13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
[3.1]. -by leave - When the budget was brought down, the Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) pointed out that although there were many uncertain features in the financial outlook, the budget was prepared on a basis which was believed to be safe, and designed tosecure a balance. He went on to make the following statement: -
Although the Governmentfeels that there is certain taxation of a particularly onerous character whichshould be remitted at the earliest possible opportunity, it has not been found possible, except as to some items which will be referred to later, to make any reduction of taxation. However, should it become apparent as the year proceeds that such a course would be justified, the Government will not hesitate to take the necessary action and nsk Parliament to endorse it.
The financial statement issued to-day, covering the’ transactions of the first four months of the financial year, reveals a surplus of £2,707,000. Allowing for the usual lag in the expenditure which is customary in the early months of the yer, and which for the last four months amounted to about £900,000, the accounts to date reveal an actual surplus of £1,800,000 above the pro *rata budget estimate.
For customs and excise the budget estimate was £27,600,000. For the first four months the revenue realized from this source was £11,069,000, which i3 approximately £1,800,000 above the pro rata estimate. The imports during that period were higher than was expected. We have reason to believe that the increased imports have been due, in part, to the necessity to replace depleted stocks. Nc one expects imports to continue on this scale, unless there is an appreciable improvement in world prices. Nevertheless, there are clear indications that the revenue’ from customs for the year will exceed the budget estimate. At the same time, the position with respect to the balance of trade must be carefully watched, and, if action to correct an adverse trade balance is necessary, it will be impossible, particularly at the present juncture, to predict the exact financial consequences of any such action..
The income tax collections to date represent arrears of last year’s assessments. These arrears are not now coming in so freely, as in July and August, and income tax collections will be low during the next three months. On the whole, income tax is not expected to yield any considerable sum beyond the budget estimate. There is, however, evidence of a slight revival in trade, and in the spending power of the community. The improvement is shown in the steady increase in the returns from sales tax and excise. On the other hand, the four months’ expenditure figures, which are £900,000 below the pro rata budget estimate, do not reveal the true expenditure basis for the year in various directions, such as interest and works. The estimate for old-age and invalid pensions will probably be increased by from £300,000 to £400,000, and taking the expenditure side of the budget as a whole, the probabilities are that the estimated expenditure will be exceeded by at least £250,000.
After carefully considering the- whole of the budget, the Government believes that there will be a surplus of £3,500,000 above earlier anticipations. It must be remembered that the budget obtained the benefit of two large fortuitous sums - the surplus of £1,314,000 brought forward from last year, and the relief of £6,900,000 from interest, sinking fund, and exchange on the war debt due to Great Britain.
In considering the proposals which the Government is now submitting to the House, honorable senators should bear in mind that we are unable to anticipate at the moment what our financial position is likely to be when we are called upon to frame next year’s budget. It is highly probable that, even if a settlement is arrived at in regard to war debts and reparations, some substantial sum will have to be found next financial year on account of war debt to Britain, and, although the Government is proposing this year further substantial reductions in taxation, it can give no guarantee that it will be able to continue these reductions in tha next financial year, or to augment them. While the Government feels that it can justify the steps it now proposes to take, it must be disinctly understood that the re-imposition of this taxation next year may be unavoidable.
In view of this expected improvement of £3,500,000 in the revenue, the Government is taking the earliest opportunity to review the budget legislation as promised. However, since the budget was introduced, there has been a substantial fall in the price of wheat, and the Government fully appreciates the consequential difficulties of the wheatgrowing industry. During the recent Premiers Conference, it took the opportunity to discuss the matter with the State Premiers. Following a full discussion, the Premiers - the Premier of Tasmania “dissenting - passed the following resolution for the consideration of the Commonwealth Government: -
That with a view to assisting the wheatgrowers of the Commonwealth, favorable consideration be given by the Commonwealth to the making by the Commonwealth to the States «f a grant for the year 1933 of an amount not exceeding £2,250,000 to be allocated among the States on a production basis of the year 1932-33; the money so allocated to be utilized by the States for the purpose of assisting the wheat-growers in such manner as each State shall, in its discretion, determine. Provided that nothing hereinbefore contained shall prejudice or affect the legislative powers of any State or the legislation thereof, presently in force, or to be hereafter enacted, directly or indirectly relating to wheat, flour, and bread.
The Government has given these, and many other- representations made to it, the fullest consideration-. It has come to the conclusion that it is unsound to provide assistance to wheat-farmers out of loan moneys. The Government considers that it is most undesirable to raise a sum to assist the wheat-growers by placing further burdens on the shoulders of those who provide employment in the community. All our efforts should be directed towards lessening this burden, rather than increasing it. The Government, therefore, has decided to provide whatever assistance is in its power, out of the revenues which will be collected this year under existing taxation. The Government is also of the opinion that the payment of a bounty on production, on the basis of last year’s payment, cannot be justified. Under the bounty system, the higher the yield, and the better conditions under which a farmer is working, the more he benefits, while the wheatfarmer, who is working under disadvantages, reaps the smallest benefit. The Government, therefore, has decided to assist the wheat-farmer in two ways:
First, it proposes to make available to the State Governments the sum of £1,250,000, which will be distributed among the States on a production basis for distribution to those farmers who are suffering the greatest hardship from existing conditions. It is proposed to ask each State to establish a committee, on which the Commonwealth Government will have two representatives. These committees will advise the State Governments as to the class of cases in which assistance is to be given.
Secondly, the Government proposes to( grant a bounty of £9. per ton on all superphosphate purchased and delivered between the time of the passing of this legislation and the 30th June next. An arrangement has been tentatively arrived at with the superphosphate companies to reduce their list prices. This arrange- “ ment will be finalized at the first possible moment, and a bill will be introduced to provide for the payment of the bounty in all cases in which the price to the consumer is -reduced by an amount which will be announced when the measure is introduced.
The Government also undertakes to approach the Governments of the States with a request that they should consider a reduction of freight charges. It i3 considered that action by the States along these lines would be warranted by the increased volume of traffic that would follow a reduction of charges. This form of assistance has been adopted by the Government to aid rural industries, including wheat-growers, because it is directly and definitely reproductive to the industries themselves, and to the community as a whole.
Owing to the low -prices of primary products, the burden of land tax, which is a tax on land without regard to the income derived therefrom, has reached breaking point, and the Government feels that some relief should be given to landowners which will not only aid them, but also enable them to increase the employment which they can give. In fulfilment of the promise made by the Treasurer in the budget speech, the Government will shortly be introducing a bill to extend the operation of section 66 of the Land Tax Assessment Act. The direction in which the alteration of the law will be made will enable the “ hardship board “ to grant relief in cases where loss has been occasioned by the fall in the price of primary products. Thi3 is not permissible under the existing law. Action will also be taken to expedite as far as possible the bearing of these cases, so that taxpayers may obtain relief at the first possible moment. In addition, the Government proposes to introduce an amending taxation act, providing for a reduction of one-third of the existing land tax rates. The Government feels that the effect of these two concessions will Materially assist not only the wool industry, but also many other enterprises in Australia.
The Government desires to remove the super tax on property income at the first possible moment; but the time has not arrived when, in the opinion of the Government, that step is justified. It is proposed, however, to give relief to the extent of about £500,000 by increasing the amount of the statu tory exemption from the 10 per cent. super tax on property income. The new exemption will be a fixed amount applicable to all taxpayers who have property income.
The Government also proposes to exempt the following articles from sales tax: -
Books, magazines and periodicals.
Fish of Australian origin.
Jams, fruit pulp, canned fruits and canned vegetables.
Pickles, sauces and vinegar, and cakes which are now taxable.
This represents a reduction of taxation of about £200,000 for the remainder of this year, and for a full year would represent a reduction of £330,000. Primage duty on books, magazines and periodicals is also to be removed. It will be noted that these exemptions in the main will remove the tax from the manufactured products of the market gardener and orchardist.
Certain anomalies exist in connexion with the invalid and old-age pensions law, and the Government proposes to make such adjustments as experience shows to be necessary. This will involve some additional expenditure in excess of the £400,000 increased expenditure to which I previously referred.
When the budget was framed, every effort was made to keep the expenditure down to the lowest possible point, and the Government rejected a number of proposals from the departments for urgent works. A review is being made immediately of the requirements of the departments, and it is proposed to add to the works expenditure for this year an additional £100,000. Every care will be exercised to see that this money is, as far as possible, expended entirely upon reproductive works which will justify themselves by providing the interest on the capital expenditure. But for the difficulties arising out of the position of the wheatgrowers, the Government would have been able to give much greater immediate relief to the general taxpayer. One of the major causes which is maintaining interest rates is to be found in the very heavy taxation impost’s, and it was hoped by the Government that circumstances would have enabled it so to reduce this burden that a reduction of interest rates on advances would have resulted. As I have said, the assistance the Government feels it necessary to extend to the wheat industry makes this course impossible at the moment.
However, I should like to draw attention to the steps the Government has taken to reduce taxation, whilst at the same time keeping expenditure at as low a point as possible. When the budget was introduced, the Government announced remission of sales tax and primage amounting to £500,000 in all, when all the remissions granted at that time came into force. Nearly the whole of these remissions primarily benefited the man on the land. The further remissions now proposed will give a total relief of taxation of about £2,100,000. Here again the greater share of the proposed remissions will assist those of our citizens engaged in primary industries more than any one else.
In conclusion, I express the hope that this is only a first instalment of a much more comprehensive review of the taxation field later on when circumstances permit.Whilst the Government believes that it is proper to grant relief to the taxpayer immediately, and to the extent indicated, it is my duty to emphasize that it can give no guarantee of the permanency of these remissions. Circumstances quite outside the control of the Government may make it impracticable to continue them in the future.
– Has the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) seen the latest press report of a meeting of the lower ratings of the Royal Australian Navy serving on H.M.A.S. Penguin stationed in Port Jackson? The report reads -
Say They are Loyal but Cannot Live on 6s.8½d. a Day.
The ratings of H.M.A.S.Penguin held a meeting on board ship in Sydney Harbour yesterday morning, when they fully endorsed the protest of the 200 men of the Royal Australian Navy, made at Melbourne on Tuesday evening against their reductions in pay. The welfare committee of the ratings subsequently met Captain Feakes, who took a note of their representations. The men, while affirming their loyalty to the Navy, also affirmed their loyalty to the Melbourne comrades, and wished to disabuse the mind of the Minister for Defence, Sir George Pearce, “ that there is no disaffection in the service “. It is pointed out that the men cannot live on6s. 8½d. a day.
No senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents, except Hansard, referring to debates in the Senate during the same session.
The subject in question was debated when the Defence Estimates were recently under consideration; but, apart from that, I understand that it has been the practice of various presiding officers in this chamber not to permit unnecessarily long quotations to be made from newspapers for the purpose of asking questions. If that practice were permitted a leading article could- be quoted by an honorable senator when asking a question.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I must sustain the point of order raised by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), on the ground that, were I to permit unlimited quotation from newspaper articles, serious interference would be caused to the business of the Senate. I ask Senator Dunn to confine himself to what will enable him to elucidate the point upon which he wishes to obtain information.
– In view of the dissatisfaction in the Royal Australian Navy, will the Leader of the Senate recommend to the Prime Minister the setting up of a royal commission to investigate the conditions of that service?
– As I informed the Senate yesterday, I have learned that there is on foot a conspiracy to cause disaffection in the Royal Australian Navy by the circulation of press statements. Consequently, I do not propose to accept such statements unless I ascertain upon inquiry that they are accurate. The information in my possession is that the statement quoted by the honorable senator is exaggerated and in the main inaccurate, and that it is in line with similar statements that are being propagated in Melbourne.
– Will the Assistant Minister state whether the Senate will be given an opportunity to express its preference for a wheat bounty of 4½d. a bushel, the amount granted last year, instead of the limited assistance proposed by the Government?
– The Senate will have an opportunity to express whatever opinion it desires on the bill that the Government will bring down.
– In view of the financial position as disclosedby the statement made this afternoon by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is it the intention of the Government to restore before Christmas the 2s. 6d. a week that has been deducted from invalid and old-age pensions?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It is not usual to indicate policy in answer to questions. The opportunity to criticize the Government in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions was afforded yesterday on the Appropriation Bill.
– Will the right honorable gentleman lay on the table of the Senate the statement that he has read, and move, “ That the paper be printed “, so that Senator Johnston and honorable senators of the Opposition may have an opportunity to discuss the advisability or otherwise of giving the taxation relief referred to at the expense of farmers and old-age pensioners?
– The matters referred to in the statement will come before the Senate very shortly in the form of bills. Honorable senators will then have a full opportunity to express their views on the different proposals.
– Is it the intention of the Government to set up, in connexion with the grant of £1,250,000 to necessitous farmers in the wheat-growing belts of the different States, an organization similar to that established in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions, and to employ an army of “ pimps “ to ascertain whether individual wheatfarmers are entitled to relief?
– The honorable senator will have a full opportunity to discuss the details of the bill when it comes before the Senate.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations for the year ended 30th June, 1932.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Aboriginals Ordinance - Regulations amended.
The PEESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I have received from Senator Colebatch an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate, for the purpose of discussing an urgent matter of public importance, namely, “ The grave injustice that is being done to certain importers of glass in Western Australia and other parts of the Commonwealth by the prohibition that has been imposed by the Government against the landing of certain glass for which they have paid, and the importation of which is in strict accordance with the laws of the Common wealth; and also the extent to which unemployment is likely to be increased by the continuance of this prohibition, and the consequent shortage in the supply of glass available for the ordinary requirements of the community “.
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.33]. - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 9 a.m.
When speaking in the debate on the Appropriation Bill, on Tuesday evening, I outlined to the Senate what had been done by the Government in regard to the prohibition on the importation of glass. Yesterday I asked certain questions of which notice had been given. The statement made by the Minister towards the close of the debate on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, and the answers given to my question yesterday were so entirely unsatisfactory, and disclosed, to my mind, so complete a misconception on the part of the Minister of the true position, that I have deemed it my duty to submit this motion. I have made special reference to the position of Western Australian importers of glass, because I am entirely familiar with the circumstances of their case. I have seen their invoices, and I know the disabilities under which they are labouring. I am also aware that similar disabilities are being suffered by importers in other parts of Australia ;but the importers in Western Australia are in a particularly unfortunate position for a special reason. I have always studiously refrained from reflecting in any way on the quality of Australian-made goods, but this is a case in which there can be no doubt whatever as to the inferior quality of a quantity of sheet glass that has been turned out by the Australian Glass Company in satisfaction of its orders from Western Australia. Its inferiority cannot be disputed. The Western Australian user of glass has to import his glass from Sydney, a distance of 2,500 miles, and if on receipt of it he discovers that it is of inferior quality, his position is necessarily a great deal worse than that of the user in Sydney, who is practically alongside the factory, and can have his complaint rectified at once.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.That is the point I wish to make. The buyer in Sydney, if he is dissatisfied as to the quality of the glass, can reject it and have his complaint attended to immediately, whereas the buyer in Western Australia, who is 2,500 miles distant from the place of manufacture, and perhaps has been waiting for it for some considerable time, would necessarily be still further delayed if he were obliged to reject what had been sent and await a fresh supply.
The circumstances in connexion with the prohibition of the importation of glass are pretty well known, but it is necessary to repeat them. Some time ago the Tariff Board investigated this matter and, in the course of its report, detailed the position in which the users of glass in Western Australia were placed, as typical of the position in other parts of the Commonwealth, and referred to the humbugging to which buyers had been subjected by the Australian Glass Company in the fulfilment of its orders, stating that the buyers were obliged to wait month after month for the completion of their orders. The Tariff Board made a very specific recommendation which the Government immediately adopted. Then we had the extraordinary spectacle of the managing director of the Australian Glass Company threatening to close down the company’s works and dismiss its 250 employees, notwithstanding that the duty recommended by the board gave it a total protection of 100 per cent. against the importation of British glass. An appeal made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was ignored, but a day or two later an announcement was made in the name of the managing director of the company in question that, following representations that had been made by Mr. Riley, the member in another place for the district in which the factory is situated, it had been decided to replace the men. I quoted the other day the duties that had previously prevailed and those which the Tariff Board suggested should be imposed. It is necessary to repeat them now to show that, had the Tariff Board’s recommendation been adhered to, glass costing £88 in London would have cost £154 in Perth - practically 100 per cent. protection in favour of Australian-made glass. After the managing director of the company had ignored the appeal made by the Prime Minister and subsequently stated his intention to reinstate the men out of respect for the Labour member for the district, there was an announcement by the Government that the matter would be referred back to the Tariff Board and that, in the meantime, an absolute prohibition against the importation of glass would be applied. Between the date when the Government adopted the recommendation of the Tariff Board and reduced the duties accordingly and the date on which the prohibition was re-imposed, the users of glass all over Australia, whose businesses had, in many cases, been hung up for weeks and months, placed orders in London and paid money in London for glass and. made provision for exchange and’ shipping changes.
The latest development in this matter is that after these merchants had ordered and paid for glass - whether it came from London or Belgium does not concern me - this prohibition was imposed. When the merchants represented that their business was being hung up, and that employees were being dismissed - which I know was the case in Perth, and which I am informed by correspondence is the position in other States - and they applied to receive at least the quantity of glass that they had ordered, and which had been imported under the special duty, what were they told I have before me a copy of a letter written by the Depart-‘ ment of Trade and Customs to a glass merchant in South Australia. Many of these people are in a comparatively small way of business. This letter refers to an importation of only 60 cases of clear sheet glass. It states that “it is the intention to release a further 28 per cent, at present rates of duty as early as practicable, and the balance as circumstances allow “. What is the meaning of “ as early as practicable”? What practical difficulties are there in the way of releasing the whole of the material? The difficulty is purely an imaginary one, created by misinformation by which the Government has been misled. Senator McLachlan said that the Government was in a difficult position over this matter. Is it the part of the Government’s duty to shoulder all the difficulties of a private company? The Australian Glass Company has enjoyed protection amounting to a monopoly for many years, and has thus built up enormous reserves. It is quite capable of withstanding any losses that it may sustain through mistakes or misfortune. But what is the nature of the difficulties to which Senator McLachlan referred ? He spoke of “ enormous importations “. Australia uses roughly about 14,000,000 feet of glass per annum. The local company, even after it has overcome its difficulties, and can turn out a satisfactory’ article, can produce a maximum of only 10,000,000 feet per annum. The “enormous importations” make a total of 3,750,000 feet, three months’ supply, not more than sufficient to make up the difference bettween the output of the local company, and Australia’s requirements. The question of sizes arises. It is not denied that the local company does not make glass in the required sizes. Why should users be compelled to cut down Australianmade glass to the requisite sizes?
I think that the time is ripe for speaking pretty plainly in regard to some of these combines that are protected to the extent of becoming absolute monopolies. I oan quite understand members of the ‘
Labour party agreeing to such favorable treatment of Australian industries, because it is in line with their policy. They believe that if they can get everything into the hands of big monopolies, the socialisation of industry will be the natural and inevitable outcome. But I cannot understand the attitude of members of the Government. The Australian Glass Manufacuring Company, I notice from its balance-sheet, is making enormous profits, but one is also interested in noting the names of its directors. Certain big chemical and druggist . firms in Australia have recently established a combine. Other firms are carrying on business independent of the combine. The leading persons in the drug combine are directors of the Australian Glass Manufacturing Company, one being its chairman of directors and another a member of the directorate. What does that mean ? Those of us who have knowledge of drugs and chemicals can form our own opinions. As I am the son of a chemist, and as in my school days I spent much of my leisure in a chemist’s shop, I know that a great percentage of the cost of drugs and chemicals is attributable to the cost of the glass containers. The result is that this drug combine, because of its association with the Glass Manufacturing Company, has an absolutely unfair advantage over the competing independent manufacturing chemists and druggists, who are required to pay the prices demanded by this monopolistic enterprise. We should consider the principle involved in this latest embargo. The Government “is penalizing law-abiding citizens at the whim of a Minister. Lawabiding citizens in every State have indented glass under the laws of the Commonwealth and have paid for it. Surely they are entitled to have their property. If Parliament thinks that this should not be permitted, it is competent for it to say so. But it is not just that at the mere whim of the Minister, these merchants should be prevented from obtaining delivery of their goods. Senator McLachlan, the other evening, said, “ Reports received from ‘ our officer ‘ indicated that the company was now in a position to supply glass.” Who is “ our officer “ ? Does the Government keep a staff of officers to wet-nurse this highly protected industry, and to see that nothing is done to its detriment ? Was the officer who made the report that the glass company wasin a position to supply all requirements,, a glass expert? Did he know anything about the thing of which he was talking? Apparently he was fooled, because since he made that report the old condition has prevailed, the company is not able to supply requirements. The latest, development is that it has closed its works, down for eight weeks. To my mind, the whole system of tinkering with the tariff in the interest of certain persons, is. entirely dangerous, and is likely in the long run to set up in Australia very much the same state of political corruption as is now blighting politics in the United States of America, and which, in turn, had its foundation in the tariff policy of .that country. I do not desire to reflect on anybody; I have no reason to suggest anything but the highest motives on the part of everybody, but when case after case arises in which goods are admitted under by-law, simply on the word of the Minister and as the result of a report by an official, and when by that means certain persons are relieved of the necessity to pay large sums of money into the Consolidated Revenue of the country, one is irresistibly reminded of the old lines -
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds Makes ill deeds done.
It is not a power to be entrusted to any Minister or exercised on the report of any officer. The tariff laws should be exact and should be obeyed by everybody. But, at the present time, they work both ways. In one case a person may be relieved of the payment of duty on the word of a Minister following upon a report by an officer. In another case, a person may be deprived of his goods because an officer reports that an Australian company is able to deliver the goods.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.No. I am in favour of giving this ‘Parliament absolute power. These people are importing glass under the laws of the country, and no Minister has any right to over-ride those laws in the interests of one company, to the detriment of dozens of good Australian citizens, who are entitled to the protection of the law. On the 20th October, a deputation representing the whole of the distributors of glass in Australia waited on the Minister. Some big firms, which had placed orders for hundreds of tons of glass in London, Belgium, and elsewhere, and others whose orders were for only about 60 cases, were represented. Although the deputation was held about three weeks ago, no reply has been received from the Minister, other than the evasive reply that further glass will be released as soon as practicable. The case put forward by the deputation has been summed up in the following terms : -
The glass merchants definitely state that they have not been ableto obtain Australian glass which is equal in quality to the imported glass.
That they cannot obtain the heavier gauges of glass, namely 26 and 32, and are informed that the Australian company will not draw these weights, unless they have orders large enough to justify them doing so. Consequently, building work which needs this weight of glass cannot be carried on except with imported glass, at increased cost.
That, in view of the fact that the Australian company has not been able to supply the small orders which it has been given, it is quite clear it will be a long time before they are able to build up the necessary reserve of stocks of all sizes to meet legitimate trade demands as they arise. In this respect it is not expected that they will be able to give delivery in any shorter time than the glass could be obtained from overseas.
There is an actual instance where 21-oz. glass had to be used for a building, where only 16-oz. was required. This means a definite loss to the merchant who had contracted to supply the lighter glass.
The works have now been closed down, and for at least eight weeks it is quite clear that, there will be no possibility of supplies being obtained from the Australian works.
That the action of the Government has resulted already in serious financial loss to the glass merchants, and, if persisted in, will mean the ruination of many of them, with the resultant loss of employment.
The net result of the action of the Government in placing this embargo upon the importation of glass has been to dislocate the trade, to cause serious loss to merchants carrying on their legitimate business, to prevent employment being given which would have been available had supplies of glass been obtainable, and they have not succeeded in retaining in employment the employees which, it was stated, would be engaged in the manufacture of glass in Australia if the importation of overseas glass was prohibited. The action has resulted, whichever way it is looked at, in a definite loss to Australian industry.
What justification is there for the Government’s action? In order to protect this wealthy company - wealthy because of the monopoly it has enjoyed at the expense of the Australian community - against a possible loss in respect of 3,750,000 feet of glass, the Government has acted unjustly towards the rest of the community. Although at no time has the company been able to supply all the orders it has received, it is to he protected against possible loss, even if that means that the whole ofthe trade and commerce of the country is thrown into disorder and law-abiding citizens ruined. Can it be said that such action is even a parody of justice? I repeat that the Government has been guilty of a monstrous evasion of the Ottawa agreement. That agreement, which came into force on the day that it was signed, pledged the Government not to increase duties against British products, except as set out by the Tariff Board, and also to reduce duties in accordance with that board’s recommendations. The Tariff Board investigated this matter, and submitted its report, and the Government reduced the duties on glass accordingly. Yet, a little later, it imposed this prohibition against both British and foreign manufacturers. If that is not a deliberate breach of the Ottawa agreement, I do not know what would be.
I am sorry that I have had to move this motion to-day. I mentioned the matter to the members of the Government, and, until the last moment, was prepared to withhold my hand if I could receive an assurance, not that the prohibition would be removed, but that those people who had paid their money for glass, as well as exchange and transportation costs, would be allowed to accept delivery of it on arrival. That is all that I asked for, but my request was not acceded to.
– It will not be possible for me,in the short time at my disposal, to deal with all the points raised by Senator Colebatch. I shall, however, show that some of his statements were inaccurate. For instance, the honorable senator said that the total consumption of glass in Australia amounted to 14,500,000 feet per annum.
– I said 14,000,000 feet.
– I shall not quarrel about half a million feet. In the peak years, when Australia was prosperous and buildings were being erected throughout the country, 14,500,000 feet of glass was used in a year ; but it is entirely wrong to suggest that that is the consumption to-day. I am informed that only about 4,000,000 feet of glass is now disposed of each year.
– The company cannot supply the orders it receives.
– I shall deal with that matter presently. The point I am making is that the present consumption of glass in Australia is about 4,000,000 feet a year and not 14,000,000 feet.
The honorable senator also complained of the quality of the glass produced by the Australian manufacturers. He said that Australian glass is not of equal quality to imported glass, and that the Australian company cannot make glass of that quality.
– I said that a lot of the Australian glass is bad.
– In the honorable senator’s opinion, the Australian company is turning out bad glass?
– It is turning out some good and some bad glass.
– The honorable senator also complained of the Government’s action in sending an officer to the works from time to time to see what the company was doing. Surely, the Government is permitted to obtain accurate information through its own officers?
-Was the officer an expert on glass?
– I think that I shall be able to satisfy even Senator Colebatch on that point. He himself is not an expert on glass.
– I do not pretend to be.
– Nor do I. The officer concerned is one of the trusted officers of the Trade and Customs Department. As a Minister, I have found that the officers of the department are efficient men, who are wonderfully wellinformed. Indeed, it would be a revela tion to most honorable senators to go into the Trade and Customs Department and see for themselves the mass of information available to the Minister for Trade and Customs, which has been gathered by departmental officers. In this case, the Government thought that it was desirable to get the opinion of a man about whose evidence as to the quality of the glass there could be no question. It, therefore, commissioned Mr. Rowe, of Ross and Rowe, to make an investigation and report to the Government. Mr. Rowe, after a careful investigation, reported that the glass made by the Australian company was of good commercial quality, equal to imported glass. His investigation took place about a fortnight ago.
I come now to the curious set of circumstances which have given rise to all this trouble. As is well known, heavy duties were imposed on glass by the Scullin Government. When the present Government came into power, these duties were referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report in conformitywith the Government’s policy. In its report, the Tariff Board recommended that the duty on glass be immediately reduced to per 100 square feet, 2s. British, 4s. foreign ; and that on the 1st December, 1932, the rates should be ad valorem 40 per cent. British and 50 per cent. foreign. The reason for the Tariff Board’s recommendation are set out in its report, and I shall not refer to them, other than to say that the board recommended that when the company was in aposition to produce glass, the duties should be 40 per cent. British and 60 percent. foreign. The board expected that the company would he in that position about the 1st December. It so happened that at the time the Tariff Board’s report was tabled in Parliament, and action was taken on it, the company, which for some time had been faced with certain technical difficulties in the process of manufacture, overcame them, and was able to produce glass in quantity. It was a peculiar coincidence; but I have given the facts. The departmental officers reported accordingly. Had that position been reached six weeks earlier, the ad valorem duties would have been imposed immediately. Practically simul taneously with the tabling of the new schedule, the importers of glass, realizing that they had two months in which to import glass at the lower rates of duty, placed orders abroad for practically a twelve months’ supply of glass. They ordered 3,000,000 feet.
– What of that?
– They were entitled to do so. But the Government knew that, although the Tariff Board had recommended the 1st December as the date on which the ad valorem duty should come into operation, the principle underlying the recommendation of the board was that the new duties should operate from the date on which the Australian company could supply orders.
– The Tariff Board said so in its report.
– The Government had, therefore, to choose between two evils.
– It chose both.
– It did not. The Government had either to table a fresh schedule, imposing immediately the deferred duties, or to give to the importers the right to import a certain quantity of glass at the lower rates of duty. If it had taken the former course, all subsequent importations of glass would have been at the higher rates of duty. The Government, therefore, decided to allow importers to bring into Australia 2,000,000 feet of glass at the lower rates.
– The Government knew that the importers had already paid for 3,000,000 feet of glass.
– I am not conversant with all the details, and I do not know whether or not the Government knew that at the time. In its desire to hold the scales evenly between the parties, it decided to allow 2,000,000 feet, two-thirds of the twelve months’ supply that had been ordered, to come in at the lower rates. We have guaranteed the importers that they can obtain 2,000,000 square feet. Already, permits have been issued for 1,500,000 square feet, and the importers can obtain another 500,000 square feet at the lower rates instead of at the ad valorem rates to apply from the 1st December. In these circumstances, it will be seen that the loss to which Senator Colebatch referred, would have been infinitely greater had the Government followed the course he suggested.
– Had December been mentioned?
– It was in the tariff schedule.
– Yet the goods are held up against the importers.
– The action taken by the Government was one which, so far as I am able to judge, would result in the importers incurring the lowest possible loss.
– They would have had a thin time otherwise.
– Yes, if any other course had been taken, but the Government did what, in all the circumstances, was calculated to involve the importers in the lowest loss. I do not know whether senators- are aware that before the new tariff was brought down, glass was being allowed in under by-law, a system which Senator Colebatch condemns, with a maximum duty on foreign glass of 10 per cent. That was done, notwithstanding the rates” of duty in the tariff schedule. Of course, the glass importers did not make any complaint about that. We did not hear Senator Colebatch complaining or suggesting that the Government was breaking the law. It was not breaking the law. The Government was acting under statute.
– At what rate of duty was the glass being admitted?
– At 10 per cent, on foreign importations. From Great Britain, the glass was admitted free. As honorable senators are doubtless aware, 80 per cent, of the glass which comes into Australia is imported from Belgium. But why did wo take that action? At that particular time, this company which had been protected by an enormous duty imposed by the Scullin Government, was unable to produce the goods. The company was still in its initial stages, and. was unable to produce the quantity required. In the circumstances, it was not fair to the glass importers, the users of glass, or to the industry itself, to impose a heavy duty. Consequently, the Government allowed the glass to be imported at the lowest possible rate of duty - the rate which I have just mentioned.
When fresh circumstances arose, the Government was faced with the responsibility of at once imposing the higher rates of duty, and had we done so, the glass importers would have been mulct in heavy losses. The Government, therefore, did what it thought was the fairest thing, and allowed the importers to import up to 2,000,000 square feet at the low rates of 2s. British, and 4s. foreign per 100 square feet.
– What percentage of Australia’s requirements is that?
– It is a fair percentage. Under the Scullin Government’s tariff, the rates were respectively 1-^d. and 2d. per square foot. The present rates are 2s. and 4s. per 100 square feet.
– The trouble was duc to .a tariff illegally imposed by the Scullin Government.
– It is useless trying to blame the Scullin Government for doing something illegal. I am trying to explain why the present Government adopted the course I have outlined. It endeavoured to hold the scales evenly between the different interests concerned. What has been done will not involve the glass importers in so great a loss as would have been incurred had the Government followed the course Senator Colebatch suggested.
– That is not the position at all.
– I do not suppose that I could persuade Senator Colebatch, who is always certain that his views are right, that what the Government has done is in the best interests of all concerned.
– The Government should have adopted the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– It did. The Tariff Board recommended that these duties should be imposed as soon as the company was able to produce glass.
– The company is not yet in a position to do so.
– According to the information which the Government has obtained from its officers, it is able to produce sufficient to meet requirements.
– The company has closed down its works.
– It was producing until the works were closed down to enable certain furnaces to be cleaned. It is the custom to close down such works at times for that purpose. At present, the company has on hand 220,000 square feet of glass. I have told the Senate as briefly as possible why the Government acted as it did. It endeavoured to hold the scales evenly between all parties in order to prevent the works from being closed down for twelve months, and at the same time to prevent the glass importers from being involved in heaVy losses by an immediate alteration of the duty.
– The members of the Labour party in this chamber are not particularly interested in conflicts between the Government and manufacturers of glass or any other commodity, except that, in this case, one of the contestants happens to be an Australian concern. Senator Colebatch will probably object if I reprove him for having used extravagant language, but, as honorable senators have quite unjustifiably reproved me on several occasions for the same offence, I take this opportunity to suggest that Senator Colebatch has shown himself to be an exceedingly poor advocate for the cause he espoused this afternoon. I have no need to apologize for finding myself for once in agreement with the defence of the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Greene). I was decidedly interested in the way in which Senator Colebatch became involved on this subject. I do not mean to suggest that he was at all uncertain in championing the cause of the glass users of Western Australia, for whom he obviously holds a brief. In a moment of temporary repentance for his extravagant language, he said that he hoped that the local company would be able to overcome the difficulties under which it is at present labouring, meaning, of course, that he hoped to sea the Australian company get on its feet. The honorable senator, like every one else who champions the interests of importers against those of Australian manufacturers, loses sight of the fact that these is an initial stage during which a company should be helped to get on its feet. The honorable senator held up his hands in holy horror because a drug combine is alleged to have come into existence in Australia. He has been able to bring to light the fact that this Australian glass company is an important factor in that drug combine. I think that I should be inclined to pass that over, amusing as it is, were it not for the fact that it is well known that in every big concern throughout the world there is always an interlocking of interests which eventually become so powerful that they are able to dictate the policy of antiLabour governments. Senator Colebatch asked who the officer was to whom an allusion had been made, and I am sure that the Assistant Treasurer’s answer was satisfactory. I happen to know something about the glass industry and customs work. For some time I was associated with mercantile houses for whom I had to undertake a good deal of customs work. I know that what the Assistant Treasurer said is accurate, and that his complimentary references to customs officials were justified. In the Customs Department there arc men who have had a life’s training in the work on which they are engaged. In the circumstances it was only right that the department should arrange for one of its officers to be in constant touch with the operations of the company, to ascertain whether it was able to produce glass in satisfactory quantities and of good quality. I do not think that I am the oldest senator present; but sometimes it is an advantage to have years behind one. In this instance, it’ is of particular advantage, because I am old enough to remember when everything sold in Queensland, as well a3 in the other States, was imported. More than half a century ago ali pickles, sauces, vinegar, bacon, cheese, hams, boots and shoes, clothing and confectionery were imported. At that time Australia could not he trusted to manufacture such goods; she had not had an opportunity to do so. I have, however, lived long enough to see firmly established industries which, in their initial stages, had to put up a hard fight. That has been the experience of. this glass company. Friends of . the importers like Senator Colebatch and those whom he represents, wish everything to be im ported. If all our requirements were to come from other countries we should always be “wood and water joeys.” When Australian manufacturers wish to establish an industry we hear concerning their efforts extravagant language such as we have heard this afternoon from Senator Colebatch. 1 was disappointed, too, to hear the honorable senator say that this business had been conducted in such a way as to open the door to corruption of the kind that is practised in the United States of America. I am sorry that the honorable senator thought it necessary to travel so far afield to procure evidence of the blighting effect of corruption. Within recent months, a royal commission has sat in Queensland.
– What has that to do with glass?
- Senator Grant may always be expected to object to any statement that I make, particularly when I am getting in propaganda. I have not fought the enemies’ of Australia’s interests for half a century without knowing who they are. In Queensland a royal commissioner has recently investigated a nest of corruption and thievery of the worst character, in connexion with another commodity.
– The honorable senator must connect his remarks with the subject of the motion.
– I propose to do so. No fewer than 21 different makes of cream separators are imported into Australia. The average sale price of these machines to the dairy farmers is 81 per cent, above the landed cost. Yet Senator Colebatch has to look to America to furnish evidence of corruption ! The honorable senator said, “ I have no desire to attribute any but the highest motive to everybody concerned “ ; yet he suggested that certain people by entering into a combine were opening the door to corruption !
– Is not the corruption in the dairying industry the result of a combine and a monopoly?
– Of course it is ! But no combine or monopoly in Australia is worse than the importing combine, whose champion in this Senate this afternoon happens to be the honorable senator. I have no shares in the Australian Glass Company - I wish that I had - but I want to give the Senate some facts concerning it. One thing that is worth remembering is that this company has never watered its capital; such capital as is shown as having been invested, has been invested. It is also well to remember that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) not very long ago called together the manufacturers of glass in Australia, pointed out that there were too many of them to enable the production of the Australian commodity to be placed on an effective basis, and asked them to consider the advisability of combining. The result was that the little concerns, which were inefficient because of their inability to secure a sufficient volume of business, were wiped out, and one big company was formed. Whatever information may be in the possession of Senator Colebatch - and I shall not reflect on it, because I have had no opportunity to check it up - the fact remains that the Australian Glass Company is prepared to and can supply the whole of the requirements of Australia in all sizes and weights.
– Then why does it not do so?
– If the honorable senator will submit an order to me-
– Why should I submit it to the honorable senator?
– Because the Australian Glass Company has no immediate representation in this chamber. The honorable senator interjects, not because he has any knowledge of the subject, but with a view to putting me in a hole. If he knows of a glass user who requires an order filled, and will submit the order to the company through me, and the company confesses that it cannot supply it, I shall apologize for the assertion that I have just made. I challenge the honorable senator to produce an order. Senator Colebatch ought to know, if he does not, that this company is to-day advertising in the Western Australian newspapers that it is able to supply orders for all sizes and weights.
– Why does it not supply Tasmanian orders?
– I leave the Tasmanian side of the matter in the capable hands of Senator Payne. An article that has appeared in the manufacturers’ bulletin has a very important bearing on this matter. That publication is well known to every member of the Senate. It is not a Labour propaganda journal, and the issue from which I propose to quote is not backdated; it is the issue of the 15th October of this year.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- Having listened to the extravagant language of the self-appointed Leader of the Opposition, the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, it will be refreshing to return to the subject introduced to the Senate by Senator Colebatch. But before touching on some of the principal points raised by the Minister, may I remind Senator Collings, who charged Senator Colebatch with having attempted to bolster up the wealthy importer, that the illegal action of the Scullin Government in lifting the deferred duties before glass was being manufactured in commercial quantities in Australia, thus penalizing users of glass, enriched already rich corporations to the extent of thousands of pounds.
I compliment Senator Colebatch for having brought this matter forward. I wish, first of all, to examine the statement of the Minister (Senator Greene), in regard to the quantity of glass that is likely to be required annually in Australia, to see whether it tallies with the report of the Tariff Board, based on sworn evidence submitted to it recently. The Minister stated that the requirements of Australia would amount to 4,000,000 or 4,500,000 square feet per annum. The report of the Tariff Board dated the 19th August, 1932, contains the following statement on the point: -
In support of the proposed duties, Mr. W. J. Smith, the managing director of the Australian Glass Company, stated that the company had spent about £250,000 on buildings and plant for the manufacture of sheet glass. Three furnaces are now installed, having an estimated capacity of 10,000,000 square feet per annum, and provision has been made in the lay-out of the factory for duplication of the plant.
– There is nothing contradictory between that statement and mine.
– Later in its report the Tariff Board says -
The board considers the price of sheet glass to be a matter of prime importance. . . . In the period of six years ending 1929-30, the average quantity of sheet glass imported into Australia was 14,500,000 square feet. . . The duties now in force are equivalent to about 125 per cent. on the Belgian, and 40 per cent. on the British product, and on a normal year’s requirements of 14,500,000 square feet, would represent an added cost’ to the community of over £150,000..
Those comments by the board, and the evidence of the manager of the Australian Glass Company, certainly discount very considerably the statement of the Minister in regard to Australia’s requirements.
– Has the honorable senator read the evidence of Mr. Smith? If he does so, he will find in it the statement that the present requirements are from 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 square feet a year.
– I have read Mr. Smith’s evidence, but it does not coincide with that which he previously gave. I have no quarrel with the Australian Glass Company - I wish it success in its undertaking - but I am opposed to the imposition by this Government of unjustifiable conditions on the importers of glass.
The Minister also stated that the board had recommended a tariff of 40 per cent. British and 60 per cent. foreign. It did, in the report from which I have read, but only as a deferred duty. Let us see what procedure is laid down by the Customs Act in regard to deferred duties. That act provides -
If the Tariff Board certifies in writing to the Minister that any goods in the schedule upon which a deferred duty is imposed, will not be made or produced in Australia in reasonable quantities and of satisfactory quality, on or immediately after the date specified in the schedule for the collection of such duty, the Minister, by notice published in the Gazette, shall defer the duty from time to time until the date specified by the Tariff Board asbeing the date by which, in its opinion, the goods are being made or produced in Australia in reasonable quantities and of satisfactory quality.
It was the violation of that law by the Scullin Government which is responsible for our present trouble. Having received more than once during its regime a certificate from the Tariff Board, that Government published in the Gazette notifications further deferring the duty up to a certain date. The last deferment of duty published in the Gazette was dated February, 1930. That notice stated that the duties were further deferred until August, 1930. Yet, in June, 1930, two months prior to the date fixed by the notification in the Gazette, although in the meantime no certificate had been furnished by the Tariff Board, that commercial glass was being produced in Australia in reasonable quantities, and of satisfactory quality, the deferment of the duty was lifted.
– The honorable senator should look up the records of the company.
– I have no quarrel with the Australian Glass Company. I was a shareholder in it for a number of years. What I am ‘asking is that there should be no interference with those people who, trusting in the bona fides of a Government, which acted on the recommendation of the Tariff Board placed orders for glass overseas immediately the lower duties were imposed. Some of this glass is now on its way to Australia. Why should the Government penalize citizens of this country who dared to import glass under duties which the Government imposed?
– Does not the honorable senator think that there was some gambling in that transaction?
– Any gambling which might have been indulged in was as nothing compared with the gambling that took place immediately before the’ ScullinGovernment illegally increased the duties.
– The trouble is that the honorable senator’s friends “fell in “.
– Senator Collings professes to know all about the Australian Glass Company. Can he say how many cases of imported glass were held bythe company on the day before the deferred duty was imposed? Will he answer that question? It cuts both ways. This Government acted wisely in reducing the duties in accordance with the Tariff Board recommendation. It certainly eased to some extent the enormous burden placed on the users of glass through the illegal action of the previous administration in imposing duties of ltd. and 2d. per square foot, contrary to the provisions of section 11 of the Customs Tariff Act 1921. I knowmany glass importers, picture frame makers and others who use considerable quantities of this material, and if these restrictions are not removed their business will be stagnant, even at this time of the year when, in ordinary circumstances, they might reasonably expect a fair amount of trade. It would be impossible under the restrictions imposed by this Government with regard to rationing of supplies, for any importer of ordinary clear window glass to be able to comply with the demands of the people of Australia, because glass is imported in various sizes. An importer may get an order for 70 cases of glass 12 in. by 18 in., or 24 in. by 30 in., and the following day another order for other sizes. No importer can be expected to keep all sizes in stock to meet the varied requirements of his customers, if he is able to obtain delivery of only a limited proportion of his importations from overseas. I fail to see how the importation of this glass under what I consider fair and legitimate conditions can imperil the future of the Australian Glass Manufacturing Company.
– It might mean less profit for the company.
– I am not sure that, in the long run, the company would be the loser. In any case it made substantial profits through the action of the Government in imposing the deferred higher duties in June, 1930. I say this advisedly. Many other people also made enormous profits. In, . all the circumstances there is nothing wrong in suggesting that the Government should not interfere with those importers who, acting in, strict accordance with the law, placed orders overseas.
– But we at least keep in Australia money which is sent overseas for imports.
– The honorable senator is so shortsighted that he cannot see to what extent the Government’s action is affecting employment in Australia. Hundreds of glaziers and picture frame makers and others who deal in glass are waiting to carry out their orders and give employment. Any one who is genuinely concerned in the welfare of the people of Australia should be only too glad of the opportunity to improve the facilities for affording them employment.
–Because of the depression glass is not wanted in any quantity.
– There will be other opportunities to discuss this subject, so I shall not detain the Senate longer. I urge the Government to give further consideration to this matter. A few weeks ago a deputation waited on the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) in Canberra, and brought under his notice the hardship that would be inflicted on traders by the Government’s decision to ration the delivery of imported glass. In placing its views before the Minister the deputation stated -
It is a harsh decision because it inflicts financial loss without reason on traders carrying on their legitimate business.
It is an erroneous decision because the market needs and can absorb the full quantity ordered as it comes forward, this quantity being barely equivalent to a three months’ supply.
It is impracticable of application, as it is impossible for any merchant to determine beforehand, owing to the innumerable sizes needed for the general trade requirements, to select the correct sizes in the percentage of his shipment he is allowed to take delivery of. This particularly applies to merchants holding Government and other contracts to supply clear sheet glass in unstated sizes and unlimited quantities.
I entirely support Senator Colebatch in his request that the Government should deal with this matter in a common-sense way, and refrain from inflicting further hardships on traders and other people in the community who are doing a great deal to develop Australia and make it prosperous. I hope that the Government will give this matter further consideration and that, in a few days’ time, the embargo or rationing of supplies which was imposed recently will be lifted and the importers will be allowed to take delivery of their orders.
– Some one said a long time ago, that all men are liars. It is obvious, from what has been said this afternoon, that some one interested in this business of glass manufacture or in its importation is lying. The illuminating debate this afternoon has indicated, beyond all doubt, the great antagonism that exists between the importing employers and the manufacturing employers. As a supporter of Australian industries, I take the view that we should, at all times, do our best to encourage the development of our secondary and primary industries, but I should not be so foolish as to suggest that if glass is required in any quantity, and if Australian manufacturers are unable to supply it, those who wish to import it should be prevented from doing so. Senator Payne has just told us that the Australian Glass Company has laid down a plant capable of produciug annually 20,000,000 square feet of glass. Perhaps that is not to be wondered at, if we recall that quite recently, the honorable gentleman and his friends were at pains to assure us that prosperity was just around the corner, and that confidence had been restored by this Government. Possibly, that good news reached the management of the Australian Glass Company, and induced it to lay its plans accordingly.
– I was quoting evidence given before the Tariff Board in August last.
– Then perhaps the information reached the company from some other source, and when it knew that the people of this country had returned to power a Government pledged to restore prosperity, the company got ready for the great rush of business that was anticipated. Personally, I should like to see this company, and indeed all industries, flourishing. I should be especially pleased to see the building trade prosper because of the employment which it provides. Very many of my Brisbane friends in the building trade are out of work, and I should much like to see them reemployed. Apparently, there is a divergence of opinion between the two sections of employers interested in the glass industry. I have in my possession information bearing on this subject which Senator Collings was unable to use because of the time limit on speeches on this motion. It is in the form of a letter written by a gentleman who has been interested in the timber, glass and building supplies trade for 50 years. He states that in August of this year, wishing to purchase some white arctic figured glass, he approached four firms which stocked glass and received from them a quotation of1s. 4d. a square foot plus sales tax and cost of case, less 5 per cent. for cash within seven days. Not being quite satisfied with the price quoted, he went to the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited and bought Australian-made arctic glass of the quality required for 9d. a square foot, plus sales tax and no charge for casing, a clear saving to him of 7d. a square foot. This man, I repeat, has been interested in the business for a great number of years, and his word is to be absolutely relied upon. Later, he had further instructions to purchase two cases of 21 ounce window glass, 4 ft. x 3 ft., and two cases of 3 ft. x 2 ft. 6 in.I can best state his experience in his own words -
I tried the four firms before mentioned, none of whom could supply the exact sizes required. Had we purchased from them we would have been compelled to take larger sizes at extra cost, thus entailing a good deal of waste. The prices quoted by these firms were - 4 ft. x 3 ft. at91s. per case. Less 25 per cent.and 5 per cent. for cash. 3 ft. x 2 ft.6 ins. at 86s.6d. per case. Less 25 per cent. and 5 per cent. for cash.
Or 64s.10d. and61 s. 9d. per case net.
I placed the order with the Australian Window Glass Proprietary, Limited, at the following prices : - 4 ft. x 3 ft. at 50s.9d. per case. 3 ft. x 2 ft. 6 ins. at 41s. per case.
The net result of the purchase is as follows : -
Cost of four cases required, plus sales tax, from Australian Window Glass Proprietary, Limited, £10 3s.
Cost of glass, plus sales tax, from other firms, £14 2s.6d.
These figures can be verified by our books, and show Australian Window Glass price is over 30 per cent. below that of other firms.
If the Australian Window Glass Company are forced out of business, users of glass will be truly in the hands of Philistines.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber ardently support the encouragement of Australian industries, even if it means requiring the consumers to pay slightly increased prices in order that those industries may be developed. I hope that the present disabilities of users of glass in Australia will soon disappear, and that all the glass required in this country will be supplied by local manufacturers. This will give employment to Australians.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.51]. - Senator Greene did not in any way touch the essence of ray complaint. The Tariff Board, in closing its report, said -
The board considers that the rates it is now recommending should not apply until the local manufacturers conclusively demonstrate that they are able to produce glass satisfactory as to types, weight and quality and in quantities sufficient to meat a reasonable proportion of the Australian requirements.
This conclusive demonstration has not been made. In any case, the Tariff Board is the proper authority to say whether it has been made. It is not for the Government to decide the matter, merely on the appeal of the company. I remind the Minister that Senator McLachlau, on Tuesday evening, repeating a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), said -
Had it not been for the exceedingly unbusinesslike methods of the company manufacturing the glass, and its lack of candour, the position would never have arisen.
Now the Minister claims that the scales have been held evenly between the two interests concerned. On the one hand, we have the company which, by its unbusinesslike methods and lack of candour, caused the whole trouble, and, on the” other, ordinary citizens who wish to live in accordance with the laws of the land. The Tariff Board, in its report, points out the danger of a monopoly of this kind. I know, of course, that members of the Labour party will support extreme duties. If I were a socialist I certainly would support them.
– The honorable senator only needs to ‘be an Australian.
– I am as good an Australian as the honorable senator. I have lived in this country for half a century, and my wife and my children are Australians. A man may be a good Australian without thinking that Australia is the only place on earth.
– It is the best place.
– It would be, if it were given a chance. The Tariff Board points out the extreme danger of penalizing other industries, and particularly the building industry, by undue restriction of the importation of glass. The quantity of glass that Australia uses annually has been stated as 14,000,000 feet; but the managing director of the company, in his evidence before the Tariff Board, gave the present consumption, in these days of depression, at from 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 feet, so even that would be less than half the 14,000,000 feet that has been mentioned. It must be remembered that, because of the exorbitant duties imposed, and the failure of the Australian glass company to fulfil its orders month after month, all the glass merchants in Australia had their stocks depleted down to almost nothing. I have been informed by merchants, in some instances, and I have seen for myself, in other cases, that their stocks had gone down to nothing; and all they proposed was to make a reasonable replenishment. The board said that the rates it recommended should not apply until the local manufacturers had conclusively demonstrated that the company was able to produce glass that was satisfactory as to types, weight and quality, and in sufficient quantity to meet a reasonable proportion of Australian requirements. Under the Tariff Board Act the only authority entitled to certify that these conditions had been carried out was the Tariff Board. There should have been a. certificate from the board that it was satisfied that this had been done even before the Government took steps to increase the duty, let alone impose a prohibition.
Senator Greene claimed that what the Government had done was in accordance with the laws of the country. I emphatically dispute that statement, and I hope that the time will’ come when somebody will be sufficiently interested in this matter to test it before the High Court. A certain section of the Customs Act prohibits the importation of certain goods, and it gives the Government authority to prohibit the importation of certain articles by proclamation ; but the clear intention of the act is that these things should be of the class and of the kind defined in that section of the act. Itwas never intended, and could not be intended - the logical intention of the law is entirely opposed to it - that the Government should be permitted to impose a prohibition purely for a protective purpose. I have heard members of the present Ministry denounce similar action on the part of the Scullin Government, con- tending that it was an abuse of the act for a government to set itself above the Parliament and apply that particular section to the prohibition of goods merely for protective purposes.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– As soon as possible replies to the honorable senator’s questions will be furnished.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
[5.0]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is proposed to grant a measure of local self-government to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea by the appointment of an executive council and a legislative council, to consist of official and nonofficial members. This bill is a step forward in the development and administrative progress of the territory. The Mandated Territory of New Guinea comprises the former German colony of New Guinea, and the former German islands situated in the Pacific Ocean and lying south of the equator, other than the islands of the Samoan group and the island of Nauru. The islands situated north of the equator, which formerly belonged to Germany, were mandated to Japan ; German Samoa was mandated to New Zealand ; and Nauru to Great Britain, to be administered conjointly by Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The area of the territory is 93,000 square miles, of which 70,000 square miles are on the mainland of the island of New Guinea. The islands important enough to be named on a map number over 600, and range in size from New Britain, which has an area of about 16,000 square miles, to tiny atolls. The territory was occupied by the Australian forces soon after the outbreak of the war in 1914. In virtue of a mandate from the League of Nations in 1920, the government of the territory was entrusted to the Commonwealth, and in May, 1921, the military occupation was replaced by civil government. The necessary legislative provisions for the government of the territory were embodied in the New Guinea Act 1920. This act provided for the appointment of an administrator, who was charged with the duty of administering the government of the territory on behalf of the Commonwealth. In this capacity, the Administrator has such powers and functions as belong to his office according to the tenor of his commission and according to the instructions which are from time to time given to him by the Governor-General.
The legislation in force in the territory consists of such acts of the Commonwealth as are expressed to extend thereto and ordinances which the GovernorGeneral is empowered to make pending other provision by this Parliament for the government of the territory. In 1926, an Advisory Council was established, consisting of five members and a co-opted member, all of whom are members of the New Guinea Public Service. The functions of this council are to consider and report to the Administrator upon proposals submitted to it for the making, amendment or repeal of ordinances and upon any other matter referred to it in accordance with the Advisory Council Ordinance 1926. In the early years of the’ civil government of the territory - from May, 192.1, to 1927 - the white population was made up for the most part of officials and officers of the Expropriation Board, who may be considered as quasigovernment officers; but now that the expropriated properties are in private hands, there has been a big increase in the number of non-official as compared with official residents. The present white population is about 2,900, and of these some 300 are attached to the Administration. The increase in the white population since 1921 is 133 per cent. It may be of interest to note the increase in trade since 1921. In 1921-22 the value of imports was £469,000, as against £779,000 in 1931-32, whilst in the same period the exports increased from £499,000 to £1,108,619.
These facts and conditions generally ir. the territory, fully warrant the grant of a measure of local government. It has, therefore, been decided to institute in New Guinea a system of government similar to that in force in the neighbouring Territory of Papua, consisting of a legislative council, and an executive council. -At the present stage of development in New Guinea, it is considered desirable to commence on the lines which have proved so successful in Papua, and to await actual experience of the operation of the system in New Guinea before considering any change in the constitution of the legislative body. From time to time representations have been made to the Government by organi zations and individuals, with respect to the appointment of some legislative body. A previous government introduced a measure similar to that now before the Senate; but before it was passed an election intervened and the bill was dropped. The Government now proposes to fulfil a promise made by a previous administration. The residents in the Mandated Territory will not elect their own representatives. In a territory of this description, in which planters, traders, and others are so widely scattered, it would, be almost impossible to conduct an election. The Government, therefore, proposes to adopt the nominee system.
The executive council is to consist of nine members appointed by the GovernorGeneral, eight of whom shall be officers of the territory, and the other a non-official member chosen by and from the non-official members of the legislative council. Should the non-official members of the legislative council fail to choose one of their number for appointment, as a member of the executive council, the Governor-General may appoint a non-official member of the legislative council, or any other person who is not an officer of the territory, to fill the position.
Membership is to continue during the pleasure of the Governor-General. The Governor-General is to be empowered to appoint’ a deputy of an official member in the event of the member’s illness or absence from the territory, and that deputy is to have all the powers of a member. Meetings are to be summoned by authority of the Administrator, who is to preside, if present; but in his absence, or in the absence of his appointee for the purpose, if any, the senior official member of the council who is present shall preside. Three members, exclusive of the Administrator or the member presiding, shall constitute a quorum. Other than the Administrator no member shall be entitled to submit questions to the executive council for advice or decision. A member whose request in writing for the submission of a question is not granted by the Administrator may require that his request, and the Administrator’s answer, be recorded in the minutes. The Administrator may act in opposition to the advice or decision of the executive council, but, in that event, he shall report the matter to the Minister stating his reasons.
The legislative council is to consist of the Administrator, the eight official members of the executive council, and seven non-official members nominated by the Administrator, and appointed by the Governor-General. ‘ The Administrator may appoint a person within the territory to be an extraordinary member of the council for a special occasion, in order to obtain his opinion on any matters to be brought before the council. An extraordinary member will not have a vote. The Government felt that it was justified in arranging for such appointments, because the council may have to deal with subjects which demand the special advice and help of qualified persons. Nonofficial members of the council are to be appointed for four years, as against six years in Papua. Some organizations in New Guinea, asked that the period be three years, but the Government considered that four years would be a reasonable term. Members may be removed at any time by the Governor-General. Onethird of the members, including the Administrator or member presiding, shall constitute a quorum. The Administrator shall preside, if present, and in his absence the senior official member shall preside. The Administrator, or the member presiding, is to have a deliberative vote, and, in addition, a casting vote. The legislative council is to have “power to make ordinances for the peace, order, and good government of the territory,” but it may not impose import duties which discriminate against the Commonwealth. Money votes may be proposed only by the Administrator, or with his permission. Ordinances will require the consent of the Administrator or the GovernorGeneral. An ordinance assented to by the Administrator may be disallowed by the Governor-General within six months of assent. An ordinance reserved for the pleasure of the Governor-General shall not have force unless and until the Administrator publishes the assent of the Governor-General within one year from the date of its presentation to him. The Administrator is to be debarred from assenting to certain classes of ordinances, including any ordinance relating to the guarantees to the League of Nations, as specified in the act accepting the mandate. Every ordinance is to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. Copies of the minutes of each meeting of either council are to be sent to the Minister as soon as possible. In the case of Papua, copies of minutes are furnished quarterly.
A further proposal is that the .annual report of the territory to the Council of the League of Nations shall be made by the Minister instead of by the GovernorGeneral. This amendment is proposed in view of the present status of the dominions. When the legislative and executive councils are established, pursuant to the provisions of the amending measure, the existing Advisory Council will be abolished.
This bill marks a step on the road of progress in this Mandated Territory. The proposals of the Government are in accord with the evolution of parliamentary government, which has been followed generally His Majesty’s dominions. Nearly every one of them started with some form of nominated council, which later developed into an elective body or bodies. It is well that in New Guinea we should proceed along that well-tried road, in the hope that, with a growth of both population and trade, an elective body will soon be appointed.
.- While I appreciate the difficulties confronting the Government in administering the Territory of New Guinea, I cannot agree that the proposals contained in this measure arc the best that could be brought forward. It is proposed to appoint both an executive council and a legislative council. The former is to consist of nine members, to be appointed by, and to hold office during the pleasure of, the Governor-General. Since appointments by the Governor-General are really made by the government of the day, I take it that, if the present Government were to appoint these members, and in a few months were succeeded by another government, the appointments could then bs terminated.
– Not necessarily. When the Scullin Government assumed office, it did not make any alterations in the Executive Council in Papua.
– I do not say that a change would be made ; but it would be possible, and it, therefore, does not appear to me to be a wise provision. Moreover, eight of these members are to be officers of the Government, and one is to be appointed from the nonofficial members of the legislative council, all of whom are to be appointed at the instance of the Administrator. It will be seen that the majority of the members of the executive council will be officers of the Government, working under the Administrator. The Administrator will practically be empowered to make his own selection of the men who are to be responsible for the government of the territory. I admit that there are safeguarding provisions in the bill; but the position is not at all satisfactory. The Government’s position will be difficult. It must be guided by an administrator living many hundreds of miles from the Seat of Government. I say nothing against the present Administrator, who has done good work in New Guinea; but, at some future time, a biased person might hold the office, and under this legislation, veto anything done by the legislative council. That appears to me to be an extraordinary power to vest in an administrator, notwithstanding that the Government may, in turn, veto decisions made by the Administrator. Even if the other members of the’ council held views differing from those of the Administrator, his views prevail.
The Minister has said that the white population of the territory is about 2,900, of whom 300 are officials. There are 500 missionaries. Whether they are whites or natives I do not know, but I assume that the majority of them are whites, and are included in the figures mentioned by the Minister. The legislative council will have to govern about 520,000 natives, who have not yet evolved from the primitive state, and are incapable of self-government. The bill provides that the legislative council shall be representative of certain interests; there are’ to be three representatives of the planters, two of the mining interests, and two of the commercial interests in the territory.
– The workers are not to be represented.
– Nearly all the workers are natives.
– There are some white workers there.
– In that case they should be represented. The white residents should be given a franchise similar to that” of Australia. Surely they arc entitled to be consulted before men are appointed to represent them. Under this legislation the Administrator may select three men to represent the planters who are entirely out of touch with their aims The same thing may apply in the case of the representatives of the mining and commercial interests. Should the Administrator’s choice not reflect the opinion of persons engaged in mining or commerce, they have no redress. The bill seems to cut across principles for which the Labour party stands.
– It sets up a dictatorship.
– In certain circumstances, legislation of this nature may be. justified; but, with a white population of nearly 3,000, for the most part pioneers who may, therefore, be regarded as men of experience and intelligence above the ordinary, a different system of government should be set up. The government of the territory would be safer in the hands of a legislative council, or an executive council - one body would be sufficient - elected by the white residents. Since the measure departs from the principles underlying democracy, and is, therefore, unacceptable to the Labour party, I shall vote against it.
– It is not my intention- to discuss this measure at length, because its provisions appear .to be too farcical to merit serious consideration. At present the Mandated Territory of New Guinea is under the control of an Administrator, ‘a sort of Mussolini, and the alteration proposed in this measure is no improvement, being so far as I can see, but -an adaptation of the methods of Fascism. For instance, the executive council shall not proceed to the despatch of business unless summoned on the authority of the Administrator; the Administrator is to determine whether business shall, or shall not, bc transacted, and under proposed new section 17, he only is to be entitled to submit questions to the executive. It appears to me that it will be a kind of glorified debating society to pander to the desires of the- administration. Its members may submit subjects for consideration, but if the Administrator declines to accept them, they will have the satisfaction and privilege’ of knowing that their requests have been recorded in the minutes. The whole thing is Gilbertian. So far as the legislative council is concerned, the representatives of the planters, miners and commercial interests, who should have direct representation, are to be nominated by the Administrator. Ho alone has the right to determine who shall or shall not be members of that body. It is difficult to class this as a development of the parliamentary system as known in Australia. The Minister appears to be adopting the method of government advocated by the, according to some people, late lamented Independent Workers of the World - that of having, instead of a parliament, an industrial representive of all industries. Twenty years ago, the members of the Independent Workers of the World advocated that the workers only should elect their representatives to such an industrial council; but in the case of the New Guinea Council, the representatives arc to be elected, not by the workers, but by the employing class. Surely thi- Government can see its way clear to allow those engaged in mining, for instance, to elect one or two representatives to speak on their behalf. Hundreds of miners have gone from Australia to the Mandated Territory. Recently two of them called upon me and wanted to know whether they could seek gold in the. fields without being forced off their leases by the representatives of any company. I understand that recently one man who did a lot of arduous work on the fields, and who eventually found gold, was forced off his ground by a company which it was said was operating under a contract with the Government. The workers have as much right as any other section in New Guinea to be represented on the legislative council.
– It is possible for the Administrator to fix wages.
– Yes, that is a very dangerous principle. We strongly pro test against the Administrator having the power to do such a thing.
– He is also empowered to promulgate ordinances with respect to white labour.
– And the white labourers in the territory are not to elect their representatives on the council. Why should those who do the useful work in any community be denied representation ? I understand that the greater part of the labour in the Mandated Territory is undertaken by the natives who will have no direct representative on the council. It is recognized, of course, that they have not reached a standard of mental development to entitle them to have their own representative on the council, but it seems that they should be more directly represented than is possible under the bill.
– The Maoris have their representative in the New Zealand Parliament.
– Yes, but this Government seems to forget that even the white workers are entitled to any consideration. In its legislation, particularly with respect to invalid and old-age pensions, it opposes the interests of those who are serving the community in a useful way.
I am opposed to this measure. I believe that we could overcome many of the difficulties that now exist in the Mandated Territory by according to the residents privileges similar to those enjoyed iri Australia. It appears, however, that the Government is prepared to follow the example of Mussolini and his Fascists, instead of providing a simple means of administering the affairs of the territory.
– I move-
That the word “ now “ be left out with a view to add the words “ this day six months “.
In submitting this amendment, I have been guided by the action taken by the present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) when Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. When the right honorable gentleman submitted an amendment to disallow an ordinance under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act, he said that he realized the position in which Senator Daly wai placed, inasmuch as he had to be loyal to the members of the Cabinet. On that occasion the right honorable gentleman moved -
That ordinance No. 4, 1030, Advisory Council, made under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act and the Seat of Government Administration Act bc disallowed.
In framing this bill, the Government has followed the policy adopted by Mussolini, who, acting on the advice of his Fascist Council, selects the people’s representatives from 400 names submitted to him. Although there are 3,000 whites and approximately 500,000 natives in the Mandated Territory, the Government has the audacity to suggest that this measure will enable them to voice their grievances.
– Why did Senator Pearce move for the disallowance of the ordinance ? ‘
– He went on to say -
It is true that there is an advisory council for North Australia, but it consists of elected members. There is no analogy ‘between the Federal Capital Territory and Northern and Central Australia, excepting that they are all territories of the Commonwealth. North and Central Australia are represented in this Parliament by a member who has a voice but no vote.
If the people of the Northern Territory are entitled to a representative in this Parliament why should not the 3,000 white residents in the Mandated Territory also have a representative? The Leader of the Government went on to say-
There is also the fact that there are some thousands of people who, either compulsorily, or of their own volition, have made their homes in Canberra, and have to live in the Federal Capital under the conditions which exist here. They have come from localities in Australia where they -have been used to certain privileges, not only in connexion with parliamentary representation - both Commonwealth and State - but al po in connexion with local government. They have been accustomed to having a voice and a vote in local affairs. It cannot be denied that in the Federal Capital Territory there are many activities of a purely local character - activities similar to those of, say, the cities of Melbourne and Sydney or any of their suburbs? Those activities are merely incidental to the national undertaking of the establishment of a federal capital.
Yet the only person who is to have an effective voice in the administration of New Guinea is the Administrator. The right honorable gentleman went on to say-
During the years that have elapsed since the Federal Capital was established in Can- berra, there has developed, more or less, dissatisfaction and bad feeling between the local residents and the government of the day, irrespective of its political nature. That dissatisfaction is likely to continue.
Will not dissatisfaction be caused by the provisions of this bill, under which the Administrator will have the right to nominate three representatives of the planting interests, and two each of the mining and commercial interests? Why not give to the various interests the right to say by whom they shall be represented in the proposed legislative council? The Administrator may nominate men who are not acceptable to them. My next quotation from the speech of the right honorable gentleman is as follows: -
It should be the desire of every honorable senator to see, not only that we establish a capital which shall be worthy of Australia, but that the people who live in it shall bo happy and contented in their surroundings. If the causes of their discontent can bc removed without loss to the community, or danger to our national aspirations as typified by this national city, they ought to be removed. In an endeavour to remove them, the late Government brought forward a scheme for the residents of the Federal Capital Territory to elect a representative on the Federal Capital Commission.
If that was his belief less than three years ago, why should he now attempt something altogether different? He speaks of the people of New Guinea being given “a fair go,” and thinks that honorable senators on this side are stupid enough to let him.” get away” with it. I warn the new senators from Queensland that the right honorable gentleman is most dangerous when he introduces a measure without flourish, and gives a quiet brief explanation of it. He should then be watched, because he wishes to disarm criticism. He went on to say -
I am convinced that the municipal activities of Canberra must be handled as they are handled in every other part of Australia - by a responsible elected council of local residents, who should have full powers of administration in regard to such matters.
I ask in all friendliness, what is the right honorable gentleman’s estimate of our intelligence? In 1930, with the support of a large and brutal majority, he secured the disallowance of an ordinance which gave much more democratic representation than the bill that he now asks us to pass. Criticizing that ordinance, he said -
My first criticism concerning this ordinance is that it is neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring. It sets up an advisory council to consist of the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs, the Director-General of Health, the Secretary for the Department of Works and Railways, a civic administrator, and three residents Of the Territory to be duly elected.
The previous government was prepared to allow the citizens of Canberra to elec three representatives to an Advisory Council. The 3,000 whites in New Guinea are not to have such a right under this bill.
– How many of the 2,900 white people in New Guinea art; children ?
– It is a question, not of how many are children, but of doing the decent thing. Senator Pearce went on to say -
The proposed Advisory Council is to consist of four public servants, and three residents of the territory. What are their duties? The Civic Administrator is the chairman.
The administrator in New Guinea is to be a Mussolini. At this stage of the speech of the right honorable senator, Senator McLachlan, who was his right-band supporter and friend in the cold shades of Opposition, interjected, “ He is to have a casting as well as a deliberative vote.” Senator Pearce acknowledged that, and said -
Can honorable senators imagine one of the four Government representatives expressing any opinion until he has first interviewed his Minister? Can we imagine them giving judgment upon any subject or saying anything at all without first obtaining the Minister’s opinion ? Supposing these four gentlemen were to express their opinions and support a motion which was eventually carried advising the Minister to do certain things. If the Minister did not act upon the recommendation of the council there would be an extraordinary condition of affairs. The Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs after having advised the Minister controlling that department to do certain things may, in league with the three elected representatives, who are to be paid £100 a year to give advice, make a recommendation which the Minister may turn down. In that case the elected members of the council, having the citizens behind them, might convene a public meeting and call upon the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs, as a member of the Council, to move a resolution condemning the Government. Is it likely that the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs would submit and speak to a motion condemning the
Government for any act of policy? If the Advisory Council consisted of representatives free from political influence each member of that body would no doubt be prepared to state his views; but if it were constituted as provided in the ordinance its official members would be dumb. On any new subject that might be submitted to the council the official representatives on that body would say nothing until they had had an opportunity to confer with the Ministers controlling their departments. The result would be that at the next meeting of the council the three official representatives, with the chairman, who would have a casting as well as a deliberative vote, would be all of one opinion as to the subjectmatter under consideration. They would not vary to the extent of a syllable, and on every occasion the elected representatives of the people would be outvoted. It is clear from tha proposed constitution of the council that the Minister would get only such advice as he expected to receive from the Advisory Council.
The Administrator in New Guinea will not only have a casting vote, but also the right to veto any recommendation that the council may submit to him ; and he may send to the Minister any complaint that he wishes to make. Such communications would take from three to four weeks to reach the Minister, and a similar time would elapse before a reply could be received; consequently, a state of chaos could easily ensue. Senator Pearce also said -
The position would be very comfortable for the Minister, ‘but what about the residents? Are the people of Canberra such simpletons as to expect this Advisory Council to be an effective instrument of local government? If they flatter themselves that they are going to get anything from it other than the Minister intends them to get, they must be very short-sighted.
Those are very sane words, and the implication which they convey may well be applied to the provisions of this measure. Senator Pearce went on to say -
If the Government wished to give, the citizens of Canberra a real form of self-government, a proposal on entirely different lines should have been brought down. The people should not have been humbugged in this way. They may think that they are going to get something out of this form of local government, but before three or four months have elapsed they will realize that they are not. Why then go through this farce of laying an ordinance and regulations under it on the table for the election of three representatives of the people, and making provision for postal and absent voting and all the paraphernalia of a general election of the Federal Parliament? Recently the Leader of the Senate gave expression- to a pious hope with regard to regulations. Apparently he has not made a very good start, for while this ordinance occupies only three pages of foolscap, there are about a dozen pages of regulations for the election of a body which, as I have shown, will be impotent, arid will prove to be but another source of irritation to the people of Canberra.
There is no provision in this bill for the election of any representatives at all. I, therefore, take Senator Pearce’s own words, and ask why should the people of New Guinea be humbugged in this way? Under this measure they will simply have another Mussolini to rule over them.
Continuing, the right honorable gentlelimn said -
In every part of Australia there arc persons with sufficient civic pride to come orward t to represent their fellows on municipal councils, and I am sure that there are in Canberra persons who have been here long enough to have a civic pride in their city. There is, however, no way in which they can express it. There is no service they can render except perhaps under this hollow proposal for an advisory council on which they will find that they are wasting their time without being able to accomplish anything.
If any honorable senator wants healthy criticism of this Government’s proposals, I invite him to read the speech from which I have made these- quotations.
The Leader of the Senate has referred to the Constitution of the proposed legislative council to be set up under this bill, and has told us that three of the nonofficial members will be representative of the planters. I happened to be in another place when this measure was under discussion, and heard the Minister in charge of it explain that the council would be a nominee body, because the planters are living too far apart from one another to hold a ballot. But he was really misleading the House. There is in Rabaul a Planters Association, representative of from 90 to 95 per cent, of the planters in the mandated territory. A ballot is held regularly for the election of its officers. I, therefore, contend that it would be possible for them to elect their representatives on the proposed legislative council in much the same way as the people living in the Northern Territory elect their representative .to this Parliament, and in the manner proposed by the previous Government, in its ordinance dealing with the proposed advisory council for the Federal Capital Territory. The constitution of the New Guinea executive council should be noted. Sub-sections 3 and 4 or proposed new section 12 state -
– What is wrong with that?
– Everything. It simply means that the non-official member so appointed will be another dummy of the Administrator and the Minister. Proposed new sub-section 17 is also interesting. It’ reads -
The Administrator only shall be entitled to submit questions to the executive council for advice or decision: but if the Administrator declines to submit any question to the council when requested in writing by any member so ; to do, that member moy require that his written request, together with the answer of the Administrator thereto, be recorded on the minutes.
The request may be recorded on the minutes, but I am pretty sure that thai, will be the end of it. People living in the Northern Territory elect their own representative to this Parliament. Whenever they have any grievance they submit it to him and, in the ordinary course of events, he ventilates it on the floor of another place. The previous Government, in its legislative proposals with regard to the Federal Capital Territory, provided for three elected representatives on the Advisory Council, but the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who was then in opposition, used his brutal majority and induced the Senate to disallow the ordinance. Now, as ‘an excuse for his introduction of this bill, he pleads loyalty to his Government. Proposed new section 18 provides -
What do the new senators from Queensland think of that? I feel sure that Senator Collings will have something to say about it. I tell the Government that legislation of this class breeds dissatisfaction. The proposed legislative council will consist of the Administrator, the official members of the executive council, and seven non-official members to be nominated by the Administrator and appointed by the Governor-General. Three of the non-official members will represent the interests of the planting industry, two will represent the interests of the mining industry, and two will represent commercial interests. It will of course, operate under “ bung “ rules. There is provision that questions arising in the legislative council shall be determined by the majority of the votes, but when this political circus is transacting business the Administrator may act in opposition to a decision of the council. In effect, the council may reach a certain decision, but if the Administrator does not approve of it, he can “boot” it out.
The missionaries in New Guinea, of whose valuable work I have some knowledge, minister to the spiritual, and in many cases, the material welfare of the 500,000 natives in New Guinea and the adjacent islands. Therefore, the missionaries,as well as the planting, mining and commercial interests, should have representation on the legislative council. Honorable senators on this side object to any white man being deprived of the franchise. The last Government gave the citizens of Canberra the right to vote for three representatives on the Advisory Council.
Debate (on motion by Senator Payne) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir George
Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
” Take-all “ in Peas.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I should like to know whether the co-operation of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Researchhas been sought by the Tasmanian Govern ment in an investigation of the cause of the disease known as “ Take-all,” which has affected pea crops in Tasmania, and, if so, what progress has been made with the inquiry?
– The honorable senator having already mentioned this matter to me, I have made inquiries, and am now able to inform him that an officer of the council, Mr.W. L. Geach, visited Tasmania some six months ago for the purpose of inquiring into this matter. He has also made subsequent visits. He has investigated the nature of the soil, drainage, &c., and conducted certain experiments to ascertain whether the disease is seed-bom. Present indications are that it is seed-born, but definite confirmation on this point is not yet available. It is hoped that it will be possible to obtain land for experimental purposes, when tests into soil and drainage problems will be carried out. Manurial trials will be conducted, and an attempt will be made to develop a resistant strain of peas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at6. 15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321110_senate_13_136/>.