13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers. -
The following papers were presented: -
League of Nations - Twelfth Assembly, September, 1931 - Report of the Australian Delegation.
Papua - Annual report for 1930-31.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [3.2].- by leave - This morning’s issue of the Canberra Times incorrectly reports an, interjection I made yesterday afternoon when Senator Barnes was speaking. Senator Barnes was saying -
This Government might not misuse the’ powers, which it was taking to itself, but the present Public Service Board would not last for ever, and neither would this administration.
I am reported . to have interjected - “ It will be a good job for Australia if it doesn’t.” What I really said was - “It will bo a good job for Australia if it does.” I object to being misreported in this way.
– It merely shows the undesirability of making interjections.
– Will an opportunity be afforded to the Senate, before this part of the session closes; to discuss’ the subjects -set down for deliberation, at the forthcoming Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa?’
– I understand that the Prime Minister is now considering how the matter can most suitably be brought before Parliament for discussion.I shall see that when a decision is reached on that point the Senate will have an equal opportunity with another place to discuss the subjects to be considered at Ottawa.
– In view’ of the result which has followed free education in New South Wales, and its ruinous effect upon other parts of Australia, I should like to know if there is anything in the Federal Constitution to enable the Education Act of the State to be repealed ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The powers of the Federal Constitution do not include education; it is a matter which is reserved to the States. But I am quite sure that whatever may have been the result of free education in New South Wales, the education the people of that State have been receiving during the last few months will have a very important effect at the first opportunity they have of expressing their views:
– A report of the Under-Secretary for Mines in Queensland, for the year 1931, published in the Queensland Government’s mining journal, contains the following: - “There was a decided drop in the coal production from the collieries in the northern and central districts of Queensland. Loss of bunker and overseas trade from the Bowen field was largely responsible for the reduction. It was found quite impossible to compete with the southern coal, which is helped along with a Commonwealth subsidy.
I presume that the subsidy -referred to was paid on coal from New South Wales. I should like to know if it is still being paid and, if so, whether it can be extended to other States ?
– I am not quite sure whether the subsidy is still operative, but when it was payable it was paid to any State on its exported coal.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following reply: -
– Information is being obtained in reference to a question asked by Senator Foll relating to the total” quantity of tobacco removed from bond since the duty was last reduced.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a first time.
[3.11].- I move- .
That the bill be now read a third time.
In view of what was said yesterday by Senator Payne, with regard to the additional pay to the Public Service in leap year, it is desirable that I should offer a more complete explanation. This is a necessary adjustment, consequent on the decision arrived at some years ago to pay1 salaries and wages fortnightly, that is, on every alternate Friday. .The uniform principle was adopted of making equal fortnightly payments, and- for this purpose it was decided to exclude Sundays from the number of days in a normal year, and take 313 days as the number on which the fortnightly payment should be based. The. number 313 is strictly adhered to, even though the year may contain S3 Sundays, and. there may be only 312 days to be paid for. The salary paid to an officer within a financial year is not necessarily in respect of the time worked during that’ year. For instance, during last financial year the final salary payments covered the fortnight ending the 24th June. The balance of the salary for the financial year . provided in the Estimates was transferred to trust fund, and was available towards the first fortnightly payment in the current financial year. This overlapping of periods, which occurs every financial year, makes it necessary to provide for an extra day’s salary in leap year, excepting when the extra day falls on a Sunday, as was the case in the financial year 1923-24. ‘
.- I thank the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) for the explanation which he has just given to the Senate with reference to this practice of providing an additional day’s pay to Commonwealth public servants during leap year. But the departmental explanation ignores the fact that, although public servants are paid fortnightly, their salary is on a yearly basis, and it appears to me that, at a time like this, when Ministers and their supporters, and, I assume, also, members in Opposition are keen to keep down extraneous payments, this additional payment could be saved without inflicting any injustice upon the Public Service. No commercial undertaking, as far as I can learn, in the Commonwealth makes a similar provision for its employees in cases where they are paid an annual salary, and, in my opinion, it is extraordinary that Commonwealth public servants, who may rightly be regarded as the most sheltered employees in this country, should be given an extra day’s pay in leap year. Since the work of the various departments is performed quite efficiently in other years, of 365 days, it might be considered advisable, in order to avoid this extra payment in leap year, to arrange that no work shall be done on the 29th February. It is not, as some honorable senators may consider, an unimportant item. I have perused the Estimates for this year, and find that no less a sum than £30,942 has to be provided to cover this extra day’s pay. I could understand the reason for this additional payment if Commonwealth employees were on a daily wage basis. Then, if they were called upon to work 366 days in leap year, they would be entitled to pay for that number of days; but, as I have explained, their salaries we fixed on a yearly basis, and it is beyond all reason to suggest that they should be given an extra day’s pay in leap year. No doubt all honorable senators have received appeals for relief similar to those which reach me in correspondence from unfortunate taxpayers who are being crushed by the heavy burdens that have been laid upon them by successive governments in recent years. Many of these taxpayers are in nothing like the favorable position of Commonwealth employees, so it is unreasonable to expect them to pay extra levies to provide for this additional £30,942 required for the extra day’s pay in leap year.
– Public servants have to bear their full share of taxation.
– I do not deny that, but persons who are not in the Public Service shoulder a much heavier burden, and, as I have already stated, they are not in a position to carry it. In these times of stress it is quite improper to provide this amount on the Estimates, because - I say it advisedly - the money is not earned, inasmuch as public servants are paid on a yearly basis.
– Who was responsible for this arrangement?
– I cannot say, but this is about the third time that the item has appeared in the Estimates.
– No private employer would pay it.
– I am aware that nothing can be done to obviate the payment this year, because the Estimate? have been passed, and we are nearing the close of the financial year, but it is just as well that the Government should know that honorable senators generally do not approve of this extraneous payment, which cannot be justified.
There is another matter to which I desire to direct attention. In the Estimates for this year there is provision for £42,310 to meet claims for higher duty pay. This item, I suggest, might be reviewed with a. view to effecting substantial economies. I have no objection to higher pay being given to any public servant who is called upon to do special work in a higher grade than his classification, but I do object to additional pay being given to one of two men working side by side who may be required to do some of the work of his higher paid colleague during the latter’s temporary absence through illness. This does not seem to be a reasonable arrangement, and I believe that substantial savings could be effected if, in these difficult times, there was a greater spirit of co-operation in all branches of the Public Service with a view to keeping down public expense. I hope that the Minister will bring this matter under the notice of the Government, so that it may be dealt with when the Estimates for the ensuing financial year are under consideration.
– Though it is not customary to debate the motion for the third reading of a bill, the departure in this instance is, I think, fully justified. There is one matter which has been exercising my mind a great deal since yesterday.. The right honorable the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) said yesterday that the policy of preference to returned soldiers operates only in the case of appointments ; that once in the Service, a soldier receives no further preference. That information came to me as a shock.
– That is the position so far as the Public Service Act is concerned.
– I have always thought that the preference principle applied also in the case of dismissals from the Public Service. Only recently, I received the following letter from the President of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia dated the 24th March, 1932 : -
Re possible retrenchmentof permanent stuff, Commonwealth Public Service, I have pleasure in stating that as the result of representations made by me to the Prime Ministerduring recent interviews, he promised that if the men concerned are in the same division, preference in dismissals shall be given to returned soldiers. With regard to temporary employees in the Service, he also promised that returned soldiers possessing the requisite qualifications shall be transferred to the positions held by non-soldiers.
I feel that this practical interest of the ‘Prime Minister in the welfare of returned soldiers will be greatly appreciated.
j. C. Dyett, Federal President.
I should like to know definitely the policy of the Government in this matter. Time after time, I have been disappointed and grieved with all governments. On Armistice Day, Anzac Day, and on the hustings, the policy of preference to returned soldiers is advocated, because it is felt that it goes down well with the people, but I regret that on far too many occasions, governments, municipalities, and other public and semi-public bodies regard the principle as a dead letter when it comes to honouring it. As a supporter of the Government, I should like to know the Government’s policy regarding this matter.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [3.23] . - Senator Payne’s statement regarding the cost of extra payments to public servants in leap years came as much as a surprise to Ministers as it did to other honorable senators. The present Government took over the budget which the previous Government had passed through Parliament. It is surprising that no one noticed the provision for extra pay ‘when the budget was under discussion.
– The’ subject was mentioned, but it was . found that there was nothing in the complaint.
– I do not recall the matter having been mentioned. Each honorable senator must accept responsibility for not having noticed this provision at the proper time. I was not aware that the money was being paid. If the present Government is in office next leap year, the matter will be considered.
– What government was responsible for the provision in the first place?
– I do not know when the arrangement originated. The last government to provide for the extra pay was the Scullin Government.
– It is time the extra payment ceased.
– With regard to the payment of higher duties allowances, honorable senators will remember that I stated that nearlyall these extraneous payments, with the exception of pay for holidays worked, are covered by awards of the court, not by the Public Service Act, I think that the higher duties allowance is covered by an award, so that an amendment of the award would be necessary to discontinue it. That matter is under the consideration of the Government.
Senator Sampson will remember that yesterday, when I referred to the policy of preference to returned soldiers, I was speaking of provisions of the Public Service Act, not the policy followed by the Government in its administration. The honorable senator will see that the two things are entirely different. The Public Service Act does not provide for preference to returned soldiers, excepting in the making of appointments; but I can assure the Senate that, in its administration, the Government certainly does give preference to returned soldiers. On many occasions ithas demonstrated its adherence to that policy; it is demonstrated by the letter read by Senator Sampson.
– That is why I read it.
– As the honorable senator knows, this question and others are now receiving the consideration of the Government in the light of representations which have been made to it as the result of the last, conference of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 3rd May, vide page 170) :
Bill reported from committee without amendment or debate.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 3rd of May, vide page 176, of amendment by Senator Grant) :
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 10a. Section 132 of the principal act is a mended by adding at the end thereof the following proviso: - “‘Provided that goods imported on any vessel shall, upon entry for home consumption at any port after the first port of call in Australia, be dutiable at all ports at the rates of duty in. force on the date the vessel carrying the goodsfirst reported at an Australian port ofcall.”’
.- I listened with interest, on Friday to the explanation of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Greene) as to the difficulties which would arise from the proposed new clause, but to me it was not very convincing. Unfortunately, Brisbane is in many eases the last port of call for overseas ships, and consequently, when customs duties are increased after an overseas vessel, which is proceeding eventually to Brisbane, has reached its first or a subsequent port of call, the higher rates are collected at Brisbane. This places the consignees at that port at a disadvantage. As duties have been on the increase during recent years importers in Brisbane have experienced considerable disadvantage; but if duties were reduced, Brisbane importers would benefit. Our desire, however, is to secure equitable treatment for all traders, and the proposed new clause has been submitted to achieve that object. It is really a matter of adopting a commonsense policy to provide that the duty payable on goods on an overseas vessel when it reaches its first Australian port of call shall be the duty applicable to such goods at all other ports. I know that the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce and other chambers of commerce have for many years protested against the present practice, which leads to unfair discrimination. For these reasons I support the amendment moved by Senator Grant, for the insertion of this new clause and trust that it will be carried.
.- The Government has considered the proposed new clause moved yesterday by Senator Grant, on behalf of Senator Payne, who at the time was in the Chair, and for reasons which I shall endeavour, briefly., to explain, it cannot see its way clear to accept it. I need hardly say that this subject is almost hoary with age. Honorable senators who have been members of this chamber for any time know that it has repeatedly come up for consideration, and that every government has found it, necessary to reject the suggestion, not because it hasnot sympathized with those, who, from time to time, may be affected; not that it. has not realized that from time to time anomalies are created under the existing practice; but because the proposed remedy would create a series of other anomalies, from which there would be no escape. In addition to the disadvantages I mentioned on a previous occasion, grave difficulties in administration would be created by having different rates applying to goods arriving at the same port on the same day.
– Can the Assistant Minister explain those difficulties?
– Actual practical difficulties would be associated with the work of departmental officers if goods arriving by different ships at the same port on the same day were dutiable at different rates.
– Additional work would be involved and mistakes might occur, which it would be difficult to adjust. Honorable senators are aware that a large proportion of the goods imported from time to time go into bond where an importer is able to keep them as long as he pleases. They might be released from bond twelve months later.
– Could not that be provided for?
– The importer has to pay the duty applicable when the goods are removed from bond.
– Not under the proposed new clause as at present drafted. Goods to which this clause would apply might not be released from bond until twelve months after their arrival, and yet they would be dutiable at the rate attaching to the particular ship in which they arrived. I mention this matter merely to show the difficulties that would be created. Senator Sir Hal Colebatch, when speaking on the second reading of the bill, pointed out with great clarity the anomalies that would arise if this change were made. It is far more important that goods landed at any given port on the same day should be dutiable at the same rate than it is that goods imported in a particular ship should be dutiable throughout Australia, at the rate prevailing when that vessel reported at its first port of call in Australia. The proposed new clause would create worse anomalies than those which it is designed to cure.
– Is the Assistant Minister losing sight of the fact that the States are federated?
– I do not think that that comes into the question. The adoption of this proposal would mean that goods on ships making Fremantle their first port of call, and then visiting the other principal ports before reaching Brisbane, would be dutiable at the rate prevailing at the first port of call. Then there are other vessels which come direct to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or any other port. Between the respectivedates of the arrival of the one ship at Fremantle and the direct ship at Melbourne there may be a change of duty, with the result that goods are landed on the same day which are dutiable at different rates, one importer landing his at the lower rate, while another has to pay the higher rate. Under those circumstances, greater difficulties would be created as between individuals than is probable under the operation of the law as it now stands.
– The existing difficulty is between towns or States rather than between individuals.
– There is that difficulty. But the real difficulty is - between individuals. Yesterday, Senator Grant, when moving this amendment, pointed out that on a particular occasion there was a change in duty between the times when certain goods were landed at Hobart and at Launceston, with the result that one set of traders received their goods ata lower rate of duty than others. But if the amendment were accepted, that condition of affairs would be just as liable, in fact more liable, to crop up; consequently, it would cure nothing.
– That, I think, is self-evident. Take, for example, goods that are landed in Melbourne from a direct ship, and others from a. ship which calls at Fremantle in the first, instance, and let us assume that there are firms in Launceston which are- importing by both vessels. One importer would get his goods at the lower rate of duty, while another would -have to pay the higher rate. Greater difficulty would thus be caused as between individuals in the one city; the confusion would be worse, and nothing would be made better. Senator Grant said yesterday that in Tasmania the feeling was that if they got this amendment they would not care whether the tendency at the moment was towards lower duties. If Tasmania or Queensland has been suffering under any disadvantage during the period when, I admit, - duties have been constantly rising, they at ail events stand the chance of getting some of their own back at a time when duties are going down.
– Can the Minister tell us when that will be the case?
– All that I can say is that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) has already introduced, in another place, tariff resolutions which provide for lower duties. Only yesterday he tabled a resolution, which made provision for lower duties in three items. I believe that when the people of Tasmania realize what the position is at the moment, they will agree that the present is a most inopportune time to bring up this particular subject, and that they had better allow the present practice to prevail for some considerable time to see what happens under it.
– What is the law to-day?
– The law to-day is that the duties operate throughout Australia on the day that they are tabled in the House of Representatives. The result of that, of course, is that all goods which are landed by the same ship in the same place on the same day, or by all ships on ,the one clay, have applied to them the same rate of duty, irrespective of what bottom they come in.
– The Minister lias given only half the explanation. What happens to the cargo of a vessel that has to unload at three different ports?
– If a vessel calls at Fremantle, Sydney or any other port of entry in Australia, the rate of duty applicable is applied to the goods that are landed on that clay. But, if the duty is changed while the vessel is proceeding from one port to another, or is unloading, the new duty is applicable to any goods that are landed thereafter.
– To goods that are cleared from bond thereafter.
– For the time being, I was ignoring the question of bond. As the honorable senator knows, a very large proportion of the goods imported does not go into bond. That is the position at the present time. We believe that, on the whole, it has been found to be the most equitable practice that could be devised; and it is the one that gives rise to the fewest anomalies. No one would argue that there are not some anomalies.
– What happens during the process of unloading? If duties are changed at 4 o’clock to-day, what is the position to-morrow?
– The new duties apply-
– To half the cargo.
– That may be. I do not think that Senator Payne’s proposal would improve matters in the slightest degree. On the contrary, the view is held that more and greater anomalies would arise than would be cured. For that reason, the Government feels that it can take no other course than to refuse to agree to the amendment, and to follow the track that has been so well blazed in the past.
– This is not a matter that affects Tasmania solely. We in Queensland are probably in a worse position under it than even the importers of that State. The class of goods affected is that which is of a distributive character. Whisky may be imported for distribution at Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, and, lastly, Brisbane. . Therefore, to my mind, Queensland has been in the worst position throughout the years. That the subject is bristling with, difficulties I am free to admit. Its frequent’ reference to the Minister for tlie time being by the associated chambers of commerce shows that. The fact that chambers of commerce and commercial people year by year advocate this change must show that it is desirable in tlie interests of commerce. So far, the objections to it have been raised only by the customs officials. I disagree with the Assistant Minister that the difficulties under the proposed amendment would be greater than are now encountered. I think that the difficulties under the present system are greater than would be encountered linder the proposed system. Take a shipment of whisky for distribution all round Australia. If there is an increase of duty after portion of the cargo is landed in Fremantle, the people of Western Australia derive an advantage. That 13 not a desirable state of affairs to continue. I am surprised to hear the Assistant Minister claiming that if the whisky is put into bond, the sar.ie duty would be attachable in all the States. We all know that all goods bear whatever rates of duty is applicable when they are taken out of bond. If this amendment is agreed to, and the distributing ship reaches Sydney, its last port of call, before a new duty is imposed, it, will, of course, be a difficult matter to collect the increase on the portions of the cargo already discharged at Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne or Hobart.
– What happens now when a ship calls at a Queensland port first?
– Brisbane gets the advantage, it is a state of affairs that really requires clearing up, and, I think, it would be better for the Customs Department to accept the advice of the commercial world. The difficulties of the proposed system would not be so great as those which now exist. The Assistant Minister has pointed out that goods arriving in a port on the same day might with a change of duty, be charged different rates of duty, but inasmuch as a vessel which first calls at Fremantle is now in a better position to benefit from any change of duty than a vessel whose first port of call may be Sydney, without touching, say, at Fremantle, I do not think that the difficulty referred to by the Assistant Minister would be taken amiss by the commercial world.
– Would it not be more difficult to have two merchants in Melbourne clearing the same class of goods at different rates of duty on the same day?
– In regard to a shipment of ginger the other day, every port, escaped the increase of duty except Sydney, because the increase was imposed before the vessel reached Sydney after discharging at the other ports. The great bulk of shipping in Australia is of a distributive character, and, I think, it would be better for the Government to agree to the request of the commercial people.
. - I hope that the committee will accept the advice of the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene). We all realize that the imposition of duties creates anomalies. The formula now applied is the best, that, can be devised by those who are administering the Customs ActWhen the previous Government was in office, and the complaint which is now being ventilated was raised,I had several conferences with customs officials in regard to it. I ascertained from them that greater anomalies than now exist would be brought about, if the formula suggested by Senator Payne were adopted. As the
Assistant Minister has pointed Out, inequities would arise even if the proposed formula were adopted. A ship whose first port of call was Adelaide would unload, and pay certain rates of duty; another vessel after calling at Fremantle would unload the self-same goods at a lower rate of duty. That would mean unfair intra-state competition. It really does not make very much difference from the standpoint of anomalies which formula is adopted ; anomalies would continue under either.
– But with the existing system there is no local unfair trading.
– I am under an obligation to the Assistant Minister for that reminder. I think that when the existing formula was adopted it was agreed that, under it, there would be no unfair intra-state trading.
– Where does intrastate trading come in ?
– The Assistant Minister has pointed out that if the present formula is changed, on one day a vessel could unload in Adelaide, and on the following day another boat could unload in the same port the same class of goods at lower rates of duty. The goods imported at the lower rates of duty would thus compete in the same market with goods which paid the higher rates. The formula suggested by Senator Payne would certainly remove an anomaly that might arise between ports at some given time, but it’ would create intra-state anomalies and these, in my opinion, are more difficult to overcome than are the difficulties which now arise. Every item of the tariff creates an anomaly. Is it not an anomaly that the people of Western Australia are obliged to pay 4d. per dozen for the right to eat Queensland bananas, which they cannot purchase? They cannot get bananas from Queensland; they must buy them from Java. The purchaser of a motor car in New South Wales pays more,because the motor body-building industry is located in South Australia. The present formula has stood the test of time.
– But it has always been unfair.
– I do not suppose that anything has adversely affected States like
South. Australia, “Western Australia, and Tasmania more than has the incidence of the federal tariff. That is one of the prices we pay for federation.
– It is too high a price.
– That may or may not be; but we have to decide the best formula to adopt in fixing duties, and, in my opinion, the proposed formula would create greater anomalies than now exist. The committee would be well advised to accept the advice of the Assistant Minister until, upon further inquiry, it satisfies itself that an amended formula would be an improvement.
.- I am surprised at the opposition of the Government to this amendment. Although the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) says that the question is hoary with age, and that every government which has considered the matter has found it necessary to refuse to amend the act in the direction I have suggested, I have evidence to prove that such is not the case. On the 30th August, 1928, Mr. D. Cameron, the then member for Brisbane, asked the following question : -
Referring to the question by the honorable member for Brisbane on the 27th April last, regarding the unanimous resolution of thelast conference in Hobart of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, requesting the introduction of uniform customs duties, will he state what action has been taken, and what the present position is?
And the reply of Mr. Bruce, the Leader of the then Government,was as follows : -
This matter has received consideration, and an amendment to the Customs Act has been drafted to give effect to the request of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. It is the intention of the Government to proceed with this amendment as soon as practicable.
– The bill was afterwards dropped by the same Government.
– But, in view of that reply, how can the Assistant Minister say now that every government that has considered the matter has found it necessary to refuse to amend the act? I take it that the answer of the then Prime Minister was given after consultation. At any rate, several months afterwards, the then Minister for Trade and Customs was asked a similar question, and his reply endorsed that which had been given by Mr. Bruce. Consequently, I naturally expected that a bill would be introduced that session to amend the Customs Act in the direction suggested. It has not been done so far, and, for some reason or other, the present Government finds itself advised to oppose this amendment. I can quite understand its attitude if it is following departmental advice. But I cannot accept difficulty of administration as an adequate reason for opposing the amendment. A little extra work might be entailed, but every ship must carry its manifest. That manifest must be endorsed at the first port of call, and must be produced for inspection whenever required. The only additional work entailed on the customs authorities would be the inspection of the manifest. The present position is intolerable.I direct the attention of honorable senators to section 51 of the Constitution which enacts -
TheParliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.
Taxation : but so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States.
Will any one deny that the present procedure with regard to the levying of duties is not, in some circumstances, a discrimination not only between the States, but even between parts of a State? Without, J. hope, wearying the Senate, I can give one or two concrete examples. A vessel may arrive in Hobart with a certain class of cargo, and after discharging portion may be proceeding to Launceston when an amended customs tariff, imposing higher duties, is laid on the table of the House. Launceston merchants importing the same class of goods as those landed in Hobart a day or two previously, would thus be called upon to pay the higher rates. That clearly would be discrimination in customs taxation between parts of a State. Does the Minister realize that the Constitution is an Australian, and not a States Constitution? There is nothing in the argument that my amendment might prejudice the interests of merchants importing goods by two vessels arriving at a certain Australian port on the same day. From an Australian point of view it is essential that the duties in force when any vessel arrives at its first Australian port shall be levied at the same rate on all those goods in that vessel at all Australian polls. Any departure from this principlemeans an unfair discrimination between the States or, in the case which I have just quoted, between portions of a State.
– Discrimination is even possible between taxpayers in one port.
– That is so. If a vessel with, say, 2,000 ton3 of cargo lauds 1,000 tons at existing rates of duty, and if a new tariff schedule is introduced the next day, imposing higher duties, the latter portion of its cargo must be cleared at the higher rates.
– That difficulty could arise even under the honorable senator’s proposal.
– The honorable senator is wrong. My amendment provides that goods imported on any vessel shall, upon entry for home consumption at any port after the first port of call in Australia, be dutiable at all ports at the rates of duty in force on the day the vessel carrying the goods first reported a: an Australian port of call. Nothing f-ould be clearer than that.
– Would the same principle, operate in the event of lower rates of duty being levied ?
– Yes. It has been suggested by the Minister and those who are opposed to the amendment, that the inclusion in the Customs Act of this provision would not be in the interests of Tasmanian merchants in view of the possibility of a revision of the tariff in a’ downward direction. I have already explained that I am not discussing this principle from the point of view of any particular State. To clear up any doubt that might exist in the minds of honorable senators as to the attitude of Tasmanian merchants in the event of lower duties being imposed, I telegraphed to the Hobart Chamber of Commerce to obtain its views on the subject, and I have received the following reply from that body : -
Thanks lettergram 20th. This chamber secs no reason for withdrawing request. Fact of possible reduced duties does not alter principle of uniformity which this chamber advocates as fair and just to all Australia.
That is the spirit in which this committee should” approach the consideration of my amendment. The section in the Constitution to which I have called attention indicates clearly that the framers of the Constitution did not contemplate that any State should, in the matter of customs duties or taxation, have an advantage over another State. It has been urged, in oppostition to the amendment, that difficulties might arise in the event of two vessels arriving at a given port on the same day. One vessel, it is argued, might previously have called at another Australian port and have landed some portion of its cargo, but before arrival at its second port, higher rates of duty might have been imposed, with the result that cargo at its second port would be entered for home consumption at the rates of duty in force on the date of its arrival at its first port, whereas cargo in a vessel arriving on the same day from overseas, and making that port its first port of call, would be entered at the higher rates. In that event, it is true that an importer whose goods were in one vessel might have an advantage over importers whose goods were in the other: but if we regard this matter from the Australian point of view, and pay regard to the principle laid down in the Constitution, objection to my amendment on those grounds cannot be sustained. I have no desire to labour this question. I hope that I have disposed of the Minister’s objection to the satisfaction of honorable senators, and that the amendment will be carried.
– I intend to support the amendment, although I cannot quite see that it will do all that Senator Payne expects it to do. If it applies to bonded goods it will involve a good deal of departmental work and inconvenience, which ought to be avoided. So far as the principle is concerned, it ought to be adopted. As Senator Payne has told the committee, this matter has been discussed at every conference of the associated chambers of commerce for several years, and a resolution in terms similar to the amendment was adopted at the conference which I attended in Sydney. Sometimes vessels make a Queensland port their first port of call, but I believe I am correct in say- ing that at least 90 per cent, of the overseas goods imported into Queensland come in vessels which call first at ports in other States. Very rarely is Hobart made the first port of call. Consequently, the people of Queeusland and Tasmania suffer an injustice under the present arrangement, and I think an alteration should be made as soon as possible. Although Senator Daly has pointed out that the amendment might involve a certain amount of inequity it is, I believe, the lesser of two evils, and. I shall vote for it.
– I intend to support the amendment, because I believe it will remove an injustice under which Tasmania .and Queensland have been suffering for many years. No importer should be given an advantage over another importer, even in the same port of call. Under existing arrangements, portion of a vessel’s cargo may be discharged, say, in the morning, and in the afternoon, higher rates of duty having been imposed, the remaining portion of a ship’s cargo has to pay higher rates of duty. This would give one importer an unfair advantage over another. Similarly, if lower rates of duty were imposed, an importer entering goods immediately prior to the imposition of the new duties might be placed at a great disadvantage in his competition with other importers whose goods have been cleared at lower rates. As has been pointed out, there may be an. alteration in the tariff during the voyage of a vessel from Melbourne to Hobart, and owing to the imposition of higher duties, Tasmanian merchants and the people generally may be penalized. Much of the Tasmanian business is done with the mainland. Sometimes it happens that Hobart and Launceston merchants are able to purchase their supplies from Melbourne to better advantage than if they were imported direct from overseas. As Fremantle is usually a first port of call for overseas vessels. Western Australia is not likely to reap any benefit from the amendment. Nor is South Australia, but possibly it will help merchants in the other States. I appreciate Senator Sir Hal Colebatch’s point of view, and I can understand his objection to the amendment on the ground that, if it is adopted, varying rates of duty may be levied in respect of cargoes of two vessels arriving on the same day at an Australian port; but having regard to all the circumstances, I intend- to vote for the amendment. There are anomalies both in the existing act and in the amendment. I do not know in which they are greater, but I shall support the amendment, because I want to see the existing injustices removed.
– For many years this matter has exercised the minds of men in the commercial world, particularly the members of the chambers of commerce in the various States. Last night Senator Grant referred to an occasion on which a ship loaded with overseas cargo entered the port of Hobart, discharged portion of its cargo there, and left for Launceston, a voyage of about 24 hours. While the vessel was travelling between Hobart and Launceston a new tariff schedule was tabled. Honorable senators can readily imagine how the merchants of those two cities felt. Similar difficulties arise every time a new tariff schedule is tabled when a vessel, which has discharged cargo at mainland ports, is on the way to Tasmania. Those occasions have been rather frequent, and the result has been greatly to the disadvantage of Tasmanian traders. The competition between merchants in Hobart and Launceston is keen, and, in addition, they both have to meet very strong competition from the big warehouses on the mainland. On the occasions to which I have referred, the mainland merchants do not fail to take advantage of their position, and practically dump goods in Tasmania. With such goods Tasmanian traders have to compete. The arguments which have been raised from time to time against any alteration of the existing system are purely departmental. The Senate has been informed on a number of occasions that the departmental officers are the persons best qualified to judge these matters, and that they are the ones most vitally concerned. That is mere nonsense; the people who have to keep them, in their jobs are the ones most concerned, and they should have some say in the matter. On one or two occasions those who advocated an alteration of the existing -system were almost victorious in the long drawnout battle, but at the eleventh hour those holding responsible positions gave way, showing clearly that Australia is governed, not by Parliament, but by a bureaucracy. I am not greatly concerned with the matter raised by Senator Colebatch; but, believing that the amendment asks only what is reasonable, I trust that the Senate will accept it.
– I hope that the Government will accept the amendment, since it is obvious that a majority of honorable senators favour it.
– Time after time the Bruce-Page Government promised to alter the existing law.
– That is so. On one occasion that Government prepared a bill to make the alteration desired by the Senate, but it did not proceed with the measure. It is true that difficulties would be encountered if the amendment were accepted, but there are difficulties even under the existing law. For instance, some of the goods discharged from a vessel at Melbourne may be cleared on arrival, in which case they pay duty at a certain rate, while the remainder is placed in bond, and, before they are released, are subject to probably two or three alterations of the tariff. I do not think that the difficulties would -be any greater if the amendment were made law.
Senator Daly said that, although there are difficulties under the existing law in respect of interstate trade, it obviates difficulties in respect of intrastate trade. That is not the position. A? honorable senators know, a tariff schedule operates from S o’clock in the morning of the day following its being tabled in Parliament. Goods unloaded thereafter are subject to any alteration in duty, so that, the difficulty in regard to intra-state trade is not removed. I trust that the Government will accept the amendment.
– I desire to remove any doubt which may exist in the mind of Senator Crawford in regard to goods in bond. The proviso refers to goods imported in any vessel and entered for home consumption. That means goods which are cleared straight away; they would be affected by the duty. Goods” placed in bond remain there until they are cleared; and when they are cleared, they are subject to the then existing duty.
– I appreciate the spirit in which senators have approached this subject, and I sympathize with the view that has been expressed by those who favour the amendment. But I feel confident that when the matter is closely examined honorable senators will realize, as I myself regretfully do, that it is difficult to do anything to remove these peculiar anomalies. The Government will, however, give further consideration to the representations which have been made and, if it can see its way to do so, it will endeavour to meet the wishes of honorable senators.
– We have heard that promise for twenty years.
- Senator Thompson said that the amendment would overcome difficulties. It would not; on the contrary, it would create difficulties. It seeks to amend section 132 of the principal act which provides -
All import duties shall be paid at the rate in force when the goods are entered for home consumption.
The position would not be difficult if we had to deal only with goods for home consumption as they leave the ship. But many goods go into bond, and are entered for home consumption only when they are taken from bond. The act of putting them into bond merely postpones the time when they are entered for home consump-tion.
– Will the Minister accept the amendment if amended to meet that position?
– I do not say that. I am advised that goods are entered for home consumption when they are taken out of bond. It would appear, therefore, that, no matter how long they remain in bond, they are dutiable at the rate in force when the ship in which they were carried reached Australia.
Senator Payne doubted the accuracy of some of my statements, and he quoted a reply given in another place in 192S to a question asked by Mr. Donald Cameron. The then Government did not proceed with the measure which it had prepared, for the reason, I am informed, that after full consideration it found that, not only were there grave practical difficulties in the way, but also that doubt existed as to its constitutionality. That difficulty arose in connexion with section SS of the Constitution which provides that, “ uniform duties of customs shall bo imposed.”
– That is all we want.
– The court has interpreted “ uniformity “ in point of time; that is to say, the duties must be uniform at the time they are imposed. Consequently, there is grave doubt, to say the least, about the validity of any such provision. I understand that the matter was submitted to the then AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) and it is probable that the decision of the then Government, not to proceed any further with the matter, was taken as a result of his advice. Although I understand that this was not one of the specific matters upon which the Constitution Commission was asked to express an opinion, it came under its purview. That commission, after considering the resolution of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, said -
The claim is, in effect, that once a vessel is entered at an Australian port the rate of duty on goods imported in that vessel should Ite the same wherever those goods are landed. Under the present system an importer of goods at one port of call may pay a less ratu ti mil an importer at a later port, and may possibly be able to undersell the later importer by transferring his goods from one State to another. Section .132 of the Customs Act makes administration simple, and while it may be practicable to amend it without creating any serious difficulties, care will be needed not to infringe the requirements as to uniformity, ami after such an amendment it might happen that there would bc similar goods in different ships in port cleared on the same day, paying different rates of duty.
– Uniformity of what:?
– Uniformity of customs duties.
– That is what we are
Irving to achieve.
– The point 1 am striving to make is that the court, so far as we can learn, has interpreted the word “uniformity” to mean uniformity in point of time.
– Has there been any decision on that point?
– Not an absolute decision. The court has, at all events, given an indication that “ uniformity “ refers to the actual time at which the duties are levied. They must be uniform throughout Australia at the specific time at which they are imposed. If honorable senators agreed to the proposed new clause, they would find that greater anomalies than those now existing would arise, and that we should be faced with serious and definite constitutional difficulties. The advice tendered to the Government is definitely in the direction that this proposal would, in all probability, imperil the validity of the section of the Customs Act which it is proposed to amend. For that reason, if for no other,, I ask the committee not to support the amendment. All I can say at the present juncture is that before the bill is dealt with by another place, the Government will give the matter further and fuller consideration with every desire to, if possible, remove in a constitutional way, the anomalous conditions which we frankly admit exist. The Government desires to meet the views of honorable senators, but, realizes that constitutional and other difficulties of greater importance may arise.
– The Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) referred to the word “uniformity.” For the sake of argument we may assume that a vessel discharges a portion of her cargo at Fremantle, which is dutiable at a definite rate. The ship then proceeds to Port Adelaide, but before reaching that port duties on the cargo carried are increased. Does it make .any practical difference whether that cargo goes -to Port Adelaide in a ship’s bottom, or by rail? If it were lauded at Fremantle and transported by rail, it would be dutiable at the rate of duty iu operation when the ship called at Fremantle. If the goods were sent from Fremantle to Port Adelaide in a ship’s bottom, and the duties were increased while the vessel was between those two ports, there would be a variation in the duty as between the goods carried by sea and those carried by rail.
– A similar position would apply as between Hobart and Launceston.
– Yes; I mentioned Fremantle, as that is the port which has frequently been quoted during the debate. I appreciate what the Assistant Minister has said with respect to home consumption. If goods go into bond, the duty applicable is that in operation when they are released from bond.
– The owner of the goods pays the duty in force when they are cleared.
– Exactly. I see nothing in the contention that because a vessel discharges a portion of her cargo at. Fremantle and carries the balance to Adelaide, Sydney, or Hobart, there should be any difference in the duty paid on the goods comprising that cargo whether carried by a ship or by rail. I support the amendment.
. -The Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) intimated that if I withdrew the proposed new clause, the Government would see if the difficulties to which I have referred could be overcome in a constitutional way. Previous governments suggested that the Associated Chambers of Commerce should obtain the opinion of a recognized constitutional authority on the subject. Such an opinion was obtained from Mr. T. S. O’Halloran, K.C., of Adelaide, who said that there was nothing- in the Constitution to prevent an amendment of the Customs Act in the direction I have proposed. That opinion was accepted by the Government of the day, and some time later it agreed to bring in an amending bill. If there is any doubt with respect to goods in bond, the Government will have ample opportunity before the measure, is considered in another place to frame an amendment to overcome any difficulty which may exist. I am anxious that the principle shall be embodied in the bill.
Question - That the proposed new clause be inserted - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - S en a tor. Plain. )
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).There being fourteen “ Ayes “ and fourteen “ Noes “, I declare the question resolved in the negative.
Clause’ 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Conditions relating to application of preferential tariff).
– I ask the Minister to give some explanation of this clause, and of the alterations that are made in the law by it.
– This clause amends section 151a of the principal act. That section specifies the requirements to which goods must conform to be entitled to admission at preferential rates of duty as the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom. Such goods are divided chiefly into three classes. They are -
In regard to goods under class a, the act at present allows only such raw materials, other than. United Kingdom or Australian, to be used as are gazetted. This has caused a good deal of difficulty, as a considerable time may elapse before a material is gazetted, and the British manufacturer, who is in the meantime utilizing such a material, is at a disadvantage. It is considered that these difficulties will be alleviated if the use is permitted of crude raw materials generally, that is raw materials which have not been subjected to any processes of manufacture other than those of their primary produc- tion, such as timber in the log, crude petroleum, ores, grain, hides, &c.
On the other hand, gazettal would still be necessary of raw materials which had been processed beyond the stage of primary production. For example, wool imported into the United Kingdom as greasy wool could be used by a manufacturer, but wool imported as scoured wool could not be so used unless it had been gazetted.
To make the position as clear as possible, a distinction has been drawn in the new section between “unmanufactured” and “manufactured” raw materials, and a definition of the former has been incorporated. Should any question arise as to whether a raw material is “ unmanufactured “ or “ manufactured,” power is given for the Minister to give a decision which is final. This does not apply to raw materials of wholly Australian production, which may, as hitherto, be used irrespective of their stage of -manufacture.
As to goods under class b, the present position is that 75 per cent, of their value must be due entirely to United Kingdom labour or material. If Australian material has been used its value is not allowed to be included in the 75 per cent., but is on the same basis as foreign material. It is possible, therefore, that a British manufacturer might be making goods largely from Australian materials, and very little foreign material, and yet the goods would not be entitled to preference, whereas, if the Australian material were allowed as part of the 75 per cent., the goods would be entitled to preference. The existing position is not consistent with that in regard to goods under class a, namely, goods wholly manufactured or produced in the United Kingdom,. regarding which there is no limit to the extent to which Australian material may be used and the goods still be entitled to preference. It is reasonable that, in determining whether 7 5 per cent, of the value of goods consists of United Kingdom labour or material, Australian material used should be allowed to be included. The section is amended accordingly.
Shortly put, the position is that, up to the present, the value of Australian raw materials used has not been admitted in calculating the 75 per cent. Now it is proposed to admit it. The same situation exists in regard to goods under class c - that is, goods of a kind not commercially manufactured in Australia and of which not less than 25 per cent, of the cost requires to be due to United Kingdom labour or material, and the amendment provides for Australian material to be included in the 25 per cent.
An innovation is introduced in subsection 2 of the new section in regard to goods under class c. It is to give the Minister power to determine in suitable cases that the minimum percentage of United Kingdom value shall be 50 per cent., instead of 25 per cent. It has been brought under notice by some British manufacturers that the goods they make consist of not less than 50 per cent. United Kingdom labour or material, whereas other makers of the same type of goods may, in the interests of cheap production, use. foreign material to the greatest possible extent, and limit the extent of the United Kingdom labour and material to the minimum of 25 per cent, to qualify for preference. The former may, in such circumstances, be at a disadvantage,, which could be removed by the exercise of this sub-section.
Sub-sections 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the revised section do not embody any new features.
Sub-section 7 sets out a definition of “ unmanufactured raw materials “ which are now referred to in paragraph a of the new sub-section 1. This sub-section follows closely the New Zealand section on the subject and United Kingdom manufacturers should, therefore, find no difficulty- in following it.
Sub-section 8 gives power to the Minister to finally settle any question as to whether a particular material comes within the heading of “ unmanufactured raw material,” or any difference of opinion as to whether or not goods are the produce or manufacture of a particular country. The latter provision has been inserted as on occasion cases have arisen in which the manufacturer contended that his goods were entitled to preference, but the department was unable to agree. If in such a case the goods had been entered at preferential rates, and the department had recourse to law to obtain the higher duty under the general tariff, it would be necessary for the department to prove that the goods were not of United Kingdom origin within section 151a. Such a proceeding could be so cumbersome as to be impracticable, and would involve the obtaining of evidence on commission in the United Kingdom. The department has its officers abroad, and it is considered that if, as a result of investigation by those officers, the department is satisfied that any particular goods are not entitled to preference, the department should be in a position to see that duty is paid on the proper basis without involved and ‘expensive legal proceedings.
The last sub-section, 9, is a special provision to cover cinematograph films. From the point of view of production these are in a different category from goods generally, as the nature of a picture may require a large part of it to be photographed outside the United Kingdom. In order that British film producing companies may not be debarred from preference in such cases provision has been made to regard as entitled to preference any film which is certified by the British authorities to be registered as a British film.
The intention of these new provisions is to clarify the whole of the subject relating to British preference, to make that preference more effective and more definitely favorable to the British manufacturer, and to render its administration easier. The only amendment which might be regarded, in some quarters at all events, as detrimental to British manufacturers, is that which gives the Minister power to determine in suitable cases that the minimum percentage of United Kingdomproduction shall be 50 per cent, instead of 25 per cent. That, amendment, however, is being made deliberately with the intention of assisting those British manufacturers who are using the greatest possible amount of United Kingdom labour and materials.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 15 agreed to.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [5.2]. - I move -
That the following new clause he inserted: - “ 15a. Section 226 ofthe principal act is amended, by adding to the section the words ‘ or until three months after such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed, whichever period is the shorter.’ “
Section 226 would then read -
No proceeding whether against an officer or otherwise for any thing donefor the protection of the revenue in relation to any tariff or tariff alteration proposed in Parliament, shall except as mentioned in the next section be commenced before the close of the session in which such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed, or until three months after such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed, whichever period is the shorter.
The effect of the amendment would be that, when a tariff schedule was tabled in the House of Representatives, the duties would be collected immediately, just as they are at the present time; but if, would be an- obligation on the Government to have the schedule approved by Parliament within the succeeding three months, otherwise the altered duties would cease to operate. I do not think that there is any country, the government of which is allowed even so long a period to secure the adoption of its tariff schedules. I understand that yesterday, in another place, the assurance was given that an opportunity would be afforded before the present period of the session terminated for the discussion of some portion of the tariff schedules that have been tabled. The portions that we are given to understand are to be discussed are those in which the Government has made reductions in duties compared with the duties imposed by the Scullin Government. That is to say, wherever the Go ver n ment has done anything towards tariff reduction, that action is to be reviewed by Parliament; but where the Government has done nothing, where the schedules imposed by the Scullin Government, which were denounced by every member of the present Administration, have not been interfered with, they are to stand, and Parliament is to have no opportunity of discussing them. I take it that this period of the session will terminate at the end of this month. The probability is that no further sittings of Parliament will be held until after the Ottawa Conference. Therefore, we shall reach ‘the extraordinary position that duties which were condemned by the whole of the forces behind the present Government, not only in Parliament but also in the country, will have been imposed and collected, in some cases, for as long as three years, without Parliament having had an opportunity of considering them. I remind members of the Government in the Senate that this principle apparently appealed to them when the matter was discussed during the last Parliament. I trust, therefore, that they will accept this amendment. If it is thought that the period specified is too short, that matter can be further considered.
– I feel with Senator Colebatch that it is highly desirable that Parliament should be given the earliest opportunity of dealing with a . tariff schedule once it has been laid on the table of another place, and I deplore as much as he does the practice which has developed of late of tabling schedules and allowing the position to drift on from month to month aud year to year without Parliament having an opportunity to consider them. There are, however, a great many difficulties associated with a proposal to place a definite limitation of time upon the actual period in which a tariff schedule may operate before it ceases to have effect. Apart from the chaotic position which would arise in the Customs Department, many situations in Parliament itself would prevent a government, however well intentioned or earnest it might be, from having its schedules considered by Parliament within the three months. For instance, within a fortnight Parliament might commence the consideration of a schedule containing a couple of hundred items and sub-items, but within a month something else might occur to prevent the further consideration of it. I have had some experience of tariff schedules. I think I ‘am right in saying that when I introduced the 1921 tariff fully three months were occupied by the House of Representatives, sitting day and night, at a special session, in considering it. The Senate afterwards sat for five or six weeks doing nothing but considering the tariff. Had the proposal which Senator Colebatch seeks to have incorporated in the act been in operation at that time all the work of the House of Representatives would have gone for nought, the schedule would have ceased to have effect, and it could not have been forwarded as a bill to the Senate. In any case, if the provision the honorable senator now suggests were incorporated in the law, aud assuming that the House of Representatives was still in session three months after a schedule had been tabled, the Minister need only table a fresh schedule containing the same duties and thus get ‘another three months in which the duties would operate. No legislation can be devised to prevent that possibility. I am afraid that that course would be followed and Parliament would thus be left in exactly the same position as it is in today. Another difficulty is in connexion with the collection of revenue. These objections occur to me while I am on my feet, because I do not think that the honorable ‘senator gave me notice that he intended to move this amendment.
– I mentioned the matter on the second reading.
– I happened to be out of the chamber when the honorable senator was speaking.
– Then I cannot be blamed.
– The increased duties are collected from the time a schedule is tabled. When the motion, which the Minister submits, is finally adopted, and the customs tariff is passed, these collections are validated. But parliamentary proceedings are necessarily and unavoidably protracted. If the honorable senator’s proposal were in force and three months expired before the collections could be validated, the Customs Department would have to dissect all the duties paid in excess of the old rates, and make refunds to the various importers. The increases would have been wrongly collected. It is thus impracticable to put a definite limitation of time into the bill in the way suggested. It is the desire and aim of the present Government to give Parliament the earliest possible opportunity to discuss its tariff proposals. They would have been well on their way towards actual validation before now, had it not been for the unfortunate occurrences in New South Wales.
– Parliament would have been much better employed considering the tariff.
– That is a matter of opinion. The Government holds the view that unless the position in New South Wales can be satisfactorily handled the chances are that the whole of Aus- tra Iia will be thrown into financial chaos. It holds the view that the situation is of such transcending importance that it is desirable in everybody’s interest to bring it to a definite and final conclusion rather than discuss the tariff schedule. Of course, it is a matter of opinion, but I cite the present trouble as an example of circumstances which might make it impracticable for a government’ to have its tariff schedules considered by Parliament however desirous it might be of having them considered. Circumstances may easily prevent the actual consideration of a schedule within three months. For that reason I ask Senator Colebatch not to press his amendment. I admit the desirability of the consideration of a tariff schedule at the first’ possible moment once it is tabled, and that was invariably the practice in this Parliament until comparatively recently. Almost immediately a schedule was tabled, the House of Representatives proceeded to consider it. In those days, tariff amendments were not nearly so numerous as they have been of late; it was considered that we were doing fairly well if we reviewed the tariff every five or six years; but, nowadays, when we are being pressed for tariff revisions .every two or three months, it is extremely difficult to get matters finally adjusted. I do not know that I can say, usefully, any more at the moment. The desire of the Government is to give Parliament the earliest opportunity to consider its schedules, but it cannot avoid the introduction in the meantime of some very important legislation with which Parliament has unfortunately been called upon to occupy its time for the last few months.
– The proposal of Senator Colebatch is well timed. As to whether a period of three months is sufficient or not is another question, but any one who has viewed the situation during the last two or three years must be satisfied that some reform is necessary. During that period, many tariff schedules have been introduced - I believe they number twelve - and some of them have contained amendments of earlier schedules. The effect of all these alterations on the commercial community, and particularly on the pur chasing public, has been most disturbing, and, in many cases, has occasioned serious financial loss. The Assistant Minister looks with a friendly glance upon the proposal, but his friendliness does not carry him to the point of recognizing its full virtues. He says that if the Government of the day chose to avoid the provision, it could let the three months elapse, bring in a fresh schedule, and once more go merrily ahead. But the necessity for having to resort to the expedient of bringing in a fresh schedule every three months would so ‘centre public opinion upon the action of the Government that it would think twice before adopting it. Meanwhile, what this country wants more than anything else is certainty. Its people want to know where they stand, and when they will have peace aud security in this matter. The people do not want the sword hanging over their heads not knowing when itmay drop, and not knowing what mischief it may work when it does drop. During the last two or three years, the tariff law of this country has been tinkered with to an extent never equalled in its history. If we allow a recurrence of that policy it will be the fault not of the Government, but of Parliament itself. Since a manifest injustice has been done to the people of Australia in this matter it is the duty of Parliament to apply the remedy without delay. In recent years, Parliament has been regarded as the fifth wheel of a coach ; as a useless appendage to our existing form of constitutional government, for while it is an institution vested with authority, that authority, in tariff matters at all events, has never been invoked. During the term mentioned, numberless tariff schedules have been introduced, but Parliament has not had an opportunity to express its opinion on them. I say, therefore, it would be a reflection upon this chamber and this Parliament if we allowed such a state of affairs to recur. Senator Colebatch has suggested the remedy, but I think the. period of three months mentioned in this amendment may be too short. The Minister has told us that frequently more than this period has been occupied in the discussion, of the tariff in another place. That is true. I remember the long debate in connexion with the 1907 tariff, which dealt with about 400 items.
The House of Representatives alone occupied about six months in debating that tariff, and altogether Parliament was engaged in that business for about fourteen months, because practically the whole of the tariff was in the melting pot. In view of that fact, I repeat that three months, or even six months, might prove far too short a period for a complete overhaul of the tariff, which, I suggest;, is long overdue. Something in the nature of certainty in tariff legislation is needed for the commercial community. At present people engaged in commerce do not know where they stand. Indeed, it might almost he said that Mahomet’s coffin rested on solid blocks of granite compared with the uncertainty that has existed about tariff legislation in recent years. The previous Government brought in numberless schedules which became the law of the land without Parliament being given an opportunity to express its views upon them. I intend to support Senator Colebatch’s
Amendment because it will give us a very necessary safeguard against any repetition of this reprehensible practice. Under it a government will be required to bring down a tariff schedule every three months, and offer the necessary explanation or apologies if, in the meantime, Parliament has not been furnished with an opportunity to discuss its proposals. The Minister has mentioned the trouble which is caused in the department when its officers are not consulted.
– The position is frightfully difficult.
– I can well understand that it is. The amendment will, to some extent, lessen the difficulty, but it may be necessary to extend the period to six or eight months.
[5.26]. - I can assure Senator Colebatch and other honorable senators that this amendment was not necessary to awaken the Government’s interest with regard to this matter. At the last elections, practically every member in the United Australia party, under the leadership of Mr. Lyons, was pledged to alter the present state of affairs in tariff legislation. Consequently, immediately it assumed office, the present Government took this matter up. But I wish to point to one or two practical difficulties which we encountered. These difficulties,I remind honorable senators,, were not of our own creation; they were inherited from our predecessors. Usually there has been some delay following the presentation of new schedules before Parliament has had an opportunity to discuss tariff policy, but never was that delay so protracted as during the regime of the previous Government.
– We are drifting from bad to worse, and this is the fault not of one government only.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It does not do to simply brush aside practical difficulties like that.
– The honorable senator’s Government showed the way.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Do not let us assume that everybody is wrong. On the contrary, let us assume’ that there is the desire to do the right thing but that sometimes we are the victims of circumstances. Not infrequently, a tariff discussion has occupied another place for some considerable time, and there has been delay in the presentation of schedules to the Senate. The first Parliament, I remember, took about nine months to deal with the first tariff schedule. Parliament insisted on its right to fully examine the Government’s proposals. With the exception of the 1921 tariff, all other tariff schedules have been amendments of existing tariffs, and the discussion has not occupied quite the same length of time. It remained for the Scullin Government to set an example of delay that is unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth. That Government brought down many drastic tariff amendments, and made no pretence of submitting them to Parliament for discussion. Consequently, immediately prior to the last election, Parliament had to enact practically the whole of the schedules. The present Government was obliged to pass a validating measure by the 28th February, and we had then to bring down resolutions covering practically the whole of the schedules introduced by our predecessors. We took this course because we had promised the electors that we would not make any drastic alterations in the tariff without recommendations from the Tariff Board. Actually, two pledges were given to the people. One was, that we would introduce legislation to limit the period for which tariff resolutions, could operate without the consent of Parliament, and the other was that we would put an end to the reprehensible practice of making sweeping changes without consultation with the Tariff Board. To honour those pledges, we first gave our attention to those duties in the Scullin Government’s schedule that had been the subject of reports by the Tariff Board. We have done that. The amendments submitted by this Government were based on recommendations by the board and presented to Parliament since the various Scullin schedules had been tabled. In pursuance further of our election pledges, we referred other items of the Scullin tariff to the board for examination and report. Since our last schedule was tabled in another place, we have received further reports and action was taken upon some of them yesterday in another place. As soon as the Government can get a little time - honorable senators will readily understand that we have not much time just now - we shall examine other reports that have come from the Tariff Board, and bring forward further tariff amendments based on the recommendations of that body. Honorable senators should bear in mind that the Scullin tariff included approximately 400 items, so it is a pretty extensive job to clean up that mess. When we have run the whole gamut of the scale of duties brought down by our predecessors, and have presented altered schedules to Parliament, we shall have a clean sheet, and will be able to inaugurate some such principle as is embodied in the amendment. It will probably take more than three months, the period mentioned in the amendment, to do that. We shall then be in a position to declare as a definite principle of government policy, that no alteration of the tariff shall be made except upon recommendations of the board. We might, therefore, be able to implement some such plan, as is indicated in this amendment with, .possibly, greater elasticity in the matter of time. I ask honorable senators to visualize the posi- tion which would arise if the amendment became law; it would be impossible to comply with its provisions. The Government would have to break its other election pledge, and deal with the balance of the Scullin tariff without any examination by the Tariff Board.
– Why accept that tariff as a basis?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE That the Government does not accept it as a basis is shown bv its acceptance of the alterations which have been recommended by the Tariff Board. Moreover, it has referred to the board the remaining items of that schedule.
– Why not go back to the previous tariff?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is not what we told the electors we would do. We promised them that we would submit the Scullin tariff to th> Tariff Board, and be guided by iti reports. We did not promise to adopt them. That undertaking the Government is carrying out, but if this amendment were law, the Government would be unable to carry it out. I have no quarrel with Senator Colebatch for having brought, this matter forward ; but I appeal to him, as one who has had ministerial experience,, to examine the position, in which case I feel sure that he Wil realize the seriousness of rendering it impossible for us to give effect to the pledge given to the electors that before altering the tariff we would have a thorough examination by the Tariff Board. I do not think that the honorable senator would willingly place the Government in that position. With the assurance that I have given that the Government has already given consideration to this matter, that it intends to clear up the difficult position created by the previous Government, and that it will have the duties examined by the Tariff Board, I trust honorable senators will be satisfied. This principle will be incorporated in the Customs Act, although the Government does not expect that the period suggested will meet the position.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [5.38]. - It is no part of my duty to reconcile the speech of thB right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) in this chamber with the speeches he made on the hustings.
– The honorable senator suggests that my speech to-day is inconsistent with my speeches to the electors. I resent the insulting inference.
– I am sorry if I have offended the right honorable senator. I should have no objection to altering the period from three months to six months, or even longer, because it would still be competent for Parliament, at any time, to pass a validating resolution covering any time that might be necessary. But I see no necessity for extending it at all. There would be a check, in that both Houses of Parliament would not be prepared to pass the resolution unless they were satisfied that the Government had honestly endeavoured to deal with the tariff. I do not object to delay ; but I do object to avoid- able delay, such as has taken place during the last two years. Had this amendment been the law when . the previous Government was in office, and that Government had approached Parliament to pass a validating resolution, I feel confident that the Senate would have refused to pass it on the ground that the Government had not tried to deal with the tariff.
– What is to prevent a government from tabling the same resolution again?
-I am coming to that. In the United States of America no customs duty can be collected until both Houses of the Parliament have approved of it. Yet, in spite of that, provision, that country has managed to impose a tariff which is higher than that, of any other country. In England a duty becomes operative directly it is tabled ; but no government that unduly delayed its discussion could live. Similarly, no continental government has unrestricted power to impose duties. ‘No government outside Australia would dare to do what successive governments in Australia have done - hold up the discussion of its tariff schedule for many months. A little while ago the Irish Free State, conceiving that it might be necessary to establish duties of customs, because of England’s depreciated currency, gave the Government power to impose them. But it did not give the Government unrestrictedpower in that direction ; it limited the percentage of duty which might be imposed to 45 per cent., and provided, further, that the duties could not be collected for more than 30 days without the approval of Parliament. Yet we are told that a similar provision is not possible in Australia. Are the representatives of the people not to be allowed to have any say in the matter of imposing taxation on the people? The fact is - and I say it not offensively - that governments do not want their tariffs to be discussed ; they merely want to have the duties collected. When section 226 of the first Customs Act was passed no one dreamed that requirements of the words “ before the close of the session “ could be overcome by continuing a session for the whole life of a Parliament. No one thought it possible that such a subterfuge would be used to defeat the clear purpose of the framers of the Constitution. Taxation of the people without, their consent should not continue beyond what is generally understood as the end of a session. The Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) suggests that if the amendment were accepted “ the Government would resort to some other subterfuge-
– I said that it could be clone; not that it would be done.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH Surely the taxation of the people is a matter of first importance, not something to be deferred, as the consideration of the tariff has been deferred in the past ! The Constitution gives to the Senate the same law-making powers that it gives to the House of Representatives. There are certain qualifications in respect of money bills, but otherwise the Constitution is clear that the powers of the two Houses shall be equal. Unless the Constitution had so provided, and, in addition, gave to the smaller States the same representation that it gave to the larger States in the Senate, there would have been no federation; the smaller States would not have agreed to come in. The practice which has been adopted in regard to tariffs is nothing less than the defrauding - I use the word deliberately - of the smaller States of the political rights which (hey were supposed to be given under the Constitution. Obviously, the larger States, which generally favour high tariffs, have a majority in the House of Representatives, where governments are made and kept in office. Under the practice that has grown up during the regime of various governments, the clear intention of the Constitution in connexion with the smaller States has been dishonestly defeated. If the Minister says that there are no means of protecting the smaller States, then the sooner those States get together and make some concerted move towards secession, the better it will be for every one. It is no defence to say that the position is difficult. Taxation should not be imposed on the people other than in an orderly fashion; the rights of the States should be preserved. Those are the outstanding matters for our consideration; before them, minor things must give way. I see no difficulty in giving effect to the amendment, because a validating resolution could cover any position that might arise. That resolution could not be passed unless both Houses of the Parliament were satisfied that the Government was doing its bent to deal with the tariff. Senator Johnston said that the Government was adopting the Scullin tariff as a basis. The Government is practically adopting the Scullin tariff as if it were the law of tlie land, and is telling us that an early opportunity will be given to discuss all those schedules in which we have reduced the Scullin tariff; but no opportunity “will be given to discuss because other than those which have h<?en reduced by the present Government until after the Ottawa conference. It is true that the reductions which have been made have been based on the recommendations of the Tariff Board ; but not every recommendation of that board has been given effect to. The Tariff Board recommended that the duty on galvanized iron should be removed until the price of Australian galvanized iron was reduced to £23 per ton. That has not been clone. I do not disagree with the reductions which have been made; but it is unfortunate that the two principal items in which reductions have been made affect primary industries.
– - There are others.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Those are the two outstanding cases. If, because of promises made on the hustings, certain desirable things cannot now be done, the sooner the Senate registers a. definite protest the better.
– We do not say that. Why use. that language?
– The right honorable gentleman has given no alternative ; he merely says, “ Do nothing.” I am not prepared to adopt that attitude.
Senator DALY (South Australia) 5.48]. - There is a great’ deal of justification for what Senator Colebatch has said. I was a member of a ministry which must accept its share of the blame attaching to all ministries for holding up tariff discussions ; but, as I believe that this Parliament should be the controlling body, and that the people, through their representatives, should, at the earliest possible moment, have an opportunity for discussing every form of taxation, I agree that there should be some time limit for the discussion of a tariff schedule by both Houses of the Parliament.
I hope that something will come out of this discussion. As a representative of one of the States referred to by Senator Colebatch - a State which is vitally affected by the tariff - I should like to see the law amended to give the smaller States the representation on the Tariff Board to which they are entitled. Instead of the Tariff Board being constituted as it is of customs officials and nominees of the Government in power-
– The Government of which the honorable senator was a member ignored the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
– I am not. now defending the actions of the Government of which I had the honour to be a member, but it must be remembered that that Government had to act in an emergency, and whether it was right or wrong it did its best. At present I am discussing the principle enunciated by the mover of the amendment. If honorable senators on both sides of this chamber and another place recognized to the full that under the Constitution we are a federation, and not. a unified commonwealth, a better tariff system would prevail than is in operation at present. If wo limit the activities of a government so that it will be forced to bring down its tariff within a specified time, we shall then determine what is wrong with the tariff. We should have a tariff board consisting of one direct representative of each of the States. The voice of South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania would then be heard before Parliament was called upon to decide the issue. I feel that the period sought by Senator Colebatch is too short. If the honorable senator is prepared to extend it, I shall support him.
– What does the honorable senator favour?
– I should say at least six months. At present it appears to be nobody’s responsibility to bring down a tariff; every one wishes to avoid doing so. We should make it obligatory upon the Government to bring down its tariff within a certain time; we should then have a more scientific schedule than we have had from this or any other government which has preceded it. Such an arrangement is consistent with the principles of parliamentary government in Australia. It would give Parliament full rights over important governmental activities, and, in addition, would bring the States to a clearer realization of the defects of our fiscal system, and how they could be remedied.
. - I intend to support the amendment moved by Senator Colebatch. I listened with interest to the arguments that he adduced, and to the reply of the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene), and I appreciate what he has said in relation to validating the tariff. It has been further suggested that it would be easy for a government that was not altogether honest in its intentions to overcome the time limit by bringing down a new tariff schedule within a three months period in order to keep it alive if the Parliament had not considered it in the meantime. I. am not suggesting that this or any other government has not been honest in its intentions, but there is ‘a possibility of tariff discussions being delayed for political purposes. That could easily be avoided by compelling the Government to bring down a validating measure within a specified time. When Parliament is about to be prorogued, and the tariff schedule has not been disposed of, a validating bill has to be passed, and the duties can then be reviewed by the succeeding Parliament. Some of the greatest difficulties with which the commercial world has to deal is the extraordinary elongation, shall I say, of time before Parliament is permitted to discuss a tariff schedule. No one knows what is to happen. A tariff schedule virtually becomes law immediately it is introduced, and it may be operative for two or three years before it is discussed. If a manufacturing company erects certain buildings in the belief that Parliament will validate the tariff it incurs the risk of Parliament amending the schedule in such a way that the money it has spent on buildings and plant may all be lost. Is that fair? Manufacturers must have some security in matters of this kind. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) made a rather startling pronouncement this afternoon. He said that after the present chaotic condition of affairs had been overcome the Tariff Board could consider various items in the tariff, and its recommendations could be included in tariff schedules which would be introduced in another place. Could anything be more detrimental to the commercial life of this country than that manufacturers should not know exactly where they stand? If tariff schedules are to be continually amended manufacturers and importers will be in a serious position, and financial institutions will not know to what, extent they can assist them. At present manufacturers and others have no security under the tariff under which they are working. Senator Daly suggested that the States should be represented on the Tariff Board. I have a great deal of. sympathy with such a proposal, but I should prefer to see the interstate commission reappointed so that the States could have a more definite voice not only in tariff matters, but also in many governmental activities.
– A good deal can be said in favour of such a proposal.
– Yes. I am not in favour of the limitation of three months, proposed by Senator Colebatch; but I do not think the honorable senator wishes to adhere strictly to that period. He has merely put it forward in order to enable the whole subject to be discussed. I am not particular as to the time, but governments should be required to provide for the discussion of a tariff schedule within a definite period. Something must be done to prevent governments bringing down schedules and allowing them to remain in operation indefinitely without the representatives of the people having an opportunity to discuss them. While uncertainty exists, manufacturers and importers do not know where they stand.
– I commend the action of Senator Colebatch in submitting this amendment, which represents an honest attempt to restore parliamentary control in tariff matters. During the three years I have been a member of this chamber, Parliament has had no such control. One government with a large hostile majority opposed to it in the Senate where the viewpoint of the States is represented did just what it liked. It defied the law by imposing duties without obtaining reports from the Tariff Board, while the people of Australia were compelled to groan and put up with it. Under such a system the people have been oppressed and parliamentary control ignored. I venture to suggest that a great deal of the unemployment which exists in Australia today would not exist had the law of the country provided that no increases in customs duties should be made until they were first ratified by both Houses of the Parliament. I am sorry that the amendment of Senator Colebatch does not go further and provide even now that all alterations to the tariff since that last approved by both Houses of Parliament - I refer to the Pratten tariff - shall be inoperative unless and until they are approved by both Houses of Parliament.
– How would the Commonwealth have paid £730,000 to Western Australia under the £34,000,000 agreement!
– The Commonwealth is not paying anything under that agreement to Western Australia. The agreement was cancelled by the last Government of which Senator Daly was a member. That State has been bled since the inception of federation, and I hope that the honorable senator will be able to make a more reliable contribution to the debate than is suggested by his interjection. Not one-fourth of the increases in the customs duties during the last five years would have been approved by both Houses of Parliament. The Government of this country, in tariff matters, has been carried on in defiance of Parliament, and that condition will operate at the hands of most governments we are likely to have in power until the law is amended in the manner provided in the amendment. Three years ago I was returned to this chamber as a tariff reductionist - to assist in reducing the duties in every possible direction. What opportunity have I had during that period to vote for a reduction in customs duties? I was elected in August 1929, when the BrucePage Government was in power.
– The honorable senator has made good use of every opportunity.
– I am glad to have that interjection; but whatever I have done has been almost ineffective, because with one or two minor exceptions, not one of the reductions agreed upon in this chamber have been given effect by the Government. Three senators representing Western Australia, including myself, arrived here in August, 1929, just after the elections, on the understanding that we were to fight for reduced duties. Immediately the Government we were supporting introduced schedules providing for some considerable increases, which with other schedules that had not been considered by Parliament were entirely opposed to the policy of the Country party and disastrous to the people of Western Australia. Shortly afterwards that Government was defeated, and Parliament passed a validating bill covering the tariff increases including some of those made before the election of 1928. A general election was held with most disastrous consequences to Australia. A new go- vernment then came into office - the Scullin Government. Had legislation of this nature been on the statutebook during the period of that. Government’s administration, we would have been in a strong position to keep it in order. But we had no such legislation, and at short periods for over two years huge and disastrous increases. were made in customs duties, imposing additional burdens on the people of Australia, driving primary producers off their farms and throwing men out of employment. When at last an election occurred, that Government was defeated. A new government was returned last December on a policy of tariff reduction throughout the Commonwealth. I am not blaming any particular Minister, but we find that fresh tariff schedules have been introduced by this Government containing only a few minor reductions and several increases, and perpetuating the whole of the Scullin tariff with its objectionable increases. ‘ Generally speaking the existing tariff is the same as the Scullin Government left it. It would be much more in accordance with the principles of parliamentary government if after the election this Government had tabled a schedule of duties that had been adopted by both Houses of Parliament. That would have meant the adoption of the Pratten tariff which, although oppressive, was very much lower than the present tariff. The Government has not done that. We could have accepted those duties temporarily, until the tariff could be considered in detail, and in. addition have put into effect the reductions agreed to by the Senate during the discussion on the first few items of the Scullin tariff. The taxpayers are burdened by these excessive tariff increases, which have not been considered by Parliament. There is no excuse for the delay which has occurred. We have had no opportunity to consider any of the tariff alterations made during the last three years. The Senate had an opportunity to consider only a few items in the Scullin schedule before the last general election. We did our duty by making substantial reductions; but even those have not been given effect. What is the position now? When are we to have the tariff dealt with item by item by another place as well as by this chamber? We know that the Minister for Trade and Customs is going to Ottawa, and admit the importance of his representing Australia at the conference which is to be held there. At the same time, however^ we have in Senator Greene one of the most capable men in the Cabinet and a gentleman who, as Minister for Trade and Customs, has piloted a customs tariff through Parliament. The question of considering and reducing the tariff, or at any rate of giving effect to the wishes of the people in regard to every item of it, is so important that there is no justification for closing Parliament while these schedules remain unconsidered. Surely, no difficulty would be experienced in arranging for pairs for the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) and the Minister for Trade and Customs, during their absence from Australia on this important mission. The consideration and reduction of the tariff could then be proceeded with at once. For the three years that I have been a member of the Senate, and I believe for two years prior to that date, the alterations made in the tariff since the Pratten schedule was passed, have not been considered in detail. It is imperative that that work should be undertaken without further delay.
I am entirely in favour of the alteration proposed by the amendment. I wish that it went further, and that the law provided that no increases or alterations in the tariff should have effect until they were approved by both Houses of Parliment. Only by making that change shall we restore proper parliamentary control over taxation in the Commonwealth.
– I have a suggestion to make that I think may meet the views of honorable senators, and at the same time allow the Government to fulfil the pledges that it made to the people. Senator Pearce has indicated the difficulties confronting the Government. Those difficulties were created very largely by our predecessors. One is, that the Government definitely undertook not to make any alteration to the tariff, except on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. It must take some time to cover the whole of that ground.. Meanwhile, the Government desires to conclude the whole of its review of the tariff as early as possible, and is as anxious as any honorable senator that the practice which has grown up of late years, of bringing down schedules and leaving them more or less in the air until Parliament has to validate them when it is about to expire, shall cease. Of course, die trouble originally arose out of a practice which developed during the war. Any honorable senator who was associated with the Commonwealth Parliament before the war will remember that it met regularly towards the end of June, sat until towards the end of December, and then terminated the session by prorogation. That happened year in and year out. I believe that the only occasions when the sessions of Parliament were extended from one year to another was when it was necessary to conclude a- debate on the tariff. I do not know whether we shall ever revert to that system. It has its merits, and I should like to see it return. The difficulty in regard to the tariff has arisen out of the departure from that system which arose inevitably during the war. There was then no prorogation except for an election. That practice, unfortunately, has been continued since the war came to an end, and it is that alone which has enabled tariffs to remain, like Mahomet’s coffin, suspended between Heaven and earth. The Government is just as anxious as any honorable senator to end the practice, and is prepared to accept the spirit of Senator Colebatchs amend-‘ ment provided he will make the period six months-
– And provided also that he will give us this year, at all events, to clean up the mess that we have inherited.
– To what mess does the Minister refer?
– I do not think it i3 necessary to explain that to Senator Daly. If we are allowed this year to clean up the position, we believe that’ we shall be able to fufil the pledges that were made to the people. I did not make any pledges personally, because I did not address one meeting during the last election campaign; but the Government definitely pledged itself in certain direc tions, and now feels obliged to observe those pledges so far as is humanly possible. I, therefore, suggest that the proposed new clause read in this way -
In addition to enabling the Government to keep its pledges, such an amendment would be a safeguard in the future, so long as sessions were prolonged. It also, I consider, fairly meets the views of those honorable senators who have expressed their opinions.
– The character of the speech delivered by the Minister gives me pleasure. I rose to speak at the same time as he did, with the object of urging him to make some concession in this particular matter. There is no doubt that the decision of the Government will commend, itself to the very large number of people in Australia who have watched with increasing exasperation the delay that has taken place in considering tariff schedules that have been introduced into Parliament. While not favouring the increases that have taken place of late, they are especially strongly opposed to the practice of placing schedules on the table of the House of Representatives, and allowing them to remain there without adequate discussion by that chamber, and with no discussion by this chamber, for a very long period. With Senator Lynch and others, I considered that the period of three months proposed by Senator Colebatch was probably not adequate. I quite realize that the assurances given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and Senator Greene are genuine, and that they wish this matter to be pushed ahead more quickly in the future. But this Senate also has to legislate for the future as well as for the present; and it might well prove that the existence on the statute-book of some such provision as this Will not be a bad thing should any government later on feel inclined not to bring tariff schedules before either House for discussion.
– In this matter I have no feeling that we are whipping a dead horse. In my opinion, we are patting a very live horse. The point at issue is not the tariff itself, but whether a tariff, like any other form of taxation, should be considered, debated and passed by the representatives of the people, not simply placed on the table of another place and allowed to become and to remain law without the representatives of the people of a democracy having an opportunity to discuss it. I accept the bona fides of the Government in this matter, and admit that this is not the time to impose a limitation which would be too short in its operation, particularly in view of the fact that further tariff amendments may be necessitated as a result of the forthcoming Ottawa Conference. But the whole history of the last few years leads us to believe, nol only that there has been an increasing tendency to delay, but also that when a schedule is considered a year or eighteen months after it is first brought down, it is debated as something which is dead, and interest in which has, to a considerable extent, lapsed. Obviously, therefore, some limit is necessary. In an Australian review about a year ago I expressed the view that a limit should be placed upon the time within which a tariff schedule must be ratified. It is undesirable that tariff schedules should be. practically permanently tabled, and not debated.
It is pleasing to find Senator Daly, as representative of the other side of politics in the State from which I come, anxious to have tariff schedules debated forthwith. But I am not at all in accord with his suggestion that the Tariff Board should be representative of each State. There is a tendency,.! think, for State representation to be overdone. We do not necessarily get the best board because it has on it a member from each State. At present we have a South Australian on the Tariff Board.
– He would be all right if he were a Western Australian. Being a freetrader, he does not represent South Australia.
– I have known Mr. Kelly for some years, and I should have expected him to be regarded as what one might call a reasonable protectionist.
– He is certainly a very competent member of the board.
– .1 understand that he is an admirable mem ber of the board. But if the board were selected on a birth basis, South Australia would have a smaller representation than it now has. I do not believe in the birth basis. I cannot accept the view that we are as likely to get a good Tariff Board member out of Tasmania with its small population as we should get out of New South Wales with its large population. I like to approach these things from an Australian rather than from a State viewpoint. I congratulate Senator Colebatch on having submitted this amendment, which I feel sure will give satisfaction to a large number of people throughout Australia. We have also the satisfaction of congratulating the Government on the step it has taken, but the credit is due to Senator Colebatch.
.- It seems to me that a proposal that’ a tariff schedule shall be dealt with by Parliament within three months of its presentation is out of court. The time would be altogether too short. But I agree with Senator Colebatch that when a schedule has been submitted it should run the gauntlet of Parliament as soon as possible. Had it not been for the fact that the late Government had so much debris left by its predecessors to clean up, its tariff proposals would have been discussed by Parliament much sooner than they were. But while the consideration of those proposals was delayed, I think I am justified in claiming that the proposals themselves put Australia practically on an even keel with regard to its overseas trade balance. I think that Senator Colebatch would be wise to accept the olive branch held out by the Assistant Minister in charge of the bill. A tremendous amount of work is entailed in considering a tariff schedule, but many things overshadow it in importance. For instance, during the regime of the late Government, matters of considerable importance requiring immediate attention cropped up day after day, and, as a consequence, the consideration of the tariff was delayed. A few individuals may have been affected adversely by the delay; but the proposals themselves did a great service to Australia. I think it may be safely said that the tariff proposals which the present Government brought down immediately it took over the reins of office caused a greater stir than did those of the previous Government. One effect of them has been to drive 700 tobaccogrowers off a piece of country in Queensland. The same thing has not occurred in Victoria, but the tobacco-growers in that State have been stirred up like a hive of bees, and have been buzzing ever since.
I do not think that there is any merit in the suggestion that the Tariff Board should be representative of every State. I would not care if all the members of the board were drawn from one State, so long as they were capable men. There is no restriction upon securing the best evidence obtainable in each State, and surely commercial men and manufacturers are competent enough to provide the board with sufficient evidence to enable it to submit recommendations of value to the Government in preparing its tariff proposals. I have heard complaints that the Tariff Board has delayed in its work. Indeed, I know that the late Government was hampered in that respect. The board has not done the work which was expected of it. Recognizing the urgent need of a tariff schedule that would save Australia from what it had been suffering for years - the importation of shipload after shipload of material made by labour overseas whilst Australians were idle - the Government set about making its own inquiries, with a view to the immediate introduction of such a tariff. “What was the result?
– Unemployment was doubled.
– My information is to the contrary. Under the Scullin tariff many factories giving employment to a considerable number of Australian operatives were put into operation, but naturally enough, if a nian had, say, £50,000 to invest in an Australian industry, he would hesitate before risking it unless he had some assurance that the tariff policy of the Commonwealth would be settled for a period of, say, ten years. It is a fact that this feeling of uncertainty prevented a number of enterprises from being established.
– Is the honorable senator advancing that as an argument why Parliament should not have an opportunity to discuss the tariff proposals of the Government?
– Certainly not. I agree with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that Parliament should have the earliest opportunity to come to grips with, a government’s tariff policy, but in view of the practical difficulties that may confront a government at any time it is almost impossible to lay down a hard and fast rule as to the period of time within which the schedules should be brought before the legislature. With regard to the effect of a sound tariff policy on employment, I may say that, recently, I met Mr. Thompson, the Melbourne manager of Carreras Tobacco Limited. He informed me that one result of our tariff policy was the employment in Melbourne of 250 operatives doing work which, prior to that increase in duty, was done by workmen in another country, and further that if the tariff policy had been undisturbed it would have been necessary to enlarge the factory in order to handle the Australian business.
– The honorable senator’s own Minister for Trade and Customs said that the tobacco duties would have to be reviewed.
– I am not aware of that, but in all probability what he had in mind was that they would be reviewed in the direction of making them more protective in their incidence. I hope that Senator Colebatch will accept the offer made by the Minister. If he does not, I shall have to vote against the proposed time limit of three months.
.- I was astonished to hear Senator Barnes say that the Government with which he was associated did not obtain from the board as much information as might reasonably have been expected with regard to tariff matters.
– He did not say that.
– The statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) was most definite. If his Government did not receive as much information from the board as it might reasonably have expected, it was be- cause the Scullin Administration introduced tariff schedules without reference to the board, and in distinct violation of the act. Surely the honorable senator is aware that the act stimulates that the Government shall refer every proposed alteration in the tariff to the board and shall not take any action thereon until it has received the board’s report?
– What has that to do with this amendment?
– Why did not the honorable senator raise that objection when his leader was speaking? I associate myself with Senator Duncan-Hughes in congratulating Senator Colebatch on having submitted his amendment. It is to be regretted that, a similar provision was not inserted in the act many years ago. I listened attentively to the arguments for and against acceptance of the amendment, and I was glad to hear the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) state that the Government was prepared to meet Senator Colebatch by having the bill amended in certain particulars. I take this opportunity to make these observations, because, before long, Australia will be worthily represented at the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, and we are deeply interested in the problems that will be discussed at that gathering.
– What has all this to do with the amendment?
– A great deal, because provision should be made in our Customs Act to enable Parliament, within a reasonable time, to discuss any new tariff schedule and express its approval or disapproval of the Government’s proposals. It has been suggested, time after time, that we are giving special preference to British manufacturers. As this matter will be dealt with at the Ottawa Conference, I consider it of supreme importance that the Australian delegation to that gathering should be in a position to assure the representatives of Great Britain that the fullest investigation will be made, at the earliest opportunity, into our tariff legislation with particular regard to those items in which we are supposed to give preference to British manufacturers, but in which the duties are really prohibitive.
-] must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I submit that my remarks are relevant to the amendment. Every honorable senator who has spoken to the amendment has referred to the operation of the tariff. As the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that Parliament shall be given an opportunity to review the tariff within a reasonable time, I submit that one reason why it should be accepted is that tinder certain items we are supposed to give British manufacturers preferential treatment, when, as a matter of fact, the duties imposed arc really prohibitive and have seriously impaired British trade with_ Australia.
– I rise to a point of order. The bill contains certain clauses dealing with British preferential tariff items. When they were under discussion I was prepared to discuss this matter with the honorable senator. If Senator Payne is permitted now to discuss in detail the policy of British preference, I feel that I must also be given an equal opportunity to deal with that phase of the Government’s policy, and I am afraid that Ave shall then open up a general debate.
- Senator Payne is distinctly out of order. I gave him a certain amount of latitude, but I must now ask him to confine his remarks strictly to the amendment.
– If I had attempted to deal in detail with those tariff items in which we are supposed to give preferential treatment to Great Britain, I certainly would have been out of order, but as I did not do that, I submit that I have not offended against our Standing Orders. I am simply dealing with a principle which must necessarily come up for discussion in a debate on an important amendment like this. My remarks are intended to show why I believe the amendment should be accepted. I believe it is necessary that Parliament should, as quickly as possible, be allowed the opportunity to deal with the tariff schedule with a view to removing those prohibitive duties which come under the category of British preference. Later. I hope to be in a position to give to the
Minister particulars of certain items, which, in my judgment, should be reviewed. For the present I content myself with supporting the amendment, and I hope that Senator Colebatch will accept the suggestion made by the Minister.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [8.28]. - I have no hesitation in accepting the Minister’s suggestion, and for three very good reasons. In the first place whatever the committee might feel inclined to do it is obvious that we cannot get an amendment of this kind on the statute-book without the goodwill and assistance of the Government. But there are two other and better reasons. The second is, that I fully recognize the difficulties of the present position. I by no means share the optimism with which very many people look forward to the Ottawa Conference. Nevertheless, I quite understand why the Government considers it necessary to be adequately represented at that gathering in order to do the best it can for Australia. I come now to my third reason. I am sorry indeed that the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) should have taken offence at any remark of mine, but prior to the dissolution the majority of members supporting the present Government took up the attitude that duties on many items had been imposed by the Scullin Government either without reference to the Tariff Board or in opposition to the board’s recommendations, and that, therefore, they had been imposed illegally. In one of a series of most excellent letters written to the Sydney Morning Herald by Senator Greene, during the illness from which we are all glad to see that he has recovered, he made the specific statement that these duties should be forthwith repealed. That was the attitude in which we faced the . matter in Western Australia. Almost at the last moment some kind of undertaking was given by Mr. Lyons and Mr. Latham. I do not say that that undertaking is not binding on the Government; but I do say that it is not at all consistent with what we said -in this chamber before the adjournment, and with what we told the people of Western Australia. I accept gladly the altera tion suggested by the Assistant Minister, because I regard it as substantially giving effect to the undertaking of the Government, as well as that which candidates gave the people of Western Australia. I, therefore, ask permission to withdraw my amendment.
Amendmen t - by leave - wi thdrawn .
Amendment (by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch) proposed -
That the following new clausebe inserted: - “15a. - (1.) Section 226 of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the words ‘or before the expiration of six months after such tariff or tariff alteration if proposed, whichever first happens’”. (2.) This section shall commence on the first day of January, 1933 “.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [8.32]. - Senator Colebatch referred to my resentment at some of his remarks. I did not take any exception to his criticizing the statement, that I made when setting out the difficulties which confronted the Government in respect of the amendment in its original form; but I regarded as insulting his remark that it was no part of his duty to attempt to reconcile my speech in this chamber with my speeches to the electors. It seemed that the honorable senator was imputing to me a motive which one honorable senator should not impute to another. It was to that imputation that I took exception, not to his general criticism of the position of the Government as I had set it before the Senate.
– It was my intention to support the original amendment moved by Senator Colebatch, although I regarded the time limit set out therein as too short. I congratulate both the honorable senator who brought the matter forward, and the Government on the solution that has been arrived at. When speaking to the electors I made my position clear in regard to the tariff. I did not say anything about referring items to the Tariff Board; but I made it clear that in my opinion no tariff schedule should operate unless it were ratified by Parliament within a certain specified time. I know well that in that respect I differed from other candidates, who urged that these matters be referred to the Tariff Board. I am glad that the matter has come to a head, and is to be finalized. For two years this country has been unconstitutionally taxed. Section 90 of the Constitution provides that on the imposition of uniform duties of customs and excise the power of the Parliament to impose such duties shall be exclusive. Section 1 of the Constitution defines the Parliament as the Sovereign, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. For two years customs taxation has been levied on the people of Australia without the approval of Parliament - in fact, without Parliament having been consulted - but now the representatives of the people are within measurable distance of having a say in the matter. I realize the position of the Government in having an enormous accumulation of tariff matters to clear up, and I doubt whether it could do what is desired in the time suggested. For that reason, I welcome the agreement that has been arrived at, and I hope that this will be the last occasion on which the Senate will have to face a situation similar to that which has confronted it during the last two or three years. If the present Government does nothing else than clear this matter up, it will have deserved well of Australia.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 20 agreed to.
Where, prior to the commencement of this act, the importation or exportation of any goods has been prohibited by proclamation, and the proclamation is in force immediately prior to such commencement, any such proclamation may be cancelled or varied by regulation, and until cancellation shall remain in force according to the terms in which it was issued, and, if varied, shall have effect according to its terms as so varied.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [8.38]. - Although we have done well in providing that future proclamations shall be subject to the approval or disapproval of Parliament, we should also provide that existing proclamations, which have been in force without parliamentary sanction, shall come up for approval. I therefore move -
That after the word “bo” the word “re- enacted “ be inserted.
Should the amendment be agreed to, I propose then to move to add to the clause the words, “ Any such prohibition not reenacted by regulation within six months after the commencement of this act shall cease to have effect.” That would mean that existing prohibitions which have been made by proclamation will stand for six months, when they will lapse unless reenacted by regulation. Upon their being re-enacted by regulation, they will stand unless either House of Parliament disallows them.
– It would have facilitated matters had the honorable senator distributed copies of his proposed amendments before he introduced them. At the moment, I do not see any objection to them; but, in. order to enable them to be examined, I suggest that progress be reported.
[8.43].- I move-
That Standing Order No.68 be suspended for the present sitting to enable new business to be taken after half-past ten p.m. this day.
I do so as a precautionary measure, hoping that we shall not have to implement it. The Government desires to pass through the Senate to-night a bill which it expects to receive from another place. Although the indications are that it will reach us before 10.30 p.m., it may not do so, and consequently the motion is necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative by an absolute, majority of the members of the Senate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure to effect, certain amendments in the law which governs the interpretation of Commonwealth statutes. It must be remembered that there are two separate and distinct acts, which deal with the interpretation of Commonwealth statutes, and lay clown principles involving the effect of expressions and enactments appearing therein. The acts which are now in existence are the Acts Interpretation Act. 1901-1930, and tlie Acts Interpretation Acts .1904-1930. It is proposed by this bill to amend both of those acts. As there are two acts on the statute-book dealing with the same subject it i3 necessary that they should have the immediate attention of Parliament.
Section 32 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1930. provides that where an act confers power to make, grant or issue any regulations, expressions used in the regulations shall, unless the contrary intention appears, have the same meanings as in the act conferring the power. The effect of this provision is to enable definitions contained in an act to be invoked for the purposes of regulations made under the act. Section 32 also provides that expressions which are defined in the Acts Interpretation Act itself shall, in any regulations made under any act, have the same meanings as are specified in the Acts Interpretation Act itself. It is now found necessary to go a step further. In addition to the actual definition of particular expressions the Acts Interpretation Act lays down certain salutary rules of construction, and it. is now proposed that provision be made to enable these rules of construction to be invoked for the purposes of regulations, rules or by-laws made under any act. It will, of course, bc possible to rebut the application of any particular rule of construction where so desired by the use of express language in the regulations. The object I have referred to is effected in this bill by clause 2, and by the first part of clause 3.’ Clause 3 also deals with another matter. In section 15a of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1918, a provision is made which is applicable to all statutes, whether passed before or after the commencement of the section, to ensure that where any competent court declares against the validity on constitutional grounds of any part of any statute, that part may he made severable from the rest of the statute, so that the invalidity of a part of the statute will not bring about the invalidity of the whole statute. It is now proposed to extend this principle in a limited degree to regulations so that where a regulation may be found to be ultra, vires the authority by which it was made the associated regulations will not become invalid by reason only of the invalidity of portion of the regulations. In the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-1930 provision is made which relates to the date of commencement of regulations, their notification in the Gazette and their disallowance by Parliament. It is now proposed to prohibit the re-making of regulations which have been disallowed by either House of the Parliament. The provision which is included in the bill prevents tlie making of a regulation the same in substance as a regulation disallowed by Parliament, within six months of the disallowance, unless first the disallowing resolution has been rescinded by the House by which it was passed. Honorable senators will recall the fiery debates in this chamber regarding the disallowance of certain regulations and the re-enactment of others which were substantially the same. Whatever the difficulties mentioned in this chamber yesterday, maybe it is clear that Parliament should have the right to disallow regulations. Having regard to the fact that that power is vested in Parliament, no government should have the right to bring into operation a regulation that has been disallowed by either House of Parliament unless a resolution for its disallowance has been rescinded. I think that this measure meets the wishes of honorable senators who have previously expressed their opinions on this ^matter.
The Government has carefully considered the position with respect to ordinances. In the opinion of the Crown Law officers it is preferable to deal with ordinances which affect the territories under ‘the control of the Commonwealth in a somewhat similar way, but by ordinance. It was found that the matter was too complex to be embodied in this bill, since the law with respect to ordinances differs in many of the territories concerned. The matter is under review, and I can assure honorable senators that as soon as the opportunity offers effect will be given to the objections taken in this chamber with respect to ordinances. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of the Senate.
.- I do not propose to offer any strong objections to the bill in so far as it deals with the definition of the meaning of various legislative terms used in statutes. There is, however, one provision to which I propose to offer a strong objection. I refer to the authority provided in the last clause of the bill to curtail the regulating power of the Executive. I protest most strongly against any attempt to fetter the power conferred upon the Executive under many of our acts to make regulations. For obvious reasons the Executive should retain the power which exists under the existing law. I can see danger in the proposal embodied in this measure should it be exercised in certain circumstances. I should like to know if the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Senator McLachlan) has obtained the opinion of officers in the Customs or Defence departments us to the effect of this legislation. The Senate in its wisdom might disallow a regulation under the Customs Act, and within a few weeks, when Parliament was not in session, and a resolution of disallowance could 11Ot be rescinded, it might be desirable to reenact it.
– The disallowance of a regulation would have to take place while Parliament was sitting.
– I can visualize a situation arising in which, Parliament would not be sitting and consequently could not rectify an obvious error. Is Parliament to be called together whenever it is deemed necessary to reenact a regulation which has been disallowed by either House ? I have gathered some information which may be illuminating to honorable senators. In 1926 the Bruce-Page Government sat for 54 days; in the following year Parliament was in session for 59 days, and from the 24th March until the 2St.h September it was in session only on the 9th May, when this building was officially opened. During a period of over six months a regulation, if disallowed, could not have been reenacted or a resolution of disallowance rescinded had this measure been in operation. During 192S the Commonwealth Parliament sat for only 62 days, and in 1929 for only 40 days. What would have happened had this provision been in operation and the Government had found it necessary to re-enact a regulation which had been previously disallowed? The. proposal is fraught with danger, and when the bill is in committee I propose to move for the deletion of this clause, and to cite certain specific cases where ithas been found necessary to bring into operation certain regulations which under this proposal it would be impossible to do. If the Government gives serious consideration to the effect of this provision, I feel sure that it will realize its dangers.
Honorable senators will recall that last year the late Government found it necessary to re-enact certain regulations after they had been disallowed by the Senate. The circumstances then prevailing were exceptional. It appears unnecessary and unwise for Parliament to restrict its powers in the manner suggested. In certain circumstances, the Government, knowing that it was an urgent matter which required immediate attention, would have to call Parliament together when it had no intention of doing so, or allow the mistake to operate until six months had expired and Parliament met in the ordinary course. A chamber so full of wisdom as this one would not be acting wisely if it agreed to such a provision. It may have been incorporated in the measure without the consideration that it deserves, and obviously under it Parliament might easily be tricked into “ beating its own joss.” That is something that we should avoid doing. I should have no fault to find if the practice was for Parliament to sit continuously, and the provision could operate whenever it was found that a mistake had been made. Fancy calling Parliament together to rectify a mistake which had occurred in the making of a simple regulation ! That is an unheard-of thing, and would not warrant the expense and inconvenience that would be involved. Itwould be foolish to agree to a provision that would tie the hands of the Government for six months. Let us restrict its operation to the period when Parliament is sitting, and make it possible for the Executive to cope with any situation that might arise during recess. I urge the Minister to give further consideration to the matter, and to remove the danger that is so obvious. I shall vote against the provision as it stands.
. [9.5]. - I agree that circumstances might arise in which, unless a. government acted carefully and cautiously in bringing forward regulations, it might find itself seriously embarrassed in the event of the disallowance of a regulation. I point out, however, that recently the position was somewhat altered by the setting up by the Senate of a standing committee on regulations and ordinances.I take it that if an honorable senator intended to move to disallow a regulation he would first ascertain whether it had passed the scrutiny of that committee. I should probably draw the attention of a member of the committee to the particular regulation that I considered obnoxious, and I believe that the majority of honorable senators would act similarly. Therefore, we have, not only the safeguard that the regulation, before being promulgated, had been carefully considered by departmental officers as well as by the ministerial head of the department, but also the further safeguard that in the Senate itself all regulations pass under the security of the standing committee on regulations and ordinances. Should an honorable senator move to disallow an important regulation. I am inclined to think that the Senate would first of all want to know what that committee thought about it; and the probability is that, before agreeing to such a motion, the matter would be referred to the committee. The departmental officer, whose particular branch was concerned with the regulation that had been promulgated, would probably be called before the committee,’ and would give, in full, his reasons for it. Those reasons would be investigated impartially by the committee, and the result would be communicated to the Senate. In the last Parliament that opportunity was not available to us; honorable senators individually had to watch the regulations that wore tabled, and take action upon them. It is not likely that any regulation would be disallowed on the last day of the session ; consequently, there would be a period during which Parliament would be sitting, when the Government would be made aware of any inconvenience that had resulted from the disallowance. It would make known to the House respon sible its reason for desiring to re-enact the regulation, and would ask for the recission of the resolution disallowing it. It . is suggested that during recess some particular thing might arise necessitating the promulgation of the same regulation. That is a very unlikely contingency. I ask honorable senators to consider the abuse that can be made of the regulationmaking power by an executive, if it is allowed to disregard the will of the lawmaking authority. Parliament, and not the executive, is the law-making authority, and as the promulgating of regulations is law-making, Parliament must in that matter be made superior to the Executive. That is all that this bill seeks to do.
– It is wellthat this subject should be brought forward once more, if only for the purpose of giving us a chance of tuning up our imagination. That process has been indulged in very creditably by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes). He has conjured up instances in which it would be very inconvenient for a. government not to have the power of making a regulation under certain circumstances, as is proposed by this bill. I suppose that the majority of us can recall the time when there were no such things as regulations, when acts of Parliament were acts of Parliament. I can remember reading certain acts of Parliament to which no regulations were attached. The law was writ as it was found to be necessary, and no power was given to the government to put into a regulation an afterthought. I do not know whether it would not be wise to revertto that practice, especially in view of the experience which was forced upon us in the immediate past. What was that experience? An act of Parliament was passed by this Parliament after due deliberation. It was written in plain language, and its intention was clear. But when a government, which I shall call ‘“‘X’’, came intopower, it proposed to place a different interpretation upon what Parliament intended, and by way of a regulation which was given the force of law, twisted the act out of the form in which it had been cast and moulded by Parliament. That “ X “ government was not entitled so to act; it abused its power by going behind the back of Parliament to interpret in a wrong way the intention of Parliament. As a safeguard against similar abuses in the future, this Parliament was given the right, through either of its Houses, to disallow these afterthoughts of the Ministry. We know that that “X” government brought in regulation after regulation designed to compass the same end, to give a false direction to the law itself. This chamber, in the exercise of its authority, disallowed that regulation. It appeared, of course, in various guises. This form of words was used now, that form then, and a different form on another occasion, all for the purpose of compassing an identical end. Enjoying the right to disallow, this chamber disallowed; but its action had no effect, because immediately the “X” government’s regulation was disallowed, back it came dressed in a new suit of pyjamas, in which garb it was disallowed just as quickly. I point out to the members of that “ X “ government who are present, that a “Y” government may propose to follow in the same foolish pathway, to twist an act of Parliament to suit its own purposes. If it did - I hope that it never would - the members of that “X” government would be up in arms to resist what, after all, would be a most unjustifiable procedure, even though the government which adopted it had been elected by the people. This measure is intended to deal with such a contingency. My old friend. Senator Barnes, with the most finely-attuned imagination conceivable, has discovered this, that, and the other particular instance that would give rise to a serious public grievance, and the inflicting of terrible hardship on sonic of our citizens, if the old order was not preserved I remind him that if a “ Y “ government sought to give an act of Parliament a wrong direction, as the “ X “ government undoubtedly did, there would be “ wigs on the green “ so far as he was concerned. He should seize the opportunity of ensuring that both “X” and “Y” governments do their plain duty; that is, to read the English language as it is written, not to read into it any false notions, any u n becoming or unjustifiable meaning that it does not contain. It. has been said that language was given to man to enable him to conceal his thoughts.
– The honorable senator does not use it for that purpose.
– I have never done so. If I thought that I would use it in that way, I should prefer not to have any language at all. But I am pointing^ out to the learned Leader of the Opposition the need for reaching out with both hands and seizing this opportunity of preventing any government from doing what the X “ government did in the past. Language should be plain. The Almighty gave it to us to enable us to express our meaning. He intended us to say “ Yes “ when we mean “ Yes “ ; but, when we find a government saying anything but “ Yes “ when it should be saying “ Yos,” its administration of the law is a travesty. The time has arrived when common sense, long submerged, should rise to the surface. Tyrannical authorities may ride roughshod over their victims; but, in the end. justice will be vindicated. It is being vindicated in this bill. I appeal to Senator Barnes, who to-night claims to bc the protagonist of the liberty of the subject, to put aside his fine-spun sophistry, realize that other governments may follow the footsteps of the “X” Government, and how necessary it is to pass this bill as an effective moans of preventing them from doing so.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [9.18]. - I regret that the Government has not seen fit to amend the Rules Publication Act instead of the Acts Interpretation Act, and to go back to the pre-publication of rules except in cases of emergency. Rules and regulations are binding on people in all parts of Australia, and, as this is a country big in area, except in cases of great emergency every effort should be made to let the people in distant parts know what regulations are to be brought in prior to their publication. However, the step now proposed is in the right direction, and I support it. The Minister has given an undertaking that something of this character shall be clone in regard to ordinances.
– That will be done in an ordinances interpretation bill.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The authority that makes rule3 and regulations is bound by the act of Parliament itself, and if, in the framing of rules and regulations, it goes one step beyond what it is authorized to do by the act, or offends in any way against the statute, the aggrieved parties can have recourse to any court of law. But the ordinancemaking authority is bound by nothing. He may make ordinances of any kind. Therefore, I hope that there will be no delay in tightening up that position, so that the authority of Parliament in regard to ordinances will be made just as clear as this bill makes it in regard to rules and regulations.
– I oppose the bill on the grounds upon which Senator Colebatch supports it. I feel that the time has arrived when Parliament should seriously consider its position from the point of view of the regulation-making power of the Executive. In the past, powers which could and should have been exercised by Parliament have been delegated to some authority under particular statutes. Indeed, it is notorious that no country in the world has gone in more for legislation by regulation than Australia has.
– With very bad results, too.
– I admit it candidly, but this bill ‘ perpetuates that most iniquitous principle, although it seeks by a clumsy gesture to carry out some professed mandate of the present Government. Portion of the bill clarifies the law because of some High Court decisions, but the main alteration is in the final clause. It does not take away from the Executive any of its regulation-making powers. It will still be within the prerogative of Parliament to disallow a regulation, but it will be possible for the Government to re-enact that regulation, leaving it to some judicial tribunal to decide whether or not it is the same in substance as the one previously disallowed. This Parliament will have no right to say so. If the judicial authority decided the question submitted to it in the affirmative, the regulation would be held to be void, and could not be promulgated again for another six months. I should like the Government to postpone the further consideration of this bill, so that we may consider how far the power of the Executive in the making of regulations should be fettered.
– The regulationmaking power conies up for review under every bill we pass.
– I know that in every bill we insert a clause providing that the Executive shall have power to make regulations in respect of any matter which is within the four corners of the measure, but it was never intended by those who originated this system of legislating by regulation that any regulation should go further than an ordinary by-law. It was never intended that Parliament should delegate to the Executive power to do things which it has unquestionably deputed it to do during the last few years. This measure still enables Parliament to be faced with a bill which will allow the Governor-General in Council to make regulations for all and sundry purposes within the four corners of the measure. That is wrong. Parliament should get back to the days when regulations were first framed and should stick to the original purpose for which this regulationmaking power was intended.
– This bill is a step half way towards that end.
– But this bill reaffirms the principle of government by regulation, and then proceeds to declare that no regulation shall be reenacted which is the same in substance as one already disallowed until a period of six months has expired. Senator Pearce referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.’ That committee may examine a regulation and report to the Senate that there is no need for it, and acting upon the advice of the committee, the Senate may disallow the regulation. Within a month afterwards, the need. for such a regulation may arise, yet this bill will prevent it from, being promulgated for six months after its disallowance. The Government will thus be powerless to act and Parliament itself will be equally powerless, having deliberately refrained from legislating along the lines required by giving the Government power to make a regulation in regard to the matter. Senator Barnes was not drawing upon his imagination when he claimed that there are innumerable cases in which, under existing statutes, circumstances may render it. .necessary to promulgate a regulation the same in substance as one which has just been disallowed. Of course, I know that honorable senators opposite feel that the previous Government abused its regulationmaking powers so far as the Waterside Workers Federation was concerned, and they probably think that this bill is justified because it may prevent a recurrence of such a thing in the future. Hut are we to have a bill to remedy every alleged >abuse of power? I do not know where we would stop if we applied the same test to every act passed by this Parliament.
– Surely that is t lie justification for the passing of this bill.
– One ‘abuse does not of necessity demand an alteration of the law. If that were to be the test, I do not know of any statute that has been passed by this Parliament which would not need alteration. But this proposal does not get to grips with the real difficulty - the powers of the Executive, to make regulations for all and sundry matters affected by a particular act.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should be done to meet that position?
– I do not see that there is anything impracticable in suggesting that provision should be made that where, in an act,_ power is given to make regulations, such power shall be denned by a clause of the bill. The Transport Workers Act merely provides that the Governor-General in Council may make regulations. Legislation passed in that form invites trouble. Parliament will not be the authority to decide whether or not a particular regulation is in substance, a regulation which may have been disallowed. That will be the function of the court.
– The honorable senator was unfortunate in quoting the Transport Workers Act, because, although his Government was pledged to repeal that law, it did not do so.
– I have answered that charge on a number of occasions. We did not repeal the Transport Workers
Act, because we wished to clean up the mess that had been caused under it. We should have taken all necessary action to give effect to our - promises, but for something which happened prior to last Christmas. There would have been no necessity for this legislation if the Scullin Government had not been defeated. We had under consideration proposals which would have given effect to our promises, and would have brought Parliament nearer to the time when it would be sitting more than 59 days in the year. In what way shall we be benefited by this proposal? If, between the time of the gazettal of a particular regulation and its disallowance and re-enactment, certain proceedings were taken by a litigant in the High Court to test the validity of the regulation in question, Parliament would be inclined, possibly, to allow the matter to stand over until the legal proceedings had been decided. This particular amendment is a clumsy gesture. It will not give to Parliament one iota more power than it has to-day, but it will be an invitation to people to litigate. I am not prepared to support the bill.
– I, agree with several observations that have been made by honorable senators who have criticized the bill. In the first place I agree that there is far too much delegated power in our legislation. Probably it would be preferable if we attached the major regulations to our more important acts: but a practice has grown up in this Parliament, and, indeed, in nearly all Parliaments, of delegating this regulationmaking power to such an extent that it is now threatening parliamentary control of the statutes. Notwithstanding that, as far back as “1904, an attempt was made to protect Parliament from this danger, we saw last session an absolute breach of parliamentary authority, and an attempt to override Parliament by the reenactment of certain regulations or statutory rules that had been disallowed by this chamber. It was not an elevating spectacle from the point of view of those who were responsible for this breach of the law or from the point of view of this chamber, but the action taken by the Senate was the only remedy which it had.
The Acts Interpretation Act provides in section 10 -
Where an act confers power to make regulations, all regulations made accordingly shall, unless the contrary intention appears -
take effect from the date of notifica tion, or from a later date specified in the regulations: (c)be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days of the making thereof, or, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within thirty days after the next meeting of the Parliament.
But if either House of the “Parliament passes a resolution of which notice has been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after such regulations have been laid before such House disallowing any regulation such regulation shall thereupon cease to have effect.
One would have thought that would he the end of a regulation that was disallowed, and in former days, when, probably, party lines were not so sharply drawn as they arc to-day, no government would have had the effrontery to re-enact in almost identical terms, a regulation which had been disallowed by one branch of the legislature. It. is within the power of Parliament to control the quantum of power which is delegated to the Executive. In some of our statutes, such as, for example, the Defence Act and similar legislation, this delegated power must be sufficiently wide to give effect to the wishes of the legislature. No one has ever suggested that Parliament should judge whether any re-enacted regulation is the same in substance as one which has been disallowed. The courts have always decided that issue. If this amendment of the act had been made last year regulations which were disallowed could not have been re-enacted. The difficulty referred to by Senator Barnes must confront us in other legislative spheres also, and full responsibility must rest upon the Parliament, which must be careful to see that the regulating power vested in the Executive Government is not abused. Secondly, it must realize that unless the legislature exercises its power of disallowance within the specified time, the regulations will have the force of law, and may only be altered by a further regulation or a substantive enactment. I see no disability in what we are doing. On the contrary, I see control being restored to this Parliament over its legislation. In many respects it has not had this con trol -during the last two or three years. I could not help thinking while my honorable and learned colleague from South Australia, Senator Daly, was emphasizing that this regulationmaking power should be closely scrutinized, that possibly some weaknesses could be discovered in legislation passed by the Government of which he was so distinguished a unit. I find, for example, that in the Wheat Advances Act 1930, there is this provision -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this act.
-I was not in the Ministry then.
– I have no doubt that I could discover similar weaknesses in other legislation passed during his association with the Scullin Ministry. In any event, the honorable senator must, as a member of the Cabinet, accept his share of the collective responsibility. Under that act extremely wide powers were vested in the Executive.
– They were not of much value in getting the money.
– I do not think that the honorable senator would agree to the disallowance of the regulationmaking power in that act.
Again, under the legislation providing for a gold bounty, which Senator Daly took a prominent part in passing through this chamber, wide powers were given to the Executive. Another similar enactment was a measure to amend the Seat of Government Act, which was passed by the Government of which Senator Daly was a distinguished member. For the growth of the regulation-making power no government is wholly to blame; the system has crept gradually upon the legislatures of this country. It is a system towards which every Executive reaches out, for it is convenient for departmental heads, . and the administration generally, to make a regulation to meet a situation which was not, foreseen when the act was passed. There may be objections to the granting of this power; but I submit that they should not weigh with this chamber since the power applies to every law. In the circumstances, I trust that the opposition to the measure will be withdrawn, thus providing an excellent example to the Parliaments of Australia of the wisdom of putting a curb on the regulation-making power of the Executive, which has been the subject of much criticism by members of the legal profession.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator Hon. W.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Disallowed regulation not to be re-made unless motion rescinded).
. - I ask the committee to vote aga inst this clause, to which a good deal of attention was given in the secondreading debate. Senator Lynch gave us a dissertation about, X and Y governments. If we continue to legislate along the lines of the legislation already introduced by the present Government, we shall soon have the Z government, and then we shall probably write “ finis “. This legislation adds another jerry-built room to a crazy cottage. It provides for extensive powers being delegated to the Executive - a principle whichall honorable senators agree is not sound. In my opinion, the regulation-making power of the Executive should be confined to purely machinery matters designed to give effect to the original intention of the Parliament which passed the parent act, in which case there would be no conflict such as we have seen in recent months. If the bludgeon prepared by the Bruce-Page Government for use against the waterside workers of this country was converted by the Scullin Government into a shield to protect those workers, then those who forged the bludgeon have no reason to complain. There is a good deal in the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) that this measure will hamper the Executive in giving effect to the intention of Parliament in some cases. It may be that we shall have a recurrence of that type of litigation which has resulted fro rn the passing of certain legislation by this Parliament - litigation which not only is costly to the taxpayer, but in addition inconveniences the people.I. hope that the committee will reject the clause.
Question - That the clause be agreed to -put. The committee divided. (Chairman– Senator Plain . )
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
[ 10.5].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
As the bill is mainly of a machinery character I do not propose to mate a lengthy speech in moving the second reading; but, in committee, I shall refer to each of those clauses in which any important amendment is made. It may not be desirable when specifying a class of revenue to include the whole of that class in the resolution to be passed by both Houses of Parliament, and provision is, therefore, being made to enable only portion of the class of revenue to be specified in the resolution.For the information of the Senate, I may say that within the last few days New South. Wales has defaulted in respect of an additional sum of £1,200,000. The recent amounts were -
In each of these cases a formal demand was made on the Treasurer of New South Wales for payment of the moneys, but the demands were ignored. The Commonwealth, therefore, made arrangements to meet these obligations as they fell due. The gross default to date, after allowance for the Commonwealth contributions under the Financial Agreement, but excluding recoveries under the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act, is approximately £3,200,000. Of the total interest on which the State has defaulted, £3,235,000 -was payable overseas, and £713,000 in Australia. The recoveries under the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts to date are approximately £440,000, and the net amount outstanding is now £2,760,000. When this bill has been assented to a resolution will be submitted to the Senate, and I suggest that the action to be taken under the law can then be more properly debated. In moving the second reading, therefore, I do not propose to enter into a discussion of that aspect of the question.
– This is the third instalment of the Government’s Financial Agreements Enforcement legislation. When dealing with a previous amending measure I warned the Government that what it was proposing was not as easy as it had led the Senate to believe.
– It was never considered to be an easy matter.
– Some thought it an easier matter than it has proved to be. My contention all along has been that the Government is adopting a wrong attitude. As this is the third instalment of this legislation, it will be seen that what the Government is attempting to do is not nearly so simple as the right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) would have the’ Senate believe. This legislation has farreaching effects. In the first place, we were informed that New South Wales had. defaulted to the extent of £1,200,000. The only point on which the Government seems to be concerned is how it is to obtain revenue in order to meet its obligations to the bondholders. No provision has been made in the legislation or resolutions passed by Parliament to protect those in receipt of the dole in New South Wales. No effort has been made by the Government’ to allow for the payment of child endowment, or to meet widows’ pensions. I contend that these are matters of paramount importance to the people of New South Wales.
– To which Government is the honorable senator referring?
– The Commonwealth Government. This Government is collecting revenue in order to pay interest to bondholders without making any provision for child endowment or widows’ pensions. Mr. Lang is telling the people of New South Wales that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for their non-payment, and, until such time as this ; Government shows the people of New South
Wales that it is sincere in its efforts to meet these commitments, it is only reasonable to expect the people in that State to do what they are doing. The first duty of this Government is to ensure that these payments are made. No effort has been made to honour the promises given to certain sections of the community in that State.
– What has Lang done with the money?
– I am not supporting Mr. Lang; but I am concerned with the interests of the people of New South Wales. This Government seems to be concerned only with the bondholder.
– What is being done in the other States?
– This Government has come to the rescue of other States unable to pay their way. The other States have been sheltered and assisted by the Commonwealth, and, indirectly, by the taxpayers of New South Wales. What does the bill provide? Public servants in New South Wales who refuse to hand over State revenues to the Commonwealth will be penalized. A fine of £100, provided in the principal act, has now been increased to £500. This constitutes a direct attack upon the Government of New South Wales, and is not the right method to adopt. There should be some conciliation and a better understanding between the Commonwealth Government and the people of New South Wales. I refer not only to those who are considered to be extremists, but to prominent business men in that State. Some of them say that they cannot pay their way, and that it is impossible to do so unless some arrangement is made for an extension of the time in which payments are to be made. This legislation affects, not only the unemployed, but business men and men on the land, who cannot carry on unless they have an extension of credit. The Government should take a longer view of the whole matter. Moreover, this is a vindictive attempt to victimize State servants. I believe that it is aimed at railway servants. A few days ago I asked what protection bookmakers would receive if the State authorities refused to issue betting tickets to them. The reply I received was that the matter was’ being considered. Where does the bookmaker stand in the meantime? Has he to pay his tax to the Commonwealth Government without any guarantee of some protection?
– He is protected under the last amending act.
– What protection will railway servants receive under this measure? The New South Wales Treasurer may instruct the Chairman of the Transport Board to direct his staff not topay revenue to a Commonwealth representative. The Minister may be prosecuted, and fined £500. Who will pay that £500? Mr. Lang will not, and it will have to be found by the taxpayers of New South Wales. Let us suppose that the instruction is passed on to the Commissioner, and that he adopts a similar stand. He will be liable to a penalty of £1,000. Who will pay that, if he acts under the instructions of a Minister of the Crown?
– That is the penalty of having Mr. Lang as Premier.
– The people of New South Wales are not in a position to put, Mr. Lang out; and, so far as I can see, it is doubtful whether they would do so if they were given the opportunity. The Commonwealth Government has carried on such a vendetta against the State that the people have turned against it, and are giving their sympathy to Mr. Lang. There is no question about that. Any honorable senator who has witnessed the demonstrations that have taken place, and the support that Mr. Lang is receiving, cannot close his eyes to the fact that he has the sympathy of a very large proportion of the people. Nothing is more responsible for that than the attitude which is being adopted by the Commonwealth Government. The argument that is being put forward by Mr. Lang and his followers is, that while the interest of the bondholder is being conserved by the Commonwealth Government, that of the widow, the unemployed, and the worker generally, is being ignored, and that it does not matter to the Commonwealth whether the widows go short of their pensions, the children of their endowment, or the unemployed of their dole. . That argument is having a very considerable effect on the minds of the people. The Commonwealth Government should see that those persons are protected. Take the case of the Railway Department. The
Commissioner issues instructions to the heads of the departments and to the staff officers, who pass them on to the staff. The person who receives the money from the sale of tickets is answerable to the stationmaster, who may have received the instruction that the receipts must be placed to the credit of the State. Who is to be responsible in that case? Is the stationmaster or the worker to be victimized? A fine of £500 would not hurt a Minister in any way, nor one of £1,000 the Commissioner of Transport.
– We are increasing the penalty.
– That will mean additional taxation on the people of New South Wales.- The Commonwealth will benefit only by way of increased fines, which will have to be paid by the people of the State. My complaint is that the Commonwealth is aiming at individuals, and injuring the State. On the hustings the people were assured that if the present Government were returned Mr. Lang would be forced out of office. It was said that he was responsible for all the damage that was being done to the Commonwealth, because he was not honouring his word. After the impending elections are held in Victoria and Queensland, there may be a change of government in those States, and circumstances may compel them also to repudiate, with the result that their people may have to pay for the sins of their Ministers.
– The other States are paying now on behalf of New South Wales.
– Tasmania has been given substantial assistance by the Commonwealth, and should have no complaint to make. But there is every ground for the complaint of the people of New South Wales. It is their turn today, but it may be the turn of Queensland or of Victoria to-morrow. The Commonwealth is no nearer to its goal to-day than it was when the first instalment of this legislation was introduced.
– It is about £400,000 nearer.
– Perhaps it is; but what is happening in New South Wales as a result? The business people aregoing short, the nurses in the hospitals, some of whom are on probation, and are in receipt of only 12s.6d. a week, cannot be paid, simply because, according to the Premier of the State, the Commonwealth has attached its revenues.
– That is a lie.
– It may be a lie, or it may be the truth. I suppose that to a certain extent it is the truth.
– Order ! I ask honorable senators not to interject. There are approximately 24 honorable senators who have a chance of replying to the arguments of Senator Dooley. In those circumstances, they might very well afford him the courtesy of listening to him without interruption.
– I thank you, Mr. President. I do not interject to any extent while other honorable senators are speaking, nor do I take up a great deal of the time of the Senate. I feel, therefore, that honorable senators will observe your instruction. The danger that I apprehend is that people who are not responsible for the position that has arisen in New South Wales will be penalized. State public servants are in duty bound to take their instructions from “the State, as the tax collector did in connexion with bookmakers’ licences, when he was instructed not to issue the tickets. Victimization was practised in that case, and no protection was afforded to the individual. As a matter of fact, I have been asked by some persons what the Commonwealth proposes to do. The query put to me has been, “ Are we to be victimized ? _ Where do we stand? Have we to pay to the Commonwealth only, or first to the State and then to the Commonwealth ?” If a State employee carries out the instructions of his superior officer, as he has been in the habit of doing, he will be subject to the provisions of this legislation when enacted, and will be liable to a penalty of £1,000. Is that a fair deal to an employee who is not responsible for the actions of a Minister, the Commissioner,, or his immediate superior officer ? Then there is the case of hotelkeepers. The advice given to the people of New South Wales by Mr. Lang, when it was suggested at, a meeting held in East Sydney that certain newspapers should be boycotted, cannot have been forgotten. If a hotelkeeper pays his licence-fee to the Commonwealth, and the State organization determines that his hotel shall he boycotted, what redress willhe have? None whatever. No provision is made for his protection, nor for the protection of State servants who act, in accordance with their instructions. To-morrow or the day after a State servant will learn from his daily newspaper that; this bill has become law and that it is binding upon him. Naturally, he will inquire of the head of his department as to the attitude that he should adopt, and will be told to carry oat the instructions of his superior officer. Yet, if he does so, he will be liable to a fine of £1,000. Some honorable senators say that the penalty will be made so great that the State will not be able to pay it, and as a consequence Mr. Lang will be imprisoned. But there may be some one else who is prepared to take his place, and so the thing will go on until eventually the unemployed in the other States will have to be engaged upon the building of a sufficient number of gaols in New South Wales to hold all those whom the Commonwealth wishes to incarcerate. Carried to its logical conclusion, that must be the effect. The course that should have been pursued by this Government is that which was taken by the previous Government; but that is not agreeable to it. Seeing that it has the power to act in the manner proposed, it is in duty bound to protect those who are likely to be penalized. I intend to oppose the bill.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.25]. - The reply to the honorable senator is this : New South Wales is not the only State in which there are widows. They are to be found in Victoria, and South Australia, in both of which States the Government has made provision for them, and in addition has made its interest payments. Surely if those States, which are poor compared with New South Wales, Can do that, New South Wales also should be able to do it.
.- Mr. President-
– The reply of the mover of the motion closes the debate.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
– I intended to speak on the second reading, but unfortunately, not being accustomed to the procedure of the Senate, thought that Senator Pearce was replying to a question, and was not closing the debate. It is fortunate for this newly-elected Government that it found opposition from the Premier of New South Wales, otherwise it would no:, have functioned. For the last four months it has. been thriving on the alleged ill deeds of that gentleman.
– I rise to a point of order. There is nothing in this clause dealing with the actions of the Government or Mr. Lang.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator is certainly not in order, but I thought that he was about to connect his remarks with the ‘clause. I ask him to do so.
– I understand that this bill proposes to confiscate the revenue of New SouthWales railways and tramways.
– There is nothing in the clause about the payment of revenue of railways or tramways.
– I understand that the clause refers to any class of revenue. The unfortunate procedure adopted by the Commonwealth, has been so ably described by Senator Dooley that I have no need to go over the ground covered by him, but unfortunately I am compelled to say that the Commonwealth Government is not considering the people of New South “Wales whom it is practically victimizing.
– I submit that the honorable senator is out of order in discussing anything but the subjectmatter of this clause, which is the payment of specified State revenue to the Commonwealth. There is nothing in the clause referring to the victimization of the people of New South “Wales.
– I ask Senator Mooney to endeavour to connect his remarks with the clause.
– I am endeavouring to show why a proclamation should not be issued. I must proceed on the lines on which I commenced. Unfortunately the people of New South “Wales are being subjected to starvation by the Commonwealth Government. ‘ I do not know where the proclamation to he issued will get either the Federal Government or the people of New South Wales as a whole;but I know that the harder the Commonwealth endeavours to obtain these moneys the harder will be the fight from New South Wales. The State isprepared for all emergencies. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has made certain allegations about the attitude of the Government of New South Wales. I know that the latter is ready to defend the people of the State.
– Mr. Chairman, I draw attention to the fact that Senator Mooney has not made a single reference to the subject-matter of the clause, and submit that a general discussion on the attitude of the Government of New South Wales cannot be allowed. The clause itself limits the discussion to the single issue, the payment of specified State revenue to the Commonwealth.
- Senator Mooney is certainly wandering from the subject- matter of the clause, but as he is a new senator, and lost his opportunity to speak on the second reading, I am giving him a little latitude in the hope that he will very soon connect his remarks with the clause under discussion.
– I think I can deal better with the subject-matter of the bill on clause 4, and, therefore, will not speak further at this stage.
– I should like to know whether under this clause we may have some information as to what will govern the determination of the parts of the revenue of the State to be attached from time to time by the Commonwealth. It is inconceivable that the part of the revenue of the State so attached would be so large as to cripple the productive power to the State. Will it merely be sufficient to pay the needs of the Commonwealth to cover the debt already incurred by the State to the other people of the Commonwealth, and will the welfare, so to speak, of the State be considered in respect of the maintenance of essential services?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia. - Minister for Defence) [10.39]. - The provision of the act amended by “ this clause says that upon a proclamation being issued the specified revenue of the State shall become payable to the Commonwealth Treasurer, and “ specified revenue “ is defined as being the revenue specified or described in a resolution passed by each House and included in a proclamation. I should be out of order if I proceeded to anticipate the passing of the resolution, and on this clause discussed the possible terms of that resolution. The honorable senator will have an opportunity on a subsequent motion to discuss the particular classes of revenue or portions of classes of revenue that are to be included in the proclamation.
– I should like to know if this clause means that if both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution the Commonwealth can ignore certain sections of State revenue and concentrate upon other sections.
– That is so.
– In that case I trust that the committee will reject the clause. We have often heard honorable senators opposite denounce the iniquities of the system of legislation by proclaimation. Parliament is asked to pass a resolution confiscating, as Senator Dooley put it. certain specified revenue, and if that revenue happens to be railways revenue, betting tax or hotel licence-fees, the Commonwealth may ignore the two latter and confiscate only the railway revenue, although Parliament is led to believe that it is intended to distribute the seizure over the three fields of taxation.
– That is not a correct interpretation of the position. The resolution would indicate the class of revenue to be seized and the proclamation how to deal with it.
– That is not what the section says. I contend that it enables the Commonwealth to confiscate the whole of the railway revenue of the State and to take only portion of the betting tax or hotel licence-fees.
– That is so. The resolution would indicate that.
– It is certainly a very vital extension of the power of government by proclamation.
– The revenue of the State can be dissected under the resolution but not under the section of the act.
– ‘The new section proposed to be included, by this bill reads as follows : -
Where in a resolution passed in pursuance of thisact there is specified or described a portion of a class of revenue, it shall not be necessary that the whole of the portion so specified or described shall be included in a proclamation, but part of that portion may be included in a proclamation, and the part so included may be varied- from time to time by successive proclamations having effect as from the dates respectively fixed by those proclamations.
– The resolution has first to be passed by Parliament.
– The resolution when passed may authorize the Government to take over the railway revenue and the revenue from the betting tax and hotel licences, but a proclamation may issue taking the whole of the railway revenue and only portion of the revenue from the betting tax and hotel licence-fees. It can be done under this proposed new sub-section.
– It is not done under the sub-section, but the subsection gives the power to do it under the proclamation.
– What -objection can there be to taking a portion if we can take the whole?
– I desire to prevent any extension of the powers to legislate by proclamation in this or in any other bill.
– The honorable senator is willing to give power to take the whole but not part, of the revenue.
-No. If I had my way this Government would never have had the power to do what it has done. I do not believe in legislation by proclamation in any form, but, unfortunately, the Government has a sufficient, number to prevent me from making an effective protest against its action. I hope that the Senate will not, agree to an extension of this power, thereby buttressing this inquitous system of legislation by proclamation.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Commonwealth may sue for moneys due and payable to a State).
– When moving the second reading of the hill, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) stated that, as it was largely a machinery measure, he would be prepared, in committee, to offer any explanations that might be necessary with respect to the various clauses. This clause gives to the Government far-reaching powers over the citizens of New South Wales, and I should like to know to what extent it amends the original act.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.51]. - If the honorable senator will read the clause, he will see that it is consequential on previous amendments. It provides that action may be taken to recover moneys which “ but for this act “ would have been payable to the State during the currency of any proclamation, and would have formed part of the specified revenue of that State.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Payments during currency of proclamation).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.52]. - These amendments are also consequential on amendments already referred to. Sub-sections 2 and 3 of section 10 permit payment of certain State revenues to bo made to the proper officer or employee of a State in accordance with directions given by the Treasurer. The amendment nowproposed is to ensure that if State revenues reach the hands of any other State officers or employees they shall be dealt with as directed by the Treasurer by notice in the Gazette.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Moneys held by banks on behalf of State).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.53]. - The- amendment proposed in this clause is made in consequence of the reasons for the judgment delivered by the High Court yesterday in the case of New South Wales v. the Commonwealth relating to section 15 of the principal act. In that case four of the justices held that the main provisions of the sections were valid, while two justices held that the whole section was invalid. Three of the four justices who upheld the validity of the main provisions of the section, however, expressed some doubts as to the validity of sub-section 5 of the section, . but took the view that’, even if the sub-section was beyond the legislative power of the Commonwealth, it was severable from the rest of the section. It will be remembered that sub-section 5 purports to empower the Treasurer, where moneys which have been received by the Commonwealth front the banks in pursuance of section 15 include contractors’ deposits, to refund such deposits where he is satisfied that the conditions upon which the moneys were deposited have been fulfilled.
It is proposed by the amendment contained in clause 7 of the bill to take power to deal with such deposits in the prescribed manner, that is, in the manner specified by regulation. Any manner which is specified must be a manner consistent with the provisions of the act. Before the exact manner in which these moneys will be dealt with can be decided, consideration must be given to the position created by reason of the fact that the moneys which the banks are required to hand over will apparently not be nearly sufficient to enable all the claims of this nature to be satisfied in full.
Clause agreed to.
Clause8 (Power to require information).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.55]. - This clause proposes to enact a new section 20a conferring upon the Treasurer, or any authorized person, power to require any person to answer questions and produce documents relevant to any matter arising under or incidental to the carrying out of the act. This power of inquiry is common to many Commonwealth statutes under which investigations into facts and circumstances are necessary.
– I hope that the committee will not agree to this proposed new section without due inquiry as to the consequence which might follow from any failure to supply information. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has told us that certain other legislation contains a similar provision. I invite him to point to any provision in other acts, prescribing penalties similar to those imposed under this new law. This is a matter affecting t l.i u liberty of the subject in New South Wales.
– It makes no reference to New South Wales.
– I am aware of that, but it is impossible to refer to it without connecting Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, with it. A few minutes ago, when Senator Dooley was speaking, Senator Herbert Hays asked him if he were supporting Mr. Lang. We know, as a matter of fact, that it. is deliberately aimed at the State of New South .Wales, and that, under it, the people of that State will be liable to certain penalties.
– Any offences must bc relevant to the carrying out of this act.
– -That is so. If a solicitor had certain documents furnished to him under privilege in the course of bis business, in ordinary circumstances he would refuse to disclose the information in his possession. Under this law, any failure to disclose information will render him liable to a heavy penalty.
– Would a solicitor withhold information with regard to income tax figures?
– Yes. If the income tax commissioner forwarded letters of inquiry to mc concerning any clients of mine, I would decline to answer the questions.
– Doe3 the honorable senator recall the Abrahams case?
– That case was in my mind.
– The honorable senator did not have the facts of that case. They were brought before the criminal court. There is a great difference between the capricious act of a Minister and the judicial atmosphere of a court. Once the principle is established, I do not mind the legislature saying to the people of New South Wales that they must submit to the ordinary law which operates against, every subject, and that, if they are called to appear’ before a criminal court, they will be compelled to answer questions. But the solicitors in the Abrahams case did not make any communication to the Commissioner of Taxes until after they had been brought before the judicial officer, and their privilege ended.
– Their offices were entered, and searched for documents.
– That is so. Once a search warrant is obtained, a solicitor’s office may be searched for documents; but that is quite different from asking the solicitor to give up his key to enable his office to be searched.
– It is a distinction without a difference.
– Apparently, the honorable senator thinks that there is no difference, either in principle or in logic, between an inquiry in a judicial atmosphere by a judicial tribunal and au inquiry by a capricious Treasurer. Under this bill, should the Treasurer say, “ I want certain information,” the person addressed by him has no redress. We have in this clause a clumsy idea of ploughing along, and creating disruption in New South Wales, lt is a muddling, pettifogging method of dealing with a situation which has arisen. And, in order that every one may know that the Government is doing something, the act is amended almost every day ! I vehemently protest against this form of legislation. I could understand it if we were in a foreign country; but surely not every person in New South Wales is a “ crook.”
– Thank God that is so !
– The honorable sena-‘ tor should carry his prayer to Providence a little further, and ask that he may be led to show more mercy, if not justice.
– The right-thinking people of New South Wales arc behind this legislation.
– They are dependent on the caprice of the Commonwealth Treasurer, or an authorized person. I know that it is useless to oppose this clause, but I protest against this extension of a principle which, I submit, should not be embodied in our legislation. It will establish a bad precedent, which, I predict, will recoil upon the heads of those who have framed it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 (Prosecution of offences).
– This clause reaches the limit of absurdity, and I should like the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) to explain it. It provides that a Minister of the Crown may be fined £500, or imprisoned for a term not exceeding one year in respect of an offence under the act. That fine is to be inflicted by one of his own magistrates - a person who is in his employ. Should the magistrate fine the Premier of a State, the Premier could retaliate by dismissing him. In that case, the Commonwealth would prob- ably appoint its own magistrate to conduct the trial. Then, if the Premier were convicted, the State police would be called upon to take him to gaol; but the Premier, being still a Minister of the Crown, might exercise his right to sack the policemen who escorted him.
– If the honorable senator has read the Constitution of his own State, ‘he must know that the Minister would be disqualified from being a member of Parliament on his being committed to gaol.
– Mr. Lang has threatened to dismiss any State employee who disobeys his orders. In that case, the magistratewho fined him would run a grave danger of losing his job. In the event of the Commonwealth magistrate, who would take his place, imposing a fine on the Premier instead of committing him to gaol, the fine would have to be paid by the State. What is the intention of the clause? Do honorable senators expect, that the Premier of New South Wales will willingly submit to be gaoled? Or do they think that the risk of a £500 fine will scare him? Why not make the fine £5,000? I should like to know what will be done should the magistrate, the policeman, the warder, and all others concerned with the gaoling of the Minister be given the sack. Perhaps it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to build its own gaols.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West- ern Australia - Minister for Defence) [11. 8]. - I assume that every member of this Parliament, has read the Federal Constitution, which is as binding on State officers as on Commonwealth officers. Senator Dooley seems to assume that every one in New South is desirous of breaking the law. The Government does not believe that that is so. On the contrary, it is convinced that a large majority of the people of that State, including magistrates, policemen, and other public officials, will obey the law. When passed, this bill will be the law.
. - The right honorable senator has only begged the question. We are not discussing what the majority of the people of New SouthWales might do. This clause deals with Ministers of a State or members of proclaimed public authorities. Whether we have studied the Constitution or not, we know that the laws of the Commonwealth are binding upon every citizen of the Commonwealth. But there is no Commonwealth law which prescribes the term of office of a policeman in New South Wales or prevents a State Minister from granting leave to, or getting rid of, a policeman in New South Wales. It is obvious that the Government, of New South Wales will not give in without a fight. With Senator Dooley, I should like to know what steps the Commonwealth Government proposes to take.
– I give the honorable senator the Asquithian answer, “ wait and see.”
– Many weeks have passed since action was first taken by the Commonwealth to deal with Mr. Lang. We were told that the £400,000 required would soon come in. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) in another place said that he would deal with Mr. Lang, as did also the Leader of the Seriate (Senator Pearce) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). Now we are told that we must “ wait and see.”
– Mr. Scullin said what, he would do.
– Yes; and he did it, until, by reason of an alliance between the party to which the honorable senator belongs, and another faction, the downfall of that Government was brought about.
– Mr. Scullin issued a writ, which he afterwards withdrew.
– He withdrew it after consultation. In any case, he did not have to spend hundreds of pounds in legal expenses as the present Government hasdone. Nor did hecause confusion in New South Wales as the present Government’s action has undoubtedly done.
– He did not get any money from Mr. Lang.
– He would have got it, but for the action of the Country party, to which the honorable senator belongs. In my opinion, the money owing by New South Wales will be a deficit which the next Labour Government will take over from the present Government. Honorable senators arc entitled to a better answer to their questions than the Asquithian answer “ wait and see.” Lotus have a good Australian answer - something definite. Let the Government take honorable senators into its confi- dence, and tell them what it intends to do with Mr. Lung. It appears that a great game of poker is in progress. The. only difference between Mr. Lang and Mr. Lyons, who are the principal players, is that Mr. Lang- has placed a mirror behind the back of Mr. Lyons- which enables him to see his opponent’s cards. So far every round has been won by Mr. Lang.
– Has it?
– The Commonwealth has not got the money from Mr. Lang. Indeed the deficit is increasing almost daily. I am not lauding Mr. Lang for not meeting his obligations. On the contrary, I should prefer that he meet them, for it would then be easier for South Australia. But what has this Government done, other than tell inquirers that they must “wait and see”? When the penal provisions of this legislation are put into operation, the policemen of New South Wales will know that Mr. Lang possesses great powers. It is no figment of the imagination to say that if he were convicted of an offence under this Law it is possible . that the policeman who escorted him down the streets of Sydney would be dismissed, leaving Mr. Lang to . walk along unrestricted. If he went to gaol, Mr. Gosling, as Chief Secretary, could order his release. If he were to be imprisoned for three years, the Chief Secretary could advise the Governor as the representative of His Majesty the King - and His Excellency, would be compelled to take that advice - to exercise His Majesty’s clemency and release him in respect of the remainder of his term. We should then be asked to consider another amendment of the act, and again be told to be Asqnithian and wait and see. I am not prepared to go on waiting and seeing. If this Government cannot clean up the unsatisfactory position in New South Wales, it ought to get out and make room for a government which can.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Majority . . . . 12
[11.81].- I move-
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till 11 a.m. to-morrow.
I submit this motion to enable the Senate to complete the business to be brought forward to-morrow, including probably the resolution arising out of the measure which has just been disposed of, and adjourn at the dinner hour. Such an arrangement will enable honorable senators to catch their trains to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 May 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320504_senate_13_134/>.