13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers,
The following papers were presented : -
Report on Trade between Australia and the FarEast, by H. W. Gepp, Consultant on Development to the Commonwealth Government.
Defence Act - Regulations amended Statutory Rules 1938, No. 88.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 89.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 13- Fisheries.
No. 14 - Land.
No. 15 - Administrator’s Powers.
No. 16- Supply (No. 2) 1932-1933.
– Will the Minister for Defence lay on the table of the Senate the report of the inter-departmental committee which is now investigating various phases of civil aviation?
– I have not yet received the report. If, when it is presented to the Government, the honorable senator will repeat his question, I shall give him a considered reply.
– Will the Senate have an opportunity to discuss any proposals which may be formulated by the Government for the establishment of an Australia-England air service?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE Certainly.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce lay on the table all papers concerning the proposed prohibition of the use of Queensland hoop pine for butter boxes?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Commerce, and inform the honorable senator later.
– On the 1st September, Senator Col eb a tch asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The following replies have been furnished by the Commonwealth Bank: -
2.It is not considered advisable to make this information public.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
-The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
” THE FIVE YEAR PLAN “ FILM.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has suppliedme with the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Attorney-General has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. No, except that section 30fc of the Crimes Act provides that any person who, being the owner, lessee,&c., of any premises, knowingly permits therein any meeting of an unlawful association or of any branch or committee thereof shall be liable to a penalty of £100 or imprisonment for six months.
Australian Capital in Mining and Rubber Companies.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
The aggregate amount of Australian capital invested in tin-mining companies operating in the Federated Malay States -
The amount of Australian capital invested in tin-mining companies operating in Siain -
– The information is not available.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Sydney as the largest city in the Commonwealth, will his Government consider the need that exists for providing every possible facility for mutual intercourse between these two cities, by arranging forboth morning and evening mails to and from Sydney and Canberra?
– The Postmaster-General supplies the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Mails closing at 4.55 p.m. and 8 p.m. are despatched from Sydney to Canberra twice a day, Monday to Friday. On Saturday one despatch only, closing at 7.30 p.m., is made. Mails are despatched from Canberra to Sydney once a day, Monday to Saturday. The possibilities of effecting improvements in the present mail arrangements between Canberra and both Sydney and Melbourne are being examined.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– Information is being obtained, and will be conveyed to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
During the recent tour of the Commonwealth Minister for Defence, and his Secretary in Western Australia, were there submitted to them and certified by the stated Secretary with the Minister’s authority, the originals and copies of patriotic documents, including the following: -
Majesty King George V., conveyed from the Motherland at the King’s command, through the Imperial Secretary of State and His Excellency the Governor to Mr. F. Lyon Wise, the President of the Empire Day Patriotic League, with His Majesty’s “ cordial thanks “, for Australians’ numerously signed Coronation Address-Petitions, and for Mr. Wise’s patriotic composition. The Empire Orison (Anthem).
Petitions forwarded by him, and “ “signed by British Subjects resident in Australia”?
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will the Government consider the advisability of amending the Bankruptcy Act to provide that where farmers store wheat with merchants and others, the property in such wheat does not pass to the trustee or the liquidator in case of the bankruptcy of such merchants ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Attorney General supplies the following answers:
I would invito the honorable senator’s attention to section 91 of the Bankruptcy Act, which specifies the property of a bankrupt divisible amongst his creditors. Before the property in the stored wheat referred to by the honorable senator could pass to the trustee of the bankrupt merchant, it is necessary -
that at the commencement of the bankruptcy the goods should be in the possession order or disposition of the bankrupt in his trade or business ;
that they should be so under such circumstances that he is the reputed owner thereof; and
that both the foregoing should be with the consent of the true owner.
If the wheat is merely stored with a merchant under such circumstances that the merchant is not the reputed owner thereof, no amendment of the law is necessary. If, however, the circumstances are such that the merchant is the reputed owner, the Attorney-General is unable to recommend any alteration of the law.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Postmaster General supplies the following answers : -
On motions by Senator Foll, leave of absence for one month was granted to Senator Reid, Senator Payne, and Senator Guthrie, on account of ill health.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the following questions be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration and report: -
Whether it is desirable there should be some, and if so what, amendment of the procedure provided for in the Standing Orders relating to the choice ofPresident of the Senate.
Whether any other, and if so what, further amendments of the Standing Orders are, in the opinion of the Committee, considered advisable.
In committee. (Consideration resinned from the 7th September (vide page 251) :
Clause 4 (Powers of organizations to recover fines &c).
[3.21]. - In certain places in Tasmania there is no police magistrate, stipendiary magistrate, or special magistrate, but there is a commissioner of requests, who has the same standing as a police magistrate. This clause amends the principal act to include that judicial officer with the others.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Associations deemed to be registered).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [3.22]. - At the time that the bill was introduced this clause was inserted in order to safeguard certain bona fide unions in New South Wales from the consequences of an order which had been issued by the Lang Government until such time as the court had had an opportunity of dealing with their request for registration. Their request is now before the court, which will say whether they should or should not be registered. In view of these circumstances, the Government does not desire to retain the clause in the bill, and I therefore ask the committee to negative it.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [3.26].- I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
If the Senate desires that the third reading of this bill should stand over until next week, I shall offer no objection; otherwise we could pass the third reading to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Amendment (by Senator Greene) agreed to -
That the bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 3.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 3 -
After section sixty of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 60a. - (1.) An association which, within a period of twelve’ months immediately preceding the commencement of this section or at any time thereafter -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [3.29]. - The marginal note now reads “ Cancellation of registration”. It is desired to alter it to “Affiliation with unlawful associations”. This, I take it, is an alteration which the Clerk may make.
It may help the committee if I make a general explanation of the Government’s proposals in connexion with this clause. As promised yesterday, I brought the criticism of honorable senators under the notice of the Attorney-General. One result is that a series of drafting amendments of a technical nature will be brought beforethe Senate. In these amendments more correct phraseology will be used. The first of these proposed amendments is that the words “ has been, or has purported to be, or “ be inserted before the word “ is “ in paragraph a, sub-section 1 of proposed new section 60a. This will make the clause clearer. It does not alter in any way the principle involved, but is an acknowledgment of the justification of some of the criticism levelled at the drafting of the clause. There are also a number of consequential amendments of a like character which do not in any way change or vary the effect of the legislation. But one important amendment is made to meet the criticism from both sides of the chamber with regard to the position of a trade union which may have terminated its affiliation with an illegal organization, and desires to make application for re-registration.I have circulated copies of this amendment, which I shall move in the proper place. It will, I think, fairly meet the objections that were voiced yesterday. Epitomized, it provides that a union which has cancelled its affiliation with a banned organization, instead of waiting for twelve months before applying for reregistration, assuming that its registration has been cancelled, may make immediate application to the court, which, if it is satisfied that the cancellation of affiliation is bona fide, may grant the application for re- registration.
Amendments (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That before the word “ is “, paragrapha, sub-section ( 1 ) of proposed new section 60a. the words “ hasbeen or has purported to be, or” be inserted.
That the words “claims, or has claimed, that it is “, paragraph b. sub-section ( 1 ) of proposed new section60a, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “has claimed or claimstobe”.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [3.39].- I move-
That after sub-section6 of proposed new section60a, the following provisobe inserted: - “Provided that if the registr ation of an organization has been cancelled in pursuance of this section and it is declared in the order cancelling the registration that the order has been made solely upon the ground of facts whichexisted prior to the commencement of this section, an application may be madeat any time for the re-registration of the association as an organization if the association, before the making of the application for reregistration. satisfies the court that it has bonafide withdrawn any claim to be affiliated or associated with any body of persons of the kind specified insub-section (1.) of this section and has revoked or determined any affiliation or association with any such body of persons. Notice of any application to the court in pursuance of this sub-section shall be given to the Attorney-General, who shall be entitled to be heard upon the application.”
It will be seen that the amendment makes provision for re-registration in cases where the cancellation was solely as a result of facts which existed prior to the commencement of the proposed new section. The reason for its being confined to cancellations that have been made solely on those grounds, is obvious. Where there are other grounds, provision is made by the ordinary arbitration law. J consider that the amendment fairly meets the situation. It gives to a union that bona fide frees itself from affiliation with the organizations specified in sub-section 1 of the proposed new section, an opportunity to continue to enjoy the benefits of the arbitration law.
.- This appears to me to be a vast improvement on the bill as it appeared before us yesterday. It at least removes what we considered was a penal provision that would severely handicap any organization that became subject to the penalties provided by the act, and to that extent is very much more acceptable to us.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [3.44]. - I should like to know what necessity there is for the retention of subsection 6 of the proposed new section. In the case of the amendment, we are considering an organization, the registration of which has been cancelled, but which, by reason of the existence of certain facts, may apply for reregistration. Sub-section 6, however, distinctly states that an organization, the registration of which has been cancelled, shall not be eligible for re-registration until after the expiration of a period of one year from the date of the cancellation of its registration. That appears to me to bea contradiction of what is provided for by the amendment.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [3.46]. - Sub-section 6 and the proviso have to be read together. The former lays if down that a registration shall be cancelled for at least one year; but. under the proviso, so long as certain things are done, a deregistered organization may apply for re-registration without waiting for the expiration of that period.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also verbally and consequentially amended.
Ssnator RAE (New South Wales) [3.48]. - This clause places upon an accused person the burden of proving his innocence. I emphatically protest against that wholly unjust method of dealing with such a matter. This is in the nature of a death blow to arbitration. As was pointed out yesterday, there are many cases in which it is practically impossible to furnish proof of innocence. it is a most unnecessary, unjust and pernicious intrusion into this class of legislation.
– And, incidentally, very inconvenient so far as some people are concerned.
– The Government, in order to avoid the inconvenience of proving the guilt of any person, proposes unjustly to throw on the accused the burden of proving his innocence. It is not a question of the convenience of the accused ; it seems to me to be entirely a question of suiting the convenience, possibly the malice, of the accuser by casting the onus of proof of innocence - a wholly unwarrantable action - on those who are accused. I have already pointed out what cannot be contradicted that there are any number of opportunities for making accusations where in the nature of things proof of innocence is practically impossible. In every-day life, accusations can be made of which there is no proof, but in regard to which disproof is practically impossible. More particularly on occasions where party passions are inflamed, persons remotely connected with or not at all involved in the trouble may be brought under suspicion and charged, although there is no possibility of the charges being proved to the satisfaction of any court.
Clause, as further amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments; reports adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7th September (vide page 214), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have looked through this bill, and I find nothing in it to call for any comment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sesisonal Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7th September (vide page 215), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill of three clauses to ratify an agreement, contained in the annexed schedule, made in May, 1923, between the various governments concerned in the ownership and control of Nauru Island. The purport of the agreement is to appoint an administrator, and to define the powers to be vested in him, and the manner in which they shall be exercised. The agreement has apparently been in force since 1923, and as I have no complaints in regard to any section of it, I see no reason for opposing the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
[4.1]. - Since the bill was introduced, the Crown law authorities have given consideration to the question of the proclamation, and have come to the conclusion that the passing of the bill and the assent by the Governor-General constitute the only legal power that is necessary. The power of proclamation is therefore not wanted, and I ask the committee tonegative this clause.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 31st August (vida page 22), on motion by Senator Grebne -
That the paper be printed
– The reticence displayed by the Government prior to the meeting of the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa has been maintained in the document read by the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) a few days ago. That document is the only official report of the proceedings and decisions of the conference which, up to the present, has been submitted to Parliament. Prior to the Australian delegation leaving for Ottawa, requests were made that Parliament should be given an opportunity to discuss the proposals to be submitted by the Australian delegation to the conference with a view to securing an expression of opinion from this Parliament on behalf of the Australian people. Such a discussion failed to materialize,, and the delegation left Australia without being fortified with any such opinion. On perusing the report presented to the Senate, I find that there are numerous appreciative references to the Australian delegation. Reference is also made to the failure or success of previous conferences, and there is a distinct suggestion that the gathering at Ottawa was more successful than those of a similar nature which preceded it. While I do not desire to detract from, the value of the services rendered by the Australian delegation - I admit that its task was arduous - I submit that the success, if any, achieved was due not to any particular merit on the part of the delegation, but rather to a very substantial change in the frame of mind of the governments representing other countries, particularly Great Britain.
– I admitted that.
– Yes. I agree with the Minister that the responsibilities placed upon the Australian delegation were immense; but the people of Aus tralia want to know the manner in which that responsibility has been discharged, and the benefits, if any, which will be received by Australia. The document we are now considering fails, to disclose that information. The people require to know what Australia is to receive in return for the concessions given. It is on that aspect of the question that the document presented by the Assistant Minister fails lamentably. I agree that some reticence is necessary with respect to these agreements, because it is essential that, if they are to be rendered effective, they should first receive the endorsement of the governments concerned. Those who have had experience in handling tariff matters know that certain customs and excise duties must be withheld from publication until they become effective. But surely the almost complete secrecy which the Government has maintained regarding the results of this conference cannot be justified on that account. I shall give one illustration which, although not of major importance, displays the attitude of the Government towards the members of this Parliament. In referring to the list of commodities dealt with, the Assistant Minister said that the items upon which Australia would receive some preference from the Mother Country had% already been published in the press. Those items should have been includedin the document read by the Assistant Minister. That would have rendered it unnecessary for members of Parliament to search newspaper files to obtain the information they require. Honorable senators are often asked to explain the results of the conference at Ottawa, and it would have” been an advantage if, in addition to the information already supplied, they had been given a list of these items instead of having .to obtain them from the newspapers. It is fairly obvious to me that certain duties at present in force in Australia will be reduced, and I cannot see any reason why such secrecy should be maintained. Obviously no advantage will accrue to any importer if the information is made public before the schedules come into operation. Such a disclosure . would remove a good deal of uncertainty at present attaching to this section of the agreement. The people outside wish to know the price Australia will have to pay for the concessions given. I am encouraged in wondering if the secrecy being maintained by the Government in the matter of reduced duties is in some way associated with the budget. We know that certain unpalatable proposals are contained in that document, a summary of which has already been presented to the Senate. I am wondering if the unpalatable proposals which we will be called upon to adopt at a later date may not have been increased in some way by the sacrifice of revenue rendered necessary owing to the decisions reached at the Ottawa Conference. I see no reason why this information should not have been supplied to the Senate in a report furnished to this chamber by the Assistant Minister.
– It will soon become abundantly evident.
– There are a good many aged, infirm, and deserving people in this community who already feel that there is a good deal in my contention. Surely the Government could have supplied a list of the items upon which preference is to be given.
A paragraph in the Minister’s statement reads -
Article 5 contains a provision that the preferences afforded to wheat, copper, lead, and zinc, are conditional upon these commodities being offered for sale in the United Kingdom at prices not exceeding the world prices.
Wheat, which is mentioned in that paragraph, is of vital importance to South Australia. That State is also interested in lead and zinc. It is true that there are no mines in South Australia from which lead and zinc are raised, but at Port Pirie there is a large and wellequipped treatment plant where these metals are refined before being shipped for marketing overseas. It appears to me that Australia has not received any concession in this regard. Some shelter is to be afforded to these commodities in British markets, but only if Australia is prepared to sell these products in the British markets at world prices. In these circumstances, the alleged concession is more imaginary than real. The shelter afforded in the British markets under this paragraph may have the effect of permitting Australia to sell a percentage of these products in Great Britain. The percentage which was formerly supplied by some other country, and is now to be supplied by Australia, will have to be sold somewhere by that other country. Its sale will influence the world market price at which the Australian product has to be sold in Great Britain, so that no real benefit will accrue to the Australian producer.
– Does the honorable senator think that the prices of Australian products should have been raised to the workers of Great Britain?
– I am dealing with a specific article in the report. Article 5 deals with the shelter which has been afforded to these products in the British market.
– The honorable senator complains that Australia is to receive only world parity.
– In my opinion, the people vitally interested in this matter have been hoodwinked by the Government. The benefits which they believe they are to receive as the result of the Ottawa Conference are more imaginary than real. It may yet be that Australia will find that she has given away an advantage in the protection of Australian manufactured goods against imported goods in return for something which is of no real benefit to Australian producers. Are we to assume that Australian producers of these two products cannot expect any advantage from the Ottawa Conference?
Coming now to article 6, dealing with the position as it affects meat, I notice that there is a suggestion that the price of meat will be raised. Let me quote briefly from the first paragraph -
The meat agreement is covered by article6. This will probably prove the most far-reaching and valuable of all the Ottawa achievements, and reflects the greatest credit on the leaders of the Australian delegation, who persevered with the negotiations until at last unanimity was reached. The agreement definitely aims to raise the Empire prices of all meats to a level that will be payable to efficient producers in both the United Kingdom and the dominions.
No one will quarrel with the sentiments expressed in that article,but there is something which has not been disclosed by the Minister, notwithstanding that it has an important bearing on the immediate position regarding meat production in Australia - the quota which is to apply to imports of meat into Britain for the first twelve months of the agreement. The agreement is for a period of five years, and the quota system is to apply to imports into Great Britain from foreign countries for the whole period ; but in order to ration the market and to assist in disposing of the surplus, the quota is also to be applied to the dominions for the first twelve months of the agreement.
SenatorGreene. - No.
– Let me read what it does say -
Unfortunately, a gluthas already accumulated in stores in England, and until it has been overcome prices can scarcely improve. The dominions have agreed to co-operate in the clearing of this glut by regulating their exports of meat to the United Kingdom during the calendar year1933.
Surely that makes it sufficiently clear that the quota system is to apply to the dominions for one year. This matter should be cleared up at the earliest possible moment, in the interest particularly of South Australian producers. South Australia is not a big exporter of beef or mutton ; but that State has built up a considerable trade in the export of lambs. Producers there have been encouraged to change their flocks from merinoes to long-wool sheep, and others, with a. view to producing the best kind of lambs for the export trade. Considerable success has attended the alteration. It has been stated by those who are in a position to know that the production of lambs in South Australia this year constitutes practically a record, particularly as regards quality. If Australian producers are to benefit by the Ottawa agreement in respect of meat, there should be an increase in the local price. Yet the prices at the first sale following the publication of so much of the details as the Government made public, were the lowest for many years; they were considerably lower than the existing export parity, and were well below the cost of efficient production.
– British interests in the Argentine are too great.
– Buyers of export lambs were somewhat nervous because of the uncertainty which existed as to the number of lambs which Australia will be permitted to export this year. They did not wish to purchase, say, 100,000 lambs, only to find, subsequently, that under the system of rationing imports into Great Britain, South Australia’s quota had been reduced to 50,000 lambs. The secrecy which has been observed by the Government in regard to the meat agreement is working untold harm to our producers. Lambs cannot be held indefinitely; they have to be sold within a short time of their reaching maturity.
The breaking of the drought in South Australia has resulted in a phenomenal lambing, and a considerable increase in the number of sheep in that State. Indeed, that State is rapidly approaching the point at which there is a grave danger of overstocking. In the northern district of South Australia, I have a small property devoted to sheep; but since it does not pay to rail the lambs to market, I am keeping them in the hope that next year, when they are sold as sheep, the price will compensate me for holding them. Other producers are in the same position. The present Adelaide market price for lambs barely meets transport and handling charges. It may be that the agreement will be beneficial to the Australian producers of meat over the whole period of its duration, but the secrecy attaching to this article is having a detrimental effect on an important section of producers.
In the case of wine also, the concession agreed to at Ottawa is more apparent than real. It applies to light wines, containing 28 per cent., or less, of fortifying spirit. We are told that our sweet wines, which form the bulk of our surplus production of wine, and for which an overseas market must be found, must be fortified to the extent of approximately 34 per cent. in order that they may be carried through the tropics without deteriorating. These wines will not benefit from the concession. Large numbers of returned soldiers who were encouraged to take up holdings in irrigation areas in South Australia, and to plant doradillas and other grapes of a heavy yielding kind, which produce a class of wine suitable for export, will be disappointed when they find that the agreement will not benefit them. These are real difficulties which face the viticultural industry of Australia, particularly South Australia. I gather, from conversations which I have had with those who have some knowledge of the industry, that the lighter type of wine finds a comparatively ready market in Australia. I have also been informed that one or two English firms, who, for many years, have owned vineyards and wineries in this country, have been in the habit of marketing the whole of their production of this lighter type of unfortified wine in Great Britain, where it is. blended with wine purchased from other countries. The Ottawa agreement will, lip doubt, benefit those people, but not the great bulk of our growers.
On the general question, it seems to me that, as a result of the agreement, Australian industries will be hampered to some extent. We have been informed that the Tariff Board is to be asked to recommend a schedule of duties which will have the effect of placing Australian manufacturing industries on a com- petitive basis with manufacturers in treat Britain, having regard to varying wage standards and general conditions in the two countries. It may or may not be possible to safeguard the interests of Australian manufacturers under that arrangement. Already we are doing something along these lines with regard to certain primary products, particularly butter and dried fruits, for which a higher price is charged in the Australian market than is obtainable for the export surplus in Great Britain. This now seems to he a general commercial practice. A manufacturer of a certain product may have as his objective the supplying of the whole of the requirements of the local market, and before long discovers that, as a result of overproduction, he has a surplus which he “ dumps “ in overseas countries at prices lower than are obtainable in the home market.
– If that were done by overseas manufacturers, the provisions of our Industries Preservation Act would be enforced to safeguard the local manufacturers.
– As I have said, it may be possible to safeguard their interests. This is a point upon which honorable senators and the people generally are seeking information. The position should be made clear by the Government at the earliest possible moment. We should know whether the agreement at Ottawa can be reconciled with the anti-dumping provisions of our Industries Preservation Act. J. have the utmost regard for preferential trade. On a motion moved by Senator Carroll some time ago, in this chamber, I stated definitely, and I affirm now what I said on that occasion, that our first duty was to Australia. I contend that Australia and the other dominions are not, as has been suggested by certain people, merely branches of the old Imperial tree. The British dominions might better be described as’ the roots of the tree, because over a long period of time they have supplied the Mother Country with sustenance in the form of essential raw material - primary products which have been manufactured into the finished article in Great. Britain, and sold in the markets of the world. If those Imperial roots are to be nourished, as they should be, if the well-being of the Empire is to be safeguarded, there must be a well-ordered development of the primary aud secondary industries of Australia. We cannot continue indefinitely the policy which was pursued for so many years until recently, of looking more to the primary side of our development, and purchasing secondary products in the overseas market. On the contrary, we should, where possible, produce and manufacture the whole of our requirements and look to Great Britain and the other dominions for those things which cannot, be produced or manufactured here. The local market is th» best market. It is more profitable for primary producers in, say, the Riverina district, to rail their wheat to Melbourne, there to be gristed into flour for bread to supply the wants of the industrial workers in that city, who, under a well-ordered system of development, should be employed in secondary industries to meet the requirements of the Australian nation, than to load rt on ships for sale in Great Britain or elsewhere. The advantage of this policy is proved by the records of the past decade. Prior to the imposition of an effective tariff for the encouragement of our secondary industries, the Australian market consumed approximately 57 pes cent of our primary products. To-day, it absorbs approximately 67 per cent. of all that our farmers produce - a very material increase in the period mentioned. This encouraging record justifies the belief that if we pursue this sound policy for the development of our manufacturing industries, the absorptive capacity of the Australian market will be still further increased, and we shall see the reemployment of many thousands of operatives who, at present, are out of work. I say, therefore, that our attention should be directed to the exploitation of this potential market for the benefit of our primary producers, rather than along the lines suggested in the agreement at Ottawa.
In the earlier stages of the Ottawa conference, prominence was given to discussions relating to finance, and it was reported that an agreement had been reached for the stabilization of the financial position. No reference is made to this important sub ject in the report presented to this chamber last week by the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene). Finance is the crux of the marketing problem. The depressed state of the world’s markets to-day is due not to the lack of demand for goods, but to lack of purchasing power. If commodity price levels could be lifted materially, the outlook for both our primary and secondary industries would be much brighter. But an increase in price levels will only be possible by financial reforms which will enable people in all countries to become once again good customers. A reform along these lines will be more beneficial to Australia and the Empire, as well as the world at large, than the Ottawa proposals to ration existing Empire markets among the dominions and the Mother Country, which, I fear in the main will be abortive.
One aspect of the agreement which has not been mentioned by Ministers or their supporters, is the effect which the agreement will have on certain countries which are good customers of Australia. When we were discussing the tariff schedules brought down by theScullin administration, the Leader of theSenate (Senator Pearce) and other supporters of this
Government waxed eloquent in their criticism. They told the Government that, in its efforts to protect Australian industries, it was deliberately antagonizing other countries which were good customers for our wheat, wool, and other exportable products. The report presented by the Minister last week, and the spokesmen of the Government, are strangely silent on this aspect of the decisions reached at Ottawa. The policy of the Scullin Government had at least this merit: it was designed to build up Australian industries so as to ensure more employment for our people, and to achieve a national ideal.
I do not wish to say anything condemnatory of the Ottawa agreement, because, as I admitted at the outset, no one knows very much about it. But it appears to contain implications which would justify criticism such as that directed by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate, and other honorable senators at the policy of the Scullin Government. However, we shall have to wait until the Government discloses the details of the agreement. Until then, we shall not be in a position to say just what benefit it is likely to be to this country. I trust that when the details are given, we shall find that a substantial step forward has been taken in the development of Empire trade without in any way interfering with Australian primary or secondary industries.
– Senator O’Halloran has commented on the non-publication by the Government of the list of trade concessions referred to in articles 2 and 3 of the statement presented by the Minister (Senator Greene). That list, as he said, appeared in the press. I do not know, but I assume that it is the intention of the Government, when it has the full particulars, to publish them, and that it considered it inadvisable to put out a fragmentary list.
SenatorO’Halloran. - The implication is that the list published in the press is correct.
– I do not know that it is. The Government, so I understand, did not authorize the publication of the information which appeared in the press. I think, however, that although the list may be accurate, it possibly has not been checked in detail.
The honorable senator rather laboured the point that these Empire arrangements almost inevitably would have reactions in foreign countries, and stressed the assertion that neither the Minister nor any honorable senator supporting the Government had made any reference to this aspect, but rather had preserved a discreet silence concerning it. It happens that the Minister is the only honorable senator on this side who, prior to my rising, had spoken on the matter;’ and he, in fact, did refer to that aspect. If the honorable senator will look at Article 8 he will see that it contains wide and wise reservations with respect to those countries that in the past have been good customers of Australia. It is unimaginable that one should approach this subject in any other way when one realizes, as those who know anything about it must do, what a tremendous volume of the products of Australia are sold outside the Empire. There is no desire on the part of anybody to shirk the issue. One freely admits that there must be reactions and interactions. The Minister referred to the reservations that have been made. Those reservations have not yet been declared, but in due course we shall be fully acquainted with them. Obviously there has been no ignoring of the point, nor any attempt to evade discussion of it. But what struck rae above all else in the remarks of the honorable senator was the extraordinary lack of generosity towards, and of gratitude to the homeland with respect to the. agreement that has been made.
– We do not know what we are getting from the homeland.
– We can form a very definite idea from the statement of the Minister that, whereas in 1930-31 the value of the goods upon which Australia was given preference was. under £4,000,000, it would now be £20,000,000 annually, representing more than 65 per cent, of Australia’s exports to Great Britain. On the face of it, that is a very considerable concession by Great Britain to Australia.
– What have we given in return for that concession?
– I shall touch on the other side of the question a little later. It rather savours of a desire to criticize when there is an attempt to disparage and minimize what it is perfectly obvious are considerable concessions. That is not the way in which I approach this matter. We cannot in the case of commercial treaties any more than in the case of tariffs expect to get pound for pound. In considering the relations between the homeland and the dominions one has to take into account an enormous number of factors apart from the particular agreement under discussion, or a particular tariff schedule. It is obvious that a country like this is in the last resort dependent on the might of the British navy. One cannot get away from the fact that that is what enables us to discuss and regulate these matters in this building. In considering tariff advantages or commercial relationships of any kind it is necessary to take into account a very much larger range of subjects than are embraced in the details of the immediate bargain. I never consider tariff questions without realizing how much we owe to the greatcountry from which we have sprung, and what she has done for us in the past. I am afraid that the majority of us either do not realize the extent of that obligation, or are apt to forget it at times. Even though, on the figures, it might appear that in the past we have given Great Britain greater preferences than she has given us, there is still a handsome margin in her favour on the general transactions that have taken place between the two parties.
I welcome the early presentation of this brief statement of what occurred at Ottawa. Most of us can remember the early days of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain’s campaign, which at first proved abortive, and the subsequent visit of Mr.” Deakin to Great Britain in 1906. He was the first to give expression to the point of view of Australia in this matter. I was in Great Britain at that time, and remember the tremendous impression that Mr. Deakin made. Iu the main, the policy of Great Britain then was one of freetra’de, and oh that account the reciprocal arrangements which some of us have desired for years have not been favorably regarded. It must be a matter of real pleasure and satisfaction to know that after all these years the relations between the two countries are to be strengthened and expanded by means of trade treaties, of which that signed at Ottawa is the first real one. I have never considered that there was anything in the argument that the intrusion of business relationships would in any way tend to weaken the solidity of the British Empire. That might quite easily be used as an argument in favour of trading only with foreign countries.
Although this is the first of the interdominion conferences and agreements on a large scale, I feel that we ought to pay some tribute to the treaty that was arranged with Canada last year by the then Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney). That was probably the best of the not numerous good actions of the late government; it was a real achievement.
I agree that it is impossible to discuss any treaty in detail until the complete figures relating to both sides are available. Some may consider that the preferences which are being given by Australia will prove to be more advantageous to the other party than they ought to be; while others may hold the contrary view. This, however, is a first step towards further and greater commercial relations ; and first steps must necessarily be slow. Any attempt to rush the negotiations in relations of this character would prove dangerous. The preferences that obviously have been given to Australia are very important, particularly those relating to the meat and dairying industries, and probably also the shelter that will be provided for our wheat, which may easily prove to be valuable to us in the case of anything like a glut.
There are only two articles to which I should like to refer. The first is Article 8, which lays down the margins of preference in favour of British over foreign goods. No details have been given, and they will be awaited and expected with very dm:11 interest by everyone. For years I have held the view that the preferences given by Australia to Great Britain have not been anything like as great as they ought to have been. I sincerely hope we shall find that the preference now given will be of real value to British goods.
Article 12 lays it down that no new protective duties shall be imposed, or existing duty increased, except on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. I am not prepared to concede generally to the Tariff Board, or to any other body, the final decision in relation to tariffs. If some honorable senators choose to adopt and adhere to what the Tariff Board decides, that is their concern. I am always glad to have the opinion of the board, which I daresay is more likely than mine to be right; but I shall exercise my own judgment as to whether lt is or is not right. In this case one can see quite clearly why in Article 12 the Tariff Board is placed in the position of what one may call a constant factor, or a datum point for deciding the maximum to which the tariff shall be increased during the currency of the agreement; that is to say, during the next five years. Another country, upon entering into an agreement like this, which on our side is rather a loose one in some respects, must have something more than the security afforded by political fluctuations. I have not the least doubt that the provision concerning the maximum decision of the Tariff Board has been embodied in Article 12, so that a third party which is not likely to be influenced by the coinings and goings of governments may be looked to as a constant factor that will give some definite point beyond which it is hot likely that the tariff wil! be increased.
This is a first move towards, I hope, the general reduction of tariffs, which anybody who has followed world politics for the last ten years, at any rate without prepossessions, must agree arc cramping trade throughout, the world at the present time. Already it is obvious that this first move is to be followed by other moves in foreign countries.
– In many instances those countries have replied by raising their tariffs.
– That is not the information one gathers from the newspapers. Tariffs have been going up for so many years that in some countries it would be very hard to raise them much higher. At any rate, this is the first attempt towards a gradual scientific scaling-down of tariffs within the Empire, and it is obvious that it must have an effect on other countries. On that score alone the results of the conference are to be most cordially welcomed. Mr. W. M. Hughes, who is a high protectionist, speaking in London the other day, said that the Ottawa Conference had been a great success and that it had given Australia the best chance she had ever had of capturing a share of the trade of Great Britain. When a high protectionist like Mr. Hughes says that the Ottawa Conference was a great success, one might reasonably have expected Senator O’Halloran to be a little more cordial in expressing his satisfaction, if he feels any at all, as I most distinctly do, that the whole of the chief component parts of the Empire should, after years of striving towards this goal, meet at Ottawa and come to an agreement. I believe that it will be a success and that it will be followed by other developments which will be even more successful and, in the end, have the effect of bringing down these tariff barriers which, based on self determination to a certain extent, have gradually crippled and held up the trade of the whole world.
– While honorable senators of the Opposition are always prepared to welcome any efforts made to improve the general economic situation in order that millions of workers may be absorbed in industries, and while we recognize the honesty of purpose of the Government and of the delegation of the Government that went, to Ottawa, we deplore the raising of false hopes in this direction. If we have a true understanding of the economic relationships operating in the world to-day, we cannot be too sanguine in regard to the results of the Ottawa Conference. The Minister, in his statement, said -
The basis of the agreements is so wide and sowell conceived that upon them the Empire can he developed as an economic unit.
I am exceedingly doubtful whether the Empire can ever become an economic unit under present world capitalistic conditions. The other day I came across an article in a British publication which sets out the position of the British Empire very tersely, and displays in bold relief the difficulties that confront the Empire statesmen in bringing about that economic unity. The article is as follows : -
The British Empire consists of territories in all quarters of the globe and although it can be spoken of as a unity since, for certain purposes, the authority of the British Crown extends over the whole - it is a unit in nothing else. Geographically it is an arbitrary aggregation of discordant units; politically it is a bewilderment of self-governing dominions (which are all but independent republics), crown-territories, protectorates, dependencies, and mandated areas. Technologically it includes examples of every stage of development, from primitive mattock-and-hoe cultivation up to mass-production under scientific management; and economically it is a chaos of divergencies and antagonism. Racially it includes representatives of all the principal sub-divisions of the human race; culturally all stages in between the Neolithic type (of theAndaman Islands, the Veddas of Ceylon, and the Australian aborigines - if there are any of these left) and Bernard Shaw. Spiritually it comprises every creed from primitive magic to ultra-communism; every known religion and anti-religion can be found in the Empire. It has a dozen systems of coinage and half-a-hundred fiscal systems. Its legal systems would fill an encyclopaedia and then need an appendix for martial law and the E.P.A.
Those who set out to glorify the “Empire” and predict “ its “ future are either imbued with a magical faith in the transfusion of irreconcilabilities or - what is more likely - know nothing of what they are rhapsodizing about.
I do not agree with the concluding words of this writer, but no doubt the greater our difficulties the greater our incentive to overcome them. Senator DuncanHughes says that we can bring about this economic unity, but it is of no use to blind ourselves to the facts. Only a few months ago, Mr. Churchill, speaking in London, said that the capitalists in control of Indian cotton production were the greatest exploiters known in the history of man, and that he had no doubt why Gandhi and other irreconcilables in India were being furnished with funds in order to preach the doctrine of self-government or Sinn Feinism. We know that Mr. Bennett, the Premier of Canada, informed the Ottawa Conference that the greatest cotton mill on the American continent was located in Northern Canada, and that the Dominion could enter into no agreement with regard to cotton. It is clear that within the Empire itself, various communities’ are building up sets of conditions antagonistic to those existing in other parts of the Empire. For instance, in Australia, those who are taking part in secondary industries are bitterly opposed to any interference. Naturally, they are looking after their own economic interests. As Australia develops, it follows quite naturally, that more industries will be developed, whose interests will have to be safeguarded.
The leaders of thought in Great Britain have always realized that economic unity within the Empire is impossible. Mr. Herbert Samuel, a Liberal, speaking on a measure imposing import duties, said -
This island cannot live on its own market for a year, not even on the home market plus the dominion markets. The dominions with 22,000,000 persons aro up against 1,400,000,000 in the rest of the world. Whatever may happen at the Ottawa Conference we could not ignore the trade of the 1,400,000,000 for the sake of 22,000,000. “We must take cognizance of these facts. It is useless to build castles in the air, and to imagine that we can overcome difficulties by agreements such as those reached at Ottawa. I agree with the efforts made at Ottawa, but we must realize our limitations. Senator MacDonald made reference to Argentine. I quote the following written by the city editor of the Times and published on the 2nd April last : -
Nearly £500,000,000 of British capital is invested in Argentina, and it would be madness to add to the existing difficulties in securing transfer of the interest payments on that immense sum. Argentina is also one of the few remaining markets for our coal and the River Plate trade is probably the most satisfactory in respect of a rough balance of outward and homeward bulk cargoes that remains for British shipping. In spite of the fact that our imports from Argentina mainly consist of wheat, maize, and meat - all commodities which the dominions would naturally like to see supplied almost exclusively by themselves - special consideration of our trade relations with the Argentine Republic is imperatively dictated by the strength of the financial and commercial links which unite it with Great Britain.
We were told that no representatives from Argentine attended at Ottawa. The people of Argentine know that whatever was decided at Ottawa would have very little effect upon them. They are so closely linked financially with Great Britain that they are a power to be reckoned with. We must always bear in mind the British money invested in South America.
The’ Ottawa Conference has shown clearly the contradictions of our modern system. At one time we talk of stabilizing prices, believing that we are justified in stabilizing our commodities at higher prices in order to meet our position as a debtor country to the Old Country. At the same moment, other countries are reducing their prices in order to secure greater trade and improve their positions. Senator Duncan-Hughes has spoken of the reduction of tariffs, but the modern tendency is towards the imposition of tariffs. Great Britain has now an imposing tariff wall. I remember in my youth listening to Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and Mr. Balfour. The latter was a champion fence sitter. I remember hearing him deliver a speech for two hours and. the next morning the Tory press came out with headings “ Mr. Balfour plumps for tariff reform “ and the freetrade journals had the headlines “Mr. Balfour plumps for freetrade.” We know that there has been a great fiscal change in Great Britain. Formerly, the controlling forces were those enterprises which proceeded at all times to buy foodstuffs and raw material at the cheapest possible price. They were entirely opposed to any action that would increase the price of commodities and thus give an impetus to an increase in wages. Those controlling foreign markets or seeking to acquire such markets were anxious to obtain cheap labour in order to secure better prices. For instance, those engaged in the manufacture of cotton piece goods in Lancashire were opposed to the imposition of import duties. Mr. Phillip (now Viscount) Snowden, one of Groat Britain’s greatest freetraders, was at all times opposed to the imposition of such duties. The manufacturers of cotton piece goods in Lancashire were anxious to sell their cotton piece goods at the lowest possible price, but with substantial duties on foodstuffs wages would have to be increased and consequently the opportunity to cornpete in the foreign markets would be reduced. After a time a change occurred in the old economic position. The financial instead of the manufacturing capitalists are now in control and have sought a different method to protect their own interests. In order to protect the home market, they favour duties upon certain goods. Economic circumstances have changed. It is not because the people in Great Britain have seen the light, that they are tariff converts, or that they now believe in tariff reforms; rather is it that there has been a change in economic circumstances, compelling many of the people of Great Britain to change their fiscal views.”
T admit that if prices of Australian products are raised as a result of the Ottawa Conference the financial position of Australia will be assisted considerably. At present we are very much in the dark with respect to the outcome of that conference. Mr. Davidson, the general manager of the Bank of New South “Wales in that State, in the January issue of the little pamphlets which he publishes from time to time, states that during the last five years the amount of wealth paid as interest, and shipped from Australia to the Old Country in the form of goods has been doubled, while the British national debt, also counted in the form of goods, has increased by £1,500,000,000. If, as a result of the Ottawa Conference,, an increase in the price of those commodities which we now export can be brought about, our debt to Great Britain will be considerably relieved. Belief could be afforded by the present Government if action were taken in the direction of bringing about some diminution in our overseas interest payments. Possibly, by and by, Australia may be assisted in that way, but personally I think that action should have been taken some time ago. “While we, on this side of the chamber - I think I can speak for most of us - say that we are prepared to meet all our obligations, we do not contend that those obligations should be doubled without making some determined effort to diminish them.
Senator O’Halloran referred to the dangers involved in this agreement. Later on we may realize that those alleged dangers are not as great as some now think they are. On the other hand, they may prove even greater than we contemplate. Articles 8 to 14 inclusive, accord ing to the statement of the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene), define the past preferences to Britain of which the agreement secures the continuance, and new concessions which Australia now undertakes to make. Later on we shall have more definite information concerning these concessions and we shall then be able to pass judgment upon them. In the absence of full information, we do not know at this juncture whether we can or cannot support these new concessions; after all we have to realize that Australia comes first and the Empire second. Wc, on this side of the chamber, definitely say that if any agreement made by Mr. Bruce as head of the Australian Delegation to Ottawa destroys any of our Australian industries to that extent we must oppose it. Wc stand by our Australian industries.
In order to deal with any subject in a statesmanlike manner, we must look at it from a world stand-point, and have regard to the tendencies in other countries. Because of our modern, but foolish and stupid system, the tendencies throughout the world are such as to force each nation back upon itself. We know what the United States of America has done in the matter of tariffs, and since Germany, France, and practically every other country arc acting in their own economic interests, we must naturally do tho same. Some suggest that we should revert to the old system of allowing trade to flow freely from country to country, but we cannot put back the economic clock. Protective policies are being adopted by other countries in order to safeguard their industries. Tariff walls of various descriptions are being erected, and we, as Australians, must take duc cognizance Of the realities of the situation. Other countries are adopting this principle and depending less upon international trade. Australia, as a comparatively new country, must fully understand the position and adopt a policy in keeping with its economic development. That policy must be one under which we shall increase our secondary industries, and develop our territory in such a way that we can, as far as possible, be independent of the rest’ of the world.
Debate (on motion by Senator Brennan) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir George PEARCE) agreed to.
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Wednesday next.
Senate adjourned at 6.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320908_senate_13_135/>.