13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
What is the annual subsidy paid to the Orient Steamship Company?
When does the present agreement expire?
Will the Government consider whether a large annual saving could be effected by paying for all mails on a poundage basis and by utilizing ships of all lines making fast passages to Europe?
Is it a part of the arrangement that the Orient Company shall use only white crews!
Does the Orient Company sub-let or make arrangements with shipping lines carrying coloured crews to take mail matter when their own ships are not available for certain trips, and pay portion of the subsidy to such shipping companion?
The Prime Minister has furnished the following reply: -
The annual subsidy payable by the Commonwealth to the Orient Company under the agreement dated the 27th April, 1921 (Parliamentary Paper, No. 110, 1920-21) is £130,000, but the company has voluntarily reduced this amount by £20,000 during the past and current financial years, 1931-32 and 1932-33, respectively. By reason of payments made to the Commonwealth by other countries in respect of mails carried on vessels governed by the agreement, the annual net cost to the Commonwealth is approximately £45, 800 sterling.
The agreement may be terminated by twelve months’ notice by either party.
The carriage of mails at poundage rates would be less than the amount paid under the agreement. It will, however, be seen on reference to the agreeement that, in addition to ensuring to Australia a regular inward and outward overseas mail service, it contains other provisions of considerable advantage to Australia, including the maintenance of an adequate steamship service between the capitals of the several States and the United Kingdom, and a guaranteed time-table to link with rail and air services, both in the Commonwealth and overseas, the making available of refrigerating space for various kinds of freight,the provision of vesselsof particular capacity and speed,a nd conditions as to rates of freight on certain perishable products.
Under clause11 (2) of the agreement the contractors bind themselves to employ only white labour on vessels used or employed for this purposes of the agreement.
The agreement stipulates that the contractors are to provide thirteen voyages in each direction each year. So far they have never failed to do this by the use of their own ships. The company has, however, provided additional services beyond those stipulated in the agreement without imposing any additional charge; for example, during the present year arrangements have been made by the company for eight such additional services, live of these being provided by the company’s own vessels and three by ships of the Peninsular and Oriental branch line. Information is not available in the Postmaster-General’s Department as to the arrangement between the contractors and the Peninsular and Oriental branch line in regard to payment for the latter company’s three voyages; but, as pointed out, they do not involve the department in any cost.
– On the 14th September, Senator J. B. Hayes asked me the following question, upon notice: -
If he will have lime used for spraying included in the list of articles that the Government intend tobe free from sales tax and primage duty?
Lime for use in agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural spraying is exempt from primage duty. The question of its exemption from sales tax is receiving consideration.
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following additional information
Under the amendment of the Sales Tax Acts now proposed, exemption, from sales tax is being allowed in respect of agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural spraying and dusting materials, and preparations tobe used in the checking of plant and seed insect pests and plant and seed diseases. Payment of sales tax will, therefore, not be required upon any sale by a taxpayer of lime to a person who certifies in writing to the taxpayer that the lime will he used for spraying purposes.
What was the price of metallic tin in London on the 31st August, computed in Australian currency?
What was the price paid by buyers per unit for tin oxide in Australia on the same date, and what does this represent for metallic tin?
How is the difference made up - (a) freight; (b) smelting; (c) other charges?
I now desire to furnish the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions. The replies are based on information obtained by the Department of Commerce : -
The price of metallic tin in Loudon on the 31st August, 1932, computed in Australian currency, was £1840s.10d. per ton.
The price of tin oxide in Australia on the 3 1st August, 1932, was 31s. 7d. per unit, equivalent to £162 13s.1d. per ton of tin, Australian currency.
Of the difference of £21 7s. 9d. per ton between the Australian and London prices as referred to in Nos. 1 and 2, £9 18s.10d. per ton, is accounted for by the following charges: -
The remaining £11 8s.11d. per ton includes cost of smelting1½ tons of tin concentrates, cost of weighing, sampling, and assaying1½ tons of tin concentrates and gross margin of profit for smelters.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1932.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Eighth Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, year ended 30th June. 1932, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 17 of 1932 - Local Courts.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Any action which may have been taken as suggested by the honorable senator has, presumably, been taken by the State Government. It has not been taken by or on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Hostel Boarding Charge
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister. upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to appoint an interstate commission, in order that the State of Western Australia may receive the protection provided by sections 101 and 102 of the Federal Constitution; if not. why not?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.In view of the decision of the High Court in the case of New South Wales v. Commonwealth (20 C.L.R. 54), that
Part V. of the Interstate Commission Act 1912, relating to the judicial powers of the Commissioner is ultra vires, the Government does not consider that the appointment of commissioners to exercise the remaining powers of the commission under that act would be justified, in view of the financial position of the Commonwealth. In any case, however, the nonappointment of the commission does not deprive the State of Western Australia of any protection.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers supplied by the Minister for Trade and Customs are as follow: -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
[3.13]. - In moving -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay,
I intimate to honorable senators that it is not the desire of the Government that it should be rushed through ; should honorable senators wish to postpone the discussion until to-morrow the Government will not object. The purpose of the bill is, I think, already well known to honorable senators, and, in the circumstances, it is thought that they will be prepared to discuss it to-day. In so doing, they would be serving ‘their own convenience, since this is the only bill that we are likely to receive from another place until certain financial measures have been dealt with there. Should this bill be passed through ^ all its stages before dinner-time to-day, the Government intends to suggest that the Senate shall adjourn until next Wednesday week, by which time it hopes that some of the financial measures will have reached the Senate from another place. The Government does not desire to inconvenience honorable senators by bringing them back next week to discuss this measure, but should honorable senators desire that, the debate be adjourned till to-morrow it will raise no objection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
[3.15]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the High Commissioner Act of 1909 by adding to it, temporarily, a section enabling a Commonwealth Minister, in certain circumstances, to exercise the powers, and perform the duties, which by that act are conferred on, or are assigned to, the High Commissioner. As honorable senators know, the position of High Commissioner, which was recently held by Sir Granville Ryrie, is at present vacant. They know also that the Minister without Portfolio, the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce, is at present in London, where he will remain for some time. It is proposed that he shall occupy the position which will ,be created under this bill; as Resident Minister in London. During the time that the right honorable gentleman will be in Britain, some most important matters affecting the finances of the States and ‘ the Commonwealth will have to be dealt with. The Resident Minister will be charged with the duty of trying to bring about, on the most favorable terms to the Commonwealth and the States, the conversion of certain loans falling due. In addition to attending to these functions, it is proposed that he shall also perform the ordinary duties of the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. By that arrangement, the Commonwealth will be saved a considerable sum. Certain powers and functions, such as the appointment of officers, are vested in the High Commissioner by statute. The Government desires that those powers shall, for the time being, be vested in the Resident Minister in Great Britain, and this bill seeks to amend the parent act in that direction.
There are only two features of the bill to which I need direct special attention. One is that the authority for the Resident Minister to exercise the powers, and perform the duties, of the High Commissioner will be conveyed to him in the form of a commission signed by the GovernorGeneral ; the other is that the operation of this new legislation is to be limited to a -period of two years. Should the policy of having a Resident Minister in London be discontinued at any time within that period, a reversion to the system of having a High Commissioner will be possible without further legislative action; if, on the other hand, it is thought well to continue the appointment of a Resident Minister in London beyond the period of two years, Parliament will have to be further consulted. Honorable senators will see, therefore, that within the life of this Parliament the system will again come up for review.
The salary provided for the High Commissioner is £3,000 per annum, together with an allowance of £2,000 per annum, both payments being subject to a reduction of 25 per cent, under the financial emergency legislation. While the right honorable member for Flinders is doing the work of the High Commissioner, he will receive those amounts, less the reduction mentioned ; but he will not receive any salary as a Minister. His ministerial salary will, therefore, be saved by combining the two positions.
Honorable senators will agree that no more suitable man than the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce could be found for the work demanding attention at this juncture. He has had’ considerable experience in dealing with, the financial affairs of the Commonwealth. Not only has he filled the positions of Prime
Minister and Treasurer; he has also been closely associated with the great changes made in Australian finance by the adoption of the financial agreement and the establishment of a Loan Council. It was the Bruce-Page Government that brought about those changes. Mr. Bruce has, moreover, a high reputation in London as a financier. Because of his intimate knowledge of Australian publicfinances, and his reputation in financial circles, Australia is fortunate in having a man of his calibre to act for ii in London at a time when loans are falling due, and the market is more favorable to Australia than it has been for some time. There is no doubt that this work will be- carried through successfully, and the consequent saving to the Commonwealth and States - chiefly to the States - following the conversion of existing obligations into securities at a lower rate of interest will give considerable relief to Commonwealth and State budgets, and enable the several governments to deal better with the difficulties in which they find themselves to-day. 1 feel sure that the Senate will pass the bill.
There is rauch to commend the proposal for a Resident Minister in London in normal times; the present abnormal conditions make it absolutely necessary that we should have direct Cabinet representation in the Mother Country. This will not be the first time that a dominion of the British Empire has been represented by a responsible Minister in London. During the war Canada had in London a Resident Minister associated with her Defence Department, and his presence at the seat of the Empire gave Canada a tremendous advantage over other dominions, because he had ready access to the British Cabinet with regard to all matters affecting the Canadian forces overseas. I am sure, as the outcome of my experience as Minister for Defence at that time, that we suffered because we did not have a responsible Minister in London during those years when hundreds of thousands of our citizens were fighting overseas in defence of the Empire. To-day we are faced with an entirely different set of conditions, but they are equally important. During the next year or two large-scale loan conver- sions will have to be carried through in order ‘to ease the interest burden on .our overseas debt, so> it is essential that we should have in London a Resident Minister of the calibre of Mr. Bruce, whose counsel and word will do so much to ensure the success of those undertakings.
.- Although this is a small bill it may have very important results to Australia. Section 7 of the High Commissioner Act, 1909, reads-
A person appointed to be the High Commissioner shall not, during his tenure of office, be or act as director or agent of or hold any office in any company or syndicate, whether incorporated or unincorporated, or hold any other employment, or engage in any business whether within or without the Commonwealth.
Clearly the intention of Parliament in embodying that provision in the principal act was to prevent any person appointed to the position of High Commissioner from having or continuing to have association with any business venture that might possibly divert him from his duty, or induce him to act in a way prejudicial to the best interests of this country. It is a- wise provision, because a person holding such a high and influential position might, if he continued to be identified with business interests, give consideration first to his own interests if they conflicted with the interests of his country. This amending bill apparently will nullify the provisions of section 7, because the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), as Resident Minister, will not be subject to the restrictions which that section imposes on the High Commissioner. It is not clear whether the bill has been introduced for the purpose of getting over this difficulty, but I should say that a- person performing the duties of High Commissioner, whatever his designation may be, should be subject to the same conditions as former occupants of that office. We nave also to consider whether it is wise that Australia should be committed to this new procedure. Notwithstanding what has been said by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) in favour of Australia being represented by a Resident Minister in London, there is much to be urged for the contrary view. A Resident Minister would have a much higher standing than a High Commissioner, and this proposal may be a step in the direction of bringing to bear upon the Australian Government, through its Minister resident in London, powerful influences, which could not be so directed through the High Commissioner himself. I have no intention of casting any reflection on the capacity or integrity of the right honorable member for Flinders, who, if this bill is passed, will be our Resident Minister in London for the next year or two. In all probability he is just as capable as any one else would be to carry through the financial operations with which he will be entrusted.
– Since he and his Government got Australia into its present difficulties, he might as well be given the job of getting the country out of them.
– It is largely due to his incapacity as the leader of a former administration that Australia is in her present financial muddle, and I suppose it is as well that he should be given the . opportunity of getting her out of it. I hope that he will be successful. Another aspect of this proposal which concerns me is the importance of having in London a representative who will truly reflect’ the Australian sentiment, because, as we all must acknowledge, sentiment wields a tremendous influence in the affairs of nations as well as of men. For this reason it would be much to our advantage to be represented by a Minister with a well-developed conception of Australian sentiment. He should be able to imbue with the real Australian sentiment and outlook those with whom he comes in contact. In that respect, I gravely doubt whether Mr. Bruce is the gentleman who ought to have been chosen. All his traditions, and every influence that has been directed towards the training of his mind, have had their source in Great Britain. I should expect very much better results from a person who was not only born, but also reared and educated in Australia; and. had I the choice I should unhesitatingly pick such a man in preference to one of equal ability who had not those qualifications, for the reason that he would exert influences that I think are necessary in circumstances such a3 those with which we are now confronted.
I cannot imagine why a distinction has been drawn between Mr. Bruce and those gentlemen who have preceded him in the office of High Commissioner, in relation to commercial entanglements. I consider, also, that, there are reasonable grounds for doubting his capacity for the financial task that will devolve upon him, seeing that he did not exhibit exceptional genius or aptitude when handling the financial affairs of Australia as its first citizen. Any one of a number of other gentlemen could have been sent to Great Britain, whose reputation in the financial world is considerably higher than that of Mr. Bruce. The financial history of Australia during the six years that preceded 1929, constitutes the greatest possible indictment against those whowere then responsible for the administration of our affairs. Australia is taking a very serious risk in entrusting toa gentleman with such a doubtful reputation as a financier the task of arranging for the conversion of a substantial loan in the near future. I have no personal feeling against Mr. Bruce. I believe that he is a good Australian, and that he is a clean, honest and capable man. But the last thing which I believe he has the capacity to undertake is the financing of anything.
– I agree with a good deal that has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes). The view that I take, however, is that Mr. Bruce, being more strongly imbued with British than with Australian sentiment, will not be in the unfortunate position of some Australians who, having visited England, have returned to this country more antiAustralian than those who have never been here. He is so saturated with the Imperial outlook that he cannot possibly become any worse, and that is some consolation. I have no desire to make a personal attack on Mr. Bruce; but I do say that, small though this bill may be it embodies a most extraordinaryfeature in that it proposes either actually or virtually to make him High Commissioner without saying so. He is to be Resident Minister in London as well as High Commissioner, but he is not to have the title of High Commissioner. The High Commissioner Act expressly lays it down that certain duties shall.be discharged by the gentleman who holds that office, and Mr. Bruce is to fulfil those functions. The bill providing for this appointment is styled an amendment of the High Commissioner Act; but its introduction is something in the nature of an absurdity. Section 7 of the act makes it clear that the whole of the time, the ability and the energy of the gentleman who occupies the position of High Commissioner are necessary for the proper fulfilment of the duties of that office and that, therefore, he should be entirely divorced from all other interests. We know that Mr. Bruce is closely interested in a very large business. Towards the end of last year, a newspaper, which certainly is not in any way antagonistic to him, published a statement to that effect concerning him. I quote the following from the Melbourne Argus of the 23rd December, 1931: -
It is possible that Mr. Bruce, notwithstanding his long experience, both as Prime Minister and Treasurer, and his prestige overseas, will not be a member of the Ministry at all. Mr. Bruce, who is now returning to Australia from a trip to England, has his hands full with the affairs of the business of Paterson, Laing and Bruce, which he has again taken up since his temporary retirement from politics. It is questionable whether he would be able to spare the time to attend to the administration of an important public department.
I take that to mean that he would be precluded from accepting a ministerial position, on account of the work involved in connexion with his private affairs.
– Is not his acceptance of a ministerial position an answer to that?
– He is a Minister without Portfolio. Now, however, he is taking over a new and a very important portfolio, while, in addition, he will have to discharge the special duties attaching to the office of High Commissioner. If his private business did not allow him sufficient time properly to fulfil the functions of an ordinary ministerial office, what opportunity will he have to devote the whole of his energies to the work that he is now to be called upon to undertake ?
The bill is designed to circumvent the provision embodied in section 7 of the act. It practically says that while every other person who occupies the position of High Commissioner shall not have any private interests that may either conflict with the duties of that office or absorb his time, Mr. Bruce is such a super man that such a condition shall not in his case be a disqualification, and that he will be able to devote a portion of his time to his public duties, and the remainder to his private affairs. Without making any attack upon the integrity of the right honorable member for Flinders, we all know that the very large importing business in Melbourne, of which, I believe, he is the managing director, has also a London house. However willing and able he may be to fulfil the duties expected of him, it will be almost impossible for him to render the service which some expect, if his time is devoted, as some of it may be, to his private interests. It seems strange that this measure should be introduced largely for the purpose of exempting the right honorable member from section 7 of the principal act. It may be, as the Minister (Senator Pearce) said, good policy to have a permanent Minister from this or any of the other dominions, resident in London, although I doubt it. With the strong representation that already exists between the governing powers of Great Britain and of the dominions, and the frequent conferences that are held, it seems unnecessary to provide a new and expensive ornament to our present governmental system. Supposing a Minister is resident in London and important matters arise of which he is required to speak on behalf of his Government. He must necessarily communicate with the Government by cablegram or by despatch. He cannot be expected to have the full knowledge and sentiment of his Cabinet concerning every event which transpires. He cannot propound a ministerial policy on his own account; he is subject to the general opinion of his Ministry. He must receive the views of the Ministry upon all matters which arise from time to time affecting Great Britain and the Commonwealth. A High Commissioner is virtually an ambassador, but with more limited powers, and has to be supplied from time to time with necessary information to keep him in full contact with the activities and aspirations of the Commonwealth Government. I doubt very much whether there is any advantage in having a glorified Agent-General to be termed a Resident Minister. Such a procedure will involve a good deal of expense, and it will probably be found in the future, as it has been in the past, that when big: financial operations are to be undertaken, a representative of the Government whohas been absent from Australia for any length of time will be unable fully tovoice the Australian viewpoint, and possibly the Prime Minister will find it necessary to make a special trip to London.
– Would not a Resident Minister avoid the necessity of such visits ?
– I cannot see that he would. Why should a Resident Minister in London be regarded as omnipotent or omniscient?
– He would have more power than a public servant.
– The Government can confer whatever powers it desires upon a public servant. No single Minister can, without consultation with his Government, pronounce the Government’s views. The mere fact that he is a Minister does not place him in possession of the actual position of affairs in the political arena in Australia. The political atmosphere, like the weather, is always changing, and, consequently, a Resident Minister in London would not be in possession of all the information necessary when important decisions had to be made. For these reasons, I think the period of two years providedin the bill should be reduced. The task of assisting in the conversion of Australia’s overseas indebtedness will not take two years. It will be a bad look out for Australia if it does. The work should be completed within a few months. If the appointment is justifiable, which I doubt, it should be for a period of six months instead of two years. I reiterate the viewpoint put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), that it seems peculiar that while tho principal act specially provides that the occupant of the office shall not engage in private interests, the right honorable member for Flinders is to be exempt from that restriction. The Minister who introduced the measure did not give any reasons for such an exemption.
.- Contrary to the views expressed by Senator Rae, the criticism I have to offer to the bill is with respect to clause 2, which provides that “ This act shall continue in operation for a period of two years and no longer “. I regret that its operation is limited to two. years, because the more I sea of the world and the rapidity with which world affairs move, the more I feel it is necessary for the Government of the day to have its direct representative in the heart of the Empire. If the Government ‘ established the principle of having a Minister resident in London for twelve or eighteen month? at a time, whereupon he should return to Australia fortified with additional experience in the heart of the Empire, it would be a good thing for Australia. And in the process it would abolish the principle, apparently adopted in connexion with Australia House, of using it more or less as a dumping ground for people who are at the end of their political lives. In that way, we have been losing all the advantage of Australia House, and of representation in London. Unlike Senator Rae, I believe that it is a pity this bill does not definitely establish the principle of sending Ministers to London in their prime of life so that they may come back to us and apply to the affairs of Australia the experience they have gained in the heart of the Empire.
– I am absolutely opposed to the bill because I regard it as totally unnecessary. The right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) says that, if this measure is passed, it will effect a saving and lead to the more effective representation of Australia in London at a time when that has been found necessary. But, in my opinion, both of those objectives could have been accomplished without, incorporating in our system of government a radical alteration of established principles which have characterized our Executive since the inauguration of the Commonwealth. No one can quarrel with the contention of the right honorable senator that it is highly desirable to have some person with ability and authority to speak on behalf of Australia in connexion with the negotiations which must precede a. successful flotation of the con-version loans rendered necessary in the very near future. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are just as keen as are honorable, senators opposite in their desire that the flotation may be successfully accomplished. We realize the great benefits likely to accrue to Australia if we can secure, not only the conversion of a portion of our public debt which must be converted because of the expiration of the term of the loan, but also that of a considerable portion of our overseas indebtedness which the Commonwealth Government has the option of converting. For one thing, it will lead to a substantial reduction in our overseas interest payments, and I feel sure that no voice would be raised to impede any suggestion on the part of the Government, having for its objective the successful achievement of such a purpose.
While I agree that during the conversion negotiations in London it is desirable that we should be represented by a Minister, I claim that it is not essential for that Minister to remain in London for any considerable period. From the provisions of the bill before us it seems that it is the intention of the Government t» leave Mr. Bruce or some other Minister in London for two years. But the negotiations to which I have referred, and which the right honorable the Leader of the Senate cited as the main ground for appealing to honorable senators on this side of the chamber to support the bill, should not take that long. When the right honorable gentleman who is now Prime Minister was leading the Opposition in another chamber, -he advised the then Government that he would manymonths earlier have gone to London to attempt a successful conversion loan, and would then have appealed to the local bondholders, but the then Government decided first to ask the local bondholders to convert at lower rates of interest. Since the right honorable gentleman has become Prime Minister, he has not, so far, displayed the same amount of eagerness regarding the conversion of our external debt, but his Government has at last decided to do something in this direction, and Mr. Bruce is now in London. But that portion of his mission which covers the loan conversion negotiations could have been carried out without this bill. Other Ministers have visited the heart of the Empire to attend important conferences, and conclude important negotiations on behalf of the people of Australia ; in some instances, they have been absent from this country for very long periods; but in no case has it ever been found necessary to justify their representation of Australia overseas or their absence from parliamentary and ministerial duties in the Commonwealth, by the passing of legislation of this kind. The passing of this bill will not add one iota to the authority already possessed by Mr. Bruce as the third Minister in the Cabinet, or to his prestige while in London, representing the Commonwealth Government. All that the Government seeks to accomplish, so far as the successful conversion of our external indebtedness is concerned, could have been achieved by the long-tried and effective methods practised in the past. Ministers have gone abroad for the specific purpose of carrying out certain tasks, and have then returned to fulfil their obligations in Australia.
I admit that our representation in the United States of America is not as important .as our representation in London; nevertheless it is of considerable moment to Australia; the two positions are on practically the same basis. “When the Commissioner in New York resigned during the regime of the Scullin Government, his position was not filled, a real saving being effected by instructing the official secretary in New York to carry out the duties of the Commissioner for the time being. In Mr. Collins, the official secretary at Australia House, we have a gentleman with a wide and varied experience in the Commonwealth Treasury, and a long and valuable experience in various capacities in Australia House. Mr. Collins is eminently suited to carry out the ordinary official duties of a High Commissioner during the period when it is proposed, for economic or other reasons, not to fill the position vacated by Sir Granville Ryrie. I think that during this period of two years, the whole question of our representation in London could well be taken into account, with a view to reducing the gross expenditure and increasing the efficiency of our representation, by eliminating all that overlapping which now takes place in Loudon. We have in the heart of the Empire, officials, trade commissioners and other functionaries representing six State Governments as well as the Commonwealth.
The right honorable the Leader of the Senate told us that a saving would be made by passing this bill. He quoted some figures, but gave us no definite indication of the total saving to be effected. I venture to say that, instead of effecting a saving, this bill is likely to increase expenditure. On page 15 of the Estimates we find that a saving of £1,826 is indicated by a reduction of the salary of the High Commissioner. It is probably the amount which would not be paid out during the period of the financial year following the completion of the High Commissioner’s term of office. On pages 32 and 33 of the Estimates, under the heading of “ Salaries, Contingencies and Expenses associated with the Maintenance of Australian Representation in Australia House “, we find that the amount proposed to be expended this year is £2,179 more than was actually spent, last year, and there is a new item “ Allowance for Expenses of Resident Minister in London, £2,100 “. Deducting the saving of £1,826 on the salary of the High Commissioner, from the £2,179 increased expenditure for this year, there is a net increase of £353. I have searched the Estimates diligently, and I can find in them. noN satisfactory indication that a saving is to be effected in the cost of Australia House. On the contrary increased expenditure is indicated. If, instead of appointing a Resident Minister in Britain, the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) were sent abroad, as other Ministers have been sent in the past, the salary and allowances of the High Commissioner, amounting to £5,000 per annum, less the 25 per cent, reduction under the financial emergency legislation, could be saved.
These objections are, however, small in comparison with the real objection that we on this side offer to this bill. We object to it on the ground that it makes a fundamental alteration in our method of executive government. This innovation is part of a growing tendency to allow the Executive Government to exercise great powers without being controlled by Parliament. While in London the right honorable member for Flinders will he vested with considerable powers; he “will be called upon to make important decisions and declarations on behalf of the Australian nation, and yet he will he without proper consultation with his colleagues or directions from Parliament. A fundamental principle is at stake. Honorable senators are aware that both in this chamber and another place the proposal has been made that the Australian Parliament should co-operate with that of Great Britain in some kind of imperial council. While such an arrangement might have some advantages, it would also have many disadvantages. We cannot enjoy privileges without accepting responsibilities; and if we send men abroad to gain privileges for Australia we must be prepared to accept the consequences. For the reasons that I have given I shall oppose the bill.
– I wish to register a decided protest against this bill, and I feel confident that the majority of the people of Australia are opposed to it. This step should not hav3 been taken until the people had been consulted. Thousands of the citizens of Australia view with alarm any step calculated to give greater power to those who control the affairs of the Empire from England. I do not wish my remarks to be construed as being derogatory to the character of the men concerned. The leaders of the nation in England may be high-minded men, as I believe Mr. Bruce to be, but their policy is entirely opposed to that of thousands, if not the majority, of the people of Australia. We are told that this innovation is to last for only two years, and that during the life of this Parliament the whole matter of our representation in London will be reviewed. Experience has shown how difficult it is to change what “has been done. ‘ Honorable senators know, for instance, how hard it is to get rid of a government department once it has been established. It has been urged that the proposal of the Government will result in a saving of expenditure. The country is well aware that, during his term as Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce was a free spender. I am informed that he was always willing to find reasons for increasing salaries. If the right honorable gentleman is still to be the “jolly old gentleman” he has been in the past, he will do in London what he did in Australia, in which case it will not be long before he has a big staff around him. It may be, as the Leader of the Government says, desirable, or even necessary, for Mr. Bruce to be in London ; but that does not make this measure necessary. If he is such a splendid financier that he can prevail on the keenest Jewish brains in the Empire to convert Australian loans at lower’ rates of interest than others could obtain, his presence in London will be worth while; but I am hot aware that the rulers of the money market are affected to any great extent by the gentlemanly demeanour of any plenipotentiary who may visit London from Australia or any other country. With them, business comes first. If the market is favorable, we shall get money at cheaper rates than formerly, irrespective of the presence in London of Mr. Bruce or Mr. Gollins. Consequently, my withers are unwrung by the plea of the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) that the presence of Mr. Bruce in London will save money for Australia. It would appear that the policy of Ottawa is about to be continued, and that the Government is acting shrewdly in transferring a Minister to the heart of the Empire. Before long, Ave shall probably be told that it is essential for Mr. Bruce to have assistance, and that the Government proposes to send Senator Pearce to London to assist him. Later, perhaps, other Ministers will go, until there will grow up an imperial cabinet in longland. This possibility is a real one, not the bogy that honorable senators opposite would make it appear. This proposal, following on what occurred at Ottawa, is significant; it foreshadows the time when, Australia and the other dominions will be entirely controlled, both politically and economically, from the heart of the Empire. To that I am opposed.
Even the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) admits that this innovation lias many disadvantages. His state- mailt should cany weight, since, in the minds of many of the people of Australia, he is the real leader of the Government.Were Mr. Latham to speak his mind, he would probably agree with what we on this side say regarding this appointment. We do not oppose this measure because of any objection to Mr. Bruce personally. We regard the right honorable gentleman highly as a man; but we do not agree with his views, economically and politically. Like other men, his mind is affected by environment and circumstances. In days gone by, most of us could have advanced arguments in favour of reduced allowances for members of Parliament; to-day, we could argue j.ust as effectively in favour of increasing them. Mr. Bruce is associated intimately with a large importing firm, and, naturally, his outlook is affected thereby. It is not unreasonable to say that his ideas are different from those of the great bulk of the Australian people, who are opposed to the importation of goods which can be made in Australia. If it is essential that Mr. Bruce shall be in London, why does he not take the place of Sir Granville Eyrie as High Commissioner ?
– In that case, he would have to resign his seat.
– During the absence of the right honorable gentleman from Australia, the electors of Flinders will be practically disfranchised. If Mr. Bruce feelsthat his place is in London, he should allow some one else to take his place as the representative of Flinders. The whole circumstances associated with this appointment suggest that the Government has something in its mind which it has not placed before the country. The Leader of the Government was careful to say little in his second-reading speech. Possibly, he thought that wise, for fear that, if he spoke longer, he would give the real reason for sending the right honorable member for Flinders to the Old Country. It has been suggested that he has been sent away for fear that otherwise he would again become the Prime Minister of Australia. Even if that were to come to pass, his reign would be short ; for before long the electors would again object to his “ squandermania “, and put him out of office. There is good reason to believe that the right honorable gentleman has been sent to London to get him out of the way. Let Mr. Bruce be appointed High Commissioner, and, if he discharges the duties to the best of his ability, we shall have nothing to say against him.
SenatorO’Halloran. - But we shall fill the vacancy in Flinders.
– Possibly we could win Flinders again; but, at all events, the people should have an opportunity of deciding. We on this side register our protest against the bill, because we see in it a grave menace to the independence of Australia, and the possibility of building up an Imperial ministry in England to the detriment of the dominions.
– I accept the view of the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), as to the advantage, at this juncture, of having at the heart of the Empire a Cabinet Minister of the ability of the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce). In fact, I incline to the view - once it is conceded that such representation is desirable - that no member of this chamber or of another place is more fitted for the position than the gentleman who has been chosen. Neither have I any doubt about the reason which actuates our friends opposite; they conceive it to be the duty of an Opposition to oppose, and, as Mr. Bruce seems always to lend himself to criticism from them, I need say nothing further on that point. Personally, I have nothing but admiration for the capacity of the right honorable gentleman, and I am convinced that he will discharge the duties required of him with ability and distinction. But I experience some difficulty with regard to one aspect of the appointment. I have no doubt that the Government has considered it, although, up to the present, we have had no information from the right honorable the Leader of the Senate with regard to it. Section 44 of the Constitution Act provides that -
Any person who . . .
holds any office of profit under the Crown or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth : hall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
Section 45 states -
If a senator or member of the House of Representatives -
become subject to any of the disabilities mentioned in the last preceding section; or
directly or indirectly take3 or agrees to take any fee. or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth or for services rendered in the Parliament to any person or State, his place shall thereupon become vacant.
This bill is so worded as not. to appoint Mr. Bruce or any other person as High Commissioner. It provides that the Governor-General may issue to any Minister or member of the Executive Council a commission authorizing him, during the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral, to exercise and perform the duties which are ordinarily carried out by the High Commissioner. I have no doubt that the Government has considered the position carefully, because I am aware that other appointments have, during the lifetime of the Commonwealth Parliament, been made, and would, perhaps, have been open to the same criticism. I have not had the advantage of - reading or hearing the debates in another place on this bill, so I am not conversant with the views of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) on the subject; but I do find some difficulty in understanding how, in the circumstances in which the right honorable member for Flinders is to be appointed, he will not be held to be taking any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth, or. be considered not to be holding an office of profit under the Crown. If his appointment as Resident Minister in London were held to be a violation of the Constitution, any person could challenge the appointment and seek to have his place as the representative for Flinders declared vacant. There may or there may not be anything in the objection to which I have referred. Possibly, the Government has considered it, and believes that the assignment of Mr. Bruce to the duties of High Commissioner will not contravene the provisions of the Constitution to which I have directed attention. If it were a violation the mere passing of an act by this Parliament would not get over the difficulty. I should like to know how the creation of the office - if this is the creation of an. office, the assignment of a Minister of the Crown to discharge the duties of High Commissioner - does not conflict with sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution. Apart from the possible objec- tion which I have stated, I shall not detain the Senate. I should, indeed, regard it as almost presumptuous on my part to say anything other than that I regard the right honorable gentleman who has been selected for the position as probably the most competent person in Australia to fill it. As to the ability of high public officials, I think nobody can dispute that the influence exercised by a Minister of the Crown of the standing of Mr. Bruce must necessarily be infinitely greater than that exercised by any official, however high or however competent. Senator 0’Hal.loran has objected to the appointment on the ground that it is a departure from fixed and. established principles of government. That objection is a novel one, coming as it does from the deputy leader of a party whose platform contains so many planks that are a departure from fixed and established principles, and indicates many other ways in which it would depart from them. I therefore say that if the strongest criticism that can be offered against the appointment of Mr. Bruce to discharge the duties of the High Commissioner in London is that it is a departure from established principles, honorable senators opposite can find in the Government’s proposal really very little to which objection can be taken.
– It is not my intention to make any lengthy observations upon this bill. Like other honorable senators who have spoken from this side of the chamber, I protest against the Government’s action, although I know that the bill will be passed. Probably, I should not have spoken but for the extravagant references of members of the Government and their supporters to the transcendent superabilities of the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) . Obviously, the party to which he belongs is under the impression that it has discovered something unique in the way of talent when, as a matter of fact, those who have had any experience of parliamentary life, know how certain men get to the top, without displaying any outstanding qualities or initiative.
– Queensland should know.
– Evidently the people of Queensland do know; that is why they sent three Labour senators to this chamber at the last election. Senator Brennan has said that we conceive it to be the duty of an Opposition to oppose every proposal that comes before this chamber. I assure him that this may be the mental attitude of honorable gentlemen supporting the Government, but it is not ours. We do, however, believe it to be our duty to oppose proposals which, in our opinion, will not be advantageous to the people of Australia. I believe that the bill represents the terms of a contract laid down by the right honorable member for Flinders before he would agree to accept office. I am not so trustingly childish as to take things on their face value.We all know that Mr. Bruce has commercial interests which conflict with the settled fiscal policy of the Commonwealth ; and that this Parliament has definitely approved a protective policy for the building up of Australian industries. If the fiscal future of the Commonwealth were submitted to the people in the form of a referendum, there would he an overwhelming majority in favour of a policy to build up Australian industries, and for the slow but certain emasculation of vested importing interests. We on this side take the view that the right honorable member for Flinders, as a member of this Parliament, is not in tune with popular Sentiment on this issue. . This being so, I can well imagine that, before he agreed to carry out. the important work which we are informed will be entrusted to him, he laid down certain conditions. I do not agree that he is the only man who could do the work; any properly qualified public servant could do it. if he were clothed with the requisite authority and responsibility.
– That is not so.
– Whenever the office of High Commissioner becomes vacant temporarily, the interests of Australia are not jeopardized because, for the time being, Australia House is controlled by its high officials there. But the Government and its supporters would have us believe that unless this Heaven-born financier in the person of the RightHonorable Stanley Melbourne Bruce is sent to London, the whole country will go to ruin ! Such a suggestion is an insult to our intelligence. This is one of our reasons for opposing the bill. All the circumstances remind me of the prominence given by film-producing companies to a recently discovered star who, after a great deal of publicity, finally receives a tempting offer and is signed up on an important contract. In my opinion, this bill is the contract which the Government and its supporters arranged with the right honorable member for Flinders in order that he could do certain work on the other side of the world. I do not object that it is being given to Mr. Bruce because, obviously, the Government intended thatsome one should get it; but probably Senator Brown was right whenhe suggested that other motives prompted the Government. Ministers might think it not altogether a bad thing, in the interests of certain other not-so-highly endowed members of the Cabinet, to have this super Minister out of the way.
– The honorable senator then admits his capacity.
– I do not admit the honorable senator’s ability to estimate capacity in any man. Realizing that the bill will be passed, and knowing that it is desired that the floodgates of oratory should not be kept open too long, I, with more than my usual modesty and humility, shall now resume my seat.
– It seems that our friends opposite are content to regard this departure of having a Resident Minister in London, and the appointment of Mr. Bruce to that office, as quite the proper thing. Personally, I have nothing against Mr. Bruce. But I have been astonished, as I am sure have also some honorable senators who sit opposite, at the remarkable advance that has been made by this gentleman since he first entered politics in this country. No matter how admirable his attributes generally may be, he is not a man who scintillates, nor one who, from outward appearances, would seem likely to make a very successful politician. I believe that he admits that’ himself. Yet, within, I think, a couple of years of his first entry into politics in Australia, he was elevated from the position of a mere neophyte to the second highest office in the gift of this nation. I speak not without some little experience. My experience of the FederalParliament dates back to the year 1907. I have known really great Australians, like Sir John Forrest, SirWilliam Lyne, and others, whose ambition it was to become Prime Minister of this country, and who had sound reasons for expecting that they would realize it. Yet, despite their struggles, they failed. But Mr. Stanley Bruce within a few years of his entry into politics reached that pinnacle. If one were to undertake an investigation in a given quarter in Brisbane, in certain of the purlieus - not those of Woolloomooloo - of Sydney, or of Flinders-street - not Flinders-lane - in Melbourne, one would find that the reason for Mr. Bruce’s rapid elevation lies in the firm of Paterson, Laing & Bruce, which, in addition to managing its own affairs, represents also other vast importing interests in this country that are well known in York-street, Sydney, and Flinderslane, Melbourne. So notwithstanding the respect that we may have for Mr. Bruce personally, we cannot avoid the conclusion that he owes to his connexion with those vast importing interests much of the success that he has achieved in Australian politics. He has been advanced from’ one position to another, until now there is nothing too big for him to undertake when the interests behind him consider that further elevation is necessary.
The office of Resident Minister in London is an entirely new one. I can search my memory back to the time when I was in England, twenty years ago, and I cannot remember there having been in London during that period any representativeof a dominion with that title. I have heard rumours or conjectures con cerning the possibility of Canada having a Resident Minister at the present time, but I do not know that she has yet gone that far.
The strongest objection to the proposal is that it undoubtedly opens up the possibility of the formation of an imperial cabinet. I believe that Senator Brown referred to that danger, and it is a very real one. If it is necessary for a ministerial representative of this Government to go overseas, there is no reason why he should not do so. Some years ago, I believe that it was in 1918, not only Mr. Hughes, who was then the Prime Minister of this country, but also a former Prime Minister in Sir Joseph Cook, went for a trip throughout Europe that lasted eighteen months. My recollection is that ‘Mr. Watt was acting Prime Minister during that period. This shows that in the past no objection has been raised to even the more important Ministers of the Cabinet being absent from Australia. As Senator Barnes stated, there is no reason why Mr. Bruce should not be granted a year’s leave of absence, for the purpose of transacting certain important business on behalf of this country. But there is more than a suspicion that he has sought this post with a view to suiting the convenience of his great business interests in London. It may seem a somewhat distant likelihood to visualize an Imperial cabinet. But I can recall certain remarks that were made to Mr. Hughes by the late Lord Northcliffe, when he visited this country some ten years ago. I was one of a few who were invited to meet him in Brisbane. He then told us that during the war there was the possibility of the formation of an Imperial cabinet in Great Britain, and that the question of Mr. Hughes becoming the Prime Minister of Great Britain went beyond the stage of mere talk. We smiled at the suggestion and asked whether it was true.
– Mr. Hughes was a member of the War Cabinet in Great Britain, and so was the Prime Minister of New Zealand; there was no secret about that.
– I have not said that there was anything secret about it. The right honorable senator is supporting my case. I am merely pointing to the danger that lies behind this proposal, that is, the formation of an Imperial cabinet, including representatives of this country. That- is what I strongly object to. I mentioned the case of Mr. Hughes to show that this is not a fantasy. “We might have a Canadian as Prime Minister of the British Empire, or an Australian in the person of Mr. Bruce. Imperial federation is an old topic. If it were adopted, from it would emerge an Imperial cabinet.We might have not merely one, but a number of Ministers resident in London.. As an honorable senator has suggrested. Senator Pearce might be sent to London as an assistant to Mr. Bruce. I admit that he would be a worthy representative of Australia, even though he is on the wrong side in politics. We are firmly opposed to this departure from established practice, and feel that a wrong step is being taken by the Australian nation. We can surrender too much, even to the Mother Country. The danger is that this may become a permanent institution, and that we may be governed from London, in which event our interests would not be served as Australians would wish them to be.
Senator Brennan mentioned a sidelight on the proposed appointment that interested me greatly. To my mind, it is questionable if the bill will meet the case, in view of the provisions of the Constitution. I had to face that objection in a more humble way when I proposed to seek election to the Senate recently. I held an office of profit under the Crown, and, as a result of a careful study of the relevant provision, with which I had more than a nodding acquaintance, because of my previous incursions into this chamber, I found that I had to resign that office before I could even nominate as a candidate for the Senate. I have always understood that the provisions of the Constitution may not be altered except as a result of a referendum of the people. Quite a number of referenda proposals have been placed before the Australian people, but the Constitution has been amended only technically, and that was an amendment which both sides in politics supported.
– The financial agreement resulted from a referendum.
– I had forgotten that. That also was supported by both sides. This isa vital matter, because it touches on the probity of man and the honour of institutions; the refraining from corruption, and the holding of dual offices. Such things impair and sully public life. It appears to me that an act of Parliament cannot over-ride the provision of the Constitution relating to the holding of offices of profit under the Crown. I was much struck with the remarks of Senator Brennan upon the point. It seems to me that this is a matter for inquiry by the Leader of the Senate.
I hope that, even if the bill is passed, and it is found not to be ultra vires the Constitution, our experience will be such that we shall not wish to repeat the experiment.
.- I do not think that Mr. Bruce needs to be apologized for by any member of the Senate. On many occasions while I was a member of a Tasmanian Cabinet, I had the pleasure of coming in contact with the right honorable gentleman at meetings of the Loan Council, and at Premiers Conferences. I always found him most keen on financial matters, and one whom it would be very hard to replace. It would be difficult to find a gentleman better equipped to handle the huge financial transactions that have to be dealt with in London during the next year or two. I do not think that the Government could have made a better choice. From the experience I have gained on two occasions during the last few years, I think it highly desirable that the right honorable gentleman should, at the earliest opportunity, give consideration to the cost of Australia House. The expenditure involved is not only excessive, hut, from personal experience, I may say that the lack of courtesy on the part of those engaged there is an absolute scandal. The expenditure at present incurred in maintaining Australia House and its huge staff could be considerably modified. It is true that certain reductions in the staff have been made; but, in view of the services rendered, that now maintained is not in any sense warranted. Moreover, the design of the structure itself is one of the worst in London. It consists of a maze of corridors and passages, and is not designed or equipped for the use to which it is put.
– It was not erected on the most suitable site.
– The position is bad and the design most unsuitable; in fact, there is very little that can be said in its favour. It appears from the Estimates for the present financial year that the expenditure at Australia House is being increased instead of being reduced. The actual expenditure last year was £44,170, while theestimate forthis year is £46,349. The appointment of the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) as Resident. Minister in London will not, therefore, result in any reduction in expenditure in that department.
– The Estimates do not contain the salary of the High Commissioner; that is provided for by special appropriation.
– That is so; the estimated expenditure I mentioned was to meet the cost of the High Commissioner’s Office; but I cannot see why such a heavy cost should be incurred. The Government should impress upon the right honorable gentleman the necessity to curtail expenditure in the High Commissioner’s Office wherever possible. I notice from the Estimates that the number of persons employed is to be reduced from 92 to 81 ; but even that number is out of all proportion to the services rendered. I trust that the Government will see that the expenditure on this costly department is further reduced.
– According to the speeches of honorable senators opposite, the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) is to be appointed a Resident Minister in London because in that capacity he will be able to display greater ability than if he held the office of High Commissioner. It must be admitted that the right honorable gentleman would be able to display the same amount of ability and business acumen as a High Commissioner as he will when appointed as Resident Minister. The whole position is camouflaged; he will actually be Australia’s High Commissioner. It is astonishing that the Government should have suddenly discovered that the duties previously expected of Australia’s representative in London cannot be done by a High Commissioner. When General Ryrie was appointed to the position, it was said by members of this Parliament and in the press that he was capable of doing all that the people of Australia required. As he was given all the power that was considered necessary the right honorable member for Flinders, if appointed as High Commissioner, would have ample authority to do all the Government needed. Section 7 of the principal act,, which was quoted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), and which we are told is not to apply to theResident Minister, has an important bearing on the subject. That section reads -
A person appointed to be the HighCommissioner shall not during his tenure of office be or act as director oragent of or hold any office in any company or syndicate whether incorporated or unincorporated or hold any other employment or engage in any other business whether within or without the Commonwealth.
That provision will not, apply to the right honorable member who is to he termed a Resident Minister. If he held the office of High Commissioner, he could not engage in private business. Senator R. D. Elliott said that it would be in Australia’s interest to have a representative in the heart of the Empire almost continuously; but have not our High Commissioners resided in the heart of the Empire? It is unreasonable to suggest that a Resident Minister can display greater ability, or render more valuable service to the Commonwealth than a High Commissioner. This measure has been submitted with the idea of deceiving the public. A Resident Minister will be subject to the directions of this Government which will cable its instructions to him as it has in the past to High Commissioners. The Government should have been candid and said that it wished the right honorable member to accept the position of High Commissioner, but that he refused to do so because it would not pay him. He evidently wants a free hand to enable him to bolster up his own interests in Great
Britain. As pointed out by Senator Brown, a great injustice is being done to his constituents in the Flinders electorate, whom he is supposed to represent. They had no idea that he would leave them disfranchised shortly after his election as their representative.
– He was away when he was elected. “
– But the electors did not know, when they’ elected him, that he would leave Australia for two years. The position is not altered by the fact that the right honorable gentleman will not receive a ministerial allowance while lie is i?i Great Britain. Members of this Parliament are elected to represent the people, and not to run away to Great Britain to watch their own business interests. If the right honorable gentleman acted honestly, he would resign his position in Parliament, and allow the people of Flinders to elect some one to watch their interests. *
– What was the right honorable gentleman’s majority at the last general election?
– His majority is immaterial; he should be here to represent his constituents. This bill establishes a dangerous precedent. What is to prevent this Government amending acts of parliament with the object of sending to Great Britain persons holding views similar to those of the right honorable member? It is not good for Australia to be represented by persons holding such strong imperialist views. I am an Australian, I believe in Australia first and the Empire afterwards. That is the extent of my imperialism. I always wish to do my best for Australia.
– The honorable senator always considers the interests of South Australia before those of Queensland.
– That is not so. The honorable senator knows that my vote has been cast on many occasions to help Queensland. Those who have held the office of High Commissioner have always rendered satisfactory service, and I should like to know why a new appointment has not been made. No fault Avas found Avith the work of Sir Joseph Cook or the retiring High Commissioner, General Ryrie. Why should the Government hold such a high opinion con cerning the qualifications of - the right honorable member for Flinders? Is he the only person who can fill the position? If he is, why was he not appointed High. Commissioner, when previous appointments have been made? The right honorable member has been selected as Resident Minister because he wishes to be in England to look after his own business affairs. It is a blot on the work of this Parliament to amend an act to suit an individual. Acts should be amended only for the good of Australia generally, and not for the benefit of one person.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [5.5]. - I intend to treat with the contempt they deserve the references made to Mr. Bruce by the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. Coming to the criticism of the expenditure on Australia House- 1 assure Senator Grant that he can depend upon it that Mr. Bruce W 111 bring to bear on the High Commissioner’s office a business mind. The position, however. is not so bad as it appears to be on the face of the Estimates. The estimated increase of £2,179 over the expenditure for 1931-32 is due largely to the fact that there is in the contingencies for the current year an amount of £2,100, representing the allowance to be paid to the Resident Minister. As an offset against this amount, no provision has been made for the salary of the High Commissioner after 10th September, when the payment to Sir Granville Ryrie ceased. That saving is to be found under the heading of “special appropriations “ -
Act No. 22 of 1909. - Salary of High Coin-, missioner - Expenditure, 1931-32, £2,276.
On these estimates £450 is provided for [.he salary of the High Commissioner for the current year, so that on this account there is an actual saving of £1,926. The allowance to the High Commissioner under the heading of “ Contingencies “ is also reduced from £1,636 to £300, making a further saving of £1,336. The £300 is provided to cover payments to Sir Granville Ryrie after the 30th June.
Senator MacDonald and others of the Labour party are fond of repeating the statement that Mr. Bruce and the firm with which he is associated represent vast importing interests. If they would visit some of the factories in Melbourne they would find that the firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce has very great manufacturing interests. As a matter of fact, the high tariff which Mr. Bruce did a great deal to bring about in this country, has hit his importing interests and helped his manufacturing interests. The firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce has ceased very largely to be an importing firm and has become a manufacturing firm, largely because of the tariff which the BrucePage Government brought into being.
Another spectre which Senator MacDonald has conjured up is that of an Imperial cabinet, with Mr. Bruce as an Imperial Prime Minister. I assure the Senate that nothing of the kind is contemplated. That, however, will not alter the honorable senator’s opinion, nor prevent him from repeating his statement throughout Queensland and elsewhere.
Then we have Senator Collings saying that this appointment is being made to carry out an undertaking; that Mr. Bruce would only enter the Cabinet on the condition that he was made Resident Minister in London later on. Such is the sort of criticism to which we are subjected. Listening to it I recalled to mind the character of Simon Tappertit, in Dickens’s BarnabyRudge, which deals with the anti-popery riots of the last century. Simon Tappertit had anti-popery on the brain. He could read into the most innocent happenings the most extraordinary schemes and horrible plots. His obsession distorted everything he heard or saw. After listening to honorable senators opposite, I have come to the conclusion that some of them must have Tappertit minds.
Senator Brown affected to see in this bill a menace to Australian independence, and his speech breathed a spirit of hostility to anything that makes for closer union with the United Kingdom. Honorable senators opposite seem generally to regard with suspicion anything that tends to bring Australia closer to the Mother Country. I do not propose to follow that line of argument. It would be useless to do so. Nothing that I could say would alter a mental outlook which I regret to find having vocal expression in this chamber.
In regard to the constitutional point raised by Senator Brennan, relating to salaries or fees paid to members of Parliament, I should like to point out that Mr. Bruce is not being paid a salary other than that to which he is entitled as a Minister, and his allowance as a member of Parliament. He is, however, to be given an allowance to meet the expense to which he will be put in carrying out his duties in London. There is nothing new in that arrangement. Every Commonwealth Minister who has attended an Imperial conference, or an assembly of the League of Nations, has been paid an allowance in exactly the same way to cover his expenses. It is not a fee.
– The right honorable gentleman did not make that clear in moving the second reading of the bill.
– I regret that I failed to do so. The Attorney-General has advised the Government that it is quite constitutional to make an allowance for expenses in the way proposed.
I come now to an objection of another class. Senator Rae quoted the Argus of December, 1981, expressing doubt whether Mr. Bruce would take office in the new Government. Every one knows that at that time Mr. Bruce was engaged in the very disagreeable task of steering the firm of which he is a member through the very tempestuous sea of depression. Naturally, in such circumstances, there would be doubt in most minds whether he would jeopardize the interests of his firm by entering politics. Mr. Bruce, however, put the interests of his country before the interests of his firm. He gave up his close attention to his business, became a candidate for the electorate of Flinders, won the seat and took office. That he did so is the answer to Senator Rae’s suggestion. I remind honorable senators opposite that the firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce is mainly Australian, and not English. It is an Australian firm with a London office. Practically every big firm in Australia has a London office. Is that something to be deprecated?
– Where is the head office of Paterson, Laing and Bruce?
– In Melbourne, so far as I know. At all events, when Mr. Bruce was acting as chairman of directors of the company, and controlling its business activities, his office was in Melbourne, not in London.
Doubt has been cast by the Opposition on Mr. Bruce’s Australian sentiment. Let us see what crime it is that he has committed? First of all he was born in Australia. Is ‘that a crime? He went to school in Australia. Is that a point in his favour?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.He went to a college in Australia. Perhaps the Opposition will accept that, too, as a point in his favour. “He stroked a winning crew of the Melbourne Grammar School, so that he was a good Australian athlete. That also may be taken as a point in his favour. But then he committed “ the awful crime “ of going to a university in England; and of being admitted to the English bar. But did he then decide to make his career in England? No. He returned to Australia and his association with business has been almost wholly in Australia. The only point that may be taken against him by honorable senators opposite is that when the war broke out he happened to be in England and joined up with an English unit. As a matter of fact he could not have joined an Australian unit. The Labour Government then in power would not allow Australians in England to join up with the Australian Imperial Forces. They had to enlist with the British forces in the country in which they were residing. Mr. Bruce did his duty by enlisting and he served with distinction in a British unit. That, as I say, may be taken by the Opposition as a point against him, but I do not think that it will hold upon examination.
After the war Mr. Bruce came back to Australia. Every one knows of the circumstances of the firm with which he was associated before the depression came upon us. Do honorable senators’ think that he was self-seeking when he entered politics in Australia? Indeed, is any personal advantage to be gained by entering politics in Australia? I am aware that a section of the people think that politicians are in a favorable position to feather their nests, but those of us who have been in politics for any time know that it is not true. As a matter of fact Mr. Bruce was, to a certain extent, about to sacrifice his business interests by entering upon a political life, and he certainly did so.
– His company made a profit when he was- in power and showed a loss when a Labour Government was in power.
– But practically every company showed a loss while Labour was in power !
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The business with which Mr. Bruce is associated, like most businesses in Australia, I am happy to say, was payable until the depression came along, and then it ceased to pay. Like thousands of other firms, it has not been able to pay dividends of late years; but that is not the fault of Mr. Bruce; nor is it to be held against him.
Another point raised by Senator Rae, is that Mr. Bruce is strongly imbued with “ the British imperial attitude “. What exactly does the honorable senator mean? Does he suggest that to be a true Australian a man must be anti-British, or that if we are true Australians we ought for some reason to be ashamed of our connexion with the rest of the British Empire? If that is the suggestion, what does it mean? What does this taunt amount to? Mr. Bruce would not thank me for making any apology on his behalf on that score, because as an Australian he is proud of his British connexion; proud that Australia is a member of the British Empire. He would not apologise, nor ask any one else to apologize for him on that account. He is a true Australian, and strongly imbued with Australian sentiment. I know this as a consequence of my long ministerial association with him. I know also that he is at the same time a true British imperialist, believing strongly in maintaining the imperial tie. He is proud of the fact, and never would apologize for it to any one.
It was put by Senator Barnes that section 7 of the High Commissioner Act applies to a person holding office as High Commissioner, aud disqualifies him from holding the position of director of a company. The honorable senator seemed to suggest that the bill had been so drawn that that disqualification would not apply to Mr. Bruce as Resident Minister in London. We have never made the holding of a position as director of a’ company a disqualification for a ministerial office in Australia. I remind Senator Barnes that when he was Vice-President of the Executive Council he did not resign ‘an office equal to the chairmanship of the best directorate in Australia. I refer to his position as president of the Australian Workers Union.
– That is not a paid office.
– It is at any rate a position which gives the holder of it far more political power than does any other directorate known to me. The Opposition talk of the political power of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company I It’ dwindles into insignificance compared with the political power of the Australian Workers Union. When the Australian Workers Union speaks the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is compelled to listen. Yet this honorable senator, who objects to Mr. Bruce continuing as a director of an importing and manufacturing firm, did not think it necessary to resign his position as president of the Australian Workers Union, when he was a member of a Commonwealth Government. If it is to be a disqualification in the case of a Minister in England it should also be a disqualification in the case of a Minister in Australia.
– There was no need to amend the act.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There was. Without an amendment of the act a Minister could not discharge the duties of High Commissioner. Moreover, the Government wishes to have a Minister rather than a High Commissioner in England. I shall give an illustration to show the advantage of having a Minister instead of an official in England to deal with these matters; it is not intended to he personal. Honorable senators may remember that at the close of the war the Hughes Government sent me to England to deal with the demobilization of the Australian Imperial Forces. At the time we had in England one of the most capable men the country ever produced; I refer to General Monash, who was the corps commander of the Australian Imperial Forces. Before my arrival in England, General Monash had arranged with the Ministry in charge of shipping for a certain number of ships to be utilized in taking the Australian troops back to Australia; but when I reached England I found him in great distress because 12 of those vessels had been diverted to the Argentine. That action would have delayed the return of the Australian troops by many months. For days General Monash had been trying to get an interview with the Minister ; but, despite his great reputation, he had failed to do so. -Not because of my personal qualifications, but merely because I was a Minister, I was able to get an interview within two days. The Minister could not elbow me out of the way without offering an affront to Australia; but he could do so in the case of an official. I got that personal interview, and was able to arrange for the vessels to be again diverted to the Australian route. In dealing with governments and financial institutions, a Minister can sometimes do things which an official cannot do.
In view of the momentous questions with which Mr. Bruce will have to deal while in England, it is of the utmost importance that we should have a Minister in London. I remind honorable senators that the conversion of our overseas loans is not a matter affecting only financial institutions. To enable that conversion to be successful, we must have the hearty co-operation of the British Government. Honorable senators have doubtless seen a recent announcement by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the order in which the dominions are to be allowed to go on the market to convert their loans. Not only must we have someone in England who can approach the financial institutions directly concerned with the conversion of our loans; we must have someone who, on a basis of equality, can approach the British Government to give Australia an opportunity to arrange for that conversion. For these reasons, the Government decided that it was necessary to have a Minister resident in London.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . .. 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 14th September (vide page 439), on motion by Senator Greene -
That the paper be printed.
.- When this debate was adjourned yesterday, I was dealing with the complaint by Senator MacDonald that Australia had not received sufficient consideration at the hands of the British delegates to the Ottawa Conference. I asked the honorable senator on what he based his opinion, and he stated by way of interjection that he was not complaining so much of the price we received for our products as that we were not getting a sufficient volume of trade in the British market. At the time I did not have with me the information relating to the various classes of Australian primary products disposed of in the British market, but I have since been able to secure from the Department of Commerce figures which show the true position of our overseas trade, especially in foodstuffs. Speaking in another place recently, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Hawker) said that the effective preference granted to Australia by Britain is equal to approximately £25,000,000 per annum to the primary producers of Australia. In the light of that information, I trust that Senator MacDonald will modify his views. The value of Australian products exported to all countries for the year 1930-31 was £87,695,203. Of that total our exports to the United Kingdom were valued at £38,867,398, representing 44 per cent., and the other Empire countries took products to the value of £8,893,136, or 10 per cent. of the total. This means that in 1930-31 Great Britain and the dominions took 54 per cent., and foreign countries 46 per cent., of our exports. I am informed that these figures are compiled ona merchandise basis, and do not include the export of gold, silver, or bronze specie. I asked the Department of Commerce if it could set out in detail particulars of our primary products exported to Great Britain, and I was advised that the United Kingdom is Australia’s best market for surplus foodstuffs for which the Commonwealth must find an outlet abroad. These comprise butter, eggs, cheese, beef, mutton, lamb, pork, rabbits and hares, preserved meat, currants, sultanas and lexias, canned apricots, peaches and pears, apples, wine and sugar. The United Kingdom also supplies the best outlet for Australian metals, such as copper, lead and zinc, as well as for scoured wool and leather. The agreements made at Ottawa recently mean that, based on our exports for 1930-31, we will receive preference in respect of 65 per cent. of our exports to the United Kingdom. In that year, our total exports to the United Kingdom were valued at £39,317,759. Had the preferences now agreed to at Ottawa then been in force, it would have meant assistance to trade valued at £26,000,000, so that roughly two-thirds of our export trade last year would have received additional benefits had the agreements made at Ottawa been then in force. I should like to refer in detail to one or two items of export that will be affected by the preferences granted at Ottawa by Great Britain, and I commend the study of these figures to my
Labour colleagues from Queensland who, apparently, believe that Australia did not receive a fair deal at Ottawa. The following table gives the principal exports from Australia for the year 1930-31, together with the quantity and value of each item taken by the United Kingdom : -
I invite attention first to butter, the export of which means so much to the development of Queensland. Our exports in 1930-31 totalled 1,631,807 centals, valued at £8,120,165. Of the total, the United Kingdom took 1,464,090 centals, valued at £7,189,696, representing 90 per cent, of our total butter exports. The dominions, principally Canada, and foreign countries took the remaining 10 per cent. As we develop our dairy lands and improve our dairy herds, our butter export trade will expand, and it must be gratifying to our dairy farmers to know that, there is practically an unlimited market for their product in Great Britain. Prior to the Ottawa Conference, we enjoyed a preference in Britain’s market of approximately fd. per lb. As the result of the Ottawa Conference, this preference was raised to 15s. per cwt., equivalent to 1½d. per lb., or an increase of 100 per cent. When we remember that Great Britain is right alongside the Danish market, and has for generations
purchased huge quantities of Danish butter, the fact that we have been able to secure from the British Government an additional preference of £ d. per lb. is in itself a sufficient answer to those honorable members who allege that we have secured no benefits from Ottawa. Another item which will be of particular interest to the representatives of South. Australia and Victoria is the additional preference granted to the dried fruits industry. Those honorable senators who have been in this chamber many years will recollect the unexpected developments in that industry following the extensive settlement of returned soldiers in the Murray River districts. . Prior to the opening up of those areas, only 20 per cent, of Australian requirements in dried fruits were produced locally, but within a few years of the first group settlement of returned soldiers, the home market was able to absorb only 20 per cent, of the total production, the balance being sent overseas and marketed in competition with the product of Mediterranean cheap labour countries. In 1930-31, our exports of currants totalled 322,136 centals, valued at £578,037. Of this quantity, the United Kingdom took 259,380 centals, valued at £465,814, or 31 per cent. The same year, our exports of dried raisins amounted to 891,584 centals of a value of £1,606,735. Of this total, Great Britain took 654,418 centals valued at £1,251,009 or 73 per cent. Our exports of other dried fruits amount to 20,832 centals valued at £65,222, and again Great Britain took 65 per cent. The official head of the Department of Commerce in Canberra informed me this morning that we had obtaineda substantial advantage for our dried fruit industry from the Ottawa Conference. Prior to the conference, we enjoyed a preference in the British market of 7s. percwt., and did very well on it. Ottawa increased the preference byabout 50 per cent; it is now 10s. 6d. per cwt. When we remember that a few years ago we experienced much difficulty in disposing of our surplus production, we have very good reason to he thankful for the greater preference now given in the British market, and, what is more important, for the fact that we shall be able to market the whole of our surplus production satisfactorily.
SenatorO’Halloran. - Is it not a fact that the high rate of exchange is an important factor in the improved market?
– I admit that the high rate of exchange does help, but exchange advantage was not apparent a year or two ago when we were doing so well under the earlier preference of 7s. per cwt. I am informed that,but for an untimely rain in theRenmark district and other areas along the Murray, the production of dried fruit this year would have been very much greater, and that we could have sold an additional 15,000 to 20,000 tons in the British market. Those honorable senators who were in this chamber when Sir Victor Wilson was Minister for Migration and Development, will remember the serious position which faced our growers at about that time. Indeed, the outlook was so serious that suggestions were made that growing crops should be destroyed and growers induced to give their attention to some other form of production. There was then enormous over production, but thanks to liberal advertising and systematic marketing by the Empire Marketing Board the outlook for our producers soon greatly improved.
I turn now to our export trade in eggs; another item of very great importance to Australia. I was in London when the first consignment of Queensland eggs arrived. They opened up in excellent condition, and fetched an extraordinarily good price. Unfortunately, that price was not maintained subsequently. I was told this morning by the Minister for Commerce that, on account of the concessions that have been granted, this market is steadily improving.
I turn for a moment to the figures relating to meat. They show that 38 per cent. of our total exports of bacon and ham, 64 per cent. of frozen beef, 93 per cent. of mutton and lamb, 94 per cent. of rabbits and hares, and 87 per cent. of meats preserved in tins, went to the United Kingdom.
T shall deal now with an item in which my Queensland friends, like myself, are deeply interested : I refer to sugar. As honorable senators are aware, within recent years, on account of the additional areas that have been developed in the northern portion of Queensland, the output of sugar has been increased very considerably. The industry, having been stabilized by the action of former Nationalist governments, has gone ahead by leaps and bounds, and the stage has now been reached when the production is substantially greater than Australia’s requirements. In the peak year, the Australian consumption was only approximately 50 per cent. of the total production. This year, as a result of unfortunate drought conditions in the Bundaberg district, and in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, the percentage of exports will not be as large as it was last year - probably not more than 40 per cent. of the total production. When we reached that position, serious difficulty was experienced in finding a market overseas for our surplus production. Many of the critics of the sugar industry fail to realize the sacrifices that every section of it has made in having sold overseas such a large proportion of each year’s crop, at world’s parity, which meant a dead loss to every one concerned, because the return was so greatly below the cost of production. The sales in the United Kingdom represent 97 per cent. of the surplus exported.
– It cannot be sold anywhere else; only the United Kingdom preference has made it possible to sell it there.
– That preference, while perhaps not so large as we might bave wished, was nevertheless substantial. It enabled us to sell nearly 50 per cent. of our total production in Great Britain. [Extension of time granted.] 1 am grateful to honorable senators. I should like to know from those honorable senators opposite who have been so ready to criticize the activities of our delegates at Ottawa, if they really stand for a policy of trade reciprocity within the Empire, or whether the term “ reciprocity “ with them implies getting as much as possible for ourselves and giving little or nothing in return? When Mr. Parker Moloney entered into a trade treaty with Canada, honorable senators who now sit on this side did not indulge in carping criticism for purely political purposes. Those of us who saw merit in the agreement were among the first to extend their congratulations to Mr. Moloney. On that occasion, honorable senators who now sit opposite, were all in favour of Empire reciprocity. It is a pity that they allow their political spleen and bias so to affect their good sense that they will not recognize the necessity for trade agreements such as those that were entered into at Ottawa, merely because they were completed by delegates whose political opinions differ from theirs. May I remind my friends that when Mr. Scullin and two of his colleagues endeavoured to secure a trade agreement with the British Government a couple of years ago, along lines similar to these obtained by Mr. Bruce and Mr. Gullett at Ottawa, tho concessions sought were refused by the Ramsay MacDonald-Snowden Labour Government? The Imperial conference held at that time was turned into such a complete fiasco that representative after representative of the different dominions expressed a wish to take the first boat home. Who to-day is complaining most vociferously about the preferences that are being given to the dominions? Almost daily during the sittings of the House of Commons members of the British Labour party have protested, and declaimed that, no special concessions should be given in regard to foodstuffs supplied by the dominions. It was not until a national government was formed in Great Britain, largely from the ranks of the Conservative party in that country, and its representatives met delegates from a Nationalist Government in Australia, that concessions were granted to dominion products - concessions that mean so much to the primary producers of this country. Therefore, would it not. be fair of honorable senators to withhold their criticism until they see the details of what has been accomplished ? Is it a part of their policy to attack theOttawa results simply because the Australian delegates hold political opinions different from theirs? Let us look for the good that is in our opponents.
The figures I have given prove conclusively that something substantial aud beneficial has been done for Australia by our delegates at Ottawa, in the preferences they have obtained from the British Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Elliott) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday, the 28th September.
Senate adjourned at6.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320915_senate_13_135/>.