13th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. P.J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Reasons for Dismissal
– I ask you, Mr.
President, who was responsible for the summary dismissal from the service of the Parliament of a returned soldier named Northwood, who was put to considerable inconvenienceand trouble in appealing against his dismissal? Does not his reinstatement, and the imposition of a nominal fine, indicate that he was treated somewhat harshlywhen he was dismissed?
– I understand that, about six years ago, representations were made that the parliamentary refreshment-room staff was insufficient to meet the demands made upon it, and that, because of the difficulty of obtaining casual labour in Canberra, three or four additional permanent appointments were made. Subsequently, because of the depression, there was an insistent demand for retrenchment, and Mr. Speaker and myself, having made the necessary investigation, came to the conclusion that there was not sufficient work all the year round for the augmented staff of the refreshmentrooins; but, insteadofdismissing the surplus employees, we found employment for them in other departments. Complaints received from the head of a department regarding the conduct of Northwood were communicated to Mr. Speaker and myself by the Secretary of the Joint House Department, who recommended his dismissal. He thereupon appealed to a board constituted under the Public Service Act, which tribunal, after inquiry, came to the decision that a fine of £5 would meet the case, and recommended that he be reinstated in his employment. The act and regulations governing this matter have been strictly observed by Mr. Speaker and myself, and we take full responsibility for what was done.
– Senator Elliotthav- ing asked certain questions, of which he was asked to give notice, concerning the importation of Japanese goods, I ask the Leader of the Senate if it is not a fact that Senator Elliott isa member of the Country party which advocates low customs duties under which Japanesemanu- facturers could flood the Australian market with cheap commodities?
Question not answered.
– I submitted my question in a courteous manner, and . I should like to know, sir, whether I am uot entitled to receive an answer?
– Honorable senators arc ontitlod to address to Ministers questions on matters relating to public affairs or to other honorable senators relating to any bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper of which such senators have charge. But the answering of questions is in the discretion of Ministers.
– Standing Order No. 98 reads-
After notices have beengiven, questions may beput to Ministers ofthe Crown relating to public affairs; and to other senators, relating to any bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper, of which such senators may have charge.
I respectfully submit that the Minister should answer my question.
– I sought information from the Minister in order to obtain accurate information before discussing the subject to which it related.
– I direct attention to Standing Order 99 -
In putting any such question, no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor inference nor imputation made, nor any facts stated except so fur as may be necessary to explain such question; and the President may direct the Clerk to alter any question so as to conform with this order. lt appeared to me that 75 per cent. of Senator Dunn’s question consisted of his opinion of the fiscal policy of the Country party, and that the remaining 25 per cent. contained the inference that Senator Elliott should not have asked his question. In the circumstances, I do not feel called upon to supply an answer.
– Apart from the fact that the Chair has no power to compel the answering of questions, Standing Order 98 contains the words “ or other public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper “. Senator Dunn’s question had no reference to any public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper. Ministers cannot be expected to be conversant with and answer questions on social conditions in Japan. There must be order and system in the asking and answering of questions, as in everything else, and for that reason, simple rules have been laid down. Those rules were not complied with by Senator Dunn.
Senator J. B. HAYES brought up the report of the Printing Committee, and - by leave - moved -
That the report be adopted.
Motion agreed to.
– As the wheat crop is now being harvested in many parts of Australia, is the Leader of the Senate able to say when the Government will announce its policy for granting assistance to the wheat-growers this year ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Within the next few days.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to a press paragraph in which the great English writer, Mr. H. G. Wells, is reported to have described Nazi-ism as “ a clumsy lout’s rebellion against civilization,” and willhe say whether the Lyons Government shares that opinion?
– I have not seen the paragraph referred to, and consequently am not in a position to comment upon it, or to compare it with the policy of the Lyons Government.
– Will the Leader of the Senate acceptmy statement regarding the press paragraph referred to, with a view to answering the question ?
– I ask Senator Dunn to refrain from asking frivolous questions.
– I submit that the question is not frivolous. It was based on a newspaper paragraph, which purported to express the viewof one of the greatest living writers concerning Naziism in Germany. In view of the atrocities which are reported to have taken place in Germany under Nazi rule, I submit that I am entitled to an answer to my question.
-I have already ruled that the question is frivolous. If the honorable senator disagrees with my ruling, the Standing Orders provide him with a remedy.
with Asiatic crews, and their names and tonnage also, have passed through the customs of Papua and Mandated Territory of New Guinea during the year 1932-33?
On 16th November, answers were given to some of the questions asked by the honorable senator, and I am now in a position to supply the following additional particulars : -
The following papers were presented : -
Superannuation Act - Eleventh Annual Report of the Superannuation Board, for the year ended 30th June, 1933.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 23 of 1933 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What grants were made from the Commonwealth Literary Fund during the year 1932-33?
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has furnished the following reply: -
The following payments were made from the Commonwealth Literary Fund for the financial year1932-33:-
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
SenatorBRENNAN (Victoria) [3.35]. - I do not desire to criticize this bill because the objection which I had in my mind when I requested the Minister to delay its final stage has been removed by the measure dealing with preferential duties of customs on goods, the produce or manufacture of New Zealand, which passed through this chamber yesterday. I merely desire to express my hearty concurrence in this bill, and to join in the congratulations that have been extended to Senator Massy-Greene for having negotiated this agreement, and to the Government for having successfully piloted it through both Houses of this Parliament. But I regard it as a reflection upon the civilization of Australia and New Zealand that there should be any customs barriers between these countries, and I hope that the agreement will, one clay, be carried a stage further, and that, in trade matters, the relations of the two dominions will be such as would be appropriate between kindred peoples with one destiny, one standard of civilization, and one standard of industrial advance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21st November, (vide page4809), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia) [3.38].- I do not suppose the Government anticipated that my support would be given to this bill. As honorable senators are aware, the measure is quite contrary to the views I have expressed in this chamber. It represents the most audacious step in the direction of high protection ever brought before Parliament. It is really a bill for the continuation of certain duties. Ostensibly, it covers four articles, namely, fencing wire, galvanized iron sheets, traction engines, and wire netting. The bulk of the speech delivered by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan), in moving the second reading of this measure, was calculated to convey the impression that it had been introduced for the sole purpose of dealing with traction engines. Why then does it include three other articles that have been the subject of very acrimonious discussions in this Parliament, and are likely to occasion more? If the motion for the second reading is carried, I hope that, in committee, an amendment will be accepted to strike out the three articles other than traction engines. The adoption of that course would make the measure less objectionable to me, but, in my opinion, it would be very much better in the interests of Australia if the bill were rejected.
The tariff policy of the Government has given rise -to an amalgamation between two parties which in ordinary political life are like cat and dog. The Ministry is able to get its alleged policy of protection sanctioned by Parliament by entering into an alliance with the Opposition. The only body to which Australia can look to-day to protect the interests of the smaller States is the Senate, and it is surely time when the dividing line between parties, which are said not to exist in this chamber, should be founded on the tariff and the care of the smaller States, whose fate has been entrusted to this body. At Senate _ elections, the principal question for consideration should be whether Australia is to have a low or a high tariff. Too long have the States been in the thrall of the two big cities of Australia. It is true that the House of Representatives can command a majority only with the assent of those two cities, but the Senate could act as a counterpoise. It could establish a tariff which would be fair to the primary producers in the smaller States, and for that matter in the larger States too - and the secondary producers, who, I think, are receiving unreasonably favorable treatment, having regard to the future prosperity of Australia. I have always understood that protective duties and bounties were intended as a means of putting an industry on its feet; but when we find that, year after year, protection which seems to be adequate at the time when it is granted, results merely in petitions from’ the manufacturers for more protection, we can but come to the conclusion that some force is at work which renders this policy null and void. This, I believe, accounts for the alliance between the United Australia party, the United Country party, and the Labour party.
I stand in this matter. There was, I think, evidence of outstanding statesmanship in the promise given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that, if we pass these two bills, we shall be able to get’ away to-night. But the right honorable gentleman was not the first to make that promise. Outside the chamber this afternoon, I heard the Government Whip make the same promise several times in a loud voice. Personally, I should prefer to remain here for a week rather than allow this bill to go through unchallenged, though I am afraid there is very little chance of defeating it.
– On two occasions, the Senate decided that the duty on galvanized iron should be reduced from £4 10s. to £1 a ton. The eighteen senators who voted for a reduction of the duty stood by their decision when the Senate’s request was returned from the House of Representatives, but owing to the unfortunate absence, through illness, of Senator Hardy, who was refused a pair, the Government was able to reverse the decision of the Senate. It must, I think, be humiliating to the Minister to know that thirteen senators who voted for a reduction of the duty on galvanized iron are loyal members of the United Australia Party, the remaining five being members of the Country party, while those who voted in favour of the higher duty included eight members of the Labour party and two members of the Lang party. The United Australia Party and Country party contested the last election as allies, andwith a definite understanding that the excessive tariff burdens, which had been imposed on primary producers by the Scullin Administration, would be reduced. Now the Government, which includes Ministers who have, on other occasions, advocated low tariffs, have to rely on the votes of Lang Labour senators to impose a high duty on galvanized iron ! There is much dissatisfaction amongst Government supporters with regard to its high protection policy. I object to the Government introducing this legislation to govern for probably the next ten or twenty years the duties on galvanized iron, wire netting, fencing wire, and traction engines, while it is unable to make up its mind from day to day about the measure of assistance to be given to the wheat industry. Why should it be possible, under this bill, to pay ten or twenty years hence a handsome bounty to manufacturers of galvanized iron, when we do not know what is to be done this year for the great wheat industry? Actually, the harvest is being gathered, but, up to this moment, we are in the dark as to what amount of bounty is to bo paid, or how itis to be distributed. - whether, as in the case of manufacturers’ of galvanized iron and the protected secondary industries, portion of the bounty will be paid to the more fortunate producers, or whether all will share alike. I entirely object to the bill. If a future parliament should reduce or remove the duty on galvanized iron, fencing wire and wire netting, the same Parliament should have the responsibility of deciding whether or not the industry should be assisted by a bounty. I object to discrimination between industries, and particularly do I object to a probable addition to the burden on the primary industries. The principle contained in the bill is pernicious, and should not have the support of any honorable senator.
– I congratulate Senators Kingsmill and Johnston upon their conversion to political Christianity. The speeches of both honorable gentlemen this afternoon gave evidence of enlightenment upon prin ciples in respect of which, hitherto, they have been very much in the dark.
– But look at the missionaries in this chamber !
– King HenryII.., we are told, was compelled to make heavy concessions to Rome to avoid excommunication, following the slaying of Sir Thomas a’Beckett. Likewise, Senator Kingsmill may be said to be wearing sackcloth and ashes as evidence of his regret for past political misdeeds. The honorable gentleman now speaks in tones of righteous indignation about this Government’s tariff policy. A year or two ago, when he was President of the Senate, he thought well of the Scullin Government’s tariff legislation. Now, on the eve of a visit to Western Australia,and having in mind, no doubt, the possibility of a pre-selection ballot, he persuades himself that everything is wrong with this Government’s tariff policy.
– Senator Kingsmill hasbeen a consistent lowtariffist ever since he was elected to this Parliament.
– Hansard records that, when he was President of the Senate during the regime of the Scullin Govern ment, he supported its tariff policy.
– I demand a withdrawal of the statement that, at any time, I supported the tariff policy ofthe Scullin Labour Government. It is misleading, and inaccurate.
– If Senator Kingsmill objects to my statement, I withdraw it. I shall, however, qualify it by saying that although the honorable senator may not have supported the fiscal policy of the Scullin Government, he accepted the pay of that Administration.
– I rise to a point of order. The President of this chamber does not accept the pay of any government, but of the Parliament. The Scullin Government did not elect me to the position of President. I demand that Senator Dunn shall withdraw his offensive remarks and apologize to me.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator must withdraw the words to which exception has been taken, and also apologize to the honorable senator.
– I withdraw and apologize. The Scullin Government was in control of the Treasury at the time to which I refer. Senator Kingsmill was not elected to the position of President by Ned Kelly or Al Capone.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.
– My dear friend from “Western Australia-
– I also ask that those words be withdrawn. The honorable senator has been a member of this chamber sufficiently long to know how honorable senators should be addressed.
– If those words are offensive to the honorable senator I shall say my good looking Clark Gable friend.
– Order! The honorable senator is again disregarding the direction of the Chair.
– I am sorry that the honorable senator is peeved; because I have addressed him as “my dear friend.” Politically, I should like to hit the honorable senator with a brick. Senator Kingsmill, who usually supports the Government, has severely criticized its action in affording adequate protection to the, iron and steel industry. Senator Rae and I, who belong to the Lang Labour party, are proud of the fact that the necessary protection is being given to an important Australian industry employing a large number of workers. Senator Johnston would support the payment of a bounty on beer barrel bungholes.
– Order !
– Senator Kingsmill, who usually responds when the whip is cracked, has been “ slang-wanging “ the Government over this bill. When President of the Senate he attended caucus meetings, and the advice be gave to the Nationalist party was broadcast over the ranges surrounding Canberra. The honorable senator, who knows that a federal election will be held before long, is anxious to make good his political marble. Through the columns of the Perth Sunday Times he will endeavour to assist the misguided electors of Western Australia.
– The honorable senator must discuss the bill.
– Senator Johnston has condemned the Government because it has not made a definite announcement with respect to its policy to assist the wheat-growers. The honorable senator apparently overlooks the fact that the iron and steel industry, which he has so strongly condemned, spends approximately £8,000 a- week in wages; and that Lysaght Limited, the manufacturers of galvanized iron, also employ a large number of men who consume primary products. This Government, which Senator Johnston supports, is responsible for the delay which has occurred in granting assistance to the wheat-growers. A Western Australian government was once in favour of leasing the Yampi Sounds to the Japanese, but owing to the statesmanship displayed by certain federal politicians, nothing further was done in the matter. I intend to support this measure because every assistance should be afforded to the iron and steel industry.
.- The bill, which is to amend the Iron and Steel Bounties Act. should be termed the “ Reduction of duties prevention bill “. That would be a fair and honest title to a measure of this character. It is extraordinary that this bill should be introduced at this juncture. Had the reduction of duties twice requested by this chamber been agreed to there might, have been some justification for its introduction, seeing that the Government, considers that some- « tiling should be done for this extraordinarily fortunate industry. It is fortunate in that it is in an exceedingly satisfactory position when many other important industries are faced with almost insurmountable difficulties, and also in having been able to secure the sympathetic support of the Government to the extent that it has. The story is told of a former Prime Minister, who, when showing some visitors through Parliament House when the Senate was not sitting, entered the chamber, which was in darkness, and after switching on the light said : “ This is the Senate. It is not sitting, but it is doing as much as usual. When it is in session an official of the House of Representatives brings a bill, which hasbeen assented to by that chamber, to the Clerk of the Senate, who then informs him that the Senate has agreed to the bill, which is then returned to the other House “. If such a state of affairs existed to-day, the Government would not be perturbed; but it has now awakened to the fact that the Senate takes a lively interest in the legislation brought before it for consideration. When the Senate has the temerity to exercise its rights in the interest of the people, the Government promptly produces a doublebarrelled weapon. It secures the adoption of the duties which it demands for a particular industry, and then introduces another measure providing further assistance which we are expected to support. I. do not suggest that the iron and steel industry is not essential to Australia. The industry should not be allowed to be destroyed by unfair competition, but all the evidence placed before us shows that it can carry on without the enormous protection which this Government has afforded it. This measure appears to be drafted to block effectively the Senate from ever having the temerity to move for a reduction of duties on the commodities mentioned in the bill. That is the direct effect of the bill. If that is a good course to pursue in connexion with this industry, it ought not to be a bad course to follow in connexion with every other industry which enjoys the benefits of a protective policy. If that were done, the cost of government could be reduced, for the Tariff Board could immediately be dispensed with. If this bill becomes law, there will be no need for the Tariff Board. Parliament has agreed to a duty of £4 10s. a ton on galvanized iron against the British manufacturer, notwithstanding that one of the directors of the Australian company has stated that his company can manufacture this product and sell it in competition with a similar product imported from England on a dutyfree basis. Should this
Parliament ever decide that the duty on this commodity shall be reduced, the provisions of this measure will come into operation, in which event the industry will be assisted by means of a bounty equivalent to the loss incurred by the reduction of the duty. If the position were not so serious, it would be grotesque. The Government has been most vacillating and hesitant in regard to what assistance should be given to the wheatgrowing industry, which has broken down under the strain of unnatural conditions; but it took only about three and a half minutes to make up its mind what should be done for the powerful and profitable industry now under discussion. I am reminded of the words of James Russell Lowell -
Palsied the arm thet forges yokes
At my fat contracts squintin.
An’ withered be the nose thet pokes
Inter gov’ment printin’!
I am surprised that any government should have introduced such a bill as this in any circumstances. This measure is like a boomerang which may not hit the object at which it is aimed on the outward throw, but may hit it when returning to the thrower. The boomerang sometimes has another effect ; on its return it hits the thrower.
– That depends on the skill of the thrower.
– Parliament having agreed to impose certain duties on galvanized iron, wire netting and barbed wire, there is no necessity whatever for this bill. In my opinion, the Government is only adding insult to injury by bringing it before us. I shall vote against it.
– Owing to a slight indisposition, 1 was not here yesterday, and therefore I did not hear what the Minister said when moving the second reading of the bill, but I had already read carefully the remarks of the Minister who introduced it into the House of Representatives. I was surprised that such a bill should have been introduced at all, but more surprised that the , Minister in the other chamber should have assumed that it would go through almost with- out consideration. Apparently, the Government regards this measure as of little importance, but I cannot agree with that view. Generally, I prefer the bounty system to the tariff system; and in many books on political economy the same opinion is expressed. The bounty system has the advantage of enabling the Government to keep a better check on the cost. I said several days ago that I did not anticipate that this strong and efficiently-conducted industry would ever be allowed to go out of existence for want of reasonable support; but I did not expect that the Government would adopt the extraordinary course of offering it what, in effect, is an open cheque. The bill deals with four commodities - fencing wire, galvanized iron sheets, wire netting, and traction engines - and, therefore, it covers a wide range. It sets out to prescribe a policy, not for to-day, or even for tomorrow, but one that is to operate until the bill is wiped off the statute-book.
SenatorCollings. - Every law stands until it is repealed.
– The bill provides for the payment of a bounty which may never be required. Once this bill becomes law, the bounty may be paid, without the Senate being given an opportunity to review the matter.
SenatorO’Halloran. - Apparently, the honorable senator has lost his faith in the Tariff Board.
– I have great respect for the Tariff Board, and I hope that I have never said anything to the contrary. I regard its members ashard-working, public-spirited men. I say nothing against them individually or collectively. I go further, and say that if we, in this Parliament, did our work so thoroughly and conscientiously as they do theirs, it is probable that the country would be in a better position than it now is.
SenatorO’Halloran. -The bill provides that no bounty may be paid without the consent of the Tariff Board.
Sen ator DUNCAN-HUGHES. - I shall deal with that matter later. I have never agreed to any government or
Minister being bound by the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The late Mr. H. E. Pratten said the same thing when he was Minister for Trade and Customs. A discretionary power must rest with the Minister. Recently, I visited Queensland, where I saw large numbers of buildings, either constructed almost entirely of galvanised iron or roofed with that material. This bill will affect the cost of galvanized iron to home-builders throughout Australia. I object to the bill, for a number of reasons, the first of which is that it includes four items. The Minister in the House of Representatives said that only one of them - traction engines - is important, but because the original bill covered the four items, the amending bill must do the same. As one with only a limited knowledge of bill drafting, I suggest that, without the slightest difficulty, an amending bill could be drafted to deal with traction engines alone. My second objection to the bill is that the duties on these items have not been reduced in any recent tariff schedule, and cannot be reduced without parliamentary action. This bill will not come into force until parliamentary action has been taken to reduce the duties on these items. It is absurd to give that power in advance. If Parliament saw fit to reduce the duties, it could immediately pass legislation to provide for a bounty. In that case, we should know the view of the Tariff Board at the time, and not proceed on the basis of the view which we now hold. I object to the bill, in the third place, because in respect of traction engines, the reduction of protection is apparently due to the financial emergency reduction, and ‘to the removal of the 10 per cent. primage. But primage did not exist when, the original act was passed. How can we take off something or provide for taking off something, which did not exist?
SenatorMcLachlan. - The effectof the imposition of the primage duty was to reduce the bounty.
– If it meant taking off the duty twice, it might be a matter for which provision should be made. As primage did not existwhen the original act was passed, the removal of that duty from this commodity does not affect the question.
– The effect of the 10 per cent, primage was to reduce the bounty. Now we cannot restore it.
– I am not sure that the Minister is right. If the effect of the primage was to reduce the bounty, I should not suggest that the bounty should not be restored. There should be no attempt upon either side to have it both ways.
– I told the House yesterday that, if the bounty were £90, the effect of the primage was to reduce it to £43 4s.
– It is very doubtful whether primage should be taken into account.
– But that is the law at present. “We must take it into account under section 3 of the Act as it stands.
– We have had many discussions here as to whether primage is a form of protection or whether it merely has a protective incidence. I suggest that it is not a form of protection, and that compensation need not be forthcoming when it is withdrawn. That is the point I put to the Minister.
– That is not the language of the section, and we are bound by that language.
– If the Minister is right upon this point, he may show that lie is equally right upon other points which I propose to submit. My next objection is that the Tariff Board is not to be asked to report upon this matter until after the bill has become law. I submit that the report of that body should be forthcoming before the measure is placed upon the statutebook. We have no report from the Tariff. Board as to whether a bounty should be payable at all. Will the Minister deny that? Is there attached to this bill a Tariff Board report dealing with any of the items I have mentioned ? Before any existing duty has been reduced, very great care has been taken to procure from the Tariff Board a report as to its effect. Why should not that course be followed when any increase of duty is proposed? In this case, we are asked to sanction an increase of duty before the Tariff Board has been afforded an opportunity to express its opinion upon it. Further, .when the bill was introduced in Parliament, it contained no provision empowering the Tariff Board to make any recommendation as to the amount of duty which should be imposed on these articles. The function of the board was merely to say what amount of bounty would compensate for a particular reduction of duty. It had no right to express any opinion as to what amount of duty was necessary to safeguard the industry. It is only because of action which was taken iu another place, that the position has been altered. There are four items included iu the measure which, in its present form, will stabilize, at a very high rate, the assistance that is to be given to this industry. In other words, an industry which is protected by an exceedingly high rate of duty is to have its future safeguarded by an assurance that if Parliament decrees that there shall be a reduction of that tariff assistance, the industry shall be compensated by means of a bounty.
– The Government is making a certainty of it.
– This bill is like a double-headed penny. The people who will be benefited by it cannot lose in any circumstances. They get the assistance proposed either by way of duty, or by way of a bounty. Have we ever extended “ similar consideration to any other industry in Australia? Is it fair to say to this very strong industry, “ We are going to stabilize the price of these four commodities for the future, so that you shall continue to get a fixed price “. Why should the iron and steel industry be secured for years ahead against a possible fall in the value of its products, while those engaged in the production of wool and wheat enjoy no such security? Surely these primary industries are of more value to Australia than even the iron and steel industry! When wool and wheat were being produced unprofitably, no attempt was made to assist the growers of them by means of a compensating bounty.
– The Scullin Government attempted to fix the price of wheat for three years ahead.
– But the provision contained in this bill may continue for 30 years.
– It can be repealed at any time.
– It cannot. Unless the Government chooses to bring this legislation before Parliament, how can it be repealed? The wool and wheat in das tries are of more importance to Australia than is’ the iron and steel industry. Yet there has never been any attempt to safeguard the position of the wool-grower. The present Government did appoint a wool committee, which submitted a very full’ report on the industry a year or two ago, but what has resulted from its labours? Even when the wool-grower was producing wool at a loss no effort was made to bridge the gap between his cost of production and the price he received for his commodity. For weeks past, all over Australia, the wheat-farmer has been wondering what is to be his position this year, and whether he will be able to pay his storekeeper, who, in turn, has commitments to his city banker. The farmer does not yet know what will be his position this year. Yet here is a bill which is intended to stabilize the price of the products of a great secondary industry. We are told in Genesis, chapter iv., that “ Jabal was the father of such as dwell in tents and herd cattle “. Presumably, that reference meant great cattle, and included sheep. His brother’s name was Jubal. “ He was the father of all such aa handle the harp and pipe “. He was of some importance too : there was music in those days. “ And Zellah, she also bare Tubal-cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron “. It will be noted that he came third and last. But those engaged in the metals industry today do not come last when benefits for the future are being proposed by the present Government.
I am very doubtful whether this bill is in accord with the spirit of the Ottawa agreement. Are we not violating the spirit of that agreement by reducing our tariff duties, and then providing for a compensating lift by the payment of a bounty? There is no justification for such action. The iron and steel industry is a most important one, and one in which many thousands gain their livelihood. But that can be said of greater industries! Tubal-cain has evidently come into his own. There is no fear of this industry being hard hit in the future. In any case, there must be a reduction of the tariff before the bill can become operative. I put that point to members of the Labour party, who are always suggesting that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. To-day, I arn inclined to think that the rich man has not the benefits he used to enjoy, and that any such advantage goes in the opposite direction. Here is a bill which is designed to give to a series of organizations, which do not require it, a strength which, unless corresponding assistance is extended to industries producing similar commodities, will inflict a very grave injustice upon them. . Senator Kingsmill is to be thanked for having brought thi3 matter forward. I shall vote against the bill, and’, if it is carried, [ hope that its scope will be limited to the one. item with which the measure is chiefly concerned, namely, traction engines. The other three items should be omitted. And all the more readily because of the fact that the item of galvanized iron, was very unpleasantly before us only two or three nights ago.
– Being of the opinion that there is no good reason why the session should end this week or next, and that talk of short sessions and long adjournments is to he deprecated, I propose to join in the discussion of this bill.
– Does the honorable senator oppose the measure? .
– As a decent Australian, I have no option but to support it. ‘ In referring to the support which the Opposition has given to the Govern- ment with respect to this and similar bills, Senator Kingsmill said that the Labour party represents the trade unions. I hope that we do represent them; we arc proud of the fact that our mission is to represent the robbed, and not the robbers. Senator Johnston’s remarks concerning the Labour party were rather unkind. He knows perfectly well why the Opposition snpv ported the tariff proposals of the Government, and his suggestion that it had a sinister motive was unworthy of him. He knows that we supported the Government only because we feel that its proposals arc far less menacing to the great secondary industries of the Commonwealth than is the destructive policy of the Country party freetraders. I regret that lie is not now in his seat. He has a remarkable capacity for levelling charges, and disappearing when the accusations are being refuted. He declared that he had met primary producers from Queensland who did not agree with the attitude of Queensland senators to the duties on galvanized iron. [ demand from that honorable senator the names of the primary producers to whom he referred, because I do not accept his statement. Senator Johnston complained bitterly that the provisions of this bill would operate for ten years ahead, yet he knows quite well that no period is mentioned in the measure. The Minister definitely stated that the rates could be changed at. any time upon recommendation by the Tariff Board. The Labour party is not in- favour of entrusting the Tariff Board with the final decision in matters of this kind, although that is the policy of the present Government, a policy which, when it suits them, is supported by Senator Johnston and his colleagues.
The statement has been made that while this ‘bill provides bounties for ten years ahead, no legislative provision whatever is made for the assistance of the wheat industry even a week ahead. That statement . is not in accordance with the facts. What was the attitude of honorable senators opposite when the Scullin Government submitted, for the assistance of the great wheat industry, a proposal which would have been of greater benefit to it than any scheme that has since been suggested ? Some honorable senators object to legislation to provide for the future requirements of an industry; that is their difficulty ; they live in the past, and refuse to grapple with the problems that are arising from day to clay in a changing world. When the Government proposes action for the stabilization of one of the most important industries in Australia, they become eloquent in their opposition to the measure.
– Can the honorable senator justify fixing the measure of assistance to the industry at the present high figure?
– The bill merely provides that, in certain events, the amount of the bounty shall automatically rise or fall. Senator Duncan-Hughes made a number of remarkable statements, one of which was that’ on a recent visit to Brisbane he was astonished to notice that hundreds of houses were roofed with galvanized iron. If the honorable senator had continued his journey further north, he would have found thousands of homes with roofs of similar construction, which only goes to prove, as I have always contended, that the city workers, ra ther than the primary producers, are the chief users of galvanized iron. I was impressed by the capacity of the honora’ble senator to make statements which sound like pearls of wisdom, but which, upon analysis, prove to be meaningless. For instance, he said that it was a moot point whether primage was a form of protection, or whether it merely had a protective incidence. If it has a protective incidence it, is a form of protection. He and other honorable senators complain that the favoured industry to which this bill relates is to be stabilized. I cannot imagine any more useful function of a government or a parliament than the stabilization of important industries. We need not ask ourselves whether the wheat-growing industry is more important than the iron and steel industry. When their arguments have been refuted, those honorable senators who oppose measures designed to build up the Australian nation, usually conclude by saying, “I am in doubt whether this bill conforms to the Ottawa agreement “. Even* if that objection could be fairly taken to the present measure, I do not see that that would be a serious blot upon it. The Government, which is one of the parents of that agreement, is said to be the soul of political honour, yet honorable senators who support the Ministry are constantly reflecting upon it by accusing it of proposing measures that violate the agreement. We on this side of the chamber support the bill because we believe that it is a step in the right direction. We do not decry the great iron and steel industry merely because it is a success. It is remarkable how honorable senators who oppose measures such as the one now before the Senate, also condemn industries that are not strong, and sneeringly describe them as “ back-yard “ concerns which are not deserving of protection. This afternoon Senator Kingsmill said that protective duties or bounties were intended only to put industries on their feet. He entirely overlooked the fact that, having assisted by our votes to put industries on their feet, we, on this, side of the chamber, consider it to be our duty to see that they are not knocked off their feet by the onslaughts of honorable senators opposite.
– I shall not speak of all the reasons I have for opposing the bill, and I do not think that I shall lay myself open to the charge of stone-walling it. Does not the fact that we now have before us a measure of the existence of which we had no inkling before it came to us from the other chamber, lend colour to the suggestion that powerful industries are able successfully to press their claims? I do not say this with any sinister meaning at all; I merely mention that powerful industries, like powerful individuals, appear to have a way of getting their claims heard that those less significant in life have not. One of the things which surprises me is that when a measure of this sort is brought forward, it commands the undivided support, of those who are supposed to be opposed to the rich and powerful, and to be always working on behalf of the poor and down-trodden.
I shall not repeat what has been said about the difficulties of the wheat industry, which, though powerful in the sense that it is widespread, is not powerful in that it lacks the organization and cohesiveness of the great secondary industries. I associate myself with the criticism of Senator Duncan-Hughes, Senator Kingsmill and others who have spoken in opposition to the bill, but I have no wish to repeat what they have said about it. Forceful as were their objections to it, I can think of even stronger reasons for opposing the measure. This bill, which will operate automatically, provides that if Parliament lowers the duty on any of the items mentioned in the schedule, the Government may, by means of a bounty, make up to that industry what it loses in the form of protection.
– The industry will then know where it stands.
– Why does Parliament in some instances reduce the protection enjoyed by an industry? Is it done out of caprice or from a desire to injure the industry concerned? No doubt, Senator Collings would offer the latter reason because he always regards those who disagree with him as persons having an anti-Australian outlook and a sinister purpose. But that is not so. Parliament, we may assume, lowers a duty for certain specific reasons. It weighs the amount of benefit which a particular industry may be getting from a duty against the burden which the duty imposes on the people, and if it thinks that the industry is exacting from tha community too much, it lowers the duty. Thi3 purpose is thwarted, if, when it lowers a duty with the object of reducing the burden on the people, another force comes into operation and restores to the industry with the left hand what has been taken from it with the right.
– What if Parliament increases a duty?
– Apparently, Senator Collings has not taken the trouble to study the principal act. My objection to the bill is that if Parliament at any time decides that a duty shall be lowered, this measure enacts, in advance, that the will of Parliament shall not prevail; the exaction required from the people by duty or bounty is always to remain subject to the limitation that the total amount of the bounty is fixed. If a duty is removed and the provision in this bill is operated, the claims for the equivalent bounty may exceed the money available.
– A future Parliament may amend this measure.
– Of course it may. I regard it as most extraordinary that, when we are passing the first complete tariff schedule for the last ten years, which deals, among other things, with the duties to be paid upon galvanized iron, fencing wire, wire netting and traction engines, we should, pari passu, pass another bill enacting that if Parliament reduces the duties on a number of specified items, bounties equivalent to the amount of duty so reduced may be paid at the will of the Government. I agree with Senator DuncanHughes that this proposal conflicts with the spirit if not the letter of the Ottawa agreement. When we engaged to give to British manufacturers opportunities for reasonable competition, and when we have regulated the tariff to carry out that agreement, are we not violating the spirit of the contract when by another measure we restore to industries the assistance we have previously withdrawn? Senator Collings says that he would not regard as a blot on the bill its non-conformity with the Ottawa agreement. That is a matter which the honorable senator must decide for himself. My view is that when we make an agreement^ we should carry it out faithfully, and I would consider it a very great blot on this bill if it were contrary to an agreement which Ave had solemnly signed. For the reasons given, I am unable to support the bill. I do not intend to make any promise about what I shall do when, it is in committee, because I believe that the majority of the Senate is against the principle it embodies.
– I understand the desire of the Government to ensure the development of the iron and steel industry, but I regard this bill as a remarkable attempt to placate the powerful influences that have been at work. The Senate attempted to reduce the duty on galvanized iron, but unfortunately it was not successful. Consequently higher prices for this commodity must be paid by all primary producers, large and small, and by the majority of the people of Australia, because nearly everybody uses galvanized iron. Wool, butter, wheat, meat, and other forms of rural production are regarded as primary industries, and manufacturing concerns in the cities such as the great steel works at Newcastle are classed as secondary industries, but really are treated as primary industries. I shall support the bill, and indeed any proposal to pay bounties to industries if the Government will undertake to distribute a like amount among users of the articles produced by such industries. This, I contend, is a perfectly logical proposal. If the Government cannot accept it, I shall vote against the bill.
– The burden of the complaint by honorable senators of the Country party seems to be that Labour senators are supporting the Government in this matter. I assure them that we are only doing so because Ave regard this Government as the lesser of two evils. We have never made any pretence of being satisfied with its policy, but Ave believe that its industrial legislation is much to be preferred to the measures that would be introduced by those who criticize our attitude to this bill. I assure Senator Johnston that there is no alliance between Labour senators and the Government. We supported it in connexion with a number of tariff items merely because its views happened to coincide Avith our OWn Senator Kingsmill referred to the power and influence exercised by the capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne, but it is generally admitted that the growth of these industrial centres is consequent upon improved machinery which has replaced manual labour. Those directly engaged in the manufacture of agricultural machinery in big industrial centres are, in effect, doing some of the work formerly undertaken in country districts. The antediluvian opinions expressed by Senator Kingsmill suggest that the large Australian cities should be wiped off the face of the earth find the sites which they occupy cultivated, as was done by certain nations in olden days, when the cities were razed aud the land cultivated for the production of food. There seems to be a lot. of opposition to what is said to be the future protection of the iron and steel industry. Constant changes in customs duties are detrimental. They prevent the investment of money in industry, and, it is only right to afford the protection now proposed, particularly to an industry deemed to be worthy of such assistance. The gibes concerning the special influence which this industry is supposed to exercise are unwarranted. Great industrial and financial corporations and wealthy individuals can, and do, exercise influence. One of ‘the prerogatives of wealth is to be able to influence governments, from which so much can be obtained. Under the present system, that cannot be prevented. “Whenever we object to the influences of such corporations as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, we are immediately met. with statements concerning the rights which they possess to build up wealth. Some honorable senators support the system which allows big fortunes to be made, and then complain of the way in which such fortunes are used. Wealth is not valued for the luxuries and the necessities it provides, but because it gives power to those who possess it. It is useless to support a system and then to complain of its natural fruits. The party to which I belong, like all minorities, supports a government or an opposition as the case may be, because we are unable to give effect to our own policy. In these circumstances, we must take the crumbs that are offered to us. On many occasions, honorable senators on this side of the chamber have voted against the Government. I challenge any honorable senator representing the Country party to move a vote of want of confidence on a vital issue and thus allow us to show where we will be when the vote is taken. In some instances we have supported the Government, because we know that we cannot get anything better than it offers: The members of the Country party who have condemned this measure are asking the
Government to assist the primary producers and, at the same time, are crying to prevent others from obtaining what is due to them. Senator Kingsmill said that primary industries were being neglected, while assistance was being afforded to secondary industries by means of bounties and customs duties. During the last few years millions of pounds have been spent in protecting primary industries, but objections are raised when an effort is made to protect an important secondary industry. It is audacious to suggest that the whole of the benefits should be given to one section of the community. That is a spiteful attitude. In the absence of anything more acceptable, I intend to support the bill.
Motion (by Senator FOLL) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (President - ‘Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had made the amendment requested by the Senate in ‘this -bill.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senatein this bill.
Motion (by Senator Sir George pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising adjourn till Tuesdaynextat 3 p.m.
IronandSteelProductsBountyBill: Adjournment of Debate - Restoration of 10 per cent. Wage Cut.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I understood the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to say during the division a few moments ago thathe desired to adjourn the debate on the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Bill in order that messages from the House of Representatives might be dealt with. I assumed that when the messages had been disposed of the Senate would at once resume the discussion of the bill which it had been considering.
– My request did not have any effect.
– It had no effect on me. Obviously there is no need to adjourn the Senate at this hour to enable senators to catch the 8.30 p.m. train. It is generally recognized that a majority of honorable senators here arc opposed to the provisions of the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Bill, and would be pleased to have an opportunity to vote on it to-day.
– Like Senator Duncan-Hughes I understood that the Leader of the Sena.te (Senator Pearce) desired to secure the adjournment of the debate on the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Bill in order that certain messages from the
House of Representatives could be dealt with.
– That is so.
– I naturally concluded for the same reason as Senator Duncan-Hughes gave that immediately that business was disposed of the debate on the bill would be continued. Had I not thought so I should not have voted for the adjournment of the debate.
.- I also was under the same impression as were the two honorable senators who have spoken. I believed that the purpose of the adjournment of the debate was to enable certain messages to be dealt with and that we should then continue the discussion of the bill. Otherwise I would not have voted as I did.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [5.40]. - I am surprised at the number of political innocents in this chamber. Apparently, some honorable senators did not know that the gun was loaded. But let us assume - a base assumption, I admit - that the Government was afraid that it would be beaten. What would any government do in the circumstances? Would it not find some means of getting into recess, if only for a short time, in order to muster its forces? Under the existing system of parliamentary government, a government must win all the time, or cease to exist. Those who would not do what the Leader of the Senate did to-day would fail to do it, not because of any greater honesty or higher principles, but because of a lack of intelligence.
– Last week, I asked the Leader of the Senate a question relating to a decision by Chief Judge Dethridge of the Federal Arbitration Court to restore the 10 per cent. reduction of real wages to employees in the flour milling industry, which resulted in some of the men receiving an additional 5s. or 6s. a week. I again ask the right honorable gentleman if he can indicate the policy of the Government in regard to the restoration to the whole of the Commonwealth public servants of the cut in real wages which they have suffered. When a previous Government reduced the pay of its employees, private employers approached the Arbitration Court, and asked for an award based on the precedent established by the Government. Judge Beeby acceded to their request with the result that the wages of tens of thousands of workers were reduced. We are now told that prosperity has returned, and is no longer around the corner, and I should therefore be glad to hear from the right honorable gentleman that the Government has decided to’ restore to its employees that which was taken from them.
[5.45]. - I shall deal first with the question raised by Senator Dunn. The Government has already expressed its intention in regard to the restoration to public servants of the amounts deducted from their pay under the financial emergency legislation, and has, indeed, given effect to that intention bylegislation which has been passed by Parliament. Those Commonwealth employees who are governed by arbitration awards will be dealt with under those awards.
With regard to the complaint of Senator Duncan-Hughes,I point out that I made a bona fide appeal, such as the Leader of any Government is entitled to make to those who generally support it, although theymay not support a particular measure. I was informed by the Government Whip that several other honorable senators desired to speak on the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Bill, and I knew that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) desired to reply to the criticism of the measure. I imagine that Senator Duncan-Hughes would have accused the Vice-President of the Executive Council of discourtesy had the Minister ignored the points that he had made. I had promised that the business for to-day would be concluded in time to enable those honorable senators who desired to do so to catch to-night’s train, and, accordingly, a number of them booked their passages. If the remaining speakers took the full time allowed to them under the Standing Orders, there would not have been sufficient time for the Vice-President of the Executive Council to reply before the train left Canberra. As Senator DuncanHughes and others who usually support the Government voted against the ad journment of the debate, I imagined that they would have voted in the same way at a later stage, in which case they would have prevented honorable senators from catching the train.
Sen a to r D uncan-Hughes. -Senator Hardy was refused the right to vote on the customs duty on galvanized iron.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.- I do not see what that interjection has to do with the charge that I misled certain honorable senators. My request was one which I, as the Leader of the Government in this chamber, had a perfect right to make. I had no knowledge of the way that senators would deal with the messages from the House of Representatives. Although I did not anticipate debate, I did not know whether or not the third reading of one bill would be debated. I made only a reasonable request when I asked for the adjournment of the debate in order to make sure that final action with regard to two bills would be taken on receipt of the messages from the House of Representatives. That was the reason why I asked for the postponement of the debate. It was also the reason why I asked those who usually support the Government, although not supporting the measure then before the Senate, to pay the Government the courtesy of allowing the debate to be adjourned. Senator Duncan-Hughes appears to think that I did something unreasonable. I do not think so. I asked only for that courtesy which the Leader of a Government has a right to expect from those who nominally support it. I resent the suggestion that there was anything underhand in the way I made that appeal. It was made for the purpose I have indicated, and only when I learned that Senator McLachlan wished to reply to the criticism that had been levelled against the bill of which he was in charge. That is my explanation, and I ask honorable senators to accept it. I regret that, although I made the fact known to some honorable senators, they did not see their way to support the motion for the adjournment of the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19331122_senate_13_142/>.