16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– On behalf of Senator Fraser, I lay on the table the following paper : -
Australian Wool Board - Sixth Annual Report for the year 1941-12.
The Australian Wool Board wag established under the Wool Publicity and Research Act 1936 to administer the Wool Publicity and Research Fund provided by the tax on wool. The board is associated with South Africa and New Zealand in an International Wool Secretariat, whose object is to improve the quality and increase the use of wool throughout the world. It will be appreciated that the Australian Wool Board is a separate organization from the Central Wool Committee. In view of the pressing need for economy in the use of paper, it is not proposed that the report be printed.
– In view of the need for men for the Army, will the Leader of the Senate state whether the report that has been circulated is correct that the Government proposes to refer the matter to the next conference of the Australian Labour party, in order to see if that conference will withdraw its opposition to conscription for overseas service?
– I have not seen the report referred to. If there be such a report, it is untrue.
– Will the Government take its courage into its own hands, and bring about the establishment of one Army in Australia without further delay?
-I assure the Leader of the Opposition that the Government requires no assistance regarding the disposition of its courage.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.What action does the Leader of the Senate propose to take with regard to charges made in the House of Representatives that youths under twenty years of age, who have had little or no training, are sent to action stations in New Guinea ?
– Information regarding action proposed by the Government in that and other matters is always made available to the Senate in due course.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether, since the suspension of the importation of newsprint on the 1st April last, any further imports of newsprint in rolls has been permitted ? If so, will the Minister state what quantities have been imported, and to whom they have been consigned?
– In April last, the Government was informed by the Govern-‘ ments of the United States of America and Canada that on account of the shortage of shipping, it would not be possible to send any more newsprint into Australia. .No roll newsprint has been admitted, hut I am negotiating at present for the importation of a quantity of flat newsprint, which can be carried as supplementary cargo to ordinary war cargoes. This matter has yet to he finally dealt with, because it must be referred to the Shipping Priorities Board. In my opinion, arid in that of the Govern* ment, the use of newsprint throughout Australia should be curtailed as much as possible, but no newspapers should he suppressed on account of the shortage of newsprint. To some degree the Government has been successful in that direction, because no newspapers, either small or large, have gone out of circulation in Australia, since the Government has been in power, on account of the shortage of newsprint Heavy rationing is imposed on all newspapers, but, seeing that they are the medium of communication between the organizers of the war effort and the civilian population, I think that some newsprint should bc imported.
– In the event of additional imports of newsprint being permitted, will all newspaper proprietors share in such imports, and he treated equitably.
– The policy of the previous Government, and also of the present Government, has been that all newspapers shall he treated alike in Avis matter. Whilst big daily newspapers are published in the -capital cities, the journals published in country centres are of equal importance to the people residing in those areas. Any newsprint in Australia will he equitably distributed among the various newspaper proprietors through a pool which may be controlled by me as Minister for Trade and Customs. If any newspaper organization is unable to get its quota of newsprint, some alteration of that organization will have to be made. Any newsprint brought- in will go into a pool, and will be equitably divided among all newspaper proprietors throughout Australia.
-Does “the pool include present stocks of newsprint held by many country newspapers which have taken the precaution of building up fairly substantial stocks?
– All newsprint in Australia will become the property of the pool. There is 72,000 tons of newsprint in Australia, and the bulk of it is held by two organizations. The -desire of the Government is to see that every newspaper gets its share, and each will be allotted a quota.
– On what basis?
– An average of 55 per cent, reduction on the pre-war basis.
– Will the Postmaster-General give instructions that the .strictest impartiality must be shown in the news .broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission regarding the proceedings of the Senate? Does he not consider that the present practice, under which reports ara broadcast only of remarks by those honorable senators who support government measures, no notice being taken of those who speak in opposition to government proposals, gives the impression that no opposition to those measures has been expressed in this chamber?
– I appreciate the complaint made by the honorable senator, but I have no intention whatever to issue any instructions to the commission as to what reports of the proceedings of the Senate shall be broadcast. I have not interfered with the collection or broadcasting of news in any way, except that yesterday I requested the commission to publish a matter of interest to the relatives of prisoners of war, relating to mail. That is the only request I have made with regard to the news service of the commission.
– Will the Leader of the Senate make available to honorable senators a copy of the report of the special committee that was appointed’ by the Government to inquire into the difficulties experienced by those engaged in the dairying industry? I understand that the Government is anxious to pass through all stages this afternoon a bill providing for assistance to the dairying industry. If copies of the report could be made available, honorable senators could peruse it during the suspension of the sitting for luncheon.
– I am afraid that itwill not be possible for copies of the report to be made available in the time at our disposal.
– Will the Leader of the Senate have copies of the second-reading speech on the bill made available to honorable senators?
– In accordance with the practice that has been followed in this chamber, both during the concluding period of the term of the previous Government and throughout the term of the present Government, copies of secondreading speeches have been circulated among honorable senators.
Order of the Day No. 2 - International Affairs - Ministerial statement - Resumption of debate - read and discharged.
Debate resumed from the 8th October (vide page 1514), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have not a great deal to add to what I said on this measure yesterday. I shall emphasize the point that I endea voured to make in relation to what appears to me to be the most important provision in the bill, that designed to render inapplicable the provisions of the Colonial LawsValidity Act. It is clear from the constitutional practice of the Empire, which is recognized in the preamble to this bill, that Imperial legislation which may be passed in the future will not be made applicable to this dominion except at our request. In other words, it is a matter for the Commonwealth of Australia itself to determine for the future whether Imperial legislation shall apply in this dominion. We are not concerned with that question, as I said yesterday, in considering this bill. All we are concerned with is to apply in effect the same principle to Imperial legislation which operates in this dominion to-day, and which was passed by the Imperial Parliament many years ago. By discontinuing the application of the Colonial Laws Validity Act to this legislation, we are merely putting it into the power of this: Parliament to determine for itself whether the provisions of the Imperial legislation shall continue to apply or whether, in substitution for it, we shall have whatever provisions we seek to make for ourselves in this Parliament.
– Does the honorable senator regard that as an important step?
– It is an important legal step-, but it does not touch in any degree whatever the status of the Commonwealth of Australia. The status of the Commonwealth, as a dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations, is surely far more affected, by the preamble which applies to us and declares that the Imperial Parliament regards it as being contrary to present constitutional practice to pass Imperial legislation applicable to the Dominions except at their request. That is the principle which has been established at our request and at the request of the other dominions, and with which we are not concerned in this bill.
– Why did Mr. Bruce ask for delay in the adoption of the sections of the Statute of Westminster now being considered?
– Australia desired to leave it in the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to determine if and when those provisions should be applied in this country. That does not seem to touch the status of this dominion at all. It is a mere question of convenience. The Australian representatives took the view that it might be convenient to continue the operation of those other statutes, or that it might prove to be more convenient to wipe them out.
– There certainly were doubts.
– Only as to whether it was better to achieve those things by an act of the Imperial Parliament in 1931, or by leaving it in the discretion of the Commonwealth Parliament, to bring those things about by its own action at some future date. The important thing, from the point of view of status, is that the Imperial Parliament vested in this Parliament the power to bring about these things. In this legislation we are not concerned as to whether we are to have those powers; we already have them.
– We always have had them.
– No. We have them only by virtue of the Statute of Westminster.
– We have had them from 1900 onwards.
– I beg to differ. The honorable senator’s view is wrong. The simple fact is that so long as the Colonial Laws Validity Act continues in operation, notwithstanding anything in our Constitution, this Parliament is not able to pass laws which conflict with Imperial legislation operating in this dominion.
– The honorable senator misses the whole sense of our Imperial relations. That is purely a legal quibble.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator himself misunderstands the nature of our Imperial relations. It is the Statute of Westminster passed by the Imperial Parliament which has vested in us the power to get rid of the overriding provisions of the Colonial Laws Validity Act. That is the only source from which we get the power.
– That is not correct.
– I cannot make it any plainer, and I claim to have a little more knowledge of this subject than has the honorable senator. I think that I am entitled to claim that. I assure him that that is the position. It seems to me to be strange that the Imperial Parliament should go to the trouble of passing the Statute of Westminster in 1931, especially those provisions in it relating to the Colonial Laws Validity Act, if the position were as Senator Allan MacDonald suggests, that, in fact, there was no limitation of our power to repeal or alter Imperial legislation which was operating in this dominion.
– It was an appeasing act. The rest was only padding.
– The honorable senator should go back to the questions which were before the conferences of 1926 and 1931.
– That is the genesis of the whole thing.
– We are not concerned with the genesis; we are concerned with a piece of legislation, passed by the Imperial Parliament and dealing with a purely technical problem, which was based on decisions of the Imperial conferences in which we acquiesced. That is all that I desire to say on the provisions of the bill relating to the Colonial Laws Validity Act.
I pointed out yesterday that sections o and 6 of the statute were concerned only with the question as to whether assent .to certain types of legislation was to be given by the GovernorGeneral on the advice of his Australian Ministers, or whether it was to be formally given by the King on the advice of the same Ministers. It seems to me that, as a matter of convenience, particularly in days like these, there is every reason for saying that we should substitute for the formal consent of the King acting on the advice of his Australian Ministers, the approval of the Governor-General. I cannot believe that that affects any fundamental principle underlying the relations of the
Dominions of the British Empire, or that the future of the Empire is in any way endangered because we take that step. That leaves only one thing to which I wish to refer, namely, the section which is designed to give to the legislation of this Parliament an extraterritorial operation. The question of extra-territorial legislation has ‘been a matter of debate among lawyers for years. It may well be that the courts would decide that there is no such limitation upon the Parliament of the Commonwealth ; but this section puts the matter beyond doubt. It does not amount to any more than saying, in effect, that if there be a limitation on the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament based upon territorial grounds, that limitation is removed. It does not extend the power of this Parliament; its powers are defined by the Commonwealth Constitution Act. All that it provides is that legislation which is passed in accordance with the powers of this Parliament will not be subject to limitation - if there be such limitation - based upon territorial grounds. There again, it does not seem to be a matter of very great moment, but one which removes a doubt which should not exist, but which does create difficulties at times.
– Will the honorable senator say whether or not section 4 of the statute cuts the legal painter?
– Any complaint about section 4 which merely gives operation to the recital, is now too late. The recital clearly establishes the fact that it is contrary to the established constitutional position for the Parliament at Westminster to apply its laws to the Dominions except at the request and with the consent of the Dominions.
– What would be the legal effect if we refused to pass section 4?
– In that event the legal position would be that the Imperial Parliament would still adhere to the declaration in the recital, namely, that it would not in the future apply its laws to this dominion except at its request and with its consent.
– That has been the position for 150 years.
– I shall not enter into an argument as to whether or not the Imperial Parliament is bound legally, except to say that, if we approach this matter as a problem of strict law, my opinion is that the Imperial Parliament at Westminster could repeal the whole of this act, just as it could repeal any other act. But in view of that declaration put solemnly into the bill at the request of the Dominions, does any honorable senator believe that the Imperial Parliament would depart from its own declaration which is intended to be a declaration regulating its future relations with the Dominions? The declaration is in the recital. We must proceed on the basis that for all time in the future the Imperial Parliament will act in accordance with that resolve. Section 4 is merely a recognition of that position in this dominion. If we do not adopt section 4, we shall be left in the position that the Imperial Parliament will not pass legislation for this dominion except at our request and with our consent.
I should be sorry indeed to believe that the future of this Empire, and of our relations with other members of it, depended on whether or not we pass this bill. I believe that our association with the British Commonwealth of Nations does not depend on any act of parliament. God forbid that it ever should do so. It depends upon much stronger ties than can be provided by any scrap of paper. It depends upon the ties of kinship, of tradition, and on our common history and common hopes for the future. As I have said, this bill does not touch on those things at all; it is solely concerned with a few legal problems. Some honorable senators who have opposed the bill have said that, although they do not understand those legal problems, they are still opposed to the measure. That is a confession that they do not understand the bill.
– There is such a thing as common sense.
SenatorSPICER.- There may be; but I have not seen an over-supply of it in this chamber during this debate. Let us test this question from the point of view of the actual experience of the Statute of Westminster. There has been some talk about South Africa. Although the Statute of Westminster applied to South Africa, that dominion, with all its difficulties, is still a member of the British Common- wealth of Nations, and is actively engaged in this war. Its soldiers are fighting on various fronts. On the other hand, although the statute applied to Southern Ireland, Eire is not in the war, but is neutral. Neither of those decisions resulted from the fact that the Statute of Westminster had been applied to those territories.
– That is open to question.
– I should be astonished to find any honorable senator attempting to establish that the neutrality of Eire is due to the Statute of Westminster. It is due to the attitude of the Irish people. As a matter of fact, the Irish people have virtually disowned that legislation since it was passed. They do not say: “We are neutral and claim our right to neutrality because we are operating under the Statute of Westminster.” What they do say is : “ We shall not have anything to do with the Statute of Westminster, because recognition of that statute, as applying within our dominion, is a recognition of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament.”
– There is no supremacy in a partnership.
– Since that legislation was passed, the Irish peoplehave established anew theory as to their constitutional basis, namely, that the authority of the Irish Parliament is derived from the Irish people, and not from the Imperial Parliament. This bill has nothing whatever to do with our status as a dominion. It is solely concerned with technical legal problems, to which I suggestno member of this chamber has yet offered any objection. I cannot believe that if an act had been brought into this Parliament to repeal the Colonial Laws Validity Act, any one would have objected to it. Similarly, I do not believe that there would have been any objection to a law to give extra territorial operation to our legislation, or to a law to provide that legislation passed by this Parliament shall no longer be reserved for His Majesty’s pleasure.
Taking each of those things separately, I suggest that no honorable senator would put forward an argument in favour of its rejection. That is all that we havebef ore us. We have those propositions put into this legislation. Having regard to the inconvenience which some of these things are creating in these days of war, there is no sound reason why we should not pass this legislation, and thereby give effect to the provisions of the Statute of Westminster, which by the authority of the Imperial Parliament we are entitled to adopt.
– This subject has been before this Parliament on more than one occasion. I should be interested to know the reasons which prompted the Government to introduce this bill “ to remove doubts as to the validity of certain legislation, to obviate delays occurring in its passage. . . “ One would naturally expect that the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Ashley) would produce tangible evidence of the delays and doubts which, it is claimed, this measure is designed to overcome. The bill does not in any way affect the status we have enjoyed as a dominion since federation. I should like to examine the origin of the Statute of Westminster, and to look at some of the reasons why that legislation ever saw the light of day. At no time did we declare that we were hampered in our legislation because of restrictions arising out of acts passed by the Imperial Parliament. It has never been claimed that the progress of the Commonwealth has been hindered for that reason. We can find nothing on record to show that representations were ever made to the British Government in that respect. What was the real reason why the Imperial Parliament enacted the Statute of Westminster ?
– Because we asked for it.
– In order to appease certain men.
– Yes, and that fact is well known. Reference has been made to the position of the Irish Free State. We know that disagreement has always existed among the Irish people in respect of the relationship of that country with the Mother Country, and tha* sections of the Irish people have always objected to any association with Great Britain. It was because of. that agitation and! unrest, which existed particularly in the south of Ireland, and. also in view of the part played by the Dominions in the last war, that the Balfour Government took action in this matter. Certain agitation had ako arisen in South Africa, and it threatened to cause disunity in. that dominion. Consequently, South Africa also asked that its position as a dominion, be more clearly defined. However, many people in South Africa realized, as we have realized all along, that prior to- the passing of the Statute of Westminster, the Dominions enjoyed the fullest legislative powers!, said that no act of the- Imperial: Parliament hindered the legislative acts of the governments of the Dominions in any way whatever. I challenge any honorable senator to give one instance to show that Great Britain, since Federation, has ever attempted to put its finger into- o.ur legislative pie with the object of interfering with our aspirations as a nation. The Irish Free State wanted the Statute of Westminster for one purpose, and South Africa wanted, it for another purpose. Canada, which, too, has a large number of citizens who are not of British stock, also- desired that its status as a. dominion be more clearly defined. However, in Australia, where practically 100 per cent, of our people are of British stock, no such division arose, to- affect our aspirations as a nation. We were quite content with the Constitution which was. conferred upon us by 1111 , act of the Imperial Parliament. Even that act did not add to the legislative powers which the States had previously exercised as. colonies. The powers then taken by the Commonwealth Parliament were given, to it by the States which previously exercised those powers. The Statute of Westminster really had its’, origin in the request of other- dominion8 that their status be more clearly defined. That request may have been quite proper. In any event, one can readily understand the great difficulties which this development presented to the Balfour Government, and its successors, particularly in committing the problem to words. We must remember that Great Britain itself has not a written Constitution. Its. Constitution has developed as the result of, and is. inherent in, constitutional practice. Great Britain has, set an example of popular government to- the world, and it has handed om that tradition, to the. Dominions. It cannot be said that Great Britain was anxious to enact the Statuteof Westminster. Neither can it be said* that it was asked to do so in the terms mentioned by some honorable senators.. The British Government really sought to meet the request of some of the Dominions, which did not ask for additional legislative powers, but simply that their position! as members, of the Empireshould be dearly defined. After the Imperial Parliament had enacted the statute, it said to- the Dominions, in. effect, that that statute did not confer new powers upon the Dominions, or alter their status. It simply confirmed the powers which the Dominions, had previously enjoyed. South Africa, the Irish FreeState and! Newfoundland adopted thestatute in its entirety. But. what did Australia do in this, respect? We asked that sections 2; to 6 inclusive of the statute be not made operative so far ais Australia was concerned. That is the story of the Statute of Westminster as. I see it. I admit that I am not a lawyer. Senator Spicer reminded me of that fact, and implied that, therefore, I could not understand this measure. I remind the honorable senator that our law is supposed to be based on common sense. I have given the background of the Statute of Westminster. I challenge my. honorable sena.tor to Bay that I have .misrepresented; the position in any respect whatever. The Statute of Westminster was passed in 1931. That was. eleven years ago; but only now, three years after the outbreak of war, it has dawned on the present, Government that it is necessary to remove doubts as to the validity of some. Commonwealth legislation. I should expect the Government to be more concerned about removing doubts as to whether some of om legislation is not ultra vires our own Constitution. What are the doubts which have caused the Government, to introduce this, legislation ?’
What specific act of the Imperial Parliament prevents this Government from carrying on a maximum war effort? I do not accept that contention. I challenge any honorable senator to specify one instance in which we have suffered by reason of the fact that any of our laws cut across the Colonial Laws Validity Act. I also ask them to cite any case in which such a difficulty, if it did arise, could not be immediately overcome, practically in a moment, by requesting the British Government by cable to pass a regulation to remove the doubt.
– What about our regulations?
– The Government has not cited one regulation in respect of which difficulties have arisen of such importance as to necessitate the passage of this measure. I repeat that our status as a dominion will not be affected one iota by the passage of this bill. Senator Spicer put up several hypothetical cases in which such a difficulty might arise. He did not say, however, that any such difficulty had actually arisen. He mentioned the case of two Australian naval ratings upon whom the death sentence was passed for a crime which they committed on the high seas when they were attached to the British Navy. The point at issue was that under our law the death sentence could not be imposed upon those men. However, under the British law they were condemned to death. In point of fact, however, the sentences were commuted. Have we anything to be ashamed of because those sentences were commuted, not by the Executive Council in this country and through the King’s representative in this country, but by the King himself, to whom we have sworn allegiance? Therefore, that case, at all events, is not sufficient justification for the passage of this measure. As I said earlier. Great Britain has not a written Constitution. Do the people of Great Britain, by reason of that fact, enjoy less freedom than we enjoy in this country? Of course not. Some honorable senators pay tribute to the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) and the SolicitorGeneral, and rely a great deal on the fact that both of those gentlemen request the passage of this legislation. I remind honorable senators that when the Attorney-General was a member of the High Court bench he did not always agree with the decisions of the other judges. Yet Senator Spicer declared that he could not understand how any one could differ from the Attorney-General on this matter; and he explained my attitude by merely saying that I was not a lawyer. Only recently, the judges of the High Court differed on the question of the validity of our uniform taxation legislation. Thus, as a layman, I have many precedents for my disagreement with this proposal. I refer the Senate to the views of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was AttorneyGeneral throughout the last Great War and also during the earlier part of the present’ war. If any man in Australia has played a great part in the building uo of the Commonwealth, it is he, and when its history is written, no man will be given more credit for what has been done to advance Australia as a nation and to protect its people than the right honorable gentleman. He has been and is a patriot, and an Empire-builder. He told the House of Representatives recently that when Attorney-General during the last war, he found that nothing impeded him from carrying out the war effort. When the adoption of the Statute of Westminster was brought up at the Imperial Conference, he told the conference that he wanted none of it. He said : “ We do not need any definition of our relationship with Great Britain by means of a formula. Our position has long been established and Great Britain has given to the Dominions all the freedom it has ever enjoyed itself”. During the early part of the present war, Mr. Hughes said that he did not discover any doubts as to the validity of Australian laws, and was not afraid that, Great Britain might raise its hand and tell the Commonwealth Government that it had gone too far by passing any regulation which it thought it needed. Notwithstanding what has been said this bill was never asked for by Australia, its need has never been felt and the reasons given for it have been quite unconvincing to me. I voted against a similar proposal on a previous occasion and I still maintain my opposition to it. Our position and powers a 3 a self-governing dominion have never been questioned by the Government of the United Kingdom. Two instances have been given during the debate to show the necessity for the bill. One was the need for some power to deal with Japanese luggers outside Australian territorial waters. This bill could not give the Commonwealth Government any additional powers in that matter. My view, although I am not a lawyer, is that vessels outside our territorial waters are on the high seas and subject to international law. No Australian law could be put into force against them.
– That matter would be governed by the power we had to enforce our laws.
– Yes, if we cared to take definite action ourselves, but we should still have to respect international law. The two cases that have been cited, in my opinion, cannot be sustained. If the bill be passed it will be an unfriendly gesture to the Government of the United Kingdom. Nothing has been said here to show that it will make any fundamental alteration of our powers or status. We were free to say whether or not we would enter the great conflict that is now going on, and the same was true of all the other dominions, including South Africa. After the statute was passed by the British Parliament, General Hertzog declared, “ Now we are a free people and we can, if we desire to do so, even secede from the British Empire “. If ever there were conflict between us and Great Bri-tain over the validity of any of our laws, I am sure the difficulty would be easily removed. I do not see anything wrong with reserving certain bills for the assent of the King, who, after all, as the bill shows, is the pivot of the Empire. There is nothing for us to be ashamed of, nor is it any detriment to us, if we have to reserve certain bills for the Royal Assent. His Majesty has never withheld his assent, nor have his advisers ever asked him to do so. It has been asserted that delay has been caused by the necessity to submit bills for the Royal Assent, but I know of no case where any such delay has been proved. I take my lead in this matter from the right honorable member for North Sydney, who was Attorney-General for fourteen years. When our party was in power in recent years, it took no steps whatever to adopt the statute. When the Labour party was in office, it introduced it by way of resolution, affirming the principle, but did not go on with it. Why did it not do so ? A government on our side also introduced it, but left it on the stocks. Apparently, there has been a recent discovery that the validity of some of our laws may be questioned, and that the war effort is being hindered. [ shall vote against the bill, because the reasons that have been advanced in favour of it are not sufficient to make me change the views I expressed eleven years ago.
– Like the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), and adopting his excellent phraseology, I desire to be another example of “ radiant reality “. I do not suggest that I- have any legal knowledge. My remarks, therefore, will be brief, dealing only with the objective of the bill. The House of Representatives discussed it, and carried the second reading by 47 votes to 7. The measure is the work of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and I say, without flattering him, that the information given to this chamber and to the House of Representatives on the subject was ample, and in excellent time. The Minister’s second-reading speech was so comprehensive that not much is left for any other Minister to deal with. As the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) will reply on this debate, I shall content myself with saying that the preparation and explanation of the bill was a masterpiece. I know of no legislation introduced in either chamber which had more care or preparation, and with which honorable senators ought to be more satisfied. The original act was passed by the British Parliament in July, 1931, and the question wa3 raised here when the Labour party was in office with a majority in the House of Representatives, but in a large minority in this chamber. I find, on looking up the records, that the representatives of the two States that are opposed to the bill, that is, Western Autralia and Tasmania, voted against the resolution. The Journals of the Senate, of the 29th July, 1931, show, at page 345, the following record: -
Report of Imperial Conference on operation of dominion legislation : enactment of statute by Parliament at Westminster: - The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Barnes) - by leave - moved -
That . . .
Now therefore the Senate resolves that the Government of the Commonwealth be authorized to request and consent to the submission by the Government of the United Kingdom to the Parliament at Westminster of a bill for a statute containing the provisions set out in the following schedule, and the enactment of the said statute . . .
Then follows the identical sections which are now under discussion. The motion was carried by nineteen votes to eight. Those who voted for it were: Senator Barnes, who was one of our giants, Senator Brennan, a highly efficient lawyer, Senators Carroll, Dooley, Duncan, Sir William Glasgow, Sir Walter Massy-Greene, Guthrie, Hoare, Kingsmill, Kneebone, Lawson, A. J. McLachlan, O’Halloran, Plain, Rae, Reid and Thompson, with Senator Foll as teller. Those who opposed the motion were three Tasmanians: Senators J. B. Hayes, Herbert Hays and Sampson, who evidently have not changed their minds in the interim, and three Western Australian senators. Those are the States whose representatives are now opposing the bill. The Scullin Government, therefore, passed a resolution through the Senate, asking the Imperial Government for what we are now getting. Senator Herbert Hays now asks us why that Government did not finish the job. He ought to know that the resolution was dealt with in July, 1931, and the Scullin Government went out of office in December of the same year, so how could it have done more? The Labour party has not been in office in this Parliament since then. Obviously, the Scullin Government did the correct thing in the efforts it made to give effect to this statute. It was prevented by a prorogation on one occasion, and had a dissolution of the House not occurred on the other occasion, the measure would probably have gone through. I do not know of any other measure of international importance that has had the general support of all sections of the press of Australia. It has the support also of the Australian Natives Association, of which Senator Spicer, like myself, is a member, and which has 46,000 members in Victoria. Its secretary telegraphed to me as follows : -
Australian Natives Association representing 46,000 members in Victoria deeply deplores suggestion that adoption Statute Westminster may cause disunity. Association considers such suggestion unwarranted and is grave reflection on British and Dominion Parliaments and Australian people. Association reiterates strong appeal adoption of Statute as previously approved by both Houses of Parliament.
I have been a member of the organization ever since I was a boy. The Constitutional Association of New South Wales wrote as follows on the 2nd October to all honorable senators -
The Executive of my Association has asked me to tell you that it is gratified to learn that Parliament is about to deal with the adoption of the Statute of Westminster.
In our opinion this step is one whichis long overdue and is an important necessity for ensuring the smooth working of the Empire’s legal system under modern conditions.
The Statute of Westminster does no more than give formal recognition to the accepted practice of Empire relationships over the past twenty years.
Special responsibilities falling upon the Commonwealth in the present war have made the adoption of the Statutea matter of greater urgency than would otherwise have been the case.
On behalf of the Executive,
Frank Louat, President.
The Sydney Morning Herald of the 3rd
October published the following: -
Mature consideration can hardly fail to convince critics of the wisdom of the Commonwealth Government’s action in moving the adoption of sections 2 to 6 of the Statute of Westminster.
It is most unfortunate that an atmosphere of controversy should ever have developed, for the change involved is purely a legal one, designed to clear up the validity of our own domestic legislation.
It is a curious argument which maintains that Empire ties are strengthened by the retention of these archaic legal restrictions upon the legislative competency of the Commonwealth Parliament - restrictions which the Imperial Parliament has renounced its right to impose, and which all Australians would resent if they were to be actively exercised.
The consequences winch these members fear could only arise through the purpose and significance of that ratification being distorted by misplaced sentiment in this country. Herein lieB the irony of their objections.
The Melbourne Argus of the 2nd October published the following:-
Opponents of ratification claim that at this particular time it would he likely to disrupt the Empire. If this objection is the only one, or the best one, it must be said that the case against ratification is Very weak.
The Sydney Morning Mer aid on the 3rd October added -
The Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 5th October published this statement -
The truth is, as Dr. Louat points out, that not a line or phrase in Dr. Evatt’s bill will alter or affect the status of the Commonwealth as a. British dominion under the King. Its only object is to clear away outdated legal procedures-
The Melbourne Herald, which can hardly bc cited as a supporter of the present Government, expressed the following views on the 6th October: -
It is only by a polite accident or neglect that the Australian Parliament has not long since passed legislation ratifying the Statute of Westminster. … It is inconceivable that there can be any difference of opinion in Australia over the endorsement of the Statute of Westminster. . . . The formal adoption nf the Statute is necessary in order that the law should be brought into line with established practice and intention and for the removal of practical drafting and administrative difficulties.
The following considered opinion is expressed by the Government, after careful consultation with its legal advisers, on the subject of the Imperial tie : Will the adoption -of the statute weaken the Imperial tie? The answer is “No”. On the other hand, the tie will be strengthened. Surely it cannot be contended that the tie between the Mother Country and this dominion is based on the Commonwealth being made subject to old and now meaningless restrictions which were imposed on colonies in the early days of colonial development. The Imperial tie is not based on subordination of this Parliament to the Parliament at Westminster. It now rests and always will rest on the unity of the Crown throughout the Empire, the common allegiance of the two peoples to the King and the indissoluble tie of tradition and kinship which has bound and still does and always will bind the people of this Commonwealth to the people of Great Britain. No honorable senator has any right to cast aspersions on the loyalty of any other member of this chamber, irrespective of his political beliefs. The blood ties that bind us all are the strongest bonds of Empire. Anomalies have been discovered in the relations between the Dominions and the Mother Country, but we all hope that the day will come when they will have been corrected, and there will be no further need to discuss them. We should not give occasion in this debate for the raising of irrelevant issues. Senator Poll has lived in Australia for practically the whole of his life, but the other members of his family still reside in England. His love for England and for his adopted country Ls unquestioned. I love Australia, which is the only country I have ever known; yet I have always had a love for the Old Land from which my parents came.
– During this debate the name of Lord Balfour has been mentioned on more than one occasion. .He was not only a statesman, but also a scientist and philosopher, and, in a book which he wrote entitled Foundations of Belief, are a few words which I consider to be relevant to some trends of the discussion on this bill. He said -
The sceptic says that, as we can prove nothing, we may believe anything. I say that, as we believe a great deal, and intend to go on believing it, we should be well advised to discover on what assumption we may believe it most reasonably.
I commend that quotation to those honorable senators who are connected with the law. In this chamber and in the House of Representatives, we have listened to many eloquent and fervent speeches upon the bill now before us. The law and logic of these may be incontrovertible, but in my opinion that is not enough. There are other and greater factors to be considered in considering a bill which deals directly with our status under the Crown. I shall speak both as a Western Australian and as a subject of the Empire, to the maintenance of which many Australians have contributed in no small measure. For the sake of brevity and clarity, I have set out my views on the bill in the form of a creed under six headings. I believe -
That, notwithstanding the terms of sections 8 and 9(1) of the Statute of Westminster, the adoption of section 2 will leave room for means to be devised to-
Those are the principal and vital factors which we have to consider. I shall now quote the views of the Government of Western Australia. It is a Labour government, and it was in office in 1937 when a former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, proposed to pursue this unwelcome topic. On page 1152 of Hansard, vol. 154, of the 15th September, 1937, we read -
In a communication dated the 31st August, 1937, the Premier of Western Australia states that, in the light of the legal advice received and the consideration which has been given to the matter, his Government holds the opinion that it would be preferable to allow the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Australia to be left to flexible constitutional understandings as at present rather than to attempt to define their relationship in legal form by the adoption of sections 2 to 0 of the Statute of Westminster, which that Statu considers will inevitably give rise to doubts, fears and uncertainties concerning the effect of such adoption upon the States of the Commonwealth. The Premier states that his Government is opposed to the measure.
Last week the Western Australian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia held its annual congress. From the president of the branch, who was the chairman of the congress, I received a telegram, from which I quote the following extract -
Following resolution adopted. Congress unanimously resolves that any attempt to adopt the Statute of Westminster or to weaken the present ties that bind Australia to the Mother Country will be strenuously opposed by this branch of the League, which stands foursquare for maintaining the League’s policy.
Behind that resolution is the voice of nearly 10.000 ex-service men and women, who value the Empire and prize the indivisible ties of kinship, tradition and common material interests.
In this chamber, within the last week or two an honorable and erudite senator was pleased to pronounce judgment upon a man who has done a great deal to bind our Empire together. On the 1st January, 1901, when the Commonwealth of Australia first saw the light, Rudyard Kipling made his birthday offering to the nation. If that honorable senator will look up Kipling’s ode entitled The Young Queen, he will find a great deal that can he read in connexion with the debate now before ns. I commend that course of action to him. I admit that what I have said is in great part an appeal to sentiment, but, after all, sentiment has enabled us to overcome many difficulties and face m’any crises, and a healthy sentiment is vital where the interests of the nation are concerned. By things of the spirit armies are made effective and nations are carried through to victory.
– I think that the Government must have welcomed the speech of my colleague, Senator Spicer. As usual, he placed his views before the chamber clearly and concisely, and the only criticism I would offer is that, in his urgent desire to simplify a very complex subject, he did himself an injustice. I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy President, as a layman, like myself, would admit that legal technicalities are difficult to clarify in our own minds. Consequently we listened with deep attention to the secondreading speech by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), which set out the views of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the law officers of the Crown, and also to the explanation made by Senator Spicer. I do not agree that the explanation of the last-mentioned covered the whole field of the subject now being debated. It dealt in an almost incontravertible manner with the legal questions at issue, but more than legal issues are before the chamber. I do not propose to place myself in either of the classes in which Senator Spicer places opponents of this measure. I shall not willingly be regarded as among those who either cannot or will not understand it. There are a number of other classes of opponents of the bill. Even on the subject of legal interpretation I have the temerity to differ from the opinion of Senator Spicer and the Attorney-General. I do not accept, even as a legal interpretation, almost the first paragraph in the second-reading speech of the PostmasterGeneral, who said that the question now before the Senate does not, in any way whatsoever, affect the constitutional status of Australia. If that were a correct statement, it would be unnecessary to introduce the bill.
A great deal has been said about matters leading up to the Balfour declaration and the Statute of “Westminster. It is not suggested by any honorable senator that that statute was forced on the British Commonwealth of Nations by the Parliament at Westminster. I think that we are on common ground when we say that the Balfour declaration, and following it the Statute of Westminster, were made and passed as the result of the views expressed by representatives of the Dominions of the British Empire, and were not an expression of opinion of the representatives of Great Britain itself. To say that the passing of that statute in the British Parliament irrevocably committed Australia with the other dominions is a travesty of fact. Neither Senator Spicer nor anybody else can show that the preamble itself is a force in law. The limitations of the preamble are admitted in the preamble itself. It states, inter alia -
Whereas it is necessary for the ratifying, confirming and establishing of curtain of the said declarations and resolutions of the said conferences that a law be made and enacted in due form by authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
When the representatives of Australia, New Zealand -and Newfoundland agreed to the Balfour declaration they did so with reservations which are contained in sections of the Statute of Westminster. To say that that statute, without complementary legislation in this Parliament, immediately altered the status of Australia in the Commonwealth of Nations is a travesty of fact. If we pass this bill we ratify what is laid down in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster. The fact that this Government saw fit at this time to bring before- the Parliament the bill now under consideration is a sure sign that it is, as usual, years behind events. We have had from time to time clear evidence that the Labour party generally has followed events, not closely, but a long way off. Members of the present Government, who, when in Opposition, opposed measures introduced into this Parliament for the proper carrying out of Australia’s war effort, are now using to the full the powers conferred by those measures. What our representatives said in 1926, or in 1931, or even what honorable senators have said in this chamber on other occasions, is no indication as to what those same representatives would say under existing conditions. We are in an infinitely better position to-day to judge the desirability of this proposal than were the representatives of Australia at the conferences held in 1926, 1931, or were honorable senators in. 1937, when a previous government introduced legislation similar to that now before us. We have seen what has followed the passing of similar legislation in some other parts of the British Empire. Senator Spicer said that whatever Eire had done, it was not due to the passing of the Statute of Westminster. As a legal theory, that statement is probably correct; but Eire carried out the same idea as was propounded bymany of the advocates of the Statute .of Westminster, namely, that every part of the Empire should be completely independent. If there is one thing that current events have shown, it is that the salvation of civilization as we know it is due largely to the strength of the British Empire. I do not think that any honorable senator will suggest that we should now be discussing this measure here had it not been for what Great Britain achieved in 1940. It is my hope, and it shall be my endeavour, that individual sections of the British Commonwealth of Nations - or the British Empire, as I prefer to call it - instead of insisting upon their independence, will co-operate with the Mother Country in making a strong and organic British Commonwealth of Nations. It is one of the tragedies of recent times that, in season and out of season, institutions and individuals have been insisting on their rights. We have heard much of the rights of Australia, the rights of the States, and the rights of individuals; we have heard too little of the responsibilities of those institutions and individuals. Unless we recognize, more than we have done during the last twenty years, that we have responsibilities and duties as well as rights, we shall not maintain a solid and well-founded British Empire. All things such as those that I have mentioned tend to the disintegration of the Empire and to a lessen- ing of its power. In saying that, I do not wish to be accused of suggesting disloyalty on the part of any one who holds a view different from my own. I say definitely that people with contrary views have just the same sense of loyalty as I have, although they may not see loyalty just as I see it. I do not want to b misunderstood ; but I do say that some of the forecasts as to the future of the British Empire will be more than fulfilled unless we, as individuals and as components of that Empire, are prepared to subordinate our independence and our rights to the building up of a strong organization which will enable us to retain those things which we hold dear. Surely I am entitled to say that! We have seen the power of what is sometimes termed “ loose-knitted “ associations to influence the forces of this world. The latest example - and one to which too much lip service was given, both in this Parliament and in this country - was the League of Nations. That was a loose organization of nations, although it was inspired by the noblest of ideals. All that it achieved was the deception of those who supported it. Many nations did not do in times of peace what they would have done had they not relied on the power of the League of Nations. Let us, therefore, cast aside the idea that a looseknit association of people will exert the influence that we wish to be exerted in the world. Whilst I do not deny that sound legal reasons .may exist for the introduction of this measure, I say that the same people who have advanced those reasons could have advanced reasons just as good in opposition to it. We have not been told of any particular objective which this bill sets up to achieve that could not be achieved in some other way. The question of whether we want to get farther away from or closer to, the Mother Country does not arise. It is no use saying that the introduction of a hill like this will not lead to considerable differences of opinion as to its desirability. Of course, there will be differences of opinion and, in my opinion, well-founded differences. I do not know what Professor Bailey, who was brought here to advise us in relation to this measure, would say to-day regarding the
Statute of “Westminster, but in 1934 be said -
Many Australians, indeed, think that the principles upon which the statute rests are both dangerous and disruptive.
I subscribe entirely to that view. He continued -
Regarding the adoption of the statute as a rather provocative gesture of independence, they are fearful of the effect upon British opinion which such a gesture might have.
What Professor Bailey said then could be said with more weight now, when we should sink all differences and concentrate on the things that would unite us rather than on the things that divide. In that statement Professor Bailey was arguing not the legal aspect, but something much more important. He was setting out the human aspect. When people say, “the law is an ass “ they mean that the law, although probably strictly correct in matters of legal terminology, sometimes overlooks the fact that laws are made to govern men. All the discussion to-day on the legal aspects of this measure ignore the sentiment of the people of Australia and of the British Empire generally.
– Not at all.
– Professor Bailey went on to say -
As it stands, the statute would not apply to the States of Australia, and elaborate care was taken to insert provisions to prevent any disturbance of the existing constitutional relations between the Commonwealth and the States. The bearing of the statute on the position of the States is, incidentally, a matter which should be given some further expert consideration in the event of the adoption of the statute bv the Commonwealth.
I have seen no evidence of. that further expert consideration. We have, on the contrary, seen the view which the States take of this matter. Yet we are asked to pass this measure without a division. I assure the. Minister in charge of the bill that the measure will not be passed in this chamber without a division. I believe that a division is necessary.
I believe that this measure was introduced, not for the reasons which ‘have been explained so elaborately, but for other reasons. I agree with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that the Attorney-General has provided the- Parliament with an opportunity to examine the legal aspects of this measure, in a manner which probably has never been excelled. Indeed, I compliment the Attorney-General on his clear exposition of the measure. But, after all, it is only so much window-dressing. In my opinion, this measure was introduced because it is in complete line with the policy which has been advocated by the Labour party ever since 1926, and probably much earlier than that. Indeed, the Minister in charge of the bill said that the Labour Government which was in office in 1933 would have put a similar measure through the Parliament then had it continued in office. Until recently the Labour party did not have a chance to introduce a measure of this kind. The Government is not game to say to the people of Australia, “ We are bringing forward this bill to adopt certain sections of the Statute of Westminster because it is in accordance with our policy”. Instead, it says, “ We are bringing it forward to overcome some of the difficulties that have arisen in drafting regulations in respect of navigation matters “. The reason given to the people is only an excuse. The real reason is that it is part of the policy of the present Government to impose upon the people of this country, in the guise of war emergency, the whole of its socialist policy. I am aware that early in the life of the present Government the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) shouted from the housetops that his Government was not concerned with party politics. Since then, however, the right honorable gentleman has been undermined. His words have been disproved so often by members of his own party that he does not now refute what they say. Even the Prime Minister himself does not now attempt to hoodwink the people into believing that his Government is not concerned with Labour’s policy, but is concentrating all its efforts on the prosecution of the war. At the moment I am not criticizing the Government’s efforts in. connexion with the war, but I am. criticizing the suggestion that this measure will help that effort. There are other means of overcoming the difficulties which this bill seeks to meet; but those means are not in conformity with the policy of the Labour party. I shall oppose tha measure.
.- I regard this bill as a striking example of bad timing and, in my opinion, bad timing is bad blundering. If we were living in times of peace, I should probably support the bill ; but circumstances alter cases. From the Government bench we have frequently heard the interjection, “Are not honorable senators aware that this country is at war?” That is a question which I feel disposed to ask the Government and its supporters. What effect will this legislation have, not only on the Australian people, but also on our allies and our enemies? It cannot, be denied that a strong body of public opinion in Australia is very suspicious of this measure. Whether those people are right or wrong does not matter one iota. They believe that a measure of this kind, even in ordinary times, but more so in a time of war, will tend to undermine the allegiance of the Australian people to the Crown and to the other dominions. It does not matter one iota whether or not that view is justified. That sentiment exists, and the passage of this bill at a time like the present will alarm and distress a great, many people in this country. Further, it, will aid our enemies in their propaganda in not only their own countries, but also in allied countries. In the United States of America, for instance, we shall hear such cries as, “Australia cuts the painter”, “Australia draws away from Britain”, “Australia does not trust the British Empire “. Propagandists will declare that Australia is pulling out of the Empire in the middle of the war. That is how enemy propagandists will use this opportunity. Senator Spicer presented clear and cogent legal reasons for the passage of the measure. I contrast them with the specious reasons set out by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), in his monograph. The honorable senator almost persuaded me “ to be a Christian “, if I might put it, that way. He clearly explained the statute itself, and its effect. He told a good tale with respect to the difficulties now being experienced in the drafting of regulations. However, he ignored altogether that body of sentiment to which I have referred. That loyal sentiment exists, and is to he butchered to make a draftsman’s holiday. After listening to some honorable senators, one would be led to believe that the passage of this bill will remove all of the difficulties of which they spoke so glibly, and will enable us simply to legislate as we wish. As a matter of fact, the sovereign States of Australia are not affected at all by the Statute of Westminster. It affects only legislation enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament. Reference has been made to the effect of this measure in respect of appeals to the Privy Council. The passage of the bill will not preclude appeals to the Privy Council in respect of State laws, whatever effect it may have in that direction in respect of Commonwealth laws. Of course, the Commonwealth may. intend to alter that position. Indeed, it will probably do so by taking from the States all their sovereign rights. That proposition is another example of bad timing. The Commonwealth would have been better advised- to re-arrange the divisions of powers between the States and the Commonwealth, as it apparently intends to do, before it attempted to deal with this matter. When one pins down the supporters of the bill to the point whether, if we are now merely putting into legal form what was really enacted in 1931 under the Statute of Westminster, the statute was necessary so far as Australia is concerned, they reply that, when the matter is put to them in that way, they do not. think that the statute was necessary. They say, in effect, that now we are perfectly free in all but some tinpot legal matters. At the same time they admit tha t had they represented Australia at the Imperial Conferences concerned, they would probably have opposed the Statute of Westminster. Now, however, they take the view that as the statute has been enacted, and we have not been responsible in any way for its enactment, we should treat the passage of this bill as merely a formal matter. Whilst they would have objected to the passage of the Statute of Westminster, they do not feel disposed to raise any objection to this minor formality.
I have said sufficient to indicate why I oppose the bill. The lawyers have a certain amount of legal justification for advocating the mere taking over of these powers which, to all intents and purposes, we possess already. From a legal point of view, that procedure may be advisable. I repeat, however, that this measure has been badly timed. Its introduction at this juncture represents a blunder ; and a blunder in a time of war is a crime. This measure will offend a great body of loyal sentiment in Australia. Many people believe that this is another attempt to cut the bonds of Empire. In addition, the passage of this . measure will undoubtedly be used by enemy propagandists, in not only enemy countries, but also allied countries. We have good reason to fear the result of that propaganda. I repeat that the present is not an opportune time for the ratification of the Statute of Westminster, and that the passage of this measure will do more harm than good. In the interests of Empire unity, it should be postponed. I oppose the bill.
– Taking this measure, as I take it, as a serious instalment of the Government’s present programme, I should like to strip it of all suggestions of prejudice, or sentiment to which Senator Leckie referred with some force. Whether the Statute of Westminster be adopted or not, the people of this country will continue to display their loyalty to the British Commonwealth of Nations. That sentiment, on the part of our people will not be weakened by the passage of this measure. The issue involved is purely legal. It is a matter of facilitating the conduct of the nation’s business. If the measure were regarded by those people to whom Senator McBride referred as destructive and disruptive, I should not hesitate to vote against it. But no question of disruption over a matter of this kind can arise in Australia, which is more British than Great Britain. Ninety-four per cent, of our people are British to the backbone, and proud of it. It has been suggested that the passage of this measure represents an attempt to cut the painter, or to loosen the tie that binds us to Great Britain and the other dominions. If I believed that to be the case, I should vote against, the measure. But that is not the case. The adherence of the Dominions to the Empire has never depended upon a. written document. It. is based upon the good will of the various dominions, and the knowledge of what the Empire has stood for, and is suffering to-day for the benefit of humanity. I regard the Empire as the greatest force in history for the advancement of civilization. For that reason, the Dominions will always adhere to the Empire; and we shall always stand with them. Persons who raise pettifogging suggestions of jealousy and discontent on a measure of this kind cannot see the wood for the trees. They fail to realize the great advantages that are to be derived from adherence to a country whose principles are so high that they can result only in benefits to civilization as a whole. I appreciate what Senator McBride has said regarding Great Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations. The honorable senator usually does not allow sentiment to enter into his calculations. However, does that loyalty of which he spoke depend upon the Statute of Westminster, or upon any act of Parliament ? Incidentally, we shall have the right, to repeal this legislation at any time should it prove onerous or cumbersome. But the loyalty of the Dominions to Great, Britain does not rest upon dry legal agreements. Tt does not rest upon the Statute of Westminster. It rests upon the devotion of the Dominions to the system of government which is upheld by Great Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations. Great Britain has made a greater contribution to the welfare of mankind than any other force in the history of the world. The Empire, through the establishment of a solid form of government, has spread the interests of liberty and the advancement of civilization through-out the world. Any one who believes that a considerable body of opinion in this country to-day desires to sever our tie with Great Britain is mistaken. Should people who hold that view attempt to test it, they would be overwhelmed. It may be, as some honorable senators have said, that our tie with the Mother Country is rather loose; hut its very looseness makes it far more effective than any binding agreement, or statute. Apart altogether from sentiment, the wisdom of that tie is evident as a matter of self-interest. Have we not gained in every respect, by adherence to the British Commonwealth of Nations?
Did not. Britain finance us in the last war, and preserve, this country in that great conflict? Is not Britain assisting us to-day?- Very often we endeavour to minimize our obligations to the Mother Country by thinking that the benefits we have received from it have only been our due. I think of them as benefits conferred by a parent on what I hope will prove a worthy child. Therefore, I believe that the Dominions will remain true to the Mother Country, not only for sentimental reasons, but also- for their own material advancement. If I thought that any of the objections advanced against this measure were justified, particularly the view that this action will tend to weaken our tie with the Mother Country, I should vote against the measure without hesitation. It has been said1 that we- may hurt the feelings of some people by passing this measure-. What is the issue before us? We do not propose to alter the status of this dominion one iota. We are merely doing what probably should have been done when a government of another political colour introduced a similar bill. At that time, we should not have heard any such suggestions. It happens, perhaps, that some people who have no love for the Mother Country tag behind the present Government. I trust that they will tag a long way behind the Government. These people, on occasions, have expressed sentiments that are anti-British; and their action has annoyed the majority of our people. Remembering that such people exist in our midst, some sections, of the community may be a little annoyed because the Government has introduced this measure. However, in a calm analysis of the position, the Minister in charge of the bill has explained the view held by the Solicitor-General with respect to difficulties which now arise in the drafting of certain legislation. That explanation should dispel any suggestion that this measure has been brought forward merely for the object of placating people who are anti-British. Should such people raise their voice, they would certainly get their deserts in this country which is definitely overwhelmingly pro-British in sentiment. What has been fire- attitude of all the Dominions to the Mother Country in this war?
Those of us who served in- the Boer War did no more in that conflict than. South Africa is contributing to the cause of the allies in this war. Australia has displayed wonderful loyalty to Great Britain in this conflict. Certainly, we have had our little troubles; but, by and large, has so great an example of loyalty been given to the world than that which her so-called whelps are now giving to the Mother Country in this war? We are now reminded of the largemindedness of big statesmen like the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and the late Lord Balfour. Those men foresaw the future of the Empire. Did they think for one moment that some trifling difficulty, such as has cropped up with regard to this matter, would stand in the path of progress of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which to-day is performing so much good throughout the world? When the war is over we shall need all our courage and unity, and all the cooperation that we can get from Britishspeaking people everywhere, to bring the world into a state of sanity and to restore a certain amount of that equilibrium which has undoubtedly been lost. I intend to vote for the measure. I should have preferred that nothing had been said in opposition to it, because I do not regard it in any sense as a cleavage of the ties of Empire, nor am I afraid of it being used by Goebbels, or any one else who is trying by propaganda to create disunity among the allies and between the various members of the British Empire. They do that every day now, but the more they do it the less value is placed on it. What is the bill to be used for? Is not the best answer provided by our men in Egypt and New Guinea and our ships at sea, to say nothing of the losses we have already suffered? I regard it as so much fudge to suggest that it may be used as propaganda against us. The only material that we ave making for use by enemy propagandists is in our discussions of the bill here. Only out of such discussions can they obtain any grain of comfort, because my loyalty and that of nearly all the Australian people does not depend uponthe adoption or rejection of the Statute of Westminster. Our relationship and our status are not ‘being interfered with. Wo are still a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. What does the statute do? Many years ago the Merchant Shipping Act was passed by the Parliament of the Mother Country, which recognized with characteristic wisdom that its very existence depended on its overseas trade - what it could import in the form of food for its people and what it could export in order to obtain revenue. That act provided- for the control of British merchant shipping throughout the world. That has never been altered. As the whelps of the old lion grew up, and required to make laws and regulations regarding merchant shipping, we found that two sections in that act occasionally conflicted with what our draftsmen would like to do. The same occurred with the Colonial Laws Validity Act. We have every right now to pass this bill. We are not interfering with the position of the States by doing so. We do not enhance our constitutional powers and we do not interfere with the right of appeal to the Privy Council. All those things are still as they were, and our status is still as it was.
– What does the bill do?
– In the first place its preamble declares the constitutional position as it was at the time of the passing of the statute and as it had been prior to that. .Section 4 of the statute provides that -
No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that act that that Dominion lias requested., and consented to, the enactment thereof.
That is a clear-cut statement of the position. It is a statutory enactment declaring that that is the law of the United Kingdom. What is the harm in that as regards the Merchant Shipping Act or the Colonial Laws Validity Act, which Senator Spicer explained so fully? Reference also has been made to extraterritoriality. I remember that on one occasion when I was administering a department we encountered that trouble in a matter referred to in the Minister’s secondreading speech. . We found the greatest difficulty in determining the extent of our extra-territorial powers, because we apparently had none. The bill will widen our right in that regard and there will be no conflict with the Mother Country in that respect. What were the resolutions of 1926 and what were their objects? However suspicious some of my friends on this side of the chamber may be of them, surely all that the sections embodied in the statute will do is to make the minds of the parliamentary draftsmen and the legal officers of the Crown quite easy regarding certain actions. Even our friends who oppose the bill admit that our status has not been altered and our relationship is exactly the same, but our powers of enactment are enlarged. No restraint will be placed upon us by the Merchant Shipping Act. We are to -be free from that control, and we are told that in future, unless we desire it ourselves, we shall have no further control from the Imperial Parliament. I noticed during the debate a suggestion that the statute might lead to friction. Rather it is likely to remove any cause of friction, if there ever was any. It enables us without any increase of the powers of our written Constitution to do certain things that we were not able to do in relation to merchant shipping and the Colonial Laws Validity Act. It enables our laws to operate even if there be any repugnancy in them to laws of the British Parliament. I am whole-heartedly in favour of the measure. I voted for the resolution in 1931 and shall support this bill. Those opposing it seem to see in it, some loosening of the tie, some cutting of the painter, but the common law of this country, with which we are not interfering, is the common law of England. Each of us carried it to this country when we came here, and with that there is no interference. We are adjusting only certain difficulties that have given rise to misunderstandings here and there in the enactments that we pass from time to time, but mainly our law is the old British law, which we shall not disturb unnecessarily. Where, however, we pass legislation which is repugnant to some British act, or desire to do something which is in conflict with certain sections of the Merchant Shipping Act, or wish to have further extraterritorial powers, then this statute comes to our aid. I support it in the sincere belief : hat it is going to help the movement for unity, and not hinder it, and because I believe that, although there is a certain amount of misunderstanding outside, it is going to remove any cause of friction. Some honorable senators have spoken of the difficulty of reserving certain statutes for the King’s assent, but what is the gentleman who represents His Majesty in this country if he is not the representative of the King? These provisions only facilitate the action and the work of governments. They do not touch what is termed the painter, nor do they endanger all that makes us support the Empire as we have done. All that the statute does is to remove some little difficulties that obstruct us.
– in reply - I wish to express my appreciation of the measure of support accorded to the bill. I am grateful to members of the Opposition, particularly the legal members, for their contribution to the debate. I introduced the bill as a layman, and their contribution has been of great assistance to me in convincing the Senate of the necessity of passing it. I also appreciate any opposition that has been raised to the bill, because at least it can be said that some honorable senators who oppose it are consistent with the attitude they adopted some years ago. The chief objection that has been raised to the bill is as to the need for it. Senator Herbert Hays was very emphatic on the absence of any need for it. He asked what Great Britain had ever done to interfere with Australia in regard to legislation since federation. I agree that nothing has happened that would impede our legislation or regulations since federation. The honorable senator asked: “What has been put in the political pie?” Some very indigestable ingredients were placed in the political pie before federation in the shape of the Merchant Shipping Act and the Colonial Laws Validity Act, and surely no objection can be taken to their removal at this late stage. The honorable senator is quite correct in saying that since federation the Imperial Government has not passed any legislation that impedes the Common wealth of Australia in regard either to laws or regulations. Senator Leckie referred to the bad timing. I hope that this Government will not meet with the same disaster that the Scullin Government met in 1931 after taking preliminary steps to pass this legislation. Senator Leckie also stressed the danger of propaganda. The only effective propaganda of any value in the long run is the truth. I do not care how much false news is used in Germany or Japan, the more it is emphasized the more ridiculous it appears. As Senator A. J. McLachlan pointed out, the results we have achieved have shown the falsity of the propaganda of our enemies. During the course of the debate I have endeavoured to obtain full information on all points raised by honorable senators opposite. If there is any which I have not obtained, I shall be glad to supply it in committee. Reference was made to the effect of the bill on the right of appeal to the Privy Council. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has supplied me with information showing that the adoption of the statute will not in any way affect the present legal position in that regard. He has replied to me as follows : - 1. (a) Appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council are governed by section 74 of the Commonwealth Constitution. At the present time the Commonwealth Parliament has power under certain conditions to modify or abolish the appeal. Honorable senators will know that there is no right of appeal from the High Court to the Privy Council. The Privy Council itself must give leave to appeal and in certain types of constitutional cases leave cannot be granted at all without a certificate from the High Court. However., the answer is that adoption of the statute will not in any way at all affect the appeal from the High Court to the Privy Council.
Therefore appeals to the Privy Council either from the High Court or from the Supreme Court will not be affected by the adoption of the Statute.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. j. Cunningham.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 1.45 p.m.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The measure provides a simple procedure for dealing with the “ war service estate “ of deceased members of the forces and of auxiliary organizations. It does not touch their private estate, to which State law will: continue to apply. The war service estate will consist of the net amount of pay, allowances and other moneys due to the member by theCommonwealth, together with such of his personal effects as are, at the time of his death, or, after that time, placed in the custody or control of the naval, military or air force authorities. These personal effects will be money and articles, such as a watch, which the member has with him at the time of his death, and such articles as are contained in his kit bag. Thousands of articles and sums of money in small amounts will come into the hands of the authorities, and it would be both burdensome and expensive to the Commonwealth and the State authorities if their distribution were to be undertaken according to ordinary civil law. It is, therefore, provided that the war service estate may be paid or delivered to the personal representative of the deceased member, to the person considered to be beneficially entitled thereto, to a public trustee or to such person or class of persons as is prescribed, and that such payment or delivery shall operate to discharge the Commonwealth from all liability in respect of the money or property so distributed. At present there are about 60 cases to which the measure will apply as soon as it comes into force. Apart from drafting alterations, and the extension of the provision to the naval and air forces and their auxiliaries, the bill now before the Senate is in substance the same as the Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act 1918-1919, under which what were designated “ military estates “, were simply and satisfactorily administered.
– I understand that the purpose of the bill is to facilitate the disposal of property that may be in the hands of the services1 at the time of the death of a deceased member. During the last war the need for such legislation was felt in order to restore without undue delay personal articles to members of the families of deceased members of the services. I see no objection to the passage of this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 10’ agreed to.
Clause 11 (Application of estate where no person beneficially entitled thereto).
.- This clause provides that where it appears that there is no person to whom the war service estate of a deceased member of the services may be paid, the proceeds of the estate shall be applied to the creation or maintenance of a prescribed fund for the benefit of persons who are or have been members or dependants of members. Will the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) explain the meaning of the clause? Apparently, if a person can prove that he has a claim on property, it can be withdrawn from any fund into which it has been paid. What kind of fund has the Minister in mind?
– Normally, the amount of such estates would be paid into State revenue. As it is part of the proceeds of war expenditure by the Commonwealth, it seems more appropriate to devote it to- repatriation benefits. In the case of soldiers’ estates in the past, if there has been any doubt as to existence of next-of-kin, the estate has been handed over to the State Public Trustee, to be disposed of by him. No fund has been established under the existing act.
,.- The Minister must have in his mind some fund into which this money is to be paid. Will he establish a fund for the benefit of blind or limbless soldiers? I am. wondering whether he has in mind an organization to which the money could be paid, or whether he will, advocate the formation of an association for the benefit of members of the services.
– There is to be a fund as prescribed by the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 15 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
On Wednesday last the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) announced an important decision by the. Government to provide assistance to the dairying industry by means of a subsidy of up to £2,000,000 a year, and to take the necessary measures through the Commonwealth Court of. Conciliation and Arbitration for the determination of reasonable wage standards and living conditions for the workers in the dairying industry. Without restating in detail the circumstances which led up to the Government’s decision to provide assistance to the ‘dairying industry, it may suffice to say that this is a major war-time industry, the output of which is vital to the health and efficiency, not only of the fighting forces in and around Australia and the civilian population of this country, but also of the people of Britain. Owing to wide disparities between living conditions in the dairying industry and in other war-time industries there is .great difficulty in maintaining a sufficient labour force on dairy farms to ensure the output required to meet the demands for -dairy products, and it is now essential to give consideration to -the industrial aspect of the industry. An important provision of this bill is that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration may be requested by the Minister to determine terms and conditions of employment in the dairying industry. Any determination made will operate -as from the 1st October, 1942. This will not only do justice to a large section of employees who have hitherto been denied access to a recognized wage-fixing tribunal, but it will also establish conditions under which the maintenance of an -effective labour force will be reasonably assured.
In order to meet any higher costs arising out of increases in wage standards and alterations of conditions of employment, and to relieve the industry on account of other disabilities, such as drought in certain areas and generally increased costs since the outbreak of war, the Government has decided to make available in the current year in the form of a subsidy an appropriation of £1,500,000. The subsidy will commence as from the 1st October, 1942. It will be granted for the production of butter and cheese, and appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that the whole of the subsidy goes to the producers. The terms and conditions upon which the subsidy will be paid are to be the subject of investigation and recommendation by the Tariff Board. Clause 6 authorizes the Tariff Board to make such inquiries and investigations as it thinks necessary, and to recommend! to the Minister for Trade and Customs the allocation of the subsidy, taking into consideration the existence in any area of drought conditions, any disabilities of producers attributable to the war, and the terms and conditions of employment as prescribed from time to time by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Honorable senators wall appreciate the fact that the Tariff Board has had extensive experience in investigating conditions in all types of industry, and in advising the Government upon the terms on -which subsidies or bounties should be paid. The board is undoubtedly the most experienced governmental agency for this purpose, but in order to ensure that its reports will be made on’ the basis of an intimate knowledge of the dairying industry, specific provision is made in the bill for the appointment to the board for purposes of these investigations of a person experienced in the industry. It is anticipated that a number of administrative problems, such as the question of the allocation of assistance between parties to .sharefarming, will arise. The ball provides that regulations may be gazetted to deal with other matters arising out of the administration of the Government’s plans for the dairying industry. It will be provided that where any dispute arises as to the proportion which the working partner should receive, the aggrieved party shall have the right to appeal to a tribunal for a determination. The Government also intends to review the existing regulations regarding transfers of properties and land values, with a view to ensuring, that any assistance granted to the industry will not be swallowed up in higher land values to the detriment of the producers and workers in the industry. In deciding to give relief to the dairying industry by way of a subsidy, the Government gave special consideration to the effects on prices and industrial costs of an increase of the price of so fundamental a commodity as butter. A rise of the price of butter would raise the retail index number upon which the automatic adjustment of wage rates is made. Under the method of subsidy it is hoped that no such increase of price will be required, and to this degree the Government’s objective of promoting stability of price and costs will be realized. At the same time, attention has to be given to the urgent need to stimulate the output of butter. I have already referred to the importance of maintaining supplies of this commodity. With increasing demands from the fighting forces in and around Australia and expanding demands from Great Britain, it will be necessary for Australia to sustain the dairying industry at the highest level consistent with the demands of the armed forces and other war industries with the man-power available.
– The method proposed by the Government in this bill to assist the dairying industry is a departure from the established practice of this country. I understand that the butter stabilization scheme introduced by the Bruce-Page Government has given general satisfaction to the industry. In this connexion, it is interesting to note that the price of butter has risen by only Id. per lb. in the last ten years. I mention that in order to emphasize that, by departing from the principle of fixing a reasonable home-consumption price for primary products, and adopting a. policy of granting a subsidy to this important rural industry, the Government brings butter into the political arena and makes it the plaything of party politics. I understand that the subsidy will represent about l£d. per lb. to the producers of butter. A former Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) said that at least 6d. per lb. would be required in order to do justice to the dairy-farmers. I invite the attention of the Senate to the awkward position in which the Government is placing the dairying industry. We have had sufficient experience to know that when ail’ industry becomes a plaything of party politics, justice is not done to any section of the community. I cannot understand why the report of the special committee of inquiry into the dairying industry has not been made available to honorable senators. If that report were available honorable senators would he better equipped to deal with this bill. However, for some reason, the Government is not prepare to make available to the Senate the report of its own committee. That is regrettable. It has been suggested that the reason for assisting the industry by means of a subsidy is to prevent a rise of the cost of living, but I do not think that we should deceive ourselves in that way. The cost of living has increased considerably since the present Government came into office. The bud getary position of the Commonwealth is such that if the Treasurer has to hand out £1,500,000 this year to the dairyfarmers of Australia, it can be done only by the inflationary method of increasing the gap between receipts and expenditure and providing the money by means of bank credit. I doubt whether that will help the primary producers. Dairyfarmers, as well as wheat-growers and all others engaged in rural production, are entitled to as much consideration in time of war as are other sections of the community, but it does not appear that the Government had paid sufficient attention to that aspect; for instance, Australian farmers have so far received only 2s. 7£d. a bushel for the 1941-42 wheat crop. That is considerably below the cost of production, as the Government itself has admitted by proposing to pay 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000’ bushels of wheat delivered by each farmer from the forthcoming harvest. That rate will apply to nearly 75 per cent, of the wheat-growers of this country. Probably the reason for the more generous treatment of the dairying industry is that greater pressure has been brought to bear on the Government by the better organized dairyfarmers. In my opinion, the dairy-farmers are entitled to this small measure of assistance, especially in view of the fact that the price of butter has risen by only Id. per lb. during the last ten years, notwithstanding that the costs of production have increased considerably. This bill has been prepared hurriedly, and the whole subject has been approached in the wrong way. I trust that the proposal before us is only a temporary means of assisting the dairying industry until the Government is able to, stabilize the industry on a sounder basis.
– I recognize in this bill the desire of the Government to do something to assist the dairying industry, but an analysis of the measure shows that the benefit to the dairy-farmers will be small indeed. The Government cannot be unaware of the position of the dairying industry, because the matter has been brought forward in this Parliament on numerous occasions. Moreover, the Joint Committee on Rural Industries has drawn attention to the facts. Production costs in the dairying industry have increased by from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, during the last three years, hut the price of butter has risen only by Id. per lb. The position is so serious that many dairy-farmers have threatened to “ go slow “ and even to discontinue the production of butter. This offer of assistance to the industry will not increase the quantity of butter produced. It will not even arrest the decline of production that has set in.
– What does the honorable senator suggest as an alternative ?
– The only alternative is that dairy-farmers shall receive for their product a price which is commensurate with the work performed by them and consistent with what other primary industries receive. During the budget debate, I said that it was time, that the Government recognized the importance of the primary industries of this country. I said that primary producers could not be expected to remain always hewers of wood and drawers of water. They should not be forced to accept a standard of living lower than that of other sections of the community. Queensland is the greatest butterproducing State in the Commonwealth, but in that State alone production has fallen by 1,000,000 boxes a year. Unless something substantia] is done to assist the industry, the time is not far distant when Australia will be unable to supply its own population with butter, let alone fulfil its obligations to Great Britain. There is already talk of the possibility of butter being rationed. Should that be found necessary, it will be due to the failure of the Government to recognize the importance of this industry and to ensure to the producers of butter a price commensurate with the work which they perform and the costs that they have to meet. To-day the remuneration of workers in some secondary industries is based on the cost-plus system. Why should not that principle be applied to producers who are supplying the nation’s food? We have three armies : first, our fighting forces ; secondly, the workers in our war factories; and, thirdly, our great army on the land, which is feeding the nation. Surely, it is not right that while the primary producers cannot obtain a payable price for their commodities, workers in secondary industries should be paid on the cost-plus principle. If we believe that we can solve this problem merely by proposals of this kind we are only deceiving ourselves. The only way in which we can induce the primary producers to get back to normal production is by giving to them a reasonable price for their commodities. The argument is advanced that wo should thereby increase the cost of living. But are not the dairymen of this country keeping down the cost of living of the community generally? We cannot carry on with our economy out of balance in that way. Apparently, other industries are able to obtain all of the consideration they request simply because they are most vocal in their demands, whereas the primary producer speaks rather as an individual and, consequently, his requests for assistance go unheeded. If the dairymen of this country were paid on an equitable basis, the price of butter would be increased to at least 2s. 6d. per lb., as was the case in the last war. It is clear from the reactions of the people in respect of commodities which have been rationed that they are most concerned, not with prices, but with the quantities made available. The general complaint with respect to petrol, for instance, is not that the price is too high, but that sufficient quantities of petrol are not made available. The same observation is true in respect of other commodities that have been rationed. To-day, our dairymen find themselves in exactly the position they were in three years ago. At the same time, they are now asked to carry an unfair share of our war effort. The price of beef has risen to £3 a cwt. and many dairymen, instead of milking their cows, are selling them to the butchers. Indeed, in many cases, calves and yearling stock, which should be held to replace cows now milking, are also being sold to the butcher. I repeat that this measure will not achieve the objective which the Government has in view. The only way in which we can restore stability in the industry, and also increase the production of butter, is by giving to the primary producers a. reasonable price for their commodities. In that way we shall make our primary industries as attractive to those engaged in them as are the secondary industries to the workers. How can we reasonably expect that while certain sections of our people enjoy high wages, fewer working hours and a low cost of living, the man on the land must bear the sacrifice involved in providing those conditions. If the Government believes in giving a fair deal to all sections, or if it hopes to make a maximum war effort, it must guarantee to the primary producers a fair price for their commodities. Whilst this measure is a small recognition of the needs of the primary producers, the Government will inevitably be obliged to take further action to restore the dairying industry to the position it enjoyed prior to the outbreak of war.
– It is interesting to contrast the introduction of this measure with that of the Statute of Westminster Adoption Bill, which we have just considered. In connexion with the latter measure, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) circulated a monograph setting out reasons for its necessity, and officers were made available for consultation in order that the fullest possible information on the bill could be obtained by honorable senators. On this occasion, however, we are asked to put through immediately a measure which we did not see until 30 minutes ago. No special information has been made available to us in order to enable us to deal with this measure. At the same time, however, the Government recently received a report from a committee set up to consider the position of the dairying industry. Why has it not made that report available to us? I have no doubt that that report would be very helpful to us on this occasion. We are simply asked to pass the bill willy-nilly. Honorable senators who have, from time to time, criticized the policy of the Government, now note with interest that already some of the Government’s errors are coming home to roost. On previous occasions we have exposed the Government’s subterfuges to conceal the effects of its policy. However, the Minister, in his second-reading speech, which I have no doubt contains an accurate statement of the facts, makes this admission -
Owing to the wide disparity between living conditions in the dairying industry and living conditions in other war-time industries there is a great difficulty in maintaining a sufficient labour force.
Some days ago we passed a measure dealing with the employment of females in war industries. It is a fact that this Government, and its predecessor, have made certain concessions to workers in secondary industries. However, it has remained for this Government to flout all of the industrial principles which have operated in this country for the last 30 years. Whilst it is prepared to hand out concessions tocertain sections under the illusion, I suppose, that this policy will not have its repercussions in other spheres, we now find that it is forced to realize that its generosity in that direction now calls for further generosity on its part towards other industries. I agree that the present proposals are totally inadequate to solve the problems confronting the dairying industry. We can reasonably assume that the subsidy proposed in this measure, and which the Minister flamboyantly stated would go into the hands of the producers, will merely pass through the hands of the producers into the pockets of workers engaged in rural industries. I believe that the remuneration of workers in rural industries should be equivalent to that of workers in other industries; and I shall be happy when that policy is put into effect. However, it is a travesty of the truth to say that this paltry £1,500,000 -will enable the dairy-farmers throughout Australia to provide a reasonable wage to their employees, and will also enable the self-employed dairyfarmers to obtain a reasonable wage. That is simply tinkering with the problem.
– At least it is a commencemen t.
– It is a belated commencement. The Government cannot excuse itself on the ground that it has not been very long in office. It has now been in office for twelve months; and the problem with which we are now dealing has been developing for over eighteen months. I admit that to some degree it has been accentuated by circumstances over which, the Government has no control. For instance, the entry of Japan into the war entirely altered our manpower problem. I do not lay any charge at the door of the Government in that respect. However, the Government is largely responsible for the present disorganization of man-power in the rural industries. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings), by way of interjection, said that the Government was approaching this problem scientifically ; and I listened attentively to the Minister’s interpretation of the scientific principles alleged to be embodied in this measure. The only effective way of dealing with this problem is to guarantee to the producers of butter a price which will give a reasonable standard of living not only to them, but also their employees. When we realize the man-power which will be required in order to administer this scheme, we can only come to the conclusion that it is most unscientific. The Government could subsidize butter production by simply providing a certain subsidy per lb. Only a small staff would be necessary to administer such a scheme, but it is obvious that an extravagant staff will be required to administer this subsidy on the basis set out in the bill. The Government, in its desire to be scientific, has decided that the subsidy shall he paid on a basis to be determined by the Tariff Board. The determinations of the Tariff Board, however, are to be made on a very nebulous basis. It is provided that the board shall have regard, first, to the existence in any area of conditions of drought; secondly, to any disabilities of primary producers arising out of circumstances attributable to the war; and, thirdly, to any terms and conditions of employment prescribed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in relation to the dairying industry. Apparently, should a drought occur in the coming year in, say, the northern part of New South Wales, dairy-farmers in that area will become entitled to a subsidy, but so soon as the drought breaks in that area the subsidy will be discontinued. All kinds of conditions can be attributed to the war. Consequently, one cannot even hazard a guess as to the basis on which the subsidy will be given. As for the third requirement governing the recommendations of the Tariff Board, it is well known that the dairy producers have never enjoyed conditions comparable with those enjoyed by workers in secondary industries. Surely, the Government is not serious when it asks us to believe that the provision of £1,500,000 will raise the standard of living of the dairy producers and their employees to that enjoyed by workers in war industries. Obviously, the Government is endeavouring to deceive the dairy producers. When the latter receive this munificent dole they will not be very pleased. The Government is parsimonious in its approach to this problem. It should give further consideration to it from the viewpoint of stimulating production. During recent months I have been considerably worried by the fact that the Government is apparently ignoring the needs of some of our allies, particularly Great Britain, in respect of foodstuffs. Since the loss of Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies, Great Britain’s demand for essential foodstuffs has increased tremendously. We know that due to various causes the production of butter in1 this country has decreased substantially. Has the Government done anything to ensure that Great Britain shall receive the maximum share that we can spare of our reduced output of foodstuffs? It has done nothing in that direction. Whilst we have rationed clothes and, allegedly, rationed sugar, no suggestion has been made that our people should do with less butter in order that we might be enabled to send more to Great Britain.
– Let us all have a little more.
– I do not think that this, or any other. Government can maintain our present standard of living, and, at the same time, engage in a maximum war effort. Consequently, we cannot expect to have available the same quantities of foodstuffs in a time of war as we enjoy in time of peace. It is the duty of this Government to stimulate not only the production of butter, but also to reduce its consumption in this country in order that we may be able to make a fair contribution towards the great effort now being made by our kinsmen in Great
Britain. Consequently the Government is only playing with the subject. It is sending up a smoke-screen. The only thing that gives me any comfort is that the people that the Government is attempting to help will realize the insincerity of its efforts and express their criticism of its proposal in no uncertain terms.
.- I entirely agree with the remarks of Senator Herbert Hays and Senator McBride, and would go a little farther even than they have gone, by saying that the bill is nothing more than a sham. That is quite evident from the fact that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) had hardly made his statement about the alleged subsidy of £2,000,000 before the dairy-farmers themselves saw through it, recognizing that it was really no subsidy at all, but a means of giving a subsidy to certain sections of the Government’s own supporters. It reminds me of the Government’s action a little while ago, when it bombastically declared throughout the country that it would increase the pay of soldiers by 6d. a day, and simultaneously caused the price of cigarettes and beer to be increased, so that the 6d. was returned to the Government with something in addition. .Any one who reads the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to-day, and this bill, will see that it does nothing but tinker with the very serious problem that now faces us in relation to dairy production. No one desires to see any section of the community sweated, but nobody is being more sweated than the dairy-farmers themselves. That is why so many of them have gone out of butter and cheese production altogether, and have actually given up their farms and gone to work for the more lucrative wages they can get in munitions factories. Nothing could be worse at a time like the present, when consumption is being enormously increased to meet the requirements of the Australian Army and the allied troops, than to prevent the increase of production. Consumption has increased to such an extent, that it is necessary to do all we can to stimulate production for ourselves, for the Empire, and also for our Allies. What does this proposal consist of? It is a suggestion to the dairy-farmer that in certain circumstances the Government will ‘ give him a small subsidy on production, but it is followed immediately by a proposal that those working in the industry shall have immediate access to the Arbitration Court. I suppose that in nine cases out of ten an award will be made to the person working for the dairy-farmer which will give him about twice as much as the farmer himself receives for working three-quarters of the way around the clock. Even in States like Queensland, which have been under State Labour laws for many years, no attempt has been made to introduce arbitration and conciliation conditions into certain primary industries, because it is perfectly well recognized that they are not in a position to pay higher wages. Senator Courtice, who know3 a little about primary production, is perfectly well aware that all the benefits that went to the sugar industry under the agreement have been wiped out by the industrial legislation imposed, on the farmers, and that for the average sugar-farmer there is no profit at all in the growing of sugar. The honorable senator knows that many of them are just struggling along, making a bare existence, working long hours, and with their wives and children working on the farms. That is what the dairymen also are doing from one end of Australia to the other. Childlabour is being used to help the old people for two reasons, the ever-increasing costs imposed on dairymen, and because the primary industries have received little or no consideration from the manpower authorities to enable them to carry on. The country has been bled white of men who were previously engaged in primary industries. In their usual manner the young flocked to the colours in the early stages of the war and there has been the big inducement, to which I have already referred, to men to come in from the country and earn the enormous wages which are in some cases being paid in munitions factories. Senator Herbert Hays said that certain producers had stated that unless more consideration were given to them they were not prepared to continue production. The man on the land is very loyal, and does not talk in that way unless driven t.o the state of desperati on, to which these men are being driven now. For the Government, at a few hours’ notice, to come down with this bill aud pretend that it has dealt with the serious problem facing the dairying industry by saying : “ We will give you a sop of £1,500,000 and at the same time put the Arbitration Court on to you, in order to ensure that everything you get is passed on “, is a hollow sham. We have no alternative but to support the bill, but do not let the people imagine that anything is being given to the dairymen or that this bill will meet the serious position in which the dairying industry finds itself. It will not help those who are working with their families all around the clock, and in many instances facing severe drought conditions. They are just as much entitled to receive a fair return for their work, and to ask the public to pay a price which will give them a reasonable living wage, as is any other section of the community.
.- I do not quite understand Senator Foil’s remark that we on this side have no alternative but to support the bill. I am opposed to it because it is a hollow mockery, and am prepared to oppose it for that reason. This is the first bill that on the face of it is a hollow mockery, because its preamble says that its object is to aid the prosecution of the war. Could anything be more of a sham? In what way will it do that? The Government is simply going to capitalize the war to get through Parliament, a pet piece of its own legislation, which has nothing to do with the war at all. If the Minister could only see that it is a sham he would agree to amend the preamble. The bill is not to be administered by a department which is sympathetic to the primary industries, or which is used to dealing with them, or whose officers have been working for their benefit. It. is to be administered by the Department of Trade and Customs which has always dealt, with hard, dry goods and not with the needs and production of primary producers. The body which is to inquire’ into the conditions of the industry is the Tariff Board, with one dairy expert attached to it as an afterthought. That board has for many years been investigating tariff problems, dealing with manufactures of all kinds. The Government proposes to hand over the interests of the primary producers to a board that knows nothing about them or their needs. The bill is a hollow mockery, when it purports to pay to the dairying industry £1,500,000 in cash with one hand and then grabs from it about £2,500,000 with the other hand. Fortunately, the primary producers are awake to what is being done, and, although there are a great many dairymen in Victoria, the State which I represent, I shall not have the slightest hesitation in voting against a measure which will deprive them of £1,000,000. I am opposed to the bill because the principle involved is unfair, and the subsidy is inadequate. If a subsidy ja given, the money must be obtained from the taxpayer. It is obtained from him under our present taxation laws, not by means of equal payments from every one, but from certain sections, who are also consumers. If the price of the produce were raised to compensate the producer f or his labour and material, every body would buy what he required, and so the increase in price would be spread over every family in the community. We have at present in Australia a surplus of butter. The Minister in his second-reading speech expressed the opinion1 that the industry must be kept alive to produce more butter, but the real effect of the bill will be to reduce the quantity of butter and cheese produced in Australia. Although the measure purports to give £1,500.000 to the dairying industry, it also contrives in devious ways to take’ £2,500,000 away from the dairymen at the same time. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) is not to be the sole arbiter under the bill. Anybody knowing him might say that he could be trusted to do what is fair. His appearance and general attitude indicate a certain amount of human sympathy, but the matter is not left to him, because the AttorneyGeneral may come in and say to him, “ You ave not ensuring that the people working in the industry are getting enough money. I am going to take this out of your hands. So far as their conditions are concerned and arrange for the
Arbitration Court to fix their wages and conditions of labour.” The object of the bill is to apply Arbitration Court awards to rural industries, a policy which the Labour party has advocated for many decades. It has not been able to arrange it before, but now, under the pretence of aiding the prosecution of the war, it will secure something for which it has been fighting for. The bill provides that the GovernorGeneral may make regulations, not inconsistent with the act, on various subjects, including the conditions on which the payments shall be made to the primary producers. That is very indefinite. Many subversive things could be done. The Minister might prescribe that no cows shall be milked on a dairy-farm except by black labour, or that all the workers must be unionists. Any absurdity could be introduced. I would not be at all concerned, and I do not think that the dairymen in Victoria would be disappointed if the bill were rejected. I look upon it as something which has been brought forward to gain the support of the dairymen, but which at the same time will affect them adversely. The bill, which has been produced in the dying hours of the session, on the plea of helping to win the war, is simply a bludgeon that the Government is waving over the heads of the people of Australia.
– The last three speakers have said some things that call for a reply. I wish to detail a little of the history of *he dairying industry so far as my knowledge of it goes. Exception has been taken to the bill and. to the distribution of £1,500,000 in the form of subsidies. Honorable senators have spoken as though the bill was to be a very doubtful benefit to the dairying industry. From my experience I believe that it will be of wonderful assistance. Honorable senators opposite may be taking exception to that part of the bill which enables the Arbitration Court to determine the wages of some employees in1 the industry. About 23 years ago I had the privilege of being appointed a commissioner of the New South Wales Board of Trade to represent rural industries. One of the duties of the board, after having made a public inquiry into the average cost of living, was to declare what should be a living wage for adult male employees and adult female employees, and, in the course of the investigation, to inquire into the cost of living of rural workers and declare what their wage should be. In order to do that, the board made an extensive examination, because the terms of its reference from the New South Wales Government included an inquiry into the cost of production of butter, cheese, milk, and bacon. Along the north coast of New South Wales, between Raymond Terrace and the Queensland border, but not including the tableland country, it was discovered that there were 270 persons working on dairy farms for wages, and that in many cases their wage, including perquisites,; amounted to only 6s. a day. At Lismore, evidence was taken from 75 dairy-farmers, and their story regarding the cost of production was one long repetition. They said that the period of lactation was about seven months in the year, and that the average production from each cow was only threequarters of a gallon a day, whilst the average butter-fat content was less than 4 per cent. Mr. G. H. Knibbs, the then Commonwealth Statistician, presented certain figures which induced the board to make a further investigation, and it found that the average returns to the dairy-farmers were considerably higher than was stated by the farmers at that time. , Senator Leckie remarked that for years the Labour party had been trying to obtain an arbitration award for rural workers; but I point out that a rural wage of 36s. a week and keep, together with other concessions, was fixed by the New .South Wales Board of Trade for rural workers. A basic wage of £2 18s. 6d. a week was determined on the 10th October, 1918, and on the 10th October, 1919, it was increased to £3 17s. a week. That put £17,000,000 a year into the pockets of the majority of the workers; but the rural workers remained at the 36s. a week level.
Dairying has been undertaken in the past to a large degree on the sharefarming basis. Some farmers receive only one-fourth, others one-half, and others only one-third of the proceeds of the farms. On many occasions, I have seen the owners of dairy farms drive into the towns and spend the whole day there, decrying the actions of governments, whilst the sharefarmers, who frequently have large families, sweat on the land in order to obtain only one-fourth of the proceeds of the farm. Dairy-farmers could well take up the production of pigs and eggs as side lines. By means of this measure, the Government will be able to do something to help in stabilizing the dairying industry, so that both the dairy-farmer and his employee will receive a fair deal, and the consumers will be able to obtain butter at a reasonable price.
– Like Senator Leckie, I find it difficult to decide whether to support or oppose the bill. The amount of relief proposed to be given to the dairying industry is totally inadequate. Only one section of the industry will receive any assistance at all under this measure. I refer to those farmers who carry on their properties with the aid of the labour of their wives and families. The farmer who employs labour will be placed in a worse position than at present. This measure will certainly assist the employees, and I have no objection whatever to employees being properly treated. Dairy-farmers’ work involves drudgery. The hours are long, and the pay is always low. According to evidence submitted to the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, it would be necessary to increase the price of butter-fat by from 6d. to ls. per lb. in order to place those engaged in the dairying industry on a basis comparable with those in industries engaged in war production. If the Government intends to increase the output of butter, it will be necessary for it to increase the price of the dairyfarmers’ product by 3d. per lb., as recommended by the special committee which investigated conditions in the industry. I say without hesitation that this proposal is a mockery, and will do little to assist the industry; but I do not intend to oppose the bill, as it will afford some relief to families on dairy farms where no outside labour is employed.
– The Government proposes to grant a subsidy of £1,500,000 a year to the dairying industry, and to take the necessary measures through the Arbitration Court to ensure the determination of reasonable wage standards and living conditions for the workers in the industry. I remind Senator Uppill that the South Australian Ho’ ,se of Assembly three years ago resolved, by eighteen votes to thirteen, that the Commonwealth Bank should finance the primary producers with interest-free money. Instead of going to the Arbitration Court, the Government should go to the Commonwealth Bank and obtain interest-free money in order to assist the dairy-farmers. Two or three years ago, Professor Giblin addressed the Economic Society of Tasmania, of which I am a member. Strangely enough, he was dealing with butter and the export price. He said that the only way in which to protect the exporter was to penalize the local consumer. He said that the disastrous fall of prices in 1929 ruined the primary producers of Australia. When he had concluded his address, the chairman asked if any member of the audience desired to put a question to the speaker. I stated that I should like to know what brought about the drop of prices in 1929, but Professor Giblin resumed his seat. I then told the chairman that, with his permission, I should give the answer furnished by the great Swedish economist, Gustav Cassel, at present a lecturer at the University of Oxford, who said that concerted action on the part of the banks, and the restriction of credit dictated by high finance, brought about the disastrous drop of prices, which ruined primary producers not only in Australia, but also throughout the world. If the people would learn something about economics, they would realize that prices of particular primary products depend on the amount of money available for purchasing power, because without money goods cannot be purchased. How does the Government propose to help the primary producers if the money to be made available to them is to be borrowed from the private banks? The wheat-growers are getting a guaranteed price; but before that scheme was introduced, according to Professor Wadham, lecturer in agriculture at the University of Melbourne, the primary producers of Australia, and particularly the wheatgrowers, were in debt to the banks and the financial institutions, to the amount of £150,000,000. Yet they were asked by the Commonwealth Government to grow more wheat, and they grew it. New wheat came in at ls. lOd. a bushel at railway sidings, because there was in- sufficient money with which to buy it. Prices are determined by the amount of purchasing power in the hands of the people, and when the banks call in overdrafts and 2’efuse further credits, the purchasing power in the hands of the people is reduced to a minimum. When money is taken out of circulation, prices must fall. All the talk about helping the primary industries is useless, unless the present financial system is changed.
In Tasmania, and throughout Australia, during the last depression, wool and wheat-growers did not handle their cheques at all. The money paid for their product went directly into the banks. They were not permitted to plant or harvest their crops, unless the banks held a mortgage over the properties. In effect, money is anything passing from hand to hand that will be accepted as payment for goods or services, and the banks have always had the right to say how much money shall be circulated. We need a new orientation of the -economic position, which has always been governed by the financial position. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), in moving the second reading of this bill, said that, in deciding to give relief to the dairying industry by way of subsidy, the Government had given special consideration to the effect on prices and industrial costs of an increase of the price of butter. But it has not done so. It thinks that, if it can borrow this money from the banks, for which it will have to pay interest, the primary producers will be able to pay increased wages to their employees. Nobody wishes to see the price of butter increased ; but it is necessary to have purchasing power put into the hands of the people. All that the banks do is to monetize the real wealth of the nation, and charge interest on it. Although the banks have not produced any morney, they practicality own the whole of Australia. Not only were the producers of butter and wheat up to their necks in debt during the depression, but the wool-growers were so indebted that they owed £175,000,000 to the banks and other financial institutions. Immediately after the war broke out, when wool prices were stabilized under the arrangement with Great Britain for the purchase of the whole of the Australian wool clip, the Government offered a subsidy of Id. per lb. to enable the growers to meet their bank obligations.
– This bill contains no reference to a subsidy on wool.
– We must subsidize the primary producers with interest-free money through the Commonwealth Bank. The people of this country own the Commonwealth Bank, and the profits should go to the nation. Why should I charge myself for services rendered to myself? In the last four years, not one honorable senator opposite has been able to destroy the arguments advanced by me on financial matters. They simply take no notice of my remarks. No doubt, they serve certain interests, but those are not the interests of the nation. Prices are determined by the amount of -money in circulation but unless the primary producers recognize that the private banks control financial and economic conditions of this country there is no hope for them. Under existing conditions their position has deteriorated, and even the establishment of a mortgage bank will not help many of them, because they will not be able to get assistance from that institution unless they have an equity of 40 per cent, in their farms. In many instances their equity is not 4 per cent. I fear that, just as in New South Wales, the Rural Bank had to take over numbers of holdings because farmers could not produce sufficient to pay the interest bill, so the Mortgage Bank will be forced to act in a similar way unless great care is taken.
Senator J. B. HAYES (Tasmania) [3. 23 J. - I am greatly disappointed with this bill. When I heard that the Government contemplated introducing legislation to assist the dairying industry T was pleased, but an examination of the measure before us shows that, at best, it represents a subsidy of a little over Id. per lb. to dairy-farmers for the butter that they produce. It is not even that much in all cases, because the Minister may vary the amount of subsidy. Some dairymen may get 2d. or 3d. per lb., whilst others will get less than Id. or nothing at all. I cannot see that the bill will accomplish any good purpose. Costs of production have risen so considerably that we should not expect butter to remain at the same price. Everything that a dairy-farmer and his family have to buy - food, clothing, implements and so on - has increased in price, and naturally the price he receives for his products should increase also. The farmer is just as humane, and just as willing to pay good wages to his employees, as is any other person in the community. If he has not always done so, it has been because he could not afford it. If farmers and their families were paid award rates for their labour, and fair interest on their capital, butter would cost 3s. to 4s. per lb. The way to help the dairying industry is to ascertain what it costs to produce butter, allowing the fanner and members of his family a fair return foi- their labour, and ensuring that they were paid accordingly. They do not work seven or eight hours a day for five days a week as do workers in other industries. They must work seven days every week because the cows have to be milked daily. Moreover, the working hours are usually more like twelve each day. This measure does not get to the root of the matter, but only plays with it, and, therefore, it will only increase the confusion. The present price of butter is so low that a subsidy of Id. or 1½d. per lb. will not help much. 1 ask the Government to seek the advice of persons who understand the industry, so that dairymen may be placed in a position similar to that of manufacturers and others engaged in secondary industries. Under present conditions the production of butter is a war-time industry. I understand that a special committee of inquiry recently investigated the industry, and I should be very interested to read its report. Butter is one of the most wholesome foods, and the dairying industry is of sufficient importance to this country to warrant its being given similar treatment to that given to other industries. If this is not done, there will soon be a shortage of butter.
– The bill before the Senate gives me a great deal of concern. When speaking on the budget debate I pointed out that our naval, land and air forces could not function properly unless the food army was given proper recognition. This bill will not increase the production of butter; it will, indeed, have the opposite effect. The production of butter in 1940-41 amounted to 432,082,92(2 lb. which was 42,769,552 lb. less than the production of the previous year, notwithstanding that 1940-41 was a good season in the dairying districts of Australia. That falling ofl of production suggests either that the industry has not been able to obtain sufficient labour, or that the price of butter is not sufficiently attractive to encourage farmers to produce it. I know that scarcity of labour has caused a good many dairy farms to so out of production. A subsidy of £1,500,000 for the remainder of this financial year represents only a little over ¾d. per lb. on the butter produced. We have also to consider that under thi3 bill employees in the dairying industry may be brought under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I agree that every worker is entitled to an award covering his services, but that protection is as much the right of the employer as of the employee. The dairyfarmer is entitled to a return from his farm which will enable him to pay arbitration award rates to his employees, and give some return on his capital in addition to paying him for his own labour. In the event of the dairying industry being brought under the Arbitration Court, I should like to know whether it is contemplated that the principle of compulsory unionism will apply to dairy farms. Will the sons and daughters of farmers have to join a union in order to obtain employment on the dairy-farms of their parents? As has been stated during this debate, the subsidy is not to be shared by every producer of butter, but will be distributed among those dairy-farmers who suffer from the results of drought or for some special reason are in need of financial assistance. That provision may encourage inefficiency in the industry, and give preferential treatment to the dairy-farmer who has not made reasonable provision against drought conditions. In that event it will not stimulate production. During the last twenty years the dairying industry has expended large sums of money in settling many persons on the land. It has also had a large export trade which has been of great assistance in providing this country with credit overseas. Unless this industry is given the assistance that it undoubtedly needs there is grave danger that land now utilized for dairying will revert to grazing country. That Would be a retrograde step.
In addition to the many young men from country districts who have enlisted in the fighting forces, others have obtained employment in the cities, and after the war is over some inducement will have to be offered to them if they are to return to the farming industry. If the industry becomes unprofitable during their absence from the farms, there is little chance of getting them back into rural production. There is also the problem of soldier settlement to be faced. The dairying industry has proved one of the best means of settling ex-soldiers on the land, but unless it is placed on a sound footing, there will be no inducement to men to take up land for dairying purposes when they are discharged from the fighting services. Either the subsidy should be greater, or the price of butter should follow its natural course and fluctuate according to the cost of production, as is the case in respect of other industries. There is an old sayang that, “ the labourer is worthy of his hire “ ; and surely the dairy-farmer, who toils from daylight to dark, should receive adequate payment for the service he renders to the community. Under existing conditions the dairy-farmer is not paid a wage commensurate with the work which he performs.
– Although the bill is inadequate to meet the needs of the dairying industry, I shall support it because it is a step forward. In spite of the increased cost of production, and the decreased fertility of grazing lands due to the lack of fertilizer, the price of butter has increased by only seven-eighths of a penny per lb. since the outbreak of the war. The industry is now faced with a scarcity of labour ; and, due to the lack of fertilizer, grazing lands must continue to deteriorate. In view of these facts, the subsidy proposed to be appropriated under this measure is entirely inadequate to meet the needs of the dairying industry. I note with pleasure that the Government intends to declare a basic wage in the dairying industry. The investigation to determine what that wage should be, will establish beyond doubt that this £1,500,000 to be made available to the industry this year will not be nearly sufficient for the purpose for which it is intended. Very little of this sum will be left after the requirements of dairyfarmers in drought areas have been met. At the same time, dairy-farmers in good areas are abandoning their farms because they are unable to produce at a profit. Consequently, the Government will be obliged to investigate this problem more thoroughly. The Tariff Board will find the solution of this problem to be the most difficult job it has ever been asked to carry out.
I urge the Government to make a thorough investigation of the efficiency of our butter factories. This is essential if we are to improve the quality of our butter. It is useless’ to subsidize an industry, if we do not insist on 100 per cent, efficiency in that industry. However, whilst many factories in each of the States to-day are producing a high percentage of choice butter, many other factories are working far below a reasonable standard of efficiency, although they are being supplied with the average percentage of choice cream. There must be something wrong in the working of these factories. The Government should appoint experts to investigate this matter, and advise factories, which are not getting the best results, how to put their house in order. The improvement of the quality of our butter in all factories will increase the returns to the farmer, and, consequently, reduce his need for financial assistance. I regard this payment more in the nature of a dole. The measure hardly represents constructive assistance to the industry. An investigation should be made with a view to placing all farmers on a reasonable footing in order to enable them to pay to their employees wages equivalent to the basic wage. In that way, we shall be enabled to do away with the payment of doles of this kind, from which only a few sections receive any benefit. We must adopt a policy that will be of benefit to our farmers as a whole. I support the bill because, as I said earlier, it is a step forward. At least, as the result of investigations to be undertaken by the Tariff Board, we should be able to ascertain the actual position in the dairying industry, and what must be done to place it on a sound footing. I am pleased that this money is to be made available to the producers by way of subsidy. That is preferable to assisting them by increasing the price of butter. If the price of butter be increased, it would only mean that wages would have to be increased in order to enable the workers to catch up with the extra cost. That is one of the best features of the bill, and I hope that the same principle will be embodied in any similar measures that may be introduced later. I support the bill.
– The most generous comment that one can make about the bill is that it is an earnest attempt to keep down the cost of living. That is its primary object, although it is described as a measure to assist the dairying industry. We have been informed by various economists that since the outbreak of war the cost of living has risen by 18 per cent. I think that the rise has beenmuch greater. So far as the interests of the dairying industry are concerned, the measure is a retrogressive step. When these payments are made in the distant future, the dairy-farmers will realize that the publicity which has been given to the Government’s proposal has been out of all proportion to the financial help which they will actually receive. The manager of the McLeay River Cooperative Dairy Company, who has had a long experience in the industry, estimates that this subsidy will amount on an average to less than l1/4d. per lb., and that out of that sum the farmer will receive less than1/2d. per lb. Therefore, the statement that this subsidy will enable the farmers to meet increased costs of production is, as one honorable senator has described it, a horrible sham. Under the measure it is proposed to appropriate £1,500,000 for this purpose during the present financial year. That sum should be increased to £2,500,000 in order that the dairy-farmer may receive effective assistance until such time as the Tariff Board holds its investigations, and the wages tribunals, which I presume, will be appointed to fix wages in the industry, are convened. Senator Aylett has urged that the basic wage should be declared in the dairying industry. If that be done, the industry will be reduced to the verge of collapse; and I doubt whether the Government desires to see that happen. 1 have not heard any Minister say that the Government proposes to declare a basic wage for the dairying industry. Therefore, Senator Aylett will have to alter his ideas in that respect. I am greatly concerned about the rising cost of living. In order to keep the price of butter within the reach of the ordinary worker’s purse, a greater subsidy must be made available to the industry. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the people of this country eat far too little prime dairy butter. They are rather inclined to buysecondgrade butter, or worse still, margarine. This tendency must adversely affect the health of our people. I should like to see the consumption of prime dairy butter doubled. However, this subsidy is but a drop in the ocean towards achieving that end. It should be increased by at least £1,000,000. I can well imagine the protest which would be evoked from wheat-farmers and sugargrowers should an amateurish attempt like this be made to give assistance to those industries. I know that the Government has been criticized by the wheat-farmers in respect of its proposals to subsidize that industry. Apparently, in handling problems in agricultural industries, the Government merely rushes in with its eyes shut and its head down. On the other hand, it makes a more scientific approach to the appointment of industrial tribunals. Its lack of elemental knowledge with respect to the problems confronting our primary industries is lamentable. We require no further evidence of this than its amateurish attempt, to help the dairying industry. Under this proposal, the farmers will, in effect, be made the agents of the Trades Hall. They will not receive a halfpenny of this subsidy until such time as the Arbitration Court has been approached to appoint tribunals to determine wages and working conditions in the industry. Under those decisions, the farmers will have to pay the increased wages to their employees out of this subsidy. In that way, the Government will swell the coffers of the Australian Workers Union. The farmers will be mere walking delegates of that union. Consequently, I cannot conceive that they will display any jubilation over this proposal. I urge the Senate to request the House of Representatives that this subsidy be increased substantially in order to provide assistance to the dairying industry more in line with our method of financing the various wheat pools, and with the benefits which sugargrowers in Queensland and northern New South Wales enjoy under the sugar agreement. We must observe the principle of equality in these matters. It is useless to give to one section of producers more than we are prepared to give to other sections. That principle is embodied in the Constitution; every section of the community must be treated on an equal footing so far as the disbursement of government funds is concerned.’ To use the expression applied by one honorable senator, the dairy -farmers on this occasion have been “ sold a pup”.
– in reply - It is true that a committee was appointed to inquire into the position of the dairying industry, and that the committee reported to the Government. However, that report was inconclusive. It was referred to the Production Executive of the Cabinet, which brought the matter before Cabinet. In order to determine the best way to achieve the results desired, the Government sought the advice of officers of the Commerce Department, the Prices Commissioner and the Director of Rationing; and in the light of those discussions the Government decided to make this assistance available by way of subsidy. Some honorable senators have complained that the subsidy is insufficient. After analysing the purposes for which the subsidy is to be granted, I believe that it is sufficient. The Government then decided that the wages of the workers employed in the dairying industry should be investigated, not by a tribunal, as Senator Allan MacDonald has suggested, but by the Arbitration Court. The Tariff Board, in its investigations, will have the services of a representative of the dairying industry, to be approved by the Commerce Department and the industry generally. That officer will not be an appointee from The Trades Hall, or the Government. We are anxious to ensure that the main point raised by three or four honorable senators is not lost sight of. When the subsidy is fixed, and the court has made an award, it will be competent for the Prices Commissioner to inquire into the conditions in the industry and do what every honorable senator wants, which is to see that the men on the land get an equal “go” with those in other industries. That is amply provided for in the bill, and direction; will be given to bring it about. As regards what Senator Aylett said, it is not suggested that the basic wage in the rural industry shall be fixed at the same rate as prevails outside. It will be fixed at a rural rate, plus a reasonable allowance for those working in the industry. An award of an arbitration court or other tribunal, may mean an increase of 10s. a week all round, and we shall see that they get it. So far as I am concerned, there is no necessity to emphasize that. It does not mean the rate of pay that some honorable senators urge should be given, that is, the rate paid in munitions factories. That would be too absurd for words, because the industry could not carry it. Every point was considered in the procedure laid down. I agree with honorable senators that it would have been helpful had we circulated the committee’s report, but it is a contradictory report, containing figures which are known to honorable senators who have gone into the subject. It has been said that the Government has not considered making provision for the needs of the British people. That is not correct. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) and other Ministers have paid a great deal of attention to the shipping difficulty, and everything will be done to improve transport conditions between Australia and Great Britain. I agree that if any priority is to be given, goods for the Mother Country should come first. Every possible step will be taken by the Government to see that the people of Great Britain get as much butter as can possibly be sent to them. Children in Great Britain are at present rationed to 2 oz. a week, and every one knows that children cannot be properly nourished on such a small allowance. The bill is an honest effort to solve a very complex problem. We do not intend to take any blind jumps, but shall use the proper authorities to investigate all phases of the subject. Probably when the act is in operation, the necessity for improvement will become evident, and amendments will be made later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– In conformity with the sessional order that, unless otherwise ordered, the motion for adjournment shall be put, on Fridays, at 4 p.m..
I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Before the Senate goes into recess I desire to inform honorable senators that the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. R. A. Broinowski, will retire on the 30th November next, and that this may be the last occasion on which he will be present in this chamber in that’ capacity.I take this opportunity to extend to you, Mr Broinowski, my very sincere thanks for the many courtesies extended to me by you during the period in which I have been President of the Senate. I also wish to thank you for your readiness to give advice whenever it has been sought by me as President with a view to assist the smooth working of this branch of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– by leave - You, Mr. President, have tendered to Mr. Broinowski your personal thanks for the assistance that he has given to you. I wish to move a motion that will enable the Senate to place on record its high appreciation of his long and meritorious service to the Commonwealth Parliament. Mr. Broinowski entered the Commonwealth Public Service on the 10th February, 1902. He was private secretary to various Ministers for Defence from the 24th January, 1907, until Ms appointment to the staff of the Senate as clerk and shorthand writer on the 1st March, 1911. He rose through various positions to the high office of Clerk of the Senate, which he has filled with distinction since the 1st January, 1939. In addition, he was for eight years the administrative head of the Joint House Department of this Parliament, so that it can be said that he has rendered service to the whole of the Parliament,
I move -
That on the occasion of the retirement of Robert Arthur Broinowski from the position of Clerk of the Senate, the Senate places on record its appreciation of the long and valuable service rendered by him to the Commonwealth Parliament, and conveys tohim good wishes for a happy retirement.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
SenatorMcLEAY (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition). - On behalf of the Opposition in this chamber I second the motion. I believe that it adequately expresses our appreciation of the services rendered by Mr. Broinowski to this Parliament and to the Commonwealth. I have always been impressed by the very high standard of efficiency displayed by him in the performance of his duties. He has always been most courteous to honorable senators, and I regret that the time has arrived for him to retire. I extend to him my grateful thanks for the splendid service that he has rendered to the Commonwealth
Parliament, and I wish him every success in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– On behalf of Mr. Broinowski I thank the Senate for the resolution to which it has just agreed. I also thank the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) for their expressions of appreciation of the service he has rendered to the Commonwealth Parliament.It affords Mr. Broinowski great pleasure to realize that he has the respect and appreciation of the Senate. . I understand that at a later date Mr. Broinowski proposes to offer his services to the Commonwealth Government in some other capacity, and in that way assist Australia’s war effort.
Motion (by Senator Collings) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Treasury-Bills - Trading With the Enemy - Primary Production in Western Australia - Disposal of Real Estate - Prisoners of War - Hay - Flax.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In doing so, I wish to inform honorable senators that the Senate may be adjourn ing for some months.
– No. What of the Prime Minister’s undertaking?
– Honorable senators may be quite sure that, in existing circumstances, it may be necessary to call the Senate together earlier than is at present anticipated. I tender to you, Mr. President, our thanks for the impartial manner in which you have carried out the duties of your high office. I also appreciate the valuable assistance rendered to me by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) since I have been Leader of the Senate. I can say without reservation that he has alwaysco-operated with me most willingly. I trust that during the recess honorable senators will have some respite from their strenuous work, will secure additional energy, and will continue to enjoy good health. I also thank the officers of the chamber, including the members of the Hansard staff, who, during recent weeks, at any rate, have had an arduous time. We are also indebted to the attendants in this chamber, the staff in the refreshment rooms, who render such efficient service, and those who are responsible for the cleanliness of this building. The services rendered by the parliamentary staffs are important factors in making this democratic institution function in the way we desire.
– I associate myself with the expression of thanks to the members of the various staffs for what they have done. There is some doubt as to when we shall re-assemble; but any difference of opinion in that respect should not in any way interfere with our gratitude for the services that they have rendered to us. As Leader of the Opposition, I thought at first that you, Mr. President, were lucky to have been elected, but after a few months I came to the conclusion that you were a good presiding officer. I can assure you, sir, that the Opposition wishes you well during the recess. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) expects that the Parliament will re-assemble in November or early in December.
– On behalf of the Senate staff and on my own behalf, I thank the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) for their appreciative remarks.
.- On Friday, the 2nd October, Senator Darcey asked the following question, without notice : -
Will the Minister representing the Treasurer state the total amount of inscribed stock sold to the private banks since the Curtin Government took office, the total amount of treasurybills sold to those banks during the same period, and the total amount of treasury -hills funded in that period!
The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Between October, 1941, and August, 1942, the governmental and municipal securities, other than treasury-bills, held by the private banks decreased by £0,200,000. During the same period their holding of treasury-bills decreased by £5,400,000. Treasury-bills amounting to £3,749,000 were funded during the same period. Later figures as to holding of governmental securities and treasury-bills are not available.
Yesterday Senator Allan MacDonald asked me if I would make an announcement as to the safeguards taken by the Department of Trade and Customs to ensure that no trading with the enemy takes place in Australia, and whether action would be taken with respect to neutral vessels concerning which suspicion may exist. I understand that the department has supplied the honorable senator with a statement on this subject, but should he desire further information on specific points I shall endeavour to supply it.
– This morning I asked a question as to the amount of money supplied to Western Australia for the purpose of assisting primary producers. I should like an assurance from the Minister that when the information 13 available it will be forwarded to me.
.- I draw attention to the drastic restrictions placed on the disposition of real estate in the last few days by way of regulations. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) may remember that in February last, Statutory Rules 1942, £To. 76, promulgated by the Government, provided among other things that sales of real estate should be prohibited, except with the consent of the Treasurer. There were many other provisions in that statutory rule, and the Government apparently became so concerned about the wave of criticism that followed its promulgation that when it laid the regulations on the table, it simultaneously appointed a committee to investigate them and recommend alterations. I was a member of that committee, which considered with a great deal of care the particular regulations dealing with the disposition of real estate. It made recommendations for drastic alterations, and those recommend a tiona were accepted by the Government as a fair compromise on the matter.
– They were accepted by the Treasurer.
– I take it that they were also accepted by the Government a3 a fair compromise. This week, however^ the Ministry without again consulting the committee promulgated the regulations to which the committee had objected in> February. We are now told that this Parliament is to adjourn for an indefinite period, but these regulations are in operation. I object to the line of conduct which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has followed in this matter. Having regard to the constitution of the committee, it might reasonably have been called together again and asked to make a further recommendation, but the Treasurer did nothing of the kind. Iri conformity with the dictatorial attitude that this Government, is adopting, the Treasurer has promulgated new regulations in the form of the original regulations to which objection was taken. I understand that restrictions of this kind are considered necessary in order to induce people to invest their money in the war loans. That is a point of view which I have never understood. In Great Britain, where the need for war loans is as great as in Australia, the Government has been able to carry on the war so far without imposing the ridiculous restrictions on the normal transfer of real estate and shares that we have introduced in this country. How can it he said that we assist in the raising of money for the war effort by prohibiting the exchange of land? Because the Government has fantastic notions as to how the affairs of this country should be conducted, from the economic point of view, these restrictions are imposed unnecessarily on dealings by citizens in land and shares. I protest against such a line of conduct. The Opposition was asked to co-operate with the Government in dealing with this matter, and the report submitted by the committee, which comprised supporters of the Government and members of the Opposition, was unanimous. The Government has shown scant courtesy in having, within six or seven months, re-enacted the very regulations to which the committee objected.
.- On the18th September last I quoted extracts from letters from prisoners of war as published in the P.O.W. One sentence in those quotations referred to the Red Cross, and might easily have been misinterpreted, and I quite unintentionally created a doubt whether prisoners of war received any parcels at all from that source. In justice to this great worldwide, humanitarian organization, I take this opportunity to state that there was never any doubt in my mind as to whether Red Cross parcels were reaching their destination, despite many interruptions of communications owing to war conditions. I know what splendid work the Australian branch of the Red Cross Society did in the last war. That it is doing even greater work in the present war is proved by the thousands of letters received from prisoners of war acknowledging receipt of parcels. The contents of those parcels are more varied and nutritious than those of the parcels despatched from Australia from 1914 to 1918.
I should be failing in my duty if I did not make this explanation.
– Yesterday, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, without notice, the following question : -
As the season for cutting ha)’ is now at hand in some of the States, will the Government make a public statement as early as possible setting out in some detail exactly how the new wheat proposals will affect farmers who will have crops in excess of the 3,000-bushel basis, including family companies, share-farmers and the like to enable them to decide what areas they will cut for hay.
I was asked to place the question on today’s notice-paper, but it has not been answered. As the Senate may not meet again before the coming harvest is in progress, will the Government see that this important question is answered, and that a public statement is made to enable farmers to know how to deal with their crops ?
– in reply - I assure Senator Spicer that the matter raised by him will be referred to the Treasurer (Mr. Chiney). I have noted what Senator Brand has said, and no comment on his remarks is required. The matter raised by Senator Uppill will receive attention. On behalf of Senator Fraser, who represents the Minister for Supply and Development in this chamber, 1 desire to make a statement regarding the flax industry. On the 16th September last, Senator Aylett asked for an explanation regarding certain aspects of the flax industry. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) has furnished a statement for the information of the honorable senator and for the sake of convenience has dealt seriatim with the points raised by him. It is as follows : -
I am informed by the Chairman of the Flax Production Committee that the evidence given to the joint committee was to the effect thai it. was hoped that the introduction of new methods of tow cleaning and processing of short straw would result in the production of the tow worth the figure mentioned by the honorable senator.
Results so far achieved have not been as successful as was anticipated, but that if the work now in progress proves successful the ultimate tow produced will be worth considerably more than £60 a ton.
If the honorable senator can furnish me with evidence contrary to this, I will have investigations made.
I assure the honorable senator that, so far as 1 am concerned, every effort is being made to place this industry on a sound economic basis. I have no doubt that the efforts of the Flax Production Committee are devoted to achievement of this end, and if the honorable senator can furnish me with definite instances of racketeering, I assure him that the appropriate action will be taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Beer Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 415.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Geelong, Victoria - For Commonwealth purposes.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations -
Control of office machines.
Taking possession of land, &c. (31).
Use of land.
Orders by State Premiers - New South Wales, Queensland.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders by State Premier - Queensland (2).
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulation No. 10 of 1942 (Building and Services Ordinance).
Sugar Agreement - Eleventh Annual Report of the Fruit Industry. Sugar Concession Committee, foryear ended 31st August, 1942.
Superphosphate Bounty Act - Return of Bounty Payments for year 1941-42.
Senate adjourned at 4.40 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 October 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1942/19421009_senate_16_172/>.