13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and rend prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Agreement Bill1933.
Sales Tax Assessment (New Zealand Imports) Bill1933.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) 1933.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate: (1) Is it a fact that both the post office and Commonwealth Bank derive their authority as governmental institutions from enactments of the Federal Parliament; (2) Is it a fact that under financial emergency legislation, the reduction of salaries of postal employees is twice as great as the reduction applied to employees of the Commonwealth Bank? If so, will the Government give consideration to this matter, with a view to ensuring uniformity of sacrifice by the employees of these two important institutions?
– Whilst it is a fact that the post office and the Commonwealth Bank derive their authority from acts passed by this Parliament, the administration of the post office comes directly under the control of the Parliament through the PostmasterGeneral, whereas the Commonwealth Bank is controlled by a board, which incidentally fixes the salaries paid to its employees.
Employment for Christmas Season
– As the Christinas season is approaching, bringing with it a rush of postal business, will the Post- master-General give preferencein employment to the large number of former employees who have been retrenched instead of engaging inside labour for the staffs of the various post offices throughout Australia?
– I understand that the Postmaster-General has already given consideration to the matter referred to by the honorable senator, but I shall mention it to him again.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On the 10th November, Senator Dunn asked the following questions, upon notice : -
Has the Minister seena report in a weekly newspaper called Smith’s Weekly, of the 4th November, purporting to contain a statement of concessions granted to federal members of Parliament?
Is it a fact that the press of Australia, including Smith’s Weekly, receive concessions in connexion with press telegrams from Canberra to any part of the Commonwealth, and other matters to the extent of £500,000 in each year?
Is it a fact that the press of Australia are given concessions in the parliamentary dining-rooms as regards service, food, and charges ?
Is it a fact that the press of Australia also receive concessions in relation to service and charges whilein residence in the federalcontrolled hotels in Canberra? 5.Isit a fact that the Australian press receive concessions in relation to service and chargesin the parliamentary liquor bar? 6.Is it a fact that the Australian press are given the use of, if so desired, the parliamentary tennis courts, bowling greens, cricket pitches, and recreation grounds?
Is it fact that, in the federal members’ rooms in Sydney, New South Wales, a special room is set aside and furnished for Australian press representatives?
Is it a fact that the Australian press receive concessions from the Federal Parliamentary Library for the purpose of checking all Australian and international newspapers, periodicals, and statistical records, and for the use of all other literature therein?
Is it a fact that the Australian press have free and comfortable quarters in the Federal Parliament House, including writing rooms, lounge-rooms, toilet-rooms, electric lifts, central heating and lighting facilities?
Is it a fact that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and the Public Works Committee do not now function, and that during the last three years federal members have sat on many parliamentary committees at their own expense?
Is it a fact that federal members are called upon to meet all charges for telephone trunk calls between Canberra and any part of Australia?
A reply was furnished to question No. 1 on the 10th November. The following replies to the remaining questions have now been furnished by the departments concerned : -
It is estimated by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department that the’ postal, telegraphic and telephonic concessions granted to the press of Australia amount approximately to £500,000 a year.
. Representatives of the press engaged at Parliament House are served in the Parliamentary RefreshmentRooms on the same terms as members and officers of Parliament.
No. It may be added that representatives of the press who reside continuously at Hotel Canberra during a session of the Parliament are regarded as permanent guests and are charged accordingly.
See answer to 3.
Yes, when not in use by members of Parliament.
Yes, a small room (adjacent to the lifts) containing 140 square feet, adjoining the federal members’ rooms on the 8th floor of the Commonwealth Bank Building, has been made available to the press.
Yes,in respect to reference and research in connexion with the reporting of parliamentary proceedings.
Offices with the usual accommodation are provided in Parliament House for the representatives of the press. During periods of parliamentary recess a rental is charged by the Joint House Department for the use of the rooms.
Yes. In meeting these charges members may utilize for the purpose portion of the stamp allowance granted to them inrespect of postal and telegraphic purposes.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate if it, is a fact that Commonwealth public servants are the only workers whose arbitration awards have been interfered with ; if so, is there any possibility of their being restored to the position they were in prior to the depression, so that they will be on the same footing as employees in private industry who are not working under Commonwealth awards?
– I am not in a position to answer the first portion of the honorable senator’s question. I do not think that many
State public servants have the privilege of appearing before the Arbitration Court, as have Commonwealth public servants. State public servants have had to submit to a reduction of salaries, as have Commonwealth public servants.
[3.12]. - I lay on the table of the Senate legal proceedings in civil and commercial matters - copies of conventions between the United Kingdom and Austria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules1933, No. 126.
Sugar Agreement - Second Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for theyear ended 31st August, 1933.
Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 125.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos.1 to 8) - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 120.
– On the 16th November, Senator Dunn asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : - 1 and 2. Value of importations of Japanese woollen piece goods into Australia (approximate Australian currency values) -
No other particulars are available.
Information regarding the names of importers is considered to be of a confidential nature, and, therefore, cannot be divulged.
Is it a fact that the Constitution places upon the Commonwealth the sole responsibility for currency?
Is it a fact that from October 1929 to January, 1931, the value of Australian currency was altered on a number of occasions through pegged rates of exchange determined by the trading banks of Australia and the Commonwealth Bank ?
Ifso, under what constitutional authority did the banks act in determining or interfering with the values of Australian currency?
On what date or dates and in what specific manner or ways or by what specific actand for what purpose did the Commonwealth Government, during the period referred to in paragraph 2, delegate to the banks its sole responsibility for currency under the Constitution?
Will the Minister ascertain from the Commonwealth Bank and state the nature of the Commonwealth Bank’s discussion or communication (if any) with or reference to the Commonwealth Government between the 25th November, 1931, andthe 2nd December, 1931, in regard to the alteration of the exchange rate from 130 to 125?
Under what constitutional authority did the Commonwealth Bank act on the 2nd December, 1931, in altering the exchange rate from 130 to 125?
On what date or dates and in what specific manner or ways or by what specific act, and for what purpose did the Commonwealth Government between the 25th November, 1931, and 2nd December, 1931, delegate its sole responsibility for Australian currency to the Commonwealth Bank solely?
So far as the Commonwealth Government was concerned, why were the trading banks of Australia excluded on the 2nd December, 1931, and thereafter from the exercise of responsibilities in regard to exchange rates which they had assumed since October, 1929?
The Treasurerhas supplied the following answers: -
Yes. On the Commonwealth Parliament is the sole responsibility for currency policy but not of the administration which is delegated to the Commonwealth Bank Board under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1911-32.
No. During the period indicated and up to the 30th November, 1931, the banks merely advertised the rates at which they were prepared to buy or sell funds in London. 3 and 4. See answer to No. 2.
As to the period referred to see answer to No. 2. It is understood that the Government in power at the time was made aware of the action of the Commonwealth Bank Board in assuming the control of the exchange position as from the 30th November, 1931, and in view of the powers delegated to the Commonwealth Bank to manage the currency the Government has not thought fit to interfere. The Government is fully aware that any legislative action necessary to alter the value of the Australian currency is a responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament.
See answer to No. 5. On the 2nd December, 1931, the Commonwealth Bank merely announced rates at which it was prepared to buy or sell funds in London. (See Commonwealth Bank Act section 7g).
See answers to Nos. 5 and6.
See answer to No. 2. The trading banks have never been excluded from quoting such rates as they may determine for the purchase and sale of exchange. It is competent for any person or bank to buy and sell exchange at any time independently of the Commonwealth Bank.
– In view of the strong representations made to Queensland senators as to the serious effect of the removal of primage duty from New Zealand pine on the trade in Queensland pine, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs have the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Agreement Bill reconsidered so that this matter may be further discussed?
– The bill has been assented to.
Senator SAMPSON ashed the Minis ter representing the Minister administering war service homes, upon notice -
– The Minister administering war service homes has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1.Yes. 2. (a) Approximately two and a half years and three years respectively; (b) the respective salaries paid to the officers at time of retrenchment were -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Senator ELLIOTT (through Senator
Guthrie) askedthe Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Is the Department of Commerce watching the possibilities of developing the frozen pork trade with the United Kingdom?
Is it a fact that the United States of America exported to Britain 26 times more frozen pork in August,1933, than in August, 1932, and that in eight months ending 30th August last the Argentine increased its export to Britain by 34,000 cwt.?
The imports of frozen pork into Great Britain from the United States of America during August, 1932, and August,1933, respectively, were 286 cwt. and 5,322 cwt.
Imports from the Argentine during the periods referred to were - Eight months ended 31st August, 1932,63,543 ewt. ; eight months ended 31st August, 1933, 98,022 cwt.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Export Trade- Immature Wines
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will he bring under the notice of the Minister for Commerce the question of conferring with Australian State Premiers, and pointing out the danger that is being done to the Australian wine trade by the manufacture and selling of immature Australian wines in Australia and abroad?
– The M’inister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
As the sale of wines within Australia is a matter which comes within the jurisdiction of the various States, the comments of the honorable senator will be brought to the notice of the States. All reasonable precautions are taken to see that only wines of good and merchantable quality are exported.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
If the Federal Government considers that the good health of the Australian people is a necessity, will the Government consider the health of the nation by including the manufacturing of wine in the age limit now compulsory for brandy; if not, why not?
– The reply to the honorable senator’s question is contained in the answer to his previous question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
What is the value of the exports to Japan during the years 1929-30, 1930-31, 1931-32, and 1932-33, of wool, wheat, hides and skins, and any other goods of Australian production ?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the information shown in the attached statement -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON.The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he give consideration to the question of all air and sen planes for Australian home defence, and also for commercial purposes, being built in government factories, such factories to be situatedin Canberra and Sydney?
– The Government does not contemplate the establishment of government factories at either Canberra or Sydney for the purpose of manufacturing service or commercial aircraft.
Steamships’ Trading Permits
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers
asked the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
Bil] received from the House of Representatives.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLachLAN) read a first time.
Standing and Sessional- Orders suspended.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Briefly, the purpose of this measure is to provide for a reduction of die number of the Justices of the High Court from seven to six. Section 4 of the Judiciary Act provides that the High Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and six other justices. At present, the court consists of a Chief Justice and five other justices, and it is considered that that number is sufficient to transact the work of the court, but while the present act remains in force, there will be an unfilled vacancy on the bench. Originally, the High Court consisted of a Chief Justice and two other justices. In 1906 the number of justices was increased from three to five and in 1912 from five to seven. Of that number, one was almost fully occupied in presiding over the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, whilst a second justice also spent a great deal of his time in that court. The full bench of seven justices was assembled only to adjudicate upon Constitutional or other very important matters. The law with respect to the Arbitration Court was altered in 1926, to provide that instead of one or two justices of the High Court, with deputy presidents for the time being, functioning as the Arbitration Court, a separate Arbitration Court should be established consisting in the first instance, of three judges, and later,’ of four judges. There is, therefore, no longer any need for a justice of the High Court to function in the Arbitration Court. Accordingly, one factor which influenced Parliament in arriving at its decision to increase the number of justices of the High Court has disappeared. As six justices are able to do the work, there is no good reason for leaving a vacancy upon the High Court bench, and it is proposed to alter the law by providing that, in future, the court shall consist of a chief justice with five other justices.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 22nd November (vide page 4882) on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The opposition of some honorable senators to this measure surprised me. When I was discussing the bill with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.. White), he assured me that for the time being it would apply only to traction engines, and he pointed out that a firm in Australia was manufacturing a traction engine of a good type in competition with machines made overseas by mass production methods. Most of the tractors used in Australia in recent years have been made either in the United States of America or Canada. Much of the natural protection formerly enjoyed by the local manufacturers by reason of the high rate of exchange between Australia and the United States of America has disappeared in the last few months. The lower exchange rate is assisting the importers of not only tractors, but also American motor cars, and the trade in British vehicles is being unfavourably affected. This bill has been submitted for the purpose of giving encouragement by way of bounty to the local manufacturers of traction engines.
– The bounty will be increased only if the duty is reduced.
– I understood that an increase of the bounty would become operative almost immediately. In fact the primage has already been removed.
– An increase must first be recommended by the Tariff Board.
– Then, why has not the scope of the bill been limited to tractors ?
– I have no doubt that the Government has good reason for submitting it in its present form.
In regard to galvanized iron I was surprised to hear Senator Johnston offer opposition to the bill, because when he was speaking on the tariff schedule he freely admitted that, owing to the cost of the raw product and the industrial conditions operating in Australia, the local industry required some form of assistance. He said that he preferred that such help should be given by means of a bounty, the cost of which would be borne by the community generally, rather than by a duty which would have to be paid by the users of the commodity. This bill specifically provides for the payment of a higher bounty in the event of the duty being reduced or removed, and an honorable senator who favours a reduction of the duty should readily assent to the measure because the duty is more likely to be lowered if there is a bounty to take its place. If my fiscal views coincided with those of Senator Johnston, I should welcome the measure, because it makes provision for a form of assistance to the galvanized iron industry which he has advocated in the past. Presumably, he will continue to fight for a reduction of the cost of galvanized iron, and he is more likely to achieve his object by supporting the bounty principle.
– Circumstances may be quite different ten years hence.
– I thought that Senator Johnston would have welcomed this bill with open arms. If we wait ten or even fifty years it will always be necessary for Australia to protect its great iron and steel industry, which is vital to. the well-being of the nation. Although it has been said that the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited is able to get from the Parliament any concessions it desires, we must not overlook the fact that, in the event of war, the works of that company would be the arsenal on which we should have to rely for our main supplies of war material. The Government, acting in the belief that the Pacific will be the theatre of warlike operations, and in response to the insistent demand by the people of this country for increased armaments, is considering proposals more effectively to defend Australia. Surely no one will deny that the first step to that end is the adequate protection of the iron and steel industry at Newcastle, which is the only large undertaking of its kind in the southern hemisphere; to it Great Britain itself will look for the requirements of its fleet when the Singapore base is completed. The Newcastle works are practically a part of the defence arm of Australia, and should receive adequate tariff protection even at some cost to the taxpayers. The Government is fully justified in asking the Senate to pass this bill, the purpose of which is to assure the maintenance and further development of this national industry. On other occasions, Senator Johnston has expressed his approval of the system of bounties for industry instead of protec- tion through the customs. This bill gives him an opportunity to .show his consistency.
– “When the iron, and steel duties are reduced, I shall be prepared to consider the payment of bounties.
– The honorable s(ma.tor cannot expect me to vote to reduce the iron and steel duties if there is not on the statute-book an alternative proposal to ensure the successful carrying on of the industry in competition with overseas manufacturers, who do not pay the same standard of wages, or observe the same working conditions us obtain in the Broken Hill Proprietary works at Newcastle.
– Wo are only asking for a reduction of the duty on the British preferential tariff.
– I am well aware of that, but if the British duty were reduced, and no other provision existed to assist the Australian industry, it could not carry on. The protection given to it was not imposed in some haphazard fashion. Careful investigation was made of all the circumstances connected with the local industry, and a calculation made of the amount of protection necessary for its development under Australian conditions. But we are not, at the moment, concerned with the amount of protection given to this industry. We are considering a measure to enable future bounty payments to be restored iu the. event of a reduction of the duty, and I make no apology for my support of this measure. Although the State of which I am one of the representatives in this chamber is not directly concerned in the iron and steel industry, I regard it as my duty, and the duty of all other honorable senators, regardless of the States which they represent, to safeguard this national industry, whim, in time of* peace, is necessary for the manufacture of commodities required for the development of this country, and in time of war for the production of commodities essential for its defence. Since the iron and steel industry is part and parcel of our defence system, it would be a. bad day for this country if, lacking adequate protection, it were allowed to languish.
– I oppose the bill. It is unnecessary, because adequate protection is already given to the various by-products of the industry in the tariff schedule which has recently been carried through this chamber by the Government, with the assistance of Labour senators. I should like to know why this bill was introduced. Was it because the Government feared that it would not be able to retain the existing rate of £4 10s. a ton in the British tariff on galvanized iron, and £3 8s. a ton on barbed wire? The principle of bountypayments is wrong.
– Would the honorable senator say that of the bounty on wheat?
– No. High protection for secondary industries, thus enabling them to charge exorbitant prices for their products, is responsible for the present plight of the wheat industry, and renders necessary the payment of a bounty to the growers to enable them to carry on. If the general tariff level were lower, the wheat industry would not be in its present desperate position. In this bill the Government is providing for a contingency which may not arise for the next ten or twenty years. Once it is placed on the statute-book, the Minister for Trade and Customs will be able to increase the rate of bounty to an amount corresponding to the amount by which the duties are reduced, without having to submit to Parliament a bill which may not be passed. It is time that the Government gave consideration to the interests of producers and consumers. Dp to the present time manufacturers have been getting more than a fair deal from successive governments. The, time is rapidly approaching when the Government should appoint to the Tariff Board an economic adviser, who would advise regarding the economic effects of proposed new duties or increases of existing duties. It is significant that Labour senators have consistently supported all proposals to increase the tariff burdens on the community. Often I wonder whether they are sincere in their declaration that they represent the workers, and when they prate about their consistent support of legislation for the good of all sections of the community. Obviously they are wilfully blind to the effect on the industrial classes of certain Government proposals. I wonder if it is any consolation to Ministers to know that, in the revision of the tariff, they so often had to depend upon the votes of Labour senators, including Senator Collings, than whom no more ardent supporter of high duties is to be found in this chamber.
– At least I am not getting paid by any particular interest for my supportof the Government’s tariff legislation.
– What greater proof of Labour and Government unity, in regard to tariff matters, is necessary than that witnessed in this chamber on Wednesday last, when, to save this bill, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) led the Labour party across the chamber to secure the adjournment of the debate. Although the Labour party has always declared its opposition to anything in the nature of* monopolies, Labour senators voted with the Government to impose such high duties on galvanized iron and barbed wire, as would give to the manufacturers a monopoly of the Australian market. The Government, in tariff matters, appears to have the unhappy knack of ignoring the interests of the consumers, because it gives more and more protection to manufacturers, whose principal object is to make what they can out of the community. In this matter the Government stands condemned in the eyes of primary producers, and must share with the Labour party the responsibility for failing to protect adequately the rural industries, which create real wealth and establish credit overseas for the payment of our external obligations. Such a short-sighted policy is condemned by all thinking people, particularly in the smaller States, such as South Australia. On numerous occasions during the tariff debate the Government had the support of only a minority of the ministerial senators, and but for the votes of Labour senators very few of its more important proposals would have been carried. Usually one expects the Government to command a majority from among its own supporters, but a perusal of the division lists shows that, during the debate on the. tariff schedule, it depended for its majority on the votes of Labour senators.
– Cannot they vote as they desire?
– Yes. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber were elected to support a lower tariff than that in operation at the time of their election. This Government said that it proposed to reduce customs duties, but it has retained many of those imposed by the Scullin Government, and has reduced only slightly many others. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that he was opposed to the indiscriminate increase of customs duties, and particularly when the increases were not recommended by the Tariff Board, the reductions made by this Government have been only of a minor character. The members of the Labour partyin this chamber solidly supported the Government’s proposals for the imposition of unnecessarily high customs duties, and in many instances, the support which the Government received from the Labour party was greater than that which it had from honorable senators on this side of the chamber. The Government was elected on the promise that it would reduce customs duties, and would give to primary producers a just deal, but neither the primary producers nor the consumers have received fair treatment. I am opposed to the bill, and shall vote against the second reading.
– The treatment which this innocent machinery measure has received at the hands of the Senate, suggests that I gave a very imperfect explanation of the bill,and of the principal act which it proposes to amend. I remind those honorable senators who have expressed their own fiscal opinions and have commented on the fiscal policy of the Government, that this measure does not affect customs duties. Section 3 of the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act of 1922 reads -
The Governor -General may, subject to this act, authorize the payment out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appro- priated for the purpose, of bounty, according to the rates set put in the- schedule to this act, on fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, and wire netting manufactured in Australia, and delivered from the factory on or after the fourteenth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two.
There is also a proviso, to which I direct the attention of honorable senators -
Provided that the rates of bounty payable on any fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, or wire netting, delivered from the Australian factory after the introduction of a customs tariff bringing into operation increased duties of customs on any of those articles, shall be decreased by an amount, in the opinion of the Minister, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, corresponding to the amount by which the respective duties of customs are increased.
In other words, Parliament decided that bounties should be payable on fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines or wire netting, and that if customs duties were increased the bounty should be reduced. At present the proviso operates in only one way. When duties are increased the bounties automatically decrease, but when the duties are lowered the bounties do riot automatically increase. This measure is intended to make the variation operate in both ways. There seems to be some misapprehension on the part of honorable senators because the Government has introduced this comprehensive measure in consonance with the scope of the original act instead of limiting its scope to traction engines. In July, 1930, when primage duty was first imposed on traction engines the rate of duty was 2½ per cent. Later in that year it was increased to 4 per cent., and in 1931 to 10 per cent. When a. primage duty was imposed in 1931 the bounty of £90 on traction engines was reduced to £43 4s. Primage has been withdrawn from these engines, but under the existing legislation the bounty cannot be restored. It is provided that the bounty on fencing wire, galvanized sheets and wire netting, as well as on traction engines, shall be increased when customs duties on those items are reduced. The measure has been drafted to render the legislation on the statute-book effective.
– It cannot operate until there has been a reduction of duty on the items mentioned.
– With respect to tractors it has operated in only one way, and under section 3 of the principal act the bounty cannot be increased.
– Is the Minister treating primage as a customs duty?
– The language of the act compels us to do so; it refers to “ increased duties of customs “. That term covers primage; at all events the Government is advised by the Crown Law officers that this amendment is required. Senator Carroll referred to the measure as a “ reduction of duties prevention bill”, but I repeat that it has nothing whatever to do with a reduction of duties. If the duties on the articles mentioned in the bill are increased the bounties will be reduced, but unless this amendment is made there is no machinery for the bounty to be increased following a reduction of customs protection. If honorable senators believe that the Government is unnecessarily legislating with respect to certain items, further consideration can be given in committee to that aspect of the subject. Senator E. B. Johnston supported a reduction of duties on galvanized iron, and urged the substitution of assistance by means of a bounty.
– The Government opposed a reduction of duties.
– We are endeavouring to assist the honorable senator who now finds himself in a logical cul de sac from which he cannot escape.
– The Government rejected a decision twice reached by the Senate.
– The first decision was secured owing to the absence of SenatorReid. The one point made in the debate which might induce the Government to accept an amendment in committee is that the bill is not required at present in regard to wire netting, galvanized sheets, and fencing wire. When the measure is in committee I shall consider the deletion of those items to which exception has been taken. If the bill is agreed to the position will be the same as under the old act, in that action by the Minister will have to be preceded by a report from the Tariff Board. Honorable senators should be content to accept the proposal in the bill, especially in regard to traction engines.
– Why not separate traction engines from galvanized iron?
– That is a matter for consideration in committee.
– Can the Minister say why the proposed proviso was not included in the original act?
– Its omission was an oversight. It was only when the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) examined the position in regard to the bounty on traction engines that the deficiency was discovered.
– Apparently it was not thought previously that the duty would be reduced.
– The honorable senator should not, be so pessimistic about the future of Australia. However foolish Australia has been in the past, its reputation has been re-established throughout the world. Under the existing legislation, the Government cannot pay a bounty on traction engines, and for that reason this bill has been introduced. No fiscal principle for which the opponents of the bill stand is being violated, and I ask the Senate to agree to the second reading.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 3 ofthe principal act is amended by inserting after the first proviso thereto the following proviso: - “ Provided further that when the rates of bounty payable on any fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, or wire netting, have been decreased . . .
– I move -
That the words “fencing wire, galvanized sheets”, be left out . . .
If my amendment is accepted, the proviso will read -
Provided further that when the rates of bounty payable on any traction engines or wire’ netting have been decreased . . .
In both Houses, the Minister in charge of the bill has admitted that the Government is concerned chiefly with ‘traction engines, and that the other items have been incorporated in this bill because they are in the original act. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan), in closingthe second reading debate, practically invited the Senate to make the alteration covered by my amendment.
.- Whateverthe attitude of the Minister to the amendment, I cannot support it. This bill seeks to amend the principal act, and the two measures will be inconsistent if the amendment is agreed to. The Minister said that the bounty was reduced when the primage was added, and that the Government now wants the bounty to be restored because the primage has been removed. If the amendment is accepted, the only item in respect of which the bounty will be increased as the result of the removal of the primage duty will be traction engines. I shall supportthe clause in its present form.
SenatorGUTHRIE (Victoria) [4.31]. - I support the amendment. The manufacture of traction engines in Australia is not in the hands of a monopoly as is the manufacture of galvanized iron. Moreover, the users of traction engines are being treated fairly by Australian manufacturers of this class of machinery. I am not surprised that only 172,000 tons of galvanized iron was used in Australia last year, because the price of this commodity is so high. If a bounty of £3 10s. aton is granted in lieu of duty, the Newcastle works will benefit by about £250,000 per annum. That is a huge sum to pay to one manufacturing concorn, especially when the money comes from the pockets of the poorer sections of the community, who are the chief users of galvanized iron.
– Galvanized iron is cheaper in Australia than in New Zealand, where there is no duty.
– That is not so. The managing director of a reputable firm which deals in galvanized iron, both in Australia and in New Zealand, has informed me that the price of this commodity in Australia is £3 10s. a ton more than in New Zealand. I am in favour of encouraging the manufacturers of traction engines, because of their fair treatment of the users of such machines. They are not exploiting the users to the same extent as are the manufacturers of galvanized iron, and, for that reason, 1 shall support the amendment of Senator Duncan-Hughes.
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia) [4.36].- I intend to support the amendment, becausethe Minister in charge of the bill practically limited his remarks to the need for the application of this bounty to traction engines. The outstanding feature of his second-reading speech was that the measure would be applied only to traction engines.
– That was the alternative to the defeat of the bill.
– No such alternative was presented in that portion of his speech to which I listened. The Minister said that the measure would be applied only to traction engines, and I interjected, “ Why, then, include the other articles?’
– The measure will, for a time, at any rate, apply only to traction engines.
– I regard it as. an imposition on the Australian public. The proposal to apply it to the galvanized iron industry, particularly, is an atrocity; were it not such a tragedy, it would be ridiculous.
I shall vote for the deletion from the clause of galvanized sheets, fencing wire and wire netting, so that traction engines alone may be retained.
– I desire to offer a few comments, which go more to the root of the matter than does the amendment proposed by Senator Duncan-Hughes. Section 3 of the principal act enacts that the bounty shall be payable subject to the proviso that, if the duty upon the articles specified is increased, the rates of bounty payable upon them shall be decreased by a corresponding amount. It seems incredible that Parliament did not provide for the converse position by enacting that, if the customs duty were decreased, the rate of bounty should be correspondingly increased. I feel that it did not overlook that contingency, and that it did not insert the proviso now proposed for the reason that it did not regard its insertion as necessary.
The Minister in charge of the bill says that, although the primage duty has been removed,the bounty cannot be increased. Frankly, I cannot accept that position. When a duty is increased, what procedure is followed? Is an order in council passed, or by what authority is the increased customs charge collected? Obviously, the Minister has merely to refrain from collecting extra duty, and it is not collected.
– If the primage duty is imposed on traction engines, how can he refrain from collecting it?
– If the primage duty is put on traction engines, the bounty will be decreased?
– That is easily operated, because the Minister has merely to say, “ We will not pay you the bounty.” But now that the primage duty has been taken off-
– And the manufacturer has lost his bounty.
– In what way ?
– By the operation of the law.
– I do not agree with that statement. When the customs duty is reduced the bounty is increased.
– Our advice is that the law does not provide for that.
– Where does the honorable senator find his authority to increase it ?
– In the failure to put into operation the provision by which the customs duty has been reduced - in the failure to act.
– That is not the opinion of the Crown Solicitor.
– It is quite evident that the Crown Solicitor of 1922 did not think the same as the Crown Solicitor does to-day. To me it is incredible that the draftsman of the principal act did not contemplate the possibility of a converse position arising. I was not present when Senator McLachlan made his second-reading speech, but I read it very carefully in Hansard this morning, and I find that the statements of those who say that he rested his whole case upon traction engines, is absolutely correct. He never mentioned the other articles. It seems clear that we can differentiate between traction engines and the other three articles. I shall therefore support the amendment of Senator Duncan-Hughes.
– I desire to know why the Minister is now willing to eliminate from the bill somethingwhich we were previously assured was essential to it? Will not this mean that at some later date similar legislation will require to be enacted in regard to the items in the measure other than traction engines?
.- The Crown Law authorities differ from the view expressed by my honorable friend Senator Brennan. Under section 3 of the Principal Act there is no authority to increase bounties when once they have been reduced by the operation of the law. That is my opinion, and it is an opinion which is concurred in by the Attorney-General’s Department. If it acted in the way suggested by the honorable senator, the Customs Department would be held responsible under the Audit Act. None of the other articles enumerated in the bill, save wire netting, is receiving the benefit of any bounty whatever. Wire netting receives the nominal bounty of 9s.7d. a ton. In regard to traction engines, however, the position is different and must be met. Before there can be any alteration of the incidence of the protection afforded to any of these articles other than traction engines, parliamentary action will be necessary.
– Why not make one job of it now ?
– In the interests of good draftsmanship can we leave the clause as it is? If Senator Brennan’s view were correct, I should drop the bill entirely, but we are advised that when once a bounty has been reduced the Minister has no authority to increase the rate in such circumstances as obtain. The other items are not immediately affected, but traction engines are.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator DuncanHughes’ amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator The Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Ma jority . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator DuncanHughes) proposed -
That the words “ or wire netting “ be left out.
– I enter my protest against the sacrifice of one of the most important secondary industries in New South Wales, and I am surprised that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) is unable to control his own followers.
– The honorable senator is not in order in reflecting upon a vote of the committee.
– The Government should not weakly submit to this tory attack upon its tariff policy. Is it content merely to give a few crumbs to great national industries?
– An honorable senator may not make a second-reading speech in committee. He will have an opportunity on the third reading of the bill to speak about its provisions generally.
– Perhaps Senator Sir Walter Kingsmill, with an outburst of patriotism, will tell the people of Western Australia that he tried to re-establish himself in their good graces by voting against a proposal to give adequate assistance to the great iron and steel industry. The Leader of the Senate also is a representative of Western Australia, and I am astonished that he is not prepared to crack the party whip over his supporters.
– I again request the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– The iron and steel industry has been established in Newcastle at great expense, and it should not be sacrificed at the whim of honorable senators who are prepared to throw their election promises to the winds.
– We were elected as fair traders, not prohibitionists.
– I realize that further argument from this side of the chamber will be useless, because evidently the inner group of the freetrade section of the Government’s followers are bent on the destruction of this great industry.
– Ministers have shown incapacity, ineptitude and ineffable feebleness in this matter. It is plain that they have not assembled their forces, and we have been given further proof that the real leaders of the tory party in this chamber are Senator Hardy, when he is present, Senator Johnston, who is always here, Senator Carroll, and, more recently, Senator DuncanHughes.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the amendment.
– The amendment is another challenge to the principle of the maintenance of Australian industries. The Minister said that the bill was practically of a machinery nature, but I point out that it provides for the payment of such bounty as is “necessary for the maintenance of the industry. “ Whether honorable senators opposite prefer to call themselves fair traders, free-traders or high protectionists, they were surely elected to main tain Australian industries. If the amendment is accepted, the bill might as well be thrown out altogether, for only a shell would be left. If there was a full attendance of honorable senators the amendment would be defeated. Very few honorable senators are “ game “ enough to go before thepeople and advocate a tariff policy which would destroy Australian industries. I hope that the amendment will be defeated.
.- I thought that the discussion of this bill was unnecessary, because it is merely a machinery measure, designed for the more effective working of the principle contained in an act already on the statute-book. Apparently I was in error, because honorable senators professing to represent farming communities arc strenuously opposing it, and amendments which have been proposed are aimed at the destruction of essential secondary industries. In the course of the next few days, those honorable senators will be appealing to Labour senators to support a proposal to assist wheat-farmers to the amount of over £3,000,000. This being so, it is the more extraordinary that whenever we have before usGovernment measures for the protection of secondary industries, they oppose them. I am getting tired of their attitude towards the industrial section of the community, which I and other honorable senators of my party represent. It is no exaggeration to say that more miles of wire netting for farmers have been paid for by the people of Australia than have been bought and paid for by the farmers themselves. Notwithstanding the generous assistance given by various governments to the fanners at the expense of the taxpayers, the representatives of rural industries take the first chance they get to defeat proposals for the assistance of workers in secondary industries. It is a grave reflection on the Government that, for the passage of this and other similar measures, it has to depend upon the support of the Labour senators. I regret that some of my own colleagues are, for various reasons, unavoidably absent. It is the duty of the Government to have a sufficient number of its supporters in attendance to ensure the passage of its measures.
– I resent the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) that the farmers of this country have been given more wire netting that has been paid for by the people, than they have bought themselves. It is unwarranted, and I believe that the honorable senator will, upon reflection, admit that he made a mistake.
– In Queensland, farmers have been given hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of wire netting.
– The honorable senator knows that that statement is untrue.
Senatorcollings. - This is the first time, Mr. Chairman, that a charge of that nature has been made about anything that I have said in this chamber. I am not here for fun. I have set for myself a standard of political honour never to make a statement which I know to be untrue. Coming from the source it does, the remark is exceedingly offensive to me, and I ask for its withdrawal and an apology.
– If the statement is offensive to the honorable senator I shall withdraw it.
– And apologize.
– I am not going to he told that I make statements which I know to beuntrue. I insist upon a withdrawal and an apology.
– If the honorable senator feels hurt at what I have said I withdraw the statement and apologize! Nevertheless, I still hold to my opinion. Any assistance which the farmers of this country have received for the purchase of wire nettinghas been by way of loan, with provision for interest and sinking fund payments.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator DuncanHughes’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator McLachlan) proposed.
That the words “ any of “ twice occurring, and the word “ respective “, be left out.
– Does the Government propose to take the rebuff which it has just suffered, or does it intend to recommit the measure? Why pull down the house because there are burglars in the basement ? The words which it is proposed to leave out may still be necessary. Why delete them ? If there is to be a fight, I shall be pleased to assist the Minister in any way I can.
– I appreciate the humour of the honorable senator, but it is ray duty to see that the bill is re- turned to the House of Representatives in proper form.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
[5.26]. - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Thursday next at 3 p.m.
It is anticipated that the appropriation bill and several other measures will bo before the Senate by Thursday next, and that from that day, there should be sufficient business to keep the Senate fully engaged until Parliament adjourns for the Christmas vacation.
– I shall oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate because important matters are awaiting discussion in this chamber.For instance, the following notice of motion appears on thenotice-paper in my name: -
Under a sessional order, private business takes precedence of Government business on Thursdays after 8 p.m., but the Government, with the aid of its brutal majority, is depriving honorable senators of the right to discuss the important subject of extracting oil from coal and shale. As a representative of New South Wales, where over 7,000 coalminers are unemployed, it is my duty to bring that motion before the Senate, particularly as some relief should be afforded to them before Christmas, but, I am precluded from doing so.
– How does the honorable senator stand for the preselection ballot?
– Senator Rae and I, who have consistently advocated the cause of the workers and of the primary producers in New South Wales, have no doubts in that direction. If the leader of the “ Black swan brigade “ wishes to “ lock horns “ with me at the pre-selection ballot or on the hustings, I invite him to do so. Matters of great importance to the representatives of Queensland are also awaiting discussion. I hope that it is not proposed to have all-night sittings in order to dispose of the business to be dealt with before Parliament adjourns for the Christmas vacation. I understand that the Government is contemplating a reconstruction of its budget, apparently because the prosperity which the Government declared was just around the corner has now disappeared around another corner! We are asked to adjourn until Thursday in order that the House of Representatives may deal with the Estimates. I should like to know the policy of the Government in regard to a flour tax.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable senator is not in order in referring to the flour tax on this motion to fix the time of the next meeting of the Senate, although he would be in order in referring to that, or almost any other subject, on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - In the first portion of his speech, Senator Dunn referred to a number of subjects which, he said, could bo dealt with by the Senate to-morrow; and to that extent he was in order. His reference to a flour tax was not, however, in order. I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I protest against the proposal to adjourn the Senate until Thursday in view of the fact that a sufficient number of honorable senators of all parties is now present to deal with important business on the notice-paper.
– I, too, protest against the proposed adjournment of the Senate till Thursday. There is business on the notice-paper which could be dealt with, and, if necessary, the Standing and Sessional Orders could be suspended for that purpose. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) frequently moves for their suspension to meet the wishes of the Government, and similar action couldbe taken to enable motions in the name of private members to bo discussed. I am interested in the motions standing in the names of Senators Dunn’ and Rao, and am of the opinion that an opportunity to discuss them should be given. It is not right that honorable senators should be forced to spend to-morrow playing golf or bowls when there is public business awaiting their attention.
– I hope that when the Senate meets on Thursday there will be work for us to do. I make a practice of being here when the Senate is sitting, but I do not care to spend more time in Canberra than is necessary. Particularly do I dislike being brought here only to find that there is no business to engage the attention of the Senate. Twice this session the Senate has adjourned for a fairly lengthy period - fourteen days on one occasion, and thirteen days on another. To-day, we have sat for less than three hours, and it is now suggested that the Senate shall adjourn until 3 p.m. on Thursday. I do not blame the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), for he cannot be held responsible for delays which take place in the other chamber, but the Government should arrange its business better. Even when the Senate adjourns for a fortnight honorable senators from Western Australia have only about one and a-half days at home; they arrive home on Friday morning and have to leave again the following day to reach Canberra in time for the sitting on the following Thursday. And this is only possible when the Leader of the Senate arranges for the Senate to meet on Thursdays instead of on Wednesdays after an adjournment. Were that not done a fortnight’s adjournment would not enable senators from Western Australia to visit their homes. I hope that in future, when we are dragged to the
National Capital, we shall find work awaiting us on arrival.
– I protest against the proposed adjournment until Thursday not merely because I have a motion on the business-paper, but also because this is one of a number of occasions on which honorable senators have been brought here only to find little or no business awaiting them. Unlike Senator E. B. Johnston, I do blame Ministers. They should arrange their business better. Unfortunately, the lot of a private member in any parliament, whether he be a supporter or an opponent of the Government, is to be humbugged and kicked about at the will of ministers. There is a growing tendency for governments to do as they like and for parliamentary control of the executive to become weaker. Private members are like footballs, to be kicked about at the will of the Government in power. Honorable senators know that the reason for the adjournment is that the House of Representatives has not dealt with certain business.
– That is because the party of which the honorable senator is a member has talked at large on every subject with which the Estimates deal.
– I welcome that interjection, for it is a confession of the abject failure of the Government to control the House of Representatives, notwithstanding that Government supporters represent an absolute majority of its members.
– Why does not the Government apply the “ gag “ ?
– It does so when such action suits its purpose.
– The “ gag “ was applied in this chamber recently - a most disgraceful proceeding.
– The Government does not know its own policy for more than an hour at a time. One day it suggests the imposition of a flour tax, and the next day it proposes a cash payment to the wheat-growers. Such a display of incompetence, ineptitude and inefficiency this country has never previously witnessed.
– Perhaps the Government wishes to consult Professor “ Ginger Meggs.”
– Practically every professor in the country has been consulted by the Government in an attempt to frame its policy, and when it thinks that it has made up its mind, another professor comes along with a fresh idea, and the Government’s policy is re-cast. The Government is humbugging members and hoodwinking the people. Its legislative programme is a thing of shreds and patches. We are accustomed to pass a measure to-day, reverse it to-morrow, recommit it the next day, and then go home having laboriously done nothing. I protest against this method of conducting the public business. As regards the precedence of private member’s business on Thursday evenings, I endorse all that has been said by my colleague. Government after government has attempted to destroy whatever small opportunity private members formerly enjoyed for the ventilation of grievances. Our standing orders can be suspended readily enough to rush through Government business, and to this end we constantly forego all the safeguards involved in delay between the various stages of bills. Indeed the only standing order observed in this House is one for the suspension of our standing orders. Yet while that practice is followed almost daily, and whilst contingent notices of motion are tabled to permit of certain measures being put through at express speed, no proposition is submitted for the discussion of private members’ business when Government business fails. Honorable senators are not consulted in regard to the private business which they place on the notice paper, yet they are expected to render every possible assistance to get Government business through promptly. When they have done that, they discover that their own business is hung up indefinitely. I hope that if this Government will not mend its ways, it will be replaced by a government which will do the right thing in this connexion, and which, when defeated, will make way for another government that will follow in its footsteps.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Tobacco Industry - War Service Homes : Administration in Tasmania - Sales Tax onFlour.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [5.53].- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, a telegram I have received from the President of the Chamber of Commerce at Mareeba, and the President, of the Tobacco-growers’ Association there, relative to the report recently made by the board of three gentlemen who investigated the conditions obtaining in the industry, and the action of the Government in increasing the customs duty on imported tobacco, with the exception of cigarette tobacco, by 6d. per lb. The telegram reads -
Following telegram Cairns Post. A tariff resolution imposing from to-morrow an increase of sixpence pound in present duty of three shillings on all smoking tobacco except that imported for cigarettes was tabled by the Minister for Customs (Mr. White) in the House of Representatives to-day. Mr. White said that the Government had decided on this course to raise additional revenue towards meetingthe three million pounds required for wheat-growers. Greatly depressed tobacco growers and commercial residents have been expecting Government make alterations in tariff that would enable industry be successfully established. Respectfully point out that although sixpence extra duty on tobacco may materially assist wheat-growers is not sufficient to stabilize tobacco industry, and suggest in addition to sixpence import duty that excise on same be similarly increased with corresponding decrease on locally-grown. A protection that will permanently establish industry is of material Empire importance.
When the Prime Minister was in Queensland, this particular section of the community requested that a special inquiry should be conducted into the conditions existing in the tobacco industry there. The report by the committee which investigated those conditions, has been submitted to the Government and presented to Parliament. That report has come as a thunderbolt to this section of the tobacco-growing industry, particularly in view of the fact that one of those who are responsible for it, is a gentleman who was mainly instrumental in attracting settlers to that portion of Queensland. Whilst I admit that there was a certain amount of go-getting and salesmanship in connexion with settlement in the Mareeba district, it is a fact that many of the settlers were invited to settle there by the Grown. Crown lands were made available to them, and they were induced to believe that the area was the most suitable in Australia for tobacco culture. During the first two years of their settlement, their operations were entirely successful. They had good crops for which they obtained satisfactory prices. As a result more men settled in the district and made it their home. But, in the report which has now been presented to Parliament, the district itself, as a tobaccogrowing area, is very severely criticized. This is inexplicable, seeing that one of the members who conducted the inquiry was himself largely instrumental in imbuing settlers with the idea that the district is eminently suited to tobacco cultivation. The truth is that during the present year an abnormal rainfall has brought into the crop a disease known as “ froggy eye.” What action does the Government propose in respect of the recommendations contained in that report ? Many of those recommendations relate to matters within the jurisdiction of the State government, but some of them call for Commonwealth action.For instance, one recommendation is that greater powers should be vested in the States, and that the Commonwealth should more or less abandon the tobacco arena. The increase of the customs duty on imported tobacco by 6d. per lb. will be of only slight assistance to the locally-grown leaf. The main inducement we can offer Australians to smoke the local product is to make it cheaper than the imported. That is the quickest way of encouraging the consumption of locally-grown tobacco.
SenatorFOLL. - We need to make it available to smokers in the easiest method possible. Much of the disfavour with which the local product is regarded arises from prejudice. It is very doubtful whether many men who claim to be connoisseurs of tobacco can discriminate be tween the imported and the local article. The report of the committee has caused much concern in the most northern portion of Queensland. To those who have looked upon Mareeba as an ideal place for tobacco cultivation, it has occasioned the greatest surprise. The extra 6d. per lb. customs duty imposed on imported tobacco is intended to enable the Government to collect more revenue so that it may give further relief to the wheatgrowers. I hope, however, that it will not be regarded as the final measure of assistance to be accorded the tobaccogrowers. I suggest that if another 6d. per lb. excise duty were levied upon imported manufactured tobacco, the Australian factories would be encouraged to continue to purchase the locally-grown leaf. The report states that the committee examined bales of locally-grown leaf which had been rejected by buyers, and that it generally upheld the action taken by the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company. But there are scores of farmers who have not had an opportunity this season to submit their leaf for purchase by the local buyers. I bring the matter forward because tobacco cultivation in Australia is destined to become more and more important, and it is imperative that the Government should take more cognizance of it. The Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, should embark upon a definite campaign of instruction in respect of tobacco cultivation, so that Australian growers may become thoroughly familiar with the latest methods of curing the leaf, and may learn whether they are attempting to grow it in unsuitable soil. I trust that the policy of the Government will follow the lines I have suggested, thereby making Australian-grown tobacco leaf more attractive to local consumers.
– Earlier in the day, I addressed a question to the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Commerce, and was asked to give notice of it for tomorrow. It now transpires that for the Senate, no to-morrow exists. ,
– That matter will be dealt with on Thursday.
– The exchange adjustment will not- operate until the tariff has been validated by Parlia- ment. Many people who have Christmas goods in bond are wondering when the tariff will be disposed of, for every day’s delay seriously affects their interests. I should like the Minister to state at once, so far as he is able, when we may expect that the tariff will be finally passed. I do not wish the Minister to disclose any secrets regarding the relations between the United Australia party and the United Country party, but, if he can give me an answer on which I can base a reply to my constituents, I shall be grateful to him.
I confirm the remarks of Senator Foll concerning the importance of the tobacco industry. I am in entire sympathy with the request from Mareeba, < a copy of which Senator Poll forwarded to his Queensland colleagues. It seems to me that an increase by 6d. of the customs duty on imported smoking tobacco would be helpful in providing assistance to the wheat industry, without imposing hardship on Austraiian smokers. Senator Foll also said that an increase by 6d. of the excise duty would do no harm ; and I point out that, those who have invested their capital in the cultivation of tobacco in Australia are especially desirous of making the industry a success, and the report of the expert committee which recently investigated the industry in Queensland is not particularly encouraging.- The tobacco-growers in that State think that the Government might further assist the industry on the lines suggested in the telegram which was read by Senator Foll. I am heartily in accord with the proposal by Messrs. Hunter and Henderson, of Mareeba, and I hope that* the Government will take action as suggested by the presidents of the Mareeba Chamber of Commerce and the Tobaccogrowers Association at Mareeba.
– I received an amazing reply to-day to questions submitted by me to the Minister representing the Minister administering war service homes. I asked whether it was a fact that the two officers whose services were dispensed with by the State Government Agricultural Bank on the Commonwealth Government resuming the administration of war service homos in Tasmania, were originally employed by the War Service Homes Commission; if so, what was the duration of their employment, and the remuneration paid in each case; and, further, whether they carried out their duties in an efficient manner when employed by the Deputy Commissioner prior to the Agricultural Bank taking over the administration of war service homes in Tasmania. I first brought this matter under notice on the 17th November, and I received a reply from the Minister on the 21st November. Hansard records that the Minister stated, “I wish to emphasize that these officers were not in any way employed by the Commonwealth “. The Minister, had been misinformed, because, of course, these officers had been in the employ of the Commonwealth. I do not suggest that the Minister attempted to deceive me, but I claim that he has been misled. The reply received by me to my question as to whether these officers had carried out their duties in an effective manner when employed1 by the Deputy Commissioner prior to the Agricultural Bank taking over the administration of war service homes in Tasmania, was - “ The records available do not enable a definite statement to be made”. If I were the Minister in charge of that department, I should blush with shame for trying to “put over” such a reply. Those who were in charge of the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Tasmania at the time referred to are not dead. Therefore, it would be possible to obtain from them a reply to the question; the answer which I received is merely an evasion. If the Minister in charge of war service homes were now in his old battalion, and I were still his commanding officer, I should see that he did not give me a reply of that nature. It is necessary to submit question after question in order to get any information from the department. If the records available actually do not enable a definite statement to be made, the department and war service homes administration must be in a sorry mess.
– I shall bring Senator Sampson’s observation under the notice of the Minister concerned. I can only imagine that, during the transition period, the records of the services of these officers “were lost.
In reply to Senator Foll, whose remarks were supported by Senator MacDonald, I assure the honorable senator that the tobacco industry is giving the Government great concern. Apart from the report that has been furnished by the Expert Committee, a conference of the State authorities has been held. Every State was represented, except “Western Australia, whose views were communicated in a letter received from the Premier of that State. The conference, which was attended by the official heads of the Agricultural- Departments in the various State’s, assembled in Canberra about three weeks ago, and submitted certain recommendations regarding further expenditure for the purpose of instructing the growers in the cultivation, curing, and other treatment of tobacco. I have submitted their recommendations, together with my own comments, to Cabinet, by whom the matter is now being considered. Speaking for myself, I regard this industry as of great importance to Australia, and its interests must be safeguarded in a number of ways. The diseases to which the tobacco plant’ is subject are numerous, and I can assure honorable senators that the Cabinet is giving the closest attention to the claims of the industry.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Senator DUNN (New South Wales) [8.0’. - I direct attention to the following statements which appear in to-day’s Sydney ‘Telegraph: - A PARADOX IN WHEAT AND BREAD. Farmers Suffer. Public Pays and Pays.
Wagga, Monday. “ Wheat is £4 a ton and the people are paying £31 a ton for bread,” said Mr. E. E. Field, at the meeting of the Farmers and Settlers Association.
Australian growers were supplying the world’s cheapest wheat, he added, but bread was dearer in Australia than in England.
Another speaker pointed out that 50 bushels of wheat made 1,400 loaves at 5d. a loaf, which would yield £28 3s. 4d. Of that, the baker and the miller got £21 18s. 4d. In addition, those 50 bushels provided 800 lb. of bran and pollard.
Urging a fixed price for wheat for home consumption, Mr. Field said that wheatgrowers were facing the worst year they had ever experienced. He complained that a meeting of the Export Quota Committee, of which he is a member, was held on Friday, yet he received notice of the meeting on Saturday morning.
There also appears in the same newspaper th d following: -
May Be £250 a Year Income Limit.
Canberra, Monday. The Federal Government may decide that wheat relief will be given in cases only where the taxable income is not more than £250 a year.
If that is what the Government intends to do, the leader of the Country party in this chamber is due for a shock, because it is understood that some readjustment of the budget proposals will be made, and certain of the Government’s tax relief schemes will be reviewed. The report states further -
A number of United .Australia party members may press for an increase in the basic wage, proportionate with any advance in the price of bread resulting from the flour tax.
We should all like to know what is in the mind of the Government. Following the lead of its predecessor, it made a reduction of the basic wage, and as indicated in the criticism from this side of the chamber, it may be necessary to restore the 10 per cent, reduction made in salaries and wages of the Public Service to offset the increase of the cost of living due to the imposition of a sales tax on flour.
– I am glad to v know that tlie Country party has not yet accepted the Government’s proposals with regard to a sales tax on flour. My party certainly will not accept them.
– We want at least £3,500,000 for the wheat-farmers.
– If the honorable senator is willing to put up a fight for £3,500,000 for the wheat-farmers, I am with him. The report goes on to state -
A small supplementary budget may be necessary to provide the £1,270,000 still required by the Federal Government to meet the £3,000,000 wheat grant. Cabinet sat to-day and to-night without reaching a decision. So far it has been decided that -
1 ) Personal exertion and property taxa tion will not be affected by any readjustment.
Any re-adjustment of other tax relief will only be on items in respect of which dealers havenot passed on to the public the benefitof their tax concessions.
Tea and crude rubber are likely to be dearer following the re-adjustments.
My only source of knowledge about the Government’s proposals is the daily newspapers. Whenever I attempt to get information in this chamber, I get a ministerial “ wipe off “. 1 am told that, as my inquiry touches Government policy, no statement in respect of it can be made in answer to questions. I notice that the Leader of the Senate is “ tick-tacking “ to Government supporters to leave the chamber, so that, if attention is called to the state of the Senate, there will not be a quorum present,and this chamber will adjourn. Of course, I know that the right honorable gentleman wishes to get away to play a game of bridge with some of his friends, and, while I have no objection to that pastime, I believe that honorable senators should stay here to discuss the probable effecton the people of the proposed sales tax on flour. The following report appeared in the Castlemaine Mail on Friday last : -
THE FLOUR TAX.
Opposed by Public Servants. ” Bearing More than Share of Sacrifices.”
Opposition to the proposed flour tax, on the ground that it will increase the disabilities winch its members already suffer, through salary cuts, is expressed in a telegram which has been sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. J. A. Lyons), by Mr. David McKellar, the secretary,on behalf of the Victorian branch of the Australian Public Servants Association.
The message states- “ As the Victorian Premier, despite protests from the Public Servants Association, proposes to extend the Premiers plan salary reductions beyond June next, and as such salaries are not, and never have been, increased in accordance with the cost of living adjustments, this association, representing the Victorian public servants, emphatically protests against the proposed flour tax, which will increase costs of living, and will add greater injustice to a section bearing more than its share of the general sacrifices.”
The same remark applies to Commonwealth and public servants in New South Wales, and to the rank and file in all branches of trade and industry throughout the Commonwealth. Since the accession to officeof the Stevens Government in New South Wales, workers on the basic wage in that State have lost approximately 16s. a week, to which must be added a further reduction of 2s. a week following an award of the State Court a fortnight ago. I notice that the Government Whip is ready to drop the axe on this debate.
– Workers on the basic wage in New South Wales already find difficulty in obtaining the necessaries of life, so they can ill affordan increase of the price of bread. The principle of a sales tax on flour is wrong, and should receive short shrift from this Parliament. I have been careful to read only extracts of criticisms that have appeared in newspapers which do not support Labour’s policy. If I were to quote the opinion of the Labor Daily, the camp followers of the Government would immediately charge me with relying on the views of biased critics. I am not doing that. I now invite the attention of honorable senators to the following comments which appeared in a leading article of the Sydney Telegraph of to-day’s date: -
Tax talk from Canberra becomes interesting indeed. To the taxpayers, and still more to the consumers of taxed goods, it begins to resemble the pretty little game called “ put and take.”
Apart from the suggestion that the so recent budget may be remodelled, with restoration of some income taxes to provide money for wheatgrowers’ relief, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) prophesies “strong action “ ‘if the reductions in commodity taxes arc not passed on, with benefit to the consuming public. But Mr. White does not say what form the strong action will take.
It would be exceedingly simple and strong, if the Government turned an eye of cold wrath upon the merchant and said, “ Since you made so little concession to your customers, but kept the. benefit for yourself, the tax will now be renewed.” In that attitude of austere virtue the Treasury would do a good thing for itself, by recovering the lost revenue which it now wants to hand out to wheat-farming applicants. To regain the primage and customs remissions on tea, for example, would bring into the Treasury another £320,000 a year.
Attention called to the state of the Senate. There being no quorum,
The President adjourned the Senate at 8.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19331128_senate_13_142/>.