4 November 1920

8th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Senator BENNY:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Whether it is a fact that the Government have granted permission to the German Lutheran Synod to import German bibles, and have refused to grant similar privileges to the British and Foreign Bible Society!
  2. If so, on what grounds is such a loyal society as the British and Foreign Bible Society deprived of privileges which are accorded to it in every other part of the British Empire!
Senator RUSSELL:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · VICTORIA · NAT

– The answer isAs it was not considered desirable that free importation of religious literature in the German tongue should be permitted for use in Sunday schools and amongst the younger members of German communities, and as it was recognised that certain importation was necessary to meet the requirements of the older German residents, it was decided to control the supplies coming to Australia. The German Lutheran Synod was chosen as the channel through which this control should be exercised because -

  1. No other body could supply the bulk of the religious literature required by the German community;
  2. Because the English translation of the authorized version of theScriptures is not that ordinarily used by Germans in Australia.

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Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -

That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Air Navigation.

Bill presented, and read a first time.

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In Committee (Consideration of message of House of Representatives) :

Clause 22 (Liability of owner or agent for expenses of quarantine).

House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Add the following proviso : - “ Provided that the Governor-General may direct that, as regards any vessel trading exclusively between Australian ports, or Australia and New Zealand or Fiji, or other places adjacentto Australia, the expenses of carrying out any responsibility under this section shall be borne by the Commonwealth; and, upon the issue of such direction, the master, owner, and agent of any vessel to which the direction relates shall be exempt from liability for the expenses of carrying out that responsibility. “ Provided further that the Governor-General may direct that the expenses of overland passengers arising out of quarantine regulations may be borne by the Commonwealth.”

Senator RUSSELL:
VicePresident of the Executive Council · Victoria · NAT

– In moving -

That the amendment be agreed to,

I would point out that the Bill, in the form in which it left this Chamber, placed upon the ship-owner or ship agent the responsibility of paying all quarantine expenses involved in the event of an outbreak of epidemic disease upon his vessel. The amendment recommends the adoption of a fairer course. Under normal conditions, the ship-owners and ship agents will he liable for the expenses incurred in quarantine by their passengers and crews ; but in the event of a national outbreak of disease, such as the recent influenza epidemic, the Commonwealth will shoulder this burden.


– The ship-owners never bore it. They passed it on to the passengers.

Senator RUSSELL:

– But under this Bill it was proposed to make them solely responsible. Now, however, the other branch of the Legislature has inserted an amendment with which the Government are in perfect agreement. In connexion with the influenza epidemic, it will be recalled that, owing to lack of proper precautionary measures by the States, chaotic conditions resulted. We desire to possess the requisite power to prevent the spread of any such epidemic throughout Australia. That power will be used with discretion for the purpose of protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Senator EARLE:

.- One does not score too many victories in his advocacy of various principles, and consequently I rejoice that this amendment has been made by another place. Upon a previous occasion, I stressed the danger in which the isolated portions of the Commonwealth stand, in the event of such an epidemic recurring as that from which we suffered a little time ago. There was every indication that the experience of the shipping companies upon that occasion would lead them to tie up their vessels at our wharfs rather than incur the risk of being called upon to support in quarantine a considerable number of passengers, to pay the wages of their crews, and also the cost of maintaining their vessels.

Upon the 13th October last, I quoted a paragraph from the report of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the oversea carriage of goods, in which it is stated that one company trading to Tasmania lost upon a single trip during that epidemic, £1,162. Obviously, if such an epidemic recurred, our shipping companies would not be disposed to carry on a service between Tasmania and the mainland, or, indeed, between our chief ports and those parts of the Commonwealth which have no railway communication, and which are therefore dependent upon water carriage. Apart from the equity of the amendment, the Government have taken a wise step in endeavouring to avoid what would be a calamity to various portions of the Commonwealth in the event of another epidemic of disease visiting our shores. I have pleasure, therefore, in supporting the motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended to enable the message to be considered at once.

Resolution reported; report adopted.

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Bill returned from the House of Re presentatives with amendments.

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Second Reading

Senator RUSSELL:
VicePresident of the Executive Council · Victoria · NAT

.- I move-

That this Bill be now read a second time.

As it is largely a Bill for Committee, being technical in character, I intend to deal only with its general principles at the second-reading stage, but in Committee will be prepared to reply to any questions directed at any particular clause of the measure. It is too complicated to permit me, at this stage, to enter into details. I need hardly remind honorable senators of the chaotic condition of the world’s exchanges, and the problems which they present as a result of the recent war. Things to-day are not what they seem. Currency, as we understand it, quite apart from values, is not what it is represented to be. There has been a very heavy increase in the -cost of living throughout the world, due ito the partial cessation of production in all the countries that were at war; and we now find that, as a result of this dislocation of industry, exchange rates vary from J per cent, in the more favoured countries to about 62S per cent, against Poland. The desire of Australia, as expressed in recent legislation, is to give adequate protection to the industries of this country, preference to Great Britain, and, as far as possible, sympathetic treatment to our Allies in the late war ; but, owing to the peculiar movement of the exchange position, Great Britain, in many cases, is not in the enjoyment of the preference given -to her under the existing Tariff as against countries like the United States of America and Japan; and France, our principal Ally in the late war, is .heavily penalized. I do not wish to go into the details of the currency position of all the principal countries of the world. but I should like to give a comparative table of the mintage par rate and the bank rate of the following countries: -

This is a good illustration of “the chaotic condition of the “world’s currency. “We do not propose to lay down in this Bill an all-embracing lule. That cannot be done. It is our desire, if possible, to adjust the position as between Australia and other countries. At present, France is in a very disadvantageous position compared with America and Japan; so much so, that it has been stated that goods in bond from that country will not be landed for use or consumption in the Commonwealth unless the adverse exchange position is met by some “satisf actory arrangement such as is suggested in this measure. Our desire is to assist France, as far as possible, and without working any injury to our own manufacturers, in order that she may rehabilitate herself in a commercial and manufacturing sense. The Bill gives power to the Minister - for Customs to refer to the Board of Trade the method by which Customs duties shall be calculated, whether upon the mint par rate of exchange, or the bank rate of exchange. It provides that if the bank rate of exchange is more than 10 per cent, above or 10 per cent, below the mint par rate, the Minister shall refer to the Board the question whether the bank rate of exchange shall be used as the basis for the computation of value for duty on goods imported. The intention is not to alter the basis of computation merely for the sake of making an alteration, but to adjust the duty charges on an equitable basis, and thus to give expression to the declared intention of Parliament. I have here another comparative table showing the current bank rate and the mint par rate, based on the £1 sterling value; and I have no doubt that it will be of interest to honorable senators -

The industrial condition of the respective countries due to the dislocation of the industries following upon their difficulty in obtaining; raw material to carry on normal activities appears to be fairly accurately reflected in the condition of these exchanges, and it is our desire, as far’ as possible, to remove hardships at present imposed upon our Allies in the late “war, and generally to give effect to the intention of Parliament in our relationship with those countries, while, at the same time, extending a fair measure of .protection to our own- industries. The Board of Trade to which reference for the computation of duty will be made in certain circumstances will have the full powers of a Royal Commission to ascertain the facte. We cannot look for a rapid return to normal conditions, but I have no doubt that, in the course of time, as the nations of the world settle down to business again, the position will eventually right itself. ‘Great Britain is more highly developed commercially and industrially, and, therefore, is in a better position bo meet the present difficulty, but if a big country like Great Britain, with ite large population, found it necessary to take action, it must be self-evident to honorable senators that iri little, struggling Australia such protection must also be given. The matter is affecting Australia very largely, and is ako affecting France, and not to the mutual satisfaction of any of us. I trust that honorable senators will give the Bill that consideration which it deserves as an attempt to meet a national difficulty.

Western Australia

– The Minister (Senator Russell), in introducing this Bill, has made a number of very general remarks, most of which are based on the assumption that the interpretation of the law by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is the correct one. My humble opinion is that the Minister for Trade and Customs is wrong. I understand that the question is being decided in the High Court, and that a judgment will be delivered to-morrow touching the majority of the provisions of this Bill. I suggest, therefore, that it is advisable, in order that senators may be fully informed as to what actually is the law, that this debate should stand over until to-morrow. With that object in view, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted-; debate adjourned.

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Consideration resumed from 3rd November (vide page 6115) of motion by Senator Pearce-

That this Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.

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Debate resumed from 3rd November (vide page 6115), on motion by Senator Pearce-

That this Bill be now read a second time.

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) T3.34] - This is not a measure upon -which a great deal may be said, further than that it is much gore satisfactory and cheerful to be making peace than making wax. We are glad to have an opportunity to pass a measure of this kind after such a long term of the opposite condition of affairs. Bulgaria was not one of those countries with which we were brought closely in contact, although it has figured very much in the world’s affairs, like most of the other Balkan States. Those countries, although they may be small, seem to have the knack of making considerable trouble and tremendous noise in the world. Bulgaria undoubtedly acted very unfairly to the rest of the world in taking sides -with Germany as it did, and especially with Turkey, the country which inflicted those unspeakable atrocities on her not so very many years before. Bulgaria soon forgot the services rendered to her by Gladstone, when he roused the civilized world in Bulgarians favour and against Turkey. It is satisfactory for the Senate to have a measure of this kind before it, so that it may put the hallmark of its approval upon the peace which was arrived at some considerable time ago.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.

Senate adjourned at 8.40 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.