15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Accompanied by honorable senators I, this day, waited on the Governor-General and presentedto him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of Parliament, agreed to by the Senate on the 2nd December, 1937. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
Canberra, 8th December, 1937.
I desire to thank you for the AddressinReply which you have just presented to me. It will afford me much pleasure to convey to His Most Gracious Majesty the King the message of loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
– I have received from Lady Ryrie a letter of thanks for the resolution of sympathy passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of Major-General the Honorable Sir Granville de Laune Ryrie, K.C.M.G., C.B., V.D.
. - I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper : -
Northern Australia Survey Act- Report of Committee appointed to direct and control the Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia, for the period ended 30th June, 1037. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Motion agreed to.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth PublicService Act - Fourteenth Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Public Service Board, dated6th December, 1937.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Courts- Dated 3rd December, 1937.
Land and Land Industries of the Northern Territory of Australia - Report of the Northern Territory investigation Committee, dated 10th October, 1037.
Sugar Agreement- Sixth Annual Report of theFruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for theyear ended 31stAugust, 1037.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 19 of 1937. -Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia; Amalgamated Engineering Union : and Australasian Society of Engineers.
No. 20 of 1937 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
No. 21 of 1937 - Amalgamated Engineering Union; Australasian Society of Engineers;Electrical Trades Union of Australia; and Boilermakers’ Society of Australia.
No. 22 of 1937 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia and others: Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia: CommonwealthStoremen and ‘Puckers’ Union of Australia; Commonweath Foremen’s Association; and Commonwealth Naval Storehousemen’s Association.
Bankruptcy Act - Ninth Annual Report by the Attorney-General, for the year ended 31st July, 1937.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 107.
Report No. 1 of the Printing Committee brought up by Senator J. B. Hayes and - by leave - adopted.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister, whether the Government will, when making appointments to the staff of the Interstate Commission about to be established, take into account the claims of suitable and qualified returned soldier public servants, and give to them the same consideration as was given to returned soldier applicants when filling a vacancy on the Commonwealth Public Service Board some months ago ?
– I give that undertaking.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.With reference to Mr. Casey’s recent reported statements that “ it is the multiplicity of Australian tuxes which upsets the overseas investor “ and thathe hoped “ it would bo possible for all Australian Governments to get together and remove the taxation difficulties which beset the overseas investor “, when will the proposed conference on this subject be held?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : -
Postmaster-General, upon notice -
With reference to the reply to a question by Senator E. B. Johnston regarding the carriage of air mails to and from Tasmania free of surcharge -
Is not the North-West of Western Australia more distant and more isolated than Tasmania?
Will the same release from extra postal charge he extended to letters carried by the North-Western Australia Air Mail to and from points betweenGeraldton and Darwin?
If not, why not?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
It has previously been indicated that policy is being developed to utilize air transportation for the whole of the first-class mails over routes connecting State capitals, and where the volume of correspondence is very heavy. The establishment of the Tasmania air service carryingall first-class mail matter is the first stage in the development of this policy, and it is hoped that, along with other States, Western Australia will benefit similarly by the East-West connexion which will form a part of the general plan.
The honorable senators will recognize the impracticability of developing a more extensive network for the carriage of mail without surcharge over long distance routes, where the volume of correspondence to be dealt with is of small dimensions and consequently where the cost would be out of proportion to the extent of the benefit which might result.
” HAWKER DEMON “ AIRCRAFT.
asked the Minister representing the Minister forDefence, upon notice -
Will the Minister consider the advisability of suspending the use of all “ Hawker Demon “ planes until after the inquiry into the recent mishapsand tragedies in which these machines were involved?
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for Defencehas supplied the following answer : -
Action to suspendtheflying of Demon aircraft is not considered necessary as preliminary inquiries made by air force officers into the causes of the recent mishaps have not disclosed anything connectedwith the air frames or engines that would give rise to suspicion that the aircraft is unairworthy.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
Concerning the reported losses suffered during ‘ recent years by the pastoral industry in Queensland and Western Australia, and with reference to a statement made by Senator Collett in the Senate on the 1st instant, has the Government given consideration to any proposals, submitted by the States, for the institution of some measure or plan (governmental or co-operative) to counter the adverse effects, or otherwise assist the primary producers as a whole, or in part, in respect to losses likely to be experienced in the future as the result of recurring visitations of drought, flood, storms, pests or low prices?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
Representations have been made . from time to time by various States for financial assistance fromthe. Commonwealthfor the relief of Sufferers from the effects of drought, &c.
Whilst beingsympathetic with the situation of primary producers at such times, the Government considers that the question of relief is one for the various State governments, and that it is not appropriate for the Commonwealth to assume financial responsibility.
Losses from drought, fire, flood, hail, ‘pests, &c, are suffered in some portion of one or more of the States from time to time. The adoption of the principle of financial assistance from the Commonwealth would therefore involve acceptance of a permanent Commonwealth liability.
Moreover, this matter is one which is inseparably wrapped up with other phases of State government policy over which the Commonwealth Governmenthas no control.
In these circumstances, the Government regrets that it is unable to see its way clear to grant financial assistance in the cases referred to
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
askedthe Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice-
Referring to the Minister’s reply to Question No. 8 of 2nd December last-
Is it a fact that applications were invited in the Commonweal th Government Gazette of the 25th November, 1937, for the position of Junior Attendant (Fourth Division), Parliament House,Canberra, salary £242 to £258, and that in the advertisement of this position no provision was made that applicants need be permanent officers of the Public Service?
Are there, among permanent officers, no persons with the qualifications necessary for such a position?
What opportunities are providedfor persons already employed in the capacity of cleaners, attendants, &c. at Parliament House to gain promotion without competition from persons not in the permanent employment of the Commonwealth Public Service?
– The following information has been furnished by the Speaker of the House of Representatives : -
asked tlie Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: -
The department 1ms no knowledge that the late Mr. Waldron was associated with the discovery of this field, but inquiries will be made and the honorable senator advised, in due course.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon .notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What quantity of high speed steel, used for making dies, &c, was imported during, the year ending Juno. 1937? 2.. Can this class of steel be made in Australia.?
– The Minister for Customs states that the information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing tin3 Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the work done by Dr. Donald Thomson in connexion with the welfare of the Australian aborigines, will the Government make his reports available to members?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer: -
Dr. Thomson proposes to make two reports, me a confidential report for the information >f the Government, and the other a general scientific report. The latter will be made available to members. The question of making he former available will receive consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
. -I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper: -
Empire Trade and the Ottowa Agreement - Statement. ind move -
That the paper be printed.
During the next few months the trading relations of Australia and the dominions generally, the United Kingdom and the United States of America will be under consideration, and it is of the greatest importance that the present opportunities ‘or co-operation should not be missed.
It is hoped that British and American co-operation in matters of trade will make a substantial contribution to the promotion of world trade generally. It is now intended, primarily, to discuss the Ottawa agreement, revision of which cannot be long delayed. It is necessary for the effective discussion of that agreement that something should be said about the historical background, and the general principles affecting Empire trade and the trade of the world. Before the Ottawa agreement, Empire preference, though existent, was not widely organized on a reciprocal basis. The adoption by Great Britain in 1931 of a- protective tariff system clearly facilitated an Empire reciprocal preferential system. The immediate result was the Ottawa Conference. When it met, trade had fallen away disastrously, and prices of primary products were at a low level. The Empire countries came together to see how far they could protect each other against a world depression, and, after much hard work, the conference succeeded. The greatest immediate material result, from ah Australian point of view, was the United Kingdom and Australia Trade Agreement of 1932, which is commonly referred to as the Ottawa agreement. It is unnecessary to refer to the details of that agreement, except to say that under it Australian exports obtained substantial preference in the United Kingdom market. At the same time British exports secured systematized advantages in” the Australian market. By the articles of the agreement certain limitations were placed upon Australian tariff autonomy, a result which is, perhaps, the inevitable consequence of every international trade treaty, and must, therefore, not be exaggerated, although its precise nature requires to be examined.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has publicly stated that a revision of . the agreement will shortly be initiated. -The recent commencement, of the AngloAmerican trade negotiations, which may possibly impinge upon, and be affected by, the British preferential system, renders it inevitable that the revision of Ottawa should, to some extent at least, be discussed concurrently with those negotiations. In effect, we are shortly to be called upon to clarify our minds in respect of the complex and interrelated problems of our own national development, Empire preferences, and the revival of world trade. It is difficult to formulate precise plans; negotiations may be hampered by too great definition. Certain ‘ general principles must, however, be borne in mind, in the first place, it will be admitted that our own all-round industrial development is the essential condition, not only of our growth, but also of our existence. The vital problem of populating Australia cannot be solved within a measurable period of time without . migration. The attraction and absorption of migrants will depend essentially upon the increasing growth of Australian industrial activity. Our protective policy, therefore, is not mere proof of either selfishness, or self-sufficiency ; it is the basic condition of our national safety. A great service is done to Great Britain and to the whole British world by making our country strong, well-balanced, and self-reliant.
The articles of the Ottawa, agreement will require review in the light of this fundamental principle. It is true that the not unfavorable interpretation of the agreement by the Australian Tariff Board, the sturdy Australianism with which that Board has invariably com ducted its inquiries, and other circumstances, including the exchange position, have prevented some of the articles from having any untoward results. But disputes on interpretation have occurred, and we must endeavour to avoid them in future. It is, for example, difficult as a matter of literal interpretation to see how we can have “protection “ by a tariff which, under Article 10, “shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition “. since the object of a protective tariff, when applied to an efficiently conducted industry, is to help that industry by excluding the competition of overseas suppliers. Article 12 also has been criticized on the ground that the tariff will of the Commonwealth Parliament may be subordinated to the decision of an administrative tribunal, and that if such were the case, the sound general principle of independent and expert tariff investigation would be carried beyond the realm of domestic political policy into that of international obligation. The whole of. the articles will be reconsidered in the light of experience and with the aid of valuable comments and suggestions made from time to time by interested and representative bodies.
Apart from the development of our own resources, our policy ha3 been and is one of Empire preference - that is of the essence of Ottawa - but we must consider the working of our Empire preferential system in its relation to the genera” prosperity of the world; we must also be prepared to ask ourselves plain questions, and we must not avoid th, answering of them. In the Ottawa year. British Empire trade was 27.5 per cent of the total world trade; by 1936, it hae risen to 31 per cent. In the Ottawa year. intra-Empire trade was 25.7 per cent, oi the total trade of the British Empire countries; by 3935, it had risen to 30.4 per cent. In other words, the Empire’s share of the total world trade has increased, and Empire countries have conducted among themselves an increasing share of their total trade. Insofar as this growth is clue to the more rapid economic recovery of the Empire during the past few years, and insofar as it demonstrates Empire co-operation and the sense of family partnership, it is a good and satisfying thing. But if it could be shown that Empire trade had grown at the expense of world trade, and that Ave were pursuing exclusive policies calculated to encourage the growth of economic nationalism in Europe, the immediate statistics would not comfort us for very long.
The question of our Empire preferential system has been raised because it may be that we are reaching a point in economic history when a rigid insistence upon the fullest measure of Empire preference may prevent the British countries from taking their proper part in a groat movement for world appeasement through the revival of trade. It is, however, impossible to dogmatize; the situation must just be watched and studied, and the Government must be ready to diacuss and consider. We are too conscious of tho value of the Empire and its preferential system to make even a modification of that system unless we are driven to it by a real prospect of compensating benefit. The British market has been and is our best market, and our policies, both before and after Ottawa, have recognized that fact. But it may be that the United Kingdom and the United States of “America in the long run cannot-reach agreement without some modification of dominion preference in the United Kingdom, or United Kingdom preferences in the dominions; it may be that the United States of America would be prepared to facilitate such modification by making concessions in its own market to the dominions. In such an eventuality, the Australian Government might not consider that it, any more than the Government of the United Kingdom, should blindly adhere to the complete sanctity of the preference system as it now stands, but might be willing to discuss the matter as a whole with the other British countries and with the United States of America.
It. will be recalled that during the last ten years, Australia’s commodity trade with other Empire countries has shown a passive balance of about £6,000,000 a year, which becomes much larger when the invisible items are considered. Our active balances are largely with foreign countries. Indeed, it is not too much to say that if we apply immediatematerial standards, Australia is at present a greater contributor to Empire trade than a beneficiary from it. That does not mean that complete balance is either necessary or desirable; but it is a factor to be considered when the Ottawa agreement is under review, and the future of world trade is being discussed.
Reference has already been made to the necessity for .ill-round industrial development in this country. Our manufactures have been instanced. At this stage, further reference may be made to our primary products. Many millions of pounds have been spent in Australia on water supply schemes, the development of the means of transport, and the provision of facilities for greatly expanded production. For example, the Murray Valley is merely at the beginning of its production of fruit and fat lambs. Where outside of Australia are they to be sold? The United Kingdom has always been Australia’s best market; it has been increasingly so since the Ottawa Conference, and the valuable meat agreements of the last three years. But it is impossible to believe that Great Britain, with all its good-will, can continue indefinitely to absorb more and more, of Australia’s surplus production. We are guilty of no want of appreciation of the Empire spirit and what it has done for us, or of the supreme value of the British market, when we say that this young country, on the threshold of its development must look to the whole world for its markets. That is why the negotiations with the United States of America are approached by us in a helpful spirit. Should the negotiations between Great Britain and the United States of America lead to some effective financial and commercial rapprochement with Germany, so that that country becomes once more a large buyer of the natural products of other countries, the effect on_Aust.ra.lia. because of the intensification of its development, would be remarkable.
It is, of course, realized that international negotiations must inevitably involve compromises on everything except national security and vital principles. In order that its consideration of the details may be wise and well-informed, the Government will take every opportunity to consult with representatives of both primary and secondary industries.
No abandonment of the principle of preference is foreshadowed. The principle is sound; but the interests of the British people as a whole require that it should be our servant, not our master. There will always be room for that kind of preference in trade, which recognizes that all British people are of one family, that their ties are many and varied, that they have instincts and interests in common, and that the growth and safety of each section is of moment to the others. But preferences must not be so rigid that they constitute an. unnecessary challenge to the rest of tlie world. That does not mean that we are to throw down our walls; it simply means that we must occasionally be prepared to step over them to do business with the man on the other side.
It is in this spirit that we must approach the delicate negotiation’s of the next few months. Our mutual preferences, though they must continue to be real and substantial, must be sufficiently elastic to permit British people the world over to seize every opportunity to encourage the nations of the world to forget old quarrels, suspicions, fears, and grievances, and come back into that full commercial life which can do so much to turn men’s thoughts into the paths of peace.
– I do not know that I have ever felt more sympathy with the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) than I have this afternoon while listening to the statement which he has just read. It was the finest bit of word spinning to which I have ever listened in this chamber. I imagine that an army of legal experts was commissioned to draft a document which would take a quarter of an hour or so to read and would convey nothing definite or worthwhile, or even intelligible, to any person who heard it I have heard debates in this chamber in which it was suggested that greater safeguards should be employed in order to ensure that regulations or ordinances should be made water-tight, but I guarantee that no lawyer, or body of lawyers, can make the statement read to-day water-tight in any of its numerous sections. I did intend to make notes as the Minister proceeded with his reading, but I got lost in a maze of impossibilities, because he no sooner said one thing than he contradicted it in his next statement. Towards the conclusion of the statement the Minister said something to the effect that Australia must look to the whole world for its markets. Surely he knows that the whole world is becoming more and more contracted so far as its capacity to consume Australian surplus products is concerned. Obviously, each of the countries with which Australia might negotiate for a trade treaty must, because of actions which it is taking to protect its own interests, become less capable of giving any advantage to Australia or to any other contracting party. Consequently the Government which is respon sible for the statement read by the Leader of the Senate this afternoon is merelydoing what it always does, namely, running around the problem and definitely, and I admit adroitly, refusing to face the facts.’ I am not convinced that there is any value in the introduction of this document into the Senate this afternoon. Although I am taking part in the discussion of it, I am doing so because the reading of the statement means that the gauntlet has been thrown down and discussion is asked for. As the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber I do not propose to allow any statement made on behalf of the Government, which I think is worthy of notice, to pass without scrutiny. Nevertheless, I believe that the whole discussion, whatever its quality, will be futile. We all know that whatever the Government desires to do with regard to the Ottawa agreement will be done, and that whatever decision it cornea to in relation to any Anglo-American pact will be given effect. All the grandiloquent assurances given in the House of Representatives that any agreement which may tentatively be made cannot be ratified until it has first been submitted to the Parliament amount only to so much political deceit, because we know that when the agreement reaches Parliament, members will be told, as they have been told on other occasions, that they must either accept or reject the agreement, because they cannot amend it. Consequently, I repeat that this discussion is a futility. It is a futility for the further reason that the Cabinet is peculiarly constituted. I am almost disposed to sympathize with the Government in its present predicament. During the last week a valiant attempt has been made to reconcile the discordant elements represented by the different political parties which constitute the , composite Government.
– The Opposition often has to do that.
– I regret that interjection, because it is not worthy of the honorable senator who made it. He knows well that no Labour member, even if he desires to do so, is allowed to take office in any government which is not entirely composed of Labour members.
– What of the position in Victoria ?
– There is no member of the Labour party in the Ministry in Victoria, and the honorable senator knows it. What the Government is attempting in that connexion is absolutely impossible. I am delighted to see it. I extend to the Government my sympathy and hope its political demise will be hastened as the result of the indecent alliance which has been made. When I say “ indecent “ I mean, of course, politically indecent, but, obviously, the right phrase is “ tremendously inconvenient”. Before I proceed further, I should like to know to which Minister I am to direct my remarks, because Senator A. J. McLachlan represents the Department for External Affairs, which we were old yesterday is always called into consultation before any agreement is finally consummated, SenatorFoll represents the Department of Trade and Customs, and Senator Allan MacDonald represents the Department of Commerce. In spite of the assurances given in another place, we know that no such thing as harmony exists in the Cabinet. War to the knife is going on to decide whether the Department of Commerce or the Department of Trade and Customs shall be the dominating authority in trade agreements. I extend my sympathy to the Government, but, at the same time, I am delighted, because I know that in building the Cabinet it was merely constructing its own political coffin. It cannot carry on much longer with these disintegrating influences at work. In order to show how disintegrating they are, I suggest that the war now raging on the other side of the chamber as to which Minister I am to address is also being waged as to which Minister is to lead the delegation to London. If Dr. Earle Page is sent, a great deal of difficulty will be caused, and he workers of the nation will be cast into despondency.
– The honor- able senator can trust him with every confidence. He will give a fair deal to every one.
– We in this chamber do not have the opportunity of such intimate contact with Dr. Earle Page and his utterances as members in another place have, but we do have the fine . and much appreciated opportunity of listening to his chief henchman in this chamber, Senator E. B. Johnston. The honorable senator suggests that, because Dr. Earle Page belongs to the Country party, that is prima facie evidence that he will give a fair deal to all parties, but we have had no evidence of it from the honorable senator himself, because, like every other member of his party, he believes in selling primary products in the dearest market, and objects to paying one fraction more than he is obliged to. pay for the things used in their production, even if reduced prices mean the ruin of our secondary industries. I have not had to dig very far back into political history to find something coming from Dr. Earle Page which I think is both disturbing and startling. That honorable gentleman, in his policy speech in 1934, when Minister for Commerce, as he is now, said that, in his opinion, it was essential that there should be a drastic reduction of the then existing tariff to the level of 1921-28. An extract from page 111 ofHansard of the 1st November, 1934, little more than three years ago, is as follows : -
Inthe Inverell Times of the 20th of August, 1934, appears the following extract from a speech delivered by Dr. Earle Page in the Inverell district on the 17th August, 1934: - “ There is no better way of increasing wages than by reducing costs.”
I have heard Senator E. B. Johnston say the same thing, not nearly so eloquently or so definitely - “ What better way is there to do this than to get cheap things from Japan and other places ?”
Am I to talk to the representative of the Minister for Commerce in this chamber on the protection of Australian industries under the Ottawa agreement, knowing that I am merelyaddressing the deputy for Dr. Earle Page, who says that the only way out of our economic difficulties is the purchasing of cheap goods, whether they come from Japan or anywhere else? First, it is an impossibility for this Government to reconcile these disintegrating forces, and, secondly, it is a disgrace to any government to ask this Parliament and the people of Australia to accept the impossible attempt which it is making to effect such a reconciliation. Mr. Archie Cameron, who, I understand, is the Assistant Minister for Commerce in the House of Representatives, said on the 4th November, 1931, in the South Australian Parliament, as recorded in Hansard of that date: -
As a straight out freetrader I believe in buying in the cheapest market. It does not matter to mo where the article is made so long as it serves the purpose for which I want it.
Those are the men to whom we are asked to entrust the future of Australia, and the destiny of its great manufacturing industries! It is also feared, by the majority of the people who take an interest in this subject, tha’t the leader of the Country party will be sent to the other side of the world, to the very heart of the Empire, to help to revise the Ottawa agreement. How can we expect him to adopt the attitude of fully protecting Australian interests, to which the Leader of the Senate referred in his statement?
– Australian interests have not done too badly while Dr. Earle Page has been in office, during the last few years.
– I shall have something to say in a moment about how well the Government hae done. I hope I shall miss none of these salient points. 1 notice that the Canberra Times of yesterday said something on this matter. I am not holding up the Canberra Times as the last word in journalistic wisdom, but, in spite of the slighting references so often made by the Leader of the Government to any quotations which I make from the press, I intend to read a brief extract from yesterday’s issue. I could almost imagine that the paper had an advance copy of the statement which Senator A. J. McLachlan has just read to the Senate. The Canberra Times said -
It is recognized, however, that the details involve much consideration. Some sacrifice may be necessary, but closer co-operation between America and Britain is an object worth striving for, even if it involves a measure of sacrifice on both sides.
I shall not at any time willingly agree to any proposal which in any way entails sacrifice of the interests of Australian secondary industries and the people dependent upon them for their livelihood. It may be objected that I am not willing, to give something away in order, to gel something in return. That would not bc a fair interpretation of my remarks. 1 repeat that I shall not willingly agree ti any sacrifice, and I suggest that s mutually satisfactory bargain will not involve sacrifice. But does anybody believe that the Australian representatives who will go to the other side of the world to take part in this round-tab, conference will be in such a. strong economic position that they are likely to get something for nothing? The idea ifpreposterous to those who know Australia’s mouthpieces at such conferences. It is idle to expect from this composite Government of conflicting element! any sort of cohesive and continuous policy, in the interests of Australia,
The Leader of the Senate (Senator A. D. McLachlan), in the course of his remarks this afternoon, said that Australia had not done so badly under th Ottawa agreement. By this I presume he means that since the agreement was made things have been going pretty well with this country.
– So they have.
– Of course. Senator Dein is quite positive. He knows all about the subject! But I have obtained some figures dealing with Australia’s visible imports and exports, and since they come from an official source, they cannot be successfully challenged, ft i3 true that they may be juggled i little, for we know that although figure.’ cannot lie there are in this world someverY fine liars who can use figures to buttress their own arguments. Nevertheless, these figures tell a story that is irrefutable. In 1932-33, imports into Australia amounted to £58,013,860, anr; exports to £96,597,225, expressed in sterling. In 1935-36, our visible import totalled £85,313,055, arid our exports £107,833,613, showing a favorable balance of £22,520,558, as compared with £38,583,365 in 1932-33, or a decrease oi £16,062,807. These figures indicate thai the unction of the Leader of the Senate concerning/the trend of trade since the making of the Ottawa agreement is hardly justified. On the contrary, they suggest that the agreement need only bt continued long enough for Australia to get into a decidedly unsatisfactory economic position. During the period mentioned, imports into Australia increased by 47 per cent., whereas exports increased by only 11¾ per cent. The 1932-33 export balance decreased by £16,062,807,
Or 41½ per cent., notwithstanding the remarkable increase of the value of wool exported in 1935-36.
SenatorDein. - Why not furnish the Senate with some figures relating to the volumeof the imports and exports ?
SenatorCOLLINGS. - If ministerial supporters are hungry for further facts they should do their own research, and not attempt to lean on me.
– Figures relating to the volume of trade are unpalatable; that is why the Leader of the Opposition did not give them.
– I have given careful thought to the preparation of my views on this important subject, and I prefer to state them in my own way.
On the 5th May, 1936, the then Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in a speech on trade balance and preferences, said this -
I ask honorable senators to bear in mind not only the effect of this course in respect of duties on agricultural implements and our trade with the United States of America, but also its effect upon our imports as a whole. An alternative would be the flotation of a loan overseas. Can honorable senators contemplatelightheartedly the resumption of borrowing overseas in order to rectify our trade balance?
This Government in a time of alleged prosperity is very lightheartedly asking the Senate and the House of Representatives to approve its proposal to borrow overseas a sum of £2,000,000 in order to meet some of its defence expenditure. Senator Pearce continued -
Do they appreciate what would bo the effect of that step on Australian credit? Another alternative is that which was adopted by the Scull in Government, namely the imposition of embargoes’ and prohibitive duties. Honorable senators must realize that whatever Government is in power it cannot repudiate its overseas obligations and therefore one of the alternatives I have mentioned would have to be adopted. We are now faced with a proposal to- assist the United States of America, which is principally responsible for our adverse tradebalance.
I should mentionthat the proposal then before the Senate was one to reduce the duties on agricultural machinery, which the then Leader of the Senate was opposing
I appeal to honorable senators, having’ regard to the responsibility which they must shoulder, the knowledge which they possess of our trade figures and the delicate position we have been in for the last twelve months, to realize that at any time a drought may come upon us-. We have had a long series of good seasons, and, according to the normal cycle, we are . duo for a period of bad seasons. Honorable senators should not lightly disregard these factors. I can assure them that they are real and are pressing uponthe Government with a good deal of weight at this juncture.
Soon, as a result of negotiations that are about to be’ entered upon between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, Australia will be asked to agree to a course which the then Leader of the Senate said should not; be taken in the interests of this country.
Let us have a look at, the terms of the Ottawa agreement concerning which I expressed my opinion in this chamber four years ago. I have had no reason since then to modify my objections to the arrangements made at Ottawa. I know that the Government will not take notice of any request which I may make, but I wish to make it plain to the Ministry that all the members of this chamber are not “ yes “ men. There are still some who have managed to retain the right to criticize the actions of the Government. We think that’ the Government has no reason to feel proud of the Ottawa agreement. Articles 10 to 13 embody conditions which we regard as the greatest act of treachery everperpetrated towards Australian industry. I ask definitely that they be eliminated. I make this request on behalf of the Opposition and with the knowledge that, the vast majority of the people of Australia, whatever their political opinions maybe, arc in complete agreement with me. Article 10 reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake thatduring the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed sucha level as will (five United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of s neil principle special consideration may lie given to tlie case of industries not fully established.
My comment on that article is that it is a definite challenge to Australia’s national policy of protection.
– Would not the honorable senator give Great Britain anything in exchange for preference in the British market?
– I tell the honorable senator that if members of the Tariff Board were invited to express an opinion on article 10, they would say that it was the cause of never-ending discussion, disagreement and difficulty.
– Not a single Australian industry has been harmed by it.
– Australian secondary industries have done very well under it-
– The interjection of Senator Grant is merely a repetition of the Minister’s observation this afternoon. Article 11 reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that a review shall bo made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tarin” Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof, and that, after the receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board, the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary wherever necessary the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles. -
Every one knows what (his article means and every one knows that every downward variation of the Australian tariff means the dismissal of some Australian workmen from Australian factories, or prevents the development of potential industries to give employment to Australian operatives. The persistent interjections from a number of honorable senators supporting the Government convinces me that my interpretation of the effect on Australian industries of the Ottawa agreement is absolutely correct. When I was preparing the material for my speech, I believed that what I intended to say was right; now I am- sure. Article .12 reads - ,
His Majesty’s Government in the Com mon - wealth of’ Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall be imposed and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods- to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Tribunal.
The members of the Tariff Board, which consists of public; servants and others, appointed by the Government, and that tribunal is now supreme in these matters. Against its verdict the Parliament has not the right of appeal. Article 13 reads -
His Majesty’s Government in thu Commonwealth of Australia undertake that United Kingdom producers shall be entitled to lull rights of audience before the Tariff Board when it has under consideration matters arising under Articles 11 and 12 hereof.
There .have been continual wranglings before the Tariff Board, and it is no nearer solving the difficulties with which it is confronted than is the Government in respect of the national problems with which it is faced. Let us consider what others have said. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the following : -
The main purpose of the Ottawa agreement, as expressed’ in its earlier clauses, was an attempt to aid the primary producer. There are few producers in our big staple rural industries of meat butter and wheat who would not care to claim that much more than a very limited objective has been reached in this direction. Yet, in return for these limited benefits, substantial sacrifices have been made by the Australian manufacturer in the whittling down of the protection which he was previously accorded. A brief summary of this whittling-down process may be stated as follows : -
We know that at such conferences it has been declared repeatedly that the Ottawa agreement, instead of being of benefit, has been disastrous to primary industries. There must be a continual whittling down of the preferences which Australian industries now enjoy. For example, how is the Tariff’ Board to decide what industries are likely to become stable and economical ? Only time can prove whether industries “ are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success”; yet the Tariff Board has, willy nilly, to decide this important point. The importers of British goods appear before the Tariff Board, and ask for reduced duties in favour of manufacturers in the United Kingdom. It is impossible for the Tariff Board to determine whether any Australian industry in its initial stages is likely to become a stable undertaking. The quotation continues-
I do not think it necessary or desirable that I should quote further in that regard. i have criticized the policy of the Government, and I now propose to submit constructive proposals.
– It is not often that we hear constructive proposals from honorable senators opposite.
– The honorable senator is not capable of understanding them when they arc submitted. In my opinion, the following provisions should be borne in mind and regarded as the basis for any new agreement with Great Britain : -
There should be an exchange of specified margins for preference to Australia in regard to its exports of foodstuffs, and to Great Britain in respect to its general exports to Australia. Neither country should expect the other to take goods that woulddisplace domestic production.
In other words, the fiscal policy of Australia has always been Australia first, the United Kingdom second, and other countries third, on a basis of equality.
– Where do the dominions come in?
– I mentioned other countries. If other dominions act as we do, there will be no inequality.
– Would not the honorable senator place New Zealand before Czechoslovakia?
– I cannot be expected to enunciate the trading policies of the other dominions, but I presume they are similar to that of Australia.
Suggestion number 2, which is an elaboration of suggestion number 1, reads -
Great Britain is necessarily a large importer of food products. No more than one-quarter of Great Britain’s total requirements are produced internally. In respect of necessary imports of foodstuffs into Great Britain, Australia should seek preferential treatment.
We should not only seek but should also demand preferential treatment from Great Britain. We are not dependants or suppliants asking favours from Great Britain. Australia, as an important self-governing dominion, is entitled to demand these preferences. Suggestion number 2 continues -
On the other hand, Australia is necessarily a larger importer of machinery goods and merchandise for industry, and many luxury items not manufactured locally.
I suggest for the earnest consideration of the Government that Australia should give a liberal margin of preference to Great Britain over foreign countries on this fair and simple basis -
A trade agreement satisfactory to both parties should be executed which will be free of- all embarrassing and ambiguous clauses such as characterized the agreement made at Ottawa in 1932, which has since engendered so much ill-will. Such provisionshave caused innumerable disputes before the Tariff Board.
When a trade diversion policywas before this Parliament, we were told that its adoption would enable adverse trade balances with other countries to be adjusted. We know what happened. In its desire to adjust the trade with Japan, the Government seriously affected the wool-growing industry, and those dependent upon it. Yesterday, the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs read a statement concerning licences, for the importation in respect of motor car chassis, which, owing to the rate at which it was read, I could not understand. I have since had an opportunity to peruse his remarks, and I maintain that, no intelligent man can understand it, but Senator Dein might. Yesterday, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) made a serious charge in respect of moneys which should have been placed in a trust fund and asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) what he proposed to do in the matter. If I made the charge made by that honorable member, who was once the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, and it is well founded, my seat in this chamber would he declared vacant, and I would be serving a term of imprisonment in one of His Majesty’s gaols.
– That is nonsense.
– It is not. When Sir Henry Gullett was a Minister the Government decided to impose a special tax of .7d. per lb. on imported motor chassis which represented between £5 and £7 on each car, the proceeds of which were to be placed in a trust fund for the purpose of aiding the establishment in Australia of the manufacture of motor vehicles. Instead of the money being placed to the credit of such a fund it was put into Consolidated Revenue, and enabled the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to career around the country, attending banquets, and declaring with pride that the ‘Government had shown a surplus. About £400,000 has been collected by means of this tax, which has gone into Consolidated Revenue. What would happen if the Tariff Board recommended that the project be abandoned ? That is a conundrum which I am quite incapable of answering. I ask the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) to ascertain from Cabinet how it should he answered.
I now wish to speak briefly on the proposed Anglo-American pact. I have gone to considerable trouble to obtain information from a reliable source on this subject, and I state quite confidently that Australia is already committed to an agreement to be entered into between Great Britain and the United States of America -without any regard whatever of its disadvantageous effect upon Australian industries.
– What commitment has been entered into?
– I have stated quite definitely that I believe that this Government has committed Australia to the pact to be entered into between those countries which must prejudice the present preferences now given to Australian primary products on the British market. The Commonwealth has the right to ask the Government of the United Kingdom not to conclude any such pact until Australia has been consulted. I believe that the Australian Government has already been consulted - that negotiations have been conducted by cable and otherwise on this very matter. I know that people connected, for example, with the dried fruits, fresh fruits and canned fruits industries are, because of that fact, nervous about the position. Sir Charles Merrett, the chairman of the Canned Fruits Control Board, in a statement published in the press on Saturday last, said -
I definitely stand by my previous statement. I fear that Australia is already committed, and that thu proposed conference in London next year is merely to confirm what has already been done.
I agree with that view, and say that the action already taken by the Government in this matter constitutes further treachery to the secondary industries of this country.
– A moment ago the honorable senator said that he believed that he was correct in making such a statement, but now he says definitely that the position is as he ha3 described it.
– I say that if the position is as I have suggested, the action of this Government in connexion with the negotiations, as were its actions in respect of the Ottawa agreement, constitute a definite act of treachery to the manufacturing industries of this country. 1” am not now in any doubt as to that. I believe that this pact between Great Britain and America will strike a dastardly blow to Australian industry. I ask the Minister whether he can assure the Senate that the Government is not already pledged to this pact, and, if not, is he able to give honorable senators a definite assurance that the Government will not commit Australia to an AngleAmerican pact that will prejudice the preferences at present enjoyed by our primary products on the British market?
Once more, with all the earnestness at my command, I enter my protest against the treatment which this Senate has received from the Government. As forcibly as I can, I protest against the fact that members of this chamber are never taken into the confidence of the Government, and that we are asked to vote blindly on such very important matters as the revision of the Ottawa agreement and the proposed Anglo-American trade pact. Such a position is most unsatisfactory.
-We are not going to vote on this occasion.
-We are being invited through the reading of a statement by the Leader of the Senate to say something about the Government’s trade proposals, and I repeat that we are being asked to do this blindly.
– We are not voting blindly; we are not voting at all.
– That is so; but I am giving voice to our feelings in respect of the Government’s proposals. I object that we, as intelligent legislators, are asked to take part in this debate without having been taken into the confidence of the Government. With all due respect to the Leader of the Senate, I say that his statement this afternoon was such a jumble of words, vague and meaningless, that it was not worthy of the Government or himself, and it was an insult to the collective intelligence of honorable senators.
.- The Leader of the Opposition commenced his speech by suggesting the uselessness of bringing this matter before the Senate at this stage. He then proceeded to say that if the Government went on with this pact and committed itself to a renewal of the Ottawa agreement, Parliament would be told that it could accept or reject those arrangements, but in no circumstances could it amend them. If such be the case, it is a sound reason why this matter should come before the Senate at this stage and why honorable senators should be given the opportunity to voice their opinions for the guidance of the Government before it enters into any pact or agreement. I submit that the Government would have been absolutely recreant to its duty had it not given this chamber an opportunity to discuss this matter. In fact, the Senate would have been belittled in the eyes of Australians if, after giving to members of the House of Representatives an opportunity to debate this matter for a full day, the Government had declined to give to this chamber a similar opportunity, particularly in view of the fact that this matter is one of the most important proposals that has yet been brought before this Parliament. I am not sure whether the
Government will, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests, be in a position to say to this Parliament later that it must accept willy-nilly any pact or agreement or reject the arrangement in its entirety, but I do not believe that that will be the case. The Government has acted properly in giving honorable senators an opportunity, before such a difficulty arises, to say at least : “ Well, in. certain ways we believe in this proposed agreement, but do not make any serious mistakes in your negotiations; if you can take notice of what we say, do not place us in the position of having to vote against the proposals which will result from your negotiations on the other side of the world.” It seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition has very little confidence in the strength of his cohort, which will be in this chamber after June next. I believe that the honorable senator is viewing this matter in the light of the strength of the Opposition in this chamber at the present time. I imagine, however, that any agreement which may be entered into by the Government will not be consummated, or will not be placed before Parliament for its consideration until after next June.
– We shall have the old choice - take it or leave it - as was the case in respect of the Ottawa agreement in 1932.
– I remind Senator Brown that, after June next, the strengths of parties in this chamber will be different from what they were when the present Ottawa agreement was adopted by this Parliament and if, in such circumstances, the loyalty of certain honorable senators on this side were strained and the sentiments just expressed by the Leader of the Opposition were converted into action by his new colleagues, the Government would have much difficulty in having its proposals adopted in the Senate. I say, advisedly, that this is one of the most important matters with which the Australian Parliament has been called upon to deal. To some extent, I believe, with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), that the statement made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) this afternoon, although couched in attractive language, meant very little.
Apparently it -was meant to re-assure honorable senators, but it was interspersed with so. many qualifications that almost any one would find it easy to point out that it did not actually contain any definite promises.
Before proceeding to deal in detail with the proposed Anglo-American pact, and the proposed amendments of the Ottawa agreement, I suggest that it is absolutely a waste of time to rely on figures in order to determine the effect of the Ottawa agreement on our trade from 1932 to 1937. That agreement has been in operation during a period of extraordinary economic stress throughout the world. It came into being when the depression was at its nadir; without it, Australia would have returned to normal. The fact that it may not have done any harm to the secondary industries means nothing, because the factories in all countries, with the possible exception of Japan, have been during the latter part of that period in full operation. Their own markets have been full, with the result that they have not attempted in any way to flood Australia with articles which, in ordinary circumstances, they might have attempted to send in. But, if present circumstances on the other side of the world disappear,’ as they must within a very short period, when the armaments flood has run its full course, and conditions in those countries return to normal, engineering and other factories will find their output decreasing on account of the completion of the armaments programmes, and they will look around for fresh markets. The circumstances then will not be similar to those which we have experienced during the last few years. We must, therefore, view with a great measure of reservation, tho facts which it is suggested that trade figures in relation to the Ottawa agreement prove. In view of all the circumstances which I have mentioned they prove very little indeed. In respect of these negotiations, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), on behalf of the Government, has given assurances that both our primary and secondary industries will be consulted in order that their interests may not be endangered. I believe that he and his Ministers are sincere in that respect, and that even mem bers of the Country party have assumed a new soul in regard to this matter. Perhaps I should not go to that extreme, but I suggest that members of the Country party realize that the welfare of the secondary industries of Australia is essential to the prosperity of this country. That change of outlook on their part has been brought about, I believe, by the large amount of employment given by secondary industries. They appreciate that those industries, almost, .if not entirely, solved the problem of unemployment during the depression years, and, at the same time, provided primary producers with a profitable local market. From conversations which I have had with Senator Hardy and other members of his party I am confirmed in this view; I believe that these men are beginning to realize that the primary industries are not the only pebbles on the economic beach in Australia, and that it is essential that both sections of industry should be encouraged side by side. I am glad to say that during recent years such a policy has proved its worth by establishing a well-balanced economic system in Australia, and that the view is now held by both sections represented in the Government that it is only through such a policy that we can recover prosperity, and give increased employment. The Prime Minister .has assured us -that the interests of the secondary industries will be consulted before the delegation goes abroad. I hope that that assurance will” be very liberally interpreted. I disagree with the view expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that Australia has been committed in any way in respect of any Anglo-American pact. I know that some criticism has been voiced in this respect, but I cannot imagine for one moment that it is justified. It would be absolutely inconsistent with this Government’s policy to enter into any agreement which involved our adherence at all costs to anything decided upon by Great Britain and the’ United States of America. It would not acquiesce merely by saying, “ Whatever you do, Australia will follow you.” I hope that the Prime Minister will place a liberal interpretation on his undertaking to consult those engaged in both primary and secondary industries before the delegation leaves Australia. In this matter, I want to leave no room for misunderstanding. Last week representatives of manufacturers from all over Australia were in Canberra in order to present certain resolutions to the Prime Minister.
– And representatives of the primary industries are here to-day.
– That is so. The presence of these gentlemen in Canberra will enable the Prime Minister to say later, if he so desires, that he did consult with the representatives of both primary and secondary industries during the second week of December, 1937, and that by so doing he had fulfilled his promise. I do not think that the Prime Minister will take that stand; but the way is open for such a. claim. I want it to be placed beyond doubt that before the delegation leaves Australia, these interests will be consulted.
– Does the honorable senator know who will lead the delegation ?
– No. One of my complaints is that the Government did not voluntarily present to the Senate the statement which its Leader read to-day; it acted, only as the result of what happened here yesterday. After all. there is not a great deal of difference between the desires of the primary producer and those engaged in secondary industries so far as the Ottawa agreement is concerned. Both interests desire an alteration of the verbiage of the agreement, particularly the words “ reasonable competition “. Those words have caused, and are still causing a good deal of trouble. The position should be made clear. Had the article containing those words been administered according to its literal meaning, at least 30 per cent, of the factories of Australia would have had to close down. The primary producing interests also have cause to complain about the interpretation placed on those words. In this connexion, the Tariff Board is to be commended, for it has practically said that the words do not mean what they say, and have to be interpreted in the light of attendant circumstances. There have been charges of bad faith on both sides. In any new agreement which may be entered into, there should be no room for such charges. Nothing causes bad feeling between friends so quickly as does a loose business arrangement. Article 10 of the agreement, which provides that manufacturers in the United Kingdom are to be given equal opportunities for reasonable competition with manufacturers in Australia, means, if it means anything at all, that 50 per cent, of the goods of any particular line that are consumed in Australia shall be manufactured in Australian factories, and the balance in Great Britain.
– Is tho honorable senator prepared to move that no such provision shall be included in any new agreement ?
– I am advising the Government against the inclusion of any such provision; I am telling it what the secondary industries of this country, desire in this connexion. The alteration of the verbiage will probably not alter the practice of the Tariff Board and of Parliament in regard to the agreement, but it will leave no room for any misunderstanding in the future. I hope that full effect, will be given to the Prime Minister’s promise before he goes away.
Sena tor Duncan-Hug hiss. - Is the Prime Minister going away?
– I do not know. But I do know of a gentleman whose leadership of tho delegation would be acceptable to those engaged in secondary industries. I could, in fact, mention the names of two or three men who would make acceptable leaders ; and I could also mention others who would not be acceptable. The Government knows as well as I do the men who would not be acceptable to the secondary industries. I trust that it will not outrage public opinion in this matter by sending as leader of the delegation a man who is suspect as to the value he places on Australian secondary industries.
The Commerce Department is supposed to negotiate and administer trade treaties; but, whilst I do not undervalue its achievements, I point out that ever since its establishment its function has been to deal solely with primary products. Obviously, therefore, the Minister in charge of that department is not the man to lead a delegation which will be authorised to negotiate treaties affecting Australian secondary industries.
– The marketing of primary products is an important aspect of the Ottawa agrement
– It is a one-sided aspect. The honorable senator knows that the activities of the Commerce Department have been confined to primary products. In that field, it has, I believe, done good work.
– Is it possible to sell A.ustralian manufactured goods outside this country?
– Had it not been for improved prices for primary products, there would be no secondary industries in Australia to-day.
– The honorable senator has not kept abreast of recent developments. In 1931, when conditions were at their worst, both primary and secondary industries were in a bad way, but with the coming into power of the Lyons Government,, and the restoration of confidence, secondary industries immediately began to absorb unemployed workers.
– Improved prices for primary products made further employment possible.’
– It was not until 1.935-36 that wool prices showed any considerable advance; and those prices continued for only one year. Secondary industries, however, continued to put more and more men into jobs. For some years wool prices fluctuated, but, in 1937, they again rose, as did also the prices of other primary products, including butter, wheat, and metals. I emphasize that right from the beginning of the depression in 1931-32, the number of men employed, in Australian factories, as well as the output of those factories, increased, and that the improvement was mot due to better prices for primary products.
– Has the export of secondary products increased?
– Not to any great extent, but there is opportunity for expansion. Australia already supplies practically all the iron and steel requirements of New Zealand, it sends large quantities of manufactured goods to South Africa, and is in a position to export agricultural machinery. At the moment, Australia could sell galvanized iron in a number of countries at below world prices, but as the output is not sufficient for Australian requirements, the export trade has not been developed. However, when Lysaght’s new £1,000,000 factory at Port Kembla is finished an export trade in galvanized iron should commence. On previous occasions I have quoted figures to show that the prices of pig iron, steel bars, and other steel products, are at least 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, cheaper in Australia than in Great Britain.
– What percentage of Australia’s exports is represented by secondary products?
– About 5 per cent. I remind the honorable senator of my earlier statement that trade figures for the last five or six years must be accepted with caution, because they do not prove what they set out to prove. I do not want to labour this matter, but I was glad to hear the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) acknowledge that certain limitations had been placed on tariff autonomy. That is what some of us in this chamber have said on many occasions. Since, admittedly, there has been a limitation of tariff autonomy, it is evident that Parliament is not supreme in these matters. When tariff schedules have been under discussion the Government has claimed that in such matters Parliament could do what it liked; but this statement admits that the Parliament has been subject to limitations. The words used are very nice, although perhaps they may not sound impressive, but their actual meaning is that to a certain extent Parliament has handed to an outside body its right to be the final arbiter in tariff matters. . The secondary industries of Australia, and I believe the people generally, will be quite content with two or three rather small amendments- of the Ottawa agreement, and I do not think that there will be any difficulty in getting them. At the same time, the task is going to be bigger than it was before, because, instead of the parties to the agreement being Great Britain and the dominions, including Australia, the United States of America has in some way come into the picture, and we may be asked to make sacrifices which we may not regard as in our best interests.
As we are in tlie dark, a ml as I understand the Government also is in the dark, that, is all the more reason why the man we send to thu other side of, the world to represent Australia must he fully seised of the importance of both sides in industry, and able to hold his own amongst the astutest politicians, not only of Great Britain,! but also of the United Stales of America; and I am told that there aru some pretty “slim” politicians on the other side of the world. To show the danger of dealing with the United States’ of America in the ordinary way, let me quote the answers given by the Minister for Trade and Customs to questions asked by Sir Henry Gullett in June last as to the policy of the American Government towards treaties with other countries. The first question was - ls it a fact that prior in iiic introduction el’ the trade diversion policy adopted with respect to the United States of America the Commonwealth Government endeavoured to enter into trade negotiations with the 1’i ted States of America, hut the United States of America Government would not enter into such negotiations?
The answer was “ Yes The. second question was -
Is it a fact that one of the reasons given for the refusal to negotiate was that the President of the United States is only authorized to enter into trade treat)’ negotiations with a country when he is satisfied that there is prospect for the United States to increase her export trade with that country as a. result of the treat)’ negotiations?
The answer was -
The United States Trade Agl cements Act ot l!).’<4 empowers the President to enter into foreign trade agreements only ‘’ for thu purpose of expanding foreign markets for the product* of the United States’”, it was represented to the Commonwealth Government that the United Slates Government could not therefore legally negotiate with the Commonwealth Government except for thu purpose of increasing United States exports to Australia.. lt, therefore*, seems to be highly necessary that the leader of the Australian delegation should not be wanting in astuteness when negotiating with those who say that they will not enter into foreign trade agreements except for the purpose of expanding foreign markets for (he products of their own country. The third question was -
What was Australia’:- accumulated adverse commodity trade balance with the United
States for the ten years preceding the introduction of the Government’s trade diversion policy?
The answer was - £180.000.000 for the ten verna ending the 30th June,’ 193;”.. in addition to that Australia paid to the United States of America, during the same ten year period, £22,000,000 in interest on Commonwealth and State loans. Another question was as to the import duty on sheep’s wool entering the United States of America, and the answer was -
The import duty on apparel wools ranges from 2!) cents to :)7 cents per pound (clean content). This i.« equivalent in Australian currency to a range of duties from ls. Old. to U. 10 id. per II). [f the suggested treaty with America is to be of any use to Australian woolgrowers, a most substantial cut must be made in. the duties’ imposed by the United States of America on wool imports, lt must not: be forgotten that there i.i somewhat more difficulty now in making agreements with America than there would have been in the ordinary course, because a little more i hu n twelve months ago Australia embarked upon a trade diversion policy, putting certain restrictions on American imports, which have to bo licensed. I have, always thought the licensing system a very bad one. I regarded it as a mistake at the time, but the Government went on with it, and certain results have followed, one of which is that extra capital has been employed or is in process of being employed in Australia-. Something over £3,000.000 has been invested in new enterprises or in expanding old enterprises as a consequence of the Government’s trade diversion policy, ‘and the prevention of products of the United States of A’merica from entering Australia. I do not know the exact effect of the statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs in the House of Representatives yesterday with regard to tho alteration of the Government’s policy towards America, but, whatever is done, the Government must be most careful that the £3,000,000 of new capital invested in our industries as a result of trade diversion is not thrown into the gutter.
Senator Gibbon j It lias not increased the market for the primary producer in Australia by any means.
– I was not looking at the matter so much from the point of view of its effect upon the primary producer. As I said, the policy of issuing licences is a great mistake from many points of view. It is hard to get officials in every State to administer it in the same manne]-, and it would be easy for any unscrupulous person to manipulate it 10 his own advantage. For half a dozen other reasons the policy is a bad one in essence, and should not be resorted to unless no other means of averting an evil can be found. It must also bc remembered that the trade diversion policy had the effect of giving other countries the trade which America had with Australia. According to the answers given to Sir Henry Gullett, Australia gained ?764,000 worth of the trade diverted from America, the United Kingdom ?802,000 worth,’ Canada ?169,000 worth, Germany ?225,000 worth, and Belgium. ?88.000 worth, whilst France, Japan and other foreign countries shared the balance. As regards the motor, car business, although the increase of imports from the United Kingdom into Australia was ?638,000 about ?400,000 worth of it was due to our trade diversion policy, which kept out many American cars. For all these reasons, the Government, in altering that policy, is faced with something which I hope it has considered from all aspects, and to the fullest possible extent. It must remember first that the trade has been diverted to a certain extent to Great Britain, Canada, Germany, Belgium, and other countries, as well as Australia; and, secondly, that in Australia it has brought about the expenditure of over ?3,000,000 in establishing new enterprises or extending old ones. All that capital would be lost if steps were not taken to preserve the protection afforded to the industries in which it is invested. I think the matter of economic internationalism, if honorable senators prefer that term, is being worked to death. There seems to be an idea, that a freetrade policy all over the world would lead to a better understanding between nations, and ultimately to peace. My belief is that, if such a thing came about, it would lead to the biggest economic fights thai the world has ever seen. A low-wage country like Japan, especially with its new acquisition .of Chinese territory, would absolutely flood us out. The people of Great Britain and Australia could no; afford to allow such goods to enter on a freetrade basis. There is too much high falutin’ about economic internationalism, and too much blame is put upon economic nationalism. Sir Geoffrey Clarke, in his presidential address to the British Chambers Of Commerce at Manchester, said -
At tlie recent congress in Berlin tlie grout est stress was In id cm the importance of the removal of trade burners, stabilization of currencies, settlement of international debts, understanding as to armaments, and the better distribution of raw materials, food nml clothing throughout the world. These are. noble sentiments, but let us be honest with ourselves. Do wo really desire a general reduction of tariffs or an abolition of quotas? Is it not to tariffs mid quotas that we owe much of our present industrial prosperity? Would manufacturers welcome their abolition? World-wide agreement on this profound question is a magnificent conception but the successive failures of world economic conferences suggest that success will not attend efforts on such a basis, and the only course now open to Great Britain, as thu biggest importer in the world, is bilateral agreement by which she must insist on the right to sell to countries from which she purchases.
The Right Honorable L. S. Amery, in an article contributed by him to the English National Review, for May, 1937, said : - lt is only the sheer force of tradition that keeps up the idea that n freetrade world to-day would contribute to British prosperity. Tt would, in fact, be the death of us.
It appears, therefore, that the people of Great Britain are gradually catching up to the conception of economic nationalism as understood in Australia. We believe here in a balanced economy, with secondary industries providing work for the toilet’s of Australia, helping to create the wealth that keeps industry going, and maintaining the standard of living. I hope first, that the Government will make no mistake as to the quality of the leader and personnel of the delegation to be sent to the other side of the world; secondly, that, remembering that our secondary industries desire to help the primary industries in every possible way, it will so qualify the wording of the Ottawa agreement that there will be 11 0 misunderstanding between parties in Australia, or between Australia and Great Britain; And thirdly, that in any negotiations that may take place between the delegates representing the three governments the greatest care will be taken to see that the welfare of the secondary and’ primary industries, as well as the interests of the workers in Australia, have first consideration. We believe that the interests of Australia should be the chief concern of the Australian delegation, and that the interests of Great Britain and the other dominions should receive attention in their natural order. After these considerations are met, we shall approve of any arrangement to deal, on the easiest possible terms, with other friendly countries.
– I welcome this opportunity to make a few observations concerning the proposed revision of the Ottawa agreement. There is no doubt that the Government’s decision to submit the agreement to a conference for revision has caused alarm to those engaged in our primary industries, and, after listening to Senator Leckie this afternoon, we now know that concern also is felt in our secondary industries. In these days of economic nationalism, there is always tho fear that any revision of existing trade agreements will further restrict the markets open to our primary producers.
My principal object in speaking this afternoon is to express the hope that in any revision of the Ottawa agreement, the valuable preference enjoyed by Australian producers in the British market will be retained, because that is our best overseas market. I hope, also, that there will be no curtailment of the very limited opportunities given to British industries in Australia. If our export industries are to be maintained in a healthy condition, and expanded, the United Kingdom market must be retained.
I was interested in the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). That honorable senator gave me the impression that, if he had his way, those articles in the Ottawa agreement which give to British industries reasonable opportunity to compete in the Australian market would be eliminated, although I note that he is in favour, as I am, of retaining for Australian primary producers the British market. Our friends in the Labour movement will have to realize that we cannot indefinitely continue to sell to other countries, including Great Britain, unless we are prepared to buy from them a reasonable quantity of their products. I believe in two-way trade.
I would not approve of a condition of affairs under which we should be sending from our shores ships filled with Australian primary products and expecting them to return in ballast. I desire full reciprocal trade with Great Britain.
– Members of the Country party have to learn also that the best market for our primary producers is the Australian market. “Senator E. B. JOHNSTON.- The Australian market is a very valuable one ; we fully appreciate its worth, but it cannot absorb more than a fraction of our total primary production. Neither can it pay the interest on our overseas debts.
– It would be able to absorb more if our secondary industries were encouraged to a greater extent.
– We have heard a good deal about the need for the encouragement of Australia’s secondary industries. All my life I have seen them given encouragement in the form of protective duties and other aids. They have been afforded more than reasonable protection. I do not forget that some of our secondary industries have developed into powerful mono; polies, and I believe that the measure of competition provided under the Ottawa agreement can do them no harm. At all events, I stand for the continuance of the principles in the existing agreement, in order to ensure ready access to British markets for our surplus primary production, and I am prepared to take a fair proportion of British manufactures in exchange. The Country party stands solidly for the principle of Empire preference, and desires also to increase the opportunities for marketing our products in the United Kingdom.
The present rate of exchange between Great Britain and Australia enabled our primary producers to survive during the depression, with its accompanying low prices in overseas markets. I do not know whether exchange will be considered at the forthcoming conference in London, because the rate is determined by the Commonwealth Bank, although I remember that the Bank of New South Wales some years ago gave a useful lead in this matter; but I wish to make it clear to whoever leads the Australian delegation that it is the earnest wish of the Country party that the present rate of exchange shall be retained. This is of vital importance to our primary producers.
I was amazed at some of the criticism directed against the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), particularly in connexion with the suggestion that he may lead the Australian delegation. I understand why the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and his supporters raised this issue. Their wish is to create discord between the parties represented in the composite Government; but I cannot understand why Senator Leckie should also offer objection. If hip remarks under this head were directed against Dr. Earle Page, they were entirely unwarranted, because that gentleman is one of the trusted leaders of the composite Government.
– I did not mention his name.
– No; but the object of the honorable senator’s comment was clear. Dr. Earle Page is deputy Prime Minister, and I believe enjoys equally with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the confidence of all the members of the two parties supporting the Government. Since the subjects to be dealt with by the forthcoming conference are handled by the Commerce Department, Dr. Earle Page, who administers that department, should lead the delegation.
– The matters to be dealt with relate to the Department of Trade and Customs.
– No; the definite purpose of the conference is to strengthen and broaden the commercial ties between the three governments to be represented at it, and to develop Empire preferential trade, with the introduction of the United States of America to the agreement.
It has been objected that Dr. Earle Page is a low tariffist and therefore should not lead the delegation. I have never held that view of his fiscal policy. He does not share the very low tariff views of the Western Australian Country party. For the last five and a half years as a senior member of the composite government, he has held the balance evenly between our primary and secondary industries. During the last! three years the Country party has made substantial progress in this Parliament. Wherever 1 look I see the Country party gaining fresh laurels in the form of rural constituencies in the various Parliaments. In this Parliament, for instance, we now have Country party men representing Darling Downs in Queensland, Bendigo in Victoria, and Grey, in South Australia.
Although personally I have no reason to complain of the existing system, T am hoping that one day we shall see adopted in connexion with the elections for the Senate, a system under which Country party electors will return their own candidates on their own votes. The Minister for Commerce is the natural and proper leader for this delegation.
I hope it will be possible for the Government to invite representatives of our great primary industries to take part in the forthcoming conference, if not as delegates, perhaps in an advisory capacity. The selection of men with a .complete knowledge of our wool, wheat, meat, butter and fruit-producing industries, would greatly strengthen the hands of the Australian delegation. It should easily be possible to draw from the ranks of our co-operative associations, two or three gentlemen with the requisite knowledge of these industries. The welfare of all sections of Australian industries, as well as the interests of the people generally, will, I hope, be watched carefully when the agreement is being revised or, as I prefer to think, renewed.
The agreement has been of very great value to the Australian export industries and I hope that the principle of Empire preferential trade will be preserved and extended. I was pleased to read in the report of the debate last night in the House of Representatives, that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) declared that the Government would not drop the present substance of the Ottawa agreement for the shadow. I take it this means that the Government will not agree to any lessening of the advantages which the agreement has given to Australian primary producers, and I feel sure that if Dr. Earle Page leads the delegation the interests of both primary and secondary industries will be carefully safeguarded.
– As the Senate has already had numerous opportunities to discuss, in general terms, the Ottawa agreement, it is not necessary that I should now occupy the time of this chamber for very long. The views of honorable senators are fairly well known. I cannot say that I was very much surprised by anything contained in the speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) or in that of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). Nor was I surprised at the remarks of Senator Leckie. I regret that the honorable gentleman is not at the moment in the chamber. I have always thought, and have endeavoured to act accordingly, that when one expresses one’s views, it is desirable to listen to one or two succeeding speakers in order to ascertain what they have to say by way of reply.
Last night Senator Leckie expressed some concern at the possibility of the Minister for External Affairs “buttingm” T to the province of the Minister for Commerce or the Minister for Trade and Customs. The honorable senator was afraid, that the Minister for External Affairs might have some share in framing a trade treaty, but to-day he has altered his ground a good deal. His chief anxiety now seems to be to prevent certain Ministers, who do not hold the opinions he holds, from representing Australia at the conference. In other words, he favours the selection of Ministers favorable to his view, which is purely the view of those engaged in secondary production. I do not think that I have ever .heard the honorable senator utter a single word to indicate that he appreciates the difficulties of the primary producers. He has invariably ignored the fact that over-emphasis on the secondary industries constitutes one of the greatest dangers to the primary industries in Australia to-day.
I agree to some extent with the view expressed by Senator Johnston that the proper persons to make a commercial treaty would appear to be the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) and, I think, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). They are Ministers who ought to have at their disposal all the information required. I maintain that it is not desirable for certain Ministers to be constantly running to and from the other side of the world. I am in favour of occasional visits being made by prominent Ministers-, but they have their duties in Australia to perform, and it is inadvisable for them to travel to and from Great Britain practically every year. Munsters who have been placed in charge of the Trade and Commerce Departments to carry out responsible work should conduct negotiations in respect of trade treaties.
– They would, of course, carry out the policy of the Government.
– They would keep in touch with the Government in Australia. I was about to say that if no gentlemen representing special interests were in attendance, no great harm, would be donn. At Ottawa, there was a large and distinguished delegation of persons representing different industries, who went there largely to look after their own interests and to counteract the actions of others. I do not think that the forthcoming conference would be improved by the presence of representatives of any special interests. Their views are definitely known to the Ministers before they leave Australia. I say with all respect that, in the long run, such persons must occupy a good deal of Ministers’ time without serving any useful purpose.
On the general question of trade treaties, I notice that the Minister (Senator A. J. McLachlan) claims that the secondary industries are valuable, because we must have migrants in Australia. How many additional migrants have settled in Australia during the last six years, when secondary industries have been developing at a tremendous rate?
– Had -we not had a protective policy, we would not have one half of the population we have to-day.
– Surely that is not so. Australia was founded about 150 years ago, and I think I am right in saying that when I was a young man there were approximately 5,000,000 persons in Australia, and that during the last half-century, the population of Australia has increased by only one-half. Moreover, .in the early days, one of the most important States operated under a free trade policy.
– Can -the primary producing industries support an adequate population?
– I hope to deal with that point as I proceed. I do not wish to evade the question, which I have dealt with on previous occasions, but I should like to take my remarks in their order. The migration policy which the Minister mentioned is actually non-existent. British people are leaving Australia more rapidly than they are arriving, and the only additions to the population consist mainly of a few Italians, a number of whom have been settling in Australia within the last few years; to them I do not object. A migration policy which, as I have said, is non-existent is, according to the Minister, stimulated by our secondary industries. These industries have reduced unemployment to a rate lower than it was before the depression, but what effect have they had upon migration ? Migration does not exist, and unless more active steps are taken than those indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech, it will continue to bo ineffective in future.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– If the honorable senator wishes to know my opinions, I refer him to a long speech I made, in the House of Representatives twelve or thirteen years ago on the subject of migration. I do not think it necessary to qualify in any way the statements I then made. A few months ago Senator Leckie said that the Ottawa agreement was of no advantage whatever to Australia,- but he now wishes to delete those portions which he says are of no advantage to us and . to retain those which he considers have been of benefit. The Leader of the Opposition did not cite article 14, which reads -
His Majesty’s Government in tlie Commonwealth of Australia undertakes insofar as concerns goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom :
to reduce or remove primage duty as soon as the finances of Australia will allow, ft is claimed that Australia is now in as sound a financial position as it was before the depression, but primage duty has not yet been removed. Of course if we are to take the view of Senator Leckie that the Tariff Board is right in reading the agreement in a sense contrary to the meaning of its words, the actios of the Government may be justified. The article, however, says “ To reduce or remove- primage duty as soon as the finances of Australia will allow “. Taking the legal view, we might, I suppose, claim that we have the alternative of reducing- or removing primage duty; but surely the obvious meaning of those words is that primage duty will be reduced and removed as soon as possible. The Government has not complied with that provision, neither has it carried out other undertakings decided upon at Ottawa. For years too, it was laid down most definitely in government policy, that there would be no alteration without a recommendation from the Tariff Board ; yet when the trade diversion policy was brought in that undertaking was ignored. Is that a consistent policy? We have made no complaint to Great Britain, on the other hand, and so far as I know that country has not at any time failed to carry out its part of the agreement.
Great Britain, in making a definite complaint concerning cement, said that we were not adhering to the agreement. There are some who say that we must have additional protection to produce certain commodities in the interests of defence. The only defence plan which is really essential to us is the defence which is provided by the mother country. That is the only essential defence that we require, and to speak about the necessity to produce this and that trifling article because it is essential to defence is absurd. 1 notice that in one way and another we are establishing numerous new forms of secondary industries because it is said that they are essential for defence purposes. That argument was first put forward about fifteen years ago, I think, by Sir Herbert Gepp, but it is now continually used as . a means to promote a variety of secondary industries which are said to be essential to defence. I do not hold that view. 1 think that a great many of these things which are foisted upon us in the guise of defence measures cannot possibly bc justified. We come back to the old conflict between primary and secondary industries. Some say that they march arm in ann, while others contend that they march hand in pocket.
The Minister also said that we must look to the whole world as our market, but in the main that must surely be for the marketing of our primary products, because an enormous majority of the products sold overseas is produced by primary industries. We must look to the world as our market for primary products to assist our people, because we cannot expect to dispose of our secondary products overseas. Speaking broadly nobody wishes to buy them. Obviously the failure on our part to comply completely with the Ottawa agreement means that we cannot object if some of our preferences are reduced, and it is quite likely that - subject to what I shrill say in a moment - the reductions will be in respect of our primary products. That of course is exactly what we have expected and what we have said repeatedly in this chamber must eventually happen. One-half of the Government supporters have said that if secondary production is encouraged unduly it must eventually affect primary production. It has commenced to do that. I am certain that Great Britain has not the slightest desire to retaliate in respect of anything that we may or may not have done in connexion with the Ottawa agreement, but I feel that what
I have said will happen; and if we have not complied with our part of the agreement our right to complain has gone. We ought to be exceedingly satisfied if the agreement is renewed. There is no possibility of excluding those portions which do not suit us and retaining those which do, as Senator Leckie suggests.
My opinion has always been that it is better to employ our. people in natural activities rather than in artificial or unnatural undertakings. For the past six years we have all endeavoured to restore employment, but the Government believing that it can be done, as indeed it seems it can be most rapidly, by concentrating on our secondary industries, has now produced in this country a state of affairs where secondary industries are for all practical purposes primary industries. These secondary industries, which are fully protected by law, have gradually taken the position which was formerly occupied by natural industries, with the result that there are hundreds of thousands of men engaged in secondary production who, in my judgment and in the judgment of others, should be distributed throughout the country on wheat farms, orchards, and small holdings. Wool and wheat are, at least, industries which are standing on their own feet, and if they get hit the reaction is bound to affect secondary industry, and possibly cause unparalleled unemployment. What on earth are all these factories to turn out, supposing we experience a really severe depression and the people have not the wherewithal to buy their wares!
– What the honorable senator suggests will happen to primary industries also under similar conditions.
– No ; when it is only a case of keeping in employment a few men here and there, primary industry will make an effort to retain them. A man engaged in rural employment is more easily kept on in times of depression than is a man employed in secondary industry, because the former to a great extent consumes what is produced in the area in which he works; he consumes to a much greater extent what he produces. That is my answer to the honorable senator. Briefly, the economic history of the world shows that natural industries are preferable to the artificial. In some cases, I admit, the latter may even become totally independent of aid ; if that happens, it is all to the good ; but it happens very seldom.
I have explained that if anything is to be taken from us as the result of these negotiations, it is likely to be some of the preferences which we now enjoy for our ‘ primary products. If that happens, we must not be surprised ; indeed, it seems inevitable. I suppose, however, that there is one wider possibility, and that is some general agreement as to a lowering all round of tariffs. Such a movement probably will be only slight. On a past occasion I and about a dozen other honorable senators voted to restore the old 1921-1928 tariff, and if a lowering of duties should come to pass, not only as between Australia, Great Britain, and the United States of America, hut also on a wider basis, I should be very glad. Surely we are not going to ‘take the view, as one or two honorable senators suggest, that we should militate against the future peace of the world by refusing to surrender any advantage which we now possess. Let us consider this aspect, for example, in regard to boots which used to bc largely supplied by Great Britain. To-day 99 per cent, of the boots worn in this country are manufactured here. Are we not prepared to concede another 1 per cent, of the trade in boots if such action would help, even in a slight degree, to avoid war? My personal view is that the general objective of stimulating international trade and promoting good feeling between countries makes general concessions in trade not only justifiable, but also essential. I hope, therefore, that the Government will send to this conference emissaries representative of both sections of the ministerial party; they can argue the matter out when they get to Great Britain and do the best they can for Australia. Perhaps I should say for the benefit of honorable senators opposite that I am not a freetrader; I am a reasonable protectionist, and that is the only kind of protectionist who should exist. Whatever the Government may do, I have no fear that it will have any desire to do harm to either the primary or secondary industries of Australia, but 1 know that its policy during the last few years makes it very likely that if harm falls upon anybody it will fall upon the primary producers.
– In reply to Senator Duncan-Hughes, I point out that I have no objection to the making of trade treaties; what I object to is the action of this Government in misleading the people of Australia in respect of such treaties.
– Disagreements in respect of trade are the things which disturb the peace of the world.
– I agree with the honorable senator ‘that trade antagonisms lead to war, but when I listen to the rhetorical rubbish voiced by the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and Senator Duncan-Hughes, it makes me wonder whether those honorable senators really believe what they say. We shall certainly be sorry to lose Senator Duncan-Hughes when he retires from thi3 chamber, but just now we have heard him holding forth to the effect that if we can only concede to some other country 1 per cent, of the trade in boots, we shall be able to wave the olive branch to every other country, and by such action give a lead in the preservation of peace. The Mussolinis and Hitlers apparently will retire into their rabbit-holes, or sheathe their swords, and the lion will lay down with the lamb, simply because some reciprocal trade agreement is made between Australia and the United States of America. Such assertions are pathetic; they make one wonder whether honorable senators who make them have not altogether lost their perspective. We have no hope of ensuring the peace of the world merely by reducing our tariff duties, and it is useless, as Senator Leckie has said, to continue to “ pull our own legs “ in that respect. We are merely clouding the issue by imagining that we shall bring in an era of world peace, by reciprocal trade agreements. As a matter of fact, Senator Leckie stated that the Ottawa agreement had been broken in many respects by the Australian Government. He said that we had not fully carried out that agreement.
Senator Duncan-Hughes expressed a similar view. We have been similarly accused by Great Britain. In negotiations of this kind, when representatives of different countries enter the conference room, it is a case of diamond cut diamond; an agreement having been signed Australia’s representatives will apparently return with it although the Government will have no intention of fully carrying it out. Regardless of whether or not the Government has any such intention, the agreement will not be carried out. That is the position. I do not know whether we have accused Great Britain of failure to honour in full the present Ottawaagreement, but that country has certainly made such an accusation against Australia. In any case, as honorable senators opposite admitted this afternoon that Australia has not fully carried out its obligations under that compact, what faith can we place in this Government when it says it is going to send delegates abroad to make, not only a fresh agreement with Great Britain, but also a pact with the. United States of America in which it proposes to give certain concessions in order to ensure the peace of the world ? If we have failed to carry out an agreement made between ourselves and the Old Country, how can honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe that the Government will carry out the agreement it proposes to negotiate with the United States of America ?
I entirely agree with my Leader when he says that this Parliament should have the right to lay down the principles upon which an agreement with another country should be made. Admittedly we cannot go into all the details; if we could there would be no necessity to send delegates to conferences overseas to negotiate such agreements. But we should definitely lay down the principles upon which an agreement may be made.
– Every tariff debate shows that to be the case at present.
– Senator Leckie does not agree with articles 10, 11 and 12 of the Ottawa agreement.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), said that that agreement constituted an act of treachery to Australian industry.
– Yet Senator Leckie supports the Government in its efforts to arrange a new agreement along similar lines, and, I take it, by his silence, he is prepared that it should embody these three articles. The honorable senator, together with other honorable senators opposite, does not agree with articles 10,11,12 and 14 of the Ottawa agreement. As my Leader has pointed out, article 3.2 makes this Parliament subordinate to the Tariff Board, a tribunal of its own making. Many members of this Parliament, apart from members of the Labour party, are opposed to these articles, and would like to see them eliminated. We contend that they are pernicious, and, in view of the fact that supporters of the Government also contend that they are wrong in principle, Parliament should make a definite pronouncement in regard to them, so that any delegation journeying overseas to confer with American and British representatives will know that Australia does not desire articles similar to these to be embodied in any further agreement that may be arrived at.
– Article 12 is the essence of the agreement; the schedule is built upon it.
– Apart from the merits of anyagreement that may be made, I ask the honorable senator whether it is not possible for an Australian delegation to come to an arrangement with representatives of the United States of America and Great Britain in regard to trade without embodying a provision of that nature.
– Well, not exactly the same wording; but some such provision would have to be included.
– The honorable senator is hedging. He said that this particular article was vita] to any trade agreement entered into by Australia with other countries.
– That article is the vital provision of the Ottawa agreement, but I suppose it could be varied.
– The honorable senator previously said that the present wording of this provision was essential. Unlike the honorable senator, we of the Opposition are in no doubt as to what we mean; we contend that article 12 is derogatory of the Australian Parliament, and should never have been embodied in any agreement. The Labour party is opposed to any delegation - whether led by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) or the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) - signing an agreement in which will be embodied provisions similar to those contained in Articles 10, 11 and 12 of the Ottawa agreement. Our position is perfectly plain, and admits of no misunderstanding. We on this side do not hold that the mere making of a trade agreement will usher in that era of peace and prosperity of which Senator Duncan-Hughes spoke.
– He said that only incidentally.
– But he meant it. 1 have heard the honorable senator speak on the subject of boots bef ore. On a previous occasion when I followed him in addressing the chamber, I referred to the enormous output of the Bata Company in Czechoslovakia and quoted the statement of Professor Copland that by making full use of their machinery, three firms already” operating in Australia could produce all the boots required in this country. If the manufacturers in the United States of America were to work their machinery day and night, they could produce all the boots required by the people of the world. In the light of those facts, honorable senators -should see the complete absurdity of the Government entering into an agree- . ment with the United States of America to reduce the tariff on boots. Why do not honorable senators opposite see that it is impossible to overcome all our economic disabilities merely by playing at the game of treaty-making? The real cause of the trouble is that under the existing financial system it is impossible to distribute such abundant production. Only recently I pointed out that we shall not solve the problems confronting Australia by diverting trade from one country to another. However desirable a treaty with the United States of America may be as a contribution towards world peace, it will- not accomplish what honorable senators opposite say.
– High tariffs are admittedy a cause of bad international relations.
– Anything that prevents one country from trading with other countries must cause a certain amount of bitterness in the minds of. the people whose trade is impeded. That happens with almost every country whoso product has increased as a result of competition between country and country, and also because of the fear of war and the desire te solve its own unemployment problems. We in Australia entertain a measure of bitterness against those countries which will not buy our goods. Similarly, producers in New Zealand are somewhat bitter because Australian producers arc competing with them in their own territory, and they are trying to convince their government of the wisdom of imposing a tariff on goods imported from Australia. Has the Ottawa agreement taken us one step towards the solution of our economic and defence problems? I am inclined to agree with Senator Leckie that, had there been no Ottawa agreement, Australia’s development would have been the same.
– It could just as well be said that, had the Scullin tariff not been imposed, matters would have straightened themselves out.
– 11NO; the Scullin Government cut out a cancerous growth.
– Docs the honorable senator think that the preferences granted under tlie Ottawa agreement have been of any value to Australia?
– I do not believe that either protection or freetrade will solve the problems that confront us, although I admit that at times economic exigencies necessitate a certain course of action. I remind Senator Herbert Hays of the actions taken by the Governments of the Commonwealth and New Zealand in connexion with the trade between the two dominions in citrus fruits and potatoes. A new country must safeguard its industries by imposing duties which are sufficient to enable them to develop.
– That has been done in Australia.
– Yes. “The imposition of duties on certain commodities has resulted in the development of Australian industries. In, other words, Australia has taken steps towards a form of economic nationalism similar to thai adopted by other countries. That is an inevitable development of the modern system whereby each country, by means of a policy of economic decentralization, attempts to foster its own industries. The more industries that are developed in the various countries, the les3 chance there is of international trade. I should like the Leader of the Senate to give an assurance that any action taken by the delegation will not adversely affect any Australian industry. The honorable gentleman said that Australia may have to make certain minor sacrifices. The people of Australia would like to know the nature of those sacrifices and who will be called upon to make them. Instead of talking in a general way of the probable results of a trade agreement, the Government should be more definite as to the line of action it proposes to take, the nature of the sacrifices that will have to be made, and the sections of the community that will make them. The Senate should not be satisfied with the generalities contained in the Minister’s statement. Unfortunately, we on this side cannot trust the Government.
– That is a compliment.
– Only a few months ago, the Government inaugurated a trade diversion policy which adversely affected the United States of America and Japan. Yesterday, we were told that that policy had been set” aside. Since that policy, which was a form of economic nationalism was inaugurated, £400,000 has been extracted f rom the people, ostensibly for the purpose of establishing a fund to assist in the manufacture of motor engines in Australia. That money was not, however, put into a trust fund, but was credited to Consolidated Revenue. The policy aimed at making Australia less dependent on other countries for certain types of machinery, hut it has now been discarded. In the light of that experience, how can we trust the Government? It speaks glibly of what it will do in the interests of Australia, but, within eighteen months of the inauguration of a new policy, it announces a change which involves the making of minor sacrifices. The people are told that it is done in the interests of world peace.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that Australia should lose nothing and gain all?
– I hope that I have made it clear that I am opposed to the people being misled. I am not opposed to agreements, but I realize their limitations. If we admit them, we shall not mislead the people.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the trade diversion policy of Australia has had something to do with America coming our way now and being prepared to do some of the things wc want?
– Honestly, I do not think our trade diversion policy worried America more than a fly does a horse, or a flea a dog. It might have done a small amount of injury, but we in Australia have, a wrong impression and a distorted perspective. Those who have travelled the world, as I have, know that a relatively small country like this cannot have upon America or the British Empire or the rest of the world the effect that some people here imagine. Whilst an agreement may assist in a measure to further the interests of Australia, it will not do what some honorable senators would like to mislead the people into believing that it will do. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) said -
We must approach the angle of American trade negotiations with a helpful spirit, but we must not drop the substance for the shadow. Our eyes to-day are on London and Washington, but we will not see clearly unless in the background we discern Berlin, Paris, Rome and Leningrad.
That statement is liable to mislead our people into thinking that, simply because another delegation is going to the Old Country, and our eyes are on London and Washington, all our troubles and disabilities are about to be overcome. We on this side of the Senate say that the main object of the Government should be the internal development of Australia. Our eyes should be turned first to Australia itself. We should not give the people the impression that, by making agreements with foreign countries, we shall promote Australian internal development and create a state of affairs in which all our workers” will be employed, and the enterprising leaders of industry receive their due reward. It is hopeless to expect to put back the economic clock, and it is useless for Australia to imagine that it will place itself on an even economic keelmerely by sending another delegation to London, to enter into another agreement such as the one I now hold.
– How does the Labour party propose to improve relations with other countries?
– I have answered that question many times already from my position in the Senate.
– The honorable senator has done everything but answer it.
– No; I have on several occasions made the clear, concise statement that the Labour movement, understanding the evolutionary development of the world, stands first and foremost for the development of Australia to the highest pitch, andthe prosperity of its primary and secondary industries. We shall not give way one iota in that regard. That is contrary to the Minister’s statement, which calls upon the industrialists of this country, whether primary or secondary, to make minor sacrifices. We claim that the making of those sacrifices will not achieve what the Government expects. We say that they should not be made by any Australian industry. We make that clear, concise statement to the world, so that the position of Australia may not be misunderstood. It is absurd, as Senator Leckie said, to “ kid “ to the people, and to pull their legs, but that is what the Government is doing in telling them that, by making these agreements, Australia will advance a long way towards a happy solution of its problems. Development is going on in every country. In respect of what production are our people to be asked to make a sacrifice? Only a few years ago, the American Government actually paid its farmers to kill their pigs and cows, to plough in their’ cotton, and to refrain from growing many other products. Are any of those commodities to be included in an agreement? How absurd it all is! What commodity is to be asked to make a minor sacrifice? America can practically flood the world with most of the commodities it needs. What a trumpery tale is this to put before the Australian people ! I object to giving them the impression that such wonders can be achieved merely by making an agreement with regard to certain commodities that can be produced in abundance in America. What commodity could we send to America that it cannot produce?
– If as the result of sending our wine to America, we get in return commodities that the Empire cannot sell to us and that we cannot produce ourselves, then we shall make a definite step towards raising the standard of living in Australia. There may be minor matters on which some agreement can be come to, but they are very minor, and very few. The making of an agreement to send South Australian wine to the United States of America, will not take us one step towards world appeasement orworld peace. Is there any other commodity that honorable senators would like to mention?
– America might consider buying our wool.
– Why does it not buy our wool now? We are producing wool in great quantities, and its price has been reduced. The stupid action of a stupid government in its trade diversion policy caused Australia to lose nearly £7,000,000 on its wool crop. Only a few weeks ago many graziers in Southern Queensland assured me that they had lost hundreds of pounds as the result of that policy. The Government’s economic proposals will not take us very far towards world peace.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) . adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and sessional orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
A bill similar in several respects was passed by the Senate during the earlier part of this year. The portion of the earlier bill relating to the ports to which the act applies has, however^ been omitted: from this measure which deals with one matter only, namely, the cancellation of licences. e
The amendments proposed in paragraphs a and b of clause 2 have been the subject of representations to the Government by the waterside workers, and in presenting this amendment, the Government is, indeed, doing what it has been requested to do. The amendment in paragraph a relates to subsection 3, which reads as follows : - -
Where a licence issued to any person is cancelled under this section, the licensing officer by whom the licence is cancelled .shall, by writing under his hand, fix a period, not being less than six months nor more than twelve months from the date of cancellation, during which the person shall be ineligible to receive a licence under this’ part, and the person shall, subject to this part, thereupon be ineligible accordingly.
By that provision, a licensing officer cannot cancel a licence for a period of less than six months. Paragraph b of the proposed amendment relates to subsection 6, which reads -
Upon the hearing of an appeal, the court may as it thinks fit, confirm the cancellation or order the restoration of the licence, or, where it confirms the cancellation, may vary the period during which the appellant is ineligible to receive a fresh licence, but so that the period of ineligibility is not less than six nor more than twelve months.
A restraint is placed upon the licensing officer in that he cannot suspend a licence for less than six months, and, further, if an aggrieved waterside worker appeals and is successful to the extent that he convinces the magistrate that his. offence was of a trifling nature, the magistrate, none the less, cannot reduce the term of suspension to less than six. months. Under the proposed amendment, the licensing officer may cancel a waterside worker’s licence for any period not less than one month, nor more than twelve months, and the magistrate, on appeal, may vary the sentence so long as he does not reduce the period of suspension to less than one month.
The amendment in paragraph c of clause 2 is intended to deal with existing cases of cancellation. As the amendments are ameliorative in character, I ask honorable senators to agree to the speedy passage of the measure.
.- It is not my intention to debate the bill at length. When it was before the Senate previously I secured from the Minister in charge a definite assurance that the only purpose of the measure was to ameliorate the conditions regarding the cancellation of licences. I have since been advised that it will do something more, and I wish to have that matter placed beyond doubt. I understand that at pre’sent it is possible to alter the application of the act by regulation, and that if this bill is passed, this may not be achieved except by the passing of another measure. I think it is well known to honorable senators that when a Labour government is returned to office it will repeal the act.
– The statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) that he had received from the Minister in charge of the hill on a former occasion, some sort of assurance suggests two things : one, “ that the assurance was given grudgingly, and that the other was that in its terms it was not strictly accurate. I was in charge of the bill at that time. It did not then contain the provisions to be found in proposed new sub-section 6a. When I informed the Leader of the Opposition that the purpose of the bill was purely ameliorative, the statement was strictly correct.
– I accepted the honorable senator’s assurance.
– It was then intended to do two things; to permit the licensing officer to suspend a licence for a period of less than six months, and, in the ‘event of a case being taken before a court of petty sessions on appeal, to enable the “magistrate to reduce the period of suspension to a period less than the six months provided in the act. Proposed new section 6a is new. I have not had time to examine it, but I accept the assurance of the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) that it has been inserted to meet the cases of persons who have already been dealt with, and have had their licences suspended for the minimum period. The intention of the Government, I understand, is that even if persons have been dealt with under the act as it stands, they may still receive more liberal treatment.
– in reply - I give the Leader of the Opposition (SenatorCollings) my assurance that the statement made by my late colleague, SenatorBrennan, is absolutely correct.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) read afirst time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to increase the amount of the maternity allowance to £7 10s. where there are three or more previous surviving children, and to provide for anall-round increase of £26 per annum in the amount of allowable income. At the present time the amount of theallowance is £4 10s. in respect of the first child and £5 where there ; are any previous surviving children under the age of fourteen years. The amount of allowable income -is £221 per annum, or £4 5s. aweek, with an additional £13 per annum in respect of each previous surviving child under the age of fourteen years up to a maximum of £312 per annum, or £6 a week.
It is nowproposed to liberalize the provisions ofthe act with a view to extending additional assistance where families are large, and where incomes are small. To meet these cases, it is proposed to increase the rate of the allowance to £7 10s. for the fourth and each subsequent child. It is also proposed to increase the amount of allowable income from £221 per annum, or £4 5s. a week, to £247 per annum, or £4 15s. a week. The additional income allowance of £13 per annum in respect of each previous surviving child under fourteen years of age is being retained with a limit of £338 per annum, or £6 10s. a week, in lieu of £312 per annum, or £6 a week, as at present. As the law stands, only the children of the mother are taken into account in determining the allowable income and the amount of the allowance. It is now proposed to amend the act to enable the inclusion of dependent children of the husband by a former marriage. In accordance with the existing requirements of the act, a claim for maternity allowance must be lodged within three months of the date of the birth. It is now proposed to provide for discretionary power to be vested in the Commissioner to extend the period where satisfactory reasons are furnished for the delay in lodging a claim. The total cost of the above liberalizations is estimated at £96,000 per annum, or approximately £50,000 for the balance of the current financial year.
SenatorCOLLINGS (Queensland) [8.16]. - The only comment I have to make in connexion with this measure, which the Opposition gladly supports, is that in view of the Government’s continued claim that prosperity has been restored, I regret that it has not restored the original allowance.
– We must provide for the slump which the honorable senator has prophesied.
SenatorCOLLINGS. - If I thought that the Government is preparing for the depression that some of us expect within the next two years I should probably express somewhat different views concerning some of its proposals. This is a niggardly proposition. Any one reading the billwill see the extraordinary lengths to which its framers have gone to see that nounfortunate mother gets even a fractional allowance beyond that which she is entitled to receive. It would be simpler to submit a bill of a few lines providing that an allowance be made to mothers regardless of income, as was provided in the measure originally sponsored by the Labour party.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Revision of Ottawa Agreement - Projected Anglo-American Trade Treaty
Debate resumed from page 391.
– 1 followed with very close attention the speeches of honorable senators on this subject, and particularly that of Senator Leckie, who contends that primary production is not responsible for Australia’s financial and economic stability. Statistics disclose that the ratios of exports to total production are as follows: - Wool, 94 per cent.; butter, 45 per cent.; lamb and mutton, 26 per cent.; dried fruits, 72 per cent.; wheat, 72 per cent.; apples, 49 per cent.; canned fruits, 42 per cent.; dmi wines, 21 per cent. I do not propose to cite the exports of secondary products, but, as honorable senators are aware, the quantity is very small. Australia’s stability can be assured only by meeting our overseas commitments, and that is done with the proceeds from the export of our primary products. I do not wish to disparage the. value of our secondary industries, because I realize that they assist to absorb a large portion of our population, and that those engaged in secondary production consume large quantities of primary products. These two sections must work together if we are to have a well-balanced population? Australian manufacturers are, I know, capable of producing commodities equal to those manufactured in other parts of the world, but the products of our secondary industries are used almost solely in Australia. I was surprised to hear Senator Brown oppose a renewal of the Ottawa agreement.
– I merely referred to its limitations.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and Senator Brown must realize that under the Ottawa agreement Queensland meat producers were able to dispose of 1,750,000 cwt. of chilled beef, worth £3,000,000, on the British markets during the last twelve months.
– And Argentina is getting a better deal than Australia in consequence of the agreement.
– I differ from the Leader of the Opposition, because Argentina when compared with Australia is penalized £d. per lb. of all meat it exports to Great Britain. Queensland is the only State exporting frozen beef, and 9S% of Australia’s beef exports is despatched from Queensland. Had the agreement not been adopted Australia would not have an advantage over Argentina of fd. per lb. of all meat exported to Great Britain.
– That is set off by other considerations.
– Prior to the adoption of the agreement Queensland was exporting only frozen meat; but the meat producers in that State now export up to 1,750,000 cwt. of chilled meat each year to Great Britain. Practically all of the benefit resulting from the export of that 1,750,000 cwt. of meat is reaped by Queensland. I ask honorable senators opposite also to bear in mind that during the next two years our export quota for chilled meat can be expanded to a further 2,000,000 cwt. annually, representing a further £3,000,000 in value. This makes a total of £6,000,000 for chilled beef alone.
– Does the honorable senator contend that all of that improvement is duc to the Ottawa agreement ?
– We have gained those benefits under trade agreements with Great Britain. These agreements have been subsequent to the Ottawa agreement. I am not now speaking of the Ottawa agreement in particular. Honorable senators opposite must be aware that, as the result of the increase of our export quotas under those agreements, a greater area of land has been thrown open for dairying in
Queensland during the last twelve months than in any previous year.
– Not one word was said at the Ottawa conference on behalf of Queensland beef or sugar.
– At the moment, I am dealing with our export trade as it has been affected by our trade agreements generally with Great Britain. Senator Brown apparently would deny to the producers of Queensland the benefit of the increased exportations to which I have referred.I draw attention also to the preference of £15 a ton enjoyed by Australian butter on the British market as against Danish buttter; this has been a great help to our dairy farmers in disposing of their surplus. Instead of opposing the negotiation of agreements which confer such benefits on this country honorable senators opposite should welcome them. Developments during the last three years have proved definitely that our present trade agreement with Great Britain is the finest yet made by an Australian government; particularly can this be said in respect of the benefits it confers on Queensland industries. I cannot understand the contention of honorable senators opposite that the Government is proceeding along wrong lines in negotiating further agreements of this nature.
– We did not say that; the honorable senator has not yet dealt with one of the objections we raised to the present Ottawa agreement.
- Senator Brown said that the whole of our trade negotiations with Great Britain were useless, and contended that the Government, in negotiating further agreements, was giving other countries a cause for war. I prefer rather to stick to facts, and, consequently. I must endorse the Government’s proposals. Honorable senators have endeavoured to cast suspicion on the intentions of the representatives who may be selected by this Government to go abroad to negotiate new agreements.
– We do not know who is going.
– In any case, we know that Australia’s representativesat previous overseas conferences did exceptionally well on behalf of this country, and, particularly, on behalf of Queens land. I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether Australia could have secured better terms for our chilled meat, dairying, butter and sugar industries than were obtained at previous overseas conferences ?
– It is our aim to retain those benefits.
– The agreement made in respect of the sugar industry was instrumental in granting that industry a greater measure of security. This was largely due to the activities of Mr. Casey, the Australian delegate. I admit that the Honorable Forgan Smith, Premier of Queensland, was also in attendance.
– That was not done at Ottawa, or as the result of Ottawa.
– The agreement was the result of the negotiations which were first commenced at Ottawa; since that time further trade agreements have been made with Great Britain and other countries. I suggest that if our delegates at the forthcoming conference overseas do as well for Australia as our representatives did at previous similar conferences, every member of this Parliament, irrespective of party, should be more than satisfied.
– I wish particularly to offer some comment upon the criticism of the Ottawa agreement which has been voiced in this debate. That agreement has been criticized from the time it was approved of by this Parliament right up to the present. A favourite expression of condemnation used by a member of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, is that the Ottawa agreement is “the greatest ramp ever put oyer Australia”. I have heard him use that expression on a number of occasions. The Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Collings) now describes that agreement, or, at least, some of its provisions, as “the greatest act of treachery ever perpetrated against Australia “. My colleague, Senator Leckie, who approaches the agreement with a great measure of timidity, does not say that it has wrought all the havoc suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, but he claims that nobody can determine with any degree of accuracy what proportion of the increased amount of prosperity enjoyed by Australia during recent years has been due to the operation of the agreement. In respect of its effect on our primary industries, I accept the view just expressed by Senator Cooper, and as to the rest of the criticism, I merely say that those who attack the agreement are under some obligation to prove their charges. The onus rests upon them. The fact remains that in respect of whatever subjects the Ottawa agreement touches we could, if we had the timer to- go into the relevant figures, show that that agreement has conferred benefits upon Australia. The general attack made- upon- the agreement seems to be that Australia got nothing out of it and that- we- gave something away.. L do. not agree with that view for one moment. I accept the relevant figures, which show beyond doubt that we have gained distinct advantages as the result of its operation.
– No honorable senator on this- side said that Australia got nothing out. of the Ottawa’ agreement.
– I- am afraid that on ‘more than one occasion the honorable senator himself has said so.. This afternoon he reminded us of his prophecy when the agreement was signed- that it would be of no use to Australia, despite the fact’ that developments-during the last five years prove the wisdom, of those who framed the., agreement. If. an agreement is being entered into between two countries, or individuals or. corporate bodies, no doubt both parties expect to get something out of it, and in respect of a trade agreement both parties may find their hopes justified ; it is quite possible,.and in the order of nature, that a trade agreement should prove of advantage to both parties to it. When critics of this agreement can bring forward nothing to substantiate their contentions, they fall back on articles 9 to 13. inclusive. To-day, the Leader of the Opposition, by some strange mischance, overlooked: article 9. I have no. doubt that he will take the earliest opportunity to repair the. oversight. In criticizing! an: agreement, one has got to take it as a whole, but. critics of this agreement do not take it as. a whole. After,’ an experience of its. operation over the. last five years, they have not yet learned, that elementary method of construing, any agreement. They start at the middle of it, at article 9, or, should they happen, by mischance, like the Leader of the Opposition, to miss that article^ at a later article. An analysis of this agreement.show8 that,, up to article 9,. Great Britain gives, and from article 9 onwards, receives- benefits. Surely honorable senators’ opposite would not expect Great Britain to enter into, an agree-* ment in which it; would- be expected- to give everything and receive nothing. It is- only by giving as well as. taking that both parties- may benefit, from- an agreement.
Before I. deal with what; Australia undertakes to- give- . in-, return foi-‘ what it receives,, let us’ see what Great Britain undertakes to give. Under article 1 the Mother Country frees us from all the duties’ which were imposed under its Import. Duties” ActThe provision of that act did not apply to Australia. That is a marked, benefit. Under article 2 -
His Majesty’s Government’ ins the United Kingdom will invite:- Parliament- to- pass the legislation necessary to impose, on the foreign goods specified in Schedule B appended hereto, the duties of customs shown in that schedule in place1 of ‘the1 duties (if any) now- leviable.
The United Kingdom allows* the duties on the goods set out in Schedule B. That is to our advantage. A margin of preference in respect of wines is allowed to Australia under- article 3’ which* reads*-
His Majesty’s Government’’ in- the United. Kingdom will invite Parliament to- pass the legislation necessary to secure to Australiangoods of the kinds specified, in. Schedule C appended hereto which comply with the law and statutory regulations- for the time being in force affecting the grant of Imperial preference, the. margins- of preference specified: therein over simitar foreign goods.
A further benefit is conferred, on Australia’ by article 4r. -
His Majesty’s Government- in> the United Kingdom undertake that the general ad valorem duty of ten per cent, imposed bySection I of the Import Duties Act 1932, ora the foreign goods specified’ in Schedule D shall not bc- reduced: except with the consent, of His. Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia.
– Many of the goods in those schedules- come intocompetition, with British goods..
– That is. so. Senator Leckie objects to the words “ reasonable competition.” in article 10” which Senator Collings regards as an act of treachery against Australian industry. That article reads -
Hia Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition.
Does he want- to give to United Kingdom producers opportunities of unreasonable competition ? Having regard to what Great Britain has conceded to Australia in the earlier articles, it is surely not asking too much that producers in the Old Country be given opportunities of reasonable competition. It is, moreover, to be reasonable competition-.
On the basis of tlie relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the appllication of such principle, special consideration may be given to the- case- of industries not fully established.
Article 11 provides- -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonweath of Australia undertake that a review shall be made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff. Board of existing protective duties, in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof, and that after the receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
The Leader of the Opposition says that every variation of the tariff means that some ‘man or woman in Australia is thrown out of employment. That is reckless language for the honorable senator to use, in view of the fact that the figures in relation to factory employment are higher to-day than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth.
-. - There is an ample reply to the honorable senator, whose criticism is not so smart as he thinks.
– It is a wonder that the honorable senator who commenced his speech by sympathising with the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan), in his task, did not put forward something for me to answer.
– The honorable senator is taking a long time to give his answer.
– I am doing the best I can with the material supplied by the honorable senator. His criticism disregarded the facts.
– I gave the facts.
– Article 12 also troubles the honorable senator. It reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall be imposed and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess, of the recommendation of the Tariff- Tribunal.
He sneeringly referred to the Tariff Board as a body of public servants placed above Parliament. I ask him- if there is anything derogatory to Parliament in. Parliament itself conferring on another body the power which is contained in this article? The very fact that Parliament can confer the power is evidence that it has supreme power. Is there anything derogatory to Parliament in Parliament handing o%7er entirely the administration, of justice to a body of judges,, and never interfering ‘ at all with their work! Similarly is there anything derogatory in Parliament providing, that, before duties are increased, there should be something in the nature of a judicial inquiry, in the interests not only of our English brothers,, but also of Australian consumers?
– Article 12 says nothing about a judicial inquiry; it does say that the Government shall not do certain things.
– It says that the Commonwealth Government undertakes not to impose a new protective duty, and not to raise existing duties, beyond the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– That makes the Tariff Board supreme.
– The honorable senator would not claim for this Parliament a greater position of eminence in the world than that occupied by the Mother of Parliaments.
– I claim for the Commonwealth Parliament equal status with the Mother of Parliaments, not with the Australian Tariff Board.
– -For the honorable senator’s enlightenment, I shall repeat article 4-
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom undertake that the general ad valorem duty of ten per cent, imposed by Section 1 of the Import Duties Act 1932, on the foreign goods specified in Schedule D shall not be reduced except with the consent of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia.
– That is a matter between one government and another, not between a government and a board of its own creation.
– The Mother of Parliaments undertakes not to alter certain duties without* the consent of the Australian people.
– There is nothing in that article about a committee of public servants.
– It is also claimed that a wrong is done to Australia by giving to the representatives of English manufacturers the right of audience before the Tariff Board.
– Who said that?
– Unless I am mistaken, Senator Leckie himself said that this article led to bickering and quarrelling between friends. He expressed the hope that in any new agreement which may be framed article 10 would be so worded as to leave no room for disagreement. When we are dealing with a trade agreement between countries it is extremely difficult, and, if I may say so, extremely unwise, to attempt to impose limitations which are too narrow. Senator Brown said that this Parliament should be given the opportunity to lay down the principles upon which any agreement that may be entered into shall be based. Does he not understand that the purpose of this discussion, and that which took place in the House of Representatives, is to give effect to the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that, before the delegation left Australia, representatives of primary and secondary industries would be consulted? Obviously, it is not practicable to take all the people of Australia to the other side of the world to thresh out the details of an agreement. The Government for the time being is the executive of the country. It is entitled to speak on behalf of the people, and to give effect to their sentiments in any agreement^ which may be entered into. When such an agreement has been drawn up, it is impossible for this Parliament to amend it. Parliament may do one of two things; it may either reject the agreement as a whole, or accept it as a whole. Prom the very nature of things, an agreement which has been drawn up as a result of a conference on the other side of the world cannot be amended on this side.
– Notwithstanding that it, was framed without reference to Parliament ?
– Parliament still retains full and complete control. The agreement provides that it shall not come into operation unless approved by Parliament; As I have said, Parliament may cither approve it or reject it.
While Senator Brown was speaking, the Leader of the Opposition referred to the action taken by Mr. Scullin during the depression. At the time that the Ottawa agreement was entered into, the Scullin duties, which included surcharges, primage duties, prohibitions, and soaring protectionist rates, were operative.
– The methods adopted by the . Scullin Government saved Australia from bankruptcy.
– That was the condition of affairs which existed when this agreement, providing for reference to the Tariff Board, was discussed. The Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon that tho Scullin Government had to take strong action to remove a cancerous growth, and that its action saved Australia. I have no criticism to offer regarding the action taken by Mr. Scullin at a time of crisis for Australia, but I remind the honorable gentleman that the thing3 done by the Scullin Government were not thought necessary in New Zealand, although the conditions there were similar. In that dominion, although there were no surcharges, prohibitions, or primage duties, the imports fell away exactly as they did in Australia. The figures for Australia also disclose that the importation of goods which were not subject to special restrictions fell away just as much as in tho case of goods to which the restrictions applied.
– The action taken righted the trade balance.
– The explanation is that imports and exports are matters of trade and barter. Goods cannot be brought into Australia if this country is not in a condition to pay for them. That was the position at the time that the imports fell away, and the reason for the falling away.
– Then the embargoes had nothing to do with the matter?
– Nothing whatever, as the experience of New ‘ Zealand shows.
– Then why squeal against the duties?
– Those supposedly obnoxious articles, Nos. 9 to 13, leave my withers unwrung. I see in them nothing of which any government responsible for framing them has reason to be ashamed. I have the greatest confidence that, whatever the personnel of the delegation which will go abroad to negotiate a new agreement, it will consider the interests of Australia as a whole, and do its best for Australian industries, both primary and secondary. The positive assertion of the Leader of the Opposition, that already Australia has been committed to follow Great Britain in whatever it does, is entirely without warrant, as he must know.
– I do not know, or I would not have made it. What did Sir Charles Merrett say?
– I should like to know where is the honorable senator’s authority for making that statement. My comment is that he made it without having the slightest ground upon which to base the allegation. Senator Leckie expressed, on behalf of the manufacturers, some fears about an agreement that may be entered into with the United States of America. I realize the necessity for the secondary as well as the primary industries to be prosperous. Any agreements which we may make with America may involve some changes, and may include something which affects the prosperity of this country. The Loader of the Senate using a not very happy phrase, said that they might “involve sacrifices”, but I can assure honorable senators opposite, and Senator Leckie, that the maintenance of good relations with the United States of America’ to-day may have” a direct bearing, not merely upon the prosperity of this country, but also upon its very existence-
Senator a. j. mclachlan (South
A ustralia - Postmaster-General ) [9.3] . - in reply - When the opportunity was given to honorable senators to discuss the broad issues which emerge from the statement laid by me upon the table of the Senate, I expected them, instead of discussing the bargaining that was to take place between the Mother Country and ourselves, to apply their minds to the real issue that underlies the whole of these negotiations. Senator Brennan concluded on a note which I should have expected to pervade this debate. Senator Brown issued a direct challenge to the opinions of all the great thinkers of the world, when he said that reciprocal agreements could have no effect in solving world difficulties. I believe the hope of the leading minds of Great Britain and America, and all who wish civilization well in such a crisis as we are passing through, is that reciprocal agreements will help. We, however, have to listen to dismal Jeremiahs who say that nothing good can come from reciprocal agreements, and that we can live, as the Pitcairn Islanders existed, by taking in each other’s washing. That is a policy which must inevitably fail, and on which I venture to think Australia will turn its back. What is the motive underlying the endeavour to get Great Britain, and the mighty United States of America together ?
– We are not opposing it.
– The honorable senator’s tongue has reached great maturity, but his brain, apparently, has not developed to the same extent, because his words to-night - and I took them down myself - were : “ reciprocal agreements are of no effect in solving world difficulties “. The honorable senator preached a doctrine of dismal despair with regard to the world’s future. He belongs to that school of thought, in which apparently his colleagues join, which holds that no good can come out of an alliance between Great Britain and the United States of America.
– So far as I am concerned, and I speak for other honorable senators on this side also, we have never in the course of the debate, said anything of the kind. I think the honorable senator should withdraw that statement.
– The honorable senator’s words, coming from a man who holds a seat in a chamber such as this, amazed me. What did he mean by saying that reciprocal agreements can do nothing to solve world difficulties? He was dealingwith the subject-matter of the statement that I placed on the table this afternoon, and he knew full well,’ as every honorable senator should have known, that underlying it all are the rapprochement that is taking place, and the discussions that are now proceeding, with a view to bringing the United States of America and the Mother Country into some agreement. If that should come about, it should be one of the greatest steps forward in securing peace for the world, together with a certain amount of stability. If we can make a contribution to that end, surely this proposal should not be discussed in the terms of whether some of our industries, primary or secondary, may lose a few feathers.
– Now tell us about those “ minor sacrifices “.
– The honorable senator would like to reduce this issue to some individual industry which may be harmed. I think he heard enough from his Queensland colleague (Senator Cooper) to-night in that regard, and I do not propose to discuss the matter on that basis at all. If there is any State that has benefited by the Ottawa, agreement, and all that has followed from it, it is Queensland, as witness the security for its sugar industry, and its advance in the production and export of meat. A preference of¾d. per lb. as against the Argentine represents on a 600-lb. bullock £1 17s. 6d. If our producers are not in a position to handle the British trade successfully with that benefit, they should not be producing cattle at all. These are not the issues which I intended should emerge from those broad principles that I endeavoured to lay down in the statement placed before the Senate. I hoped that honorable senators would realize what all this means, what the best minds in Great Britain and the United States of America are desiring to bring about.
I could not help recalling an incident that took place while I was on my way to Geneva to sign the Kellogg Pact on behalf of Australia. The distinguished man, who, at that time, was the ambassador of the United States of America in Paris, called me to one side, and said, “You are going to Geneva?” I said, “Yes”. He said, “You are going to the League of Nations?” I said, “ Yes “. He said, “ There isonly one League of Nations that is worth while “. I said, “ I know He said, “ It is not the one you mean, it is the League of Nations of the English-speaking races “. That man has since passed to the beyond, but I venture to think that in those words he was speaking prophetically regarding the fate of the world.
– Then why did the Government direct its trade diversion policy against America?
– The honorable senator may find that observations of that, kind suit a street corner audience at South Brisbane, but when we are discussing a serious subject, upon which so much depends, I expect honorable senators to have a full sense of the responsibility that, rests upon them individually, as well as upon the people and the Parliament, at this critical juncture in world affairs. We have heard something about nations living in self containment. We know of the sufferings of some peoples by reason of restrictions placed by their rulers on world trade, and their desire to practise the principle of economic nationalism to the full, refusing to trade with their neighbours, conserving their cash, and arming to the teeth with no peaceful intentions towards the rest of the world. I venture to think that if we could bring the Mother Country and the United States of America into a closer alliance, and a better relationship than has hitherto prevailed, we should be taking an immense step forward. We know how difficult these matters are, and how the selfinterests of various industries, be they primary or secondary, emerge from time to time. We know how hard it has been for us to” make an agreement with our fellow Australians across the Tasman Sea. Those New Zealanders are Australians to the core, their sentiments and habits are Australian, a large percentage of them are related to our own people, and yet we are unable to bring about an agreement with them. The public men of the Mother Country and. the United States are faced with a herculean task, which they have taken upon themselves - a task which might mean the saving of civilization - and we, therefore, should be willing to make sacrifices in the interests, not only of our own selves, but of civilization as a whole.
– What sacrifices does, the Government propose to make?
– If some sacrifice of an individual industry we.ro mentioned discussion would follow, and every selfish element in the community that was affected would immediately denounce and -deride any attempt to complete this tremendous effort in the interest of the world. The honorable senator’s question also connotes a further suggestion which emerged from some of the speeches this afternoon, namely, that Parliament should have an opportunity to discuss any agreement before it is finalized and signed. If any such procedure were adopted, no agreement would ever be made between nations. Interests of various kinds would arise, criticisms would come from them, attacks would be made on public men, and nothing could, be done. This thing must not be weighed on fine scales at all. We have to take the total good that is to come to the people of this country, to all the British communities, and to the whole world, because the principle underlying all these negotiations is the ultimate preservation of world peace.
I assure the Leader of the Opposition that no pact has been arranged, there has been no suggestion of one, and no proposals have been made for one. The United Kingdom is to-day in a position to denounce the Ottawa agreement, with all its benefits to the Australian meat industry and all those other allied industries to which Senator Cooper has referred. If Australia took a small view, if it bothered about this or that small thing, if it wished to preserve this or that trifling interest, then I think things would go ill with us, having regard to the position in which we are placed with our tremendous primary production.
– And what about the British Navy?
– As my colleague, points out, having regard to all that underlies these negotiations, it might go hard with us in another and even more serious connexion.
Senator Leckie was under the impression that the Government yesterday announced a change in its trade diversion policy, but I can assure him that the safeguards for Australian industries still remain. If he will examine the statement made yesterday by the AttorneyGeneral, he will see that those principles which have ‘ governed our fiscal policy in the past - will be maintained in the future, in relation to all those items to which he has referred.
– The Government reduced the duties on 1,054 tariff items and by it3 trade diversion policy recently demanded more sacrifices of Australian industry.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) may have to decide between sacrifices in respect of a number of tariff items and the’ sacrifice of the country which we all hold so dear.
– The Leader of the Senate does not believe that.
– Does’ the Leader of the Opposition believe that we can go unscathed in the world crisis that is approaching? Does ho not realize that if a certain nation succeeds in harnessing to the chariot wheel of its manufacturing industries the vast forces of a neighbouring country, even the might of Britain will not be able to help Australia in the economic war?
– Tet the Minister for Commerce has said that he would deal with that country because its goods were cheap.
– The Leader of the Opposition is wandering from the point at issue. He declines to face the stern facts that emerge from present world conditions. He refuses to realize the impotence of any single nation against the conditions that prevail in the East and the possibilities of even more devastating competition if the latent industrial forces of China are employed in the coming economic w.ar. This country, in order to preserve its economic independence, will then, be obliged either to resist by force the elements that threaten it, or yield to forces to which it has not hitherto given way. Thus I say that in the best interests of Australia we should do everything in our power to promote by friendly negotiations, a closer association with that great country of British origin, the United States of America, and endeavour to bring to bear in world affairs forces that will uphold the standards of living of the white races. This is the problem that confronts us and is influencing the leaders of thought in Great Britain and the United States of America. Senator Brown would denounce all these endeavours by the wisest statesmen of the old and new world to meet the difficulties caused by the spirit of economic nationalism. He would pit, his knowledge as an economist and a statesman against that of men who are nearest to the vital issues that are causing the world so much concern. He denounces all reciprocal agreements.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable gentleman definitely declared that reciprocal agreements were of no avail in solving the present world difficulties. But all this empty twittering by the honorable gentleman is as futile as the idle wind. If it be true that reciprocal agreements make no contribution to the cause of economic peace, then indeed the world is in a desperate condition. It is difficult to understand Senator Brown’s attitude to the economic problems that beset practically all countries. He and his friends preach the doctrine of economic nationalism, not realizing that in doing this they are depriving the people of Australia of the opportunity to enjoy the good things which can be furnished by other countries, and that this false economic policy leads to dictatorships of one form or another. The Government will enter into these negotiations with Great Britain with a full sense of its responsibility to every worthwhile Australian industry. As to the leadership of the delegation, despite the efforts of the Opposition and a number of government supporters to obtain from me the names of the Ministers who will attend the conference, I can only say that I cannot give them the desired information, because I do not know.
– Appoint a good Australian and we shall be satisfied.
– My honorable friends can rest assured that whoever may be the Minister appointed to lead the delegation, he will be a good Australian, and that the delegation will do its best in the interests of the people as a whole. I say, in all sincerity, that the future safety of Australia and all that we prize so much may depend upon the deliberations of the forthcoming conference. I regret that this morning, when I placed on the table of the Senate the official paper, I did not initiate the debate on a higher plane.I felt during the afternoon that it was a pity indeed that we did not apply ourselves more to the principles which have influenced the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America to attempt to get together, because the combined forces of these two great nations will have a steadying influence on world affairs that was never more necessary than at this time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 9.26 to 10.17 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator A, J. McLachlan) read a first time;
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is to provide for raising £2,500,000 by loan to meet the cost of a part of the defence programme of the Commonwealth for 1937-38. In the present state of international affairs it is scarcely necessary for me to deal at length with the urgency of the Government’s enlarged defence programme. That aspect was fully covered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the ex-Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), during the last session of the last Parliament, and in the budget speech the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) outlined the sources from which the Government proposed to finance the defence provision. They are as follows: -
The above figures represent Australian currency and the amount authorized by this bill also is in Australian currency. As was stated in the Treasurer’s budget speech, it is proposed in the first place that the funds required to cover that portion of the defence programme bo charged to a loan to he raised in London by means of treasury-bills to be issued to the Commonwealth Bank. The amount of those bills will he £2,000,000 sterling, representing £2,500,000 of Australian currency. In view of the urgency of the defence programme and the restricted field for borrowing in Australia, the Government believes that the present proposal represents the most reasonable and expedient method of raising the necessary funds.
– The Opposition has already expressed its opinion concerning the Government’s proposal to raise the £2,500,000 in the manner proposed, and does not intend to elaborate its reasons for opposing the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
. The Minister (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has stated that the money proposed to be borrowed in London is to be used to. purchase equipment which cannot be manufactured in Australia; but a portionis also to he expended on works, buildings, and sites. Obviously, money will not be expended in London for those purposes.
– The bill authorizes the borrowing of £2,500,000 which is to be used for the purposes set out in the schedule. The schedule has been restricted to items of defence expenditure in the nature of capital expenditure appropriately chargeable to loan fund. Whilst the schedule includes some expenditure to be met in Australia, there will be an equivalent amount of defence expenditure in London from appropriations of revenue) already passed by Parliament.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) proposed -
That theSenate do now adjourn.
– During the debate on the Appropriation Bill yesterday I undertook to obtain information in respect of a query raised by Senator Duncan-Hughes regarding the expenditure last year of an amount of £739 in connexion with the election of representatives on the Dairy Produce Control Board. I take this opportunity to inform the honorable senator that this sum was expended in the preparation of the rolls and the election itself. The election was conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office, and the expenditure of £739 was ultimately met by the Department of Commerce. There were contests in eight cases.
asked a question during the same debate regarding the apple and pear bounty. I am now able to inform him that the payments for 1936,. based on a levy of 4½d. a case, were distributed amongst the various States as follows: Western Australia, £17,923; New South Wales, £1,827; Queensland, £417; South Australia, £9,014; Victoria, £18,399 ; and Tasmania, £54,285.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 December 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1937/19371208_senate_15_155/>.