12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Allocation of Appropriation
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. No. The apportionment of the grant of £250,000 is on the following basis: -
As all lauds, buildings and works in the Federal Capital and Northern Territories are the sole responsibility of the Commonwealth, and as the Commonwealth is the only Government which can deal with unemployment in the Territories, the amounts allocated are considered only reasonable for relief of unemployment in the Territories.
In the States, however, the Commonwealth is responsible for portion only of the public buildings and works, &c, such as post offices, defence and health buildings, and the apportionment has been made on a population basis, this being regarded as the most equitable method of allocation.
Motion (by Senator Cox) agreed to -
That three months’ leave of absence be granted to Senator Greene on account of ill health.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill for an act to validate an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States providing for the compulsory conversion of securities whose holders failed to convert them in the recent conversion loan. Under the agreement, which has to be approved by the Commonwealth Parliament and the various State Parliaments, the Commonwealth is authorized to take legislative action providing that unconverted securities shall be deemed to be converted. As the measure is complementary to the
Commonwealth Debt Conversion Bill that’ was passed by the Senate yesterday, I do not think that we would serve any purpose by debating a measure in favour of the principle of which we registered an overwhelming vote. I, therefore, urge honorable senators to allow the bill to go through expeditiously.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.12]. - I quite agree with what has been said by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes). Honorable senators indulged in a full discussion of the principle of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Bill, which dealt really with the decision of the legislature regarding the action that was to be taken in connexion with dissentient bondholders. This measure is merely to validate the agreement entered into by the various governments and consists practically entirely of the schedule in which that agreement is set out. It appears to me that, as we subjected the other bill to full discussion, there is not much to be gained by debating this measure, which is complementary to the other.
, - Owing to a misunderstanding I was unable to record a vote when the bill to which this is supplementary was before the Senate yesterday. Fortunately, I was able to secure a pair against the second reading. I agree with what the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) have said, that this measure is merely complementary to the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Bill that was passed through all stages yesterday, and that there is not much use in now debating it at length. The damage has been done. Given the opportunity, I had proposed to speak against the compulsory conversion bill yesterday. However, the principles in this bill are similar to those contained in the other, and I hope briefly to express my views on this proposal for compulsory conversion.
– Without wishing unduly to restrict the debate, I point out that this bill merely provides for the commencing of the act on a date to be fixed by proclamation, and the publication of the agreement.
– I should like to say, sir, that clause 3 of this measure states -
The agreement, a copy of which is set forth in the schedule to this act, is hereby approved.
That agreement contains certain principles. In its third paragraph we find these words -
Notwithstanding anything in the aboverecited debt conversion agreement, or in the said act contained, every holder of existing securities which have not been converted into new securities in accordance with the provisions of the said act shall, notwithstanding that any holder of those existing securities may have signified or may signify dissent, be deemed to have made an application in accordance with section 9 of thesaid act for their conversion into new securities, and they shall be deemed to be bo converted accordingly.
It is my desire to speak to that clause, which appears to me to embody the major principle of the bill. We are asked to ratify this agreement. I object to the making of the agreement, and to its ratification by this Parliament. It is equivalent to declaring that black is white; that “ no “ means “ yes “. It seems to me that we propose to give legislative sanction to what is unquestionably a lie. The British people are not brought up on these princples, and I do not think, as a people, we can afford entirely to disregard ethical standards. I am not going . to review the circumstances which have led to the making of this agreement and its submission to this chamber. They arc too well known to honorable senators for me to review them at this stage. But I do say that we cannot do violence to moral and ethical principles without suffering a tremendous injury. We have been compelledto swallow things which none of us has liked. We have done it ‘ in the public interest, because our governments were in a state of crisis. Certain things that could not possibly be justified in ordinary circumstances nave been justified on the ground of political expediency or necessity. We entered upon an agreement for the conversion of our internal indebtedness, and we termed it a voluntary conversion. The last vestige of the claim that it was a voluntary conversion disappears with the enactment of a measure of this kind. At the time of the conversion the cynics said, “ You must convert; the Government holds a _ bludgeon up its sleeve, and will use it if you fail to do so “. We were assured that that was not so ; that the conversion was of an entirely voluntary character. Now the bludgeon is produced. I hold no brief for the dissenters. In order to make my own position clear, it would perhaps not be out of place for me to inform the Senate that every bond in which I am directly or indirectly interested, has been converted; and that wherever I had any influence to direct the course of action to be taken I urged bondholders to convert.
– Has the honorable senator been converted?
– I am not going to be converted to a measure of this’ description. It does violence to all ethical principles. I do not approve of it, and I take the opportunity of recording my protest against it. I am satisfied that if we do this we shall do infinite and irreparable injury to the credit and the prestige of this nation. It is a contradiction of all the traditional principles of British honour, and it cannot be justified on the ground of political necessity. It is impossible to find a precedent for anything of the kind in the history of any British community. I know that the principle has been affirmed in the previous measure. I am dealing with the principle of this agreement, to which we are asked to give legislative sanction, and I record my protest against this compulsory interference with the contract entered into between the Government and its bondholders. I regard it as a violation of the sacred and fundamental principle of conduct which should guide a government in all its dealings with the people. I should prefer a measure of default to an act of repudiation, as I regard this bill to be.
As the matter was discussed exhaustively yesterday, I shall refrain from making the speech that I intended to deliver, which would have traversed the position much more fully than does my present utterance. I take my stand against this measure, and content myself with recording my protest against a bill which, in my opinion, embodies the principle of repudiation.
– I point out that the principles of the bill conform with those of the measure that was passed by the Senate yesterday.
– During the debate on the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Bill yesterday, I endeavoured to extract from the Minister some information with respect to the position of the Commonwealth and the various States in cases where moneys have been borrowed from private individuals and institutions under a contract. We cannot by any legislation or by any provision in an agreement such as is embodied in this measure, interfere with the legal relationship between such a bondholder and the particular State concerned. There is an absence from this agreement of any provision that the States will take the necessary steps in the direction desired. Possibly, some arrangement has been come to with the various States in regard to the action that they should take. It would be rather unfortunate if, having by this legislation done what is most distasteful to a majority of honorable senators, we should find that we had left a loophole owing to the imperfection of the document that we now have under consideration. Perhaps the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) will enlighten us as to the exact position. So as to make the position clear, let me assume that B lends money to a State government. The contract is between B and that State government. Nothing that this Parliament does can alter the legal relationship between those two parties. This bill does not touch the matter in any way. Is it proposed that action shall be taken by the States affected, to bring about a position identical with that which will be brought about by the measure to which’ we assented yesterday ?
– I take it that the measure which the Senate passed yesterday, would hang in the air, so to speak, unless this measure also were passed, and that it is competent for any individual State to refuse to enact this legislation. Consequently, while this is only a machinery measure in a way- 1
– It looks as though the position was the other way round, and that we had put the cart before the horse.
– Is the honorable senator seeking information as to what he may discuss?
SenatorRAE. - I suggest that it is competent for me to give reasons why the agreement should or should not be completed.
– The honorable senator may discuss the agreement.
-While agreeing to some extent with the views that have been expressed by Senator Lawson, there is one factor which he omitted to mention that has a distinct bearing upon his argument; that is, that whenever the question of compulsion was raised during the progress of the campaign for the voluntary conversion of our internal debt, responsible members of both the Government and the Opposition said that there was a reserve power which, if the occasion arose, could be used. If that was not simply a veiled threat that compulsion would be resorted to, I do not know in what way it could be described. It sounds illogical and ridiculous to couple voluntarism with compulsion, one being the direct antithesis of the other. This is not the only case in which repudiation has been practised. The Government distinctly undertook not to repudiate any of the principles upon which it was elected; yet there has been repudiation by it in connexion with old-age and invalid, and soldiers’ pensions.
– The honorable senator is straying from the subject of the bill.
– Senator Lawson stated that repudiation of the most pronounced character was involved in this measure. I am merely pointing out that repudiation was involved also in other elements of the emergency legislation. From the very inception of the campaign for voluntary conversion, a number of us advocated compulsory conversion, and said that it was the most economical, prompt, and straightforward method by which the matter could be handled. We also argued that it was nothing but hypocrisy to say that an emergency compelled the taking of certain action, and yet to leave it to those affected to say
– This measure is the bludgeon.
– That is so.
– Is the honorable senator supporting the bill?
– Yes. because I believe that compulsion ought to have been applied at the outset. I do not approve of this way of doing things. The principle of voluntarism was not applied to other sections who were affected by the emergency legislation; repudiation was enacted in the measures that were taken to compel the acceptance of lower wages, pensions, &c. There is no more sacredness in a written, than in a verbal contract. A promise is a promise, whatever form it takes. If we were right in repudiating some promises under the hollow pretence of effecting equality of sacrifice, then I say that we are justified in asso,ciating compulsion with voluntarism in the present measure, illogical and anomalous though that may be.
– I regret the necessity for speaking on this particular measure, which is more or less noncontentious; but I disagree with Senator Rae’s definition of repudiation. So far as the old-age pensioner was concerned
– I do not think that the Minister is justified in. following up remarks by another honorable senator which verged on the irrelevant.
– I am trying to keep within the bounds of relevancy. Senator Rae attempted to prove that, if one action of the Government could be justified on the ground that it was not desired to repudiate, the same principle would apply in another case. I point out to the honorable senator that, so far’ as the old-age pensioner was concerned, we were faced with either repudiation or default.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that, as the agreement which this measure seeks to implement has no connexion with old-age pensions, the Minister is not entitled to deal with that subject.
– I have already asked the Minister not to pursue that point.
– When it comes to a question of honour - which, after all, is the main principle underlying this bill and that which the Senate passed yesterday
– Oh, no!
– I say that it is. There is a very big difference between dealing with your debtor and your creditors. We have every reason to be proud of the fact that 97 per cent, of the bondholders voluntarily converted their holdings into the new securities.
– After an expensive appeal.
– I hope that the honorable gentleman will not pursue that line of argument. If so, I must rule him out of order.
– Surely, Mr. President, you will allow me to reply to a definite attack upon the Government concerning this particular issue.
– In my opinion, the honorable senator has sufficiently dealt with the matter.
– If you are satisfied, Mr. President, I have nothing to add to what I have said.
Senator BARNES (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) ([3.32]. - The fine points that have been raised by those honorable senators belonging to the legal profession may, I think, be disregarded by the laymen in this chamber. I remind Senator McLachlan that the general scheme for the rehabilitation of the Commonwealth has not yet been completed. The Treasurer, speaking in another place, indicated what the Government proposes to do to meet individual cases of hardship, many of which, I have no doubt, will be brought under the personal notice of honorable senators. Arrangements have been made to set aside about £2,000,000 during the present financial year, and £1,000,000 a year thereafter.
– That money is to be provided by the National Debt Commission.
– The Government is giving this matter very careful consideration, and will deal sympathetically with all cases of hardship.
– The honorable senator is now dealing with the last clause of the preceding bill.
– I am aware of that, Mr. President, but I was endeavouring to make Senator McLachlan’s mind easy about the matter.
– I did not raise that point, and certainly did not discuss it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Approval of agreement).
– I am afraid that, when speaking to the second reading of this bill, I was either very, obscure in my remarks or the Minister was particularly obtuse. I said nothing at all about individual cases of hardship, but I am concerned about the position of some of the bondholders. Some of the securities affected by this bill are Commonwealth securities, and some are State securities. This Parliament is fully entitled to legislate with regard to Commonwealth securities. What I desire to ascertain from the Minister, if he knows, is whether the State Governments intend to pass complementary legislation on lines similar to the bill under discussion. If they do not, we shall be left high and dry with a number of people whose securitieshave been converted compulsorily, while persons who lent money to the States and who have not converted their holdings into the new Commonwealth securities, will be able to snap their fingers at the Commonwealth, and will be fully entitled to dema’nd their money on the due date. “Can the Minister say definitely if the States contemplate taking legislative action, or is there some provision in the preceding measure, or this bill, that will meet the position? It may be that the language employed in certain provisions of the previous bill, or in the earlier measure may be so construed as to remove any possibility of doubt ; but from my reading of the bill I fail to See bow it can be accomplished without the passing of complementary legislation by the States.
– The various State Governments have agreed to pass the necessary complementary . measures to give effect to the agreement that appears in the schedule to this bill.
-Why is not that included in the agreement? The Commonwealth is covenanting to do certain things, but there is no mention of the States covenanting to do anything.
– Since I am not a lawyer, I cannot speak authoritatively, but I understand that the Commonwealth has no power, legally, to coerce the States. It has brought this matter under the notice of the State Governments, and the States have agreed to pass the necessary legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 4th November (vide page 1438), on motion by Senator
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I join with other honorable senators who spoke yesterday in expressing the hope . that thisbill with its attached schedule will be dealt with as a non-party measure. As I have understood the position, tariffs in the past have been dealt with on that basis, and I think that there are among those sitting in Opposition,’ as well as among those on the Government side of the chamber, varying opinions as to the proper levies to impose on goods entering this country. No doubt there are also varying beliefs as to what rates of duty would best serve the revenue of the country in regard to such items as bear purely revenue duties. It appears to me that we have passed the stage when there can be any real party controversy on the subject of the tariff, unless we are going to re-orientate the whole of our fiscal beliefs, and open up again the old question of freetrade versus protection. What we have to consider in connexion with this schedule is the effect of the altered duties upon industry, both primary and secondary; whether they will prove beneficial or detrimental, and, ultimately, what will be their probable effect on the body politic of Australia.
It has been conceded, I think, that we should endeavour to secure an evenly balanced tariff. In fact, those dyedinthewool protectionists, the members of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, have hinted pretty clearly that such a tariff is needed in Australia. In its bulletin issued on the 1st June, of this year, the chamber expresses itself in these terms -
That is a solid, reasonable, and proper attitude to take up. The statement goes on -
Those are sound principles, and we should keep them in mind when considering the measure now before us. Two important points emerge from the statement which I have just read: first, that there is a realization that this country rests entirely upon its primary production; and, secondly, that unless costs of production are reduced, both primary and secondary industries are going to suffer. I take considerable comfort from the fact that those important principles are at last finding recognition in Sydney, because it has been said in the past that there is not a sufficient realization in the Mother State of the Commonwealth of the obligation which Australia owes to its primary industries. It is also evident that, if the primary industries are hit, the whole of Australia is affected. If the primary industries cannot carry on at a profit, the secondary industries will surely perish. . It is on the foundation of the primary industries that the whole of the secondary industries, and, indeed, the material welfare of the country, is based. We must keep those guiding principles in mind, and I am glad to see them formulated by an organization which is so vitally interested in the tariff policy of the country. We must keep in mind the effect of the tariff, not only upon our primary and secondary industries, but also on the overseas position. When I was abroad in 1928, which was before the tariff was anything like as high as it is now, I had an opportunity of hearing foreign representatives at Geneva express, as far as their innate politeness would allow, what they thoughtwould be the outcome of the tariff war upon which some countries were then embarking.
When at Geneva, I found that, to say the least of it, there was a feeling abroad that we were unwilling to buy the goods of any other country, but desired to pour into Europe and other centres all the primary products’ which we were capable of exporting, taking nothing whatever in return. That point was stressed in the debate yesterday, and we should not lose sight of it, because representations have been made to us from powerful quarters regarding the trade balances between various European countries and Australia. We must have regard to this matter in the interests of, not only our local industries, but also our overseas trade. We should not take tariff ‘action, even in regard to minor matters in connexion with our secondary industries - I shall allude to some of them during the debate on the tariff schedule - if it is likely to give offence to other countries. We certainly should not levy extreme duties, that immediately give rise to resentment on the part of some European nations, which are not slow to show their annoyance by imposing retaliatory duties on the primary products that we have to export.
– What countries?
-France and Germany.
– And Belgium is contemplating something of the same sort. During the period from 1921-22 to 1928-29, we imported from Italy goods to the value of £10,691,039, while, during the same period, we exported to Italy goods worth £49,121,938, or nearly five times as much as the value of the goods we took from that country. A pamphlet which’ I have before me - it is reprinted, I think, from the Daily Commercial News and Shipping List, of the 2nd May, 1930, states -
There is an idea abroad that Italy buys from Australia only those goods that cannot be obtained from nearer countries, where the goods are cheaper. There is no evidence to bear out this imaginative effort. Only half, or oven less of the wool bought in this country cannot be obtained elsewhere. The truth of the matter was, and is, that Italy is anxious to share in our trade? We have a great market for automobiles, and for machinery, both of which lines Italy produces in large quantities, of excellent quality, and beautiful finish and durability.
I am not so much concerned with the details of the matter, but, while at Geneva, I felt the hostility that was growing towards this country on the part of a nation whose representatives’ showed me the greatest friendship, in fact, a tender regard. That hostility is due to our fiscal policy. Undoubtedly, the League of Nations is now turning anxious eyes on the tariff policies of all countries.
If the world is to recover from the crisis through which it is now passing, Australia will have to recast its fiscal views.
– That is what Great Britain is doing.
– If Great Britain succeeds in balancing her trade she will do well.
– She will act in such a way as to bring about a restoration of world trade. In dealing with the tariff, we must . do everything possible to prevent the reaction which has already been caused in some countries, as indicated by the retaliatory tariff measures with respect to the primary products of Australia. We depend almost entirely upon primary production for our exports, because woollen goods and certain biscuits made in Western Australia are about the only manufactured articles that Australia exports to-day.
The Tariff Board, in dealing with this matter, has adopted, to a large extent, the principles that have been enunciated by the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures. The board, on page 19 of its annual report for the year ended the 30th June last, stated -
These relatively small importations are both a safeguard to the consumers and a challenge to the local manufacturers of the goods concerned.
There the board was dealing with the necessity for keeping a trickle of goods coming inacross the tariff barrier, and pointed out that we should not build the tariff wall so high as to exclude imports entirely.
– The Tariff Board does not have to pay for the goods that come in.
– Of course not; but it can give an unprejudiced view in regard to the tariff position. It was appointed to act as the eyes of this Parliament, and it has expressed itself in that way regarding the incidence of the tariff. If we build the tariff wall so high that the imposts amount to prohibitions or embargoes-and in some instances the duties are really prohibitive - it will be impossible to tell whether the consumers of this country are receiving a fair deal at the hands of the manufacturers. There are some so blind that they would even prevent the price-lists of manufacturers being circulated throughout the civilized world. One great disadvantage from which Australia suffers is its isolation,- which largely deprives us of opportunities of comparing our own manufactures with those of other countries. We have many miles of sea between us and our nearest manufacturing neighbours, and it is impossible to keep a check upon the efficiency of manufacture in Australia. I am willing to help the efficient manufacturer to stabilize useful industries here, withoutalienating ourselves from our friends overseas; but I am not prepared to buttress inefficiency in any shape or form.
– Which items in the tariff amount to prohibition?
– I shall give dozens of illustrations of the most stupid anomalies in this schedule, which will go down to history as the “ tin lizzie “ tariff.
– Why reflect on the Ford?
– -The Ford has at least advanced and improved, but the author of this tariff will never do so. The schedule is a thing of shreds and patches, and contains some extraordinary anomalies, due to the fact that it was begotten in iniquity. It was not examined by the Tariff Board before being submitted to Parliament. It is the illegitimate creation of a man who has not even grasped the fundamentals of economics. Even that great protectionist newspaper, the Melbourne Age, said that the tariff does not reflect the protective mind of Australia. Nobody thinks well of it, and its details must be very closely scrutinized so that we may prevent an injury to our primary and secondary industries.
– Has not the tariff balanced our overseas trade?
– I have heard that parrot cry before. The inability of governments to borrow, and the restriction of the buying power of the people, have balanced our overseas trade; that result would have been attained without resorting to this “ tin lizzie “ tariff.
In committee I shall be able to point to at least three industries which do not desire the measure of protection which has been given by the gentleman who presides over the destinies of the Customs Department, to the economic ruin of Australia. I shall mention manufacturers who were never consulted in regard to the increased imposts. At the instance of only one individual, a heavy duty was imposed on a commodity that cannot be economically produced in Australia, because of our limited market. The duties on some items are doing a distinct disservice to established local industries. Manufacturers from overseas have been encouraged to set up branch industries in Australia, in competition with local factories already in operation. In this limited market all cannot prosper, and some will have to go to the wall. I agree with the declaration of Mr. Folleta before the Tariff Board that already Australia has more factories than it can maintain. But when manufacturers overseas hear of the almost prohibitive duties imposed on certain goods produced in this country, not at the request of the manufacturers, but to suit the whim of an irresponsible Minister for Trade and Customs-
– Is the honorable senator in order in referring to a Minister appointed by ‘ the Governor-General as irresponsible ?
– I mean politically irresponsible.
– I understand that politically the Minister is responsible.
– By irresponsible I mean not answerable for the consequences of his actions. If Senator Daly objects to the word, I shall withdraw it, but I certainly cannot regard the framer of this tariff as a person with a due sense of responsibility.
– I am endeavouring to protect a man who cannot protect himself.
– I admit that lie cannot protect anything; these prohibitive duties are not protection. I have in mind an industry which was developing successfully under a moderately protective duty. There was a small trickle of imported goods over the tariff wall, but the Australian manufacturer was quite satisfied; the overseas competition kept both his workmen and his management efficient, and enabled him to have knowledge of the latest improvements on the other side of the world, and to compare his products with the goods of his European rivals. But suddenly the duties were raised to such an extent that the trickle of imports ceased. Immediately an overseas manufacturer whose appetite had been whetted by the little share he had already obtained of the Australian market - he did less than 6 per cent, of the business - sent his representative to this country to establish a branch factory.
SenatorO’Halloran. - Is the honorable senator opposed to internal competition?
– I am opposed to internal ruin, which this tariff will mean to many of our manufacturing industries. I have heard the remark that the increase of hosiery factories in Australia suggests that our women are centipedes. “What will happen to the Australian manufacturer to whom I was referring? “What chance will he have against a competitor who, probably, has been engaged in this industry for a century, and has superior experience, equipment and methods, and greater reserves of capital? There is room for only one factory, and it is obvious that the new arrival from overseas will oust the factory already successfully operating under reasonable protection. This instance is not solitary. One could overlook one mistake, due to the lack of knowledge of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the violation, of the law by the imposition of duties without previous examination . by the Tariff Board. But, unfortunately, the reactions of this mistaken policy will be felt in many industries, and established enterprises will succumb to the greater resources of new competitors from overseas.
– The goods will still be made here.
– Yes, they will be made here by a monopolist, and there will be no opportunity for the consumer to compare his output with that of his fellow competitors on the other side of the world. That will be the result; an absolute monopoly.
The principles which honorable senators should apply to this schedule are well summarized on page 21 of the annual report of the Tariff Board in the following paragraph : -
The board holds that the community in general is best served by the imposition of a duty sufficient to enable an efficient manufacturer to develop his business and secure the trade. This method tends to promote efficiency and economic production, and is much less disruptive in its operation than are prohibitive duties.
An illustration I note in passing bears out & statement made yesterday by an honorable senator who spoke of the hosiery industry. The Tariff Board says -
The same position is liable to arise in the manufacture of refrigerators. The Australian market, which is strictly limited, would appear to justify not more than two factories capable of producing economically, taking into consideration the inevitable changes of type and design. Since the imposition of the proposed prohibitive duties now in operation, the ad valorem equivalent of which range up to 130 per cent., twelve manufacturers have set out to build refrigerators in Australia. This position must result in unnecessarily high overhead costs, and ultimately lead to serious economic waste. The fact that in the course of time only the more efficient manufacturers will survive, and thus the number of factories will ultimately be reduced, is not a satisfactory answer, for, as stated by Mr. Foletta in regard to hosiery, much damage is done at the outset.
These are matters which honorable senators should keep in mind.
One of the worst features of this tariff is its arrant stupidity inasmuch as it is bound to result in the destruction of industries which the Commonwealth has been at great pains to buildup. I do not propose to refer to matters that will be more or less the subject of debate in committee; but evidence of the utter ineptitude of the administration to deal with certain angles of trade have come under my notice. I do not blame the officers of the department, or the Minister; but tariff-making is a skilled business, as I shall show by illustration. A factory producing a certain article in Australia will ask for a duty upon another article which it promises the Government it will produce at some future date with all efficiency. Its position in regard to the first article is quite satisfactory, but the production of the second article is a highly specialized piece of work. The object, however, is not to produce the second article in Australia, but to get a duty on it in order to prevent the people of this country from purchasing it, and thus foster the sale of the first article. I do not know whether that particular case has been examined by the Tariff Board, but the Minister and everybody concerned have fallen into a little trap which an ordinary commercial man, or any one interested in the trade, would have known all about after a few minutes investigation.
It is little short of criminal to attempt to submit a tariff schedule on an application of that sort, and when the Minister hears this explanation I am sure he will be satisfied that the trap should have been detected by some one. It is criminal that tariffs of this sort should be introduced without investigation by some one who is at least competent to consider questions from the commercial or manufacturing point of view.
– I take exception to the use of the words “ it is criminal that tariffs of this sort should be introduced “. What the Government has done has been to conform strictly to the law.
– I did not use the word “ criminal “ in the sense implied by Senator Daly, but if he claims that the Government has conformed strictly to the law I reply that it has not. The Tariff Board has said that the Government has not conformed to the law.
– There are no lawyers on the Tariff Board, unfortunately.
– It is a pity there are no lawyers on that board. If there were, we might then have more . enlightening reports than those we already get from the board. I certainly congratulate it on its annual report because on page 10 it deals with the point that the Government has done something illegal, and bears out the statement that the Government took the opinion of the board after it submitted its schedule to Parliament.
– Does the honorable senator withdraw the word “ criminal “?
– I did not use it in any sense which should require its withdrawal; but it is little short of a high crime to the public of this country that there should be such looseness, such utter disregard of all fundamental business principles in the framing of a tariff, where there should be certainty for the manufacturer and for the importer. We had a bomb thrown at us on the 21st November, 1929, which meant ruin to many people in this country. Some have never had employment since. Ministers’ friends, the waterside workers, lost their occupations by the hundreds. It is impossible for any country to have one-way trade. Since the 21st November, 1929, practically the whole of the time of the Tariff Board has been occupied in trying to catch up with what ought to have been done in a scientific way, with the assistance of experts, and an examination of evidence. But in respect to some of the items on which we arc asked to pronounce to-day, we are deprived of the benefit of the views of the Tariff Board. It was the duty of the Government to let us have the recommendations of the board. They should have been tabled in another place, but were not, and the schedule was bludgeoned through without any proper examination of it. There can be no proper examination of it until it has first been investigated by the Tariff Board. Again and again we find in the reports of this board most valuable information. A case that is absolutely convincing can be made out for higher or lower duties to myself, or some one else equally as ignorant as I am, but when we get to understand the ramifications of the whole thing, and all its repercussions - all that is likely to take place in regard to it - we must come to the conclusion that, without the enlightenment thrown upon it by an examination by the Tariff Board, we know absolutely nothing about the subject. The annual report of the Tariff Board brings out, in very strong relief, the laxity of the Government in this regard, and its failure to do its duty, as laid down by statute, to submit requests for increased duties for examination by “the board.
With regard to the schedule now under consideration, there has been chopping and changing. We had an export duty on sheepskins. It was afterwards removed, but not until the weevil had devoured a number of the sheepskins, though, fortunately for the person who held them, the price of the skins went up. We have had all sorts of instances of things that would not have occurred if the Minister, before he took his hasty plunge, had submitted his proposals to a proper examination by the Tariff Board. I venture to suggest that he acted in hot haste to prove himself a true protectionist.
Another feature was stressed by Senator Kneebone yesterday. I was glad to hear the honorable senator mention it. Some of us seem to have lost sight of the fact that the framers of the Constitution, foreseeing the possibility of the adoptionof a high protective policy by Australia, provided that the States which were likely to remain primary producing should have a measure of protection by the appointment of an interstate commission. But once that commission was held to be invalid or unconstitutional, solely because the appointments to the commission had to be for life, the Commonwealth Parliament failed to rise to the occasion and offer some real protection to the primary-producing States. It was never intended that these States should be dragged at the chariot wheels of other States which have within their borders all the manufacturing industries. We have certainly had some spasmodic attempts to afford relief by the appointment of various committees, but I was glad to hear Senator Kneebone say that the small States should make their voices heard in this matter. I do not speak as a little Australian; I have always stood for the realization of nationhood by the appli- . cation of a tariff; but I feel that the justice which should have been meted out to the primary-producing States has not been meted out to them. It can be done only by a tribunal of men, skilled and trained, and capable of understanding things, as the Tariff Board is to-day. An interstate commission composed of such men could examine the tariff from the angle of the disability imposed upon the smaller States by a high protective policy.
One feature to which the Chamber of Manufactures in Sydney has been good enough to refer, and which I think I must stress, is that a reduction of costs will lead to an increase of employment. I think that the levy imposed by the old tariff on the primary industries of Australia was 9 per cent. Under this tariff it may be a great deal more.
– Under this tariff it is 15 per cent.
– The honorable senator is probably right.
– Not one item has been raised so far as cost of production is concerned.
– I am glad to hear it. Many commodities, such as hosiery, about which we heard yesterday, are being sold under cost, because the economic condition of the country is such that a number of factories must have money.
What is the position of our great’ iron and steel industry, whose return on the capital invested has never exceeded 5 per cent. ? What is keeping that industry from giving a greater measure of relief to the primary producing industries? Why, the tremendous cost of production ; the payment of 36s. a day to coal-miners, and correspondingly high rates throughout. In that regard, Australia is being dragged at the chariot wheels of New South Wales. That cannot go on. These goods must be made available to Australian users at reduced prices. Any reduction in wages must be reflected in a reduction in price. That is my fiscal creed.
– A great many people get no wages at all now.
– Their number will probably be increased as time passes. The fountain head of our prosperity is being choked, and matters are likely to become worse instead of better. That is borne out by the statements of the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures.
Tariff making should not amount to prohibition. It has been said that prohibitions have been employed to enable us to attain a balance of trade, and so bring to Australia so-called prosperity. I venture to assert” that not one of the advantages that the Government has promised has come to pass. Instead, its action has brought about chaos in industry. Even the Chamber of Manufactures of Sydney expresses itself in favour of a downward revision of the tariff. That body declares that’ sound and efficient manufacturers must be saved from the destructive competition of less, efficient producers whose only excuse for commencing business is a tariff sufficiently high to protect the inefficient along with the efficient. That observation is borne out by the Tariff Board, various modern economic writers; and what was determined at Geneva.
I wish that my honorable colleague, Senator Kneebone, had gone a little further in relation to the international aspect of this matter, because it is by viewing our tariff internationally, that we shall ultimately solve our financial problems. We cannot go on making war on one another through the medium of the tariff. We can establish certain industries, and I am all for their establishment, such as the woollen industry, the iron and steel industry, biscuit manufacturing, and our fruit and other primary producing industries, all of-which are native to the country. But when we get into the realm of certain other activities, it makes us shudder at the attempt that is made to load these experiments, with all their attendant expense, suffering, and waste, on our handful of people. We must rectify the anomalies that appear in our tariff, and decrease the cost of production. I understand that when it’ was pointed out in another place that the Tariff Board had come to a recognition - in common with the whole world, except those who are so blinded by prejudice that they will not see - that something must be done to reduce tariffs in Australia as well as in other countries, supporters - of the Government retorted, “Oh, the Tariff Board has gone anti-protection “. It reminds me of a man who, having a judgment against him, accuses the judge of prejudice. What interest has the Tariff Board, when advising the Government, other than to serve the welfare of the country? In the past, it supported a pretty high protective policy, which, in the main, I was able to follow, because that policy was based originally upon a principle. Now that policy has been departed from by the Government, which has sponsored in its stead a policy that is based on no principle at all.
– Have all the reports of the Tariff Board been made available to honorable senators?
– Unfortunately, they have not. There may be some reasons why the Minister cannot make them available at this juncture. 3 revert to the enormous anomalies that are to be found in the tariff, to the despairing claim by our manufacturing concerns, our large railway workshops, local governing bodies, and so on, that certain tools and instruments which they need are almost prohibitive in price. We have to ease that burden. It is crass stupidity to insist on producing articles that cannot economically bc made in this country. We are piling up the debts of our railways to an inordinate extent. Perhaps some honorable senators will say that it does not matter very much; that it is inevitable in a country so young and so expansive, that we should lose £10,500,000 per annum on our railways. We must examine carefully every item’ of the tariff. I indicated my view with regard to the revenue side, which, I think, will react against this Government financially. I have also indicated my view as to the other side. We must bring about a reduction of costs, particularly of tools of trade which are essential to industry, and which cannot be made here economically. That can’ be done by allowing them to come in at a reduced rate of duty. We should make as perfect as possible those industries that are worth while to the country, and give consideration to the peoples who purchase largely from us. Above all, we should make some effort to give real preference to the Old Motherland, whence we have sprung. My esteemed leader put the matter very succinctly when he said that it is futile to talk, about a preference that does not exist. I am aware .that Australia is the Mother Country’s best customer. I would that she were our best customer. The opportunity was never more -favorable than that which now presents itself to Australia and the Empire generally to do something to bring about that which many of us have almost despaired of attaining during the course of our life: the stimulation and consolidation of Empire trade and reciprocity.
.- - It is the custom for a government to establish some connection between the measures that it introduces and the mandate that it has received from the people. If we ponder over the matter, we shall find it very difficult to discover any mandate from the electors for an amendment of the tariff of the severity of this one. Honorable senators may remember that about two years ago the Bruce-Page Government took its courage into its hands, as usual, and, being dissatisfied with the working of the arbitration laws of Australia, put before Parliament a measure designed to place arbitration on a much more business-like footing than it then stood. It proposed to delineate the powers of the Federal and State authorities in the sphere of arbitration. “It may be remembered that, when that became a test question in another place, that chamber, exercising the independent judgment that is its prerogative, recorded a vote that was adverse to the Government, and precipitated an election. So that the major issue of that electionthe only question that then absorbed the attention of the electors- was how arbitration should be administered in this country. No sooner did the Labour party come into power than it introduced this tariff and kindred measures. So far as I am aware, our arbitration laws have remained unaltered. Strikes have occurred in Australia, and no respect has been shown for those laws. No attempt has been made by the Government to make the people who rebelled against our arbitration laws respect them. The major issue at the last election has been entirely lost sight of by the Government, and entirely forgotten.
As an alternative to improving our arbitration laws, the Government introduced amendment after amendment to the tariff. I do not object to the introduction of a measure of this nature; but I do object to its being made a leading feature of government policy, particularly when it was not endorsed as such by the electors. An examination of the policy pursued by this Government since it assumed office discloses that it went about its task in very thorough fashion. It introduced no fewer than ten amendments of the tariff law. It increased the rates of duty by means of a special tax of 15 per cent., over the whole field of commodities, on top of which it applied the embargo - a power which belongs espedally to the Executive-to an unprecedented extent. In addition to those three actions, drastic though they were, the Government- introduced a primage duty. It is quite true that the latter was brought about at the suggestion of the Premiers
Conference, and that it was part and parcel of the Premiers’ plan. However, we have no proof that, had the Premiers Conference not taken place, the Governmnent, would not have resorted to a primage duty, as a worthy comrade to the other trio. The imagination of the Government is apparently derived from a perpetual spring, and it is allowed full play. It causes the Government to believe that it has received a mandate from the electors to do these things. I challenge the Government to substantiate that mandate - the product of its fecund imagination.
I may be pardoned for claiming to be one of a small band of federal legislators who, for a number of years, have remained loyal and steadfast to the belief that the way in which the tariff has been handled has not been for this country’s good. We are very glad to have bad our actions vindicated by the highest authorities in this country, and even outside this country, and are pleased to learn that our numbers are now reinforced by others who have been converted to our view, and have now formed what must be a solid phalanx in this chamber. With their assistance it seems likely that our hopes will be brought to fruition in the amendment of the schedule that we now have before us. I welcome that accession of strength.
I declare at the outset that I am and always have been a protectionist, and that I hope to remain one so long as I am entrusted with the suffrages of my electors. I am a protectionist from conviction; I believe that, without a protective policy, Australia would not be able to survive. How otherwise could we deal with that portion of our population which every year passes from adolescence to manhood ? We have a population of 6,500,000, and the normal rate of increase is 2 per cent. Therefore, at least 130,000 persons attain their majority every year. The problem presents itself, how are we to absorb that accession to the ranks of our wage-earners, unless we see to it that we have a properly-balanced system that will enable every task to be performed justly and progressively ? The prospect of converting our customs houses into playhouses, and tearing down our customs barrier, I confess is a bewildering one, because of the imperative necessity for placing those 130,000 persons every year in some kind of profitable employment. If we cannot do so, then we shall certainly have to adopt a policy of emigration. They cannot all be absorbed in primary industries, or be expected to depend upon secondary industries for the wherewithal to live. We could struggle along under such conditions, but we could never hope to become that greater, better, and more prosperous community that we would be if those persons were given a reasonable chance of succeeding in co-operation with the primary field of industry. But there is a vast difference between giving them that legitimate form of encouragement and the encouragement that has been given by this and previous schedules, all of which have worked in the wrong direction.
A number of excuses have been put forward for the very heavy surcharge that is levied upon existing rates of duty. It is said, for example, that we must balance our trade. I do not know that there is any particular necessity for balancing the trade of this country to-day. It is doing very well, for the simple reason that it is enabling the primary industries to secure for the first time for ages an increment of something like one-third of the value of their production, in addition to what would be received were the exchange rate at par. The present exchange rate imposes a handicap on the importer which ought to satisfy the desires of even the most drastic and rabid protectionist.
Previous speakers have referred to “ infant industries “ or their equivalent. The plea on their behalf has been put forward from time to time over the greater part of the last century, in not only this but also every other country. These are industries which, apparently, are of the Peter Pan type; they can never grow up; they suffer perpetually from a form of infantile paralysis, and need the constant stimulus of tariff protection. Senator Payne has referred to the means adopted under this schedule to sustain and encourage these industries, which can never and will never grow up. It is about time that we examined the circumstances surrounding industries that are unable to reach man’s estate. Those that could not overcome all forms of adversity in from five to ten years I would allow to die a natural, painless death.
– Even the wheat industry must be assisted occasionally.
– I knew that that subject would be raised, and was waiting for it; in fact, I am surprised that it was not mentioned earlier. But I would rather it had come from a representative of any State other than the prosperous State of New South “Wales, which under the policy of protection has benefited to an unlimited extent at the expense of all the other States. The wheat-growers are now to be given a bounty of 4£d. - do not forget the “ half -penny “ - a bushel on wheat marketed, as a sort of solatium for all the benefits that they have conferred in the past upon secondary industries. They have gratuitously and freely allowed themselves to be levied upon for the last 30 years so that secondary industries might be built up.
The Royal Commission on the Constitution was asked to express an opinion as to the extent to which the different industries of Australia were called upon to bear the tariff burden of this country, and singled out the wheat and gold industries as being called upon to contribute at the rate of 14 per cent, of the cost of production. Thus the wheat-growers of Western Australia contribute annually about £1,000,000 towards the upkeep of a protective system, from which they derive nothing but the burden it heaps upon them. The 4£d. just mentioned will be only just half of the wheat men’s contribution to the industries of Eastern Australia. Had I my way; I would throw back at those who offer it, the odd halfpenny of the wheat bounty; but I should probably be restrained by the thought that it might be accepted. As I have stated many times previously, the wheat industry would not have asked for assistance had it riot been forced to do so on account of the terrible stress of circumstances in which the wheat-growers find themselves to-day. That is admitted by all. By helping the wheat-growers we indirectly .help ourselves. Aristotle ages ago propounded an immortal truth when he said, “In the majority of cases sympathy is, after all, but a long-sighted vision of one’s own future predicament “. In this case the person who helps the wheat-grower simply has the idea that at some future date he may be similarly situated and may need assistance just as badly. Any assistance that is given to the wheat-grower will be returned a. thousandfold. In the language of Senator Foll, let me hear no more of this superficial reasoning.
This tariff schedule is crammed with devices for supporting the Peter Pan industries, the little chaps who will never grow up. The plea on their behalf has been advanced over and over again, until it has been worn threadbare. Yet it is brought out as fresh as ever, and with just as much plausibility as of old. I am a protectionist in the abstract, because I consider that protection is absolutely necessary for the welfare and prosperity and the economic progress of Australia. In saying that, however, I must draw the line sharp and deep at the degree of protection that I am able to afford so as to hold the scales equitably between all interests and all forms of endeavour while acting in the interests of the manufacturers themselves. In this country, however, the tariff legislation enacted has been responsible for the drying up of that source of income upon which manufacturers have drawn. If this schedule be passed, the result certainly will be to drain to the last drop that fountain of monetary assistance which springs from those who can ill afford to have any further imposts placed upon them.
Protection in the abstract is very necessary. At the present time Australia enjoys the protection of the British navy. Those huge grey shapes that steal silently across the oceans in all climes and all weathers have kept watch and ward over the British-born, and have enabled him to sleep in peace in. his island home. That same instrument of protection has enabled the overseas Britisher to build up for himself a happy home in a prosperous environment that he could not have enjoyed in any part of the world without its protection.
The Monroe doctrine is a form of protection instituted by the Americans, the essence of which is, “ So far and no further shall we permit any European encroachment upon our continent, because of the entanglements that might result, and because of the danger to our national integrity and the social standards wrapped up in that integrity and independence.”
The Roman wall that Julius Caesar built in Britain was a form of protection against the hardy forebears of Senators Guthrie, Reid, Payne, and Plain, to prevent them from attempting to overthrow Roman rule. Senator Payne is a worthy son of a hardy race which came from the granite hills and glens of Scotland, stormed the Roman wall, and made so many breaches in it, that even proud Imperial Rome at last, was humbled. He will stand up, as did his forebears, and resist the attempt to build round this country a Roman wall which would isolate it from the rest of the world.
Then there is the Chinese wall, which the Ming Dynasty found it necessary to erect against the Mongolians. Those were forms of protection which, according to the collective wisdom of the powers responsible for them in their time and place, were considered absolutely necessary. But the difference between them and the protection which this schedule affords is that they were subscribed to, generally speaking, by the whole of the population; whereas this belongs to the biased, lopsided, partial variety, which calls upon one section of the population to pay for its upkeep, while another section takes shelter under its wing and as a consequence enjoys a prosperous, an easy, a soft,, and, above all, a profitable existence. That is the difference between the old protection and the new. As I have said before, the tariff was too high, even before the latest increase. That it is now unreasonably high is proved by the fact that it has almost entirely destroyed so many of our big worth-while industries. I do not in the least over-paint the picture when I say this; but if any honorable senator is disposed to doubt my words, I invite him to study the views of those independent experts, Professors Brigden, Copland, and Giblin, Mr. Wickens, the Commonwealth Statistician, and Mr. E. C. Dyason, who were instructed by the
Bruce-Page Government to make an economic inquiry into the effects of the tariff upon Australian industries. I do not think I can do better than place on record extracts from what they say, because their conclusions are so important that they should not be forgotten and, moreover, one cannot 3ay a good thing too often. On page 144 of their survey of the economic effects of the tariff, will be found these words -
Taking all these influences into account, so far as possible, we can only conclude that the present costs of protection are dangerously high.
On page 229 the same authorities make the following comment: -
The distribution of Australian industries has been substantially modified by the tariff. Assistance to protected industries has been provided chiefly at the expense of the export industries.
These are the conclusions of men well qualified to make such an expert examination, and specially selected by the former administration to ascertain the effect of protection upon our established industries. They declare in unequivocal terms, that the export industries are bearing an undue share of the burden.
Let us now turn to the financial aspects of these industries. To aid us in this investigation I invite honorable senators to study the reports and figures supplied by the Taxation Commissioner. It is necessary to do this if we are to know exactly how each class in the community is faring under protection, and to see whether certain industries are progressing or retrogressing. Again we find that our primary industries are suffering severely from the tariff. The official figures show that in 1919 the taxable income of our wheat-farmers amounted to £12,000,000; in 1927-28 it had shrunk to £6,000,000; In other words, our principal rural industry has been faring so badly that within a period of eight years the taxable incomes of those engaged in it has been reduced by one-half. How have our wool-growers fared in the same period? In 1918, their taxable income was £14,000,000. Eight years later it had shrunk to £10,000,000.
– In 1927 prices were good compared with the present rate.
– I agree with Senator Guthrie, who is regarded as one of the leading authorities on the wool industry in Australia. In 1927 prices for wool were good compared with those ruling to-day, so if the position of our woolgrowers was bad then, how much worse has it become since?
Let us see now how the manufacturers have been faring. According to the report of the Taxation Commissioner, their taxable income in 1918-19 was £2,442,000. Eight years later it had risen to £17,000,000. Thus we find that, while the taxable income of our wheat-farmers, during the eight-year period ending in 1927, was practically cut in half, and the taxable income of our wool-growers had been reduced by- 30 per cent., the taxable income of the manufacturers had increased more than seven-fold. The total taxable income of all classes of taxpayers in 1918 was £123,000,000. Eight years later it had increased to £166,000,000, showing that there had been , an appreciable increase in taxable income over the whole range of taxpayers during the period mentioned. But the point I wish to emphasize is that the two main rural industries, wheat and wool, fared very badly indeed, largely because they were called upon to bear an undue proportion of the tariff burden in the form of higher prices for all commodities used by them. And since this Government came into office their difficulties have been further increased because of the higher duties imposed ou so many items.
– But is it not a fact that two of the primary-producing States are thinking of seceding ?
– There is a movement for secession in at least one State, and for a very good reason, as I shall show before I finish. Judged by any test which we may apply to the. tariff, it can be shown that the primary-producing States like Western Australia and South Australia reap little or no advantage whatever from our present protective system. Victoria and . Queensland share in the major benefits. New South Wales comes in midway. Senator Crawford just now reminded us that at least one of the primary-producing States is talking of secession. Why should not the people in :those States direct their thoughts along those lines? Why should they continue to be the beasts of burden for the manufacturing interests in the Eastern States?
– It might be a good thing for Australia if they did secede.
– It would be a sorry day for the Eastern States if they did. I hope they will succeed in seceding. The citizens of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia are called upon to pay most towards the upkeep of our protective system, and they reap the least profit from it. The attitude of the advocates of high protection, and they are to be found mainly in the Eastern States, reminds me of the story told of the Yankee card-sharper who, it is said, plied his calling with playing-cards at one end of a railway carriage, and distributed Bibles at the other. They want to have it both ways. For many years the primary producers of Western Australia have been crushed between the upper and nether millstones of our protective system. The people of that State may be regarded as the cream of Australia, because the development of that great country called for the display of almost superhuman qualities. But latterly, and largely because of difficulties directly due to the creation of artificial standards in secondary industries in the Eastern States, they have found the burden of protection intolerable. How they continue to stand up against it, I do not know. Now they are talking of secession, and not without good cause. They find that if they seceded from federation, they could finance their public departments, pay their proportion of the public debt,’ and be about £2,000,000 to the good every year. That is what federation is costing Western Australia. I, therefore, say advisedly, that if the present trend of the protective policy of this country is continued, whereby States like Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, and the rural portions of New South Wales and Queensland are over-burdened as they are to-day, there will be smouldering discontent, which one day may develop into a mild form of revolution, if not something worse, and eventually lead to the secession of the disaffected portions of the Commonwealth. I sincerely hope that there will not be open conflict between the opposing forces. But we should be careful about creating the conditions precedent to such dangerous developments. No one would like to see that occur in this country, where the people enjoy the widest franchise in the world, and have every opportunity to give free play to their political views. Why should the well-established interests in the Eastern States be so willing to impose such an unfair burden on the primary producers in Western Australia and South Australia? It costs more to transport a bushel of wheat by rail 300 miles in Australia than it costs American farmers to transport a bushel of wheat from Chicago to New York and from New York to Liverpool, a distance of 1,000 miles by rail and 3,000 miles by sea. Our competitors in Canada and the Argentine are in the same favoured position. Haulage rates in those countries are much lower than in the Commonwealth. Australia is so isolated and so distant from the world’s markets that, apart from unfair tariff burdens, our primary producers are sufficiently handicapped in competition with farmers elsewhere. If they are called upon to carry heavier burdens, very many of them will be driven out of business, and we shall find them drifting to our capital cities, there to enjoy the more favoured conditions prescribed by wagefixing authorities and arbitration tribunals.
It is significant that, whenever tariffs are under consideration, the urban workers make common cause in this Parliament with their employers. Time and again we have seen manufacturers arminarm with their employees in an attempt to secure a greater measure of protection for their particular industries. Have we ever seen our wheat-farmers and their employees making common cause in applicantions to this Parliament for financial assistance? Have we ever heard of -the pastoralists and the shearers approaching Parliament with the same end in view? No. For . the greater part of the time our pastoralists and shearers are nearly always at one another’s throats, but manufacturers a.nd their employees are wiser. They make united demands upon the Commonwealth Parliament for higher and still higher protection, so that they may extort from the people of Australia greater profits and higher wages. What is needed is an equality of sacrifice between the two sets of industries. This schedule will increase’ the difficulties of our primary producers, because it establishes a disequilibrium of the burden which should be shared equally by our rural and secondary industries alike. When conditions are equalized by the imposition of a reasonable tariff, the countryman will, for the first time in his life, be able to prosper. There is no reason why their interests should not be reconcilable and co-incident. .
The tariffs which have been enacted by previous governments have created conditions which made the present tariff seem necessary. The workers find that, as a result of the operation of the tariff, costs have gone up, and if their industries are to prosper, there must be still further additions to the tariff. It is a matter of scratch where you itch, and itch where you scratch. Australia has persisted in this sort of tariff policy until she has developed an economic sore.
Protection received its first great impetus in Australia when it was adopted by the Labour party. Except for that, it never would have achieved the popularity which it has since attained, tod the Labour party embraced it for purely political reasons, as I shall show. The Labour parties in other countries are not protectionists. In Canada, the Labour party does not favour protection, and in the United States of America the Labour party is neither protectionist nor freetrade. The Socialist party in Germany keeps an open mind on the subject, and is neither protectionist nor freetrade. In Australia, the Labour party embraced protection, not to serve the interests of the nation, but to serve its own narrow, petty, parochial party interests. As an old Labourite, I listened on one occasion to the president of the Seamen’s Union in Sydney uttering a statement which was published far and wide throughout the country, and reechoed as an unchallengeable truth at the time. The question under discussion was freetrade versus protection, and an effort was being made by a section of the Labour party to have protection adopted as a plank of the Labour platform. The president said: “ Do not introduce that subject, I counsel you, because if you do it will be worse than introducing the subject of religion. Let every man think as he pleases on that thorny issue “.
That was the attitude of Labour in the old days, and it persisted until a younger generation arose which desired to serve its own interests at the expense of the nation. There was a time when Queensland was the stronghold of Labour in Australia. Now that State has turned away from Labour, because the latter-day policy of the Labour party does not suit the people. Western Australia used to be second only to Queensland as a Labour State, but it also turned away from Labour because it found that the Labour policy was of no use to it. I remember that Sir John Forrest used to complain of his political isolation in this Parliament. In a like manner, South Australia and Tasmania generally ceased to support Labour principles, when that party adopted a policy contrary to the interests of the people. The Labour party then resolved to shorten its fighting front, seek its support in the cities, and not from the country, and its policy has ever since been directed to furthering the interests of the cities at the expense of the country. Of the 39 ministerial supporters in another place, no fewer than 25 represent urban areas of 30,000 population and over. It is clear that, when a parliamentarian represents an urban area, he will speak and act in the interests of the people in that area.
– I have no desire to curtail the honorable senator’s speech, but is he in order in introducing matter which, if used by myself, would be immediately ruled out of order?
– The honorable senator must not reflect on the Chair.
– I had no intention ofJ doing so, and if that interpretation can be placed upon my remarks I hasten to express my regret. I ask, Mr. President, whether the honorable senator- is in order in discussing what the latter-day Labour party thinks upon the subject of protection ?
– The honorable senator has been tracing the history of protection with a view, I presume, to explaining the present tariff, but he must confine himself to historical statements which are not likely to prove offensive to other persons.
– It was far from my intention to offend any one, and I am sorry if the truth should have made any one feel uncomfortable. However, the truth must out; that -is my doctrine. I was endeavouring to prove that the protectionist policy, due to its adoption by the Labour party, has received a measure of respect to which it would not” have been entitled had it been left an open question. The 25 urban representatives who supuort the Government are only onethird of the zneinbers of another place; yet those 25 men, voting in caucus, have been able to fasten this outrageous measure of protection upon the county It is not the Parliament but they who are ruling Australia.
– Did the honorable senator say “ ruling “, or “ruin- ing”?
– If I had said “ ruining “, I should not have been far wrong. These 25 men are, in effect, ruling Australia, and the other fourteen supporters of the Government, representing rural constituencies, are being dragged behind them like a chain-gang. That is not parliamentary government. Parliament, as I understand it, should be a body of men coming directly from the constituencies, and speaking and voting as their consciences direct. There should be no meddling voice interfering between them and the electors, but, at the present time, the doctrine of party solidarity compels the elected representatives of the people to vote against their own beliefs in order to put into effect a policy which has not been adopted by the Parliament of this country. It has thus come about that, instead of having an Australian Government, we have a town Government; in fact, a sort of municipal Government, and a poor municipal Government at that.
-Several members of that Government are Irishmen, like the honorable senator himself.
– The honorablesenator who has just interjected has little enough regard for the interests of the men and women whom he represents, when he supports a policy which makes it virtually impossible for the wool, grain, and other primary produce of his State to be sold at a profit. That same policy was responsible for France imposing a retaliatory duty on Australian wheat.
– The honorable senator is just as much out of order as was Senator Hoare.
– I suppose I cannot blame Senator Hoare for looking up to Irishmen. No doubt even he is a little better for his association with them. I have always found that, when a clear stream junctions with a muddy one, it purifies, to some extent, the muddy waters with which it mingles.
This tariff has not received the sanction of the sole instrument that was devised by this Parliament to guide it on fiscal matters; I refer to the Tariff Board. Item after item in the schedule of 400 items has never been referred to the board. This schedule has been pitchforked before us. It has been presented without system, without facts or figures, with neither rhyme nor reason. A tariff schedule is a most important document, since it has much to do with the everyday life of the whole community. The schedules that have been brought down during the last two years have put large fortunes in the way of certain individuals. I have heard, in private conversation with men I have met when travelling on the railways, that they did not desire or ask for the duties that had been imposed, but that money had been thrown into their laps as a result of this Government’s action. This was a voluntary statement made to me. Honorable senators must realize that somebody has to pay for the tariff benefits that have been distributed, and it is their duty to stop the practice. Those who have derived monetary advantages from tariff imposts know that other poor wretches have had to provide the money which they have received and to which they are not entitled. The Tariff Board presented a report to this Parliament deploring the present tendency of tariff legislation, but the Government ignored that report because it was not sufficiently protectionist in character to suit its purpose. A protectionist policy pleases the people in the ,cities and towns of Australia, but it can never appeal to those in the country. One section is the parasite of the other; one sustains the other. The man on the land works from early morning till late at night, and denies himself and his family circle those things which come easily to the town man. The present tariff schedule intensifies that lopsided state of affairs. How can we permit such an outrage on the people to pass without scrutiny? “We should not allow its We have reached the time when we shall have to add another wonder to the wonders of the world, because certain members of the community are getting what they do not ask for. An old biblical maxim runs - “Ask and ye shall receive “ ; but it seems to me that in regard to tariff matters that text should be remodelled on the following lines: “Receive thou without asking, even against thy will “.
The charge that I have made can be substantiated again and again before we have finished with this schedule. Take, for instance, the position of the confectionery industry in Melbourne. A leading manufacturer stated before the Tariff Board, “ We do not want a duty ; we can carry on without it “, but the Government replied, “You must have it”. Are the scales of justice held evenly between the manufacturers and the consumers, when a man who knows all about his business is given something which he declares he does not want? One mightpass from one absurdity to another. This tariff, which is ‘full of anomalies, is to be propped up in a hundred different places. It is just as futile as would be an effort to get under this Parliament House and raise its foundations. What sort of a building could we expect to have if we tampered with its foundations? Instead of dealing with the tariff in a systematic manner if it needed it the Government has presented an ill-balanced schedule. I hope that the good sense of the Senate will once more assert itself, and that we shall refuse to accept what the Government has offered us. This tariff might appeal to a class of citizens who have no regard for the welfare of the people. It might appeal to the cities and towns and opulent industries, but instead of a town government, we require one that will have regard for the interests pf all sections of the community. We have a government seeking to impose a city policy upon a continent. It is high time the claims of the country were given a hearing. If the rural section does not receive a fair deal, the inevitable result will be that the man on the land will say to the man in the city, “ I am full up of this treatment. I can go on no longer “. That time is fast approaching, and it will be an evil day for Australia. We cannot expect the man on the land to struggle on unless he has a reasonable chance of making ends meet and enjoying some of the good things of life that come so readily to the city dwellers.
I have looked into the condition of affairs in Canada, which is comparable, in many respects, with Australia. 1 have considered the tariff history of the United States of America from the time when that country secured its independence. From 1790 up to about 1861, just before the War of Independence, the highest duty in the United States of America was not more than 35 per cent., and in Canada it was even lower than that. The heyday of Canadian progress was attained during a period in which the average rate of duty was 17 per cent. Chomley, a political writer who was educated at the Melbourne University, shows in his book, Protection in Australia and Canada, that until the Laurier Government came into power in Canada in 3897, the average duty there was never greater than 25 per cent. Laurier removed the duties on wirenetting, binder twine, and a host of other commodities in daily use by the farmers. Twenty-five years ago, Canada was able to export about £4,000,000 worth of primary and manufactured- products annually, and to-day the annual value of its manufactured exports is nearly £90,000,000. [Extension of time granted.]
It will do us much good to cast a retrospective glance at what has happened in young countries that correspond to our own. I have consulted numerous authorities in an effort to ascertain exactly how Canada attained its present satisfactory position as both a primary producing” and manufacturing country. The manufacturers of Canada have succeeded under a moderate tariff. The Laurier tariff reduced the duties on iron and woollen goods by half, and even up to three-fourths, and during the period when the economic progress of that country was at its height, when the manufacturing industries were going full”’ blast, they were carried on with an average rate of duty of 17 per cent. Why cannot Australia do what Canada has done with British workmen? Canada has no arbitration court similar to that in Australia, but a better spirit obtains there than in this country between employer and employee. Labour men in Canada arc as unlike those in Australia as the darkest night differs from the noonday sun. Canadian credit to-day stands on the mountain top compared with that of unfortunate Australia, whose credit must be searched for down in the cellar. When Canada recently approached the Wallstreet market she was able to raise a loan of £20,000,000 at a shade over 4 per cent., yet the credit of this country was once as good, if not better than, that of Canada.
Australia has been brought almost to ruin, largely as a result of the advice given by the leaders of Labour in this country, who have caused much ill feel.ing, bad blood and jealousy between the various sections in the industrial field. The Canadian Labour party is not wedded to protection. It passed a resolution eschewing both policies in politics. The Australian Labour Party, being a suburban party, naturally adopts the policy that it thinks will appeal to those who send its members into Parliament, and give them place and pay; but, on the other hand, it ought to do what is in the best interests of the country, because, if the country does not prosper it. is a dead certainty that no section of it can permanently prosper. When the buying power of a country falls down the selling power of the city can never stand up. Percy Ashley, in his Modern Tariff History, sums up against the enactment of a high protectionist policy before a country is in a condition to adopt it with success. Australia, in one jump, imposed duties as high as those adopted in the United States of America under the McKinley and Dingley tariffs, after that country had been in course of development for about 130 years. Canada’ has never put into operation such high duties as Australia has imposed, and yet the secondary industries of that country are in a prosperous condition. I hope that “as a result of bringing common sense to bear on the schedule before us, a reasonable tariff will be evolved.
I shall not be a party to any injustice to the manufacturers ; at the same time, I intend to do what I can to ensure that those primary producers who form the base of the Australian economic pyramid are less unjustly treated in future. My endeavour will be to hold the scales evenly, for upon the prosperity of all sections the true welfare of Australia de- ‘ pends. We cannot continue a lop-sided policy which gives all the favours to one section, while others bear the greater share of the burden. If only as sportsmen we should give equal opportunities to all competitors in the industrial field. The standards of living that are considered to be the right of producers in the cities should be extended to those in the country alike. If the man on the land worked the same hours and received the same rates of pay as the man in the factory the production of wool, wheat, and butter could not be continued at present prices. It will be an evil day for Australia when primary production can no longer be conducted profitably.
– If mere violence of language and vehemence of denunciation could do it, the speech of Senator Lynch would have destroyed the tariff schedule, and everything depending upon it. But, unfortunately for Senator Lynch, the Senate has to judge the tariff on facts, and the honorable gentleman treated us to very few facts in the course of his long speech. Indeed, he said very little about the tariff. We are accustomed to expect when he speaks on any subject, an impassioned protest against the wrongs of the primary producers. He is their champion in this chamber. All honour to him for that, because the primary producers need all the championing they can get. But on occasions they might well . ask to be saved from their friends. Any student of the tariff history of Australia must admit that the greatest protectionists in this country have, at all times, been the primary producers. As far back as 1831, before a customs tariff was introduced in Australia, the farmers of New South Wales approached Parliament for a duty to protect them against importations of maize, which, if continued, would, they said, spell their ruin. They were the fathers and mothers of the Australian protectionist policy, and their successors have consistently supported it. Senator Lynch, referring to the composition of parties in the House of Representatives, said that, whilst the primary producers were represented by a few members who fought for country interests, the great city interests returned a majority of the members who were pledged to a policy that was inimical to the man on the land. What are the facts in regard to the State I represent? Nearly all the great wheatgrowing areas of New South Wales are, and always have been, represented by protectionists.
– I do not think that will always be the case.
– I am dealing with the facts of to-day. Sir William Lyne, probably the stoutest protectionist who has sat in this Parliament, represented a rural constituency, and nearly all the wheat-growing districts are represented by Labour members pledged to protection.
– Because of the offer of 6s. 6d. a bushel.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the farmers sold their political birthright for a mere promise by an irresponsible candidate? Time and time again the great wheatgrowing areas of New South Wales have declared unequivocally for protection.
With the possible exception of the woolgrowers, every section of primary producers is receiving a considerable amount of protection under this tariff.
– What does the meat-producer get?
– I remind the honorable gentleman that when New Zealand meat was being brought onto the Sydney market because of the high prices that were being demanded for Australian meat, the pastoralists of Queensland and New South “Wales almost rose in rebellion and demanded protection against the imports from the sister dominion. Dairymen are not only protected by a substantial duty on butter and cheese, but they have evolved also a form of internal protection known as the Paterson scheme. The fruit-growers and processors demand high protection for dried and canned fruits. “When the citrus-growers of New South Wales were experiencing the intense competition of oranges and lemons from California, they were not slow to ask for sufficient protection to exclude American fruits. The ricegrowers have repeatedly asked me to assist them to get effective protection for their industry. I remind Senator Payne, who made a violent freetrade speech, that the hop-growers of Tasmania want protection, and I think I have heard the honorable gentleman espouse their claim in this chamber.
– And he has asked for protection for paper pulp.
– That is so. The maize-growers demanded protection to the extent of prohibition against imports from South Africa. The sugar-growers enjoy a large measure of protection.
– What of potatoes?
– The potatogrower is protected. A few years ago the poultry-farmers were experiencing keen competition from eggs imported from China. They asked for and obtained protective duties, which they still enjoy. Can Senator Lynch tell me of one section of primary producers that is not receiving protection in some form - some of them to a greater extent than the manufacturers?
– The wool-growers receive no protection at all.
– No, but by our protective policy we are building up a great woollen manufacturing industry that will ensure to wool-growers in the future a remunerative local market. Already the demand by Australian mills is having a beneficial influence on the price of wool.
Listening to the speeches that have been delivered in the Senate on this tariff schedule it is difficult to believe that this is an Australian Parliament. I do not know in what other country the freetrade sentiments of some honorable senators would be acceptable, because there is not one of importance that has not adopted a protective policy. Hitherto Great Britain was held up as an example to the world; it was pre-eminently the country in which the glories of freetrade were most convincingly revealed, but the people of the United Kingdom, faced with acute unemployment, losing their markets to protectionist countries, and experiencing financial and trade difficulties greater than at any other time in their history, have returned to power a government pledged to the immediate introduction of a tariff, and .with the greatest majority ever given to any government in the Old Land.
– Has any honorable senator spoken in favour of freetrade?
– There has been a general attack upon the protectionist policy, and the aspersions upon our manufacturers have aroused my indignation. I have the utmost respect for those who are engaged in secondary production in this country. And when I remember how important and of what immense value the manufacturing industries are to Australia, I feel that my antagonism towards attacks upon them is abundantly justified. The Pocket Compendium of Australian Statistics, for August, 1931, issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, gives the estimated production value of all industries in Australia for the years 1927 to 1930. For 1929-30 the figures were : - Agricultural, £77,000,000 ; pastoral, £S6,000,000; dairy, poultry, and bee farming, £49,000,000; forestry and fisheries, £11,000,000; mining, £17,000,000; manufacturing £149,000,000.
– Because of the tariff.
– I quite agree with those who say that the prosperity of this country is almost entirely dependent upon the well-being of the primary industries; I would not seek to controvert that truth; but if it is admitted, as
Senator Payne claims, that the great value of the production of manufacturing industries in Australia is due to the operation of the Australian tariff, is it not something worth while that our tariff should so be able to build up our manufacturing industries until they are, in the matter of production, of greater value than any other industry in Australia?
– “What is the value of the export trade of the primary industries?
– I shall deal with that point presently. I have not quoted these figures for the sake of belittling the primary industries. They are of the utmost importance to Australia; but while we give them all praise for what they have done for this country, and will do for it in the future, we should not lose sight of the fact that our secondary industries are also worth preserving, and are of value to Australia. If we were to become what some people would have us become, mere wood and water joeys - primary producers for the people in other countries, importing all our manufactured requirements from them - we should be in a very pitiable condition, indeed.
– We are in a pretty bad condition now, are we not?
– There are many other countries in a worse position, but we are emerging from the morass. I feel certain that we shall find our feet much more speedily than any other people. I want to be fair. Australia’s improved position has been brought about by an increase in the price of our primary products, and not in the value of the output of our manufacturing industries. In a discussion of this kind, we can afford to survey the whole field of industry, and not merely keep our eyes turned iri the direction of one section, primary or secondary.
– -In order that, we may do so, will the honorable senator give me now the respective values of the export of primary and secondary industries ?
– I propose to deal with that matter before I conclude. We have practically no export of manufactured goods.
– Why not?
– I am prepared to say why not; but I want to make my speech in my own way. If I am permitted to do so, it will be much more satisfactory to me, and, perhaps, to the Senate.
I have endeavoured to point out that those honorable senators who have spoken of the policy of protection, in a way which I can only call derogatory, do not truly represent the opinions of the great majority of the people of Australia. I am aware that a kind of false psychology has been set up in this country as the result of a very long and intense newspaper campaign in favour, not altogether of freetrade, but certainly of much reduced duties. For months we have been reading in the press of Australia in various States- long articles saying what the Senate would do when it reached the tariff; how it would mutilate it, and tear down the barriers set up by another place - barriers that should not have been set up.
– The papers were only repeating what some honorable senators said.
– That may be so ; nevertheless, this campaign, so deliberately entered upon, has had some effect upon the minds of certain people. I may say, however, that I know of very few constituencies, with the exception, perhaps, of some in Western Australia, which, of course, is in a somewhat different category from the Eastern States’, in which any candidate coming out with a bold freetrade policy would have a chance of being elected.
– No Australian believes in freetrade.
– I am afraid that there are many honorable senators who are prepared to go a long way towards freetrade by destroying the effect of the tariff on some of our great industries.
– Does the honorable senator think that any item in the schedule is too high.
– I do.
– That is all that the others say.
– We have had in this debate a most bitter denunciation of the whole tariff, and that is something which I cannot endorse in any circumstances. It is true that the present schedule is the creation of a party to which I am opposed, and of a government i’n which I have not much confidence; nevertheless, the proper thing for us to do is to accept it as it is, and endeavour to remedy it where we believe at ought to be remedied.
So far as protection is concerned, 3 believe in it as the policy for Australia. Any other form of policy 4i t the present time would be suicidal. If our tariff barriers were not high enough, we should be flooded with importations, and the position of our manufacturing industries would become impossibly. Hundreds of thousands of persons would be thrown out of employment. Our difficulties would become immensely aggravated. We should probably find ourselves in a position from which it would be impossible to emerge. In Great Britain, Europe, and even in America, industries have been built up to such huge proportions that they must have an immense output in order to carry on successfully. A great output demands a great market. Those countries are looking for markets; they are prepared to sell their surplus outputs at almost any price in order to get rid of them, there being no possibility of disposing of them to their own people.
– That is dumping.
– It is. We have seen many instances of it. Those countries, in order to maintain the stability and pre-eminence of their industries, are prepared to exploit a market like Australia, which, until the present crisis, was one of the very best in the world per head of population. Unless our tariff barriers are high enough to keep out the goods of these countries, our own industries and people will suffer.
– The Australian Industries Preservation Act should provide the necessary protection.
– A far safer way is through the medium of the tariff. The actual point at issue between myself and the Government, so far as some of these items are concerned, is, “ Do they suggest a reasonably effective tariff, or has the tariff that they propose become so high as to be prohibitive “ ? I am a protectionist, not a prohibitionist. We must have an effective tariff when the existing prohibition against certain importations is removed - and it cannot remain there indefinitely.
– Because that would be prohibition, not protection. I believe that it is essential that at certain times, and in certain industries, local manufacturers should have to meet overseas competition, provided that it is on a fair basis. I know a great number of manufacturers in New South Wales, but I do not know one who is not prepared to meet competition from any part of the world, if it is on a fair basis.
– The New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures did not subscribe to the election funds of the Labour party.
– I am glad that I am reminded of that matter. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Pearce) made a reference that can be construed to mean that that chamber did subscribe to the election funds of the Labour party. Senator Sir George Pearce. - Here is my statement, as reported in Hansard.
– The right honorable senator said -
The first movement on behalf of those who support the Government, so far as I can leant, came from the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), when he approached the manufacturers in Sydney, to whom he appealed for financial support at the then ensuing elections. A certain amount of financial support was promised, and as a quid pro quo Mr. Theodore, who was then campaign director of the Federal Labour Party, promised that a high protective tariff would be introduced.
If rumour is correct, the Treasurer did approach certain manufacturers, to whom he gave promises.
– Mr. Theodore gave them no promises in return for financial support.
– I am not in a position to deny that. However, why should such a matter be allowed to influence our opinion as to what assistance should be given to Australian industries. It has nothing to do with the issue, which should be determined on its merits.
– Moreover, it is quite irrelevant.
– I admit that it is, sir. My attention was directed to the report in the Sydney Morning Herald, and 1 was asked if I would deny it. Knowing the facts, I felt it essential that I should do so. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to8 p.m.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Financial Emergency Bill (No. 2).
Wheat Bounty Bill (No. 2).
Appropriation (Unemployment Relief Works) Bill.
Private business taking precedence after 8 p.m.,
Debate resumed from the 22nd October (vide page 1072), on motion by Senator Sir HalColebatch -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [8.2]. - The purpose of this short bill for an act to amend the Rules Publication Act is to restore to Parliament and particularly to the Senate rights and privileges which were withdrawn - quite inadvertently, I am sure - during ‘ the war The power to make laws is one that is possessed only by the Parliament ; and under section 53 of the Constitution the Senate has equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws, apart from certain exceptions which do not apply to this question. The High Court has ruled, I have no doubt quite properly, that it is competent for this Parliament to delegate its lawmaking power to the Executive. It has been customary for this and other Parliaments to make such a delegation ; but, in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament, the delegation has, in effect, gone much further than was ever contemplated, at least by members of this Senate.
In 1903, soon after the formation of the federation, a Rules Publication Act was passed. It followed very closely the legislation which then was and still is in force in Great Britain. The portion of the act which is pertinent to the bill that I am now inviting the Senate to consider comprises sections 3 and 4. Section 3 reads -
That was copied from British legislation, with the exception that the Imperial actprovides for a period of 40 days. J. have no doubt that the reason for making the period longer in. our case was the much greater area of country that had to be governed, and the extra time that it would necessarily take for a notice to be effective. In the bill that I now present I have followed the precedent of 60 days. I am prepared, however, to be told that circumstances have < altered a good deal since that period was fixed, that present-day methods of communication are much more rapid, and that possibly 60 days may be longer than is necessary. If that is the view of honorable senators, I have not the least objection to reducing the time to the present English standard of 40 days, or even to 30 days, so long as the purpose for which notice is given is preserved. Section 3 went to to provide -
The provisions of the Imperial act with respect to emergency rules or regulations also were copied. They read -
There is one feature of that section to which I direct particular attention; it is contained in the words, “ Where a rulemaking authority certifies that, on account of emergency “. I maintain that that phrase means exactly what it says, and that the urgency must be real. Not only in connexion with regulations, but also in our general practice, I venture to Affirm that this Parliament has departed from that sound principle; that we have adopted the habit of treating matters as Urgent when they are not urgent, but are merely important and, because of that importance, are entitled to the fullest consideration instead of being rushed through. We have adopted the extraordinary practice of treating almost every bill as though it were a matter of urgency, suspending all our standing orders and passing the .measure at a single sitting, with the result that frequently members who have no idi a that the bi’l is to be put through are absent from the debate, and know nothing about it before it is passed. The extent to which the practice of treating as urgent things that are not urgent is abused is indicated by our notice-paper. Our Standing Orders make the provision that they themselves may be suspended to allow of the second reading of a bill being taken on the same day as the first reading; and the report of the committee may be adopted even though amendments have been made. Our Standing Orders provide that they may be suspended upon a vote being taken, if that course is concurred in by an absolute majority of the whole Senate. There is one standing order which says that if notice has been given of the intention to suspend them, they may be suspended merely on the voices. We have reduced that provision to an absurdity, because on our notice-paper there is perpetually a notice that, in the event of certain things happening, a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders will be moved. That is regarded as a notice; whereas, in practice, what is always on the notice-paper as a matter of form is not a notice at all. We have reduced the whole thing - if I may say so without disrespect - almost to a farce. Last night we treated as a matter of urgency a bill that might just as well have been dealt with to-day, to-morrow or a week hence.
– The honorable senator is not in order in alluding to the proceedings of the Senate as a farce.
– I apologized for using the phrase before I expressed it. I withdraw it if you, sir, interpret it as being in any way offensive. All that” I wished to point out was, that we had adopted a system entirely contrary to the intention of our Standing Orders, of treating as urgent things that may be urgent in the sense that they are important, but not in the sense that they ought to be dealt with immediately.
This question arises with greater force and importance with respect to the making of regulations. The intention of the Imperial Act, and of our act of 1903, was that in all cases, unless pressure of time made a matter absolutely urgent, the public should be given notice of the intention of the authority to whom the law-making power had been delegated, to use that power to pass a law that would be equally binding upon, the people as though it had been passed by both Houses of the Parliament. In 1916, during the war, it was found, not only in this Parliament, but also in other Parliaments, that the necessity for giving notice of all regulations might cause a good deal of inconvenience. At that time Parliaments were not inclined to strain the interpretation of the word “ urgent “ ; they did not. think that it covered the position. Consequently, the practice was adopted in the Imperial Parliament of attaching to certain sections of .different acts the provision, “ Regulations made in accordance with this section shall be exempt from the provisions of sections 3 and 4 of the Rules Publication Act “. Therefore, regulations made, not under the whole statute, but under that particular section, might be made without giving the otherwise necessary 40 days’ notice. That was passed by the British Parliament as a war-time emergency provision. But what did this Parliament do? It simply repealed sections 3 and 4 of the Rules Publication Act 1903. The bill of 1916, which provided for the repeal of those sections, was introduced in the Senate, not in the House of Representatives, and the debate was a very brief one. I intend to quote shortly from the remarks of an honorable senator who disagreed with this practice, but who, apparently, did not obtain any support in the Senate. Senator Senior, of South Australia, said -
I have looked carefully through this bill, and also through the principal act, which it is proposed to amend. It is the duty of honorable senators to conserve, as far as they possibly can, the functions of Parliament. One of those functions - and the principal one - is that of legislation. But by virtue of certain provisions which are appended to bills, we frequently fmd that our powers of legislation have passed into the hands of departments, olof officials in departments. To my mind, the two sections of the Rules Publication Act of .1903, which it is proposed to repeal, have hitherto largely safeguarded the functions of Parliament. We are now invited, by a single stroke of the pen, to excise these provisions, and to forfeit much more than appears on the surface . . . The elimination of that provision will give full effect to paragraph 4 of section S of the act, which reads -
Regulations under this act may prescribe the class of cases in which the exercise of a statutory power by any rule-making authority constitutes, or does not constitute, the making of a statutory rule within the moaning of this section. I ask honorable senators not to consent to hand over, indiscriminately to the heads of departments, powers so vast and far-reaching.
I suppose that, in the circumstances, it was not surprising that the warning uttered by that honorable senator fell on deaf ears. At any rate, he received no support for his objection, and the bill was passed. Upon its presentation to the House of Representatives the proceedings lasted apparently about one minute. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Tudor) spoke in support of the second reading, his speech covering only about twenty lines of Hansard. I propose to quote merely the two concluding lines, in which he said, “ the rights of honorable members will not be jeopardized in any way.” I do not know that the rights of members of another place were jeopardized to any great extent, because in the House that makes and unmakes governments, it is always possible, if the majority of members wish to do so, to assert their privileges and rights. But, undoubtedly, the rights of the Senate were jeopardized, if not practically destroyed. If, in every instance, the same interpretation were, in these days, given to the word “urgency,” and if Ministers were punctilious in regarding only as urgent those things which were absolutely urgent, I should have considered it suffi cient to reinsert the sections of the 190$ act, which were repealed by the amending; measure of 1916. But, in view of what has happened recently, I doubt if that, course would meet the position. Therefore, I propose, after reinstating practically the provisions of the 1903 act, toinsert the following new clause: -
I am free to admit that it ought nol to be necessary to insert this provision in any act of Parliament, and in other circumstances I should not have included! it in the bill. But it is, I believe, necessary in the light of the interpretation given by the High Court to existing legislation. The High Court has stated - it is not for us to quarrel with its decisionthat, if a rule-making authority makes a certain rule which is subject to the disapproval of the Senate or the House of Representatives, and, if either House, in its wisdom, disapproves of the rule made, it is competent for the Executive to re-enact the disallowed regulation immediately, and to keep on re-enacting it indefinitely, thus entirely destroying the law-making power of one branch of the legislature. There is practically no difference between the wording of our Acts Interpretation Act, in regard to the disallowance of regulations, and similar legislation in every State of the Commonwealth, and probably every country in the British Empire. I will go further, and say that in no instance, until this Government set the example, has a rule-making authority anywhere in the British Empire defied either House of the Parliament. ‘
– This Government has defied neither branch of the legislature.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The Minister is entitled to say that, but the fact of the matter is that on numerous occasions this chamber has disallowed certain regulations which have been reenacted by the Government.
– I challenge the Minister to quote one single instance, in any other British parliament, in which the Executive, after the dissallowance of regulations by one branch of the legislature, has immediately re-enacted the same regulations over and over again. I know of cases where, after a lapse of some period of time, regulations which previously had been disallowed have been re-enacted by the Executive. The Minister may endeavour to persuade the people that the action of this Government in re-enacting regulations disallowed by the Senate is not tantamount to defiance of this chamber, but I venture to claim equal right with himself to express the contrary opinion. I affirm, that the action of the Government with regard to certain regulations dealing with waterside workers was a most flagrant disregard of the rights and privileges of the Senate. I can imagine no action that would, to a greater extent, be considered as disregarding the rights of one branch of the legislature.
Power to enact legislation is vested in the Parliament, which, if it thinks fit, may delegate that power to the Executive. But this Parliament has never made an unconditional delegation of such power. The only delegation of power made is conditional. Parliament reserves to itself the right to say that the use of that power has gone beyond the limits intended, and that it is competent for either branch of the legislature to disallow regulations made by the Executive under this delegated power. But what has happened? The Government has declared that, notwithstanding the disallowance of certain regulations by this chamber, it will disregard altogether the views of the Senate and that the regulations shall be’ operative. Although, under the British act, upon1 which our legislation is based, the Executive has not at any time used its law-making power to anything like the extent of the Commonwealth Government, the Chief Justice, Lord Hewart, has seen fit to go far beyond what is generally considered to be the duty of the occupant of that high office, by writing a book, in which he points to an abuse of this law-making power by regulation. I do not know what he would have said if he had been reviewing the -actions of this Government. If honorable senators will read his book, The New Despotism, they will find over and over again reference to the fact that, although Parliament has delegated this law-making power to the Executive, it has always been careful to reserve to itself the right to disallow any use of it if either House of the Parliament disapproves of regulations made under it. Without quarrelling with the decision of the High Court, I am sure that Lord Hewart would be aghast if it had been suggested to him that, notwithstanding the preservation of the rights of Parliament, it was competent for the Executive to continue re-enacting regulations which had been disallowed by either branch of the legislature.
– It would be more difficult for him to understand the action of the Senate.
– Perhaps the Minister has not read The New Despotism.
– Yes, I have. The House of Lords has never done what this Senate did recently.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The House of Lords stands in an entirely different relation to the House of Commons. It could, if it thought fit, disallow regulations made under this delegated power, and if it did, I am sure that the British Government would not act as this Government has acted.
– The House of Lords would never have made the first mistake.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.What does the honorable senator mean? Does he imply that the Senate makes a mistake merely because it does not see eye to eye with the Government in all matters? If that is what he means, I cannot follow his reasoning. The right of this Senate to disallow regulations made by the Government is absolute.
– Yes, but it should not be exercised capriciously.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Nonsense. The Senate, and not the Minister, is the only judge of its own actions. This chamber is not bound to pass any piece of legislation which a government may send up to it. Neither is it bound to approve of every regulation made by the Government Under its delegated power.
In ordinary circumstances, proposed new section 4 would be out of place in any act of Parliament; but after the decision of the High Court, I can see no other means by which the Senate can preserve its rights and privileges. If any other course can be suggested, I shall be willing to amend the provision accordingly. But I have consulted eminent legal and constitutional authorities who have assured me that it is not possible, in any other way, to preserve the rights and privileges of this chamber - rights and privileges with which it never intended to part.
The equal law-making power of the Senate with another place is altogether different from the authority of the House of Lords. There is no analogy between the constitutional relationships of the two Houses. The Senate, as the representative of the different States, has a definite function to perform. So far as the smaller States are concerned, there would have been no federation without provision for a Senate, in which they had equal representation with the larger States, and if the Senate had not been given equal law-making power with the House of Representatives. Any interference with the rights and privileges of this chamber, anything which destroys the law-making power of the Senate and makes it subservient to another place, is a breach of the spirit and letter of the Constitution - a breach directed particularly against the whole of the smaller States. It is chiefly as a representative of one of the smaller States, and as one who believes that the federation depends upon the preservation of equal law-making rights of the Senate with the House of Representatives that I venture to introduce this bill, which I hope the Senate will pass.
– I am not very much concerned, so far as this measure is concerned, whether the policy of this country is to be government by regulation or government exclusively by Parliament.
– That is a nice admission for a democrat to make !
– I said that I am not much concerned about the matter in this bill. The system of government by regulation was not introduced by this Ministry, but by its predecessors in office.
– But that authority has been abused by this Government.
– The re-enactment of disallowed regulations dealing with waterside workers is given as an example of what is described as an abuse by the Executive of this delegated power…
– It is a shockingexample of an abuse of power.
– In the whole of my legal experience, I know of no case in which power to disallow has been used socapriciously as by the Senate recently in connexion with those regulations, and I offer no apology for saying that, if the Senate refused to listen to the entreaties of the Government to decide that question on its merits, in my view the only honest course for the Government to take was to re-enact the regulations.
– What opportunity did the Senate have to decide that issue on its merits?
– It had ample opportunity. On one occasion I suggested the appointment of a select committee of this chamber to make an impartial inquiry. -That would have afforded an excellent opportunity to decide the merits or demerits of the claim, by the waterside workers, for protection. The suggestion was made in this chamber in which honorable senators opposite would have been able, by virtue of their numbers, to constitute a committee to their liking. Surely the Senate would not overthrow the present legal system because of something which has happened in connexion with the waterside workers regulations. Senator Sir Hal Colebatch referred to a statement of the late Senator Senior. I ask him, however, whether he really thinks his proposed amendment will have the effect he suggests. To determine this point, we must go back to the original act, as amended in 1916. In the 1903 act, a rule-making authority is defined as any ‘authority authorized to make any statutory rules, and Parliament can limit the authority to make rules when it is dealing with the legislation it is proposed to enact. Senator Sir Hal Colebatch proposes to amend the present law by inserting a provision to the effect that, where the rule-making authority certifies to the urgency of proposed special rules, he may make rules to come into operation forthwith as provisional rules, but such provisional rules shall not continue in force for more than one month, unless, before the expiration of that period, they are approved by both Houses of Parliament. The position to-day is that the rules come into operation when proclaimed, and there is no need to go to the expense of printing another set of rules. Senator Sir Hal Colebatch proposes that they shall remain in operation for only one month, unless confirmed. Under the existing law, the rules have to be printed and laid on the table of the House, which has power to disallow them. ‘What advantage, then, does the honorable senator think will be achieved by his amendment? I can understand why this cumbersome procedure, referred to by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch as being in existence in the Imperial Parliament, where it was instituted in the 56th and 57th years of the reign of Queen Victoria, should have been superseded by the 1916 act, which, by the way, was not a war measure. I refer honorable senators to the Parliamentary debates, volume 79, pages 7828 and 7829. They can read there a speech delivered by Senator Gardiner, VicePresident of the Executive Council, and Senator Pearce also spoke in support of the amending bill. Senator Gardiner stated -
The existing law as to the promulgation of regulations by means of statutory rules, provides alternative methods. The normal method is to give GO days’ notice in the Commonwealth 6’(we1,te of the intention to make certain regulations, and at the expiration of that period to make the regulations in permanent form. The other method, which was intended to be used only in cases of urgency, is to make regulations provisionally, without notice, to come into operation at once, and to confirm those regulations after the expiration of 60 days by the issue of other regulations superseding the provisional ones. The confirmation of provisional rules is not obligatory, as the provisional rules have full force so long as they are not superseded by the confirmatory rules. It has been found in practice that the method of making regulations by giving 60 days’ notice is seldom adopted, re course being usually had to the provisional system on account of its greater expedition. In many cases, regulations need frequent amendment owing to changing circumstances, and it has not been found advisable to issue the confirmatory regulations. When confirmatory regulations are issued the expense of double printing is involved. Under these circumstances it has been thought advisable to abolish the alternative methods provided in the act, and to have one system of making regulations. Under the proposed law, the necessity for giving notice, which has been open to objection on account of delay, and the necessity of confirming regulations, which resulted in duplication of printing, will be abolished. Henceforth all regulations will be made to come into immediate operation and continue so until repealed.
That was the -considered opinion of the Government after thirteen years’ experience of the alternative methods of issuing regulations*
– At that time, governments respected the authority of the Senate; the present Government does not.
– That method of issuing regulations had not then been in force for thirteen years.
– I am quoting the statement of the Minister who introduced the amending bill.
– Since that amending bill was passed, we have had an additional fifteen years’ experience.
– Until quite recently, there was no move for the restoration of the alternative system of government by regulation. If Senator Sir Hal Colebatch had moved to abolish altogether the system of government by regulation, I should have found it difficult to oppose him, because I do not believe in government by regulation. I believe in government by Parliament, but while Parliament adheres to the principle of government by regulation, I am anxious, as a member of the Government, that the system should not be rendered too’ cumbersome for any government to use. The system suggested by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch, which amounts to the restoration of a method which had previously proved too cumbersome, was not demanded by anybody until the waterside workers’ dispute arose.
– Because the present system had not been abused.
– There is no guarantee that the power to make regulations would not be abused even under the system advocated by Senator Colebatch.
– There is an absolute guarantee.
– The honorable senator says that there is an absolute guarantee, and, in saying so, he illustrates one of the disadvantages of being a layman. If this statute is to be interpreted, it will have to be done by lawyers.
– Then, God help us!
– If that is the honorable senator’s opinion of lawyers, how can I convince him? Whether we invoke the aid of Divine Providence or not, the statute will have to be interpreted by the legal fraternity if a dispute arises, and it will be found to be just as much subject to abuse if amended in accordance with Senator Colebatch’s wishes as it is now. The honorable senator’s proposal is that we should issue provisional regulations which must be confirmed within a month. His proposal, if adopted, will only render the existing system more cumbersome, “without achieving the object he has in view.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [S.43]. - With the object of this bill I have every sympathy, but I think that there is some substance in the Assistant Minister’s criticism. I desire, not so much that notice should be given of the intention to make regulations, or that any special procedure should be followed in their making, as that Parliament should have control over the regulations once they are made. If it is to have that power, Parliament must retain its control over the Executive-
– I agree with the right honorable senator in that.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Until this Government took certain action in regard to the waterside workers’ regulations, every one believed that, when either House of Parliament disallowed regulations issued on the authority of the Executive, that was the end of those regulations. It remained for this Government to initiate a new procedure in British legislation by placing itself above the Parliament, by disregarding that disallowance, issuing the same regulations again, and continuing to do it. I am afraid that this bill will not remedy that abuse of power by the Executive.
– It prevents it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No. The Government could make an ordinary regulation, and if cither House of the Parliament disallowed it, this bill would not touch the matter.
– The Government would have to give another 60 days’ notice before it could again bring in a regulation that had been disallowed.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That would only mean a certain amount of delay.
– A regulation could be brought in, as a matter of urgency, without delay.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.A provisional regulation could be issued immediately.
– Only once.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.But that might be effectual, from the point of view of the Government. This bill applies to all regulations that may be issued under various acts. If the Government wished to bring in .a regulation to which one House was opposed, and if it could put the regulation into force for a month, the object of the Government might bo accomplished. We should aim at restoring the complete power of both Houses effectually to disallow regulations. It seems to me that the statute that needs to be amended is the Acts Interpretation Act, which deals with the power to disallow regulations. I remind the Senate that in dealing with one bill this session, we varied the power to make regulations by inserting an amendment to the effect that if either House of the Parliament disapproved of any regulation, no other regulation, being the same in substance, could be made during that session of the Parliament. That is what we wish to accomplish, and I am not sure that it will be done under this bill. All that this measure provides for is a delay, but it does not give back the power that we imagined the Parliament had. We thought that once it had disallowed a regulation, there the matter ended.
I propose to refer to some extraordinary statements made by the Minister in regard to this bill. He said that the Government’s justification for its action was that the Senate did not listen to the appeal of the Minister that the matter of the waterside workers’ regulations should be decided on its merits.
– By referring it to a select committee.
– Yes; the Minister used words to that effect. What an extraordinary attitude for a Minister to adopt! That is the kind of mind that has led the Government to defy the Senate in this matter. It assumes that the Minister is superior to the Senate. He said, in effect, “ I made a suggestion to the Senate, and it did not accept it. That is why my Government is proceeding to defy the Senate “.
– A very good reason.
– That interjection shows the state of mind of occupants of the Government benches. They have such a peculiar idea of parliamentary government that they look upon a Minister as being superior to either House of the Parliament in the matter of law making. Senator Colebatch commenced his speech with that well-known axiom, which every student of British parliamentary government knows, that Parliament is the only law-making authority. Honorable senators opposite, apparently, do not believe that. The Minister puts himself above the Parliament when he virtually says to the Senate, “ You do not take my advice as to how the waterside workers’ dispute should be dealt with, and that is my reason for defying you “. The Minister went on to say that the Senate desires to go beyond the present system of making regulations, but what Senator Colebatch proposes is to restore to Parliament the power of control over the regulationmaking system.
– Which a government, with winch the Leader of the Opposition was associated, took away from Parliament.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That Government, of which I was a member, did nothing of the kind. It altered the system, and every Ministry that succeeded it, until the present Government took office, assumed ‘that either House of the Parliament had power effectually to disallow every regulation made.
The most astonishing of all the remarkable statements made by the Minister was that he did not believe in government by regulation. I remind him of another old copy-book maxim: “Practice is better than precept “. If he and the Government do not believe in government by regulation, why have they been governing conditions on the waterfront in defiance of the Parliament?
– Because the Parliament authorized us to do that.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE The Parliament has authorized nothing of the kind. It allows the Government to make regulations under the Transport Workers Act, with the limitation that if either House disallows those regulations, they are effectually disallowed. This Government treated the Parliament with contempt, and proceeded to bring in fresh regulations on the very day on which the first regulations were disallowed. A meeting of the Executive was held, new regulations were rushed through, and in that way the power of the Parliament to disallow regulations was reduced to an absolute farce. That was done over and over again.
It seems to methat, in view of the action of the Government, it will be necessary to amend section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act, which provides -
Where an act confers power to make regulations, all regulations made accordingly shall, unless the contrary intention appears -
be notified in the Gazette;
take effect from the date of notifi cation, or from a later date specified in the regulations;
be laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after the making of the regulations.
It appears to me that we could accomplish all that is necessary by adding the following : - and if either House of the Parliament disallows any such regulation, no regulation being the same in substance and effect shall in the same session of the Parliament be promulgated.
I suggest to Senator Colebatch that that would be a more direct way of accomplishing what we desire. Is the question of notice of great importance?
– Is not the public entitled to some consideration?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. The public is protected, because regulations have to be notified in the Commonwealth Gazette.
– But they come into force at once.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is so, but they are usually published in the columns of the daily press as soon as they appear in the Gazette, and in that way members of Parliament and the public generally are quickly notified. The abuse, I think, does not arise in that connexion so much as through the Executive exercising a regulationmaking power greater than the Parliament intended it to have. The general criticism in Lord Hewart’s book is that the Parliament intended the power to make regulations to be kept reasonably within the ambit of the statute under which they were made. Lord Hewart pointed out that Parliament had got into the habit of passing short bills dealing with main principles in skeleton form, leaving all the rest to be covered by regulations, with the result that the Executive poured out volumes of regulations. If full parliamentary control over regulations is restored, the best remedy will be afforded against action such as that taken by the present Government in regard to the waterside workers’ dispute. We must trust the Parliament to re-assert its power to take objection to bills if it does not consider that they sufficiently indicate the legislation to be enacted. I do not attribute, nor does Lord Hewart, all the abuse of the regulation power to governments; I think it is partly due to the Parliament being content to allow bills to go through without their main principles being fully set out. I support this bill, but I suggest that complementary action is required’ by an amendment of section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act; otherwise, under the decision of the High Court, the Parliament will have lost the power to disallow regulations.
– According to an old political maxim, hard cases make bad laws. If. honorable senators opposite hold that view in regard to the waterside workers’ regulations, it seems to me that they are using it as an excuse for the flagrant abuse by previous governments of the power to make regulations. The waterside workers’ regulations have raised heated discussions in this chamber on many occasions, because they concern organized labour. In regard to the abuse of the general power of making regulations, I was the victim of the most unfair, despotic and autocratic use of this power by Senator Pearce when he was Minister for Defence.
– The honorable senator refers to the regulations under the War Precautions Act.
– Yes. A regulation under that statute could be promulgated at any time by two Ministers and the Governor-General; a mere skeleton executive could issue new regulations ad lib, which instantaneously had the force of law. If a regulation declared that black was white, denial of the statement was a criminal offence. The then Prime Minister and Minister for Defence declared, publicly, that there was no Sixth Division of the Australian Imperial Force.
– There was no such division. The honorable senator is referring to- the poor old fragments from France.
– The fact remains that by regulation a deliberate lie was made the law of the land and contradiction of it was a criminal offence. A prosecution was launched against me for having stated that a Sixth Division had been formed. I had received a letter from one of my sons at the front, stating that he had been enrolled in the Sixth Division and that Sir Joseph Cook’s son was a major in his battalion. No regulation could justify a public lie by Ministers of the Crown. If the suppression of the truth on that occasion indicated Senator Pearce’s code of morality, God help us.
Senator Colebatch declared that the repeated re enactment of a regulation under the Transport Workers Act which had been disallowed by the Senate, stultified the power of this branch of the legislature. I am as much in favour as any other honorable senator is of retaining whatever powers this chamber possesses, but I challenge denial of my contention that the power of veto is the power of legislation. If the Senate can continue to veto a regulation, obviously the framers must continue modifying it until they can overcome the objection to it. The Government exists and functions by virtue of its majority in the House of Representatives. Therefore, a regulation made by the Government is in practice a regulation sanctioned by the House of Representatives. If the Senate repeatedly disallows a regulation made by the House of Representatives, it denies the legislative power of the latter. If two Houses disagree and a solution of the deadlock is not sought by means of a double dissolution, one branch will continue doing what is within its power to assert its will, and the other will continue doing whatever it can to thwart that will. If the re-enactment of disallowed regulations is a stultification of the power of this chamber, the denial of the right of another place to make regulations is a stultification of its legislative power.
– Under the Constitution, the Senate has equal powers with the House of Representatives.
– When both chambers exercise their equal power, the one legislating and the other vetoing, a deadlock is reached. However jealous honorable senators may be of the power and dignity of this chamber, they should not overlook the fact that the House of Representatives was elected much more recently than the Senate, and, therefore, is more likely to represent the present will of the people. Senator Pearce, no doubt, justified the regulations that were issued during the Avar on the ground of national emergency. Before the actual outbreak of Avar, criticism would not be listened to. After the war, no good purpose could be served by raking up old mistakes, blunders, and even crimes. During the war, those in authority, who were always mouthing the rights of democracy, became such autocrats as to deny all right of criticism. Thus, in practice, the voice of the people is for ever stilled. Under the War Precautions Act regulations were produced like sausages from a machine, and many of them were criminal in that they denied facts, deliberately misled the people, and prevented expression of the truth. But, putting aside the abomination and infamies committed during the war, what has happened since? During the Bruce-
Page regime, Parliament was out of session for several months at a time; it met so infrequently that honorable senators had almost forgotten the way to this building. Legislation by act of Parliament having practically ceased, departmental officials had to meet changing needs by the issue of regulations. This power the Bruce-Page Government exercised to the limit instead of legislating by statute. I believe that Parliament should retain all its powers, but the legislative system requires overhauling. Senator Pearce ridiculed the suggestion by Senator Daly that a select committee should be appointed to report upon the making of regulations under the Transport Workers Act. The right honorable gentleman said that the Senate’s rejection of the Minister’s proposal did not justify the Ministry in re-enacting the disallowed regulations. But when a deadlock occurs, men of common sense and reason should endeavour to overcome it, and I know of no better method than discussion of the pros and cons of the matter at issue. The Government did not ask that the Senate should in advance be bound by what the select committee might propose. The committee Wouk report and the Senate would then have the right to declare whether the committee’s recommendations were reasonable. Therefore, the last word would have remained Avith the Senate. The Minister’s suggestion Avas an eminently reasonable proposal to endeavour to secure peace by negotiation.
– I have no recollection of such a proposal having been made.
– Nevertheless, the right honorable gentleman ridiculed it. The Government has a certain policy with regard to employment on the waterfront and it framed a regulation to give effect to it. The Senate’s disallowance did not deprive the Government of its regulationmaking power. Indeed, the High Court has declared that the Executive has that power; consequently, if the Senate, in a fit of caprice or for other reasons, disallows a regulation made by the Executive, it is eminently reasonable for the Government to afford this chamber an opportunity to reconsider the matter and possibly recognize the reasonbleness of the ministerial policy. Not having a majority in both chambers, the Government was forced to resort to its power of making regulations. I cannot see that it was blameworthy in exercising that power. If I had been a member of the Ministry I would have asserted to the bitter end the right of the party in office to give effect to its policy in whatever way was possible. Sooner or later the people will decide on the hustings who is right.
This Senate, which professes to be so jealous of its dignities and powers, years ago surrendered without protest from anybody but myself a right vested in it by the Constitution. Either House can pass a bill for the amendment of the Constitution ; if the other chamber rejects it. and after the lapse of a certain period the measure is again passed in the House of origin and again rejected in the second chamber, the matter can be submitted to the people for their final judgment. Such a crisis occurred in this Parliament in 1914. At that time the Senate passed proposals for the amendment of the Constitution which were rejected by a majority of one in the other chamber. They were re-enacted by the Senate on the eve of the double dissolution, but were not submitted to the people.
– That was not the fault of the Senate.
– These observations scarcely have any connexion with this bill.
– I thought that it would be in order to show that, on a previous occasion, the Senate did not uphold more important rights than those for which honorable senators opposite are now fighting.
– There is nothing about the subject-matter of the bill in the honorable senator’s observations.-
– I bow to your ruling. I regret that I could not finish the story I was relating for the purpose of indicating that, on one important occasion, the Senate might have taken a stand, and did not.
– The Senate was then exercising a right conferred upon it by the Constitution.
– Yes, but the Constitution was not upheld, with the result that now it is not open to either House to bring about a referendum; one House only can do it. However, I should be out of order by further pursuing the subject.
– The High Court would have a say in that matter.
– I shall be pleased to discuss the matter with any honorable senator in order to show him that my contention is a sound one. So far as the bill is concerned, if passed, it could only result in limiting the time in which the Government would have to move in order to re-enact regulations disallowed by the Senate. For that reason, it cannot do any good, and I cannot support it.
.- This bill deals with a matter which, from a constitutional point of view, is of the greatest importance. .The development of this secondary branch of the law-making power has reached an aggravated form in Australia, owing to the present Government’s actions in respect of certain regulations which the Senate has from time to time disallowed, and it has been receiving the closest attention on the other side of the world, no doubt because of certain observations by the ox-Chief Justice, Lord Hewart, in his work, The New Despotism, to which reference has been frequently made in this chamber. In 1921 the Cambridge University Press issued a book, called Delegated Legislation, written by Cecil T. Carr, a very eminent authority on ‘this branch of the law, from which I quote the following in regard to regulations on statutory rules: -
The third and bulkiest part is made by such, persons or bodies as the King in Parliament entrusts with legislative power. It is with this last part that these pages will deal.
Carr goes on to refer to this as a child, and says -
In mere bulk the child now dwarfs the parent. Last year, while 82 acts of Parliament were placed on the statute-book, more than ten times as many “ statutory rules and orders “ of a public character were officially registered under the Rules Publication Act. The annual volume of public general statutes for 1920 occupied less than 000 pages; the two volumes of statutory rules and orders for the same period occupied about five times as many. This excess in mere point of bulk of delegated legislation over direct legislation has been visible for nearly 30 years.
Some facetious remarks follow about the way in which a man has to act in order to find out the simplest things. Carr’s concluding words arc -
When in 1911 Lord Cozens-Hardy said that the real legislation was not to he found in the statute-book alone, ho frankly described the development of departmental activity as a very bad system and one attended by very great danger. Had he lived to speak in 1921, he would doubtless have repeated his warning, though he might have agreed with Lord Justice Scrutton that war cannot be carried on according to the principles of Magna Carta. The problem is to obtain a form of government which, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, is “ not too strong for the liberties of its people “ and yet “ strong enough to maintain it3 existence in great emergencies.”
This distinguished author then lays down the following five precepts which he thinks should be observed in regard to delegated law-making power: -
The hill -Ave are considering to-night conforms with those requirements, but I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it scarcely goes far enough. In this connexion Carr writes -
To add a special safeguard in particular cases, Parliament has invented a device by which it itself supervises delegated legislation. In delegating legislative authority it stipulates that the rules or regulations made thereunder shall bc laid before both Houses as soon as made. The rules or regulations take effect, forthwith, but, if within a specified number of days either House takes exception to any of them and presents an address on the subject to His Majesty, then the rule or regulation which is objected to may be annulled by Order in Council, though it is usually provided that such annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of any action already taken under the legislation which is annulled.
When this Parliament passed the Acts Interpretation Act containing section 10 to which Senator Pearce has referred, it was never contemplated that there would be such an abuse of executive power, such a dereliction of duty on the part of the Government, such a violation of all the principles of parliamentary government as we have recently witnessed, rules disallowed by one branch of the legislature being immediately re-enacted by the Executive. The delegated law-making power of the Executive is limited ; it is subject to the right of either House to disallow any regulation, and that right, must be respected. Otherwise there would’ be a continuance of the jack-in-the-box business of one House disallowing regulations and the Government re-enacting them immediately afterwards. Such a practice was never contemplated by this Parliament, and if, owing to the decision towhich Senator Colebatch has referred this evening, the existing law is not sufficiently strong to protect Parliament or the people of the country, this bill should have inserted in it another provision very much on the lines referred to by Senator Pearce. The special pleading of some honorable senators that this is a struggle between the two Houses is beside the question. There is a principle at stake - whether this Parliament has parted with its right to govern ; whether the Senate has parted with its right to say that a regulation should be disallowed ; in short, whether a disallowance is to have any effect at all. If the practice adopted in regard- to the much canvassed waterside workers’ regulations is to be continued, the Senate’s so-called power of disallowance is all so much waste paper. This is not a struggle between the two Houses. It is an assertion of our rights as Ave understand them under legislation already passed. It is a clarifying of the position. It is a move to put either House in the position it should occupy in regard to regulations, and to keep the Executive within its proper sphere, and that is under the control of Parliament. I, therefore, support the bill, and if it be. within the ambit of the title of the measure, I think we should include in it an additional clause, as has been suggested, because the bill, as drafted, still makes possible the juggling that Ave have already witnessed
– Would the honorable senator exclude from this legislation the rules of the High Court?
– It will be remembered that in England special provisions were made with regard to High
Court rules, which are really rules of procedure and practice. I see no reason for controversy in this matter. Because of some defect in the law, the Government has scored in connexion with the waterside workers regulations. That has been done by employing a means that Parliament never intended should be at the disposal of the Government. If, as was suggested by Senator Rae, we have been lax with regard to the privileges of Parliament, and have placed in the hands of the Executive some power which it ought not to have, it is up to us to cure the evil, and see that the true intention of Parliament is given effect. To that end, if Senator Colebatch will accept the amendment, I propose to draft one much on the lines that have been outlined by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Pearce). Surely it was always intended that, if a regulation was disallowed by either House, that was the end of it. The principle that is involved in the measure that has been brought down by Senator Colebatch is one of vast importance, as Senator Daly knows. It is one that has been exercising the minds of masters of jurisprudence in the old world. It crept in, as some honorable senators know, largely owing to the war. Great Britain adopted from the Continent this practice of delegated law, which is subversive of the best principles of British jurisprudence, but which has for centuries been in vogue in both Italy andFrance. I do not think that our parliamentary institutions should stand for it. It may be that it is to the advantage of the government of the moment that the law is loose in this regard, but surely it is up to us to put that right, and restore to both Houses their respective rights, in respect of the control of delegated legislation. It is equivalent to a man appointing an agent with power to do so and so. The power is limited, and the agent must conform to certain provisions. Is that agent to be entrusted with the power for all time, uncontrolled and unfettered? Under . a decision of the High Court, and as a result of legislation introduced in this Parliament, we have abandoned the right -of disallowing that power. That abandonment is an absolute violation of all the best principles of constitutional government.
-Who should be the judge of whether a regulation is in substance the same as one already disallowed.
– That is a matter immediately for the court to decide. If a regulation were alleged by one side to be in substance the same as one previously disallowed, an application would be made to restrain the rulemaking authority and to declare it-ultra vires. Every federal government has been restrained at one time or another in- an indirect way for having violated the Constitution. Numerous cases are reported in this little work by Cecil C. Carr where regulations have been declared ultra vires of the power granted by the rule-making authority. I do not think that any difficulty would be encountered in that respect. The Senate should pass this measure. If, in committee, we can bring in certain amendments, I shall support them. I support the bill, which is in conformity, so far as it goes, with the very best principles that have been laid down by the authorities that have been mentioned.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Halloran) adjourned.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [9.34]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This short measure to amend the Customs Act is, to some extent, drafted on lines similar to the bill that we have just been discussing. Its intention, as was that of the previous measure, is to restore the rights and privileges of this section of the Parliament. While I do not intend unnecessarily to repeat arguments that I advanced in regard to the previous bill, I do think that it is of importance to emphasize that there is no form of legislation which so vitally affects the interests of the smaller States of the Commonwealth as does tariff legislation. Therefore, when any practice is followed which takes away the equal law-making power of the Senate with that of the House of Representatives, it is a direct and inexcusable attack on the rights of the small States. In at least three directions, the law-making power of this Senate in regard to customs taxation has been taken away. It is for the purpose of restoring that power that I submit this bill.
Clause 2 of the measure deals with section 52 of the Customs Act, which reads -
The following are prohibited imports: -
Any reproduction except by permission of the proprietor of the copyright of any work copyrighted in the King’s dominions, and of the existence of which copyright and date of its expiration written notice has been given to the Minister by or on behalf of the proprietor of such copyright.
False money and counterfeit sterling and any coin or money of the King’s dominions not being of the established standard in weight or fineness.
Blasphemous, indecent or obscene works or articles.
Goods manufactured or produced wholly or in part by prison labour or which have been made within or in connexion with any prison, gaol or penitentiary.
Exhausted tea, and tea adulterated with spurious leaf or with exhausted leaves, or being unfit for human use, or unwholesome.
Oleomargarine, butterine, or any similar substitute for butter unless coloured and branded as prescribed.
All goods having thereon or therewith any false suggestion of any warranty, guarantee or concern in the production or quality thereof by any persons, public officials, government or country.
Mineral oil and mineral spirits, unless imported under, and subject to, such restrictions as may be declared by proclamation.
I have omitted one paragraph, to which I shall now return. Having enumerated those items, and doubtless thinking it impossible to exclude everything which ought to be excluded, the Parliament of the day couched paragraph g in this language -
All goods the importation of which may be prohibited by proclamation.
I have no hesitation in saying that, in giving the power to prohibit the importation of any of those goods by proclamation, the legislature did not intend that power to extend beyond goods which, by their nature, ought to be prohibited. It was not intended for a moment that that power of prohibition should be applied as a protective measure as part of the tariff policy of the Government. No government is entitled to decide the tariff policy of the country. That is the prerogative of the two Houses of Parliament. SenatorRae suggested that one House might say one thing and the other another. The position is that nothing can become law until, both Houses say the same thing with regard to it. You do not bandy a thing about from one House to the other. It was never intended that the tariff policy of this country should be decided by one House. Now, by a use of the powers granted by paragraph g, which was never intended by the framers of the act, the Government is determining our tariff policy.
-Was not an embargo placed upon the importation of sugar?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Yes, under paragraph g. Tf the Government, or the other House, chooses to impose a protective duty, that protective duty must ultimately be confirmed by this Senate, and before the session closes, or it ceases to be law; yet, if the Government sees fit to prohibit the importation of any commodity by proclamation, that proclamation need never be reviewed by the Senate.
– Nor by the other House.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.That is so. It is a fact that in the case of sugar the prohibition has applied during the lives of three or four Parliaments; yet it has never been approved by either House of any one of those Parliaments, and, apparently, it can continue indefinitely without any such approval. It is a manifest absurdity that a duty which is imposed for protective purposes shall be subject to the review of Parliament, while a complete prohibition can be imposed without Parliament having any say in the matter. I put the position in this way: As the law stands at present, if this Senate in its wisdom chooses to reduce any of the very high customs duties that have been imposed under the tariff which we are now considering, it will be entirely competent for the Government to apply a prohibition in such cases.
I understand that it is the wish of the Government to adjourn; consequently, I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1930-3.1. - Dated 30th October, 1931.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 133.
“South Australian Worker”: Removal of File FROM Parliamentary Library - Tasmania : Meal Tickets.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Yesterday I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes) the following question, upon notice : -
The answer that I received was as follows : -
The South A ustralian Worker newspaper has not been removed from the files of the Library. It was, however, taken from the newspaper desks in thu reading room on account of the congested condition of the files of South Australian papers, and filed in the newspaper room in the basement. Copies have, at all times, been available to members on application. Owing to the limited desk accommodation for newspapers in the reading room, it has been necessary to adopt this practice, especially in the case of weekly newspapers, in order that all the daily papers may be available in the reading room.
I contend that it was the function of the Library Committee, upon which the Senate is represented by the President, aud Senators Colebatch, Daly, Dooley, R. D. Elliott, Millen, and Sampson, to decide such a matter. I say definitely that instructions were given to the Library staff by Mr. Speaker of the House of Representatives to remove that newspaper from the Parliamentary Library.
– Did it contain something spicy?
– It may have contained something politically spicy which did not find favour with Mr. Speaker. Is this gentleman to be allowed to adopt the role of a Mussolini and to override the representatives of the Senate on the Library Committee ? If he has that power, any newspaper in Australia that criticizes him may be removed from the file in the Parliamentary Library. There is provision for four newspapers on the desk allotted to South Australian newspapers - the Advertiser, the Nevis, the Australian Worker, and a newspaper printed in Port Darwin. Because it happened to criticize Mr. Speaker, it was removed. A fortnight ago, when I went into the Library to check up certain articles that it contained, I was told that I would find it in the trays below the desk. I searched for it, but failed to discover it. Inquiry of the Library staff elicited the fact that it was in the basement. I enter an emphatic protest against Mr. Speaker usurping the function of a committee specially set up by this Parliament.
On one occasion a Mr. Alexander, the representative of a Melbourne newspaper, came into conflict with- the authorities in another place, and was refused admittance to its precincts. I have no brief for Mr. Alexander, or any particular newspaper. I have been smashed and bashed by the press of this country, both politically and personally, until I do not care what they say about me. As you, Mr. President, are a member of the Library Committee, I feel sure that this matter will be ventilated.
To-day I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, without notice, whether his attention had been drawn to a press statement appearing in the Sydney Sun of Wednesday, the 4th November, under the heading, “ TasmaniaRags and Tatters”. “Cheap Meal Tickets Failing”. I was asked to give notice of the question, and when I set out to do so, I found that the rules laid down for the guidance of honorable senators make the following provision : -
It is not in order to ask whether certain things, such as statements made in a newspaper, are true; but attention may be drawn to such statements, if the senator who puts the question makes himself responsible for their accuracy.
I have been informed by the Sun newspaper that it has accurately reported the statement, and that the person responsible for it is the present Federal Treasurer (Mr. Theodore). The newspapers always endeavour to be accurate, because they realize that the law of libel may be invoked against them.
– What is the statement to which the honorable senator refers?
– It reads-
The serious financial position of Tasmania, due to falling revenues on railways and sweepstakes, was pointed out to the Federal Treasurer by the Tasmanian Premier (Mr. McPhee) to-day. Mr. McPhee stated that his Government was unable to meet its obligations
Hurler the restricted cash allocation provided under the Premiers Conference plan. This cash is found month by month on an estimated deficit of £90,000 for the financial year. Notwithstanding the 21 per cent, cut, the deficit, said Mr.McPhee, would reach £178,000, and he asked for the monthly payments to be increased accordingly.
From this it would appear that Mr. McPhee had made a statement, but, as L have explained, the Premier of Tasmania referred to the precarious financial position of that State, and it was Mr. Theodore who made the statement to the press. I have now sat under you, Mr. President, for the last eighteen months, and I have always found you ready to give advice to honorable senators seeking it. I do not for a moment’ suggest that you, would go so far as to attempt to exercise constitutional brutality towards me simply because, as a new member, I may be unused to parliamentary procedure. I realize that I have much to learn, and therefore I am seeking the light. You, wisely, no doubt, asked me to intimate, in writing, if I vouched for the accuracy of the report. I fail to see why I should be expected to give a written statement’ to that effect. When I read the Melbourne Age, the Melbourne Argus, the Adelaide Advertiser, or the Queensland or Sydney newspapers, I take it that, as they are working under the law of libel, any statement which appears in their columns is absolutely correct. For this reason, I consider that it was unfair to expect me to certify in writing to the accuracy of this statement, and I fail to see why I should have been singled out in this way.
– Other honorable senators have been obliged to conform to the rules relating to the asking of questions.
– I feel sure that, you, Mr. President, would not do anything to embarrass me. I dismiss such a thought from my mind. But as I have said, the statement that appeared in the Sydney Sun has been checked, and I can assure you that it is absolutely correct. I am informed that it was made by Mr. Theodore to a representative of the Sydney Sun.
– As it would appear that the two questions raised by the honorable gentleman do not go beyond my jurisdiction, I presume that I had better reply to them. As Vice-Chairinan of the Library Committee, I know nothing of the action taken in connexion with the South Australian Worker. I do not attach any importance to it. Nor do I think that the file was removed from a desk in the main reading room except for the reason given, namely, to make room for other papers. Further, I would say that if an attack is to be made upon my colleague, Mr. Speaker, I am certainly not going to allow it to be made in this chamber.
With regard to the rules framed for the guidance of honorable senators in asking questions on notice,
I may say that soon after the honorable senator was returned to the Senate, he placed on the notice-paper a considerable number of questions. On some occasions he needed guidance, and this he always received when he asked for it. As a matter of fact, some of the questions which he then asked were directly responsible for the adoption of the form of notice which is now used.
– Is it suggested that I should be regarded as a political “ stinkpot”?
– I would not use that word myself, nor would I allow any other honorable senator to employ it in this chamber. The rules relating to the asking of questions which are printed on the back of the form of notice were drawn up for the guidance of all honorable senators, and not for the honorable senator in particular. They comply with the Standing Orders and parliamentary customs and procedure as laid down by May. The question which the honorable senator has raised has relation to the following rule : -
It is not in order to ask “whether certain things, such as statements made in a newspaper, are true, but attention may be drawn to such statements if the senator who puts the question makes himself responsible for their, accuracy.
– Must that be done in writing? It is not required of honorable members of another place.
– I do not think there is any doubt about it. At all events, I regard it as necessary that the assurance should be given in writing.
– The Standing Orders do not specify that it must be done in writing’.
– That is so. It provides that the senator asking such questions must make himself responsible for the accuracy of the newspaper statements on which they are based, and that, in my opinion, undoubtedly means that he must do so in writing.
– If I were to give you, sir, a verbal assurance of the accuracy of certain statements, you would not go so far as to call me a liar?
– Certainly not. But I should like the honorable senator to look at this matter sensibly, and not from a purely personal point of view. It is my duty to satisfy myself that the rules relating to the asking of questions which, as I have explained, have been drawn for the guidance of all honorable senators, are observed, and that is my view as to the manner in which the instructions should be observed. The asking of questions as to whether newspaper statements are true or not, is distinctly out of order. But it is permissible to direct attention to such statements if the honorable senator who puts the questions makes himself responsible for their accuracy.
– Is it in order for an honorable senator to ask a Minister whether his attention has been directed to a certain quotation or article in a newspaper, and to quote the statement referred to?
– May does not countenance that procedure.
– Is it not time we had an Australian May?
– The time has been ripe for an Australian May for many years, but an Australian May has not yet risen. Therefore, we have to fall ‘ back upon the procedure of the British Parliament, as laid down in May, to whom the members of every British Parliament owe so much for guidance and advice, and to whom, as President of the Senate, I look for instruction and guidance in all matters relating to parliamentary, procedure which are not expressly provided for in our standing orders. The honorable senator must not think that he has been singled out for special attention in this matter.
– Such a thought never . entered my mind.
– I am glad to have that assurance, because certain observations made by the honorable senator led me to think otherwise. I ask him, in common with all other honorable senators, to conform to the practice of the Senate, and to obey my ruling unless he wishes to disagree with it, in which case he must give notice in writing. The Senate will then have an opportunity to determine whether I am right or wrong.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 November 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19311105_senate_12_132/>.