13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. j. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Nauru Island Agreement Act - Ordinances of 1933-
No. 1 - Census.
No. 2. - Laws Repeal and Adopting.
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 82.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 72- No. 73- No. 74- No. 75.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 77.
Naval Defence Act - -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 76.
– On the 16th
June, Senator Hoare asked that the file of papers in reference to the case of Coghlan v. The Licensing Officer of Port Adelaide be laid on the table of the Parliamentary Library. As Minister representing the Attorney-General, I informed the honorable senator that the papers would be obtained, and, when they were received, consideration would be given to his request. The departmental papers have now been obtained, and it appears that Coghlan was convicted of assault after proceedings in the police court. He was called upon to show cause why his licence under the TransportWorkers Act should not be cancelled. After hearing him, the licensing officer cancelled his licence. He appealed to a court of summary jurisdiction constituted by a stipendiary magistrate. After hearing the appeal, the stipendiary magistrate confirmed the cancellation. In accordance with long-established practice, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) is not prepared to lay on the table the official reports and advice received by him in relation to this matter. They are necessarily confidential in character. A copy of the official report of the court proceedings will, however, be tabled in the Library as requested by Senator Hoare.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether surplus military clothing is now being distributed to the unemployed; if so, can such clothing be obtained by individual charitable organizations?
– All surplus military clothing was long ago distributed to the unemployed. The quantity of clothing now in stock is only sufficient for the existing troops; but as any of it becomes unserviceable it will be handed over to the State Governments for distribution to the unemployed.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate of the intention and effect of by-law No. 3001 gazetted on Thursday last under item 91a of the Customs Tariff 1921-30, providing for the admission of peanuts under security, for the manufacturing of oil?
Was the . Queensland Peanut Board advised or consulted prior to the promulgation of this by-law?
– That is the result of an arrangement with the Peanut Board.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to say that I have a letter which I received this morning from the Peanut Board, complaining that it is not aware of the actual effect of this . by-law.
– If the honorable senator will confer with me on this matter, I shall explain the position to him.
Senator McLACHLAN laid on the table reports and recommendations by the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Records for Gramophones, Phonographs and other Talking Machines.
Electrical and Gas Appliances, viz., Wall, Stand or Table Lamps.
Ordered to be printed.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - In a report of Friday’s proceedings in the Senate which has appeared in the press, these words appear as having been used by me in a statement referring to the report of the Public Service Board on the parliamentary staffs -
The report might be regarded as not reflecting the utmost credit on the heads of the various parliamentary departments.
The words that I actually used, as can be seen by a reference to the uncorrected Hansard proof of my statement, do not bear the meaning thus attributed to them. I spoke of the confidential nature of the report, and in giving reasons why it should not be made public, I instanced the possibility of an investigating officer being sent to inquire into the working of a department. I said that, if such an officer knew that he might have to criticize those whose administration he was investigating, and that his remarks might not reflect credit upon the heads of the departments concerned, but that, nevertheless, his report, instead of being treated as confidential, would be made public, he might shrink from the performance of his duties, to the detriment of the Service ; or there might be some similar result which would discount the value of the report. Honorable senators will see that there is a marked difference between, the sense of the language which I used and the implication to be drawn from the words attributed to me in the press report from which I have quoted.
In justice to the heads of the parliamentary departments, all of whom I knew for many years before I came to occupy my present position, when their work has been brought much more closely under my attention, I would say that in the performance of their duties, they are efficient, painstaking, and conscientious; and I ask those representatives of the press who may be present to give as wide publicity to this statement as was given to the report in which a wrong construction was placed upon my statement of Friday.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers are
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Will the Government give the Senate an assurance that it will be first consulted before the Resident Minister in London declares at the World Economic Conference any policy of co-operation by Australia in regard to Australian wheat restriction?
– The Minister without Portfolio in London will not enter into any undertaking at the World Economic Conference without, the approval of the Government. If and when any proposals are . submitted for the approval of the Commonwealth Government, the Government will give consideration to the question of whether, in view of the nature . of the proposal, it is necessary or advisable also to obtain the approval of Parliament.
Senator DUNN (through Senator Rae) asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are
It seems almost intolerable pessimism to take the view that the world’s evils can only be remedied by restriction of production. While Australia will never consent to such a policy of despair, we are prepared to co-operate in every possible way to solve the world’s problems.
If a practicable scheme is suggested as a temporary measure, the Commonwealth Government is prepared to give attention to it.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In. view of the important bearing any restriction of wheat area which may be agreed to at the World Economic Conference will have on the Australian States, will the Government promise to fully consult the States before final instructions on this question are communicated to the Commonwealth representative at the conference?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The State governments have been consulted on this matter. As any restriction of wheat acreage involves State legislation action by State parliaments is necessary before the suggested policy could be put into operation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Has the Government come to any decision in regard to the request of the recent conference of wheat-growers, held in Melbourne, asking the Government for a ballot of wheatgrowers in Australia, on the subject of a compulsory wheat pool, under the control of the growers 1
– The Minister for Commerce has furnished the following reply: -
The Government is not prepared to make any announcement on this subject while certain international negotiations are proceeding.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce supplies the following answers : - 1 and 3. Nothing is known to support the suggestions made. While Australian wheat has distinctive characteristics, it has to be sold in competition with wheat produced in many other countries.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 23rd June (vide page 2590).
Group 3. - Revenue items not included under any other heading. ,
Division 2. - Tobacco and Manufactures thereof.
Item 18 agreed to.
Item 19, sub-items (a1, 2) (b1, 2) -
Tobacco, unmanufactured, entered to be locally manufactured into tobacco other than fine cut tobacco suitable for the manufacture of cigarettes - to be paid at the time of removal to the factory -
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (aI), per lb. - British, 4s.6d. ; general, 4s. 6d.
The story of the development of the tobacco industry in Australia is an interesting one. In 1915-16 the quantity of Australian-grown leaf used in the manufacture of tobacco for consumption in this country was 1,730,000 lb., compared with 11,000,000 lb. of imported leaf, or approximately 14 per cent, of the total; in 1928-29 it was 978,000 lb., as against 18,157,000 lb. of imported leaf, the proportion being only about 5 per cent. During that period there was an import duty of 3s. per lb., and an excise duty of 2s. 4d. Although it was well known that many areas in Australia were suitable for the cultivation of the tobacco leaf, very little encouragement was given to Australian growers to pay serious attention to the industry. Up to 1929 there were only 372 persons engaged in the industry, the figures for the various States being, New South Wales, 203 ; Victoria, 56; Queensland, 48 ; South Australia, 18 ; and Western Australia, 47. In 1932, as the direct result of the increased tariff protection given by the Scullin Government, the number of growers increased to 4,032, the figures for the various States being, New South Wales, 550; Victoria, 1,160 ; Queensland, 1,663; South Australia, 230 ; Western Australia, 345 ; Tasmania, 84. It is possible, of course, that, the lowness of the prices ruling for other forms of primary products induced a number of growers to give their attention to tobacco-growing, but I feel sure that the higher protection given to the industry was the principal factor. So great has been the progress made in the last two years, that no one can doubt now that our growers could, if ensured adequate protection, supply the whole of our requirements, though I admit that it may not yet be possible to produce leaf suitable for cigarmaking.
– Is not the problem confronting our growers one of consumption rather than production ?
– Possibly it is, but Australia’s requirements in tobacco are approximately 20,000,000 lb. a year, and the local production last year was, I understand, in the neighbourhood of 12,000,000 lb. The industry is capable of tremendous expansion, but it should be safeguarded against unfair competition from those countries which produce tobacco under conditions which would not. be tolerated in Australia. For this reason I feel bound to say that the Government is not giving our growers that encouragement which they are entitled to expect.
The cultivation of tobacco does not require the investment of a large amount of capital. Growers may make a comfortable living on small areas. In some districts this industry is looked upon as a very welcome adjunct to other forms of agriculture, as it offers the maximum of employment at that season of the year when employment in other rural industries is scarce. Although the Tariff Board has recently inquired into this industry, it would appear that the members of that body considered it their duty to recommend rates at” which tobacco* growing could be conducted- on an efficient basis in competition with growers in other parts of the world, whereas the policy of the Government should be to encourage the industry in its initial stages, in the belief that, eventually, it would be able to supply the whole of the requirements of this country, thus rendering importation unnecessary. “While I do not question the earnestness with which the board conducted its inquiry, it would seem that the investigation was not so exhaustive as it might have been. I am impelled to say this by newspaper reports of the itinerary of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) who is at present visiting the more important primary-producing Centres of Queeusland. Doubtless, other honorable senators will have noticed, in newspaper reports, the statement that, when the Tariff Board was making its inquiry in Queensland, many people who were vitally interested in tobacco-growing, and were in a position ‘ to give valuable information to that body, had not an opportunity to do so. If one may rely upon press reports, even the Prime Minister seems now to have formed the opinion that the Tariff Board report, on which the Government acted, was not so comprehensive as it might have been. I wish to see restored the conditions which prevailed in this industry when, the Scullin Government was in office, and, as tobacco production is essentially a primary industry, I expect all honorable senators who claim to represent the primary producers in this chamber, to support my proposal. I certainly expect the members of the Country party to do so.
– The Prime Minister has agreed that there shall be a thorough investigation of the industry by the Tariff Board.
– That may come later, but in the meantime, we should give this industry the protection which it enjoyed two or three years ago. The inquiry of the Parliamentary Select Committee into the tobacco industry was much more exhaustive than that made by the Tariff Board. The members of the select committee, ‘ having visited practically all the tobacco-growing districts and examined a large number of expert witnesses, recommended that duties much higher than those recommended by the Tariff Board, should be imposed.
I shall follow up the request which I have now moved with another relating to excise duties, when the schedule of excise duties is under consideration. In my opinion, the protection at present being afforded to the tobacco-growers is not sufficient to encourage, to the fullest extent, the use of Australian-grown leaf in the manufacture of tobacco here. If we allow tobacco to be brought from overseas, it means that money will go out of Australia which should be kept here. After its brief inquiry, in 1932, the Tariff Board recommended that the import duty should be reduced, and the” excise duty increased. The Government subsequently reduced the import duty by 2s. 2d. per lb., and increased the excise duty by a like, amount. The Scullin duties were import, 5s. 2d.; and excise, 2s. 4d. The present duties are import, 3s. ; and excise, 4s. 6d. It will be noticed that in each case the import and excise duties total 7s. 6d. per lb. What I desire is the reversal of these rates. I think that the import duty should be 4s. 6d. per lb., and the excise duty 3s. per lb.
I appreciate the revenue effect of these duties, but I do not think that the alteration that I have suggested would adversely affect the revenue. If the import duty were increased to 4s. 6d. per lb., a larger quantity of Australian-grown leaf would, undoubtedly, be used in the manufacture of tobacco in this country, and that is desirable. Honorable senators will not need me to tell them that wide public interest is being taken in this subject. During the last few months I have received shoals of letters, and have also given numerous interviews on this subject. There is no doubt that many people whose attitude in regard to the tobacco industry was formerly luke-warm, now realize how important that industry is to the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- The Leader of the
Oppositionhas properly stressed the importance of this industry to Australia, but I remind him that it was neither the Government of which he was a member, nor the present Government which took the first steps to stimulate the production of tobacco leaf in Australia. During the regime of the BrucePage Government, the British- Australasian Tobacco Company communicated with that Government, and suggested that certain things should be done to encourage the production of high-class leaf in Australia. A scheme was adopted in conformity with which £30,000 has already been made available by the company, with a subsidy of £1 for £1 from the Commonwealth Government, to encourage and develop, on sane lines, the production of high-grade leaf in this country.’ Officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have been made available to give expert advice on such subjects as the suitability of soil and the treatment of pests, for the benefit of the tobaccogrowers as a whole.
A few years ago, our annual production of tobacco leaf was 2,000,000 lb., but in consequence of the steps taken to stimulate the industry, and also, I think, of the ill-considered action of the previous Government in increasing the duties to an unwarranted extent, this Government, when it assumed office, found that the production of leaf had increased to between 12,000,000 and 13,000,000 lb. per annum. It was also . obvious that those connected with the industry had not acted on the advice given to them by the Tobacco Investigation Committee, a body that was constituted by the Bruce-Page Government, and continued by both the Scullin Government and the present Lyons Government. Tobacco leaf has been grown under conditions under which little regard has been paid to the need for revenue or to the production of saleable leaf only. The growers produced promiscuously, hoping, in some eases, to market leaf of such poor quality that it was aptly described by one honorable senator as something resembling palm trees. Gross tobacco leaf finds no market, and so desperate was the position that, in an endeavour to relieve it, I was driven to the extreme of having inquiries made to see whether it was possible to use the leaf for the manufacture of what is known as “black leaf forty”, and found that it would be uneconomic to do so. The committee will realize, therefore, that the Government has been most solicitous of the welfare of the growers, and has been eager to have the industry founded on sound lines. When the Scullin Government came into office, the duty on leaf was 2s. 8d. per lb. It promptly increased that figure to 3s., raised it to 3s. 6d. in July, 1930, and in December of the same year altered the duty to 5s. 2d. per lb., which resulted in the wholesale, unscientific,’ and utterly unbusinesslike production of gross leaf to which I have referred.
– In what districts was that leaf grown?
– I shall come to that directly. I wish to show how sympathetic the attitude of the Government has been towards this industry. We can not listen to the clamour of individuals, or to the howls of the multitude when assisting to build up an industry that we wish to see established on sound foundations.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) has suggested that the Tariff Board made a scrappy investigation of the subject’. I remind him that the result of the activities of the Australian Tobacco Investigation were available to the Tariff Board, also that the matter was referred to the board by Mr. Forde” when he was Minister for Trade and Customs in October, 1931, not merely to consider how the revenue might be affected, but also how the industry might be benefited. At the time when the Tariff Board was examining the subject, the average price of leaf in the United States of America was 6½d. per lb.
– At that price it did not pay the growers to cart their leaf to market.
– Some of that leaf came to Australia. The protection which we give the industry is 3s. per lb. If honorable senators will refer to page 5 of the report of the Tariff Board on tobacco, they will see that the prices paid to growers in the United States of America for 1921-22 ranged from 7d. to1s. 4d. per lb., or an average of1s.0½d., while in 1930-31 they were only from 5£d. to 7½. a lb., or an average of 6-Jd., yet, apparently, they met with the satisfaction of growers in that country.
Senator Barnes said that the Australian industry is insufficiently protected, yet the item under consideration is one of the most highly protective in a highly protective tariff. It is evident from the report of the Tariff Board that that body examined the books and returns of growers, which task was probably facilitated by the Tobacco Investigation Committee. The report deals with the production of tobacco leaf in Australia, and with the potential demand for Australian leaf. Two or three facts emerge from it. The first is that that great tobacco-producing country, the United States of America, imports large quantities of tobacco leaf. Next, Canada, with an effective protective duty of ls. Sd. per lb. is exporting tobacco. The report also expresses the opinion that Australia will never be able to export one pound of tobacco, and states also that had we continued the extraordinarily heavy duty imposed by the Scullin Government, the burden- would ultimately fall on the export industries, ;ind thus, by increasing costs, tend to prejudicially affect exports.
This statement is made in reference to an industry which, Senator Barnes claims, is insufficiently protected. Tobacco leaf from the United States of America can be landed in Australia at about ls. per lb. Incidentally, let me add that Canada also imports leaf. In fact, every country which grows tobacco must interchange leaf in order to obtain a mixture which will be palatable to the smoker. The tobacco industry is very much like the wine industry, for many subtleties and difficulties are encountered in blending in order to evolve a leaf that is palatable to the smoker.
– Has the honorable senator smoked Australian tobacco?
– Not only have I smoked it ; I grow it. And I hailed with satisfaction the fact that we were not to be left with a wretched industry on our hands which could not exist because the growers had embarked on the production of a worthless class of leaf. I hope shortly, also, to be a manufacturer of tobacco; so that I speak as one who has a deep interest in the industry.
I do not wish to be offensive to the sugar industry; but I believe that it has been brought to its present position because of political interference. The tobacco industry would have been in exactly the same position had the protective duty that was imposed by the Scullin Government remained, and we should not have been able to export 1 lb. of tobacco unless we found a method of extracting from the public the cash to pay for our exports. I admit that we might be able to arrange, under the Ottawa agreement, for the export of part of pur production of tobacco leaf, but we shall have to sell it in competition with Canadian-grown leaf. The following remarks appear at page 12 of the report of the Tariff Board:-
Although the United States of America in 1928 produced 1,373,500,000 lb. of tobacco loaf and exported 024,000,000 lb., that country still imported 141,000,000 lb. Canada has successfully developed her leaf-growing industry, and is now able to export 6,500,000 of leaf annually, yet that country still imports 19,000,000 lb. of tobacco.
I put it to honorable senators that we cannot force the people of Australia to use something which does not suit them, or, as in the case of tobacco, to smoke leaf which does not suit their palates.
– But they were smoking it.
– Of course, and I hope they will continue to do so. If, however, we had endeavoured to make them use Australian leaf exclusively, we should have found that the consumption of tobacco would have gradually diminished. This was discovered by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company and other large firms in whose hands is 90 per cent, of the tobacco trade. It was their policy to introduce into their manufactured tobacco as much as possible of the lower-grade leaf, but they found that, when the admixture of low grade leaf reached a certain point, the consumption of tobacco began to decline. It was definitely proved that this decline in consumption was due to the presence of too great a proportion of inferior leaf in the manufactured article. Why should we in Australia, where conditions of soil and climate are eminently suitable for the production of high grade tobacco, find it necessary to impose a protective duty of even 3s. per lb. in order to encourage our local industry, when Canada, where the natural conditions are not nearly so favorable, has been able to establish and expand its tobacco-growing industry with a protective duty of only ls. 8d. per lb. ?
– I wish the Minister had exhibited as much enthusiasm for low duties on some of the other items in the schedule as he has in regard to tobacco. The Leader of the Opposition appealed to members of the Country party to support him in his proposal for increasing the duties. I sympathize with the desire of the Leader of the Opposition to encourage this valuable Australian industry, but I am afraid that the sentiments I shall express in the course of my speech may not all meet with his approval. There is no doubt that the tobacco-growers of New South Wales are definitely of the opinion that the Government has made an Aunt Sally of them. They believe, with a great deal of justification, that they have been victimized by the reduction of the tobacco duties. Throughout the debate on the tariff I have consistently taken up the attitude that I am not prepared to support the increasing of any duty, because I believe that what Australia requires to-day is a gradual scaling down of the tariff. Therefore, I do not intend to support the Leader of the Opposition in his plea for higher tobacco duties. I have also consistently fought against increasing the duty on foreign goods, my reason being that it is bad national policy to antagonize those foreign countries with which we trade. I have previously quoted figures to show that, of every £100 worth of good’s which we export, no less than £40 worth are bought by foreign countries, with most of whom we have favorable trade balances. When we consider the tobacco trade, however, we find that the same reason for conciliating foreign opinion does not exist. Most of the tobacco we import comes from the United States of America, and, as all honorable senators know, we have a seriously adverse trade with that country. In. 1931-32, we imported from the United States of America goods to the value of £7,037,751 in. British currency, and we had an adverse trade of £3,S12,644, also in British currency. Therefore, anything we may do to encourage the’ importation of tobacco from the United States of America will have the effect of further increasing our adverse trade with that country. In view of our overseas liabilities, and the difficulty we experience in meeting them, our policy should be to restrict our purchases from the United States of America, and, if the encouragement of an Australian industry such as that of tobacco-growing will tend in this direction, we should encourage it. For the last five years for which figures are available our tobacco imports from the United States of America were -
Our overseas tobacco purchases play an important part in the creation of our adverse trading with the United States of America. Besides purchasing from that country more than we sell to it, we owe to the United States of America over £47,000,000, on which we have to pay annually an interest bill in Australian currency of £4,124,000. The Government, by reducing the duty and increasing the excise, unfortunately is not pursuing a policy in regard to tobacco which will .discourage the purchase of leaf from the United States of America. I do not object to the reduction of duty; but, in increasing the excise on Australian leaf, the Government is actually discouraging the production of tobacco in Australia, and is doing much to wreck the good work accomplished in the past. Until recently the Australian tobacco-growing industry was dying on its feet. I do not propose to say to whom should go the credit for its revival, although the Minister has claimed for his Government the credit for scientific research and investigation which has been of value to the industry. In 1916-17, 14 per cent, of all the tobacco consumed in’ Australia was locally grown. In 1916, when the quantity of Australian leaf used by local manufacturers was 1,703,020 lb., they purchased 12,541,316 lb. of imported leaf; but, in 1928, the quantity of Australian tobacco used totalled only 978,030 lb., as compared with 19,135,709 lb. of imported leaf, which shows that the proportion of locally-grown leaf had fallen from 14 per cent, to 5 per cent. Although the Government investigation into the tobacco industry has been helpful, there must be other reasons for the wonderful expansion of the industry and for the present demand for the locally-grown article.
– The principal tobacco company has been subsidizing the industry.
– Yes; but it has also been exploiting the public. Of all the monopolies in Australia, the tobacco company’s monopoly- is the worst. I shall refer later to the balance-sheets of that company. The expansion of the local industry is clearly due, to a large extent, to .the encouragement given to it under the tariff. Whether that policy is right or wrong, and whether it will have a boomerang effect or not, may be a matter for debate. As the Leader of the ^Opposition (Senator Barnes) has remarked, there are now 4,000 registered growers in Australia, and they include men in almost every station of life. Some who were previously on the dole are now growing tobacco on small areas. The development of the industry has helped considerably in the solution of the problem of unemployment.
I refute the statement made in another place by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) that half of the tobacco grown in certain districts is produced by Chinese. That assertion was unworthy of the honorable gentleman. I share the view of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), who declared that he would rather have Chinese growing tobacco in Australia than import leaf produced in America by negro labour. Of the 4,000 growers in Australia, only about 40, or 1 per cent., are Chinese. Sir Henry Gullett cast an unjustifiable slur on the tobacco industry of this country. Last year, the area devoted to tobacco cultivation was 25,000 acres, and 15,000 persons found direct employment in the industry, apart from the large number who were indirectly employed.
The cash value of the crop last year amounted to £1,250,000, while in the previous year it was worth only £92,000, so Lt is not difficult to calculate how much had to be paid to the American interests. Having regard to Australia’s adverse trade with the United States of America, it is obviously to our advantage to give every possible encouragement to the local industry, which has been definitely established, and is of national importance. In 1929, before the present duty was imposed, 20,000,000 lb. of- tobacco was cleared from bond; but, during the year after the duty had come into operation, only 15,000,000 lb. wa3 cleared. I shall take opportunities later to deal with other aspects of the tobacco duties.
– These duties are of deep concern to the people of Queensland. I support the requested amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (.Senator Barnes). We hope that, at the conclusion of the debate on this item, all members of the Country party will ‘ be ready to support the Opposition, because we are acting in the direct interests of the primary producers. The Minister has spoken of ill-advised action by the Scullin Government; but it is usual for our tory opponents so to characterize the actions of Labour governments generally. So serious was the financial position of Australia when the Scullin Government came into office that it found it necessary to take drastic steps to reduce the volume of imports, and to increase local production. Had the conditions obtaining at that time not been extraordinary, possibly the Scullin Government would not have raised the duty on unstemmed tobacco to 5s. 2d. per lb., and, had it continued in office, it might have made some alteration pf the tobacco duties.
– Mr. Scullin seems to have had some doubt on the matter, because he referred it to the Tariff Board.
– Many such matters are referred to the board. It must not be imagined that members of the Labour party are entirely opposed to inquiries by that board. We desire to obtain as much information as possible, yet we claim that the Parliament should not be made subordinate to the board. The present Government takes it for granted that everything the board says is right. The Minister has offered the excuse that the board had other information to help it. I point out that it sat in Brisbane on the 16th November, in Sydney on the 19th November, in Melbourne on the 1st December, and in Perth on the 14th December, and a good deal of the time between those dates was occupied in travelling. It is the conviction of my colleagues and I that the board did not investigate, as ‘the Parliamentary Select Committee did, the details of this particular industry. The select committee made a thorough investigation of it, during which it sat for many weeks, and travelled many hundreds of miles. Its recommendation was that substantial protection should be given to develop the industry. The Minister has said that the duty imposed was ill-advised, unwise, unbusinesslike, and unscientific. I do not know whether others agree with those sentiments, but I certainly do not. I contend that, if an industry is in a low state of development, a high duty should be imposed, to afford it every facility to develop. That, however, does not imply that I would countenance inefficiency. Sound advice must be given to the growers. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research deserves commendation for what it has done towards assisting this and many other industries to improve their efficiency. But an industry which admittedly is in its infancy, must be given every assistance ; and the duty of 5s. 2d. per lb. undoubtedly had the remarkable effect of increasing by several thousands the number of persons engaged in tobacco-growing. There have been many failures, because of lack of knowledge how to grow and cure tobacco; but,’ according to the latest information available, the initial difficulties have largely been overcome, and, to-day, the local leaf is equal to the best Virginian lemon leaf. Senator Collings will demonstrate the strides that have been made in Queensland, in the light of which it is reasonable to assume that, in a few years, the local growers will be able to supply the whole of the requirements of the Commonwealth. It is pleasing to note that, as the result of his recent visit to northern Queensland, the Prime Minister now has a better conception of the value and importance to Australia of the tobacco and other industries. The Tariff Board, during its investigation, did not visit North Queensland, nor interview the tobaccogrowers of Mareeba, one of the most important tobacco-growing districts in that State. Mr. S. Birrell, the president of the North Queensland Tobacco Growers’ Association, was one of those who met the Prime Minister at Yungaburra. The report of that meeting, which appears in the Brisbane Courier of Friday last, says that Mr. Birrell “ made a powerful plea on behalf of the growers “, and went on to say -
Hundreds of the growers in the district were on the breadline. He urged that, as the combine was not buying good, useable Australian tobacco, steps should bc taken to prohibit importations until the manufacturers were prepared to use 30 per cent, of Australian leaf. The Tariff Board, upon whose report the Government acted, had never been at Mareeba, and Mareeba growers had never been given a chance to state their case. … He gave an account of comparative costs, to show that the Tariff Board’s figures were considerably far short of the facts.
The report continues -
Mr. Lyons handled the meeting with great tact.
The right honorable gentleman would need to be tactful, because his Government had jeopardized the position of the growers by leaving them exposed . to the competition of black-grown tobacco. The report further states -
He was apparently impressed with the statements made. In replying to the charges that the Tariff Board had never heard the case of the Mareeba growers, and that the tobacco combine buyers were rejecting good tobacco without examination, he promised an i n depend en t in vest tigat ion .
That was tantamount to an admission that” there had not been a proper investigation to safeguard the interests of the tobacco-growers. The report goes on to say-
He said it seemed to him that, in view of the fact that the Tariff Board was a guide for the Government, it was right that the board should investigate the question, in order to get the fullest facts in connexion with the industry. “We agree that the fullest investigation should be made. The right honorable gentleman has admitted that there has not been such an investigation, because he has promised a further independent investigation. I should like to hear what the Minister has to say on that aspect of the matter. The Prime Minister added -
I will guarantee that an independent investigation shall be made into your circumstances.
We are pleased that the right honorable gentleman has been so affected by the conditions of the tobacco-growers in No’rth Queensland that he is prepared to concede that measure of justice. Meanwhile, however, as there has not been a thorough investigation of the industry, the Government should increase the tariff protection from 3s. to 4s. 6d. per lb. After the investigation has been made, it may be that the rate of 4s. 6d. will remain or be’ increased. Senator McLachlan has said that the United States of America is still importing tobacco for blending purposes. According to the figures quoted by him, the quantity imported is 1.43,000,000 lb., and the quantity produced, 1,373,500,000 lb. Let me draw his attention to the percentage difference between those two quantities.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I wish to contribute a few remarks to this debate. I admit that I am a non-smoker, but still I have a thorough knowledge of the history of the tobacco industry in Queensland, and because of that, I am hopeful that the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) will be accepted by a majority of honorable senators. This afternoon reference has been made,to the percentage of Chinese at present engaged in the industry. As I have said previously in this chamber, I can remember the time when practically everything that we ate, drank and wore was imported.
– That is a sweeping statement.
– I remember when our requirements of bacon, cheese and butter, tobacco, boots and shoes, with the exception of the common makes and brands, had to be imported because of there being little local production. I remember when there were no textile industries in this country. As a much younger man, I was engaged as a shop assistant in the sale of tobacco. At that time there was no cut tobacco, and the bulk of the commodity sold for consumption was in the form of negro twist, and various makes of black tobacco, a vile production, most of it adulterated and doctored, and likely to poison any one who smoked it to any great extent.
– It used to be used for putting in rum.
– Yes: and I have no doubt that tobacco is still being used in that way. I was in Queensland when tobacco leaf was first grown in Texas, mostly by Chinese, although a few white settlers in the immediate neighbourhood engaged in the industry. At one time a fairly successful attempt was made in Brisbane to manufacture tobacco, but the industry was soon killed by the overseas tobacco combine, and as a result, the Texas tobacco fields went into disuse. Later, when the proper method of production became more generally known, the industry was revived, but in a weak and anaemic fashion. Then the Scullin tariff gave a great impetus to the industry, and at a later stage of the debate I shall quote figures relating to both the growing and the producing of tobacco in Australia, to show that the local industry has made wonderful strides. I have come into personal contact with the tobaccogrowers of Queensland, and just before the opening of this session I paid a visit to Beerburrum tobacco settlement, not very many miles from Brisbane. That settlement was a wonderful experiment. I am glad that this measure is in charge of Senator McLachlan, since he has declared himself to be both a grower and a potential producer of tobacco. I have taken the opportunity to bring from Queensland a sample of Australian tobacco, because it is only right that honorable senators, before taking a vote on this item, should have a full understanding of the facts. The Tariff Board stated, in its report, that one of the great difficulties confronting the industry was the way in which many settlers rushed in to produce an unsatisfactory leaf, but I submit that no industry has ever been established in this country without those originally engaged in it having made mistakes. We learn by mistakes. In fact, we are told by our pastors that we have no virtue at all, because original sin was committed, and we have to learn to avoid it. Honorable senators after inspecting the sample of tobacco which I have with me, will no longer be able, logically, to harp on the failure of the tobacco-growers of Queensland, because those growers are now producing the right kind of leaf for the manufacture of tobacco. The history of the tobacco settlement at Beerburrum is so wonderful that to those who are unacquainted with the facts, it reads almost like a fairy story. Unemployment in Queensland was’ distressingly bad, although not so bad as in the other States. The State Labour Government, seeking means for the relief of unemployment, decided to open certain areas in the Beerburrum district for tobacco-growing. It “refused to place on those areas any men who were unmarried, or any married couple without children. It took 200 adults and 432 dependant children who were unemployed, and settled them, without any knowledge whatever of the industry, on the selected areas. I returned to Brisbane from the Beer- burrum settlement the day before I left the northern capital for Canberra, so that I am relating, not ancient history, but recent happenings. The whole of the developmental work at the settlement was done by community effort. The plots having been surveyed, and tracks cut, all the men there concentrated on the building of one house or barn after another. The houses, which have iron roofs, are of timber construction, covered with jute, which has been whitewashed and made waterproof. When the houses were ready for occupation, the women and children were taken to the settlement. I have here a number of samples of tobacco leaf grown at Beerburrum and other parts of Queensland, and if the Minister in charge of the bill, with his technical knowledge of this subject, can find any fault with them, I hope that he will let us know. As I have said, these people had no knowledge of tobacco-growing when they started on this work; but they were keenly interested in the project, and were quick to accept and follow the advice given to them by instructors from the State Department of Agriculture. It may not be generally known that tobacco grows best in soil which is of little use for growing anything else. The Mareeba country, extending to Mount Molloy, country which I know well, is desolate land, covered for the most part, with stunted timber, yet it produces tobacco of the finest quality, as will be seen from the samples I have here. I make no idle boast when I claim that the samples of tobacco which I have with me could not be excelled anywhere in the world. That fact is admitted by the experts. I do not say that no inferior leaf is grown in Queensland; but I do say that the growers are keen to follow the instructions given to them by the experts, and that they will not long continue to grow inferior leaf. The Queensland tobacco-growing industry is efficiently conducted, and is working on sound economic lines. Some of the finest tobacco leaf in the world is being grown at Miriam Vale, near Gladstone.
– In what district in Queensland does the honorable senator think the best leaf is produced?
– According to the experts, the best leaf comes from Miriam Vale or Sarina.
– The best leaf is grown at Sunnybank.
– I do not think that the experts would agree with the honorable senator, because the industry is only in the experimental stage at Sunnybank. I am not, however, attempting to show which district grows the best leaf, but that the industry in Queensland as a whole is working along right lines, and should not be interfered with. The unruly hand which the present Government laid on the Scullin tariff schedule has caused a setback in the industry. The tobacco-growers at the Beerburrum settlement have only recently been lifted from the most degrading poverty; they are facing this winter without sufficient boots and clothing. They are facing the future bravely, but they are fearful of the consequences of this Government’s action. I ask honorable senators not to do anything to discourage them by throwing the industry back into the condition in which it was before it received, a stimulus under the Scullin Government’s tariff. Queensland senators have no desire to embarrass the Government in this connexion; they are not seeking the support of the members of the Country party for political purposes. It would suit me politically if the Government were to refuse the request of the growers ; but I do not want to make political capital at the expense of those engaged in tobacco-growing. My only desire is that this industry shall be encouraged and developed.
– I am not overstating the case when I say that the measure of protection which is to be afforded to the tobaccogrowing industry is -a burning question in Queensland. The producers of tobacco have cleared their land, built their homes, and erected curing kilns, in the belief that every encouragement would be given to them, and they regard as a cruel and undeserved blow the action of the present Government in lowering the duty on imported tobacco leaf. In my opinion, the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs, Sir Henry Gullett, is to blame. As a result of his . personal contact with a number of tobacco-growers in the Mareeba district, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has agreed to a further investigation of the industry, and has told the growers which Commonwealth officers will undertake it. The duty set out in the tariff schedule of the Scullin Government should be re-imposed. The only objection to a higher duty is based on the fear that it will encourage overproduction ; but we have a long way to go before that stage is reached. There is much to learn before tobacco-growing can be engaged in successfully. I have been surprised at the difficulties which have to be overcome before tobacco leaf of good quality can be produced. The land must be carefully selected,, the young plants skilfully tended, and great care exercised in connexion with the seedbeds, the planting out, and the harvesting and curing of the leaf. A knowledge of all these matters cannot be acquired in one season. The majority of the people engaged in the cultivation” of tobacco leaf are not capitalists. Senator Collings has said that many of those at the Beerburrum settlement were previously in receipt of the dole. Unfortunately, scores of thousands of our people are unemployed. Surely an industry which will take people off the dole, and provide them with pro ductive employment should be encouraged. Every country depends upon its-, industries; and the establishment of new industries, and the expansion of existing ones must benefit the whole community. I saw a good deal of the early stages of tobacco cultivation in the Mareeba district, and I was surprised at what was accomplished in a very short time. The risk of over-production is an, argument employed against every proposal to establish an industry, and the ‘ Tariff Board seems to be going out of its way to seek evidence as to the minimum amount of protection to be given ‘ to any proposed new venture. Parliament should decide to encourage every industry which is worth while, and to give to it all the protection it requires. If, under cover;;of high protection, the producers seek: to’- exploit the consumers, they can- beeasily dealt- ‘with.Every person proposing’ to’- engage1 in: the production of tobacco leaf must obtain a licence, the granting of- ; which could ; be conditional upon the licensee” ‘undertaking to supply good quality leaf! “at a reasonable price.
– The leaf is supplied, not to the people, but to the manufacturers.
– A great deal has been said regarding the tobacco combine. The British-Australasian Tobacco Company has not given to the growers a fair deal, and its policy calls for inquiry and report. It is engaged in the manufacture of tobacco, not only in Australia, but in America, the United Kingdom, and other countries; in fact, the scope of its activities is almost unlimited, and I doubt if it desires that the production of tobacco leaf in Australia should develop to more than a limited extent.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the’ subsidy being paid by the British- Australasian Tobacco Company, ostensibly to- encourage the growth of tobacco in Australia, is only bluff?
– The production of a limited quantity of tobacco leaf in Australia may suit the company, but it does not desire production to proceed beyond a certain point’. We have been told that it is necessary for Australian tobacco to be blended with leaf grown in other countries. I am not an expert, but I doubt’ whether such blending is necessary. Australia is a continent with. wide ranges of climate and soil, and probably it can produce tobacco of almost any flavour. I have heard experienced smokers say that pipe tobacco and cigarettes made from Australian leaf is equal to any they have ever used.
– I have heard others say that they cannot 3moko the Australian leaf.
– No doubt tastes differ, but I question whether the manufacturers yet thoroughly understand how to make the best use of Australian leaf. They, like the growers, will gain knowledge with experience. The very best quality of leaf is grown at Mareeba, j?nd I understand that a certain brand of tobacco is being sold under a similar name, although it contains no Australian leaf.
– The honorable gentleman is mistaken.
– That statement has been published, but I cannot vouch for its correctness.
– This particular brand of tobacco is a competitor with the products of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company; it is 100 per cent. Australian, and its use should be encouraged.
– I am glad to hear that, because I believe in encouraging Australian industries, regardless of the State in which they are conducted. Only by this policy will our people be able to maintain a reasonable standard of living. I appeal to the committee to give the tobacco-growing industry a chance. In time, it will attain considerable importance, and I see no reason why, when our growers have acquired more expert knowledge, they should not be able to export a proportion of their crop. The United Kingdom allows a preference of ls. 9d. per lb. on tobacco grown within the Empire, but this preference, like others given to the dominions, is not nearly so great as they have a right to expect. I read recently that notwithstanding the preference of ls. 9d. per lb., Rhodesian tobacco of good quality is not realizing, on the London market, more than ls. per lb.
– Probably it does not appeal to the taste of the British smoker.
– Tobacco which is not saleable is valueless. Unfortunately, the price of tobacco leaf is fixed by the manufacturers, and they will not pay a penny more than the producers are compelled to accept. The British preferences to Australian products should be further investigated. I again appeal to honorable senators .to vote for the amendment, and so give a valuable and growing industry an opportunity to develop.
.- When the Scullin tariff schedule was before the Senate, the members of the then Opposition formed committees to investigate various items. I was the convener of the committee that dealt with tobacco, and the majority of those who were associated with me were of the opinion that it would be in the interests of Australia to increase the import duty and reduce the excise duty in order that tobacco made from Australian leaf might be sold more cheaply, and its use thus encouraged. I intend to support the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), that the duties proposed in this schedule be increased. Senator Crawford has rightly said that the protection of the industry was reduced at a most critical stage. The old rate of duty, which was higher than is now proposed, had been imposed by the Scullin Government, and continued for a time by its successor. With this encouragement, the cultivation of tobacco had been undertaken almost from one end of Australia to the other. The growers were entitled to believe that the protection of their industry would continue, and they were amazed when, without warning, and almost without serious consideration, the duties were reduced. I contended at the time that, at least, they should have been allowed to harvest and dispose of that season’s crop, which had been planted on the assumption that the old rate of protection would continue, before the duties were interfered with. No doubt, the Minister in charge of the tariff will ;tel] the committee that the protection now afforded is equal to 300 or 400 per cent. Certainly, having regard to the world prices of tobacco, the present flat rate of duty appears high.
– In the United Kingdom, the duty on tobacco is 9s. 2d. per lb.
– Undoubtedly, there is a tremendous surplus of tobacco in .the world at the present time, and it is being dumped in any available market at ridiculously low prices in order to get rid of it. During the discussion of this schedule, reference has been made to the dumping of Japanese goods at prices so low that no reasonable customs duty could adequately protect local industries. The same could also be said concerning the importation of tobacco, which is being dumped in certain countries at a low cost. Until the industry is firmly established in Australia, every possible protection should be afforded to it. I know that in certain parts of Australia persons are engaged in the production of tobacco on land totally unsuitable for that purpose. In parts of Victoria and, perhaps, in one or two of the other States, the cultivation of tobacco can result only in disaster to those concerned. Whatever the duty or excise may be, they will eventually realize that they are growing tobacco when they should be engaged in the production of some other primary product, The experts in the Customs Department, and other reliable authorities, say that there are parts of Australia eminently suitable for the cultivation of tobacco. I am convinced that its production will eventually be confined to suitable areas. Those growing tobacco on black or heavy loamy soils, which are quite unsuitable, will be compelled, as many others have been, to discontinue production. Experts have admitted that tobacco grown on certain areas in Australia is equal to that produced in any part of the world; but, unfortunately, it has not been purchased to the extent suggested by the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs, Sir Henry Gullett, who said that large quantities would be acquired by the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company.
– Can the honor.able senator name one district where good leaf is at present for sale?
– An honorable member, speaking in another place, said that the growers in the Tamworth district could not dispose of their stock of good leaf. Growers, encouraged by the higher duty imposed under the Scullin tariff, suddenly found the duty reduced just before their crop was harvested. That prevented them from making any’ arrangements profitably to dispose oftheir crop.
– Has that anything’ to do with the subject we are discussing to-day? Is the honorable senator suggesting that those growers should be compensated ?
– It is impracticable to compensate them. I submit that a higher duty is necessary to provide growers with adequate protection, and to ensure their crops being acquired in the proportion suggested by the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs.
– The Queensland tobacco industry represents only a section of the great Australian tobacco industry, which is now fairly well established. In travelling over a large portion of Queensland, I found that, prior to the introduction of the Scullin tariff, the industry was fluctuating. Tobacco had been grown in a number of districts, but experience had shown that there was not a big demand for the Australian product. Tobaccogrowing was undertaken in the Bowen and other Queensland districts; but, after the industry had been in operation for some time, production declined. Texas, in southern Queensland, was the only district in which a large quantity was grown, but even there the production was reduced to 100,000 lb. annually. I submit that the reduced output was due largely to the lack of sufficient protection afforded to the industry, and to the activities of the tobacco monopoly. operating in Australia. Frequent reference is made to the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company, but I refer- to that organization as the tobacco monopoly, as that is exactly what it is. Twenty-five years ago a royal commission inquired into the tobacco monopoly in Australia, and the evidence disclosed that this monopoly was working in the interests of those importing tobacco. Following the effective protection afforded to the industry under the Scullin tariff, there was a tremendous boom in production. The figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) showthat, in Queensland alone, the number of growers increased from 48 to 1,663, and that the number in Victoria is 1,160, and in New South Wales 550. Every State, including Tasmania produces tobacco, -and, according to the figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition, the number of growers throughout the Commonwealth increased from 400 to 3,600. In discussing this item, I make an appeal to those honorable senators who profess to be the direct representatives in this chamber of the primary producers. If there is one industry which can be regarded . as essentially a primary industry, conducted by small producers, it is the tobacco-growing industry.
– The members of the Country party are willing to assist the industry by reducing the excise on Australian tobacco to enable it to be sold to consumers at lower prices.
– Perhaps the difficulty could be met to some extent in that way. The last issue of a publication entitled Tobacco, shows that, during the tariff debate in another place, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) moved an amendment to postpone the consideration of the import duties on tobacco until the excise duties had been disposed of. He suggested that the reduction of the excise duties and a corresponding increase in the import duties would compensate for any loss of revenue. The Minister for Trade and Customs at that time said that he could not promise to support a reduction in excise. Senator Hardy is aware that three members of the Country party voted in favour of the amendment, which was lost. Another amendment was moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), providing for a reduction of 8d. per lb. in the excise.
– I will support such a request.
– I am pleased to.have that assurance from the honorable senator.
– If we reduced the excise and increased the customs duties the result from a revenue viewpoint would be the same.
– A reduction in excise would benefit the consumer, and also the grower, by increasing consumption.
– Such a reduction would assist the tobacco producers. I trust that other members of the Country party will support the request moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The position of the Queens land tobacco-growers was placed before1 the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) during his visit to Queensland. According to press reports, the Prime Minister has promised that an independent investigation will be made into the position at Mareeba, as the report by the Tariff Board was made without a visit having been made to that district. Since the higher duties imposed by the Scullin Government were in operation, an important portion of the Kennedy electorate has been devoted to the production of tobacco. A portion of that electorate has, until recently, been used almost solely for cattle-raising, and was not regarded as suitable for any other purpose. Tobacco can be successfully grown only on light or poor soils. Any one visiting the Kennedy electorate would think that that land, which carries growth quite distinct from the splendid tropical bush on the Atherton Tablelands and on the CairnsRange, is suitable only for cattleraising. From Kuranda, near the Barron Falls, to Mareeba, there is open forest country, growing eucalypts and native grasses, which was thought to be suitable only for cattle-raising, but the recent boom in tobacco-growing has shown that that land is highly suitable for the cultivation of tobacco.
– What are the growers paying for the land in the Mareeba district?
– For cattleraising purposes it was obtainable at low prices. I have not the figures as to the present prices ; but I understand that the Prime Minister was ‘ informed that the Tariff Board had reported that, at Mareeba, the field costs were £28 5s. an acre, the curing cost £45 18s., and the total cost of production £74 3s., whereas, after paying freight to Darling Harbour, Sydney, the return to the grower is only £75 an acre. This did not allow a sufficient margin of profit.
– I have seen how some of those little accounts are made out.
– Apparently the Prime Minister was satisfied with the figures, because he agreed that an independent investigation should be made.
– Did he say what tribunal should make the investigation? ‘
– I presume that he was referring to the Tariff Board.
– I understand that the views of the Mareeba growers were placed before the Tariff Board on the last occasion by Mr. Ellis.
– The objections raised by Mr.. Birrell, the President of the Mareeba Tobacco Growers Association, evidently impressed the Prime Minister, who has agreed that the Tariff Board should visit the district. The board had not’ visited the Mareeba district before its report was presented, and the Prime Minister considered that to be unsatisfactory. The position of the growers there is now serious, rendering necessary increased protection, either in the form of a higher import duty on foreign leaf, or, as Senator Hardy has suggested, an increase of the excise duty. Tobacco-growing should be placed on the same basis as the sugar industry. The figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) this afternoon, showed’ that the number of growers in Victoria was nearly as great as- that of Queensland, also that quite a respectable number are engaged in the business in New South “Wales and other States. The industry cannot expand and maintain Australian labour conditions if it has to meet competition from tobacco-producing countries which employ coloured labour at a mere pittance compared with Australian wage standards. I listened attentively to what Senator Hardy had to say this afternoon, and I regard as quite sound and logical his proposal that we should protect this young Australian industry from competition by America, a country with which we have an adverse trade balance of con’siderable dimensions. “When speaking to another item a day or so ago, Senator Duncan-Hughes, referring to our trade relations with Fiji, emphasized that as the trade figures with that country were so much in our favour, we should offer no objection to the arrangements made under the Ottawa treaty for -the importation of a certain quantity of Fijian bananas into Australia annually. I would, however, point out that, con sidered on an Empire basis, Fiji, although one of the smaller British possessions, with an area of approximately 8,000 square miles, has a favorable balance of Empire trade amounting to £200,000. Adopting the argument put forward by Senator Duncan-Hughes, I would say that, if the trade between any two countries is a reason why the one with an adverse balance should adopt a certain line of action, our unfavorable balance of trade with the United States of America is certainly a strong argument in support of the requested amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, and I hope it will be agreed to.
– I shall not take very long to express my views on this subject, which has been debated at some length in Parliament and in the country for about’ a year. I shall vote for the item, because it is clear that* owing to the enormous increase of the production of leaf in Australia, the duty is needed to protect the revenue. Further, the duty imposed by the Scullin Government was excessive, and the rates in this schedule are still very high. The fact that these tobacco duties benefit a primary industry is not, in my opinion, a reason why any honorable senator should support a tariff that is excessive. My sympathies are with all those who are engaged in our primary industries, whatever may be their nature, as I am well aware of the effect which high duties imposed chiefly for the protection of secondary industries have had upon primary producers. Nevertheless”, I cannot help feeling that it is uneconomic to bolster up any industry with excessive tariff protection, particularly when I consider the effect of such protection on the revenue.
– Has the honorable senator the latest revenue figures with regard to this item?
– No, not with me, but I have seen them. I should say that I support the Government on this sub-item with a certain degree of reluctance, because it happens that I have a number of tobacco-growers in my State. “When there was an agitation about a year ago, I went down to see them, and put before them my views, telling them that I considered that the alterations made by the Government were desirable, and that I intended to support them. I also inspected their product. The growers whom I interviewed struck me as being particularly capable, and typical, J dare say, of growers in the other States. It is uneconomical to impose high protection on a commodity such as tobacco thereby forcing up land values to an artificial figure, the result being that many men who engage in this new industry discover, eventually, that because of overcapitalization the business is uncommercial, and, perforce, they have to drop out. It would be much better to establish this industry from the beginning on a more reasonable basis.
I also wish to say a word or two on behalf of the consumer, whom nobody appears to- consider in these debates. Possibly, I should not be in order if I suggested that we have had a certain amount of insincere talk in this chamber this afternoon; but no one will deny that, outside Parliament, during the last twelve months, there has been a great deal of disingenuous discussion on this subject. Without desiring to disparage the quality of the Australian tobacco, I feel bound to say that many people, who, in their public utterances have praised the local product, have told me privately that they have tried it, and do not like it.
– They should try smoking the Queensland tobacco.
– About a year ago, I tried to smoke the Australian product, which, I admit, is made up in attractive form. It smelt good, but when I came to smoke it I did not care for it. I still have about nine-tenths of that packet in my possession. I do not like to offer it to my friends when they come to see me, and I do not care to smoke it myself. I do not wish to decry the quality of Australian tobacco, and I do not see any reason why a certain amount of it should not be produced on truly economic lines.
– But the honorable senator would not care to be forced to smoke it.
– That is so. I could understand the Government imitating the French Government, which, in effect, says to visitors to that country that they must use French matches, and smoke French cigarettes, for which 1 may add, they are forced to pay exorbitant prices ; but I cannot understand why the Australian Government should say, “ We are going to put such a duty on imported tobacco that you will be forced to smoke the Australian product; and don’t forget that it is the best tobacco that has ever been produced in any country at any time”.
– Nobody says that.
– Statements made in this chamber to-day would undoubtedly convey the impression that the quality of Australian tobacco is superlatively good. What we require in this matter is a sense of proportion. I know .of no reason why we should not, in the future, produce a really good tobacco ; but to do this our growers must allow sufficient time for maturation. So far, they have not allowed the leaf to mature properly, as is the practice in the United States of America, with the result that our product is not up to the American standard. It is common knowledge that, for many months past, complaints have been heard about the decline in the quality of Australian tobacco, due, no doubt, to the higher proportion of Australian leaf used for blending purposes in order to dispose qf last year’s production. The ordinary citizen who is a smoker is entitled to some consideration. As one who has smoked fairly heavily for 30 years, I do not hesitate to say that there has been a marked deterioration in the quality of the tobacco sold in Australia.
– Does the honorable senator smoke Australian tobacco?
– I have tried it, but do not care for it.
– I have smoked Queensland tobacco for years, and find it suits my taste. I consider it superior to the imported product.
– The honorable senator must be fortunate. I wish that I were in the same position. In justice to Queensland growers, I should add that the tobacco which I tried was made from leaf grown in northern New South Wales.
I shall support the item also for the reason that the Government, by reducing the duty from the figure at which the Scullin Government left it, has shown commendable courage, though for doing so it has been subjected to a good deal of unfair criticism. I wish that it had shown similar courage in dealing with a great many other items of the schedule. In supporting the item I do not think that it will harm the unfortunate tobaccogrowers; on the contrary, my opinion is that it will help to correct a thoroughly uneconomic situation.
– Senator McLachlan has twitted the Country party with differing from the Labour party in this matter just as Tweedledum differs from Tweedledee. I do not know exactly what the honorable senator meant to imply by his remark, unless it is that there is no difference between advocating a reduction of excise on Australiangrown tobacco leaf, as we do, and advocating an increase of import duty, as the Leader of the Opposition has done; but we think there is a vast difference. In expressing my individual opinion that the Country party does not stand for the increase of duties, I believe that I am also expressing the opinion of the Country party as a whole. We believe _ that the fiscal wall should be lowered, “ and we have fought consistently to achieve that end.
– If the honorable senator does not favour an increase of the import duty, but succeeds in obtaining a decrease of the excise duty, he will put the tobacco-growers in a worse position than ever.
– I do not think so. A reduction of the excise duty, for which I shall move when the excise duties are under consideration, would not interfere with the preferential treatment of the Australian industry. If we have an import duty of per lb., British, 3s., and foreign, 4s. 6d., and the same rate of excise duty on each, the local growers will admittedly still have an advantage. It must be remembered, however, that if the import duty of 3s. were altered to 4s. 6d., the users of tobacco would be in a worse position than they are in to-day. It cannot be denied that any increase of customs duty has a reflection on internal costs. It is the rigidity of internal costs which, in the opinion of the Country party, is one of the curses of Australia. If we can get a reduction of costs which will result in a reduction of price to the consumers, and still give that protection to the local industry which it deserves for having adopted a policy of expansion, we should certainly do so. That desirable objective is to’ be achieved through a preferential excise duty on Australian-grown leaf. That is the policy of the Country party. I . know that the Minister will probably say that a reduction of excise duty would adversely affect the revenue, but I do not think that it would do so to a serious extent. We all know that it is necessary for the Government to maintain its revenue. The Tariff Board touches on this point. After referring to the additional labour that would be required for the growing, curing handling, and manufacturing of a large proportion of leaf in Australia, it states -
This is of utmost importance, as it would not only assist in solving the unemployment problem, but, by increasing ‘the field of direct taxation, would increase the revenue from that source, and thus offset, to some extent, the loss of revenue from the import and excise duties on tobacco and tobacco manufactures. Having regard to all the circumstances, the Tariff Board is of opinion that it would be unwise during the period in which the Australian loaf-growing industry is -becoming established, to seek to increase the net revenue from tobacco beyond the amount raised during 1929-30, namely, approximately £6,500,000.
– That was the combined customs and excise revenue.
– The indications that we gather from the financial returns that have been published show that the’ Government is ina fair way to collect this year from tobacco- duties not £6,500,000, but £7,120,000, which is £620,000 in excess of the amount which the Tariff Board suggested as a fair figure. If the move which I intend to make on behalf of the Country party for a reduction of excise duty is successful, the revenue will not be reduced below the amount of £6,500,000, which the Tariff Board suggested was reasonable, while the tobacco-growers will be givena fighting chance of success. Everybody knows that tobacco-growing was taken up by many people under rush conditions which led to a good deal of inefficiency, but there is no reason why the people who embarked upon this industry should be condemned tofailure. They should be given-‘ an opportunity to remedy their mistakes. In 1931-32, we had an adverse trade- balance with the United States of America of £3,000,000, and we have to pay that country annually £4,124,000, Australian currency, in interest. If we can improve our -adverse trade balance by stimulating the growing of tobacco leaf on economic lines we should do so, for the industry would undoubtedly be a national- asset.
When I was referring some little time ago to. the manufacturers, and was ruled out of order, I was arguing that the manufacturers, and not the Labour party, would drive the people into socialism - if they were driven into it. The members of our party have said many times in the country that there is not much difference between the Trades Hall and the Chamber, of Manufactures, though, of course, we cannot expect our view to be universally accepted.
The profits which the British- Australasian Tobacco. Company have made in the last decade or so show clearly that . the public has been exploited. It may be contended that the tobacco combine is to-day using £3,000,000 worth of Australian-grown leaf annually, but it’ cannot be . said that it is giving the smoking public a fair deal. The Tariff Board-, in- discussing the profits of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, stated- r
The business - expanded as consumption increased, but the additional capital required from time to time appeals to have been provided from profits made by the subsidiaries and held in reserve after shareholders in the British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited had received very satisfactory dividends. For the nine years ended the 30th June, 1929, the following dividends were paid by the” British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited : -
While maintaining a dividend rate of 12 per cent., the combine has increased its profits in the period that I have covered from £491,987 to £894,791. *
SenatorFoll. - How much capital has been subscribed?
– The Tariff Board’s report shows that the stock has been watered. This company practically controls the manufacture of tobacco in Australia. The question has been asked whether the company, by providing a certain amount of money for the encouragement of the Australian tobacco industry, has a real desire to assist the industry. I do not propose to discuss that point at the moment, but I direct the attention of honorable senators to the following statement, which also appears in the board’s report : -
At the annual meeting of the Melbourne Stock Exchange on the 29th October, 1931, the chairman, in referring to the reduced earnings of industrial companies, quoted figures showing that the net profits of 60 industrial companies with shareholders’ funds aggregating approximately £50,000,000, fell from 7.7 per cent, in 1928-29 to 2.6 per cent, in 1930-31.
Yet the tobacco combine has been able to maintain its 12 per cent, dividend rate right through the depression !
– That is a better rate than “the rate of 10 per cent, maintained by the banks.
– Quite so. It certainly shows that the combine has had very little regard for either the consuming public or the unfortunate tobaccogrowers. We believe that the tobaccogrowers are entitled toa chance to make a success of their industry. Perhaps the Minister will tell us that the tobacco manufacturers entered into an agreement last year to buy 8,000,000 lb. of tobacco at 2s. 3d. per lb., but he may not say - and, therefore, I shall - that after buying that quantity at that price the manufacturers bought another 2,000,000 lb. at lower prices, which averaged1s. per lb., and left 2,000,000 lb. in the hands of the growers. But what have the manufacturers done this year? Although they have been making such tremendous profits, they have not entered into a similar contract in respect of this season’s crop.
– Should they be compelled to buy the tobacco leaf irrespective of its quality?
– -They have intimated that they are prepared to take the gold leaf ; but, actually, the growers have nothing definite to work on for this year.
– I suppose the honorable senator knows that no arrangement was entered into for this year, because the growers wanted a free hand.
– That is probably because they were not satisfied with the price they received last year. I am. sure that the growers would gladly sell their whole crop if they could get a profitable price for it. The Minister must know that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction in this industry to-day. The duties imposed by the Scullin Government were, per lb., import, 5s. 2d.; excise, 2s. 4d. This Government has reduced the rates to import 3s. and excise 4s. 6d., but it must be remembered that, excise has to be paid on all tobacco. What honorable senator will say that the Australiangrown tobacco has not been penalized through the imposition of the additional excise duty? A careful calculation shows that the weight of the burden is 93 per cent. The logical conclusion is that the Australian industry has been discouraged, to the benefit of the foreign product. If it can be shown that the revenue will not be depleted, and that the Government will not sacrifice the £6,500,000 referred to by the Tariff Board, will the Government and its supporters stand behind a reduction of excise, which will give the Australian tobacco industry a reasonable chance of pulling through and establishing itself on a reasonable basis?
– The way in which honorable senators opposite change their convictions as we pass from one item to another is astounding, for, throughout, the principle rs the same. Their subterfuges are particularly interesting to one who endeavours to take a logical view of the situation and consistently follow a guiding principle of political economy.
Senator Hardy twitted my colleagues and myself about somebody having said, somewhere, and at some old time, that there is little difference between the political villainy of the Trades Hall and the Chambers of Commerce.
– I said that the farmers placed them on the same basis.
– In endeavouring to champion the rights of this important primary industry I am quite prepared to be classed with the Trades Hall, but I do not like the comparison with the Chambers of Commerce, although 1 should be willing to act in collaboration with them if their principles were right and just.
We have heard a good deal about the danger that would follow if the Government further assisted the Australian tobacco industry, and have been told that already the “ combine “ is making immense profits. If that is the only argument against doing the right thing by the industry, why does not the Government take action against the combine? I am sure that such action would have the support of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce), for it is on record that, only some 30 years ago, he was in favour of smashing all combines. The sentiment was a fine one then, and it is excellent ethics now.
– I ask the honorable senator not to proceed with that line of argument.
– I want to point out that this argument used against this proposal for the encouragement of the Australian tobacco industry is fallacious, and should not be entertained. Senator Pearce has shown how the combines can be attacked, for, on the occasion I refer to, he suggested that if they were guilty of doing the things with which they were charged they should be nationalized. When an interjector asked whether the honorable sena- - tor would favour compensation, he said, “ No. Why compensate them for anything”?
We are also urged to proceed warily in this matter because the inflation of land values has occurred as a result of the establishment of the industry. In the vernacular that is “ one on me “, and an extraordinary argument to come from honorable senators opposite. Evidently this is not one of the activities to which the tariff-slashers referred as a “backyard “ industry, for, according to Senator
Hardy, the manufacturers are making fortunes, and paying enormous dividends. When an industry is struggling to get a foothold, and has not yet displayed its capability to produce the right article economically, it is termed a backyard industry, and deemed to be not worth-while. In this case, honorable senators say that, as a result of the protection given by the Scullin Government, the tobacco industry is paying enormous dividends. Apparently, it is impossible to please them.
I shall say a word or two regarding the criticism by Senator Duncan-Hughes of the Australian product. I am not in a position to judge from personal experience the quality of our tobacco, because I am not a smoker, and cannot understand why persons indulge in a habit which ruins their system with the nicotine they absorb, fouls the atmosphere, and makes rooms stuffy. However, 95 per cent, of honorable senators do smoke, and I should like to have their opinion of the samples which I have before me. Senator Duncan-Hughes said that he purchased a tin of Australian tobacco, and still has the remains of it. which, he added, he would not offer to a visitor. It is a long time since he has bought that tobacco, and the tobacco industry has made great strides in Australia in the interval. What the honorable senator said in regard to the Australian industry could have been said of hundreds of other Australian industries which finally emerged successfully, and now export their products in competition with the world. We should not decry the tobacco industry merely because one honorable senator purchased a sample that did not please his taste, which, probably, has been badly educated.
It has been claimed that the .tobacco marketed under the trade name “Mareeba” does not contain any leaf produced in that area. I have before me two fair-sized samples grown in the Mareeba district, and processed by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, bearing the certificate that they contain only Mareeba tobacco. Their appearance is certainly that of a high-class product. The following figures are interesting, for they reveal the progress that has been made by the Australian industry in the last few years: -
Those figures are of vital importance, because they enable us to understand what has happened, and to vote intelligently on the subject. When the Government reduced the import duty from 5s. 2d. to 3s. and increased the excise to 4s. 6d., the price of American tobacco remained unaltered, but that of the local product increased by 2s. 2d. per lb., and this caused a tremendous set-back to our industry. We are not asking the Government to forgo any revenue; we merely ask it to exploit foreign rather than local channels when seeking avenues by which to draw revenue from this industry at a given figure.
Honorable senators opposite and members of the Country party frequently express sympathy with the unemployed, and I , believe that they are sincere in their expressions. I shall show what results from reducing tariffs. When the duty on American leaf was increased, one tobacco manufacturing firm operating in Australia immediately engaged 70 additional hands, its piece workers earned 33 per cent, more than they do to-day, and an additional twelve strippers were put into use. When this Government altered the duty, those twelve strippers became idle, and the original number has been reduced by 33 per cent. Of the 70 additional hands, 40 have been discharged, and the remaining 30 are now part-time workers. The factory of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company has had a similar experience. Senator Brennan, I think, questioned the accuracy of my statement when I recalled the number of commodities which, in my youth, were habitually imported, but are now made locally. Since I spoke, I have thought of _ other things which, at that time, were imported; such as pickles, vinegar, sauce, confectionery, jams, biscuits, and smoked and tinned fish. During my life I have seen the first attempts at producing these commodities in Australia, and I have seen those industries expand until they have come to occupy an important place in our national life.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– May I suggest that Senator Hardy was, unwittingly, unfair in his quotations from the Tariff Board’s report bearing on the operations of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company. Had he read the succeeding paragraph, he would have informed honorable senators that, although the company paid a dividend of 12 per cent, in 1929, the dividend in 1931 was only 8 per cent. I hold no brief for any firm which exploits the public, but, in fairness, we should state the facts. There are several firms in Australia engaged in processing tobacco, and the British-Australasian Tobacco Company stands above all of them as that which has done most to encourage the production of high grade local leaf. It has made a grant of £30,000 to finance research work, besides which it has rendered valuable assistance in other directions. I have no interest in the company, financial or otherwise, but I feel it my duty to point this out. It is scarcely fair to compare _the British- Australasian Tobacco Company, which is practically the only Australian firm that is prepared to process and advertise Australian leaf, with those other firms which brand their product as “ All Virginian leaf,” and glory in the fact.
Honorable senators are aware that, at the time this trouble arose, we regarded the industry as being in an unhealthy condition. The Government finally came to an arrangement with the tobacco companies that they should buy the 1932 crop at an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb.
– Was that for the whole crop?
– No ; for a certain stipulated quantity. The Government approached the principal tobacco manufacturers with a view to the purchase of the 1932 crop, which was estimated at 10,000,000 lb. The outcome was an undertaking by the manufacturers to purchase 7,260,000 lb. of the 1932 crop at an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb. This price must have been profitable to the growers, when it is realized that the average c.i.f. value in sterling of leaf imported during the year ended 30th June, 1932, was about 9d. per lb. The price of 2s. 3d. per lb. paid to the local growers was very satisfactory compared with the prices received by tobacco-growers in other countries. In Canada, the growers received for the 1932 crop an average price of 4d. per lb. for dark leaf, and 8d. per lb. for bright leaf, while the American growers received on an average less than 5d. per lb. for the 1932 crop. The principal tobacco manufacturers more than honoured their undertaking. They purchased in all about 10,400,000 lb. of the 1932 crop, of which over 8,000,000 lb. brought an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb. Purchases by other manufacturers, operating on a “small scale, brought the total purchases of the 1932 crop to approximately 11,000,000 lb. On the total purchases the average price paid was 25.223d. per lb.
– What was the total quantity of tobacco purchased?
– The total quantity was 10,436,823 lb. The honorable senator suggested that, while 2s. 3d. per lb. was paid for 8,000,000 lb. of tobacco, a large quantity was bought at 1s. per lb.; but the fact is that nearly 2s. 3d. per lb. was paid over the whole 10,000,000 lb. that were purchased.
– That was while the Scullin tariff was in operation?
– No ; it was done under the scheme introduced by the present Government. Under the arrangement made by the Government with the manufacturers, most of the growers were satisfied that the best thing had been done. However, the North Queensland growers, and some others who claimed’ to be growing first-class leaf, said that they preferred that no arrangement should be come to, and that the tobacco should be sold in the open market. They waited on the Prime Minister and placed their proposal before him. Their idea was -that if they could get 3s. or 4s. per lb., so much the better.
– Can the Minister say what is the average price the growers are receiving for their tobacco now?
– The first auction sale of the 1933 season was held at Brisbane by Dalgety and Company Limited on the 25th May last. The quantity offered was 87,000 lb., of which 56,000 lb. was sold at auction. The highest price paid was 3s. 9d. per lb., and the lowest id. per lb. The BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company was the largest purchaser, being responsible for the purchase of 83 per cent, of the leaf sold. The average price paid by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company was 2s. per lb., as against 2s. 3d. per lb. last year. The results of the first 1933 auction sale compare very favorably with the first sale held in June of last year. The highest price paid at last year’s opening sale was 4s. per lb., and the lowest price 6d. per lb. A considerable quantity of Mareeba leaf was offered last year, and had a beneficial effect on prices. At this year’s sale, however, no Mareeba leaf was offered. If the Mareeba leaf had been offered, the average price would probably have been higher than last year.
– Why was no Mareeba leaf offered?
– Probably it had not been harvested. This season was rather late, and I am informed that some disease affected the crop. At the deputation that waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), towards the end of 1932, it was urged that arrangements should be entered into, subject to the approval of the growers, for the purchase by the manufacturers of 10,000,000 lb. of leaf out of the .1933 crop. The growers in North Queensland, on learning of the deputation’s request, raised objection to another such agreement being made. They argued that, under average price agreements, the growers of high-quality leaf do not receive a price commensurate with the value of the leaf offered, because, to maintain the average price, the lower grade leaf commands a better price than that to which it is entitled, and a lower price is consequently offered for high grade leaf. As the result of negotiations, the principal tobacco manufac turing company has assured the Government that it will purchase, out of the 1933 crop, all grades of bright mahogany and upwards, and so much of the dark leaf as will replace the quantity used in manufacture during the coming financial year. Owing to the uncertainty of the crop, the manufacturers have given, no undertaking as to the quantity which will be purchased, or the price which will be paid. In the tobacco-growing district in which I have interests, considerable damage occurred through frost and blue mould. Honorable senators may think that I am showing an undue amount of anxiety with regard to this industry ; but I regard it as one of the industries of this country which are worth developing. Part of my job in this Government is to endeavour to establish industries that will assist in the solution of the problem of unemployment. Yet, we must proceed on sound lines, and I am not sure that we have not given too much assistance to the industry.
Honorable senators may offer the comment that the principal tobacco company has declined to purchase some leaf on the ground of its poor quality. The outstanding case is that of the unsold leaf in the Tamworth district in New South Wales. When the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) originally brought this matter under the notice of the Government, I arranged for one of the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to proceed to Tamworth and investigate the complaint. This work, which was carried out by Mr. G. E. Marks, the Senior Agronomist of the Australian Tobacco Investigation, was followed up by an inquiry by the New South Wales Government’s tobacco expert, Mr. Tregenna. I have no wish to do any harm to the growers; but it should be realized that while some land is capable of producing leaf of excellent quality, tobacco grown on certain other land will never command a good market in this or any other country. Mr. Marks is an independent officer. He has no political feeling in this matter, and no interests to serve except those of the public. His report was confirmed by Mr. Tregenna.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The Minister has been dealing with a matter of deep interest, and I am sure that honorable senators will be glad to know something of the contents of the report submitted by Mr. Marks.
– This officer reported, inter alia -
I might mention that here, as well as throughout the general tour, much ignorance was displayed by most of the growers regarding the more improved methods of growing, curing and handling of the crop in general. …
In referring to cultivation, I would like to point out that a mostcrroneous practice obtains here of irrigating from time to time along the same furrow without any intervening cultivation. The plants are, therefore, growing in a hard, compact soil, with little chance of normal root development.
From observations of the leaf being “harvested at the present time, it is noticeable that many of the barns are being filled with leaf of varying degrees of ripeness, with the result that the curer has to extend his sweating or yellowing process so as to give time for the greener leaves to change colour, thus resulting in the destruction of colour and quality of the better or riper leaf. Generally speaking, the growers here are backward both in the methods of curing and of handling their crops. There seems to be no defined system of grading the cured leaf, and no standard grades are adopted. For instance, no two “ No. 1 “ grades are alike.
It was also noticeable that large quantities, of leaf had been ruined by the ravages of thrips.
In no case, I might add, did I see any leaf of the higher grades which was not intermingled with that of lower grades, even though some lots had already been regraded since being offered for sale.
From fifteen to twenty of the tobaccogrowers in the Tamworth district are Chinese, judging by their names, and although I have no desire to cast any reflection upon them, I must say that their cultural methods are more suitable for the production of cabbages and turnips than for the growing of tobacco on uptodate lines.
– Sir Henry Gullett said that half of the growers in the Tamworth district were Chinese. Is that correct ?
– A very large percentage of them are Chinese.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
- Mr. Marks, in his report, also says -
Reference to the accompanying chart will show that of the 4,344 bales rejected by the British- Australasian Tobacco Company, the analysis gives only 8 per cent, of usable leaf.
In his explanatory notes he gives the following details of dark leaf that he examined : - d.3. The leaf shown under this heading is unusable as a smoking tobacco, being of a nondescript nature, and includes badly thripeaten, immature, green, badly cured, and musty or mouldy leaf. It also includes scraps and sweepings, and in very few cases did the growers expect to be able to sell. The crop shortage and the boom prices realized for such leaf in the previous year induced the growers to save this class of leaf last year. d.2. The leaf shown under this column is usually graded asD.2, d.3 and d.4, and is usable only in very limited quantities for smoking purposes. These grades include leaf which is slightly thrip-eaten, immature, green, poorly cured, and musty or mouldy leaf.
He gives an analysis of all the bales unsold. I cite one or two typical cases. Gum Chin offered 36 bales, of which 10 were sold and 26 rejected. Quong Yung, Yum Poey, and Y. Yun offered 103 bales, of which 87 were sold and 16 rejected. See Saung Coy offered 275 bales, of which 51 were sold and 224 rejected. Chaffey. Brothers offered 132 bales, of which 129 were sold and 3 rejected. So it is right through the piece. This report is confirmed by Mr. Tregenna, the New South “Wales Government tobacco expert, in the following statement, which appeared in the Sydney Daily ‘Telegraph of the 24th June last : -
He has seen good tobacco grown at Tamworth, notably at Moor Creek, but this was on light, sandy soils. He could say that wherever growers grew on such soils buyers would come after the leaf. He considered there was too much fighting going on in the industry . . . He adhered to his opinion, expressed in his report of 1914, that they would have to give up growing tobacco on heavy river flats. His job was to keep in touch with manufacturers’ requirements, and advise growers what the big firms wanted. He had tried to do that.
I ask Senator Foll to give one instance of leaf having been rejected in any quantity. I know that since the report from which I have just quoted was made, a buyer from Queensland, in order to obtain a suitable blend, visited Tamworth and had to pick out odd bales from the huge quantity rejected. I want honorable senators to understand that the Government is not making an Aunt Sally of the growers, but, on the contrary, is anxious to do all that it can to assist them and to place the industry on a firm foundation. That is proved by what has been done in co-operation with, and to some extent at the expense of, the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company. The subsidy of £1 for £1 has extended over a period of years, and the Tobacco Investigation is still in existence, giving advice and doing whatever else it can to place the industry on a sound footing. I could not help thinking that Senator Hardy believed that the Tamworth growers had been badly treated. There is no foundation for such a belief. It ta of no use to attempt to market unusable leaf. Senators MacDonald and Hardy have suggested that the excise should be increased. However that proposal might be coloured, the object is to give the grower the benefit of additional protection.
– That is what we want to do.
– That proposal can be dealt with at the proper time. I doubt whether the effect would be to make tobacco cheaper to the user. Honorable senators may rest assured that the Government has not acted in a spirit of hostility. What it has done may not be to the immediate advantage of the growers, but it will benefit those who remain in the industry and make it of permanent value to Australia.
.- I accept the assurance of the Minister that the Government desires, and has endeavoured, to assist what it considers the best element among the growers of tobacco. My complaint, however, is that that object may not be achieved by the action that has been taken. The effect of the alteration of the Scullin tariff has been to handicap the Australian grower by causing a marked decline in the use of the local article, and to increase the trade in imported tobaccoes. A fair compromise between the Scullin and the present duties was recently suggested by the manager of one of the oldest tobacco, manufacturing companies in Melbourne as follows : - Import duty, 4s. 6d. per lb. ; excise duty, a flat rate of 3s. per lb. The
Scullin margin was 5s. 2d., whereas the present margin is only 3s. The suggested margin is 4s. 6d. In regard to revenue, the report of the Tariff Board states -
Having regard to all the circumstances, the Tariff Board is of opinion that it would be unwise during the period in which the Australian leaf-growing industry is becoming established, to seek to increase the net revenue from tobacco beyond the amount raised during 1929-30, namely, approximately £6,500,000.
The official net revenue figures for the first nine months of 1932-33 show an increase of £480,000 over the corresponding period for last year. Based on .these figures, the net revenue from tobacco for’ the full year 1932-33, under the present rates of duty, will be £7,120,000. The additional- revenue is being raised mainly at the expense of the local industry. Based on the quantity of tobacco that went into consumption in 1930-31, the suggested rates would yield approximately £6,533,000 in revenue. The calculation will be found in the scheme put forward by the Tobacco Growers’ Association in their newspaper Tobacco. Senator Hardy is evidently very anxious to give the utmost protection to the growers. That, also, is the concern of honorable senators of the Opposition. I am well aware that the big manufacturing interests are quite able to take care of themselves. I am concerned about the grower, for the reason that he has not the advantage of long experience, nor has he had an opportunity to build a fortress within which he may defend himself. The interest taken in the production of tobacco during the last two or three years shows clearly that encouragement was offered, and hope given, to a number of persons who previously had no idea that there was a reasonable chance of making a living in this occupation. So far as I have been able to gather, many of them are willing to take the risks mentioned by the Minister, for the specific purpose of educating themselves to the stage when they will be able to produce a leaf of marketable quality. That some growers are able to supply the requirements of the market is proved by the fact that out of 132 bales offered in one case, only three ba-es were unsold. . Why should not others learn by experience what that grower had to learn before he could market his crop so successfully? The figures that I have quoted show that the import and excise duties proposed by this Government handicap the Australian grower to the extent of 93 per cent. As an Australian, 1 want to know why that load should be placed on the backs of my countrymen.
– We want to take it off.
– It cannot be removed in the manner suggested by the honorable senator.
– lt can be taken off by a preferential excise tariff.
– I have suggested a simple and commonsense method of affording the grower an oportunity to market his leaf. It has been suggested that honorable senators on this side are not concerned about the user of tobacco. [ have been a smoker all my life, and probably smoke as much as the average man, consequently, I am deeply interested in that aspect of the matter. Numbers of my friends have stopped smoking, because they cannot afford to buy tobacco at the prices charged by the companies. [ agree with those who suggest that the tobacco companies are exploiting the consuming public of Australia. I, of course, desire tobacco to be cheaper. I have in my pocket a 2-oz. tin of Australian tobacco which I obtained from the Parliamentary refreshment bar for ls. 9d. f have also a 2-oz. tin of imported tobacco called “ Welcome Nuggett “ for which I paid 2s. 2d. After smoking the two tobaccoes, I am of. the opinion that the Australian product is the better. If that does not demonstrate that the Australian smokers are obtaining, in the local product, a tobacco superior in quality to the imported article, then my smoking taste must have deteriorated considerably. At one time, a 2-oz. tin of imported tobacco could be obtained for 9d., but when the need arose for additional revenue, the tariff was increased. Quite a number of people are to-day complaining that the tobacco duties are too high, but the previous Government saw fit to increase the tariff in an endeavour to balance its budget, and, in that respect, it very nearly accomplished its purpose. Its action at least had the merit of awakening many people to the fact that there was in this country an industry in which they could interest themselves, and from which they might make a living. We have annually sent over £2,000,000 out of Australia to buy tobaccoes. That sum would better have been used for the benefit of the wage-earners and other sections of the community by giving them an opportunity to engage in the tobacco-growing industry. Surely, we can preserve, as between excise and customs duties, a commonsense balance, which will enable us to collect the necessary revenue, to encourage the Australian grower, and to protect the Australian consumer. The tobacco importers do not study the interests of either the Australian grower or the Australian consumer. Their one object is to build up a profitable business for themselves. Senator Hardy has said .that the balancesheet of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company discloses that, over a number of years, it has made a profit of 12 per cent., which is 2 per cent, above the dividends paid by the banks. The BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company has been able to make an enormous profit at the expense of the Australian consumers of tobacco. My object is to obtain for the Australian tobacco grower all the benefits that the British-Australasian Tobacco Company and its interests overseas are receiving from our tobacco trade. I am told that the imported tobacco is produced mostly by negroes and others employed at low wages. This industry, which is of considerable value to Australia, is at the mercy of the smoking community, but surely our smokers are broadminded enough to support an industry which is enabling many of our people to obtain a decent living. Rather than smoke an imported tobacco, grown and manufactured in Virginia or elsewhere in the United States of America, and obtainable here at 2s. a tin, I prefer to smoke Australian tobacco at the same price, secure in the knowledge that it is of local manufacture. Why should we send £2,000,000 out of this country annually in payment of imported tobacco when there is plenty of evidence before us, on behalf ‘ of both the growers and the manufacturers, to show that we can establish a thriving industry which will provide a decent living for a great number of our people? This industry can be used also as a side line for the wheat and the wool growers, particularly those who are earning a precarious living on small areas of land. By growing tobacco on some portion of their holdings, they can ensure to themselves an additional cheque at the end of the year. I cannot imagine why any one would be prepared to throw a wrench into the machinery that is being installed in this country with a view to protecting the Australian grower and consumer of tobacco. The evidence which honorable senators have before them is convincing, notwithstanding the report of the Tariff Board. I do not for one moment wish to decry the members of that board because of the nature of their report, but I believe that they could have extended their inquiries considerably. That has been conclusively shown during the debate. The members of the board are not in the same position as members of this chamber. “We are concerned, not with a bare article of produce and the competition which it receives from low-wage countries, but with the well-being of the people generally.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– When I suggested that the policy that we had adopted in regard to the sugar industry should now be extended to the tobacco-growing industry, I did not obtain any smiles from the Ministerial bench, but apart- altogether from the tobacco industry of Queensland, I should like to quote the opinion of the Australian Tobacco Growers Association, which has its office in Collins-street, Melbourne. That association states -
Growers’ organizations in the different States urge an embargo on foreign leaf until such time as the quality leaf in Australia is consumed.
That association therefore recommends something in the nature of the sugar policy. Mr. Birrell, who has been quoted by other Queensland senators, has urged that the manufacturers be compelled to use 30 per cent, of Australian leaf in all their blends, that tobacco should not be branded “ Mareeba “ when it contains none of that class of tobacco, and that an embargo should be placed upon importations. To impose an embargo is not by any means a new principle, because one already operates in respect of the sugar industry. The difference -of 93 per cent, in respect of the excise, as referred to by Senator Barnes, is tremendous, and his request is supported by the tobaccogrowers generally, through their association. That association has put before the Minister for Trade and Customs a number of alternative schemes based on the quantity of tobacco consumed in 1930-31. The suggested rate would yield a revenue of approximately £6,533,000, and the calculation will be seen in scheme 5 set out on page 27 of Tobacco, a publication which has been forwarded to me under separate cover. Scheme 5 provides for an import duty of 4s. 6d., and an excise duty of 3s., from which the revenue would be as follows: -
The article continues -
This scheme would give slightly less revenue under the existing duties, but it is considered the difference would be more than offset by the increased consumption of Australian tobacco as a result of the lower price for which it would be obtained. The scheme would not increase the price of imported tobacco. It would be simple to administer, and provide the revenue required. It would bc a fair and reasonable compromise between the 1931 duties and those now operating.
Several other alternative proposals’, which are, to some extent, in conformity with the request of Senator Barnes, have been submitted by the Australian Tobacco Growers Association to the Minister for Trade and Customs. I fail to understand why Senator Hardy should refuse to support this request.
– I am not supporting it, because, if agreed to, it would increase the price of tobacco.
– As the Minister in charge of the bill has pointed out, the difference is as that between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and at the most would be only lOd. Our object is to consolidate the tobacco industry in Australia. I admit that the Minister has that object seriously in view, but’ we consider that our proposal, supported as it is by the Australian Tobacco Growers Association, is sound. This industry is one of the romances of the depression. It has provided employment for from 3,000 to 4,000 unemployed or intending farmers by giving them an opportunity to grow tobacco, and to add to our land population which is so desirable in view of the frequent gibes that Australians are becoming too fond of city or town life. This is the most outstanding new rural industry of the last three or four years, and is the result of an attempt internally - one of many attempts at internal action which should have been taken - to overcome the effects of the depression. I hope that Senator Hardy and his: colleagues will support the request of Senator Barnes, which, if agreed to, as has been shown by official documents supplied to us, will undoubtedly give an effective protection to the industry.
– Those who support the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) base their claim for further protection for the tobaccogrowing industry on a comparison of the duties now proposed with those under the Scullin Government’s tariff schedule. They claim that the Scullin Government’s tariff provided for normal duties, and that any departure from the rates therein set out is not justified. The Scullin Ministry came into power at the end of 1929, and some time later it had as its Minister for Trade and Customs a young man in a hurry who believed that he could make this country rich by the simple process of raising the duty on everything that fell to his hands. By that means he hoped to provide work immediately for 50,000 men, and a little later for an additional 100,000 workers. That is the principle upon which he raised the duties on tobacco after the Ministry of which he was a member had been in power for about a year.
– The Scullin Government provided for progressive increases of the duty on tobacco; from 3s. to 3s. 6d. ; and from 3s. 6d. to 5s. 2d. per lb.
– In no case was the duty imposed as a result of the considered opinion of this Parliament. It is true that the schedule providing for those rates was validated when a dissolution came upon us somewhat suddenly, but the Scullin duties did not represent the considered opinion of Parliament. The present Government came into power at the end of 1931, and not long afterwards it referred the question of a duty on tobacco to the Tariff Board.
– The previous Administration must have had some qualms on the matter, because it was that Government which referred the duty to the Tariff Board.
– Yes ; I had forgotten that; but it is the terms of reference that are important. They included the following matters: -
The Tariff Board, as is its wont, held an exhaustive inquiry; but because its recommendations happened to be adverse, they have been criticized. The Leader of the Opposition went so far as to say that this Parliament is in a better position to consider what would be a fair duty than is the Tariff Board. In its report the board referred, among other things, to the extraordinary boom which was taking place in tobacco lands. In support of the duty of 5s. 2d. per lb. imposed by the Scullin Government, it has been said that the growth of the tobaccogrowing industry in Australia is one of the romances of the present depression. It was, in fact, merely something which has occurred over and over again in . the world’s history in times of boom. The Tariff Board was wise in sounding a warning that that boom, if not checked, would lead to disaster. Its report contains a number of extracts from various prospectuses issued from time to time. One extract which I shall read is typical of others -
Now that the Commonwealth Government has given tardy recognition to the claims of the Australian tobacco-growers by imposing a duty of 5s. 2d. per lb. on imported tobacco leaf, and there is a consequent strong demand for the local product, a tremendous fillip has been given to the local industry. There can be no doubt that before very long the cultivation of tobacco must inevitably rank in the very forefront of the industries of Queensland. In fact, on thefigures that will be quoted in this pamphlet, there is every reason to believe that it will be a more profitable industry than sugar-growing.
One prospectus told of one man who made £2,900 from 14 acres planted with tobacco; of another who from18 acres obtained a return of £3,472; of another with a 7-acre block who gathered a crop worth. £1,631 ; and of another grower who obtained £1,358 from 9½ acres.
– A go-getter’s prospectus !
– Go-getters were busy throughout Australia as a result of the exorbitant protection given to this industry by the Scullin Government’s tariff.
During this debate, we have heard a good deal of the tobacco grown in the Mareeba district of Queensland. Honorable senators appear to forget that Victoria is the State most deeply concerned with the duties on tobacco. That State has 13,000 acres under tobacco, compared with 5,800 acres in New South Wales, and 4,000 acres in Queensland. Moreover, more persons are engaged in the industry in Victoria than in either of the other two States that I have mentioned. Notwithstanding the importance of this industry to Victoria, I maintain that the present Government has treated the industry fairly. It is endeavouring to hold the scales evenly between the Treasury, which benefits from the duty on tobacco, and the smoking public which consumes the leaf. Taking all these things into consideration, the Government has, I submit, put forward a fair proposal.
– In spite of the fact that it will obtain about £600.000 additional revenue.
– Unlike income tax, the duty on tobacco is escapable: if a man chooses not to smoke, he need not contribute to the revenue by this means. That the honorable senator’s fears are not shared by those who arc most interested is’ shown by the increase in the area under tobacco. In 1931-32, the area planted was 21,309 acres, and in the following year, 25,600 acres. In those two years, the growers numbered 4,764 and 5,887, respectively. The Tariff Board was wise in that it looked ahead. It saw what was likely to happen if the boom was not checked. It realized that, in the long run, an unduly high measure of protection would recoil on those who grew tobacco, and, consequently, it . delivered a temperate judgment. The board has given us its guidance, and I, for one, am prepared to follow its lead.
– I support the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes). It is better to deal with the tobaccogrowing industry in the way that he has suggested than to wait until the excise duties are before us. Senator Hardy, while opposed to increased import duties, favours a decrease of the excise duties. He did not, however, say to what extent he thought the excise duties should be reduced ; he merely suggested that they should be so altered as to provide the same, amount of revenue. Possibly, the Minister will be able to make the position clear. All governments look upon the duties on tobacco as a means of obtaining revenue. We, on this side, have no desire to increase the price of tobacco, but we believe that it would be well to increase the import duty from 3s. per lb. to 4s. 6d. per lb. When the Scullin Government imposed a duty of 5s. 2d. on foreign tobacco, it had in mind a gradual reduction of the duty - not the sudden drop from 5s. 2d. to 3s. per lb. which the present Government has made.
– Is the Labour party in favour of a general reduction of duties ?
– The Labour party is in favour, of safeguarding the interests of the growers’ and the consumers of tobacco; it desires to see the tobaccogrowing industry in Australia established on a firm basis. For from 30 to 40 years, this industry has been struggling in Australia, because there has been no stability. In order to provide the necessary stability, a duty of 5s. 2d. per lb. on foreign tobacco was imposed. The growers of the tobacco leaf have not received fair prices for their product. Since 1932, the price of Australian tobacco leaf has fallen, notwithstanding that the profits of the manufacturing companies have increased. The
Labour party has been charged-with holding a brief for the manufacturing companies, but it has no sympathy with companies which are out to make enormous profits. I understand that each of five members of the firm of W. D. & H. O. Wills left over £1,000,000 when he died.
– Governments got nearly all of that money.
– The Australian company, which is a subsidiary company of the tobacco combine, has made huge profits in Australia. The Labour party does not agree with that. It believes that the growers of tobacco leaf should be protected rather than that shareholders of a combine should reap the advantage of a monopoly.
– What about the smoker ?
– We contend that if the industry were stabilized the price of tobacco could be reduced because less profit would go to the combine. Senator Sampson will agree that it is preferable that the grower should receive more and the user pay less than that huge profits annually should go into the pockets of those who are exploiting the industry.
– I have heard nothing to prove that the industry is being exploited.
- Senator Hardy has shown clearly how the consumer has been exploited, while the conditions of the growers have not been bettered. In certain circumstances, it might reasonably be contended that exploitation of the consumer was justified if thereby the local industry was being developed; but at the present time, the benefits of exploitation are flowing, not to the grower, but to the combine. The prices paid to the growers in the last nine years have been : 1921, 2s. 4d. per lb. ;” 1922, 2s. l£d.; 1923, 2s. 2d.; 1924, ls. 9£d.; 1925, ls. 10fd.; 1926, ls. 7d.; 1928, ls. 8id.; and 1929, ls. 9½d. On the other hand, the Sydney Bulletin states that the profits of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company in 1921 were £582,979, and in 1929, £1,011,307, and it comments, “ Thus as the growers’ prices declined the company’s profits mounted up.”
– Do not forget the middlemen.
– I believe that by reorganizing the industry so as to eliminate unnecessary factors, the grower would get more for his leaf, and the smoker would pay less for his tobacco.
– Would not the middlemen be unemployed then?
– Under a sane and rational social and economic system, those who are now middlemen would be engaged in useful work for the community.
Senator Hardy inferred that a reduction of the excise duty( on local tobacco would so hamper the monopoly that growers, users and workers in the industry would be benefited. If his proposal would ensure a better price to the growers and a lower price to the users of tobacco, I would support it, but I cannot see that it would do more to help the industry than the proposal by my leader (Senator Barnes) to increase the customs duty to 4s. 6d. per lb. Senator McLachlan quoted statistics regarding the importation of tobacco into America. Such imports do not amount to more than 10 per cent, of the total American production, and a magazine issued by the Australian growers shows that the depression has caused America to import tobacco from countries which produce it more cheaply.
– The Tariff Board said that America has to import tobacco for blending -purposes.
– But I do not think the Tariff Board said that cheapness was not a consideration. A certain quantity of tobacco is imported into America for blending, purposes; the balance is imported because of its cheapness.
– In what country is tobacco produced more cheaply than in America?
– I cannot say, but my remarks are based on the publication issued by the tobacco-growers. The debate on this tariff schedule has revealed the division of members into economic internationalists and economic nationalists. Members of the Labour party are attracted to economic” nationalism. We look to the development of our country for the solution of its economic ills.
– I ask Senator Brown to confine his remarks to the item.
– In order to preserve its own industries, America has placed an embargo on tobacco leaf from Sumatra. When we advocate embargoes, we are charged with being economic nationalists who are engaged in putting back the clock of progress. My view is that economic internationalism has brought the world to its present sorry pass. It would be sound policy to restrict importations until all the Australiangrown tobacco has been sold. Despite the advance in local production in the last two or three years, importations of tobacco leaf have increased, and the growers will suffer considerably from this policy.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
[8.58]. - As many honorable senators’ have expressed a desire to witness the arrival of the British mail plane Astraea to-morrow morning, I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Parliamentary Economies: Report or Public SERVICE BOARD - Canberra Allowance : Married Officers - Allowances of Presiding Officers and Ministers - Development of Canberra.
[8.59]. - In accordance with my promise to afford honorable senators an opportunity to-day to discuss the statement which you, Mr. President, made on Friday last regarding the Public Service Board’s report on the services in Parliament House, I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia) [9.0].- I listened with very great interest and with much approval to the statement which you, Mr. President, were good enough to give the Senate on Friday last with reference to a report made recently by an officer of the Public Service Board relating to parliamentary expenditure.
Let me also say that I agree with most of the opinions to which you then gave utterance. Indeed, in some respects, I was prepared to go a little further than you aid. You spoke, first of all, of the relations existing between any government and the President and Speaker of the Senate and House of Representatives respectively. There has always been a great deal of discussion, amounting sometimes almost to collision, between governments whose habitat is the House of Representatives, and the presiding officers of the Parliament. But there have arisen few differences which have not been capable of adjustment by a spirit of sweet, reasonableness on the part of the Government and the presiding officers.
I said just now that I was prepared, in some respects, to go even further than you did on Friday last. In my view Parliament and the Government are two separate entities. When differences arise between a government and the Parliament, as represented by the President and Speaker, it seems to me that they can be adjusted only by reference to that body which creates both the President and Speaker, and the Ministry, that is, Parliament itself. It has become a habit of Treasurers, both Federal and State, to revise” the parliamentary estimates. That is not right. Estimates dealing with the cost of Parliament are the production of the President and Speaker, and may be altered only, I submit, by Parliament itself. This question has given rise to many disputes between the presiding officers and successive governments, and as the’ Government has the control of the purse and has the support of a majority in Parliament, it is, , consequently, able to exercise its authority, and, in the end, must conquer. But the parliamentary estimates- should be placed before Parliament untrammelled by any influence. I think this practice is observed in the majority of cases, although I have known of instances, not in this Parliament perhaps, hut in another of which I was a member for some years, in which Treasurers almost insisted on their right to criticize and alter, before their presentation to Parliament, the parliamentary estimates of expenditure as prepared by the presiding officers.
A great deal of the trouble that has arisen, if trouble there be that has not been rectified, has been due to the placing of the administration of Parliament on the same basis as that of the Public Service. No two occupations could be more unlike than that of the ordinary departmental public servants and that of officers of the Parliament. The latter are required, at times, to work long hours under heavy strain and without a rest, and when Parliament is in recess they find some recompense in a much needed spell, though this has not always been possible in recent years. I do not think that any one body can administer, or attempt to administer, any legislation or regulations under that legislation applying to departmental officers, but adapted and attached to the administration of Parliament. The proposal to do this has given rise, to a great extent, to the situation that has developed. It is too late to repair it. While some things, like the franchise, for example, can always be widened, great difficulty would be experienced in any attempt to restrict it. Parliamentary administration is, I suggest, one of them; so that perhaps I may be going outside the range of practical politics by mentioning it.
In relation to the appointment of an officer from the Public Service Board to inquire into certain matters within the purview of you, sir, and your colleague, Mr. Speaker, I venture to say that the scope of that investigation was very much widened from what was intended at the outset’. By whom it was thus widened I am unable to say. The fact that the report is, and rightly so, extremely confidential, leads me to believe that incursions have been made into matters which were not contemplated when the presiding officers sought from the Public Service Board that advice which is open to Parliament at any time it’ sees fit to avail itself of it. Let me say, also, that the length and ramifications of the investigation were somewhat astounding to me. From what you said, and also from what you omitted to say, I was led to believe that an attempt was being made not merely to regulate the details of work of parliamentary officers, but also to dictate the policy of Parlia ment. That, I suggest, is neither necessary, nor desirable. Of all institutions in the body corporate, Parliament itself can, and must, fix its own policy. I feel sure from what you said on Friday, that you agree with me on this point.
I was also glad to hear your declaration that you and Mr. Speaker had no intention of interfering with the conduct of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms, as was suggested by some newspaper writers, who, I imagine, were indulging in the popular journalistic pastime of kite flying. Knowing as you do that I, as your predecessor in the chair, took a particular interest in the administration of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms, you will realize with what relief I welcomed your statement on this subject. Indeed, I feel that, if there were interference with the refreshment rooms, both of us would have a very real grievance against those who were responsible for it. To show that those in authority have been dealing with this matter in a fairly satisfactory way, let me place before the Senate some figures which, by the courtesy of the officers of the Senate, I have been able to obtain. Let us take, first of all, the heart of Senate administration - the Senate Office. In 1930-31, the expenditure of the Senate Office was £11,922. In 1931-32- before the adoption of the Premiers plan - it was brought down to £9,429, a saving of £1,493. In 1932-33, the cost was further reduced to £8,991, a saving of £438 on the expenditure of the previous year, and for the current year the estimated expenditure is £8,855, or a total saving, in three years, of £2,067, representing an average saving of £698 a year. The same satisfactory position is disclosed in the figures relating to the expenditure of the Joint House Department, over which you, sir, preside. In 1929-30, the expenditure of that department was £23,141. In 1930-31, also before the initiation of the Premiers plan, it was reduced to £22,361, a saving of £780. In 1931-32 it was £18,920, a saving for that year of £3,441, and the estimates for the current financial year are £17,806, an estimated saving of £1,014. The total savings for the three years amount to £5,235, or an average saving of £1,745 a year.
With regard to the refreshment-rooms, which I regard as one of the necessary adjuncts of Parliament, the expenditure in 1929-30 was £7,047. In 1930-31- again before the Premiers plan was decided upon - it was reduced to £6,007, a saving of £1,040, and in 1931-32 it was down to £4,2S9, a further reduction of £1,718, the total saving for the three years being £2,758 or an average saving of £1,358 a year.
I doubt that even the most captious critic desiring to minimize the importance of these administrative economies, can find any fault with what has been done in the departments which I have mentioned. This is one reason why I was so glad to hear you say that you and your colleague would not countenance any attempt further to interfere with or abolish the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. Expenditure has been brought down to the limit at which it is no longer necessary to make a special grant in aid for the rooms. They live practically on what they earn, plus the salaries of the officers employed in them. They are as near to the point of paying their way as it is possible for any parliamentary refreshment rooms to get. Let me say also that it would be most undignified if the Federal Parliament, the legislature with the greatest amount of dignity to maintain, and the one which needs this convenience more than any other Parliament in Australia, should be the first to do away with it. If the rooms were abolished it would seriously detract from the dignity of this Parliament. It would also interfere with the proper performance of the duties of members, and altogether it would be an extremely bad example, just as the depression is, as I hope, lifting, to other parliaments in Australia, and to the world; because, after all, this Parliament come3 more in contact with the world at large than any other legislative body in Australia. Just as it is necessary for private individuals desiring to succeed in life to preserve a good appearance, so is it necessary for this Parliament not to show any signs of shabbiness, but without overdressing, if I may use that simile, to deport itself in a way that is in accord with its dignity and the place it occupies among the parliaments of the nations.
I noticed in one portion of your speech on Friday a statement which caused me to wonder somewhat. You said -
There are some good suggestions in the report, and some not so good. Effect has been given to some of them. With regard to others there is a fierce conflict of opinion.
I do not see how there can be conflict of opinion. The report was made, not for the guidance of yourself or Mr. Speaker, but merely for your information; there is only one opinion to be expressed, and that is the opinion that this Parliament will accord you and -Mr. Speaker the greatest trust and confidence. The opinion about which you say there might be conflict, cannot be attacked because it is the opinion of the elected representatives of the people in both Houses of this Parliament.
I wish now to say a few words relative to the proposition with regard to the Hansard staff. Very many people, especially those who have not taken an interest in the work of Hansard, do not understand the nature of this employment, and have an altogether erroneous idea about this body of men. A Hansard reporter has much more to do than merely write shorthand. We, all of us, and I, personally, for many years, have had a great deal for which to thank ‘Hansard. Years ago, I had a habit of entangling myself in’ a mesh of parentheses. T usually came out -without losing the thread of my remarks, but, in any case, it was the duty of the Hansard reporters to disentangle them.
– The use of parentheses is said to be the mark of a thoughtful mind.
– Exactly. I did not indulge in such self-flattery. I thought it was the mark of the sort of mind that tried to think several things at once - sometimes with bad effects alike to the speaker and his audience. There are many things that a Hansard reporter has to do. He has, in the first place, to understand allusions which are not always altogether applicable to the subject which they intended to adorn. He has, in the next place, to understand speeches which perhaps the members making them do not quite understand. I know one honorable gentleman who has repeatedly told me, after reading the Hansard proof of his speech, that he did not know that he had made such a good speech. Neither had he, as a matter of fact, although I did not tell him so. I have hoard it said that the particular politics of a. Hansard reporter could be ascertained by reading the report of the speech of the member in question. If a person is given a blank page, he can put what he likes upon it. He can illustrate it, and paint any colour that he likes upon it.
– The Hansard reporters often need to know what a man is thinking.
– Yes ; they need to be psychologists and psycho-analysts - and they are. I have had experience of a good many Ilansard reporters, some, I may say, over many years in two legislatures, and I know of the good service that they render to this body of which we are members. I hope that nothing will be done to detract from their usefulness, and that we shall continue to keep a full record of the doings and sayings of Parliament, although the record may often be used to our disadvantage. I know that some members who have had a lengthy parliamentary career think that Hansards of more than three or four years old should be burnt by the public hangman or some other official of the sort. But that is only one view. The fact that the Hansard report is taken makes members of Parliament, in some cases at least, careful of what they say. On the other hand, it has a stimulating effect upon the length of the speeches of members - that, I suppose, is absolutely incurable. Perhaps I should say not the length, but the frequency of speeches. Hansard, in the past, has never had any difficulty in filling up the recesses with useful work. In these times, sessions seldom close - they are so long - but I do not suppose, that honorable senators ever think in the closing days of the session of the strain that is imposed upon these recording angels who take down every word that is said. The strain is very much greater upon them than it is upon us.
In the recesses there are also generally royal commissions at work, and in the days gone by there used to be parliamentary joint committees. The suspension of those committees is, in my opinion, a very great loss to this Parliament, fo”r the committees did wonderful work, not only in getting information for the use of Parliament, but also in educating and widening the minds of members, and in providing a greater percentage of members of this chamber and of another place with an opportunity to inform themselves about the country in which they live, the people who elected them to their high office, and the community .for which they are required to make laws. Their work was, I think, important to Parliament, and I hope that the time will not. be long before this method of obtaining information for Parliament, which is the cheapest of all methods, will be restored.
In conclusion, I thank you, Mr. President, for the statement which you were pleased to make to the Senate, and still more do I thank you for the wise decision’s which you and. . your colleague, Mr. Speaker, have corné to in respect to the various matters to which you alluded in your statement.
. -I should not have risen to discuss this report - I should say statement, because having not seen the report we cannot discuss it - if it had not been for what seems to me to be a slight suspicion of body-line bowling in the manner in which the report has been dealt with. In the resume of the report which you submitted to honorable senators last Friday, which I, personally, was very glad to have, certain departments were dealt with. Obviously, other departments of the Parliament must also have been dealt with than those referred to. You, Sir, discussed the Hansard staff rather fully in indicating what might be done to utilize the services of the reporters during recesses. Surely some other sections of the parliamentary staffs must have been criticized in the report, sections which, possibly, are not as strenuously employed during sessions as are the Hansard staff, and which, probably, have no more to do in recesses. As we are situated in Parliament to-day, there is very little “ let-up “. Particularly was this so as we were situated during the years of the Scullin regime. But in this year of grace the members of the Hansard staff have been very busily and continuously employed since March, and when the Senate rises, as it is likely to do in two or three weeks’ time, the House of Representatives will probably be asked to sit again, so that these officers will have very little respite. With all due respect to you, Mr. President, it does not seem to be cricket to make one staff a sort of chopping block in order, perhaps, to save the face of other staffs, which were’ not mentioned in your speech. If the recommendations of the report in regard to the Hansard staff can be published, it seems to me that the recommendations in regard to the other staffs could also be revealed to honorable senators. If the report were placed upon the table of the Library honorable senators would be able to peruse it, but it would not be available to the press - if there is any reason why it should not be made so available.
– If the report is laid upon the table of the Library it becomes available to the press.
– I was not aware of that. When the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts and the Public Works Committee were constituted, I understand that two additional reporters were appointed to the Hansard staff to report the proceedings of those committees. From my association with one of the committees, I know how busy the Hansard men were kept in reporting the proceedings of the committee. But now that both these committees have been suspended, Hansard is reverting to its former strength. I believe that the vacancy caused on -the staff by the retirement of our old and respected friend, Mr. Admans, has not been filled, and that there is a possibility that when the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr. Robinson, retires, that vacancy may be left unfilled. I suppose this would result in a saving of about £1,500 ; but I submit that the position in Canberra is very different from the position as it was in Melbourne. Since the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra, as you, sir, indicated in your statement, the situation has entirely altered. Parliament now sits much more intensively and for much longer periods than it sat in Melbourne. If Hansard is to do its work with a smaller staff, I consider, to use the vernacular, that it will have “ a -very rough spin “. In addition to reporting the proceedings of
Parliament, the members of the Hansard staff are required to report Premiers Conferences, royal commissions, parliamentary standing committees, and the like. I do not think that there . is any need to worry about keeping the staff in employment, because, though I am not a prophet, I believe that when the Commonwealth Grants Commission begins its work it will keep the Hansard staff busy for a good many years.
I think it would be fair, at any rate it would be appreciated, if honorable senators could be given an opportunity to peruse this report, even though it should not be made available to the press.
I should like briefly to discuss the effect of a Public Service regulation that was laid on the table of the Senate this afternoon, which; I understand, will affect seven or eight officers who come under the jurisdiction of yourself and Mr. Speaker. This regulation provides for a reduction of certain allowances to be paid to public servants in Canberra during 1933-34, and is to come into force on the 1st July next. The regulation provides that officers who were married prior to their transfer to Canberra are to suffer a reduction of the Canberra allowance from £26 to £13, and officers who have been married since their transfer to Canberra are to lose the whole of the £13 allowance at present received. Single men resident -in government hotels will still get the £13 allowance that they at present receive, but if . they go into residence elsewhere they will lose it. It will thus be seen that officers who have married sincethe transferto Canberra have not been treated as liberally as were those who had married previously.
– That was the reward for getting in early.
– That may be; but, until these regulations were tabled to-day, those, men were at least on an equal footing with officers who are single. If this regulation is put into effect as it stands, the married officers to whom I have referred will receive no Canberra allowance, while the majority of the single officers will still be paid an allowance of £13 per’ annum. The majority of the officers who have married since the transfer was carried out are young men in receipt of comparatively low salaries, and the following table shows that they are already placed at a great disadvantage when compared with other married officers : -
Married men before transfer - 1931-32, £39; 1932- 33, £26 - a reduction of 33 per cent.; 1933- 34, £13 - ft further reduction of 33 per cent.
Married men since transfer - 1931-32, £26; 1932- 33, £13 - a reduction of 50 per cent; 1933- 34, nil - a further reduction of 50 peT cent.
Single men - 1931-32, £20, or quarter board, whichever greater; 1932-33, £13, or one-sixth board, whichever greater; 1933-34, £13-nc reduction.
There is a qualification that, in future, those single men must be resident at a government hotel. Apparently the idea is to compel these officers to stay at those institutions. It would be only reasonable if these young married officers were paid in future an amount equivalent to that which is received by other married officers, and by single officers who are resident at government hotels. That would partially compensate them for some of the loss from which they have been suffering for years without complaint, so far as I know. Incidentally, I understand that there are at least eight members of the staff over which you and Mr. Speaker preside who are concerned in this matter.
It is worth while considering the financial disadvantages which have been borne by men who have married since the transfer to Canberra’ was made, for each man has had to bear the whole cost of transporting his furniture here, also the fare for his wife. Frequently, because of the scarcity of housing accommodation, these officers have had to occupy houses at higher rentals than they could really afford, fo-r, in the majority of cases, they were young men, and, therefore, not highly salaried.
I thank you, sir, for the opportunity that you have given to honorable senators to discuss references in the report of the Public Service Board in respect of which you have taken us into your confidence, and even now, I cannot see why honorable senators should not see that document. However, that is a matter which is within your jurisdiction and judgment. It is difficult, nay impossible, adequately to discuss a report which one has not read; one can only try to piece together the aspects referred to by you, sir, on Friday afternoon. At the same time, I know that you are a most zealous guardian of the privileges of honorable senators, and feel sure that they may be safely entrusted to your keeping.
– The statement which you made on Friday, sir, came at a very opportune time. For quite a long time, it has been customary, and considered as quite the correct thing by some, to cry out about what has been termed the enormous expenditure incurred by this Parliament. The figures which you gave, supplemented by those of Senator Kingsmill, have shattered & myth that has been permitted to exist for too long a period. I should like to know whether it is possible to go just a little farther and give the Senate, and incidentally, the country, some information regarding the expenditure that is incurred in connexion with the honorable office which you occupy, together with the salaries and allowances made to Ministers in this chamber. I am confident that the facts would make it plain that, instead of there having been an ever-increasing snowball of expenditure since federation, great moderation has been displayed in connexion with those offices.
– I join with Senator Sampson and Senator Carroll in thanking you, sir, for the lengthy and interesting statement which you made in connexion with the Pinner report. You certainly removed possible misunderstandings which might have caused great dissatisfaction to my colleagues and myself. I have had experience of a number of Parliaments, and’ I consider that, generally speaking, very little of the criticism which one hears outside is justified. I shall refer to a small privilege that is accorded to honorable senators, that of dining in the parliamentary refreshment-rooms, for which the charge is 2s. That does not bear favorable comparison with the charge made in hotels in the cities, because for the same sum, one could dine a la carte. and obtain a much wider range of viands. I have visited a number of State Parliaments and dined there, either in the members’ room as a guest, or in the visitors’ dining room, in the capacity of a reporter.
Honorable senators enjoy the privilege of using the dining-rooms in the various State Parliaments. In this and other Parliaments strangers are served in the dining-rooms with quite as good meals as are served to members. The impression widely held outside that we get our meals here for nothing should be dispelled, as also the idea that we get anything very wonderful in the way of meals. The only luxury we enjoy, so far as I know, is free billiards. We might have to pay ls. for 50 up if we went down the street to a billiard saloon, and if we belonged to a club which afforded us the same comforts as the Senate club rooms do, we should have to pay something in the way of membership fees. Generally speaking, however, there is no extravagance in the running of this Parliament to cause anyone anxiety. As a Labour representative, I should not take this stand if I believed that the. public was being called upon to pay for anything in the nature of high living by members of Parliament.
– There is nothing for nothing here.
– That is so, except, perhaps, our 50 up at billiards. I have not noticed any poker schools or bridge parties since ‘ I have been here. Honorable senators stick closely to their chamber duties.
Reference is made in the report of the officer of the Public Service Board to the parliamentary staff. Because of what has been said and written on that subject, I should like very much to see the report. I believe that, if it could be made available to honorable senators, all of them would treat it as confidential. I am a democratic representative, and inclined to look with suspicion on any attempt to invest parliamentary institutions with excessive dignity, but I believe that the parliamentary staffs must necessarily be possessed of special qualifications which merit consideration. Most of them have been brought to Canberra from Sydney or Melbourne, and if this proposal for getting rid of excess officers were put into effect, it would be hard for them to find employment elsewhere. I was pleased to . learn that the excess officers were to be absorbed, and that nobody would, as a result of this search for unnecessary economy, be put out of employment. I hope that before any such action is taken the matter will be brought before Parliament.
I have no special knowledge of the work performed by the clerical officers of Parliament, but before sitting down, 1 should like to make some reference to the Hansard staff. There are, I think, other members of this chamber who have had experience of journalistic work, and, personally, I can speak with some authority in regard to it. I have myself done a good deal of shorthand writing, and know” something of the qualifications of Hansard reporters. Among journalists the job of a Hansard writer is regarded as very strenuous. I have undertaken practically all branches of journalistic work, and was for ten years editor of a daily newspaper, but I must confess to having always been scared at the prospect of taking a verbatim note of proceedings, yet that is the Hansard reporters’ everyday job. Verbatim reporting is most difficult and exacting work, and men capable of doing it must be endowed with minds of a special kind. It is said very few of even the most capable journalists are able to write shorthand at the rate of 150 words a minute, yet Hansard reporters are required to write at 200 words a minute, and I know some of them who can take a speech at an even faster rate. Nol; only must Hansard reporters be specialists in stenography,, but they must also be highly-trained sub-editors. As Senator Kingsmill pointed out, theirs is frequently the ‘ task of re-making our speeches by straightening out our long asides and parenthetical observations so as to put them into a straightforward literary style. Besides that, they must be equipped with wide general knowledge. When I first began public reporting, it was soon borne in upon me that, to do the job efficiently, it was necessary for me to be an Oxford dictionary and a Webster’s dictionary rolled into one, with a very considerable acquaintance with the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Particularly in the old days, when speakers were apt to be more oratorical and florid than they are now, they sometimes sprinkled their utterances with* quotations from Horace, from the Bible, and from the classics, ancient and modern; and the shorthand writer felt that he was in honour bound to keep up.
Even now Senator Brennan sometimes adorns his speeches with a little more than the1 familiar Latin tag3, and 1 do not know how the Hansard men get them, in the circumstances, I should be tempted to ask him how to spell the words, but I do not know whether the Hansard reporters adopt a similar course.
One of the recommendations of the Pinner report, in which considerable pride seems to be taken, is the proposal to save £1,000 a year by using the services of Hansard reporters in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I believe it is a fact that the Hansard staff has been available for this work for the last two years. It has always been available for reporting royal commissions and inquiries. I should like to see the report if only to be able to gauge exactly the nature of the work the staff is called upon to do. Since February, this Parliament has been sitting practically all the lime, and, after a spell of six weeks, it will go on sitting practically up to Christmas.
I was glad to learn that, notwithstanding newspaper articles to the contrary, nothing very drastic is contemplated in the way of re-organization. It has been made evident that the work of the Parliament is being carried on with reasonable efficiency and economy. Expenditure has already been cut down, and any further action in that direction would be merely a cowardly yielding to a public clamour that is not well-founded.
.- I am not going to follow the example of previous speakers by paying flattering compliments to yourself, Mr. President. We are, I think, all agreed upon the point that, if a report were necessary the proper action was taken to get it, namely, to have a detailed report made by a competent authority. I shall be surprised if it is deemed that we are bound by all the recommendations contained in that report. I sincerely trust that that is not the case. I wish to criticize the report on the ground of the inability of Mr. Pinner to deal with a matter of this nature. He may be a genius in ability, or an angel in character, but 1 fail to see that his position in the Public Service gave him any claim to ability to sit in judgment, for instance, on the Hansard staff. I refer particularly to this matter, because, while other hon orable senators have mildly criticized the proposal made with regard to this staff, and have lavished praise on the Hansard reporters, I wish to enter the strongest possible protest against the treatment that it was proposed should be meted out to them. Senator Kingsmill, your predecessor in the chair, Mr. President, referred to the wisdom of upholding the dignity of this Parliament, especially as it is representative of the nation as a whole ; but it would scarcely be upholding that dignity to make a cut in the salaries of parliamentary officers. Such cheeseparing economy as an attempt to reduce the cost of the Hansard staff by putting other officers out of work, arid requiring the Hansard reporters to undertake extra duties seems wholly unwarranted. Even though we have no public works committee or public accounts committee in active operation at the present time, royal commissions and other bodies of a semi-parliamentary origin provide work for the Hansard reporters during recess. We should consider more than the actual number of hours for which these officers are employed during long and arduous sessions ; we should also remember that the strain imposed upon them is quite outside the experience of members of Parliament. Every honorable senator is responsible for his own speech only; but the Hansard reporters are engaged during the whole of the time when the Parliament i3 sitting. I do not know exactly how the whole of their time is occupied during parliamentary recesses, yet I am aware that the Hansard proof numbers which members receive have to be finally revised and indexed in order to be prepared for publication in the bound volumes. In my opinion, the strain imposed on this staff during a long session is such that if, during any period, its members are entirely free from work, they are entitled to that freedom. I have been informed that in both the New South Wales and Queensland Parliaments, the Hansard reporters receive higher salaries than those paid to members of the Commonwealth staff. If they are to be given other work during recesses on the ground that they have nothing else to do, they should have regular hours during the sessions. Frequently, they are called upon to work exceedingly long hours, and if they are not to have the benefit of the recesses, they should be employed in shifts, and paid overtime if required to work for more than a given number of hours. I do not think that it would be giving these officers a fair deal to require them to toil through a lengthy and tiring session, and then to submit to some other drudgery during the recess. Their work is not merely mechanical; it demands the exercise of skill to a high degree. These officers should be allowed periods for recuperation from time to time, to keep them fit for their task.
Steps should be taken to disabuse the public mind, of the wrong impression that has got abroad regarding the privileges of senators in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. Many people think that we obtain free meals, and they are often amazed when they are told that all meals are paid for. There is even an impression that we are supplied with free drinks, and that Parliament House is a place where we may live in luxury at no cost to ourselves. I do not desire to dispute your authority in these matters, Mr. President, but it seems to me that it was an amazing statement for you to make to say that you and Mr. Speaker are in a position similar to that of a ministerial head of a department. I wish to know where the House Committee comes in, and why that body should be ignored. I was under the impression that you and Mr. Speaker were the official heads of the House Committee, but that that committee had to be consulted regarding any proposed changes in the management of this House. It also seems strange that memhers of the House Committee should be denied access to the Pinner report. It is all very well to say that a report made by a public servant may refer to matters which. it would be scarcely fair to make public. Probably this report does contain such references ; but I’ do not consider that a sufficient reason for preventing the members of the House Committee from scanning the report. I think that it should be laid on the table in the Library, and that honorable senators should be permitted to peruse it. If there is anything in the report that should not be made available to honorable senators, its author should not have included such matter.
I am not a member of the House Committee, and never have been, so I am not smarting under a sense of wounded dignity; but I am strongly of opinion that the House Committee should have access to the report. If .the official heads of the two branches of the legislature can act independently of this committee, why do we have such a body? Apparently, the Government regarded it as desirable to arrange with you, Mr. President, to give honorable senators an opportunity to discuss the report. “Why should there not be a frank discussion of the recommendations? If the interests of individual officers are concerned, let those persons be indicated by numbers or letters. It is not my wish that any officer should be publicly pilloried, or made to look foolish or inefficient; but I do think that whatever pertains to the future management of this Parliament should be made known, not only to the House Committee, which is so intimately concerned in affairs relating to its management, but also to honorable senators generally, because they are vitally interested in the proper conduct of the chamber of which they are members.
I am glad that Senator Sampson has referred to the regulation which proposes that, as from the 1st July next, the allowance enjoyed by public servants compulsorily transferred to Canberra shall be again reduced by £13 a year. To make one cut on top of another is a queer way of showing that the country is again becoming prosperous. It is about time that we called a halt to these cheeseparing economies, which hit hardest those who are least able to bear them. We should embark on bigger schemes for restoring prosperity than the maltreatment of those who are subject to our will. I protest strongly against the building up of our prosperity, by reducing the already meagre allowance of public servants who are domiciled in Canberra. I admit that it is a poor advertisement of those who voted for the establishment of the seat of government at Canberra, that it should be found necessary to compensate persons for living in it; but as, in the early days of the transfer of the capital to this site, it was decided that this special allowance should be paid, I should like to know what reason exists for reducing it at the present time.
– It was never intended as, and was expressly stated not to be, a permanent allowance.
– I do not contend that it should be as fixed- as the law of the Medes and Persians, but I think that an officer should enjoy it for the term of his natural life.
– The cost of living is still high in Canberra.
– There is no doubt that it is higher here than elsewhere.
– There are other places in the Commonwealth where it is higher than in Melbourne or Sydney, but public servants in those districts are not given an allowance.
– An ordinary citizen who suffers disadvantage on account of the high cost of living may move from one place to another; if he does not like Bourke or Darwin, he may seek work in Armidale or Wagga. A public servant, on the other hand, must go where he is sent.
– So must the public servant who is sent to Bourke.
– He may be transferred in time. The Minister must recognize that Canberra has its disadvantages. However much we may admire its scenery, that will not sustain our physical needs. The point that I emphasize, however, is that we cannot maintain our dignity by reducing the salaries of others; that that is a poor way in which to seek to effect improvement in the general position. The cutting down of public servants’ allowances, and the employment of the Hansard staff in other avenues during recesses, are pettifogging economy measures, which should be beneath the dignity of any parliament, particularly one which claims to be the super Parliament of Australian legislatures. I would lay particular emphasis upon the difficulty which must be experienced by public servants in Canberra, in finding a career for their children. The educational facilities are undoubtedly good ; but, when the children leave school, there is no possibility of their obtaining employment here, and consequently they must seek it abroad, at considerable expense and disadvantage to their families. We should protest most emphatically against this attack upon allowances in the interest of a . bogus economy, as well as against the Hansard staff having their duties increased. What is the use of our praising the members of that staff, on the one hand, for the admirable manner in which they improve our speeches, if, on the other hand, we consent to their being dealt with in the manner proposed?
– I find myself not altogether in agreement with the majority of those who have preceded me. It was a kindly thought that prompted the printing and circulation among honorable senators of the remarks made by the President last Friday concerning the report on the parliamentary departments. I object to the calling in of an outsider to investigate the affairs that have been reported upon by Mr. Pinner.
– The honorable senator is not the only one who objects to that.
– I do not question Mr. Pinner’s capacity to make the inquiry, because I am not acquainted with the gentleman, nor do I know anything about him; but I* have always taken exception to the appointment of an outside body to perform functions that we are elected to carry out. Parliament has given to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives the authority to exercise control over these matters. The function of the Joint House Committee, I take it, is to work in collaboration with those two gentlemen, and it should have been allowed to make decisions on the matters investigated. Apparently, however, the authority to appoint an outsider to undertake this work is vested in the presiding officers. Having taken that action, I consider that the correct course was adopted by them when they decided not to make the report public. It is all very well to say that it would not be available to the press if it were open to the scrutiny of honorable senators. The press, and everybody else, would probably obtain particulars of it without any deliberate intention on the part’ of honorable senators to convey the information.
The presiding officers, of course, might take the House Committee into their confidence, but that procedure, I contend, should have been followed before this. I entirely agree with what Senator Rae has said about this cheeseparing economy, because there is no need for it. Labour members believe that this craze for economy is unnecessary, and that there is another way of handling the affairs of this nation. This kind of thing must ultimately bring about disaster. We cannot make this nation prosperous by making its component parts poorer. That is a well-known axiom, and there is no need to elaborate it.
SenatorRae. - By starving us into prosperity.
– That is so. The fact* remains that we have only to continue this insane policy long enough to be flat on our backs starved to death. I agree with what has been said in regard to the Hansard staff, but I shall not pay it the fulsome flattery resorted to by other honorable senators. The members of that staff are here to do their job and if they are not doing it, they should be sacked and some one else put in their place. There is no need, just because they are doing their job, for us to say so. Their qualifications were supposed to have been considered before they were appointed.
– But we occasionally pay one another compliments.
– And, frequently, they have been entirely undeserved. After all, half of such statements of honorable senators are hypocritical. I consider that the members of the Hansard staff should be highly paid. 1 do not know what their salaries are, but I am certain that they are not getting more than is commensurate with their job. I know that, at any rate, honorable senators are not receiving sufficient remuneration. One of the most disgraceful things done in this craze for economy - and I said so when I first entered this chamber - was the reduction of the salaries of honorable senators. That action was neither necessary nor proper, nor in conformity with the dignity of the positions that we hold. If honorable senators are not carrying out their jobs properly, I hope that the community will, at the proper time, dismiss them, because some of them richly deserve that treatment. The members of the Hansard staff are entitled to all the leisure that they can obtain. Work is not the objective for which we should strive. We should strive rather for leisure to be wisely used in order to enable us to reach that stage of culture which should be possessed, not only by members of Parliament, but also by the people generally. This insane idea that work is the objective of human happiness, is absolutely futile, and even worse than that, because it has led the world to misery and degradation.
– The honorable senator at least keeps the Hansard staff occupied.
– That is one of those trite sayings which, when analysed, have no substance whatever. The. Hansard staff has to do its job, and has to stay here until it is finished, and therefore, we should not object to any leisure that it has. If we are to limit our speeches for the convenience of Hansard. let us work an eight-hour day or a 40- hour week, and insist that the Hansard staff ‘does the same.
– The Hansard staff will, undoubtedly, work while the honorable senator is here.
– That is an unfair interjection. While I am speaking the Hansard staff- obtains, not only work, but also education, and that is more thancan be said of the honorable senator when he is edifying this chamber with his eloquence.
I object also to the continual belittling of Canberra, and to the talk that there is no opportunity here for a career for children. It is our fault that there are no careers offering for children. One of the noblest ideals ever conceived in the mind of man was the building of this capital city and the conducting of the affairs of the National Parliament here. Had successive governments not been obsessed with the insane policy of deflation and increasing misery, they would have transferred every public servant that could be transferred - there are some required in the other cities - to the Federal Capital city as fast as accommodation could be provided for them. In that way this city could have been rapidly and satisfactorily developed, and with its growth there would have been no dearth of employment for the children. Today we have been discussing the development of industries-, but no industry jumps from its commencement to maturity. Therefore, some difficulties must have been anticipated in respect of ‘ the satisfactory development of this national capital. Many difficulties that do exist here are of our own creation. We persuaded people to come to Canberra and to become lessees of business and other sites on the understanding that the population would increase. We have not fulfilled our part of the contract. We have let down, not only those lessees, but also the public servants who have children, because they anticipated conditions entirely different from those which they actually experienced. It is our duty, not to wring our hands bewailing the position, but to insist upon a policy of continual development of this national capital. What is behind our attitude? We have been so badly educated, and become so accustomed to the bright lights of the cities - mostly it means the seamy side of life - that when we come to Canberra, and are free of the frightful grafters of the big cities - because it is inconvenient for them to come here to do the dirty work that they do in Sydney and Melbourne - we rush away within twenty minutes of the adjournment of the House; and then we expect the public servants to believe that we have placed them in a veritable’ paradise. We talk about the dignity of Parliament, and then we scuttle out of Canberra as fast as we can, and tell the public servants that they should be happy here. ,
With regard to the regulations which have been tabled during the day, and about which most of us know nothing whatever, we, on this side of the chamber, do not stand for the whittling away of the rights of public servants, or for the continual onslaught on their wages, allowances and privileges, because those things are part of the policy of this Government in bringing about the general degradation of the whole of the community. It is time that we called a halt. Just what power this Senate has in respect of these regulations, I do not know, but I think that it should avail itself of every opportunity to protest in no uncertain way against the whittling away of the salaries and allowances of public servants. In conclusion, let me say that I believe in efficiency, and in paying salaries commensurate with the efficiency that we need. If we are not getting the efficiency for which we are paying, we should dismiss those who are inefficient. We cannot justly demand efficiency unless we are prepared to pay for it. Unless we are prepared to provide fair salaries and reasonable conditions, it is only hypocritical for us to talk of the good service rendered by those whom we employ. I have found the parliamentary staff entirely satisfactory, and I see no need for any control of it other than that which already is vested in the Presiding Officers. I think that the whole business of obtaining a report from an outsider has been puerile and undignified. It would appear that too much notice has been taken of statements in the press, and that we doubt our ability to do the job which we have been sent here to do. If we have confidence in ourselves, and in our capacity to do our work, we need not be afraid of either the electors or the press; nor need we run around trying to conceal our feelings. While I cannot see that much good can come from to-night’s discussion, I am grateful to you, sir, for having distributed to honor-, able senators copies of your speech. It may be that some honorable senators have found in this discussion a safety valve in that it has given them the opportunity to say things which have been on their mind.
Should Mr. Pinner’s report be made public, would any self-respecting public servant in the future undertake a similar inquiry, and furnish a report on his investigations? An officer employed on such a task is expected to be impartial, and to give to the Presiding Officers - and to no one else- the benefit of his opinion, although it might be well perhaps if the House Committee were taken into the confidence of the Presiding Officers. In my opinion, it would be wrong to the man who submitted the report, as well as to others, to make the report public, and, as I have said, it’ would make any one unwilling to undertake a similarly unpleasant task in the future.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.24]. - I join with those who thank you, sir, for the statement of your views on the report presented to the Presiding Officers by Mr. Pinner. I have listened to the debate with some interest; but I cannot find myself in agreement with Senator Kingmill’s references to the Estimates of Parliament. It is true that the Presiding Officers are responsible for the preparation of those Estimates; but I do not think that any parliament would say that they should have the last word regarding such Estimates, any more than they would agree that a Minister should have the last word regarding the Estimates of the departments under his control. Obviously, the Estimates of all the departments must be brought together into one general financial statement dealing with the revenue and expenditure of the country as a whole. Were the President and Mr. Speaker a law unto themselves, and their Estimates not subject to the same rule that applied to the other departments, there would be a lack of harmony between the salaries and conditions of the officers of the Parliament and those of public servants in the other departments. In one case, there might be the most rigid parsimony, amounting to meanness, and, in the other, gross extravagance. There must be some reconciliation of the expenditure of all departments, and that can only be obtained by the Treasurer scrutinizing the whole of the departmental Estimates. He is responsible to Parliament for the budget. The British Constitution, contains many things which are illogical, but common sense makes it possible to deal with them amicably. Similarly, we have been fortunate in that succeeding Presiding Officers and Treasurers have, by the exercise of common sense, been able to reconcile their differences.
There is a good deal of misconception regarding the Canberra allowance. I was a member of the government which granted that allowance in the first instance, and at the time it was publicly stated that it was a temporary allowance to meet the conditions which obtained while Canberra was in the making.
– Is not Canberra still in the making?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes; but conditions are very different from what they were when the allowance was first granted. Public servants in Canberra are not a class to themselves, but a part of a Service which spreads over the Commonwealth. It is the duty of the Public Service Board and the Government to try to dispense justice equally to all sections of public servants, whether in Canberra, Broome, Cape York or elsewhere. The provision of an allowance to meet the higher cost of living in certain districts is not universal throughout the Service; it was an exception made in the case of Canberra. If the allowance is to be permanent, why confine it to the capital city; why not have an equalization fund which takes into account the cost of living in various parts of the Commonwealth? Public servants in Canberra have no right to ask for something that other public servants do not get. The Canberra allowance was a temporary grant to overcome temporary difficulties which existed in the early days of this city.
– In Queensland there are different zones, and, according to the cost of living in those zones, so is the cost-of-living allowance graduated.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There is something to be said for such a system; but it does not apply to the Commonwealth Public Service. The payment of a cost-of-living allowance such as the Canberra allowance is not a rule throughout the Service.
– It ought to be.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I ask honorable senators to consider what the position of these public servants would have been had they remained in Melbourne or Sydney. In that case, they would not only have been subject to the reduction which has fallen on them in common with public servants throughout the Commonwealth, but would also have had to pay State taxation, from which they are exempt in Canberra. The public servants in the Federal Capital Territory are the only members of the Commonwealth Public Service who do not pay State taxation. The lowest-paid Commonwealth public servants in New
South. “Wales pay unemployment tax to the State Government, whereas a public servant with the same salary who lives in Canberra does not. An employee of the Postal Department in Queanbeyan pays that tax; his fellow employee in the Canberra Post Office does not. When these things are taken into consideration, it will be seen that there is something to be said for the reduction of the Canberra allowance. I understood Senator Sampson to object, not to the reduction of the allowance itself, but to inequalities associated with it. I did not know that this subject would be raised to-night, and I am, therefore, not in a position to say whether or not such inequalities exist. That is a matter which might be discussed when the budget proposals are before us.
asked for information regarding the salaries of’ the presiding officers and Ministers. Those salaries have been reduced to a greater extent than those of any other public servant, with possibly two or three exceptions. The total reduction has been 30 per cent., and I have been told by one Minister that, having regard to the diminished purchasing power of the fi, these salaries are lower to-day than at any other time in the history of federation.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. lynch). - I desire to say a few words regarding some points upon which there seems to be some misapprehension. I was pleased to hear my predecessor (Senator Kingsmill) emphasize the need that still exists for preserving to the full the rights and privileges of honorable senators. Merely on the basis of my statement in the Senate on Friday last, comment has been made in the newspapers regarding the privileges of members of this Parliament, and there is a suggestion that they are receiving emoluments and benefits in excess of their deserts. I have said many times in the past, and I repeat now, that the surest way to bring about the downfall of parliamentary government is by disparaging it without warrant, and holding up to public contempt those associated with it. Down the misty ages parliamentary institutions have been gradually evolved as the result of constant warfare and sacrifice. Throughout the world to-day those institutions are on their trial, and are in danger of abolition; and any man who deliberately lowers politicians and other public men in the eyes of the people is, wittingly or unwittingly, paving the way for. the destruction of the most glorious system pf social control that the mind of man has yet conceived. The men who are serving the nation, in the legislature .and elsewhere in public life, are doing infinitely more valuable and patriotic work than pharisaical critics who, from cosy armchairs, point the finger of scorn at representative institutions and ‘ those connected with them. No position which is constantly the subject of ridicule will attract men of worth and virtue. With rare exceptions, the standard of public life in Australia has been kept very high, and those who would lower it would be false friends to this country. I feel that I am entitled to repeat these sentiments, because advantage has been taken of a small incident to find fault with this Parliament, and to accuse its members of incurring or approving excessive expenditure for their own advantage: I have already pointed out - and I think the truth of it will be obvious to the humblest intelligence - that a parliament suddenly removed from a big centre of population to an entirely new seat of government at an isolated spot in the interior, cannot be expected to operate as economically and, in some respects, as advantageously, as could a parliament functioning in Sydney or Melbourne. Those of us who have had experience of life know that, when a man transfers from a populous community to the wilderness, he not only leaves behind him most of the amenities of civilization, but also incurs extra cost and disabilities. In all pioneering settlements the cost of living is increased by the constant handicaps incidental to isolation. Therefore, when the Commonwealth Parliament was removed from a big centre. of population to Canberra, it had to incur certain increased expenditure, which was consequential and unavoidable.
Regarding the Hansard staff, and Mr. Pinner’s comments thereon, I do not propose to say at present more than that I am glad to be associated with the words of praise that have been uttered regarding the services rendered by these officials, who are giving of their best to maintain the highest traditions of this Parliament.
Reference has been made to the confidential nature of Mr. Pinner’s report, and I was puzzled to know what Senator Sampson meant when he referred to the “ body-line method “ of handling this document. Although I am not a cricket expert, I understand that the body-line attack is regarded in two ways - by the British with approval, and by the Australians with disapproval. Was Senator Sampson applying the phrase “ bodyline “ from the British angle or the Australian angle? At all events, it seems that in the sphere of cricket the dispute regarding “ body-line “ tactics is likely to be amicably settled, and I hope for a similar development in regard to this report.
Senator Collings said that the House Committee should have accepted the responsibility of any necessary reorganization of the services in this building, and thus obviated the employment of an external investigator. Having been a member of the House Committee, and other committees, for some time, and being aware of the considerable amount of useful work they perform, I would hesitate to add further to their responsibilities. Both the House Committee and the Library Committee have ample work to do in their own particular spheres, without being further burdened with the onerous and complicated task discharged by Mr. Pinner.
With regard to the query made by Senator Carroll about the salaries enjoyed by Ministers, and the present occupant of this chair, we have heard what the right honorable the Leader of the ‘Senate (Senator Pearce) had to say about ministerial emoluments, and what I have to say in respect of my salary as President of the Senate is this: I am receiving the same remuneration as that paid to the occupant of the chair 32 years ago, and I may add that, in recent years, the occupants of this position have been called upon to pay both Federal and State income tax, which was not the case 32 years ago, so that the effective salary is considerably less. It is just as well that these facts should be made known so that the public may judge whether criticism is justified or otherwise.
As to the so-called confidential nature of the Pinner report, I remind the Senate that this expedient of obtaining reports of this nature concerning government departments and administration has been resorted to on many occasions. Personally, I should always prefer a public investigation and a public report, because I am well aware that, when confidential reports are mentioned, there is, sometimes, a suspicion that they may contain ‘ something that is unfair or unjust to some one. But I would like to disabuse the minds of any honorable senators who may hold this view with regard to the Pinner report, and would again emphasize that the obtaining of confidential reports is part of the routine of the Public Service. That we have not heard so much of this side of public administration I attribute to the fact that, in recent years, honorable senators and members of another place have had so much else to engage their attention, and to remember. I hold in my hand certain volumes containing decisions upon confidential reports, which have been tendered from time to time, and those - decisions have never been questioned by Parliament, although they may have been influenced by the production of the reports. Such a well-known authority as the late Mr. Justice Higgins, on one occasion, in the Federal Arbitration Court, was asked to make public a confidential report which, it was contended, was prejudicial to the interests of certain employees whose case was before the court. Mr. Justice Higgins, after hearing arguments . in support of, and against, the request, declined to order the report in question to be made public, and made his award, which was observed by the parties to it for some years without demur. It might have been argued that Mr. Justice Higgins exceeded his authority in making an award that might be affected by the contents of a confidential report, but the procedure followed on that occasion was so much a matter of course that no one thought of disturbing it. These records also contain references to similar action by other Commonwealth authorities. In regard to the point taken by Senator Collings, Mr. Atlec Hunt, when Public Service Arbitrator, laid special emphasis on the necessity for adhering to the practice of obtaining confidential reports, declaring that no Public Service investigator would be candid and courageous enough to present a report if he thought that, afterwards, it would be made public. Many similar instances could be cited. The obtaining of confidential reports does not necessarily mean that injury is going to be visited on some unfortunate citizen.Far from it. Always, when a confidential report is obtained concerning individual officers of the Public Service, those concerned have ample opportunity to state their case, and combat any statement contained in it. That is exactly what we are doing in thisinstance. Wo are asking the responsible officer of each department of ‘the Parliament to have, a talk with Mr. Speaker and myself, to discover wherein lies the strength of his case as against views which may be contained in the Pinner report. To speak of that document as a confidential report hardly expresses our ideas. It is simply a report tendered to the Presiding Officers. For the present, it is not going to be made public; it isbeing used as a guide coming from, one source that may be combated by confidential reports on the other side. We arc weighing the relative merits of the reports made by the responsible officers of the various departments, and the suggestions contained in the Pinner Report. As far as the undetermined portions of that document are concerned, we arc not going to take action for the present. That is the whole essence of this so-called confidential report. Senator Collings observed that, despite the investigation made by the officer in question, things are going on just the same. I am putting it to the Senate that we are trying to effect savings in administration. When the budget and Estimates are under consideration, honorable senators will have an opportunity to make full inquiries to ascertain whether effect is being given to the recommendations made, or whether they are being disregarded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senateadjourned at 10.49a.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 June 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19330627_senate_13_140/>.