14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Is the right honorable gentleman aware that a prominent member of this chamber, in the courseof a private business transaction a few months ago, forgot to add1s. exchange on his cheque which was sent back to him by the bank with a request that he make good the omission? Is he further aware- that the honorable senator in question sent the amount of exchange in “ O.S.” stamps, which the bank returned to him with the information that “ O.S.” stamps were not legal tender, and requesting him, which no doubt he did, to remit1s.?
When I rose to reply, I asked the honorable senator if his statement referred to me, andhe said it did. Immediately after the Senate adjourned, the honorable senator came across to me and showed me the article in Smith’s Weekly.
– He did not say in the Senate that he baaed the statement on Smith’s Weekly.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is so; but subsequently ho informed me privately that he did. The article in question is headed -
LAUGH IS ON SIR GEORGE PEARCE.
Criticizes Bank but Forgot he had Transaction with it.
The article states that, apparently, at the time in question I owed the bank referred to £5, and that it had sent me a reminder that the amount was due. Honorable senators will probably notice that the amount of exchange mentioned by Senator Dunn, namely,1s., would not be the exchange due on a cheque for £5. I. doubt that there is any place in Australia that requires the payment of1s. exchange on a cheque for the amount mentioned. The article states that, upon receipt of the notice, I forwarded the bank, a cheque for £5 without adding exchange, whereupon the bank sent me a reminder and I posted the exchange in “O.S.” stamps. The article is carefully worded to give the impression that this was probably a slip on the part of my private secretary, and that there was no dishonest intent, the object of the writer being no doubt to avoid action for libel. But the poison is there. The obvious intention of the article was to discredit, not only myself, but also members of Parliament generally, because there seems to be an impression outside that members of Parliament abuse the privilege which they enjoy in regard to the issue of “ O.S.” stamps. But for that I should be inclined to treat the statement made by Senator Dunn with the contempt that it deserves. I have looked through my private files, not to clear myself, because I do not think that is necessary-
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.But for the purpose of exposing the contemptible kind of propaganda in which newspapers of this class indulge in connexion with public men. I therefore ask the indulgence of the Senate for a few moments while I reveal so much of my private affairs as to present the facts. It is quite true that my son and I own a farm in Western Australia in connexion with which there is a debt due to the Agricultural Bank - a debt which we took over when we purchased the farm. The newspaper article enables me to determine that the payment due to the bank would be in June of that year, and not in December. I find, from the correspondence on my private file, that on the 21st May, 1934. I instructed my private secretary to write to the bank to ascertain the exact amount falling due in June. On the 29th May I received a reply from the bank giving me the amount of the instalment and interest due on the 30th of that month. In order to allow ample time for my cheque to reach the Katanning Branch, where the business was transacted, and to have it cleared from Perth, I forwarded on the 19th June, a cheque for the full amount, and in my covering letter placed in brackets the words “ including 9d. exchange.” On the 3rd July I received from the bank an acknowledgment in the following terms : -
Referring to your letter of the 19th ult. it is regretted that a small overcharge of 4s.1d. occurred when computing the interest on your account for the half year ended 30th June last. Please note that interest is now calculated every six months in lieu of 181 days and 184 days respectively. An adjusting entry has now been passed for your interest account which places same at 4s.1d. in credit. Will you please note that you allowed 9d. instead of 1s. for exchange on cheque?
Honorable senators will see that deducting the shortage of 3d. in respect of exchange I had actually not underpaid but overpaid the bank 3s.10d. No “ O.S.” stamps or stamps of any kind were ever required or used.
I thought it desirable in the public interest that I should reveal my private affairs to this extent in theSenate, so as to make clear to honorable senators, and, I hope, to the outside public, a contemptible class of journalism that we have in Australia - a class of journalism which distorts facts for the purpose of throwing mud at public men and, derogating public life in Australia.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Loan Appropriation (Unemployment Relief
Dried Fruits Exports Control Bill 1935.
Canned Fruits Export Control Bill 1935.
Dried Fruits Bill 1935.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1935.
Raw Cotton Bounty Bill 1935.
Customs Bill 1935.
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON (through
Is it the intention of the Government before the adjournment of Parliament to enact legislation to carry into effect the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Wheat for the stabilization of the wheat industry?
If not, why not?
The policy of the Government with regard to the recommendations of the wheat industry is set out in a statement made byme in the Senate on the 27th March.
asked the Minister in charge of Territories, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has supplied the following answer : -
The information sought by the honorable senator is not available at present, but the whole question is under consideration by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the PrimeMinister, upon notice -
What is the present position in regard to the action taken, or proposed to be taken, by the Commonwealth Government in regard to securing a reduction of unemployment amongst the youth of Australia?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The right honorable the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) has supplied the following answer: -
The Loan Appropriation (Unemployment Relief) Bill 1935 recently before the Senate provided for a grant of £322,000 to the States for forestry purposes: The States to contribute to the programme £285,000. In making this money available to the States it was stipulated by the Commonwealth Government that 20 per cent. of the dual contribution (£607,000) should be expended on the employment of persons under 21 years of age.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In regard to the appointments of Mr.R. C. Nance, clerk, Prime Minister’s Department, to the position of Divisional Returning Officer for Melbourne Ports, and of Mr. George Gelder, postmaster, Box Hill, to the position of Divisional Returning Officer for Wannon, is it considered advisable to appoint officers to the specialized position of divisional returning officer unless they have had extensive training in the electoral branch?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The right honorable the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) has supplied the following answer : -
Appointments tothe position of divisional returning officer are made under the provisions of the Public Service Act. The appointments of Mr. R. C. Nance and Mr. George Gelder as divisional returning officers at Melbourne Ports and Wannon, respectively, were made by the Public Service Board in pursuance of its powers under that act. I am advised that in the case of Mr. Gelder that officer had long and extensive training in the electoral branch and in the division to which ho has now been appointed divisional returning officer, for which he is particularly fitted. In the case of Mr. Nance, this officer has such aptitude, which, with exceptionally varied public service training, leaves no doubt as to his capacity to fill the position with full efficiency.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has supplied the following answers : -
The following bills were read a third time : -
Spirits Bill 1935.
Carriage by Air Bill 1935.
Motion (by SenatorBrennan): - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend sections 4 and 30 of the Patents Act 1903-1934.
The following papers were presented-:
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 29- No. 30.
Raw Cotton Bounty Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 31.
Debate resumed from the 4th April (vide page 706), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure should not be allowed to pass without comment. I think that the country is indebted to the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) for the most interesting account which he gave to the Senate yesterday of his recent visit to Norfolk Island. I understand that this is the first occasion on which a member of a Commonwealth Government has visited the island. This very fact is to some extent a criticism of the right honorable gentleman’s predecessors, and shows the tendency for Ministers to remain at the central points of Australia rather than go to the outlying regions.
– The island has not been under the control of this Parliament for a very lengthy period.
– But many changes of government have occurred since it has been under federal control. The separation of the. magisterial and administrative powers to which the Minister has referred is a wise course to adopt. The Administrator should not also be the fountain head of the judiciary on the island, and we may expect a more satisfactory result in the future through the Administrator being in closer touch with the residents.
In recent years this Parliament has passed bills relating to the administration of Papua and New Guinea, and in both instances I contended that there should be greater opportunities for the residents of those territories to express their opinions and make known their grievances. Of course, there is a stage of development of any colony when the control must be practically dictatorial, the Administrator having almost complete power ; but I am also aware of the fact that the general attitude of British people is that the residents of such territories should gradually be allowed opportunities to express their views in a parliament of some kind, and should be gradually trained to exercise, in some degree, at any rate, the power of self-government. A feature of the Minister’s proposal regarding Norfolk Island which appeals to me is that the members of the advisory council will be elected by the residents, who thus will be given an opportunity to make known their grievances.
Yesterday, by interjection, I asked the Minister whether it would not be a good thing to apply this method to New Guinea and Papua, and he replied in the negative. He pointed out that Papua had a legislative body, whilst the council of Norfolk Island will be purely an advisory one, adding that the legislative body represented a more advanced stage. Let us consider for a moment the functions of the legislative bodies in New Guinea and Papua. They are substantially the same in each case. In New Guinea there in an Executive Council, which advises and assists the Administrator. It is composed of nine members, who arc appointed by the Governor-General, and hold their places at his pleasure, and eight of whom are officers of the territory, which means, again, that they are very much under the control of the Administrator, who presides and may act in opposition to the advice of the executive council. Then there is a Legislative Council, which consists of the Administrator, the eight official members of the Executive Council and seven non-official members. The. latter are not elected; they are nominated by the Administrator and appointed by the Governor-General, and may be removed by him at any time.
– But they represent certain interests.
– That may be, but they are all nominated, in effect, by the one individual, and they are so many replicas of him. I am reminded of a certain war-time picture showing that the Cabinet was supposed to be composed of the Prime Minister as seen from twelve different angles. The Administrator presides over this Legislative Council, and he may assent to, withhold assent, or refer to the GovernorGeneral, who may also disallow any ordinance. That system neither gives direct control by the Administrator nor provides any form of parliament for the people. It is simply a body of nominees of the GovernorGeneral, who are nominated at the Administrator’s instigation. I am not criticizing any administrator, but the system gives no popular representation whatever, and there is no chance of the people in these particular territories giving effective expression of their views.
Therefore I am very glad, personally, that the Minister has gone to Norfolk Island. I am convinced that the method of administration to be adopted there will be more satisfactory than the other system to which I have referred. It may be necessary to have a different form of government, in some respects, in the case of a mandated territory, but, if the residents are to have a council with any pretence of control, it is far better that it should be such as is provided for under this bill. The residents, through their elected representatives, should have an opportunity to express their views and state their grievances, even if the council acts in a purely advisory capacity. This is preferable to having a body composed of sixteen or seventeen members all expressing substantially the same official view. There can be no progress in self government with a body of that kind. Under .the system to be put into operation in Norfolk Island, the residents can at least select their best spokesmen, and these can advise the Administrator. I think that after the Norfolk Islanders have had experience of the proposed system, they will be indeed loth to change over to the other method of which I have spoken, under which there is no election whatever except in accordance with the will of the Administrator. This bill represents a step in the right direction. It gets away from red tape control from a point far removed from the people concerned, and I heartily support it.
– In the course of his clear description of events leading up to the introduction of this measure, the Minister (Senator Sir George Pearce), in reply to an interjection by me, stated that the residents were lightly taxed. They claim that their taxes amount to over £7 a head of the population, including, no doubt, women and children. The right honorable senator said that the residents complained about the amount which they had to pay as rates or rental for their land. To what extent is the land held on lease, and are those leases from the Crown or from private owners ? Whether we pay money by way of rates or in direct taxation it must come out of the same pockets.
– I understand that the advisory council proposed for Norfolk Island will have powers similar to those conferred upon the Canberra Advisory Council. That, in effect, means that it will have practically no power except that of giving advice to the Administrator, who will send it on to the Minister with his comments. In his second-reading speech, the Minister mentioned taxation. I do not know what the residents of Norfolk Island are called upon to pay by way of taxation, but it has been a principle of the party on this side of the Senate that there shall be no taxation without representation. Are the residents of Norfolk Island so simple or uneducated that they should not be given the right to elect a body with legislative powers, similar to those granted to legislative bodies in other civilized communities? Have they not at any time sought to secure representation of some description on the ground that they should not be asked to pay taxation without representation? If no direct attempt has been made by the islanders to secure something better than a merely farcical advisory council, I should like to know if the Minister has any knowledge of an agitation among the islanders on those lines. In the past, the Canberra Advisory Council has been practically powerless; if residents of the Federal Capital Territory were afforded an opportunity to do so, they would replace it with a body having wide powers. I understand, also, that the residents of Canberra are practically voteless; they cannot vote for the election of a member of either House of the’ Commonwealth Parliament.
– That is provided for in the Constitution.
– Then the Constitution needs altering. The residents of Canberra pay their taxation just as willingly, or unwillingly, as other people in Australia do, and, because of the principle which I have mentioned, and which is so dear to all good Australian hearts, they should have representation in Parliament. Does the Minister put the residents of Canberra on the same level as the residents of Norfolk Island, or vice versa? I desire this information to ascertain whether or not an effort has been made on the island to secure proper representation. The body to be elected should have far greater power than is to be given to it under this bill.
– I approve of the steps taken by the Minister to make some provision for improving the condition of the Norfolk Islanders, and I compliment him on the very lucid statement he has made with regard to his visit to the island. This bill is a step in the right direction, and must inevitably tend to an improvement of the condition of the islanders and the development of that territory. Senator Duncan-Hughes, in an interesting speech, drew a comparison between the form of government proposed for Norfolk Island and the Legislative Council of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. The honorable senator suggested that the Minister’s statement that the Legislative Council of New Guinea is an advance on that which is proposed under this bill is not quite correct. He criticized the personnel and the method of appointment of the New Guinea body. But New Guinea is governed by a legislative council. I should like the honorable senator to try to envisage the difference between Norfolk Island and New Guinea. In New Guinea, which is a very extensive country comprising over 90,000 square miles, it would be practically impossible to hold an election at the present time. In some cases electors would be from 50 to 100 miles apart. There are no roads, and no means of transport other than by the coastal vessels. The present Legislative Council of New Guinea is truly representative in that its members represent various industries in the territory. They are carefully selected, having regard to the particular interests they represent in New Guinea, and, I think, the selection meets with the general approval of residents. So far as I can judge they are practically in the position of an advisory council. Their views are considered by the Administrator, and their recommendations are given due weight by those who are in a position to make suggestions advantageous to the development of New Guinea. The honorable senator has overlooked the fact that whereas Norfolk Island has only a comparatively small area, and its people are in close touch with one another, New Guinea comprises a large area and it would probably take months to get into touch with the whole of the people. I give my hearty support to the bill, and I hope the anticipations of the Minister will be fully realized.
.- The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has advised honorable senators, if they can spare the time, to visit Norfolk Island; but I remind the right honorable senator that there are restrictions, and that such visits prove expensive.
– The opportunity is available to all members if they wish to take advantage of it.
– I understand that honorable senators are entitled to a free passage, not only to Norfolk Island, but also to Papua and New Guinea, subject to the restriction that they may make only one trip each year. There are a number of islands surrounding the coast of Australia that have to be covered. Only recently a vast stretch of the Antarctic has been added to the dependencies of this country. There are some people who believe that in addition to their parliamentary allowance, members of Parliament are granted free board and lodging in Canberra, the beautiful city, that is all parks, but which has no place where people can quietly rest.
– Order !
– I should be glad if the Minister would give honorable senators information regarding the facilities available for visiting Norfolk Island, and how often they may avail themselves of the privilege.
– If the honorable senator will inquire from the officers of the Territories Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department, he will obtain all the information he requires.
– I shall do so. I listened to the right honorable gentleman’s speech with great interest, particularly to that part dealing with the social amenities and political’ activities of the island, and I think that we were all intrigued by his statement that the islanders “ love elections “.
[11.43]. - in reply - I am partly in agreement with what Senator DuncanHughes has said regarding representation. I entirely agree with the honorable senator that the system now being, adopted in Norfolk Island is an advance on that of Papua because it gives the residents the right to elect their own representatives. But the matter I referred to was the power of the representative bodies. The powers of the body to be elected in Norfolk Island will be purely advisory, but those of the Legislative Council of Papua are on a much higher plane. That body has legislative powers, and may make ordinances.
– It is a nominee body, and really has no power of legislation which the Administrator or the Governor-General may not over rule.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Power is given to it to make ordinances with some reservations. Ordinances relating to certain subjects may be vetoed by the Governor-General, but in some respects it has full power. It has greater power than the Norfolk Island Advisory Council will have, but so far as its basis of representation is concerned it is not so advanced.
Coming to the point raised by Senator Rae, I find that I can only give the honorable senator approximate figures. I understand that about two-thirds of the land is held on freehold and the balance on leasehold. Some of the original Pitcairn Islanders obtained freeholds, and as it was the desire of the Government of the day that their land should remain in the possession of their descendants, provision was made that sales of such land could take place only with the approval of the authorities.
– Was that under the law of New South Wales?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. That is continued in order to prevent the descendants of the original islanders parting with their birthright.
In their petition the islanders mentioned that the taxation imposed on them amounted to approximately £8 per head of the population. That amount, however, includes rates, motor licences, dog tax, and other charges which are not included in the taxation statistics for the Commonwealth. Commonwealth taxation in the rest of Australia amounts to much more per head of the population. It may interest honorable senators to know that the direct taxation imposed by the Commonwealth does not apply to Norfolk Island.
A rather novel system of rating is in operation in Norfolk Island. A rate for the upkeep of the roads is imposed, but settlers may give so many days’ labour on the roads, and the value of that labour is accepted as payment of the rates. The islanders include the value of such labour in their taxation charges.
– Is the leased land in Norfolk Island leased from the Crown or from private landholders?
– In the majority of cases it is leased from the Crown. Most of the freehold is still held by descendants of the original Pitcairn Islanders, because successive governments have discountenanced the sale of that land to outsiders.
– Has there been any agitation for a different form of representation from that covered by this bill?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No. Representations were made to me by deputations and by the Norfolk Island Association that the residents should have a more direct voice in the administraton of the island generally and should not be restricted to such matters as roads.
– They did not want to go beyond an advisory council?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No. But they wish to be free to express their views on all matters affecting them and to be sure that those views reach the Minister.
– The Minister has not answered the question of Senator J. V. MacDonald regarding the facilities provided to enable members of this Parliament to visit Norfolk Island.
– I understand that every member of this Parliament is entitled to a free passage to Norfolk Island by the subsidized steamers. I do not know how frequently that privilege may be exercised, but probably only once a year.
I have just received particulars of the taxation in force in Norfolk Island. It is as follows: -
The revenue of Norfolk Island for 1933-34 was £10,244. The amount was made up as follows : -
The expenditure during the same period was £11,604 17s. 3d.
The amount paid by residents of the territory, which might be regarded as taxation, was, therefore, £3,7431s. 4d. (including the miscellaneous item under that heading). Distributed over the population of 1,198 persons (men, women and children), the amount would he approximately £3 per head. If the distribution is confined to adults (male and female), say 800, the amount per head would be £4 10s.
The only other item that might in any way be regarded as taxation is the requirement under the Executive Council ordinance for persons between the ages of 21 and 55 to pay on demand by the Executive Council an amount at the rate of 8s. per day for not less than nine days nor more than fifteen days. (Labour may be performed in lieu of this payment.)
The maximum amount a resident could be required to pay would, therefore, be £10 10s. per annum.
I commend the bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added: -
After section 16 of the principal act, the following section is inserted: - “ (17) All mining ordinances for Norfolk Island shall be based on the Queensland mining acts.”
There are possibilities of great mineral developments in Norfolk Island.
– What kind of minerals are to be found there?
SenatorDUNN. - The right honorable gentleman himself does not know what is under the ground. It might be possible to put some Western Australian senators - I have one especially in mind - under the ground there.
– Be fair, Mr. Chairman, you should keep the Minister in check.
– The honorable senator must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. I have in mind what happened in New Guinea. Before the appointment of a Legislative Council there, some of the Pitt-street mining go-getters rushed in and caused a great deal of trouble. I do not wish to see similar occurrences in relation to Norfolk Island. It is well known that vast mineral treasures exist on some of the small islands of the Barrier Reef, and it may be that valuable mineral wealth lies hidden beneath the surface of the land in Norfolk Island. Unfortunately, the development which has recently taken place in connexion with mining has led to increased activity on the part of the Pitt-street go-getters. In view of the intention of the Government to tighten up the mining ordinances which operate in the Northern Territory, I suggest that steps be taken to base the mining ordinances applicable to Norfolk Island on the mining laws of Queensland, which are undoubtedly the best in the Commonwealth. I hope that the Leader of the Senate, Sir George Pearce,
P.O., K.C.V.O., &c, who is the political protector of Norfolk Island, will heed the pearls of wisdom which are falling from my lips and accept the amendment.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to make personal remarks in dealing with this clause.
– I do not know, Mr. Chairman, whether or not you will be a candidate for the Presidency after June, but I submit that I have not said anything personal. Indeed, I would not-
– The honorable senator’s closing remark could be construed as personal. I am the judge of whether or not a remark is personal.
– As you are the judge, I do not propose to argue the matter further.
– It is my duty to see that the Standing Orders are observed, and that the business of this chamber is conducted in an orderly manner.
– If you wish to be promoted to the position of sergeantmajor without pay I shall have no objection.
– I ask the honorable senator to proceed.
– I appeal to the Minister, the political father of Norfolk Island, and who recently attended a christening ceremony, to accept my amendment in order to protect any mineral wealth which may eventually be discovered on the island.
– I suggest that the honorable senator amend his amendment to read -
After section 16 of the principal act the following section be inserted: - ‘‘17. All mining ordinances shall be based on the Queensland Mining Acta.”
– I am agreeable to that.
Amendment - by leave - amended accordingly.
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have no. objection to the insertion of the proposed new clause moved by Senator Dunn. Some time ago Senator Rae rather ridiculed a suggestion of mine that inquiries should be conducted into the possibility of mineral development in Antarctica, but later Iwas informed in an answer to a question that extensive mineral resources, and particularly coal deposits, exist in the Antarctic. As the quantity of gold yet undiscovered is probably 20 times that already mined, it is possible that great mineral wealth is also awaiting development on Norfolk Island. The island is small but, as a result of scientific developments, it is possible to mine under the sea if that should be necessary. Norfolk Island exports bananas which enter into competition with the Queensland product, mixed fruits and also potatoes. Its potential mineral wealth should be protected, and some provision made as to the conditions under which mining shall be conducted.
[12.5]. - The Government cannot accept the amendment. It is entirely unnecessary at this juncture, and when a mining ordinance for Norfolk Island has to be promulgated the whole of the mining laws, including those of Queensland, will be examined. At present that is being done by the Department of the Interior in connexion with an amended mining ordinance for the Northern Territory. That, if necessary, could, with certain modifications, be applied to Norfolk Island. The committee will agree that we should not tie our hands by providing that only the mining laws in operation in Queensland shall be adopted.
Question - That the proposed new clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
[12.10].- The Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Bill which was expected from another place has not yet reached the Senate. I, therefore, suggest that the sitting be suspended until 3.30 p.m., bywhich time the bill should be here.
Sitting suspended from 12.15 to3.30p.m.
Senator McLachlan laid on the table reports and recommendations from the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Road Rollers; Wheel Tractors and Tractors (‘Caterpillar type) and parts of Tractors whether Wheeled or Caterpillar type for use in the manufacture of Road Graders, Road Rollers, Power Shovels, Power Loaders, Winches, Locomotives and similar appliances; and Sleeves for Tractors.
Wax Crayons; and Wax Crayons originated in or exported from Japan.
[3.31].- I lay on the table of the ‘Senate the report of the Australian delegation to the fifteenth Assembly of the League of Nations, held at Geneva in September, 1934, and move -
That the paperbe printed.
A perusal of the report will indicate that, generally speaking, this Assembly was not as spectacular as some of its predecessors. This was due largely to the fact that the all-important international question of disarmament is being dealt with by a separate conference.
People sometimes are apt to become impatient at the delay in bringing about a successful conclusion to the work of the Disarmament Conference. This question, however, has now become so involved, and so integrally concerned with the political problems of the day, that progress is necessarily slow and halting. But it must not be supposed that no progress is being made. When the General Commission met on 29th May, 1934, the outlook for a disarmament agreement certainly appeared hopeless. The conversations initiated by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom in January, 1934, had broken down, and the budget figures of most of the Great Powers showed an enormous increase in expenditure. But the imminent danger of relapse into unrestricted competition of armament in its most evil form if the conference failed, was a spectre which necessitated a final effort. Fortunately a compromise was reached in the acceptance of a resolution that Germany be invited to return to the conference, and that an immediate disarmament convention was necessary. Certain committees to deal with the question of guarantees, supervision, air forces, and manufacture of arms were appointed, and the Bureau was instructed to settle political questions as they arose and to facilitate Germany’s re-entry to Geneva.
The work of these committees has been continued ever since, and a considerable advance has been made in some of the questions under review, particularly that relating to the trade in and private manufacture of arms, following the submission of a draft convention by the United States of America. In the meantime, parallel and supplementary conversations within the framework of the League have been continued, with a view to a general settlement of the outstanding political issues, and for obtaining a basis of security, without which it is recognized no substantial disarmament is possible. For the first time, the Powers are looking at these matters from a realistic point of view, and despite the present undercurrent of uncertainty and suspicion apparent in Europe, there is hope that something real and tangible in the field of disarmament will be eventually achieved.
Dr. Benes. of Czechoslovakia, who opened, the Assembly, said that the League was generally debited with a number of international occurrences contrary to the policy of Geneva. The
League, he said, was blamed for the present -state of the Disarmament Conference. It was wrong, he thought, to place the reponsibilities which belonged primarily to individual States upon the shoulders of an international institution which, as a collective international organ unprovided with any direct executive authority of its own, could only be held responsible indirectly and in a secondary capacity.
The report shows a considerable extent pf steady and useful work on the part of the League of Nations during the year under review. This is most noticeable, in connexion with the control of the illicit drug traffic. The League claims tha.t, under the Drug Limitation Convention, of 1931, for the first time the legitimate trade of the world in narcotics has been carried on in accordance with a world plan drawn up. under the. auspices of the League and legally binding on the parties to the Convention. The results are, regarded as highly satisfactory. The legitimate factories, are now properly supervised, and the next task of the League is to concentrate on efforts towards the disco.very and, elimination of clandestine factories.
It will be observed from the report that,, while emphasizing- the value of the impartial, study of various international’ economic problems, Mr. Bruce, who was the leader of the Australian delegation at this Assembly, stressed the importance qf not attempting to deal’ with too many problems simultaneously. One question which he suggested as- particularly suitable for investigation by an international body was the increasing and, in many cases,, excessive agricultural protection in industrial countries. He pointed out that the present trend towards extreme economic nationalism was retarding world recovery, which was dependent upon arevival of world trade, and that extreme nationalistic measures could only result in a further impoverishment of the world’.
The outstanding event of the Assembly was the admission of’ the United Soviet Socialist Republic as a member of the League of Nations, and the granting to that State- of a permanent seat on the Council. Other new members admitted were Afghanistan and Ecuador. Thisaddition to the strength of the League of
Nations goes some way towards counterbalancing the recent withdrawal of Germany and Japan.
The year just closed was quite a momentous one for the League. It scored a considerable success by the peaceful settlement of the territorial dispute between Colombia and Peru. League machinery was also highly successful in the threatened trouble between Yugoslavia and Hungary as the result of the assassinations at Marseilles last year.
Another practical achievement of the League was. the preparation for the Saar plebiscite, which was held in. January last without any untoward event, and the measures taken for the handing over of the territory to Germany.
The successful handling of these political issues, and the extension of its humanitarian and social activities, have done much to increase the prestige and authority of the League.
The Commonwealth’s relations with the League have, expanded of recent years-, particularly by the representation of Australia on the. Council as a nonpermanent member, the period of which! will not expire until September, 19<36-. Moreover, the number of multilateral conventions drawn up under the auspices- of the League pf Nations to which Australia is becoming- a party from year to- year is increasing. These conventions are part of the machinery for the preservation of the peace of the- world or the. improvement, of social, political, and economic conditions.
Unfortunately, the dispute between Bolivia and Paraguay has not yet been satisfactorily settled, but the League is to be commended’ on its firm action in connexion with the arms embargo placed upon the parties. This, however, was removed recently in respect of Bolivia, owing to acceptance by that country of the recommendations of the Special Assembly for the settlement of- the dispute.. It is to be hoped that the fruitless waste of lives and property with the resultant economic disorganization willi soon, be brought to- an end by the conciliatory efforts now being made under* the auspices of the League.
While there still persist elements of anxiety that we cannot ignore, it is encouraging to note among the stabilizing; influences the steady growth in the efficacy of League methods. The view of the Government, and, I believe, of most of the people of Australia, is that the League of Nations has performed, and is performing, a very great service to humanity by the frequent meetings of representatives of nations of the world, who discuss and determine methods of international co-operation for mutual benefit, and for the cause of international peace and security. This must conduce to a better understanding among peoples, and lead to the gradual removal of acute nationalistic tendencies, suspicions and jealousies, and so provide a real and stable foundation for international peace and goodwill.
.- As the report deals with a number of important’ matters in which we are interested, I should like to have the opportunity to peruse it before continuing the debate. I therefore ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill brought up by Senator Brennan and read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders .suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
[3.45]. - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The Government has introduced this bill as a measure of assistance to distressed farmers to help them recover from the position in which the slump in prices has placed them, despite their heroic efforts to carry on. The primary producers of Australia have contributed in no small measure to the partial recovery of Australia from the depression, and to the maintenance of Australia’s credit during the depths of the depression. The States have not been inactive in providing relief. They have helped the farmers, by means of stay orders and protection certificates, to withstand pressure from their creditors, and they have also pro*vided advances for seasonal operations and sustenance to> enable the farmers to carry on from year to year. These measures do not, however, go to the root of the trouble - the debt burden is still there. The position of the farmer reminds me of the lines of Will Carleton, America’s farmer poet- -
We work thro’ summer, we work thro’ the fall,
But the mortgage works the hardest of all.
It is known from the experience of State schemes that many creditors would be willing to accept a composition arrangement which would return in cash a proportion of the capital that in many cases is in jeopardy. Lack of funds has prevented the States from doing anything in the way of debt adjustment by means of compositions. In some cases, where it has been possible to obtain funds from private sources, the State authorities administering farmers’ relief have been able to effect very satisfactory arrangements with, creditors. Examples of such arrangements show that, while it is possible in many cases to effect arrangements with secured pr partly secured creditors by negotiation and adjustment, the provision of cash is essential in compounding debts. They also demonstrate clearly that the Commonwealth Government can, by granting financial assistance for the purpose, put debt adjustment within the reach of the great majority of farmers.
In the absence of statistical data the magnitude of farmer’s debts is largely a matter of surmise. It is estimated there are about 230,000 farmers. The Royal Commission on Wheat made a rough estimate that the debts of wheat-growers amount to £150,000,000 ; but no information is available from which to make an estimate of the debts of all farmers. There are a number of farmers who are in a position to carry on and look after their own debts. There are also .some who are hopelessly involved, and could not be assisted to any good purpose.
The task of providing assistance over such a wide field is not one to be lightly undertaken; but, obviously, it is one beyond the powers of the States to face alone. It is also too big a task for the
Commonwealth itself. Clearly anything the Commonwealth could do would best be done by some measure of financial assistance in co-operation with the States, whose many activities bring them into close relations with farmers, particularly those requiring assistance. Since the formation of the present Government, the matter has been discussed at considerable length with the States, and it was one of several important matters considered at the initial meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, where general agreement on principle was secured. As a result of these discussions, the Government has brought down this definite proposal to provide £12,000,000, by way of grants to the States, for the purpose of adjustment of farmers’ debts.
It is not proposed that the Commonwealth grant shall supplant the State schemes, nor does the Commonwealth intend to invade the States’ sphere of action so far as it is concerned with details of administration.We desire only to supplement the State schemes, and to make them more effective by providing funds to implement compositions with creditors. Although it has been necessary to lay down certain conditions which are specifically mentioned in the bill, the Commonwealth, in its original discussions, and in all subsequent discussions with the States on the proposal, has indicated that three main principles would have to be observed, namely: -
I come now to an explanation of the provisions of the bill itself. Speaking generally, the bill follows the lines agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States in conference in December last. At the outset, I wish to emphasize that the proposed assistance is for debt adjustment only, and not for rural rehabilita tion generally. Some of the States have made requests that the Commonwealth proposal should be modified to enable the States to use part of the moneys for general assistance to primary producers. The Government carefully considered these requests. As the fundamental object of the Commonwealth proposal was, and is, to provide financial assistance for farmers’ debt relief, it was clearly impossible for the Government to agree to the fund being used for purposes other than that for which the proposals were originally planned. The Government regretted, therefore, that it found itself unable to agree to the requests of the States referred to. Moreover, the fund itself is insufficient to do anything more than provide for some measure of debt relief.
It is proposed to borrow £12,000,000, and to make that sum available as a free grant to the States for the purpose of adjusting farmers’ debts. The borrowing of this sum is dependent on the market, and must be undertaken in conjunction with borrowing for works programmes. It is proposed, therefore, to spread the grant over a period of years. The task of examining farmers’ debts is necessarily a formidable one, and will occupy some time. The conditions in the various States differ so materially as regards the nature and complexities of fanners’ debts that it was found impossible to lay down a uniform scheme of procedure which would produce equitable results in every State. It was clear that the Commonwealth itself could not administer the fund. The activities of the Commonwealth do not bring them into direct touch with farmers. On the other hand, the activities of the States, through their lands departments, agricultural departments, closer settlement boards, farmers’ relief boards, &c, bring them into regular touch with a great number of farmers. In particular, the machinery of the Farmers Relief Board is suitable for administering a scheme of debt relief. Consequently, the Commonwealth Government was convinced that it would be a mistake for it to set out to administer the fund itself. The administration and distribution of the fund must, therefore, be necessarily left to the individual States, and the detailed schemes will have to be approved by the respective State parliaments.
In these circumstances, it is impossible to prescribe in the bill a detailed scheme for uniform adoption, or to impose any unduly onerous conditions. The conditions attached to the grant as embodied in the bill are, therefore, of a general nature. It is provided that the grant must be applied for the purpose of discharging, in whole or in part, the debts of farmers by means of compositions or schemes of arrangements” between farmers and any or all of their creditors. “ Farmer “ is defined in the bill, and includes the owner, lessee or occupier of land engaged in farming operations, on that land, embracing farming generally, agricultural, dairying, horticultural, pastoral and grazing operations.
No payment is to be made for the benefit of a farmer unless, as the result of any composition or scheme arranged, he will have a reasonable prospect of successfully carrying on operations. The grant is not to be used for those farmers who are in a reasonable position to look after their own debts. Consequently, the authority administering the scheme must be satisfied that some discharge of debt is necessary to ensure that the farmer will continue to carry on farming operations and to give him a reasonable prospect of carrying on those operations successfully.
In cases where a State makes advances to farmers to secure a debt composition and the advances are subject to repayments, it is proposed that the repayments shall be applied for the debt adjustment purposes of other farmers. In such cases a revolving fund will operate for the benefit of farmers.
Careful consideration was given to the question of debts due by farmers to the Crown, which represent, in the aggregate, a substantial sum. As the Commonwealth must raise moneys in” the market to provide the grant, it was felt that it would be wrong to enable State governments to participate in the borrowed moneys by way of compositions of their own debts. By the exclusion of State debts, the fund will go further in providing relief from private indebtedness. This will, of course, not prevent a State or State authority from compounding its own debts for the purpose of securing a satisfactory composition with all creditors in the interests pf the farmer. After full consideration of the matter from all angles, it was decided that all States’ debts should be excluded from participation in the fund. No payment will, therefore, be made under a composition or scheme of arrangement in respect of any debt due or accruing due to the Commonwealth or a State or to a governmental authority. It is further provided that none of the moneys shall be used for administration expenses; these must be borne by the States. Subject to these general conditions, each State will undertake the complete administration and distribution of the funds, and will -be responsible for the detailed scheme under which the moneys are distributed.
I shall now deal with the manner in which the £12,000,000 will be allocated. Owing to the complexities of the debt structure, and the insufficiency of the available data, it was found impossible for the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to agree upon a basis of allocation between the States. It was eventually decided by the Commonwealth that the Commonwealth Statistician, after consulting with the State Statisticians, should be requested to recommend a basis of allocation, having regard to all relevant factors, including the rural debt situation in each State. Various suggestions were put forward by the State Statisticians for the consideration of the Commonwealth Statistician, but he reported that, in his opinion, no one of the suggested methods could be worked out in practice in such a way as to satisfy the reasonable claims of the representatives of all the States, or to produce what, in his opinion, would be a completely equitable allocation.
The Statistician arrived at this conclusion after an exhaustive survey of all the statistical material available on the subject of rural debts - which was manifestly inadequate for the purpose of allocating the grant - and after a detailed analysis of statistics in each State relating to pre-depression and depression values of rural production, relative total populations, farm populations, numbers of master farmers, numbers of rural holdings, and movements in prices and costs of production.
Having examined this material very exhaustively, the Statistician proceeded to work out an allocation on the basis which seemed to him least open to objection, either in principle or by the interested parties. The underlying feature of this method was the estimated loss to farmers in value of rural production due to depression prices, which losses brought about the debt difficulties. On the basis of normal average production in each State, the loss was calculated by taking the average of prices for a group of depression years compared with the average of prices for a group of pre-depression years. The losses, as thus ascertained for the different branches of rural industry in the several States, were used as a primary basis of allocation. The final allocation was arrived at after giving weight to other relevant factors, such as changes in relative volumes of production, available data relating to debts due to the Crown and private creditors, relative proportions of land leased from the Crown in each State, &c.
Finally, the Statistician suggested that on the basis thus arrived at, £10,000,000 should be allocated now, leaving £2,000,000 in reserve to correct any anomalies that might become apparent under this method in the event of more adequate data being forthcoming later. The £10,000,000 was allocated as follows : -
The Government has decided to accept the proposals of the Statistician in general principle. The bill accordingly provides for the allocation of £10,000,000 on the lines suggested. A further provision is inserted that the balance of £2,000,000 will be allocated on the same basis as the £10,000,000 subject to the reservation that, on the basis of the information furnished by the States prior to the 30th June, 1936, the Treasurer may vary the allocation of the £2,000,000 if he considers such variation would be proper.
It is the definite intention of the Government that the amount of Commonwealth asistance shall be strictly limited to £12,000,000. The States at the outset must recognize this fact in the distribution of their quotas, as no further funds will be provided (by the Commonwealth.
In view of the fact that it is proposed that the States shall administer their own schemes, it is not practicable, nor is it desirable, that the Commonwealth should police the detailed distribution of the amounts granted to the various States. It is necessary, however, for the Commonwealth to be satisfied that the conditions of the grant are complied with. Provision has accordingly been made that the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth and each State will submit certificates every six months, stating whether there has been any breach of the conditions of the grant. Should any breach come to the knowledge of the AuditorGeneral of either the State or the Commonwealth, such breach must be reported to the Commonwealth immediately, whereupon suitable action will be taken.
In conclusion, I may state that the extent to which the money is used will be influenced by the present-day value of the farmers’ assets and the earning capacity of their land; but, be the amount large or small, it is sincerely hoped that it will assist materially in rehabilitating those farmers who have striven manfully to keep going despite appalling burdens of financial indebtedness.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - In conformity with the sessional order, I formally put the question -
Thatthe Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Monday next at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir George
Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Senator Brown asked me a question yesterday on the subject of the treatment of beef by the De Raeve process. I have now had an opportunity to look into this matter and find that on the 16th November, 1933, I informed the honorable senator that at my instigation the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had already reported upon this process; also that the council did not think that any useful purpose would be served by a further investigation of the process unless substantial improvements had been effected since it was examined. I promised that if such improvements had been made and full details were submitted to me, I would consider whether I would arrange for a further expert opinion to be obtained. On the 29th June, 1934, the matter was again referred to by the honorable senator when I gave a similar undertaking to that given by me on the 16th November, 1933,. but I intimated that up to that date further details had not been supplied to me. No further information has ‘been submitted to me since that date.
– I have a distinct recollection of asking for the report of the inquiry instituted by the ‘Western Australian Government and the Minister replying that he would obtain that report.
– If the honorable senator will read the Hansard report he will find that my statement is correct.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 April 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19350405_senate_14_146/>.