13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J.Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs prepared to recommend to Cabinet an embargo on the importation of all tobacco grown outside Australia?
– It is not customary to give answers to questions relating to matters of policy.
-Has the attention of the right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate been directed to reports in this morning’s local paper of the proceedings which took place yesterday during the election of the President? If so, can be say whether the Government proposes to takesteps with a view to the more seemly conduct of that distinguished duty when it may again fall upon the Senate?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. The honorable senator spoke to me about this matter, and I can assure him that, having given consideration to the question, the Gove rn men t intends to ask the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate to examine the procedure laid down in the Standing Orders relating to the election of the President, andsee if it cannot be amended or supplemented to provide for the proper conduct of business during that stage of the proceedings of the Senate.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act-
Twelfth Annual Report, 1st July, 1931, to 30th June, 1932.
Meteorology Act - Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1932, No. 83.
Seat of Government Acceptance Actand Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 19 of 1932 - Companies.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Federal Capital Territory for the period 1st July, 1 931, to 30th June, 1932.
[3.5]. -I lay on the table -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings,&c., for the year ending 30th June, 1933.
The Budget 1932-33 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable J. A. Lyons, P.C., M.P., on the occasion of opening the Budget of1932-33. and move -
That the papers be printed.
In another place this afternoon the Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) is presenting the budget. In the ordinary course of events, the annual Estimates do not reach the Senate until the close of the season, and come to us in the form of an appropriation bill. By that time, the principles contained in the budget have been worn threadbare by constant discussion. Early in the history of this Parliament, it became an established practice that the Leader of the Government in the Senate should lay on the table of the Senate copies of the Estimates and budget papers and move “ that the papers be printed “ in order that honorable senators might have an opportunity to embark at once upon a discussion of the general principles embodied in those papers. In that way honorable senators are enabled, simultaneously with members of another place, to express their views upon the financial policy of the Government of the day as disclosed in the papers. The bills that arise from the budget come tous, as they come to another place, in separate measures. I make these few remarks for the benefit of newly elected senators.
While I do not propose to make an exhaustive review of the events of the past two or three years, it is necessary to make some reference to them in order to realize clearly the perilous position in which Australia recently stood and from which sheis now emerging.
The national income had decreased from £650,000,000 to at most £450,000,000 per annum, largely as a result of the position of our overseas trade and the fall in the prices of our primary products.
Government deficits, Federal and State, had assumed proportions never before experienced, the actual deficits for 1930-31 amounting to over £27,000,000, and the estimated deficits for 1931-32 to £40,000,000. Overseas loans which had for ten years averaged nearly £22,000,000 per annum ceased completely, and we have been unable to raise loans in the local market at reasonable interest rates.
The turning point in national affairs was the adoption of the Premiers plan, of which the outstanding points were a reduction of 20 per cent. in all adjustable Government expenditure, including salaries and wages, and a reduction of 22½ per cent. in rates of interest on Government loans.
To add to the difficulties of the position, the late Government of New South Wales did not take the necessary measures to comply with the Premiers plan, with the consequence that all governments were embarrassed in their efforts towards reconstruction. Fortunately the action taken by this Government enabled that position to be cleared up.
As against the evidences of depression it is heartening to consider the steps which have been taken to retrieve the position and the evidences of recovery which may now be noted. The deficits for 1931-32 which were estimated at £40,000,000, were actually brought down to £20,147,000, of which £13,570,000 represents the deficit of New South Wales. The estimated deficits for 1932- 33 have been reduced to £9,000,000. The £596,000,000 conversion loan has been carried through, providing savings of £6,500,000 per annum in the interest bill.
Bank and private interest rates have been materially reduced and this process is continuing. Reductions in expenditure and increased taxation have assisted in the advance towards balanced budgets. Cost of production has been reduced and the cost of living index figure reduced from 1866 in 1929 to 1477 in 1931. The adverse trade balance - merchandise only -of £33,000,000 sterling in 1929-30 has been converted into a favorable balance of £31,000,000 in 1931-32.
As further evidence of recovery the rise in the price of our stocks, both in Australia and overseas, is distinctly encouraging.
Commonwealth 5 per cent. securities in London and New York fell to £55 15s. and 35 dollars respectively during the latter part of 1931. These stocks are to-day quoted at £110 10s. in London and 71¾ dollars in New York.
Commonwealth stock on the local market has greatly appreciated, as is evidenced by the following table: -
A group of sixteen representative companies with paid-up capital of approximately £30,000,000 show an appreciation of over £5,000,000 in the market value of their stock in two mouths.
The telephone service provides an indication of general business conditions. In July, 1931, there was a decrease of 2,374 telephones in use, but from the date mentioned a consistent recovery has occurred, and in July, 1932, an actual gain of 88 telephones in use was recorded.
Bank and private interest rates have been reduced.
Primary production has experienced a heavy increase during the last few years, and the wool clip for last season was 950,000,000 lb., a figure almost equal to the record of 1928-29.
The gold-mining industry has received considerable encouragement owing to the high price of gold, the mint price at present being £7 6s.11d. per fine ounce. Production promises a still further development in the future.
An event of considerable importance to Australia was the departure of Britain on 21st September, 1931, from the gold standard. The fall in sterling led to an increase in sterling prices, which helped in a large measure to offset the fall in gold prices of our primary products. The benefit to Australian producers of this movement is obvious.
After Britain went off the gold standard in September last, the London balances of our trading banks and of the Commonwealth Bank began to accumulate rapidly, causing apprehension of a fall in the exchange rate with serious loss to the banks. Ultimately the Commonwealth Bank made an agreement with the trading banks to purchase surplus London funds and accepted the responsibility of fixing the exchange rate from time to time. This arrangement is still in operation.
The power of the Commonwealth Bank to fix the exchange rate is not fettered in any way by legislation ; but the bank is, of course, influenced in this matter by those trade conditions which determine the amount of funds which are available.
The Government strongly adheres to the declaration of its policy with regard to exchange made after the Premiers Conference in April last, and will not interfere with the Commonwealth Bank in its control of the exchange rate. The Government has been, and is still, prepared at all times to assist the bank to control the rate in the best interests of all sections of the people.
Owing to our inability to raise loans to finance our government works programmes, and to the deficits which have been experienced during the last few years, the short-term debt has increased to huge proportions. the total being £82,670,000, of which £37,325,000 is located in London and £45,345,000 in Australia. Of the amount due in London, all but £4,250,000 is owing to the Commonwealth Bank.
The Commonwealth floating debt totals £16,730,000; the States floating debt totals £65,940,000.
The question of unemployment has been the most important subject discussed at the Premiers Conferences which have taken place since the Government assumed office. As a result, a special winter relief loan of £3,600,000 was arranged, of which the Commonwealth is finding £1,800,000. In addition, a plan is being evolved designed to employ taxation, which is at present used in the relief of unemployment, towards creating employment on useful and reproductive works. It is hoped to finalize this plan when the next Premiers Conference meets.
While it is too early to forecast with certainty the effect of the Ottawa Agreement, it is expected that it will produce double effect on revenue -
It is possible that the reduction in revenue may be counterbalanced by other factors, such as an increase in volume of production, the prices of our products, or by an inflow of capital from abroad.
In order to explore the whole question of taxation, both Federal and State, it is proposed to appoint Mr. Justice Ferguson, of New South Wales, as a commissioner to examine both Federal and State laws with a view to simplification and standardization, and to devising an equitable distribution of the burden.
Tariff and TRADE Restrictions.
The Government has inaugurated an extensive revision of the tariff, based on the recommendations of the Tariff Board. The prohibition of importation of specified items has already been repealed in 54 out of 78 items. Action “is now being taken for the total removal of the prohibitions. The special duty of 50 per cent, has already been removed from 22 out of the 58 items affected. Action is now being taken to remove the duties from a further seventeen items. It is considered that it will not be long before the whole of these restrictions on trade have been removed. Reference will be made later to proposals for decreased duties in respect of a number of classes of goods. Further revision of the tariff will be undertaken later.
The public debt of the Commonwealth has increased by £2,568,000 during the past year. This is due to the issue of treasury-bills to cover wheat bounty, and the increased liability due on government loans as a result of the conversion, these items being offset to a certain extent by the redemption of treasury-bills issued for other purposes. An adjustment has also been made by the Commonwealth taking over £7,597,783 of States’ debts in pursuance of relief granted in 1925 and 1930 on account -of losses in connexion with soldier settlement. The amount made available for the reduction of Commonwealth debt during theyear was £3,373,000.
The estimated deficit was £5,176,300. With the relief afforded by the Hoover moratorium, the estimated deficit was reduced to £1,148,300. The actual result was a surplus of £1,314,000. The following is a comparison of the actual result with the estimates : -
Year 1932-33. The estimated revenue is as follows: -
The estimate of cugtoms and excise revenue has been reduced in view of the results of the Ottawa Conference and of tariff reductions. A tariff schedule will be introduced making provision for decreased duties in respect of matches, cotton tweeds, knitted piece goods, wool piece goods, certain types of apparel, towels, galvanized iron, pipe fittings, dairy coolers, pasteurizers, &c.,certain classes of machinery, static transformers, fire bricks, sheet glass, cutlery cases, and the removal of deferred duties on pipes and tubes, and vessels of over 1,000 tons. It has also been decided to exempt a number of articles from the operations of the sales tax and from primage; this will result in a reduction of the receipts from those sources. The exemptions are chiefly in connexion with agricultural, pastoral, dairying and mining requirements. No new taxation is proposed.
To bridge the gap of £2,781,000 between the estimated revenue and expenditure, it is proposed, in addition to bringing forward last year’s surplus of £1,314,000, that the following adjustments and economies be effected: -
The Government is of the opinion that payment of the gold bounty should be suspended until the mint price falls to £5 per ounce. In this connexion it should be remembered that when Parliament first agreed to the bounty the mint’ price was only £411s. 6d. per ounce; today it is £7 6s.11d. per ounce.
The Government feels that the salaries of public servants should not be exempted from the application of the cost of living index figures, in the same way as they apply to those working under industrial awards.
It is regretted that it is necessary to reduce further the invalid and old-age pensions, but the Government feels that the country cannot carry the increasing burden which these pensions represent. In addition to the reduction of rates, steps are being taken to deal with cases of fraud, and it isalso proposed to effect an amendment in the pensions law to provide that the amount of pension paid shall be a first charge against the pensioner’s estate at death. It is also proposed that the pensions shall be a charge against property should the pensioner at any time become possessed of property which cancels the right to receive a pension.
It is proposed to limit payments of maternity allowances to those cases in which the income of the claimant and her husband is £4 per week. This will replace the present limit of £5 per week.
The grants to States in 1932-33 will be-
the increases being Western Australia £200,000, and Tasmania £80,000. The Government is of opinion that, as soon as normal conditions return, some definite plan must be instituted for determining the amount of such grants.
The Government’s proposals represent the immediate further steps which it considers necessary to ensure national safety and solvency. It will endeavour to live within its means, represented by the Estimates which have beenplaced before honorable senators, to make every effort to consolidate the gains already made, and to restore a full and warranted confidence to the country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I have to inform the Senate that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission to administer to honorable senators the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
Commission read by the Clerk.
What amount of sterling currency has been purchased by the Commonwealth Bank since the passing of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1932?
At what prices were the purchases made?
– These questions have been referred to the Commonwealth Bank for advice.
Report by Committee - Granting of Relief.
Will the Government retrain from taking any action on the report of the committee appointed to inquire into the matter of war service homes purchases, until Parliamenthas been given an opportunity of discussing the report ?
asked the Minister representing the Minister administering war service homes -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. No. The committee has recommended the maximum relief considered necessary after hearing extensive evidence in all the States.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following reply: Careful consideration is being given to the position of farmers, but at the present time it is too early in the season to form any reliable estimate of the probable yield of the harvest or of the price which will be obtainable for it and, therefore, no decision can be made at this juncture.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Vacancies in Western Australia.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. The provisions of the Public Service Act require that in making promotions to fill vacancies first regard must be given to the relative efficiency and then to the seniority of officers Available. Under these provisions some positions in Western Australia have been filled by the transfer of officers from other States. Similarly, some positions in the other States have been filled by the transfer of officers from Western Australia. 3. (a) Transfers from State to State necessarily involve expense in removals, but this is inevitable unless advancement to a position in a State is to be confined to officers resident in that State, which would be in conflict with the present law; (b) No. price of sugar.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
What is the present position in regard to the proposal to reduce the price of sugar to Australian consumers ?
– The matter is still under consideration, and is being further discussed at a conference in Canberra on Saturday next, 3rd September, between the Prime Minister and myself, representing the Commonwealth Government, and representatives of the sugar interests. countrytelephone charges.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Transfer to Canberra
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The information is being obtained, and the honorable senator will be advised as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he have inquiries made into the reports that the messages of the wireless station at military aerodrome, Richmond, New South Wales, interfere with all district private radio sets to such an extent that residents cannot have the benefits of wireless concerts?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is the Government willing to have a select committee appointed for the purpose of reviewing the case of ex-Stoker Molineux, of H.M.A.S. Brisbane”!
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The whole question of the future of Cockatoo Island Dockyard has for some time been engaging the attention of the Government, and an announcement in regard thereto will be made in due course.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Motion (by Senator-. Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to approve an agreement made between His Majesty’s. , Government in London, His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, and His Majesty’s Government of the Dominion of New Zealand, in relation to the Island of Nauru.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That leave to given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Defence Act 1903-1927.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Wire and Wire Netting ‘ Act 1927.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Designs Act 1906-1912.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That Senator Herbert Hays be appointed Chairman of Committees of the Senate.
[3.49].- I move-
That determinations Nos. 0 and 13 of 1932 made by the Public Service Arbitrator under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920- 1929 be disapproved.
The Government is very loth at any time to ask either House of the Parliament to disapprove a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator. There are, however, special considerations in regard to this particular determination, as honorable senators will see as I proceed. The Public Service Arbitrator himself draws attention to the fact that he has made his determination because Parliament has not expressed its particular will on this subject.
These determinations relate to the salaries of adult officers occupying positions of messenger, normally filled by minors. The Public Service Board reported to the Government that some hundreds of officers who had been appointed as boy messengers had reached 21 years, and that no positions suitable for adult employment were available for their absorption. The .board pointed out that the number was rapidly increasing, and that during the next five years about 2,900 lads would reach adult age, of whom probably only 1,500 could be absorbed in adult positions.
Under the then existing conditions they had necessarily to be paid as adults at a rate of £1S2 per annum while ‘the salary of a boy messenger, on appointment, was £74 per annum.
The retention of these adults in positions which ordinarily would be filled by boys would involve an approximate expenditure during five years of £750,000, and of £1,100,000 before the situation became normal.
The board suggested consideration of three courses -
The Government approved of the adoption of the second course and a Public Service regulation was made accordingly.
Certain Public Service organizations thereupon lodged claims with the Public Service Arbitrator for an order that the adult rate of wage should be restored.
After hearing the parties the arbitrator granted the claims and made the determinations now before Parliament.
Various matters were touched upon by the arbitrator in the reasons accompanying his judgment, but the main ground was stated as follows : -
As recently as July, 1931, the Commonwealth Parliament in the Financial Emergency Act 1931, specifically re-affirmed this principle by providing that no adult male should be reduced below the basic wage. This decision is so recent and so definite in its pronouncement that, in my opinion, action contravening that expressed intention should not bc taken without the specific assent of Parliament. On this main ground I have decided to approve of the application before me with retrospective effect from the 17th March, 1932. This will have the effect of restoring to full operation tlie principle of the payment of the service basic wage to adult males. Parliament, if it thinks fit to depart from this principle, will disallow my determination.
In effect, the reason for the arbitrator’s determination is that Parliament has not expressed assent to departure, in the cases in question, from the principle that no adult male should be reduced below the basic wage. But Parliament has already seen fit to depart from this principle. The regulation which the arbitrator’s determination seeks to annul prescribed a reduction in the cases of certain adult males below the basic wage. That regulation (Statutory Rules 1932/27) was laid before Parliament as prescribed, and was not disapproved. Non-disapproval by Parliament of a regulation is an endorsement by the Parliament of the terms and conditions of that regulation. It cannot be contended that Parliament was not thoroughly aware of the position as the regulation was the subject of discussion on the 16th and 17th March, 1932, vide Hansard, No. 7.
Since the arbitrator made his determinations, the situation has been again carefully reviewed, and with every allowance for wastage in the Service and all other conditions for absorption of these officers in adult positions, there will still be a large number necessarily retained’ in junior positions. It is estimated that, despite absorption wherever practicable, there will, at the end of five years, be at least 1,300 not provided for.
It will bo recognized that this position is most unsatisfactory, and it is now necessary to consider - 1.Whether the arbitrator’s determination is to be permitted to operate and the officers be retained with payment at the adult wage to young unmarried men for performing the work of boys.
As previously mentioned, this will call for additional expenditure of from £185,000 to £200,000 over the next five years.
Financially, this would be the preferable course. During the next five years £500,000 would be saved, but with great hardship, not only on the officers themselves, but on their families. To add to the number of adults unemployed is also undesirable at the present juncture, even though it would mean that a like number of boys would find employment.
In all the circumstances the last course is regarded as the most desirable for adoption.
The payment of an adult’ basic wage fundamentally presupposes performance of adult work of some kind. But here there is no such factor. From causes beyond control, the Service is foundwith more adults than can be placed in appropriate positions. The question for decision is whether, in the peculiar circumstances, the community should be asked to pay a very large sum for the retention of overpaid officers or whether such officers should accept something less than adult rates, or be discharged.
The wages that would be payable, that is, based on 20-year age rate, are sufficient to keep the officers concerned. In these days suitable board and lodging for these young single men should be obtained from 25s. to 30s. per week. A telegraph messenger in receipt of salary of £136 and paying 30s. per week for board and lodging would have £58 per annum for other purposes - a considerably higher margin over living costs than is enjoyed by many in the community in these times.
There seems, therefore, on the broad grounds of what is best for the community as a whole full justification in the circumstances facing the Government for action in the direction of disallowing the determinations.
It is proposed, therefore, to move for the disallowance of the two determinations concerned- Nos. 6 and 13 of 1932. If the determ inations were to be continued, the only alternative to the Government would be to discharge the men affected and replace them by boys, because they are doing work which in most cases is boys’ work.
– I am somewhat astounded that a motion should be moved to disapprove of the determination of a tribunal constituted by the Government to deal with a very important public function, and which sofar has carried out its duties in a thoroughly constitutional way. The effect of the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator has been to restore to certain members of the Public Service who have reached the age of 21 years the basic wage which had been refused to them on the ground that the Government could not provide them with work entitling them to the payment of such a wage. In all conscience the basic wage is little enough. If the Government sets the example of paying to its employees less than the basic wage, it is an invitation to all employers in the country to do likewise with the possibility that we shall have half the population living on less than the basic wage.
– Is that not the position to-day?
– Quite unnecessarily.
– I agree with Senator MacDonald. The present position is quite unnecessary. . The Government will do no good by reducing the wages of people in its employment and forcing them to depend largely on the rest of the people. An element in the community which I regard as the worst, believes that the lower the rates of pay, the more prosperous the country will become. I trust that such is not the policy of the present Government. If it is, the sooner the people have an opportunity to express their disapproval the better. The Public Service Arbitrator took considerable pains to investigate the case submitted to him ‘ by the employees before he made his determination. I cannot understand why the axe should be laid on the neck of one of the most capable men in the service of the Commonwealth. The basic wage, as it stands to-day, gives people nothing more than the opportunity to drag, out a miserable existence, and I trust that the Government will give this matter serious consideration before adult officers are deprived of the basic wage. In any case, I am satisfied that there will be a storm of discontent. Here is a telegram which I have just received from the general secretary of the Federated Public Service Assistants Association -
My association request that you strongly oppose the disallowance of award respecting adults performing juniors’ work. Consider that an honest Government should honour decision of arbitration tribunal as we are compelled to do.
That is one of scores of telegrams which will be received by honorable senators within the next few days. Time should be permitted for protest. There ‘was no hesitation on the part of the arbitrator in giving the determination which the Government now seeks to set aside, but for the purpose of affording more time for serious consideration of the subject, and to enable those concerned to put their protests before us, I propose to move the adjournment of the debate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) - The honorable senator, having already spoken,, can not move the adjournment of the debate, but he may ask leave to continue his remarks.
– That course will be acceptable to me. It is the smallest concession which the Government can make to the Opposition in this matter, and no more than bare justice to those who will suffer so drastically if the course proposed by the Government is adopted.
– An adjournment would give us an opportunity to study the award. We have not seen it yet.
– Those concerned have known about this proposal for a month or more.
– But it has not’ been brought under the direct notice of senators as in the manner now proposed. I read about it in the newspapers, as I suppose others did also, but I did not dream that the Government contemplated taking the step now proposed, and, for that reason, I gave it very little attention.
– The Government is prepared to allow the debate to be adjourned, but we wish the matter to be settled tomorrow.
– Then I ask leave to continue my remarks tomorrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 31st August (vide page 18); on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the paper be printed.
.- I listened with much interest to the speech delivered yesterday by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) concerning the decisions of the recent conference at Lausanne to deal with war reparations. It is claimed that the conference resolutions will mean much to the people of not only Australia, .but also other countries who are suffering from the burden of war debts and reparations. The British delegation, I understand, was anxious that the decisions should be pushed much further than was possible under the Clr- cumstances, and I believe it is generally agreed by all who have given thought to the subject that the. world would be in a much better position if all war debts and reparations were abolished. For this reason, I am hopeful that another conference in the not distant future will pave the way to. the cancellation of these burdens. There is, I believe, a considerable body of public opinion in all countries in favour of this course. The cancellation of war debts would benefit Australia as much as any other country because it would remove the disabilities under which practically all nations are suffering, and give a much needed stimulus to trade. Everyone now is convinced that it will be impossible for the people of the world to carry the existing burden very much longer; that if the various countries are to get out of their existing difficulties, war debts and reparation burdens must be abolished. I am living in the hope that leading statesmen in all civilized countries will, before long, succeed in moulding public opinion to ensure the adoption of this course.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 31st August (vide page 22), on motion by Senator
That the paper be printed.
.- I listened with attention to the Minister (Senator Greene) yesterday when dealing with the results of the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, but, in the absence of definite information with regard to the specific matters mentioned in the agreement, I find some difficulty in discovering whether we have actually gained anything from the work of our delegation at that important gathering. Wc have seen in the press references to the decisions, and have heard -a number of speeches from public platforms, telling us of the great benefits that will accrue to Australia from Ottawa, but frankly I must confess that I fail to see that Australia has obtained any material advantage from the ‘conference. All details, we are told, are to be withheld until after the return to Australia of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett). Until he tells us precisely what has been achieved, we must be, to some extent, in the dark. We have been informed that the conference agreed to some kind of secret formula upon which preferences in trade matters are to be given to the respective countries in the British Commonwealth of nations. From the somewhat vague information at our disposal it would appear that Australia has given away a great deal. For instance, the Australian delegation, I believe, gave an undertaking that the Commonwealth Government would not take action to increase tariff protection in certain directions, but would make an attempt to restore the tariff to the position which existed prior to the revised schedules brought in by the Scullin Government. That tariff did a great deal for Australia, and if the policy of the Scullin Administration had been carried on by the present Government we should have been in a much better trade position to-day. Under the increased protection given by the Scullin Government, many people with money to invest were encouraged to erect factories and to embark” upon enterprises that gave remunerative employment to tens of thousands of our people. I regret that the present Government, early in its career, interfered with the tariff proposals of the previous Administration, and that it intends to go still further in that direction. That will mean serious losses to those who, during the Scullin regime invested their capital in industrial enterprises, and will also lead to an ‘increase in unemployment. In the absence of precise information concerning the decisions of the Ottawa Conference, it is impossible to say very much about that historic gathering. We must await the return of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, we are informed, will tell us what really was done at Ottawa. Until we have that information we shall not be in a position to pass judgment upon the bargaining which took place at Ottawa between Great Britain and Australia, and the other dominions pf the Empire.
Debate (on motion by Senator E. B. Johnston) adjourned.
Government Business - Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition: Congratulations - Chairman of comm ittees- retiring president”Kookaburra” Pencils: Misleading Trade Labels.
[4.20]. - In moving -
That the Senate do nowadjourn,
I ask honorable senators to come tomorrow prepared to discuss the budget proposals and the motion in relation to the Lausanne Conference. I realize that it would be unfair to ask honorable senators to discuss these subjects to-day, since they have not yet had an opportunity to study the papers ; but they will have some spare time to-night. Later in the session the Government may have to pass related measures through the Senate somewhat hurriedly, and honorable senators may then feel that they have been deprived of an opportunity to discuss them fully. I trust, therefore, that while government business is in the process of incubation, honorable senators will avail themselves of this chance to discuss the matters in which they are particularly interested.
I take this opportunity to express my pleasure at the re-appointment of Senator Barnes as Leader of the Opposition, and also at the appointment of Senator O’Halloran as Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I may also be permitted to express the hope that the armed neutrality, or friendliness, which has existed in the past between the leaders of the Government and of the Opposition in this chamber will continue. At all times the Government will endeavour to treat the Opposition fairly. I shall not repeat the hoary joke as to the period of their occupancy of their respective positions.
I desire also to congratulate Senator Herbert Hays on his election to the position of Chairman of Committees, a position which I am sure he will fill with credit. I assure him of the support of the Government in the discharge of his important duties.
.- J. thank the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) for his kind references to myself, and I endorse his remarks concerning the new Chairman of Committees (Senator Herbert Hays), whom I congratulate on his appointment. I am confident that he will fill the position with credit to himself and the Senate, and that his period of office will be happy.
Yesterday I omitted to express my appreciation of the retiring President of the Senate (Senator Kingsmill), and I take this first opportunity to rectify that omission. Senator Kingsmill was wonderfully good to us all, as also was Senator Plain in his capacity as Chairman of Committees.
– I bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Greene) one of those little impositions which are placed on the people of Australia from time to time. I have here a pencil which is sold throughout Australia in most attractive packages. It is called the “ Kookaburra “ pencil, and is manufactured by the Swan Pencil Company. On the package is a picture of a kookaburra, which is sufficiently attractive to make it appeal strongly to any Australian child. On the back of the packages sold in Western Australiathere is also a trade mark which is a picture of a white swan - not the black swan on a yellow background,, which is the emblem of the Dominion League of Western Australia. If, however, we examine the label carefully through a microscope, we find under the words “ Swan PencilCo.” the word “ Bavaria “. The pencil itself is marked “ Kookaburra “, and bears the words “Made in Germany”. Obviously, the package is got up in this way in order to deceive Australian purchasers. The Customs Department has power to prevent frauds of this kind from being perpetrated on people who desire to use Australian products, and look for an Australian name or emblem to help them to do so. I am not one of those persons who object to pencils or other articles being imported into this country - indeed, I should like to see more imports in return for our exports, particularly from Great Britain - but I do object to imported articles being offered for sale in a way calculated to deceive purchasers as to the country of origin. On that ground, I ask the Minis ter to bring this matter under the notice of thecustoms authorities.
– I thank the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) for their generous references to myself when congratulating me on my election to the responsible position of Chairman of Committees. I realize the important nature of the duties that will devolve upon me, and I shall undertake them the more confidently because of the knowledge that in carrying them out I shall have the cooperation of all honorable senators. I hope so to discharge the duties of my office as to justify the confidence reposed in me by honorable senators in unanimously electing me to this important position.
. -I thank the right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) for his welcome to me as the assistant to the respected leader of the Labour party in this chamber. I assure the right honorable gentleman that the friendly personal relations which have always existed between me and the other members of the Senate - relations which are due, not so much to any good qualities which I may possess, as to the kindly disposition of honorable senators and their generous dealings with me - will, so far as I am concerned, be maintained. Politically, the fight will continue as in the past’.
– I thank Senator Johnston for bringing forward the matter to which he has just referred. I agree that it is reprehensible that articles not made in Australia should bear distinctive Australian emblems which make it appear that they are of Australian origin. At the moment, I am not certain what action the Government can take to prevent this kind of thing; but all honorable senators will agree that emblems which are distinctly Australian should be reserved for use in connexion with Australian goods. I am delighted to acknowledge Senator Johnston as a convert in this connexion, for I have always regarded him as a champion of champions of foreign goods. I shall have the matter he has raised looked into with a view to ascertaining what can be done. Should it be found that action cannot, be taken directly, through the customs, it is probable that the situation can be met by so administering the Trade Marks Act. as to preserve distinctive Australian emblems for use in connexion with Australianmade goods.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320901_senate_13_135/>.