular class of tariffs. Despite their undoubted eloquence, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party had considerable difficulty in revealing the realities of this position. It is perfectly true that an honorable member may examine the proposed charter and discover in it a number of passages that seem to be extremely academic, and that some of the objectives may appear to be impossible of attainment. In addition, some of the clauses of the charter are capable of different interpretations. Despite his lucidity, the Leader of the Opposition found it most difficult to make these proposals comprehensible and even interesting to honorable members. He said that the document was complex and difficult to understand. I, too, consider that, of all the proposed international agreements, the one now under discussion is amongst the most difficult to understand and to make decisions upon.
I shall deal with the realities of the position. We face in the world to-day a great economic reorientation. Apparently there can be no escape from this impending change because of the economic circumstances of various countries, particularly the United Kingdom. I make perfectly clear at the outset that, had the initiative been with the Commonwealth Government, it probably would not have attempted to take part in any such organization as is proposed in the draft charter or, indeed, to join in discussions. The Leader of the Australian Country party turned back the pages of history in order to quote what some members of the Labour party said about the Ottawa Agreement. I have never seen any virtue in referring to views expressed ten, fifteen or twenty years ago, when attempting to pass judgment on matters that come before us to-day in a completely changed world. I believe that both the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party will .freely admit that there has been a vast change in the economic condition of the world and in the relative economic positions of nations since 1932. There has never been any suggestion from this Government, as far as I know, for the implementation of proposals regarding employment and trade such as are contained in the draft charter. I qualify that by saying that any Commonwealth government which did not look beyond the British market for the expansion of Australia’s overseas trade might be adopting an unwise policy. I envisage possible developments in relation to the capacity of the British people to buy our products, which I hope will never occur. In view of the terrific economic struggle in which Great Britain is now engaged, the population of that nation in 20 or 25 years may be much less than it is to-day, and, even allowing for a higher standard of living than the pre-war standard, the British people may not be able to buy Australia’s increased output of goods. This is a problematical subject, but possibly it would be extremely unwise for
Australia to rely upon the United Kingdom to purchase its ever-increasing output of primary and secondary products.
– That has never been proposed.
– I do not intend to engage in violent political arguments in dealing with this subject. I am endeavouring merely to deal as lucidly as possible with the realities of the situation. We envisage an increasing population in Australia and a consequent rising local consumption of our goods. However, production will increase substantially as improved methods of farming and manufacture are introduced. I am considering now what may happen within the next fifteen or twenty-five years. It may not be fair to ask a politician to look so far into the future. A period of one or two elections is usually sufficient to occupy his immediate concern. I do not say that with reference to any particular class of politician; my statement applies to members of all parties. However, in relation to international trade and employment, it is essential that we should look far ahead. Although this Government, or any other government, might be satisfied to allow circumstances to remain as they are, we cannot afford to take the risk that in future we shall be able to dispose of our increased exportable surpluses of primary and secondary goods under existing arrangements. The United Kingdom to-day is in a very difficult economic situation. All honorable members fully understand its difficulties. Without having an intimate knowledge of the figures, I venture to say that the value of British exports into the dollar area during the last twelve months did not amount to one-fourth of the value of its imports from the dollar area. Before the war, the United Kingdom had vast investments in other countries. These investments brought into the United Kingdom great quantities of foreign currencies which enabled it to buy the raw materials and foodstuffs that it needed. That position has been, if not reversed, at least greatly changed. The United Kingdom to-day, instead of being a great creditor nation, is a great debtor nation. That i? one of the economic tragedies of the war, that the nation which did so much to achieve victory for democracy, and which suffered so much in the process, should find itself in such a dire situation.
– That is all the more reason why the Empire should stick together.
– I shall deal with that point. I put the problems of the present international situation to honorable members in the light of hard, cold facts, not as a political issue. We might be satisfied to continue with the present system of Empire preferences and with such other tariff arrangements as now exist. However, let us suppose that the United Kingdom, because of its present difficulties, believed that it should engage more freely in trade with other countries and should be given greater opportunities to export to foreign countries. Suppose that the Government of the United Kingdom, of whatever political persuasion it might be, believed that the nation’s only real chance of survival as a great power lay in the abandonment of Empire preferences, and suppose that the Government of Canada should take the same view. What would the Government of Australia do about that?
– Prominent members of the British Government have declared their opposition to the abandonment of Empire preferences.
– Without being able to speak on behalf of British Ministers, 1 imagine that they, too, would be very glad if economic circumstances would permit us to continue to trade under the conditions that applied before the war. This Government certainly would be glad to continue under the old system. If, despite their desire to maintain pre-war tariff agreements, British Ministers sincerely believed that they could save Great Britain from economic, and finally military, disaster only by entering into some such arrangement as is set out in the draft charter, would they, nevertheless, be justified in placing their personal wishes before the best interests of their country? Would they be justified in saying, “Well, we shall stick to the old system no matter what happens to the country which we administer and of which we are citizens “ ? Let us assume that the United Kingdom were to say to us and to New Zealand that in order to maintain an economic balance - in other words, send into the dollar area or to wherever it could secure foreign credits, goods which would enable it to import the foodstuffs that are needed by its people, or the raw materials which would enable it to build up its secondary industries - it was necessary to modify or sacrifice Empire preferences so that it might have opened to it other markets which would enable it to export specialized commodities - I should imagine that specialized capital goods and luxury goods are the two fields in which British industry is particularly capable of having export trade relations with other parts of the world - what would be the answer of any Government in this country?
– Could not we send foodstuffs to the United Kingdom?
– The honorable member cannot forget his little parish-pump troubles. I shall deal with the matter he has raised, in its proper place. I know that, if all the food which the people of Australia and New Zealand are consuming to-day were to be given permanently to the United Kingdom, the needs of that country would not be met. Honorable members need not take my word for that. Confirmation of it is to be found in the imports of foodstuffs and raw materials by the United Kingdom. Many of those raw materials cannot be supplied by any dominion. For example, large quantities of petrol are being used by the United Kingdom in connexion with transportation. The Dominions could not supply that. Nor would they be able to supply many capital goods. It may be that the machinery of the whole weaving and spinning industry of England needs reorganizing. Other industries may be in a similar position. If they wanted to purchase capital goods to-day, could any dominion supply them? They might have to go into the dollar area and some other area in order to obtain them. I reduce this matter to realities. If the people of the United Kingdom, rightly or wrongly, were to say, “ Much as we desire to continue what has been a very happy arrangement for both of us, namely, Empire preferences^ because of economic circumstances, the welfare and even the survival of our country, depend upon our being able to enter other markets and to have other avenues of trade. Believing that to he our greatest need, we shall have to modify Empire preferences, or no longer be a party to them what would be the answer of any government in this country?
– They would not say that.
– I do not profess to be a great student of all these matters; but I have given a great deal of thought to them, and have had conversations with persons who are directly associated with the conduct of economic affairs in the United Kingdom. Supposing they were to say that, what would Australia and New Zealand be able to do ? Would they stick their heads in the sand and say, “ We are not going to abandon Empire preferences “ ? One party cannot make an agreement.
– Would not the right honorable gentleman try to argue with them ?
– I said a little while ago, and I have said previously in this House, speaking on behalf of the Government and not personally, that we would strive all we could to maintain Empire preferences. Supposing the United Kingdom and Canada were to say, “ The agreement relating to Empire preferences cannot be continued ; we shall try to help as much as we can, but we shall need some modification of those preferences “, would we stick our heads in the sand and say, “ We are not going to take part in any discussion. Although you believe that there ought to he a world discussion in regard to trade, we are not going to do anything about it “ ? If, owing to the stress of circumstances, the United Kingdom, Canada and other dominions decided, with great reluctance and considerable sorrow, that in the best interests of all, Empire preferences must go, and they participated in a world conference at which tariffs were discussed and agreements were made, it would be the height of foolishness if we were to sulk in Australia and not even attempt to improve the position or to lessen the blow to our own industries, if there was to be a blow. I have given a great deal of study to one of the committees that has been operating for a good while in an attempt to review and discuss. all the implications of these particular agreements. I have had from the outset some doubt as to whether it is possible to make such a world arrangement. I believe that it might be entirely impracticable. The mountain may bring forth only a mouse; but I am confident that out of all the discussions something may emerge. Britain went into the war a great creditor nation, and came out of it a great debtor nation. We, naturally, are in a very happy position. From an economic point of view, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, as a result of the war, were in a better position after it had terminated than they were before it had begun. South Africa repatriated many, if not all, of its loans. Canada did the same. New Zealand’s sterling balances are better now than they were at any time pre-war. Our own sterling balances are better now than at any time prewar. India did very well out of the war, and so did Egypt, Ireland, and a number of other countries.
– All out of poor old Britain.
– The honorable member makes a point that I shall stress in a moment. All of our benefits in sterling balances did not come from the United Kingdom. A lot of them were derived by reason of the fact that there were American armies in Australia. These were the equivalent of sterling credits amounting directly to £113,000,000 and indirectly to probably more. I do not want to go deeply into that matter. All of the members of the British Commonwealth, in which I include India, came out of the war better economically than they were when they went into it; but the mother of all the British Commonwealth of Nations, which carried the greatest burden throughout the war and bore the greatest loss of life and suffering, came out of it the world’s greatest debtor nation, although it had gone into it one of the world’s greatest creditor nations. Do the Dominions say : “ We have done well out of this war, but you must not do anything which will worsen our position in the future, no matter what may be the price economically ; in other words, even though you believe that, in the interests of the British people, because of your economic needs and not because you desire to do it, you may be able to give us less preference and less economic consideration in the future, you ought to be prepared to sacrifice your country so that we may continue on our money-making way “ ? That is the truth.
– Were not those preferences mutual?
– I am not denying that at all.
– The right honorable gentleman’s argument supposes that, but it is the American position about which I am concerned.
– They were mutual because at that time the United Kingdom Government was in a position to take part in such agreements. What I am saying now in regard to the attitude of the British Government and its internal position is purely hypothetical. However, it is perfectly true that the British Government made those mutual agreements. The fact that they were “ mutual “ means that the parties could withdraw at any time - they were not ordinary agreements, immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. Those agreements are subject to future alteration, both by Australia and by the United Kingdom. They were not embodied in statute form in either country. I agree with what has been said by the Leader of the Australian Country party; but I am indifferent to the contention of fifteen years ago.
– It is a pity Government members do not consider that when they criticize the Leader of the Opposition for what he did years ago.
– I try to avoid indulging in recrimination, but, I must say that, although we hear a great deal of talk in this House about free trade and protection, the genesis of the Opposition parties is to be found in the advocacy of free trade. There were many primary producers who believed that they should always be able to sell their produce-
– Is the right honorable gentleman going back fifteen years ?
– I do not wish to; but there are some primary producers who still believe that they should have free access to the markets of the world, although they oppose a tariff for the protection of secondary industries. However, as I said, those are simply points of view, and I do not propose to go into them any further.
To revert to the question I posed earlier, what do honorable members suggest the Government should do ? Do they suggest we should sulk in our tents and say to the Government of the United Kingdom, which has don© so. much for us economically and militarily: “Despite your position we are not even going to discuss with you the things that you think we should discuss in our mutual interests “. I do not think we could refuse to discuss them.
– I do not think any honorable member has suggested that.
– The Government considers that whatever the final decision may be, if it will enable us to expand our trade and give the maximum employment to our people it will be to Australia’s advantage. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the nations of the world should not be bound merely by charters to strive for full employment in their respective countries. I trust that some realization of their own economic interest and the welfare of their people, particularly the workers, will inspire the Government of every country to do its utmost to achieve this without the necessity for charters. Of course, the mere writing of words in a statute-book cannot by itself achieve that; but it does point the way, and it is a clear signal of the way we are going. I think that justifies the Government in the attempt it is making to achieve this.
No government could reasonably refuse to discuss with the British Government that country’s difficulties in regard to these matters. And if a government said finally: “We are =out; we are not going on with this arrangement “, it would not have committed itself to any binding undertaking and nothing could be done about it because one party cannot make an agreement. If the British Government believes that, because of certain economic factors, with which I do not propose to deal now, it is advisable, in its own interests, to discuss world economic arrangements, and particularly those relating to its partial economic dependence upon the United States of America, we should not refuse to be a party to those discussions. I am not making use of any information which has come to me through personal or confidential sources, when I say that Great Britain realizes that the dollars provided by the American loan are running out and it may shortly be confronted with the threat of having to curtail its imports from the dollar area. That curtailment would ultimately have a severe repercussion on this country. This country does not export sufficient goods to the countries in the dollar area to buy all the things we need from them. Having regard to all these factors, if the British Government says, “ We believe this matter should be discussed “ what would honorable members suggest the Government should do? Is it seriously suggested that we should absent ourselves from the discussions and allow the other Empire countries to make their own agreements-
– Has the Government of Great Britain said that to the Government?
– No, I am merely putting this before honorable members from the standpoint of an- observer on the side-lines. Some of my assumptions may be entirely incorrect. However, my private opinion is that, in its own interests, the British Government believes that world trade talks would help it in lowering tariff barriers, and would at the same time assist other countries in a freer exchange of goods, with consequent increase of employment.
– In view of what the right honorable gentleman has just said, does he not think that Australia should have pressed for an Empire conference preparatory to the International Trade and Employment Conference and evolved some kind of working agreement ?
– The Leader of the Australian Country party has had a good deal of political experience. Does he mean a conference to which the public and the press are to be admitted.? Does the right honorable gentleman think that the people vitally concerned with Empire trade and economic affairs such as Mr. Walter Nash of New Zealand, Field-Marshal Smuts of South Africa, and Mr. McKenzie King of Canada, have not discussed these matters directly* with the British Government? I may say that I, myself, have received certain information through official channels and from other sources-
– Then the right honorable gentleman has had a prior conference?
– No, I said “discussion”. I go further and say that conferences have taken place on an official level, but without any commitments whatever having been entered into by this Government. Honorable members realize that any agreement the Government made would have to be ratified by this Parliament. The whole matter resolves itself into the simple question : “ Should we take part in the discussions and should we try to mitigate the effect of any arrangements made which may be detrimental to this country “ ? Do honorable members suggest that we should simply absent ourselves from the conference and when the final arrangements have been made say : “ We will have nothing to do with them; it is perfectly true that we might have done better had we taken part in the discussion, but on principle we refuse to take part “.
I do not intend to say a great deal more. This matter was placed on the business paper to give to honorable members an opportunity to express their views on what is a. very difficult, and, indeed, extraordinarily complex subject, and to hear the views of honorable members. I repeat that the only issue is : Should Australia take part in this conference? It will be an attempt to see if any arrangement can be made to solve this problem. The Leader of the Opposition quoted Mr. Churchill’s statement as follows: -
That we were no more committed to the abolition of Imperial Preference than the American Government were committed to the abolition of their high protective tariffs.
Mr. Churchill, at the height of his eloquence, could never have uttered a more ambiguous statement than that. He must have known very well that if any one wanted America’s high tariffs to be reduced something would have to be given in return. As it stands, the statement does not mean anything.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) spoke of wool, and he knows very well that if wool production in Australia were to expand greatly, all the wool could not be sold in the United Kingdom. It could not be sold on the continent of Europe, because the people there have not the “ chips “ to pay for it. They are seeking credits in England itself, and in other places. I am not complaining about that. It is the result of the war, and no reflection is cast on the French people, or on the people of any other European country. [Extension of time granted.’] If the United States of America tariff on wool were reduced from 34 cents to 17 cents per lb., it would confer one of the greatest boons possible on the wool industry in Australia. If there could be a corresponding reduction of the tariff on butter it would result in a tremendous expansion of the butter industry in New Zealand, and much the same applies to lamb. Of course, if some tariff sacrifices were made in regard to canned and dried fruits in order to obtain tariff reduction on wool, butter and lamb, it would be difficult to persuade the producers of canned and dried fruits that the resulting economic benefit would be worth more to Australia than the survival of their industry. Human nature being what it is, I can imagine the producers of fruit not taking kindly to such an argument. They would have strong words to say of any proposal which, although it might benefit Australia generally, would drive them off their orchards. Those are the problems with which we are confronted. Everybody is trying to get the best he can for himself without giving anything away. It is a problem which faces the United Kingdom, and even the United States of America itself. The latter country will not be able to sell its goods to other countries if it refuses them an opportunity to sell their goods in the United States of America.
I have tried to make an analytical survey of the position, without trying to push down the throats of honorable members any particular proposal. Above all, I want honorable members to try to view this problem from the point of view of the United Kingdom, which is the centre and the heart of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The Leader of the Opposition quoted from the charter. He spoke of proposals to encourage the industrialization of undeveloped countries, as provided in Article 13, and I could quote other articles in the charter which appear to contradict this. I hope that honorable members, in their examination of this matter, will he realistic, and will look nt the problem broadly. I trust that they will consider, not only our own interests, but also the economic interests of the people of the whole Empire.
.- I arn sure that many honorable members will agree with me that never before have we listened to so gloomy and depressing a speech as that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who informed us, in effect, that the Dominions must say to the Mother Country that it is too weak to buy our products. History is repeating itself. It is fourteen years, almost to the day, since the Ottawa Agreement was brought into this Parliament for ratification. I had the honour to introduce it, and for six years afterwards I administered it, and dealt with the crises that arose in connexion with it. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister was not then a member of the House, having just lost his seat. However, the then Leader of the Labour party, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), painted the 3ame gloomy picture as that which the Prime Minister has placed before us to-night. It is not in the spirit of the British Empire for the Prime Minister to tell us that a redistribution of world wealth has taken place, that world economic power has been re-orientated.
Many nations prospered while Britain lost its overseas investments during the war. The United States of America, for the second time, prospered from a world war - and I do not discount the magnificent contribution which the United States of America made to victory. Now, the Prime Minister paints this gloomy picture of the Dominions coming in mourning to the funeral of Britain. He never said a word about the fact that in 1932, during the world economic depression, after the representatives of 66 nations met in conference, and failed, as will this conference in Geneva fail, the Ottawa Agreement was consummated.
He did not mention that the countries of the British Empire met and drew up their agreement for trade within the family after the failure of an international conference. Australia had been one of the initiators of preferential tariffs within the Empire, and gave preference to Britain as far back as 190S. Britain reciprocated in 1932. Before that there was no need to do so. It is deplorable that such ignorance of the economic history of the Empire should exist among members of Parliament, and that they should advocate a policy which gives the greatest benefit to the most powerful nation.
I shall give to the House the views of leading statesmen in Great Britain and the Dominions on the subject of Empire preference. First, I direct attention to the following statement by Mr. Nash, Minister for Finance in New Zealand, who said : -
Eighty-four per cent, of our exports go to the United Kingdom, and 75 per cent, of our imports come from .the United Kingdom and the Empire. We are tremendously keen on maintaining preference - our hold on preference might even be stronger than Great Britain’s. We would only change that policy when we saw it would be better for us, for Britain, for the United States and the rest of .the world for us to do so. That is possible, but for the moment we can see nothing better than the preference we get and the preference we give.
The Prime Minister of South Africa, General Smuts, said -
His Government like other dominion governments would want preference retained until American trade barriers and tariffs were so reduced that the protection embodied in imperial preference became unnecessary.
As the Prime Minister has expressed the pious hope that Australia will be able to make a satisfactory treaty with the United States of America, I shall give illustrations from history to show how ill founded his hopes are. In the light of the statement of the Prime Minister that Canada is likely to cast Britain aside, I draw attention to the following statement by Mr. Mackinnon, the present Minister for Trade and Customs in that dominion : -
Canada will not abandon imperial preference. The loss of trade with Britain would seriously damage Canada’s whole trade structure.
I also remind the House that South Africa has made considerable gifts in kind to the Mother Country. Honorable members will be interested also in the views of leaders in British colonies. The view of Jamaica, as expressed by its Governor, Sir John Higgins, is that -
Without preference the island will become one big poor-house or burial ground.
At the moment Australian officials are at Geneva. One of them was chairman of the commercial sub-committee which drafted motions dealing with preference. I understand that a Minister and a “back-bencher” are to represent Australia, but what do they know of trade or the making of trade treaties? Probably not more than five of the present members of this Parliament were members when the Ottawa Agreement was ratified.
I expected that this motion would be discussed in a non-party spirit free from sectionalism of any kind, which is only another term for selfishness, and on an historic basis. Without a knowledge of the history of Empire trade the paper is incomprehensible. All that the Prime Minister can say is that Britain to-day is not what it used to be and that Australia will have to look elsewhere for markets. Where are we to sell our exports if not to Britain? It is regrettable that for six years there has not been a discussion of trade matters in this House. No tariff schedule has been introduced during that period. I realize that that was due to war conditions and that we were then governed by regulations. Officials have controlled’ Australian trade, when really they ought not to have been more than junior administrators. Our tariff is cluttered up in all sorts of ways. The Ottawa Agreement is in the same condition. Australia could help Britain by taking off the prohibitions against imports from the Old Country. The 40,000.000 people of Britain, can live only by buying raw materials in the markets of the world and exporting the goods made from them. That means that Britain depends upon the skill and enterprise of its people. History shows that Britain has led the world and that its people have included many men of genius. I recall Watt and his steam engine, Faraday and his discoveries in the field of electricity, and Arkwright and his textile machinery. So great was
Britain’s supremacy in the industrial field that many people thought that there was no need for Britain to protect its trade. That period has passed, and in 1932 Britain was forced to adopt a protectionist policy. Under it Australia became the third biggest supplier of Britain’s requirements; only Canada and the United States of America supplied more. Australia’s purchases from Britain exceeded those of the United States of America. If the Prime Minister thinks that the United States of America will “ come across “ I ask him to take notice of this example. I quote from Australian Trade Policy by Copland and Janes, quoting a speech I made in Parliament -
Continuous attempts have been made by the Government since 1934 to arrange a trade treaty with the United States of America, in view of the fact that our adverse trade balance with that country for the ten years prior to 30th June, 1945, was £Stg.l80,000,000. Further, in these ten years we exported to the United States bullion and specie to the value of £Stg. 19,000,000 and paid £Stg. 22,000,000 in interest to that country. Moreover, that country is one of the very few which has an import duty on wool, the Tate being equivalent in Australian currency to from ls. 5id. to ls. 10½d. per lb. In the twelve months before the adoption of the trade diversion policy, our exports to the United States of America were valued at £A. 5,813,000 and our imports from that country were valued at £A.10,S05,000.
The United States of America would not listen to representations for a trade treaty and so restrictions on imports from that country had to be imposed. That policy failed, and it will fail again.
This charter has been framed by the United States of America; it is an instrument of the government of that country. It has not been fashioned by the Government of the United Kingdom or of any dominion. There are suggestions that the conditions may be even more severe than are indicated here.
I had intended to speak particularly about two items in this paper which, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, is most difficult to understand. The paper contains elements that may lead to the destruction of our trade. For centuries most-favoured-nation treatment has been a part of agreements entered into by the United Kingdom Government, but the United States of America has placed an entirely different interpretation on the term “most favoured nation”. These are the terms under which British trade treaties are written -
Articles produced or manufactured in the territories of one of the two contracting parties imported into the territories of the other, from whatever place arriving, shall not be subjected to other or higher duties or charges than those paid on like articles produced or manufactutred in any other foreign country.
Subject to (any other special provisions), no prohibition or restriction shall be maintained or imposed on the importation of any article, produced or manufactured in the territories of either of the two contracting parties, into the territories of the other, from whatever place arriving, which shall not equally extend to the importation of the like articles produced or manufactured in any other foreign country.
The United States of America, as I have said, has always had a different interpretation ; it places qualification on the terms. Few members of the Australian Cabinet seem to know that we have a tariff with three columns. Within the Ottawa Trade Agreement there is a provision for making treaties with foreign countries. Many such treaties have been made. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs I entered into trade treaties with France, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Poland, New Zealand and Eire, which operated to the benefit of both parties to the contract. The Ottawa Agreement has benefited all countries which signed it. With the concurrence of the House I shall incorporate in Hansard the following table showing the benefits gained by Australia from the Ottawa Agreement in respect of a number of Australian primary products during the first five years of its operation : -
At the same time Australia prospered. Although we bought more goods from Britain, at the same time 3,300 additional factories were set up in this country and approximately 200,000 more workers were employed in Australian secondary industries. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) represents the people of the Corio electorate in which there are some important woollen mills. If this charter is approved and the United States of America comes to an arrangement with a reconstructed Japan - and it may do so, because it ia the major influence in Japan to-day - how long will our woollen mills at Geelong stand up to Japanese penetration and competition ? A Japanese delegation visited Great Britain in 1931, when Japan was making great inroads into British trade, not only in the colonies but also in Lancashire itself. On that occasion, the leader of the Japanese delegation advanced a proposal that foreign and Empire markets, which the Lancashire manufacturers had built up and considered essentially their own, should be pooled, and divided with Japan. Yet that is what will happen if we abolish Empire trade, preferences. These preferences were not just guessed at; they represent years of effort on the part of various governments in the British Commonwealth of Nations. J remind honorable members that prior to the signing of the Ottawa Agreement by the Lyons Government, Australia had passed through a period of great distress and had taken grave measures in an attempt to rectify its adverse trade balance by tariff prohibitions and excessive duties. Our tariff was then revised item by item. The Tariff Board was consulted. Following the signing of the Ottawa Agreement, trade in the primary and secondary industries developed rapidly, and our two-way trade with Great Britain grew to such a degree that we became, with the exception of one dominion, the greatest buyer from Great Britain. Should we lose the substance for the shadow ? It is all very well to send delegates to world conferences, and allow the matter to rest there. I remind honorable members that at the preliminary conference which preceded the conference on international trade and employment, between 40 and 50 proposals were submitted for consideration. Some of them were excellent. Among other things, they related to clarification in the nomenclature of goods, values for duty and matters of that kind. We can approve those suggestions, and add to them, if necessary, but we should not destroy something fundamental to our very existence. Empire preferential trade has been built on the sound edifice of British trade supremacy. I recall Canning’s rhymed couplet on trade negotiations with Holland -
In matters of commerce, the fault of the Dutch
Is offering too little while asking too much.
Which is, perhaps, as true of Americans to-day, and we could say -
The result of the trading you have with the Yanks,
Is always the same - more gold in their banks.
That occurred in 1930, when the HawleySm 00 t tariff was introduced in the United States of America. It prevented the trade of the world from flowing into that country, so that gold and not goods flowed into America and made difficult the payment of reparations and trade debts. Its purpose, in effect, was to expand the export trade of America to the detriment of other countries. The vaults of the American banks thus drew off two-thirds of the gold holdings of the world, and, undoubtedly, that was the principal factor that precipitated the financial and economic depression.
The leader of the Australian delegation to the International Conference on Trade and Employment is well esteemed in the Public Service, but he has never taken any part in earlier trade discussions, nor had any association with trade. The Minister has included in the delegation, in addition to departmental advisors, representatives of chambers of commerce, chambers of manufactures, and primary and secondary industries. I appeal to him to consult them at every step, and I exhort them not to be overwhelmed by the visionary ideas of economists. If this charter be accepted as it stands, the fate of Mildura, Leeton, Shepparton and other great centres of prosperity in Australia to-day, which are dependent on British purchases in the export market, may be sealed. If these proposals are accepted in their present form, the Government may sign the death warrant of our important Australian export and manufacturing industries. Let our representatives go to the conference with our own charter. I appeal to them not to take the pessimistic, drab and gloomy statement of the Prime Minister as being anything but an apology for not being able to devise some better way out of the difficulties of to-day.
Over the years, Great Britain has always faced up to crises that have confronted it. The United States of America would be delighted to see preferences discontinued. No doubt, many nations thought that World War II. would be the last conflict in which Great Britain could participate. But Great Britain will rise again, though only if the Dominions are loyal and true to the cause of the Empire. We have large credits in Great Britain to-day, solely because the Mother Country contracted with us to buy all our foodstuffs during the war. The Prime Minister claimed that large quantities of goods were supplied to the American forces. It is true that a proportion of our food production was supplied to the American army; but it is equally true that Great Britain made us prosperous, and is now waiting to renew its trade with us. This is the Mother Country which nurtured us in our infancy, and which has been an example to the Empire and the hope of the world. It has established standards of justice, tolerance and fair dealing, which are admired to the ends of the earth. The Mother Country is in dire peril to-day. We can help by saying, “ We go to the conference at Geneva with a charter of our own, the purpose of which will be to uphold imperial preferences. We shall grant concessions only to those countries which are prepared to grant concessions to us “. Sir Stafford Cripps made such a statement yesterday, and Mr. Dalton, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that there would be no abatement of imperial preference unless there was a quid pro quo by other nations.
– That is exactly what I said when I initiated this debate.
– But the Prime Minister has contradicted the Minister. Who is the boss of the motley ministerial party? The Prime Minister tells us a story of a failing Britain, and says that we must look around for new markets. I am sure that when the Minister visits Scotland, his native land, he will then admit that he should be in tune with Great Britain. We now have in existence an economic charter which was signed in 1932 and renewed in 1938. It is still the law, and we are obliged to observe it. Rut it is cluttered up and encumbered with controls and licensing regulations imposed by this Government. We must strip away those controls, and let our tariff operate effectively. If we throw down our protection now our secondary industries will meet with disaster. Australia is looked upon by other countries as purely a primary producing country. They say that they will take our wool and wheat so long as we buy their manufactured goods. When I was Minister for Trade, and Customs, Germany proposed that they should buy £1,000,000 worth annually of our wool if we bought manufactured goods to the same value from that country. Now, in support of this charter, which will do incalculable damage to Australia, we are offered specious reasoning on behalf of the ministerial party which is divided against itself.
Honorable members supporting the Government, apparently, have not studied this problem. The Leader of the Opposition has described this issue as the most vital that the Parliament has been asked to discuss this year. I view it as the most vital matter to come before this Parliament for many years, excepting only matters which were directly concerned with the prosecution of the war. Australia’s trade preferences are now at stake. The committee which has furnished this report is described as a committee of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment, and the Minister, in his spech, claimed as a “ major success in the discussions the acceptance of the principle that the charter must be contingent on proposals aimed at the provision of full employment and economic development “. Those are mere words.
Should we sign this charter, we shall, in effect, import unemployment into this country. It is useless for the Government to be constantly saying that it believes in full employment. Every one believes in full employment; but a little thought is required in order to realize how we can provide it.
As the result of the Ottawa Agreement, unemployment among members of trade unions in Australia fell from 25 per cent, to 7 per cent, within the succeeding five years. During that period the Government of the day thoroughly studied our trade policy and effected essential amendments. In addition, of course, there was the natural desire of our people to get back to work. This country cannot develop, or bring to its shores the migrants we need to increase our resources should we sign this charter, which commits us to buy manufactured goods from other countries. I am not a prohibitionist, but a protectionist, and neither do I believe in free trade, but in fair trade. We must follow a middle course. This charter has been proposed by the most powerful nation in the world, which is now drawing to itself so much of world trade and wants to further dominate it. To sign the charter, and send to this conference representativeswho are not au fait with the problem, is to invite disaster. I urge the Prime Minister to ensure that there shall” be no surrender of Empire preference,, that our delegation at Geneva shall bethoroughly au fait with this problem, and that it shall come to terms only with* countries which are prepared to give aquid pro quo for any concession we may make.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Joint House Department - T E Govan, E. W. Hillyer.
Nationality Act - Return for 1946.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The following quantities of timber -were exported from Australia during the seven months ended the 31st January, 1947: -
The above figures total roughly 6,000.000 super, feet of hardwood and 425,000 super, feet of softwood exported for the seven months. They comprise the whole of the sawn timber exports from Australia to overseas destinations. The total quantity would not be suitable for building but the unsuitable portion cannot be extracted from the figures available. Imports for the same period from overseas were approximately 50.000,000 super, feet, practically all sawn softwood. Production in Australia was 450,000,000 super, feet sawn hardwood and 120,000,000 super, feet of sawn softwood.
War Service Homes.
n. - On the 6th March the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following questions : -
I informed the honorable member that the information requested by him was being obtained. I am now able to supply the following details : -
Homes completed - 3. (a) The information requested by the honorable member in regard to applications received from certain specified centres in Queensland from 1942 to the 31st October, 1946, was made available in November, 1946 (Hansard, No. 27, of 29th November, 1946, page S40). These figures have been brought up to date as at the 28th February, 1947, and are shown hereunder -
During the years 1942 to 1945 the activities of the War Service Homes Commission were curtailed owing to war conditions and the necessity of utilizing all available materials in the national interests.
– On the 18th March, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked the following questions : -
I informed the honorable member that the information requested by him was being obtained. I am now able to state that-
Government or the War Service Homes Commission.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Commonwealth Bank advises that, at its instigation some fifteen months ago, all banks in Australia agreed to simplify and standardize cheque forms both as regards size and location of essential details. This became necessary in view of the large and ever increasing volume of cheques passing through the clearing house and the need for banks to handle these cheques as expeditiously as possible. The plan provided, inter alia, for the elimination of all unnecessary matter. Iti order to provide adequate space on the redesigned form for the amount in words and figures it was necessary to dispense with the decorative design hitherto appearing on the left-hand margin.
e asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
War Risk Bonus.
y. - On the 20th March, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question as to whether war risk bonus payments are still being made to seamen on vessels around the Australian coast? Do those payments continue while ships are in port, or are they made only while the ships are at sea? Will ho make a statement to the House indicating the rates of payment which operate as a war risk bonus and inform the honorable member how long the Government expects these payments will continue? The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The war risk bonus is still being paid to Australian seamen and details of the rates were supplied recently in reply to a question asked by the right honorable member for Darling Downs. The amounts payable are as follows : -
In addition to the above, crews are paid an additional amount of 10 per cent. on the ordinary wage rate when serving on vessels carrying explosives or inflammable liquids. The above rates are payable as an addition to the salaries and wages of all employees serving on ships and with certain exceptions continue while vessels are in port.
It will be of interest to the honorable member to know that a new arrangement applying to British seamen, in respect to their war bonus payments, has been made. Details have not yet been received from the Australian High Commissioner of these new arrangements, although the High Commissioner has been asked to forward such information. The following is a copy of a cable from the general secretary of the National Union of Seamen, which outlines the position, although it does not give full details which have been sought : - “Please advise all British crews that cancellation of the war risk bonus simply means that it is transferred to basic wages. Arrival and sailing day clauses have now gone out of the agreement whilst holidays with pay have been confirmed and sick pay guaranteed. The 48-hour principle has been agreed with compensatory leave or pay in lieu. Overtime rates increased and all war-time hours concessions returned. No man who is still serving or having left the sea returns before 1st October will suffer any reduction whatsoever and certain loading ratings receive increases. A full conference of all branches accepted and endorsed the agreement and the complete mandate of members to merge the war risk money into basic wages has been carried out. The new agreement applies as and from 1st April. I strongly counsel all. hands to accept what has been generally acknowledged as a real agreement offering fullest hope for future”.
Upon receipt of these fuller advices, the Government will consider the position in respect to Australian seamen, and whether it will ask the Maritime Industry Commission to review the question of war risk bonus payments to Australian seamen.
n. - On the 18th March, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question concerning shipment of steel products from Newcastle to Melbourne. The Minister for Supply andShipping has supplied the following information : -
As at 13th March, 1947, there were approximately 19,000 tons of steel products awaiting shipment to Melbourne from Newcastle. The following vessels have been allotted by the Australian Shipping Board to lift this cargo: - Iron Knob - 5,100 tons due to sail 21st March; Iron Warrior - 5,100 tons due to sail 25th March; Corinda - 1,000 tons due to sail 25th March. Vessels River Derwent and Gatineau Park at present in Sydney have also been allotted to load approximately 10,000 tons as soon as existing circumstances permit. The Australian Shipping Board is aware that vessels occasionally depart from the Port of Newcastle not loaded to capacity.Thisissometimes necessary, however, in order to maintain the itineraries of the vessels concerned, and to facilitate loading of other vessels in the port. The Board has this matter under constant review, and as much tonnage as possible is always allotted to the steel tradeat Newcastle.
Mr.dedman. - On the 20 th March, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) asked a question concerning the supply of chaff bags to South Australia. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The chaff bag supply position throughout Australia has been very difficult during recent months but the supplies available in South Australia during that time have compared favorably with those available in other States of the Commonwealth. To supplement the small quantity of imported bags which have been available, arrangements were made for the manufacture of chaff bags locally from surplushessian made available by the services. which was distributed through theordinary trade channels. However, ample purchases of chaffbags have now been made fromIndia and200 bales of these are actually on the waterconsigned to South Australia, and should reach that State in a few days time. Further supplies of these bags will be coming forward fromIndia periodically and it is hoped that with these arrivals the disabilities suffered by the trade in South Australia should rapidly disappear.
Food for Britain.
Mi.dedman . - On the l9th March, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked a question, as to whether it could be stated what delays have alreadyoccurred in the departure of ships carrying food for Britain as a result of the decision of waterside workers in Sydney hot to work overtime, and by their later decision not to work at all until their overtime demands are met, He also asked what was the Minister for Supply and Shipping going to do to restore industrial peace so that food so urgently required in Britain might be despatched without delay. The honorable member will be aware that the industrial difficulty on. the waterfront at Sydney, which caused delays such as have been mentioned by him, has now been ad justed, and that watersiders are now working ships in that port. Information is not readily available regarding the delays of food ships, butapproximate figures could doubtless be ascertained if the honorable member desires this to be done. Possibly, however, the honorable member willnot require these details to be assembled, seeing that the port is now again, at work.
Real Estate Transactions.
Mr.Chifley.- On the 21st March, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkindor) asked a question regarding a recent amendment of the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations. I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
It is a fact that these Regulations were recently amended so as to provide that a purchaser of land may recover from the vendor any consideration paid to him in excess of the contract price. No land transaction which contravenes the Regulations is invalidated, but the parties remain liable tothe penalties of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. Any question of immunity from prosecution is a matter for the Attorney-General. I believe the new Regulation has had the desired effect of discouraging black market transactions in land.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 March 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470326_reps_18_191/>.